9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr.WEST. - I desire to bring under the notice of the Leader of the Government a paragraph which appeared recently in the Melbourne Sun, setting out that, in order to satisfy the Australian people and to allay their fears in regard to the Japanese, the British Government were taking steps to establish a Naval Base at Singapore. The paragraph contains statements calculated, I think, to give offence to Japan, which is one of our Allies. Whatever may be our views as to Japanese being allowed to come into Australia, and to enjoy the rights of citizenship, I do not think statements such as those to which I have called attention should be published. I would also draw attention to a cartoon published in the last issue of the Sydney Sunday Times. It was a most wretched thing–
– What is the honorable member’s question?
– I desire to bring under the notice of the. Government the cartoon in question which was roundly condemned by speakers in the Sydney Domain last Sunday. Strong exception was takento it. Much as I admire cartoons - many of them are very clever–
– The honorable member is not entitled, under cover of asking a question, to make a speech.
– Will the Leader of the Government look intothis matter? The cartoon to which I refer gave serious offence to the people of Sydney.
– In reply to the honorable member’s question, I will look into the matter he has brought under notice, and, if it is shown to be necessary, will take action.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House when he intends to modify the regulations, to which I directed his attention two or three mouths ago, affecting invalid pensioners in the consumptive home in South Australia?
– The Government have already indicated that action is being taken to amend the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, both in regard to the amount of thepension and the existing regulations under the Act. The matter to which the honorable member refers will be considered when the Act is being amended.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that a very large floating dock has been constructed in Great Britain for use in Australia? If so, will the honorable gentleman explain why the work of construction was not carried out in the Commonwealth?
– There is no doubt that honorable gentlemen are far too modest. They do not appreciate the great importanceof the questions they put without notice. In order that they may be supplied with the fullest possible information, I again suggest that the proper course for them to follow is to put all their questions on the notice-paper , in order that they may receive considered replies.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he willmake available to honorable members the list of all periodicals, books, &c, which are prohibited from importation into Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes. List is appended. Literature wherein is advocated -
The overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of the Commonwealth or of any State, or of any other civilized country.
The overthrow by force or violence of all form of law.
The abolition of organized government.
The assassination of public officials.
The unlawful destruction of property.
Wherein a seditious intention is expressed or a seditious enterprise advocated.
The Irish Republic. Why?
The Eagle and the Serpent.
La Vie Parisienne.
Life. (Printed in London.)
The Melting Pot.
TheMost DelectableNights of Sharparela ofCararaggis.
New Photo. Fun.
The Night Side of Paris.
Photo. Fun (orNew Photo. Fun).
The Priest, The Woman, and the Confessional.
Studies of the Human.
The Decameron. (Cheap English translations.)
Winning Post Summer Annual.
Winning Post Winter Annual.
La Secte des Anandrynes.
Le CanapeColeur de Feu.
Ma Vie deGarcon.
Venus dans le Cloitre.
The Sphinx newspaper. (Published in Cairo, Egypt.)
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to prohibit the exportation of stud sheep, thereby retaining this wonderful industry in Australia?
– I have ascertained there is considerable correspondence in regard to this subject, and I intend to take the first opportunity to study it, and will then reply fully to the honorable member.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Value Added by Manufacturing.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained. .
asked the. Prime Minister, upon notice -
Having regard to paragraph4 of the annex to article 249 of the Treaty of Peace made between the Allies and Austria has any computation been made of -
If so, will he give the approximate value in local currency under the headings (a) and (b), and state generally what is the position regarding them?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) The estimated value of the property, rights, and interests in the Commonwealth, as notified to the Public Trustee of those Austrian nationals whose property it is the policy of the Commonwealth Government to retain, and which has not yet been realized, is £14,656.
Moneys held in Australia by the Public Trustee in respect of the liquidation of the property, rights, and interests in Australia of the class referred to in 1 (a) is £12,317. There are also moneys held in London on behalf of the Public Trustee of the Commonwealth, and when classificationunder the Treaties is completed, at an early date, it will possibly be found that this sum of £12,317 must be increased.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Australian Wheat Board, both in Australia and through its London agency, has practically completed the work of the; Government Wheat” Pools,” will he urge the High Commissioner to expedite the audit of the Wheat Board’s accounts in London, so that final payments may be made to growers ?
– Representations have already been made to the High Commissioner’s Office with a view to the finalization of this matter as early as practicable.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the cause of the delay in not proceeding with the necessary alterations to the Sydney Post Office provided for in the Works Estimates?
Mr. GROOM (for Mr. Stewart).I would invite the honorable member’s attention to the reply to his question on the 1st March, 1923. The private properties acquired for extension of the General Post Office have only just been vacated. Meanwhile construction of foundations forthe projected building have been proceeded with by day labour. Tenders have been received for demolition and removal of buildings recently vacated on private property.
Freedom from Income Tax.
Mr.BAYLEY asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he seen the advertisement appearing over the name of the Victorian Treasurer in which purchasers of certain securities are guaranteed freedom from Federal and State income tax ?
Is this offer in conformity with the undertaking given by the above-mentioned Treasurer and others at the recent Premiers’ Conference?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to annul the inspection laws of the States in relation to the sale of produce within the Commonwealth, and to appoint Federal inspectors to issue certificates which will be binding on the States and also have the effect of encouraging free and unrestricted trade within the Commonwealth.
– No: but the question of extending the provisions of the Commerce Act to goods transferred Interstate is under consideration.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the present Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Tasmania is shortly to retire owing to having reached the retiring age; and, if so, will full consideration be given to the qualifications of other officers in that State when a successor is being appointed?
– The answer to both parts of the question is “ Yes.”
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– When the judgment of the High Court is finalized every effort will be made to settle the claims of officers concerned.
Debate resumed from 21st June (vide page 288), on motion by. Mr. J. Francis -
That the following Address-in -Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to-
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- During the debate on the AddressinReply many important questions of grave concern to the people of Australia have been discussed. Amongst these are questions affecting the Constitution, the taxation proposals of the Government, and the agenda paper of the Imperial Conference, with which I should have appreciated an opportunity to deal at much greater length than the time at my disposal will permit. Under the circumstancesI propose to reserve their consideration until the introduction of definite proposals regarding them afford me a more convenient opportunity. There is one matter, however, to which I must make some reference on the present occasion. I refer to the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, Geelong, which formed the subject of an amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). The honorable member, in a perfectly clear and definite statement, showed the. marked tendency of the Government to subordinate the interests of the community to the great commercial interests of Melbourne and other parts of Australia. That revelation is one that we cannot lightly pass over; we must realize the grave offence committed by those intrusted with the powers of administration. At the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Yarra, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) sought to afford the House some explanation of the most unusual procedure on the part of the Government in the disposal of these mills, but I do not hesitate to assert that the honorable gentleman utterly failed to justify the position taken up by himself and his supporters. That failure, I am sure, must have been apparent, not only to the honorable gentleman’s direct political opponents, but also to his most ardent supporters. That the Government themselves felt the explanation to be inadequate is evidenced bythe fact that last evening the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) addressed the House with the idea of supplementing and strengthening the position of his chief, but the Treasurer failed even more miserably. There was this difference between the two efforts, that the Prime Minister displayed some measure of ability in his presentation of the Government’s case, whereas the Treasurer showed himself to be devoid of any such advantage. We certainly had a right to expect an explanation from the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) to justify the action of his Department, and to clear himself of this charge of maladministration and business incapacity,but up to the present we have not had one word from this responsible or irresponsible Minister. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) last night endeavoured to persuade the House, and to make the people believe that the amendment submittedby the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was a vindictive attack on the Government. As a matter of fact, the honorable member confined himself to a statement of cold facts, based upon the official files, and so far there has been no adequate reply from the Ministerial bench. The honorable member was fair almost to a fault in his presentation of the case. Instead of relying upon an independent valuation, which he had secured from competent bodies, he accepted the figures submitted by the valuers employed by the Government ; and therefore if Ministers desire to retain the confidence of the people in their business transactions, they should, without delay, give a more satisfactory explanation of the reasons that impelled them to dispose of the Geelong woollen mill at the price accepted, and in the circumstances indicated. If Ministers had been acting as agents for the disposal of privately-owned property, and if after securing a competent valuation they disposed of it at a figure considerably below the valuation, in all probability they would be called upon, in the Law Courts, to answer a charge of collusion or intent to defraud. The transaction is indeed a most unfortunate one for the good name of the Government of this country; but I am hopeful that, even at this late hour, the Minister may be able to explain the reasons for the disposal of , the mill, and show that the Government have some honesty of purpose in administration. But as the statement presented by the honorable member for Yarra was based upon the official file, and the figures were not of his own tabulation, Ministers are set an extremely difficult task, and I am satisfied that, in the absence of a complete reply, the public will utterly fail to comprehend why the Government should so subordinate public interests to private advantage.
I desire to give a brief summary of the position, as stated by the honorable member for Yarra. The Government, as honorable members are aware, obtained the services of an independent firm of valuers, Messrs. Wildridge and Sinclair, to whom they paid 100 guineas for the valuation of the Geelong mills. This firm, after extensive inquiries, and a careful inspection of the property, submitted a valuation of £267,159. Subsequently the property was disposed of to a syndicate headed by Mr. Dyer, a wellknown merchant of Flinders-lane, for £155,000, which, deducted from the figure supplied ‘‘by the ‘Government valuers, represents a loss to the country, and a gift to the syndicate concerned, of £112,159. And the price paid does not take into consideration profits or good~-will. Would any honorable member opposite be prepared to dispose of his own business in the same manner ?
– I am satisfied that the honorable member would not be prepared to accept the price which the Government took and not ask for anything for the good-will of his business.
– What does the honorable member call the good-will of these mills?
– The honorable member knows that, having been working for a number .of years, the mills at Geelong would have an advantage over newlyestablished mills, because a considerable time is required before the latter can bc assured of a regular demand for their output. The purchasing syndicate have taken over a going concern which will provide profits from the very start.
– The mills were merely doing a departmental trade.
– With the exclusion of the Commonwealth Government from the manufacture of cloth, they now become a.’ customer for substantial supplies, which this, mill is especially equipped to provide.
– Did the operatives make any offer for- these mills?
– No; but the returned soldiers did, and the Government, who profess to be the principal custodians of the soldiers’ welfare, were the first to let them down when the soldiers’ wishes came into conflict with the activities of big commercial enterprises. In ordinary circumstances of business no private individual would have done what the Government did in selling these mills. I challenge any honorable member opposite to’ say that he would have acted in a similar way. Honorable members would at least seek to get value for what they were selling.
A very serious aspect of this matter is the fact that the Government informed a prospective buyer of the amount of the highest tender received, and that person was a direct supporter of the Government.
– Before the second tenders were called every one knew the highest tender on the first occasion.
– At any rate, “it was a. most unusual procedure for a prospective buyer to be permitted to review, other tenders and know exactly what prices had been submitted by other firms; and it is most unfortunate that on this occasion the person so informed was directly connected with the Government. I refer to Senator Guthrie, who was privately made acquainted with certain facts to the disadvantage of other tenderers.
– Mr. Jensen was passed out of a Ministry for’ less than that.
– For the sake of the good name of Australia there should be some inquiry into the circumstances. 1 am reminded that men have been forced out of public life in Australia for less than has been proved to have been done on this occasion.
After taking the unwarranted course of giving favoured friends an advantage over other buyers, the Government went still further and appointed as valuer of £80,000 worth of stock at the mills a gentleman who was co-director with
Senator Guthrie in the Lincoln Knitting and Spinning Mills.
– I think that the light ought to be turned on in order to compel some one to “drop the loot.”
– I am so filled with indignation at the impropriety of these transactions that, if I were permitted by the Standing Orders to do so, I should express in unmistakable language my opinion of what I regard as the motive which has prompted the sale of these woollen mills. If the people of Australia have not been robbed of ft certain sum of money by the incapacity of those who are administering the affairs of the Commonwealth, they have at least been subjected to1 a loss that should not have been occasioned. What will be the position in future, when the Government wish to purchase woollen materials ? It will mean /that private enterprise will hav« a clear field to make whatever charges it likes, and there will be no means of protecting the people of Australia from the commercial pirates of Flinders-lane and elsewhere. I hope the Government and their supporters will realize that the words of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) are indorsed,! believe, by all members of the Opposition, and certainly by the great majority of the electors of Australia. The Labour party does speak for the great majority of the people, and when it is returned to power - as it undoubtedly will be ere long - it will resume control of the woollen mills, and take them over at a price in keeping with the figure paid by the private syndicate to the present Government.
– We shall be accused of confiscation.
– What more (striking illustration of confiscation by private enterprise could be afforded than is provided by the present transaction ? I do not think that honorable members as a whole desire to associate themselves with a dishonorable action, but by their votes this week they have condoned the sacrifice’ of public interests, and they must accept full responsibility for their attitude.
– Is this Doomsday?
– The honorable member for Corio, above all others, should realize how public interests have been sacrificed. When his electors next have the opportunity, I feel sure they will give him the punishment he has merited, and I would be prepared to assist in informing the public mind in. his district of what has actually occurred. We find that the conditions of tender were altered privately, and no information was given to the other tenderers. Why should any phase of the transaction be kept dark, and a direct personal advantage be given to the private friends of the Government? The amount of the deposit was altered from one-third to one- tenth. The period for the payment of the balance was extended from five to ten years, and the interest rate was reduced from 6 to 5$ per cent Only the private friends of the Government, who were tenderers for the mills, were made aware of the alterations. The Ministry have proved themselves to be incapable of safeguarding public interests. The charge laid against them was one of the strongest indictments that could possibly be brought against a Government. According to the summary of profits of the mills for the last two years, the purchasers will be able to recoup themselves in another three years for the sum they have been called upon to pay over a period, of ten years. I hope the House will realize what a serious reflection this deal is on public life. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) is not prepared to make a reply to the charge.
– It has all been replied to twice already.
– Although he is the .responsible Minister, and has the whole of the correspondence ab his disposal, the Minister is not willing to offer an explanation of the transaction. I hope the electors will have an early opportunity to record their judgment on the incapacity and unbusiness-like methods of the Government and its action in serving the interests o’f its private friends. Ti the people were given that opportunity the Government would be swept from the- Treasury bench. They are unworthy of the confidence of the people.
In conclusion, I desire to express my deep regret that the public press of this country has not realized its duty to the people. Upon most occasions it tries to hide the sins of omission and commission of Conservative Governments, and concentrates attention, by publishing misleading statements, upon points which are not at issue. My confidence in the press has ‘ been seriously shaken by my experience as a public man. Facts of important public concern are distorted and misrepresented, and prominence is given to sensationalism and scandal, rather than to the forms of government and the mismanagement *of our public affairs. The press is almost incessant in its misrepresentation of that party, and members of the Opposition have nothing to thank the press for. I know that it is dangerous for me, a young member, to attack the press. If the newspapers of Australia are not prepared to behave honorably towards the movement which I represent, I would prefer that those who write for it should leave their pens on their desks, and say nothing. There has been introduced into the press of Australia an unfortunate form of “ yellow “’ journalism. I do not desire that we should copy continental countries and the United States in this respect, but I would like to see us with a clean, honorable press, which is prepared quite fearlessly, and without favour, to publish the facts of public and private affairs. At present, however, the press not only maligns and misrepresents great organizations such as the Labour party, but’ even traduces and damns the careers and characters of private individuals -whose records are above reproach. It is a wonder to mo that a greater number of libel actions are not taken against the press of Australia.
I have in my hand a statement by an Australian citizen who has requested me to do what I can on the floor of this House to clear his character and defend him from a most unworthy attack. Unfair insinuations and imputations have been made against him by a certain section of the press. The person to whom I refer is Mr. Arthur N. Bishop, regarding whom a statement has been made in a paper called Smith’s Weekly. I understand that the statement, as published, is contrary to fact. Mr. Bishop has been a reputable citizen of the city of Melbourne, and he is a son of one of the leading church dignitaries of this city. Yet. we find that Smith’s Weekly, apparently without having investigated the circumstances, made an unwarranted attack upon him, and Mr. ^Bishop has found it necessary to come to a member of this House to get a denial of the statement made public. Certain other newspapers throughout the world have copied the references to Mr. Bishop, but when it was pointed out to them that the statements were without foundation, they, after the institution of inquiries, have made ample apology, and afforded redress for the wrong committed.
– Has Smith’s Weekly refused to apologize?
– I understand so. Smith’s Weekly, or any other newspaper, ought to make sure of its facts before publishing them. It ought not to print articles maligning a person’s character and calling him to account for alleged misdeeds unless it is absolutely sure of the facts.
– The same scruples ought to be, observed by members of the Opposition when they level charges against the Government.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and other honorable members who have spoken from this side of the House, have based their statements upon the facts disclosed in the official file. This is not the only occasion when big business has been able to negotiate advantageous deals. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) knows of another large business transaction, affecting Government stocks and materials, in which certain interests are concerned. I hope honorable members will -be given the opportunity of investigating this matter, and. also the business operations of the (present Government and their immediate predecessors. The speeches which have been made by honorable members on this side during this debate will, I trust, prove to the people of Australia that the Labour party are endeavouring to conserve their interests against trespass ‘by the big commercial interests of this country and elsewhere.
.- When I last had the opportunity of addressing this House I expressed the opinion that an alteration in the attitude of the Commonwealth Government might be advantageous in bringing about a better relationship than had hitherto existed between the Federal and State authorities. I do not suggest for a moment that my remarks on that occasion were in any way responsible for what followed; but I take this opportunity of expressing my great gratification at the disposition which has been manifested by the Commonwealth Government to brins: about better relations with the States. The visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to the various States was quite justified toy the results obtained and the excellent spirit which has since been shown. Certainly his visit to Western Australia was very much appreciated, and will be productive of good.
Upon -many of the matters referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech definite opinions have been expressed, and honorable members will have an opportunity of elaborating their opinions upon some of the subjects when the agenda for the Imperial “and Economic Conference is under discussion. Industrial arbitration is a ‘problem that has not advanced, so far, towards a solution as one would like; and the fact that it is still in the meltingpot encourages me to make one or two suggestions which I hope will receive attention. This subject is still under discussion by the Commonwealth and the States, and its great importance warrants the most careful consideration and debate by this House. We must recognise that the principle of industrial conciliation and arbitration has come to stay, and if the machinery to give effect to it is not yet as complete and effective as it might be, the remedy is to be found, not in abandoning the principle, ‘but in us,ng every endeavour to improve the legislation. Honorable members should combine and express their opinions freely, in order to reach a satisfactory solution of the problem. It is a question which, above all others, should be approached in a calm and judicial spirit.
– There will be no room for that attitude when the honorable member’s party has finished with industrial powers.
– As far as possible, the discussion should be fr.ee from any personal or political prejudice. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech contains two proposals to bring about a better relationship between the Commonwealth and the States in this respect. Firstly, there is the suggestion that the powers of the Court should be delimited by definition based upon the 0 migratory character of the labour employed in industry, and, secondly, that lists should be prepared and agreed to between the Commonwealth and the State Governments, setting out those industries to- be dealt with by the respective Courts. We all agree that a dead-lock had arisen concerning the operations of the different Courts. No good purpose will be served by simply recapitulating instance after instance of the manner in which the workings of the Courts have caused congestion and overlapping. It is better to try quietly and seriously to ascertain the causes of these differences which, we all agree, should be removed.
– Do not count too much upon an agreement on that matter.
– It is my desire to discuss the question in the most open and fairminded manner possible, and I trust that honorable members on both sides will give me credit for so doing, and render? mo their assistance.
– It is not fair to say that we are all agreed. We are not.
– As far as I can judge, T am voicing the general opinion of the majority of the people of Australia. I. know that some members on both sides: of the House realize that congestion and’ difficulty have arisen, and we should’ analyze the whole position with a viewto reaching a solution. In discussing therelative merits of the State and FederalCourts respectively, I have in mind particularly the State Court of WesternAustralia; I have not had an opportunityto investigate the operations of the Arbitration Courts in the other States. Apart from attempts to derive a tactical advantage, which I freely admit are made by both sides, there are various reasons why appeals in one case are made to a State Court, and’ in others to the Federal Arbitration Court. There are advantages and disadvantages to both appellants and respondents. In the State Court a decision which is given on an appeal becomes a’ common rule. That is not so in the Federal Court. The State Court possesses in its constitution distinct advantages from certain points of view; representatives of both sides sit in the Court, in conjunction with the presiding Judge. The Commonwealth Arbitration Act contains one or two. very serious disadvantages. Technical points raised by lawyers can very seriously delay the proceedings before the Court. That has been abolished entirely in the Western Australian Court. Another very serious disability is that an award may be given by the Federal Court and either side may make application immediately it is delivered to have it varied. That leads to endless litigation and no finality, and is vexatious to both sides in the industry. The reference of cases to a Federal Court entails undue expense and delay. It imposes a very serious burden upon any branch of industry when it has to bring its case before a Court sitting in Melbourne. I have before me particulars of six cases which were submitted from Western Australia. The costs of the appeals in those six cases amounted to £7,062. That does not represent the complete costs, because, in some instances, the costs of the other side are not included. Had those six cases been heard by the State Court the total costs, it is estimated, would have been £1,670. There is no doubt, in my mind, that this expense and delay, togetherwith the difficulties experienced consequent upon the raising of technical objections and the variation of awards, are the principal factors against the hearing of appeals by the Federal Court. So long as the Federal appeals have to be brought before a tribunal sitting in Melbourne the great expense and delay occasioned will always be a very serious bar to the effective working of the Federal arbitration law. This is particularly unfortunate, because the rulings of the Federal Court prevail over those of the State Court where any inconsistency is proved to exist. The question that arises is : How can the Federal law he made to work more equitably, more justly, and less expensively than at present is the case? The difficulties of applying the Federal law have, to some extent, been minimized by the appointment of Boards of Reference. I presume that all honorable members are fully awareofthe functions of those Boards; where an award has been given by the Federal Court, and any question arises thereunder, reference is made to the local Board, which adjudicates on the terms of the dispute, and issues its interpretation. I am pleased to be able to say that that practice has worked very well, and, although numerous references have been made to this Board in Western Aus tralia, not a single appeal has been made from its awards, notwithstanding that an appeal lies to the central Court. In these Boards of Reference we can find the germ of a solution of the difficulty. My suggestions probably will not meet with immediate approval, but I venture to put them forward. It is possible for these Boards tobe improved and extended considerably; they might be developed into something much wider and more important, even to the extent of constituting State branches of the Federal Court for the purpose of conducting local hearings and issuing awards. If such branches of the Federal Court were established in the States appeals would lie to the central Court, but only on such grounds as are necessary to insure co-ordination or proper relation between the awards in one State and those in another. In the proposal put forward by the Federal Government, and that which is now being discussedby them and by the State Governments, there are very grave objectionable features. There are cases to which the’ proposal of the Federal Government, that a Federal industry should be considered as that in which the members of the industry migrate from one State to another, cannot possibly apply. Take the shearing industry, which has been quoted as one of the principal industries. The shearers of Western Australia do not migrate to any other State; they pursue their avocation wholly in that State. Take coal mining. Although the coalminers do not move from State to State there is no doubtthat the conditions in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales define the conditions of that industry in Western Australia. The preparation of lists by the State Governments, showing which industries should” come within their purview, cannot but be purely arbitrary, not based upon any definite principle. While such an arrangement might he simply a temporary expedient or stop-gap it will soon prove to be utterly unworkable, and will cause as much mischief as it sets out to cure, because the whole of the industries and trades in Australia are inter-related and more or less inter-dependent. To take one simple instance of what I mean, it is impossible to obtain an award, affecting the conditions of an industry in one State, which does not entirely alter the conditions of competition between the industry in that State and branches of the industry in other ‘States. Despite what may be done, the conditions of industry throughout the Commonwealth will be more or less affected. It is being borne in on me more and more that, if the principle of conciliation and arbitration in industrial matters is to be really effective, it must take a Federal, a nation-wide, aspect.
The sugges’tion I have made will probably be objected to on the ground that its adoption would gradually, if not at once, do away with the existing State Courts, and that ‘certain advantages which might he considered to exist under the constitution of those Courts would, therefore, be lost. I see no reason why, if such an arrangement* were brought about, the combined wit and wisdom of the legislators of Australia could not so provide that the .best features of both sets of legislation would be retained in the’ final result. I feel strongly, for instance, that the principle of. having representatives of both parties to a dispute sitting on the Bench, in conjunction with the presiding Judge, is one to which we should adhere ; but I do not altogether agree that these assessors, if ‘honorable members please so to call them, should be permanent. It is far better that they should ‘be appointed from, time to time, and that they should be men possessing special knowledge of the (particular industry concerned in the dispute before the Court. These assessors I believe to be absolutely necessary. Judges, after all, are but mortal; and it seems to me to be impossible for any one man, without special guidance and assistance, to obtain such a grasp of all the complicated industries that may come tinder his survey as to be able to give in every case a thoroughly equitable and just decision.
– The honorable member suggests that there should be assessors to assist the Judge?
– Yes; as in the Western Australian ‘Court ; but there the assessors hold permanent appointments.
– And the honorable member thinks that assessors with special knowledge of the industry involved in a dispute before the Court should be appointed from time to time.
– Yes; when a particular industry is involved in a dispute, removable assessors should be appointed. That, of course, is” simply a suggestion.
– It is a very good one.
– The suggestion has sometimes been looked upon as involving an interference with State rights, and has been strongly objected to on that ground. I venture to urge, however, that it does not bear that aspect. If it meant a deliberate infringement of State Government rights, there, might be some force .in the objection; but I maintain that the exercise of judicial functions is wholly different from the exercise of governmental functions.
– But it is admitted that the Federal Court exercises more than judicial functions.
– It was not intended to do so, and certainly should not.
– Mr. Justice Higgins said at the very outset that it was so intended.
– I am not a lawyer, and would not put my opinion against that of a learned Justice like Mr. Justice Higgins; but the public idea of the function of the Court is that it should try to judge fairly between the disputing parties. That, to my mind, means the exercise of the judicial function. What is more, the Court, in judging between the disputing parties, should also take into consideration the interest ‘ of that large outside third party - the public - which, is not heard in the Court.
– Why not also have on the Bench a representative of the public?
– I fail to see how such representation could be chosen. I SuK- ‘ gest to the honorable member that the presiding Judge is considered to hold tha balance evenly, and that in the action and re-action between two disputing parties, with a Judge as an arbitrator, the interests of the public are supposed to ba conserved. No human machine is perfect, and I suggest to the House that there is grave objection to any of these decisions being given by one individual. Within reasonable limits the larger tha personnel of the Bench, the more likely we are to obtain a fair average judgment representing the views and’ opinions of the people, as a .whole.
– That, I think, is a plea* for the jury system.
– Yes, if we could secure trained jurymen. I firmly believe that if this suggestion were adopted any disadvantage flowing from it would be far outweighed by the advantages that would be gained by the avoidance of overlapping and congestion. At the same time, I recognise that the State Courts are naturally in abetter position to understand and appreciate at their true value any State local conditions that may exist.
Mr.Foster. - Which is very desirable.
– I agree with the honorable member. One of the weaknesses of the Federal awards is that they are made to apply throughout the Commonwealth regardless of any possible difference in local conditions; and it is felt that the State Courts, perhaps, understand more fully, and give more due weight to, any special circumstances of the kind. That difficulty, however, would be overcome if the machinery I have proposed were installed. Although the branch of the Federal Court established in each State would be merely a branch of the Central Court, the Judge and the assessors would be resident in the State - they would be living and working under State conditions - and, therefore, would be in a far better position to properly consider and apply those conditions in their awards. In view of the inter-dependence and the interrelation of trade and industry in all its branches, and in all the States, I am not sure that that is not the only logical development of our present system.
I propose now to refer to another phase of this question which has been widely discussed during the debate on this motion. It has been obvious that one of the most pressing grounds for the contention of the State Governments that the respective spheres should be clearly delimited has been their express desire to remove from the jurisdiction of the Federal Court what have come to be known as State instrumentalities. “ State instrumentalities “ is a very wide term; it embraces Government activities of two kinds. There are what we might call Government trading concerns or business enterprises, which exist more or less in all of the States, and there are the ordinary Government Departments controlling Government utilities, such as railways, which are looked upon as naturally within the functions of State
Governments. I think that honorable members will be somewhat amazed, as I was, when they learn that it has been estimated, from reliable sources of information, that the total number of persons employed in one or other of these classes of State utilities is somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000. If we take their dependants into consideration, it will be quite a conservative estimate to say that a decision in this matter will affect between 750,000 and 1,000,000 people in Australia. So very large a section of the public is not to be brushed aside lightly. The people comprising it are not to have their rights carelessly or flippantly considered. I see no reason why those comprising such a large proportion of the community , should be deprived of any right to fair treatment if they consider that fair treatment is not given to them. The principal, and, so far as I can gather, the only objection whichhas been raised by the State Governments to the inclusion of their utilities within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court, is that it would bind their hands in their budgeting operations, would prevent them from having a proper control of their finances, and in that sense would be an undue interference with State control and State rights. That would be a serious objection, perhaps, hut it can be adequately met. Let us consider, first, the position of State trading concerns and business enterprises. Most of them are already subject in some way or other to Arbitration Court awards, but if they are not, I ask honorable members on both sides, do they mean to suggest for a moment that a State Government should be allowed to conduct a trading concern or business enterprise under more favorable conditions, so far as wages and conditions of labour are concerned, than outside firms?
Mr.Foster.- Such concerns do not come within the proper functions of a Government.
– Then they should be got rid of, but so long as they exist the State should be a model employer. It should be at least as good an employer as any private person.
– It should be the best employer, in order to secure the best employees.
– I agree with the honorable member. I submit that it is utterly illogical that the State should undertake business enterprises to compete with private enterprises, and yet should not be subject to the same control so far as wages and conditions of labour are concerned as outside firms.
– Parliament should control its own servants.
– I am dealing- for the moment with the objection that these arbitration awards would bind the hands of the State Governments. In the majority of cases the employees in these enterprises are already subject to awards of Arbitration Courts, and the State Treasurers have already been called upon to budget accordingly. So the objection fails as applied to State trading concerns and business enterprises.
– The experience of Western Australia is that it does not.
– The honorable member is not correct. The experience of Western Australia is the reverse of what he says it is. In that State Government enterprises and trading concerns are becoming more and more under the control of arbitration awards. During the week in which I last left . Perth there was concluded a very long hearing before the Arbitration Court in which the State Government was arraigned before the Court in connexion with the payment of wages to its own employees. Tho hands of the Treasurer of Western Australia are tied at the present moment by these arbitration awards, and this applies also to the -Treasurers of other States. The State Governments are seeking relief from this position by proposing that State instrumentalities shall be removed from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court.
– The Western Australian Government are manufacturers in a large way of agricultural implements. -
– I am aware that they are.
– The business is a paying concern, is it not?
– That is a question of balance-sheets, which I do not want to go into now. I desire to pursue the subject in hand logically to its conclusion. With regard to other branches of State instrumentalities, to which we may refer as Government Departments, the position is very curious. I submit that in many instances these also are working under such conditions that the State Govern ments must find themselves to some extent confined in their control over the salaries -of the employees of these instrumentalities. In the New South Wales Public Service, all officers in receipt of salaries up to £525 a year’, prior to 1923, had access to the State Arbitration Court. In Queensland, public servants in receipt of salaries up to £300 have access to the State Court. In the other States public servants never had access to the Arbitration Court, but there have been in most, if not all of them, special tribunals, or appeal boards, appointed to deal with and control the Public Service. In New South Wales, since the public servants3 were removed from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, there have been established what are known as Salaries Committees. I do not know very much about their working. In Queensland there is a special Appeal Board established. In Victoria there is a Railway Classification Board. In South Australia there is no provision made for an Appeal Board.
– There is an Appeal Board in South Australia.
– Then it must have been created very recently; in any case, the fact only strengthens my argument. In Tasmania there was an Appeal Board, which was abolished in favour of a Wages Board; while in Western Australia an Appeal Board still operates. It must ‘be remembered, however, that in all these cases, in conjunction with the Appeal Board, there are special officials who deal particularly with the’ question of salaries. For many years, strenuous efforts have been made throughout Australia to place all public servants in such a position that they shall be entirely independent of political control. That has always been recognised as very desirable, and, in order to attain it, Commissioners or other officials have been appointed to deal with the question of salaries, quite independent of any political considerations of the moment. From the decisions of these Commissioners and others there may he appeals to Boards, which determine the justice of the claims. Undoubtedly the whole object is, as I say, to remove State utilities from the influences of the passing changes and prejudices of political parties. This is very necessary and desirable in a country where State control has grown to such an extent that to-day probably nearly onefifth of the people are directly or indirectly dependent on State activities. And to the extent that these commissioners and Appeal Boards properly function the State Treasurers are already bound - to that extent their hands are tied, and, when they are budgeting, their control of the finances is limited and defined’. Therefore, the objection that if State utilities come under the Federal Arbitration Court the hands of the State Treasurers will he tied is not a fair one.
– May not the present control be exercised in accordance with the prevailing policy of the particular State?
– Is that altogether a fair consideration? If it is, the honorable member ought to push it to its logical conclusion, which means that the control of the Public Service will fluctuate with the party in power.
– Not necessarily.
– If the control fluctuates with the policyfor the time being of the particular State, it will fluctuate according to the policy of the party in power, and we shall then get a reflection, more or less, of the old American system, which still prevails, but not to the same degree as formerly. It was to avoid such a result that Commissioners and Appeal Boards were created - in order to insure a certain degree of reliability so far as the employees are concerned. I should like to impress on honorable members what is to he expected if State utilities are removed from the operation of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration. Act. I have already said that in New South Wales until 1923 cases were taken to the Court,but thatthrough a change of Government policy the privilege has been removed. There have been changes of that sort from time to time; and, in justice and equity, I ask whether it is right that the power to vary the right of appeal should rest in the hands of one of the parties to the appeal. Let me give a further instance from my own experience in Western Australia, where there are Public Service Commissioners and an Appeal Board, which is supposed to hear appeals from the decisions of the former. A reclassification took place two or three years ago, and a large number of appeals were lodged, the majority of which were successful. LastSeptember, the then Chairman of the Appeal Board- who must be a Judge of theSupreme Court - resigned at a certain stage of the proceedings. No appointment to the position has since been made by the Government, with the result that the Board has practically ceased to function. I give these facts to show that the present position is most unsatisfactory. The claims and interests of this large body of men, who form such an important section of the Australian community, must bo respected, and must be considered by this House. I submit most strongly that there is no logical reason in equity or expediency why State utilities should be removed from the purview of the Arbitration Court. Of course, the removal might be expedient from the point of view of the Government of the day, but it would, I submit, be very inexpedient in the interests of the public. In outside employment the conditions are more or less fixed and permanent, and the uncertainty in the Public Service must inevitably reflect on the character and status of the Service; and, further, must affectthe quality of the work performed, and re-act on the prosperity and efficiency of the State. As I have said, some of my views may not meet with general approval here, but I cannot on that account retract a conviction which has been borne in upon me by long personal experience and very careful thought. I have been for nearly thirty years a public servant, and I know the conditions of the Public Service inside and out. Very often circumstances arise in which public servants, owing to the fact that they are pledged not to take political action - pledged to, as far as possible, keep themselves balanced, as it were, between the extremes of public opinion - are prevented from getting that consideration to which they are entitled. It is easy, and it has become very common and. cheap, to sneer and cast reflections on public servants, but I maintain that the development and success of the States has been in the past, to a much greater degree than is generally recognised, due to the earnest work, selfsacrifice, and devotion of members of the Public Service in Australia. Not only on these grounds, but on grounds of ordinary common justice and equity, this large mass of citizens of the Australian
Commonwealth should not be denied those rights and privileges which are enjoyed by their fellow countrymen in outside employment.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 8.15 p.m.
– I am well aware, Mr. Speaker, that time this afternoon is limited, and so I shall endeavour to make my remarks as concise as possible. As the representative of the Northern Territory it is very gratifying to mie to know that, at last, the Government intend to make an attempt to develop the Territory by the only satisfactory method, namely, by railway construction. Other proposals may be all very well in their way, but without railway communication the Commonwealth might just as well hand the Northern Territory back to the Imperial authorities and confess its failure to develop the wonderful inheritance that was passed on to it by the South Australian Government. The scheme for railway ‘ construction, as outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, has” the hearty approval of the whole of the people in the Territory, but it is regrettable that, haying recognised the urgent necessity for railway construction, the Government have not seen fit to start also from the lower end by putting in hand the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– We shall get. it.
– I hope we shall, because it is essential for the development of that portion of the Territory, and is part of the original proposal. It is impossible for honorable members, without personal knowledge, to appreciate the value to the Commonwealth of the vast area of country which I now represent,
Or to visualize its immense possibilities. Unfortunately, for a long time, it has been stigmatized as an undesirable portion of Australia, but gradually prejudices are being broken down, and objections overcome, and I am pleased to know that members of this House, when occasion offers, take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Territory, because true knowledge can only be gained in that way. Knowing it as I do I feel that by neglecting ,it for so long the politicians of Australia have betrayed the great trust that was reposed in them through failure to “realize the importance of developing one of the finest portions of Australia. I say this advisedly, because I have seen Australia from every angle, and I know .of no better country in the whole of the Commonwealth than is in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, under present conditions, real progress is impossible.
One of the principal barriers to satisfactory development is the system of land tenure inaugurated by the South Australian Government which administered the Territory for many years prior to Commonwealth control. There is no provision for the resumption of land in respect of which conditions of lease have not been fulfilled, and, ‘as a result, large areas have been taken up and have never been stocked. These facts* are known to those honorable members who have travelled through the Territory, and I understand the Government intend promulgating an Ordinance, which will permit original leaseholders to surrender their leases, and take the land up under new terms, which will provide for ‘the. resumption of certain areas within a specified time’. There is some opposition to this proposal, but I can say, without fear of contradiction, th:rt it is well within the power of the Commonwealth Government to. enforce the conditions whether ‘the leaseholder likes it or not, and that action in this direction will have beneficial results. Obviously, it’ is the duty of the Government to see that the conditions of the leases are observed. I have travelled through the Territory in the company of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce). During our tour I informed him, before we came to one of the most valuable stretches of country, that for about seven years there had not been a single head of stock grazing on it. These facts were well known to officials in the Northern Territory, and we were told that, evidently in view of the Minister’s visit, it was the intention of the management to drove cattle from another station on to the land before we got there.
– Was that Eva Downs station ?
– Yes. Unfortunately for the lease-holder, we arrived too soon, and found the stockmen engaged droving cattle on to the land. The manager was with the party. In his presence I interrogated one of the aboriginal drovers, who admitted that they had had instructions to put the cattle on the property. As I have said, this is one of the finest station areas in the Northern Territory, and yet the conditions of the lease have never been enforced. The same may be said of more than 50 per cent, of the land tenures in the Territory, so decided action by the Administration is urgently needed to insure its proper development.
– What is the area of Eva Downs station ?
– Approximately, 1,000 square miles.
– You can go for over 150 miles and not see a hoof.
– That is so. At one time I travelled from the Katherine to the Victoria River, a distance of over 400 miles overland, held chiefly by Vestey Brothers, and saw only two head of cattle. All that country could beutilized to far better advantage. If the leasehold conditions are not being observed, the Government should have no compunction about demanding the forfeiture of the leases.
– Is that country reasonably well watered ?
– The tableland country isvery well watered with sub-artesian bores, the average depth of which is about 200 feet, and in the western portions of the Northern Territory there is plenty of the very best natural water. For many years I have advocated that the only effective way to insure the observance of leasehold conditions is to appoint Crown Lands rangers or inspectors. The Minister has been so impressed with the necessity for this that he intends to appoint these rangers. The sooner it is done the greater will be the progress made by the Northern Territory.
Owing to the limited time at my disposal to-day I am curtailing my remarks, because I am informed that I shall have a further opportunity of dealing with these matters when a Supply Bill is before us; but, in fairness to my electors, I must bring them under the notice of the House.
What I have said in regard to the administration of the land laws applies equally to the administration of the min ing laws in the Territory. These are not being enforced, and consequently mining is a farce. The Marranboy tin-field, which is one of the best in Australia, covers a large area, and the deposits cannot be exhausted for many years to come; yet one man has been allowed to hold several of the principal leases without making any attempt to work them. Evidently he believes that, at some future date, through the activities of the present Government, he will succeed in getting black labour to work his leases. As a matter of fact, he submitted a proposal to that effect to the Minister for Home and Territories. I quote this instance merely as an illustration of the conditions under which mining is carried on in the Northern Territory. Why should one man be allowed to monopolize areas known to contain mineral wealth without making any attempt to develop them, more particularly when the Government have spent from £20,000to £30,000 in the erection of an up-to-date battery on the field?I am sure that if the mining laws were enforced any number of men would be willing and anxious to work in this district, and make areasproductive which are now lying dormant owing to the failure of the administration to enforce the laws which they are’ supposed to administer.
A great deal has, been said in this chamber about immigration and defence. The most effective defence Australia could have would beprovided by the settlement of a virile white population in the Northern Territory, and this could be achieved without great difficulty, because, with its area of 500.000 square miles, and its great possibilities,the Territory presents opportunities for the settlement of hundreds of thousands of people. Iintroduced to the Minister deputations from persons who were prepared to grow cotton if the Government would assist them with rations for the first four or five months, and with implements. The giving of such assistance would he preferable to the subsidizing of a big concern like Vestey’s, with a capital of £20,000,000 behind it, by giving them a bonus of £2 7s. per head of cattle. Furthermore, it would promote the establishment of a national industry in the Territory. But very little seems to he done to assist settlers there. Ten or twelve years ago there was a train service twice a week. The train now runs once a fortnight, and the settlers along the railway find it impossible to make a living, because of the lack of transport facilities.
– I would not like to miss my train there.
– The inconvenience to which the honorable member would be put is nothing compared’ with the harm clone to settlers trying to eke out a living along the line by growing produce for despatch te the seaboard. I do not think that the Government should look to earn a profit from the railway in the Northern Territory for many years to come. Railways are supposed to be a help to development, and should be so regarded.
The coastal belts of- the Northern Territory have been much despised by writers in the southern presS and by people who, although they know absolutely nothing about them, stigmatize them as places where nothing can ‘be grown or raised. To such a statement I give an emphatic denial. The coastal belts of the Northern Territory are capable of producing anything in the shape of agricultural products or live stock, except, perhaps, ‘sheep. Experience has proved that small cattleowners prefer the coastal belts, which are supplied with natural water, because there it is not necessary for them to incur expense in putting down artesian bores. The cattle raised in these belts have turned out to be just as high-class as those reared on the tableland, where the famous Flinders, Mitchell and nut grass grow in wild profusion. A comparison of the activities of the small cattle-owners with those of the larger owners shows some very notable differences. In order to get the best results from their small holdings the coastal cattle-owners are compelled to improve their areas, whereas the large holders have hardly attempted to do so, as the Minister noted on his tour of in,spection. The improvements on the big holdings are absolutely nil, and the conditions generally on these large runs are not what it was anticipated they would be when the leases were first granted.
In order to assist’ the development of the Territory, it is obviously the duty of the Federal Government to find markets for the smaller cattle men. I have letters in my possession which show that there is an unlimited market in Java and other parts of the East for their cattle, and if these markets could be made available to the small cattle-owners of the NorthernTerritory, it would rid them of the disadvantage to which they are at present subjected in having to sell to Vestey Bros. At least 200 tons of frozen beef could be taken each month by Java. As this quantity would equal 1,000 head of live cattle, the shipment of the frozen beef would be better than the export of the live beasts. Although Vestey Brothers nominally control the export of live cattle from the Territory, small cattle-owners have been asked to supply quotas for various shipments. But when one man who was granted permission to ship 100 head informed Vestey’s management that he would go straight away and select his fats, he was told to pick out the roughest in his herd. Is that the way to build up a trade with foreign countries? Yet’ Vestey Brothers are the people who induced the small holders to do this. It was very doubtful recently if the authori- ties in Java would permit the landing of any more cattle from Australia. The obvious purpose of the instruction was to spoil the business of the small men altogether, because a firm like Vestey Brothers can always find a market.
I now come to the subject of oil aud coal leases. One has only to look at a map of the Northern Territory to see that thousands of square miles, are held for purely speculative purposes. Only one or two companies are making any attempt whatever to exploit or prospect the areas they hold. On some of the leases coal is known to exist, and I have seen samples of it, which to me, as a layman, appeared exceptionally good. This mineral, however, is in a lease held for oil prospecting. The company has held the land for eighteen months or more without working it in any way, although the law says that it must employ labour on the lease for at least six months in every year. It is impossible for the individual who knows of the existence of this coal to go upon the lease. The development of coal in any part of Australia is a national concern, and if the person desirous of prospecting the find is adequately protected by the Government, hp is prepared to begin lifting the coal within two months. But he is a foreigner, and under the mining or some other law a foreigner is not allowed to develop the mineral resources of the Territory. I maintain that it can not matter a great deal whether mineral wealth in Australia is developed by a foreigner or anybody else, but it should not be left lying idle; because mining activity spells progress. The Government would be well advised to grant permission for the exploitation of the field. The safest and quickest way to bringabout the mining of coal would be to compel the big companies, which are holding thousands of square miles for speculative purposes, towork their leases. Then the bulk of the leases would very soon be forfeited.
Seeing that the Government have decided to give the Territory a chance, and have agreed to an extension of its railway facilities, I contend that the present system of administration, which is fatal to the activities of the country, should be immediately altered. I cannot escape the conclusion that the present system is bad, becausethe chief characteristics of the officials sent there seem to be inability and incompetence in matters pertaining to the Territory’s development. If the present conditions are further tolerated, the progress of the country’ must he very slow. I go so far as to say that the existing system has proved abortive, and the only way out of the difficulty is to appoint an elective advisory board, chosen by the people,with a Government official as chairman. That would facilitate the advancement of the Territory’s best interests and secure a true reflex of the will of the inhabitants. Under present conditions the people can do nothing in the direction of reform. If a person offends the Administration, he is hounded down and despised. The officials have their hirelings, who write tothe southern press about the awful type of men to be found there. I marvel sometimes at the toleration of the residents in submitting to as much as they do. On another occasion I intend to give the House some account of the matters of which I complain . From the very commencement, the work of the present Administrator was doomed to failure. He was selected because he was a great tyrant. An honorable member of this Chamber once said that the Territory required a strong man with a big boot. I maintain that what was most needed was a man with a little common sense. When we had Mr. Staniforth Smith as Administrator there was ‘a possibility of effecting an improvement in the conditions, but he had no sympathy from the Government or from those who were opposed to anything in the shape of progressive administration. I defy any honorable member to tell me one constructive thing that the present Administrator has done. I do not believe he has a constructive thought, and yet he presides over the destinies of people occupying an area of 500,000 square miles. An individual with a life’s training for a policeman is not of the right type for a position of this nature. It is certainly a job for a man whose interests are centred in the Territory, and who wishes from patriotic motives to see it progress. The Administrationhas been carried on in a manner that should not be tolerated in any civilized community. An auditor has been sent up, and it was high time such action was taken, but that officer has a hopeless task, because the officials connected with the Administrationdo not want the exposure that an audit would precipitate. The result is that whenever an obstacle can be placed in his way it is being done. I am not making bald assertions; I am prepared to prove what I say.. The energy of the present and past Administrations there seems to have been centred on protecting men of very doubtful character. The honest man who has had the courage of his convictions has been persecuted, while, on the other hand, the Administration has condoned felonies. In saying this, I am making no wild assertion. Men in the Government service have defaulted for £300 to £400, yet there have been no public disclosures, and quite recently officials have defaulted to the extent of about £100. The only penalty they suffer is that they are asked to resign, and that is the end of it. If I, or any one else who has fought for the cause of the Northern Territory, did those things, the sentence would be ten years’ imprisonment.. Why should Government officials be exempt from penalties to which I and other residents of the Northern Territory are liable ? I understand that since I came to Melbourne some of these offenders have been reinstated in the Government service. Why? Because they are trusted servants, from the point of view of a corrupt Administration.
I would like to direct the attention of honorable members to the type of men that the Government has invariably selected to control the Northern Territory.Irefer particularly to one, John Anderson Gilruth. He went to the Northern Territory and wrote numerous reports from 1912 onwards. I commend those reports to the considerationof honorable members, who will find inthem glowing statements to the effect that the Territory was a “white man’s country.” an Eden, and everything else that could be desired. John Anderson Gilruth continued this policy until he came under the influence of a chartered company. Thenhe commenced to twist. Hehas published recently in a local newspaper a statement to the effect that the Territory is “ hopeless, worthless, and useless.” If this were so, I want to know why he took payment from the Federal Government? If we accept his own statements, he knew that the Territory was “hopeless, worthless, and useless,” and yet lied to Ministers of the Crown by saying that it was a Paradise Lost. To condemn him, it is only necessary to read his official reports and compare them with his recent attitude. With him now it is merely a question of “ sour grapes.” I could take the most sceptical man in Parliament through the Territory, and, provided he was not biased, I could convince him that the. land there is infinitely superior to much of the boasted land in Queensland and elsewhere. In spite of this, the Territory has never had a reasonable opportunity to advance.
– Who appointed Dr. Gilruth?
– It matters little to me who appointed Him. I am not here to champion the cause of any Government; I am here to redress the wrongs of the peopleof the Northern Territory, if I can.Let me cite another instance to emphasize the badness of the conditions under which the Northern Territory is being administered. The Federal Government recently decided, in its wisdom, to grant a monopoly to a big firm in Darwin for the supply of electric light to the town. The Govern ment did not even have the courtesy to consult the local council, which owned and controlled many of the wires already erected, but,by virtue of an Act of Parliament, an Ordinance, or something else that was “ under the lap,” disposed of the sole rights in the matter and handed over the property of the taxpayers withoutconsulting them. The taxpayers were naturally resentful. As a result of proceedings that were instituted, the individual concerned was committed for trial and let out on bail. While he was out on bail the Federal Government rushed through another Ordinance decreeing that, notwithstanding anything laid down in such-and-such an Act or Ordinance, this man should not be prosecuted or fined for having contravened Acts of Parliament and regulations which hadbeen in existence for years. That is not the way to instil confidence into a people, or to bring contentment to a community. The people were quite justified in making their protest in the only manner possible after all constitutional means had been exhausted. The Administration seems to be conspiring to put down a certain section of the community, and the section which it tries to put down consists of those people who have the interests of the Territory at heart, who want to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of its progress, and are desirous of seeing it settled with a white, contented, prosperous people. While the energies of the workers and the citizens generally are concentrated upon the improvement of the Territory, the Administration is employed in fomenting trouble. The Administration, through its officers, advises men to strike, and I and others get the blame for it. Recently a prominent official was chiefly responsible for creating industrial trouble in the Territory. I advised the men not to listen to him. I told them he was not their friend, and would not advise them to strike unless he had an ulterior motive. He induced them to strike, and was later promoted in the Service. I ask whether this kind of thing is conducive to settlement and contentment in the Territory ? Is it any wonder that the residents of the Territory have been driven to extremes with the object of bringing before the people of Australia their many grievances? I say fearlessly that they were fully justified in the measures they took. Nothing has been done on industrial lines to assist the workers. I urge honorable members to give serious consideration to the introduction of a Workers’ Compensation Act for the Territory. At present there is a Commonwealth Act and a .South Australian Act. The latter applies only to certain activities, such as factories, and does not cover the class of work followed in the Territory. The Commonwealth Act .benefits only Commonwealth employees. I think it is not asking toomuch to suggest that Parliament should extend to the people of the Northern Territory the same benefits as are conferred upon the workers in the southern States.
The hut accommodation provided for workers is another matter to which the Commonwealth Government might give consideration. If honorable members were to go through the western part of the Territory and see some of the hovels in which men are expected to live, they would be ashamed to admit that they have been partly responsible for such conditions by their negligent administration of the affairs of the Territory. I have seen rooms in slab huts, long since fallen into decay, in which a man could not possibly lie down. In the wet season, when torrential rains fall, men have to lie in the open with no other protection than that which is provided by a small piece of. tent fly 2 feet high. Such are the conditions provided by large, wealthy companies, such ‘ as Vestey Brothers and others, for their employees. It is not asking too much of this Parliament to ask that it shall pass an Act to provide for. the better accommodation of the employees of the squatters in the Northern Territory. Fortunately, there are exceptions to the rule, and Lake Nash is one of them. Every consideration is given to the employees there; they have comfortable accommodation and a reading room. Every necessary is supplied, and, in consequence, the employees are perfectly contented, and remain in the service for many years. Such conditions are beneficial from a productive point of view, and as one company has realized the wisdom of granting these benefits to its employees, the Federal Government should force the other landholders in the Territory to” follow that example.
– Lake Nash has spent £12,000 on houses in- the last few years.
– Lake Nash is an exception to the rule, and all credit is due to that company for the manner in which it treats its employees.
– The same conditions do not apply at Newcastle Waters.
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) visited that locality, and there is no need for me to enlarge upon the awful conditions prevailing there. Suffice it to say, that not even an outhouse is provided.
The provision of bush doctors requires the serious consideration of this House. In the Northern Territory at present one doctor has the’ sole private practice in the entire area of 500,000 square miles’.
– And the health of the people there is exceptionally good in consequence ?
– It may be, but that does not necessarily prove that the. system is right. The medical practitioner in Darwin has a monopoly, but it would be impossible for any man, however eminent in his profession, to attend to the medical requirements of people spread over 500,000 square miles of territory. It is obviously the duty of this Parliament to see that proper medical facilities are provided, because the health .of the community should be the first consideration of any . sound Government. The Minister for Home and Territories informed me that it would be difficult to persuade doctors to accept positions in the outlying portions of the Northern Territory, unless we were prepared to accept derelicts and men who would very soon drift to the hotel or the bottle for consolation. Fortunately, a solution was- revealed to the Minister at Camooweal, where he saw a lady doctor, a very charming person, who is shortly to be married. In future the Camooweal district will have the benefit of .her services. If the Minister will apply himself to supplying a few lady doctors for the Northern Territory, he will do much to solve the problem of inducing people to settle there.
The abolition of trial by jury in the Northern Territory is a serious matter, ‘ and should receive the earnest consideration of members of this Chamber. There, for all but capital offences, the citizen is denied the right of trial by his peers. The position is intolerable. Trial by jury is one of the fundamental principles of British justice, and should not be denied the Northern Territory. Legislators are not game to deny it to other States.
– The principle is being undermined here, also.
– The Federal Government should immediately redress the anomalies created by the abolition of trial by jury. I have no fault to find with the presiding Judge, but the present system is bad, and I appeal to honorable members to unanimously agree to the restoration of the right to trial by jury.
I say, without fear or hesitation., that the recent election campaign in the Northern Territory was the most corrupt ever conducted in any part of the world. [ do not say that in malice. We tried hard to get redress of abuses, but our attempts were systematically evaded. In that election the secrecy of the ballot was not observed. The ballot-papers were kept by the Returning Officer for weeks on end. He evaded the Act by taking the precaution not to send along the envelopes containing the postal ballot-papers to the Clerk of the Court, and it was not until after a number of letters, were forwarded to him by my solicitor that he consented to produce the papers. He had envelopes numbered to correspond with the numbers on the ballot-papers, and there was nothing to prevent him from ascertaining how the whole of the votes were recorded. His action was a contravention of the Act, and a violation of the secrecy of the ballot, but was allowed to continue with impunity. Votes recorded on my behalf were delivered to the office, but did not come to light until too late. Certain persons had made up their minds to keep me out of Parliament, and were prepared to go to any length to achieve their end. The ballot was conducted in a disgraceful manner. The Returning Officer positively refused to announce the nominations. Action was taken in Court to force him to comply with the conditions of tha Act. He should have been committed for trial, and the magistrate had power to do so, but although he was satisfied that an offence had been committed, he usurped tha function of the Judge and dismissed the case; I was not to get redress. I mention this matter in no spirit of vin- dictiveness, but in order to make a repetition of such abuses impossible. The secrecy of the ballot is one of our most sacred, political institutions, and should not be abused by men who are partisans, and have no regard for the fundamental principles of British justice.
Under the laws applicable to extradition in the Northern Territory, owing to a lack of foresight on the part of the Federal Government, a man can skip across the border line of the adjoining State into the Northern Territory, negotiate hundreds of .pounds worth of valueless cheques, and recross the border line, and no one, except the person who is aggrieved, can take action against him. At any rate the Crown refuses to do it. Felonies are being condoned. I know of cases of men having been arrested in places like Townsville for burglary, and, because the people who had been burgled were not prepared to “foot the bill” to the extent of £200 or £300, the Federal. Government would not bring back the offenders. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) knows of cases of men having circulated valueless cheques for as much as £300 and £400, and because the victims happened to be workers who were not in a position to put up the money to bring back the offenders, and have their rights redressed, they, were compelled to forfeit them, as the Federal Government declined to see that the law was observed. . I feel sure that the Minister for Home and Territories will see that that system is altered.
The police in the Northern Territory have not been my friends for many years, but, nevertheless, I realize that the conditions under which they work are simply intolerable. Policemen are sent into the_ country to carry out all sorts of duties, and in some cases the Government will not provide them with accommodation.
– They are not allowed to marry.
– That is so. These are the guardians of law and order. If a policeman desires to marry, he has to resign from the force. Any Government which sacks an employee because he wants to follow the dictates of nature is inhuman.
I refute the assertion that the people of the Northern Territory are irresponsible.
They are amongst the best citizens in Australia. They have gone there with one desire - to see that the vast spaces of Australia are developed. They want to see that development carried out on practical lines. I think that they are quite justified in the attitude which they have adopted, in attempting to force on the Administration what they consider is its obvious duty. From the point of view of genuine settlement, given reasonable facilities and assistance, these men will prove to be greater assets to Australia than are the men who hang around Bourke-street in Melbourne and Georgestreet in Sydney.
I hope that serious consideration will be given to the question of railway construction. I am convinced that if the railway is built at least to Alice Springs, development will follow of a portion of the Northern Territory that is highly suitable for agricul- tural, pastoral, and mining activities if reasonably cheap transportation is provided. Under present . conditions, those activities are impossible. By the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs and an extension from Emungalan - not to Daly “Waters, but for another 100 miles to Newcastle Waters - the Government will do something of a beneficial nature to assist in the development of the Northern Territory. It will then be found, within a comparatively few years, that the Northern Territory, instead of being the great financial .sink that it is at the present time, will be converted into a productive and settled com- munity, worthy of taking its place amongst the States of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) put -
– That is not the custom, nor is it neces-sary.
That tlie question be now put.
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question is that the motion for the adoption of the Address- -in-Reply be agreed to. Those in favour of the question will say “Aye”; those against it will say “ No.” I think the “ Ayes “ have it.
Opposition MEMBERS - No!
– A division being called for, the House will divide.
– No division.
– The question is, therefore, resolved in the affirmative. The Hon. the Prime Minister-
– On a point of order, sir, I wish to say that the Opposition called for a division.
– When the question was put, there was a loud chorus of “Noes,” in which I most cordially joined. Having been prevented by the application of the “ gag “ from taking any part in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I have no desire to see the motion carried without a division.
– I gave the House an opportunity to divide on the question. I declared for a division, but the Leader of the Opposition called “ No division “–
– Hear, hear!
– And I accepted his statement as being made with the authority of his party. The question has been decided in the affirmative, and cannot be re-opened.
– Very well, sir ; I stand by whatever my Leader has said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to receive the AddressinReply, and inform honorable members accordingly.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for Main ‘Roads Development.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. ‘Bruce, and read a first time.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to state that it has been introduced at this early stage in order that the sum of £500,000 for the appropriation of which it provides may be made available as soon as possible to the States, to enable them to proceed with the construction of any necessary works that can be provided to absorb those people in the community who, unfortunately, at the moment are unemployed. Road construction, speaking generally, is, of course, a matter for the States, and not for the Commonwealth Government. But we have now reached a point in our development at which the National Government must give consideration to the subject, realizing, as it does, that in this country means of transit are imperative if we are to develop as rapidly . as we should do. This is particularly important having regard to the migration into Australia which is now taking place. After giving full consideration to the matter the Government determined to bring this measure before the House with a view to taking action to give assistance in the development of national roads. The proposals were outlined to the Premiers when they met us in Conference’ here a few weeks ago. No doubt honorable members are familiar, in broad outline, with what it is suggested should be done by the Commonwealth. But I will very briefly remind them of what the position is. It is proposed that the Commonwealth shall make a grantof £500,000 to the States. That amount will be distributed between the different States conditionally upon the States also providing money for the same purpose on a £1 for £1 basis. I wish to make it very clear here, as I did at the Conference, that this proposal is not designed to relieve the StateGovernments from their ordinary obligations with regard to roads. It is intended to extend and promote the development of the country by the provision of new roads and the improvement of main roads as arteries of communication. In the past it has been accepted, almost as an axiom, that payments to the States by the Commonwealth should he made upon a per capita basis. On the present occasion we have departed from that principle, but I think the action we . propose to take will commend itself to the House, irrespective of party considerations. In the past, the result of the per capita distribution of Commonwealth payments to the States has always been that the more thickly populated and more highly developed States have received the major portion of the money available, whilst it is obvious to every one that the great undeveloped and sparsely populated States are most in need of any assistance we can give. The Government propose, in connexion with the grant now under consideration, to distribute three-fifths of the amount on a per capitabasis, and twofifths upon an area basis. The effect of this will be to bring the amounts received by the great undeveloped States more into line with the amounts received by States that are comparatively thickly populated, but have not a large expanse of territory. I will give one or two examples of the effect of the distribution proposed, but before doing so I intimate that the Government propose to vary to a slight extent the figures in order that a somewhat larger grant may be given to the State of Tasmania than that State would be entitled to receive under the scheme of distribution proposed for the other States. The effect of the Government’s proposal in the distribution of the £300,000 on a per capita basis would be - contrasting Victoria, which is a State small in area, but comparatively densely populated, withWestern Australia, which is vast in area, but very sparsely populated - that Victoria would receive £84,000 and Western Australia £18,000. Of the£200,000 to he distributed upon the area basis Victoria would receive £7,200 and Western Australia £79,900, so that the result of the distribution oh these lines would be that Victoria would receive £91,200 in all, and Western Australia £97,900. I appeal to the sense of fairness and justice of honorable members in commending the proposal that it is the large States with great developmental problems that are entitled to most consideration in connexion with the proposed grant.
– Will there be any grant for the Northern Territory?
– Separate proposals will have to be made for the Northern Territory, which is our responsibility. There is no State Government there to call upon to supplement the Commonwealth grant on the £1 for £1 basis.
With regard to Tasmania, I desire to mention some of the reasons which have led the Government to suggest a varia tion of the distribution for bringing about equitable treatment, having regard to the difficulties of development in the great States and the preponderance of population in the smaller States. Tasmania would not be brought into line with the other States by the adoption of the distribution suggested. If is unfortunately a State very small in area and very limited in population. It would not receive adequate assistance from the distribution, either on a population basis or an area basis, which, on one basis or the other, the other States would obtain. Tasmania would be entitled to receive only £12,000 on a population basis and only £2,200 in respect of the area of its territory, making a total of £14,200, whilst New South Wales, on this method of distribution would receive £141,000, Victoria £91,000, Queensland £96,000, South Australia £58,000, and Western Australia £97,000. In trying to meet what I venture to say is an exceptional case, the Government have made a reduction of approximately 2 per cent, on the original figures proposed for the other States, and have given that amount to the State of Tasmania, with the result that Tasmania will get £25,000 under our modified proposals, instead of £14,200, which that State would be entitled to receive upon thebasis of distribution applied to the other States. The reasons why, in my view, Tasmania, apart from the circumstances of smallness of population and area, is entitled to some special assistance are these: Up to the present, Tasmania has spent over £5,000,000 upon roads. It has 1,300 miles of metalled main roads and 6,000 miles of metalled roads within its area. It is necessary in Tasmania, owing to climatic conditions, to have metalled roads, and they involve considerable expenditure.
I commend the Bill to the House as a practical means of aiding the development and progress of the country generally. I am quite sure that the House as a whole will accept these proposals and indorse the action the Government have taken. The types of roads which are to be constructed are set out in the proposals that honorable members have already seen in connexion with the State Ministers’ Conference. The Commonwealth retains control in this regard, and every work has to be submitted to us. I assure honorable members that the Bill provides every safeguard to insure that the money shall be expended only on works that Parliament approves, namely, on developmental roads by which markets may be reached. Before I sit down may I say that, of course, this measure is one which falls within the Department of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) ? That honorable gentleman has. taken a great interest in and an infinity of trouble over the scheme, and I deeply regret that he is, unfortunately, ill and unable to be here to present. the Bill to the House.
.- May I also express my regret that, owing to ill-health, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) is unable to be with us to-day. Much as we on this side resented the course taken by the Prime Minister a few minutes ago, we highly appreciate the action of the Government in introducing this measure, for our desire is to find employment for a large number of unfortunate people. The system adopted for the allocation of the money on an area basis and a population basis is a wise one, because the less populated States with large areas are entitled to a little more consideration than the more densely populated States who have ample revenues for the purposes of road construction. However desirous we may .be to find employment for the ‘ people, we must realize that unless the State Governments, are galvanized into activity whatever we may do will be of no avail. In proof of that may I again draw the attention of the House to the vote of £250,000 which Ave passed last August? That money has not been expended, and I had anticipated that the Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill, would tell us exactly how much of it remains in hand. However, it is very obvious that unless something is done by the Federal Government to awaken the State Governments to the necessity of carrying out these necessary works, the object we have in view cannot be attained. Under clause 8, the Commonwealth must approve of every work carried out, and I think we might make suggestions to the State Governments in regard to what may be called national roads’. On many occasions honorable members on both sides of the House have urged the Commonwealth to construct certain roads of a national character. For instance, 1 may point out that at Port Stephens - which is partly in the electorate of Robertson and partly in the electorate of Newcastle - there is a naval base, but there is no road by which that base may be reached, though the country is settled all about. “Until the recent electoral redistribution I represented that part, so that I know what I am talking about. There has been agitation- at different times Avith a view to having a ro.ad constructed to Port Stephens, which, without doubt, is one of the best ports in Australia. There is a good road within 7 or 8 miles, and it would be only right and proper, now that we are providing employment in this way, to suggest to the New South Wales Government that such a road as I have spoken of should be constructed. It is, as I have already said, a road that would be of national advantage, and I do not think that the New South Wales Government will take umbrage at such a suggestion from us, seeing that we are providing the money.
– I can assure the honorable member that the Minister for Works and Railways has gone into the whole matter very deeply, and he has several schemes by which, without endeavouring to force our will too much on the States, we hope to be able to have done what is now suggested.
– I do not desire that we should endeavour to force our will too much on the States, but a timely suggestion often does much good, and I hope my remarks will be brought under the notice of the Minister for Works and Railways, or, in his absence, the officer in charge. If Ave spend large sums of money on a Naval Base it is only right that we should provide road communication.
We on this side promised yesterday to expedite the passage of this measure, in order to provide employment as quickly as possible, and I confine myself to expressing my hearty approval of it.
.- A few days ago I had the honour to introduce a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) on the subject of unemployment. The honorable gentleman was good enough to receive that deputation while a no-confidence motion was under consideration, and also to promise that he would cast about for means to relieve the pressing needs of the unemployed. I am very glad that to-day he has tabled a Bill which is likely to have very useful results so far as these needy people are concerned, but, although I do not quarrel with the measure in detail, I am not quite sure that the allocation of the money on the basis described is quite fair. If it is to be spent for, the relief of those most in need of employment, it should be borne in mind that the greater measure of industrial distress is to be found in the more thickly populated States and cities. However, I realize that the object of the Bill is developmental iri character, and that that fact must not be lost sight of, while it will incidentally serve the other useful purpose. I hope the Prime Minister will so far realize the urgency of this matter that he, having control of the public purse, will see, if he can, and as far as he can, that these works are put in hand with reasonable despatch. The needs of the unemployed are immeasurably greater in midwinter than they will be in three, four or five months’ time, when, with the warmer weather, a great deal more work will offer. The Prime Minister controls the advances, and also has control over the types of roads to be constructed, and I hope that they will be, in fact, developmental roads, and not motorists’ highways. I hope that they will not only afford employment to the persons engaged in their construction, but that they will, in the result, open up new avenues of employment by the development of the country through which they are designed to run. Notwithstanding my bitter grievance against the Prime Minister that he is sending me home with an undelivered speech on the AddressinReply in my pocket, in which I have many things bottled up for dispensation that are far from complimentary to him - I congratulate him on the introduction of this Bill. I hope it will have an early and successful passage, and that the relief of the necessitous poor will be a matter of speedy consummation.
.- I have to thank the Government for the treatment that has been meted out to Tasmania. But for the consideration shown, Tasmania would have received only about £2,000 on an area basis. [ am very grateful indeed to think that the Government have taken, this matter into consideration.
.- I have no desire to disturb the harmony that seems to - exist between both sides of the House with regard to this Bill, but Parliament is voting away money for a purpose about which I am “not quite clear. It has been said that the expenditure will be for permanent and reproductive works, and again that the money will be spent primarily for the sake of absorbing the unemployed. ‘
– It will have that effect.
– This will be the third grant made by this Parliament to the States for the purpose of making or mending developmental roads. The first was made by the Repatriation Department to provide work for unemployed returned soldiers. The second was in connexion with the Budget which the Prime Minister, as Treasurer in the last Government, brought down last year. On that occasion £250,000 was placed upon the Loan Estimates for permanent and reproductive road work. I have not yet been informed, nor has the House had the information from the speech of the Prime. Minister, if the amount now proposed to be voted is to be charged to loan.
– It will come out of the Consolidated Revenue.
– Then I submit that the Bill cuts right across the principle that has recently been advocated by the Prime Minister and the Government of separating the State and Federal finances. For the sake of illustration, I may point out that it has been argued that the per capita payments to the States should cease, because, in effect, they really mean the taking of money out of one pocket and putting it into another, or of raising taxation for the purpose of giving it away again. But, instead of simplifying and keeping separate State and Federal finances, we are making unnecessary complications. I have no comment to make concerning the allocation of the money, nor do I desire to appear unsympathetic with the unemployed, but for this Parliament to appropriate £500,000 from the Consolidated Revenue for the purpose of subsidizing the various States for developmental roads, is not in accordance with the policy I would like to see adopted. And as this proposal appears to be a baby of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), it seems to be somewhat in the nature of a sop to Cerberus. I shall probably be alone in taking up this attitude, but I feel that, by these grants for what, though called permanent and reproductive works, sometimes degenerate into road repairs and upkeep, we arc unnecessarily complicating Commonwealth finance. I am sorry that the first Bill introduced by this Government is of this nature.
.- While I support the second reading of the Bill, I should like to take the opportunity of emphasizing the position in which we find ourselves. According to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the object of the Bill is primarily to relieve unemployment.
– No; but I have introduced it earlier for that reason.
– The statement made by the Prime Minister the other night made it clear that this Bill was designed to relieve unemployment, or, at all events, that it was being introduced earlier for that reason. I am going to vote for it, but I think it apropos to “ remind the House that, whilst year after year we provide funds from current or loan expenditure to relieve our unemployed, the Government are spending more ‘ money to increase unemployment by bringing people from other parts of the world to this country. I want also to point out that work on road construction, as, provided for in this Bill, calls for ablebodied men. My experience of the unemployed problem - .and no doubt it is the experience of other honorable members representing industrial centres - is that the majority of our unemployed are not of the class who could take work on road construction, not being physically fitted for it. Therefore the Government might very well do something to absorb those who cannot wield the pick and shovel, but who, nevertheless, if given the opportunity, could do some useful work in the community. Even if such work does not represent an adequate return in pounds, shillings, and pence, f rom the point of view of the nation it is better to have these people at work, even at a loss, than to have them unemployed.
I support the Bill, but I urge upon the Government that it is not adequate.
– Before the second reading passes 1 should like to set the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) right. “This it not the occasion for a debate upon the unemployment problem. I have made the position of the Government in regard to the problem of unemployment perfectly clear. The Commonwealth Government, I repeat, are not primarily responsible for, settling it; that is a matter for the States. Nevertheless the other day. 1 received ‘ a deputation dealing- with unemployment,.’ and afterwards I looked through the measures which the Government had in contemplation to see if there was anything we could do to help. I found that we had this Bill which is now before the House. But I emphasize that it is not a measure that concerns itself with unemployment. It has been introduced by the Government because we believe it will help very much in the development of Australia; but having had representations made to us on behalf of the unemployed, and being desirous of helping to relieve the situation, we have brought it forward at the earliest opportunity.
The following table will remove the impression that seems’ to exist that ‘the £250,000 previously voted for this purpose has not been expended : -
It is anticipated that before the end of the financial year, and certainly withinthe next two months, the great bulk of the unexpended amounts, available will be called “up by the States concerned.
– Will not the vote lapse on the 30th June next?
– No”. This money is held in a trust fund. In any case, almost the whole of the money still in hand has been appropriated for certain roads now under construction, for which payment is made by the Commonwealth as work is done. Practically the whole of the £250,000 already voted has been absorbed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee: >
– Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
.- Clause 8 provides -
No payment shall be made under this Act unless there is submitted to the Minister a proposal in writing specifying the main roads upon which the money paid is to be expended, and containing full details of the proposed roads, including plans, method of construction, and such other particulars as the Minister requires.
I am inclined to think that if this provision is observed it will possibly be two or three months before a penny of the money authorized by this Bill can actually be spent. If there is to be any bandying of words as to which road is to be constructed, and if arguments are to take place as to the conditions under which the work is to be done, I am afraid that it will be fully” three months before any expenditure can take place. I would like to know if our Treasurer will be prepared to make the money available immediately after the States have submitted a list of their roads to the Commonwealth, so that a start can be .made at once with these works?
– The point raised by the honorable member was fully discussed at the Conference with State Ministers, and a decision was reached as to the type of road to be brought within the scope of this Bill, and as to various other matters relating to this grant. I do not think there is any need for anxiety as to the possibility of delay in making the money available.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following paper was presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -McLaren Vale, South Australia, for postal purposes.
.- I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
The- Government regret that they were obliged to take a certain course this afternoon. But the House has a certain amount 0of work to do within a given period, and it must adhere to the schedule we have laid down. The next business to be dealt with is Supply, which must be made available by Parliament before the end of next week. A Supply Bill will be submitted in this House on Wednesday next, and it must bc sent forward to another place on Thursday. During the last two weeks honorable members have had ample opportunity to deal with matters that have seemed urgent and important to them, and in the circumstances I think it will be possible for this House, . without unduly prolonging the sitting on Wednesday, to pass the Supply Bill in sufficient time to allow it to reach another place by 3 o’clock on Thursday. For that reason we are quite prepared to adjourn until Wednesday instead of Tuesday.
.- Notwithstanding the fact that there has been a discussion on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, many honorable members of the Opposition have been .precluded from placing their views before the House, and it is only natural to expect that ‘they will be anxiousto speak on Wednesday. I do not know that there is any pressing need for Supply until the newly elected Senators .have taken their places.
– After the end of the financial year we are obliged to have Supply before any money can be expended by the Departments in the new year.
– Those honorable members who wish to address the House on important questions should have the opportunity of doing so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Income Tax Payments. - Budget Discussion - Financial Arrangements with the States.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Quite a number of men in the districtI represent are in an unfortunate position. In consequence ofa lock-out, many who have been called upon to pay £3 or £4 as income tax have no incomes. I ask the Treasurer to make representations in the proper quarters so that these men may have the time for the payment of their tax extended until they have incomes.
.- Last night the Prime Minister tried to make out that I did not understand a question which I was submitting to him in regard to the preparation of the Budget. As I understand the procedure adopted by the Departments, it is not possible to have the Budget prepared until after the 31st July. Accounts are not closed until the 30th June, and some of them have to come from the Northern Territory. They have to be certified to by the Auditor-General, and, therefore, we are told that it is impossible to bring the Budget down until August. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is going to carry out his threat and limit the session to ten weeks, thereby suggesting that honorable members are notfit to sit in his absence.
– There is no threat.
– That is the logical conclusion to be arrived at from his attitude. Every opportunity should he afforded for a full discussion of the Budget. I take it that the taxation proposals emanating from the Conference with State Ministers will more or less affect the financial statement, and it is unfair to expect honorable members to deal with the ramifications of the Budget in a few days in August. There are quite a. number of newmembers in the House who, with other honorable members, should be given an opportunity to express their views. The last Budget revealed that the Treasury had taken money from Trust Funds to make provision to relieve certain taxpayers of payments due by them, and it devolves upon theHouse to closely scrutinize the finan cial position. My remarks in this connexion are prompted only by a sense of responsibility to the people as a whole. There are loans totalling £24,000,000 falling due in 1925, and £72,000,000 in 1927. If there is no improvement in the present position, our interest bill on the loans already in existence will be doubled in the course of the next ten years. Honorable members opposite have more power than the Opposition to exert pressure upon the. Government, and it is their duty to assist in obtaining an opportunity to discuss the Budget at the earliest moment. In the alternative, the Budget should be postponed until the Prime Minister’s return from London, and Supply Bills passed to meet the requirements of the Public Service in the meantime.
.- During the debate last week, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said there would bea loss of revenue under the new taxation system that has been proposed, particularly in regard to the aggregated incomes, and that this would have a disadvantageous effect on the poorer sections of the community. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) emphatically denied that that was the case; but I believe that financial experts have discovered that the statement of the Treasurer of New South’ Wales (Sir Arthur Cocks) that there would be a loss to the States of something like £2,000,000 is cor- . rect. Will the Prime Minister state whether there has been such a discovery, if his earlier calculations were wrong, and what the Government intend to do in the matter?
. -I shall bring the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition under the notice of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and see whether an extension of time can be allowed for the payment of income tax in the cases mentioned. As to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), I am quite sure he is taking far too gloomy a view of the financial situation. There will be ample time to consider the Budget, and the House will have every opportunity to do so. Notwithstanding what has been said by the Treasurer of New South Wales, there is no likelihood of a loss of £2,000,000 taking place. The Commonwealth Treasurer will make a full statement, as soon as he is able to do so, regarding the whole proposal, and all the figures will bo placed before the House.
– Are your former calculations incorrect?
– They wore only estimates; and as the statistics come in from time to time the figures are varied. 1 pointed out at- the Conference with State Ministers that that would happen…
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 June 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230622_reps_9_103/>.