9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (at. Hon. W. A. Watt) toot the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Min ister aware that, on the day he made a statement to the press to the effect that immigrants were received in Australia from every part of the British Isles, there was- published a statement by Mr. Shepherd, the secretary to the High Commissioner, to the effect that they had removed the embargo so far as theNorth of Ireland was concerned, ‘but it still existed so far as the . South of Ireland was concerned?
– The honorable gentleman’s ‘question, of course, is one of very great urgency.. I was asked about the matter the other day, and said that the Government had no knowledge of any restrictions upon Irishmen coming to Australia under any immigration scheme which did not apply equally to Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen. My attention has been drawn to the’ statement by Mr. Shepherd to which the honorable gentleman refers, and I am having inquiries made about it.
Copies for Members’rooms
– I ask you, Mr.. Speaker, whether we cannot have a better supply of copies of the Evening Sun for use in honorable members’ rooms?
– I was not aware of any scarcity of copies of the newspaper referred to. I will see that the convenience of honorable members in the matter is consulted.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government are in possession of any official information regarding the discovery of survivors of the s.s. Trevessa?
Mr.BRUCE. - I have no information on the subject available at the moment; but, if the honorable gentleman will put the question on the notice-paper, I will supply the fullest information in our possession.
– Is the Treasurer prepared to inform the House whether the conversion loan has ‘been successful or partially successful?
– I hope to . be able to make a complete statement to the House on the subject to-morrow. ‘
– I must apologize to’ honorable gentlemen who have questions on the notice-paper. Owing to the somewhat protracted sitting we had last night, the notice-paper was not printed in time to be available to the Departments to-day sufficiently early for replies to be prepared. In the circumstances I have to ask that the questions of which notice has been given should stand over until to-morrow.
– I think it should be within the knowledge of honorable members that the notice-paper, on which questions of which notice has been given appear, was circulated in print only about an hour ago.
– I have to inform the House that the Governor-General will, on Wednesday next, at Government House, at half-past 3 o’clock p.m., receive the Address-in-Reply agreed to by the House. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honorable, members, will accompany me to present; tie Address.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Papua- Annual Report for 1921-22.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act -
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 76.
Proclamation prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain condition) of Dried Fruits (dated 30th May, 1923). .
– I move -
That His Excellency the Governor-General be respectfully requested to summon the first meeting of the Tenth Parliament at the Federal Capital, Canberra.
The motion which I have the honour to submit is one which should commend itself to honorable members on both sides, because it is quite outside the realm of party politics. It deals with a matter of’ national importance to Australia, and should ‘be approached in that spirit. I do not submit the motion in any party spirit, but with a desire to do something for Australia. For over twenty years an endeavour has been made to secure a capital for Australia. We have been repeating here what occurred in the United States of America before a Federal Capital was secured for the American people at Washington. The intrigues, the narrow outlook, and the selfish motives blocking the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra are the same as those that were in operation to block the establishment of the Federal Capital of the United States of America at Washington. In 1913, the then GovernorGeneral, Lord Denman, journeyed to Canberra; Lord Denman to lay the foundation stone of the Federal Capital, and Lady Denman to name the Capital Canberra. Since then there has ‘been the laying of one foundation stone after another, until it has been said that the Federal Capital, instead of being a Capital, is merely a city of foundation stones, and, I was nearly saying, of tombstones. I hope that we shall erect upon those foundation stones a Capital which will do much to . inspire an Australian national-spirit. Year -after year, the Government of the day have placed cer tain sums oh the Estimates to carry out works at Canberra, and each year there has been an enormous sum carried over. Only last year, no less than £90,000 of the amount voted for works at Canberra was unexpended at the close of the financial year. It. is quite apparent that some . influence is retarding the progress- of the work for which Parliament makes “provision from year to year. The same thing will occur year after year until we lay it down definitely that the Commonwealth Parliament must meet at Canberra on a certain date. Certain honorable members consider that a separate Federal Capital is unnecessary ; but they must admit that Commonwealth affairs are, at any rate, coloured by the influence of the State capital where the Federal Seat of Government is. The Commonwealth Parliament is . just as much a creature of environment as human beings undoubtedly ‘ are, and its legislation is, therefore, influenced by its immediate surroundings. For that reason I would be as strongly opposed to the establishment of the Federal Seat of Government at Sydney as I am to the retention of the Federal Parliament in ..Melbourne. A broad Australian outlook cannot be secured while this Parliament sits in a State capital. Should legislation affecting the well-being of every person in Western Australia be -affected by that influence which a State capital in the eastern part of Australia undoubtedly exercises upon the Federal Parliament sitting in its midst? I am sure that by establishing the Scat of Government at Canberra we shall go a long way towards getting that true Australian sentiment of which we have had too little inthe past, and which it is now time we took steps to cultivate. I hope that this Parliament will agree to my motion, because it will then be incumbent upon the Government to take steps to give effect” to it, and, instead of making provision on the Estimates year after year for small amounts for works at Canberra, they will be obliged to allocate at least £2,000,000 to a trust fund to be operated on for the building of the Capital. This policy would enable the Departments to proceed with a definite and continuous programme, and they would have no excuse to offer for delay. I trust that honorable members will rise above party considerations, and record their votes in favour of my motion. If they do so they will be acting not only in the interests of their own States, but also in the interests of*
– I trust that the motion submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) will not be decided upon party lines. The Hughes Government provided a good deal of money for the building of the Federal Capital, and made good progress with that work. Portion of the hostel is now ready to have the roof put on. This building, when completed, will accommodate honorable members of this House and of the Senate. Far greater progress has been made with the building of our Federal Capital than had been made at “Washington when the American Parliament decided to meet there. I am afraid that unless we agree to meet at Canberra on a certain date the slipshod manner of building our Capital that we have had in the past will be observed in the future. But I am sure that if honorable members -know what progress has already been made at Canberra they will have no hesitation in voting for this motion. The construction of sewers is almost complete. A power plant has been erected which will light the city. A beautiful supply of water is available,
And is ready for reticulation. Splendid bricks are made at Canberra, and already there are millions of bricks on hand.
– We have there the biggest stack of bricks in the world.
– The late Government appointed an Advisory Committee to report on the works necessary for a city such as we hope to have at. Canberra. Mr. Sulman, one of the ablest architects in the world, Mr. Boss, a very able architect in N/ew South Wales, and Mr. De Burgh, one of the best engineers in the Commonwealth, were members of this Advisory Committee, and, in 1921, they reported that this Parliament could .meet at Canberra within three years. Since 1921 a great deal of progress has ‘been made, and it is only necessary to put up a building in which Parliament could meet. About 100 cottages have already been erected, but no one would expect private persons to build at Canberra until they knew definitely that this Parliament was to meet there. Once we decide to meet in our own Capital on a certain date there will be large numbers of private people taking up land with the idea of providing cottages for the public generally. We shall also find that sites will be chosen for business establishments. We are paying away very large sums of money in rentals in all the States for Commonwealth offices, but once we get to our own territory we shall be able to save a considerable portion of this amount. At present we are getting about £90,000 a year in rentals for leaseholds, and as properties will increase in value through occupation, revenue from this source will of course also increase appreciably. It was laid down in the- Constitution that Parliament should meet at Canberra within ten years after the establishment of Federation, but over twenty- three years have elapsed, and we are still in Melbourne. We are’, of course, under a debt of gratitude to the Government of Victoria for permitting us to meet here for so many years, but it is time we made a start for ourselves. Fortunately, financial stringency cannot now be- advanced as an argument why we should not expedite the -removal of the ‘Capital to Canberra, because there is now a surplus of nearly £7,000,000. 1 I urge honorable members who are not acquainted with the locality not to believe all that the press is saying about it. If they would visit the site they would be satisfled, I am sure, that it is admirably suited to the establishment of a very fine city. Honorable members of the Country party have all along been pleading for decentralization. Well, here is a splendid opportunity to shift some of the population of Melbourne and Sydney, as well as of the other capital cities of the Commonwealth, to the Federal territory, and create there an attractive city of our own. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and his Cabinet are sympathetically disposed towards the motion., The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) is an enthusiastic supporter of the scheme, as also is ‘the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom). The Committee to which I referred reported, two years ago, that it should be possible for Parliament to meet at Canberra in three years’ time. Since then a great deal of work has been done. The hostel is almost ready for the roof in some parts,- and “before twelve months have elapsed it should be fit for occupation. If we do not “ speed up “ our removal, this hostel, which has been built at great expense, will be practically useless. Altogether, I understand, the expenditure on the Capital site is between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. Over 800,000 trees have been planted for the beautification of the site, the rabbits have been practically exterminated, and everything is in readiness. Within two or three years Canberra should become one of the -most attractive cities in the Commonwealth. I hope the House will take the view that .the- bargain with New South Wales must be honoured without further delay. That State has been long suffering. It ceded to the Commonwealth a very large area of land on the understanding that the Capital city would be established there within ten. years. I am confident that once w(e make the move, this National’ Parliament, being removed from parochial influences, will be able to do its work in a more satisfactory manner.
– All honorable members ‘ understand the reason for the motion submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), and why the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) has supported it so enthusiastically. Both honorable members believe that the Capital of Australia should be at Canberra, in Commonwealth territory, as provided for by the Constitution. Much work has already been done there with that end in view. I want to make it clear that the Government are quite sympathetic towards the proposal, although we may not be able to accept the motion in the form submitted. I do not - think the honorable gentleman who moved the motion will take much exception to the attitude of the Government in the matter. The establishment of the Seat -of Government in its own city is a proposal that dates back to before the inauguration of Federation, and was one of the most important factors that induced New South Wales to enter the Union. There is no doubt that an obligation rests on the whole of the people to see that the Capital is established iri the site selected. But the history of the movement is unfortunately a little chequered. A considerable time elapsed before the Capital site could be chosen, but eventually a choice was arrived at. Oan-‘ berra was chosen, and initial preparations for the establishment of a great monumental city, worthy of the Australian nation, were put in hand. Obviously and necessarily those preparations have taken a great deal of time, and not much progress had been made when- the war came. The most enthusiastic advocate of the establishment of theNational Capital was then of opinion that, for the time being, work on it must be kept back, so that the financial resources of the Commonwealth should not be drawn on while money was needed for more serious purposes. But the war is now over, and the question to be considered is whether this agreement-
– Solemn compact.
– I accept the honorable -member’s correction, and say that -the question now is whether this solemn compact, which has been in existence for over twenty years, should not be honoured. For my own part - and I am glad to say that all members of the Cabinet share this view with me - I feel that we have to take action to give effect to the compact, provided we can do so without imperilling the financial resources of the Commonwealth. I think 1 that even the most enthusiastic supporters- of the movement will agree with ‘me that if this proposal to create a great monumental city would involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure amounting to tens of millions sterling, including £2,000,000 for the Federal Parliament House alone, it would,’ in view of the financial circumstances that have resulted from the war, be a burden which no ‘ Government could agree to shoulder at this stage. But there is no suggestion of, and no necessity for, an expenditure of that magnitude. It is quite possible to establish the National Capital at Canberra for an expenditure well, within the limits of our financial resources. It is the view of most thinking citizens that the Commonwealth having entered into a solemn obligation to establish the Capital at Canberra, it is the duty of the Government of the day, from whatever party its members may be drawn, to give effect to that obligation. The present Government has every intention of honouring the pledge. Honorable members know that the plans of the Capital have been modified so that the expenditure involved is well within our present resources. Work has been pushed forward dur- ing the past few years. The Government which, was led by the Tight honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) did much to pave the way for the occupation of the Capital, and the thanks of the people of the country are due to the members of- that Government for what they did. The present Government accepts the policy enunciated in this respect by its predecessors in office, and is following the lines which were laid down when the scheme for the establishment of the Capital on a more limited scale was first adopted. Honorable gentlemen who think that this motion should be carried will not feel the same necessity to press it when I put before them the position as it is at present, and as the Government is confident it will be in the future. The motion asks that the next Parliament should -be summoned to sit at Canberra. If the House makes that stipulation, it may seriously embarrass the Government, because the Capital may not be ready to receive honorable members when the next Parliament has to assemble. If this Parliament, as appears certain, runs its full term, I am confident that the position at Canberra will be that desired by honorable members who support the motion. We are pressing on with the work with the utmost expedition, and are doing so for many reasons. We have planned what to do, and have provided the money for it. Obviously, the most economical action the Government can take will be to proceed with the plans so that there will be regularity of employment and continuity of effort. In that way we shall be able to carry out the work at a minimum of expense. We are not, on the one side, falling into dilatory methods, which would mean an increase in cost, nor are we, on the other side, pressing on at such a pace as would unduly inflate the cost. I am confident that the Capital will be established at Canberra within the next three years. Honorable gentlemen may have noticed that in the policy of the Government, as set before the country, it is proposed to establish a Commission to control and manage the Federal Capital site. A Bill will he introduced later in this session to give effect to that plank in the policy of the Government, and when honorable gentlemen get it they will see that it represents an earnest effort to carry . out the necessary work at the Capital in the best possible way. This Bill will probably effect our object of establishing the Capital in the shortest possible time at a minimum of expense. For the reasons I have cited, I ask the honorable member not to press the motion.
– I appreciate . what the Prime Minister has said, but I hold the view very strongly that until Parliament has fixed a definite date we shall be here indefinitely. If the Prime Minister will suggest a date which is reasonable, I shall bc willing to accept it.
– I understand the honorable member’s anxiety, but I do not share it. I look at the matter, perhaps, from a somewhat different viewpoint. I have the greatest possible confidence in the present Government; I am sure that this work could not be in better hands, and that the Capital will be occupied at the earliest possible date. I do not think the honorable gentleman need he in the least alarmed. He has heard me define the Government’s policy, and there will be a further and more complete statement on the subject when the Bill to appoint the Commission is intraduced. When the Bill has been in.troduced, and the House has fully debated the subject, tha doubts and difficulties which now present themselves te the minds of the honorable members will be cleared away. They will then see that the most satisfactory progress is being made in the establishment of the Capital and the carrying out of the solemn obligation entered into by the Commonwealth .
.- I could not help contrasting the attitude of the Prime Minister in the speech which he has just delivered with his action during the proceedings in this House last night. If we then had had a little of the savoir faire which he has just displayed, it might have avoided the unpleasant situation which caused the House to sit throughout the night.
The solemn promise was made by the nation, as a whole, to its principal State that the Federal Capital would be established at Canberra. Up to the present moment that pledge has not been honoured. Consideration of that fact has caused me, as the member for Melbourne, to support fearlessly and consistently the establishment of the Capital. If a State breaks a pledge with a State by continued delay, we witness a form of dishonesty which is apt to extend into the lower walks of life; and if a citizen cannot point to his State or his nation as keeping its word I am afraid the consequences may be even more serious than the Prime Minister imagines. The establishment’ of the Capital at Canberra is . the greatest experiment in land tenure that has ever been made under the British flag, and that flag has had under its shade many experiments. One of these was made at Hong Kong, which is the only real Free Trade port in the world. There is a wonderful system of land tenure at Hong Kong, as is shown by the steadily increasing income derived from it every year.* First, the people there had a few leases for periods of 999 years. Then they changed the period to 99 years, and finally reduced it to 75 years, at which it stands to-day. Whenever they sweep back the sea, and reclaim any land, they fix a fair rent for it for a term of seventy-five years, requiring that certain buildings must be erected on it. At the end of that period there is to be a new valuation. Thus the revenue of Hong Kong is increasing by “leaps and bounds,” to use a phrase of the elder Gladstone. Any honorable member who wants to realize the benefits that would be derived from a city being owned by the whole of the people of this continent, only need walk down Collins-street, which contains some of the most Valuable land in the State of Victoria. Let him look at the waste which takes place there. Some of the land is worth £1,000 a foot, and even more, and yet there is enormous, waste of space, as well as of work and money, in building double walls where single ones would suffice. If Melbourne had been controlled by the municipality or the State the expense of all those dividing walls would have been saved. I have had both sides of Collins-street, from William-street to Russell-street, valued, and it is estimated that over £250,000 has been wasted, and, with other foolish expenditure, the loss may easily be double that amount. Cannot the imagination of honorable members enable them to realize how glorious it would have been if that square bounded by Collins-street, Swanstonstreet, Bourke-street, and Elizabeth-
Dr. *Maloney** street had been possessed by the’ municipality or the State? There would then have been none of the present higgledypiggledy buildings, and the public revenue from the property, would have been- infinitely greater. The present absurd system of finance - of, which the Prime Minister (Mr.1 Bruce) spoke, and then left - never received a greater shock than it did as a result of the late war. What financial expert of the present day can say that he understands finance of to-day? Not one. The Labour party is not against capital as an assistance to labour, but the party is against the system of capitalism. In this respect we joined hands with the greatest financial expert that Great Britain possesses, a man whom the British Monarch has honoured with a title: I refer to Sir Chiozza Money - “ Money “ by name, and financial expert from choice - who, while he desires more national capital, objects to that system of capitalism which controls the money markets, not only in England and in Australia, but throughout the world. That is precisely my position as a Labour representative.
Over 100 years ago that great architect, L’Enfant, died brokenhearted because his plans at Washington had been spoiled by others; and in Australia another great architect, Mr. Griffin, who won a world’s competition with his plans for the Federal Capital, was being subjected to similar treatment, when Sir Joseph Cook, as the head of the then Government, invited him to Australia in order to prevent disaster.- On the floor of this House I have quarrelled with the methods of T. P. Owen, and others of the Commonwealth Works Department, and I see no reason to withdraw any charge I have made against them. That gentleman has assured me, however, that the’ committee now intrusted with the work at the Federal Capital is carrying out the ideas of Mr. Griffin; and I heartily welcome that assurance. What was my principal complaint against Mr. Owen and those associated with him ? It was that what is known as the composite plan of the Department would be like, say’, the efforts of a few good little Australian artists to repaint pictures of Tintoretto or Raphael. So deep was the resentment on the part of 150 of our leading archi- tects and engineering architects from Brisbane to Perth, at the treatment of Mr. Griffin’s plans, that they petitioned this House to have it stopped, and ‘ Sir Joseph Cook, as the representative of the Government, was good .enough to give their representations attention, and see that justice was done to the original designer. It was because of this action by the architects of Australia that Mr. Griffin’s plan .was not set aside in favour of that of the five men of the Government Departments, who, in its preparation, had sucked the brains of the men who had taken part in the world’s competition. Thank goodness, that evil was averted ; and Mr; Griffin’s beautiful plan for the Capital city is to be carried out in its , entirety.
Now I have to deal with a misconception in regard to the financing of the Federal Territory. Even Sir Joseph Cook, one day when, I think, I had spoken, said he could . now see how, in the future, the city could be provided at a cost of not one penny to the Commonwealth of Australia. What was the cost to the State Government of Victoria when they had to seek a new Parliament House for the State, to take the place of this House, which they had generously handed over for the use of the Commonwealth? The State Parliament House at the Exhibition Building cost about £14, 000, and any one who has dined or visited there will know how superior is the convenience to that which we enjoy in this vast building. I suggest that when the time arrives for us to go to Canberra, and the State Parliament returns to its old home, the Commonwealth might obtain all the fittings of the temporary State Parliament House for, perhaps, £10,000 or less. I may say that I have’ given much consideration to what is known as the Guernsey Land Experiment, which, for the benefit of new members, I shall briefly outline. In Guernsey it was desired to build a new market in the principal street, the old one being so crowded with stalls that, at times, it was impossible to pass from one side of the island to the other. At Guernsey there was a clever man, named de Lyle Brock, who occupied a position somewhat analogous to that of a Premier or Prime Minister in Australia, and was consulted by the people as to the feasibility of borrowing money for this work in England. He suggested that borrowing was unnecessary, and asked them whether they had not architects, bricklayers, carpenters, stonemasons, and other skilled men amongst them. Such men were obtainable in Guernsey, he was informed, and he then asked why they did not build a market themselves. His suggestion bore fruit, and in a few years it was decided to act upon his suggestion. At a meeting, the townspeople resolved to issue market currency scrip notes to the value of £5,000, the shopkeepers, contractors, and people generally agreeing to accept these as legal tender. A splendid new marketwas built by the acceptance of these notes, and on a certain day of every year the municipal or town representatives’ burnt as many of the notes as had been returned to them in the ordinary way of business, in payment of rents and so forth. The result was that in ten years the markets had been paid for, and the town was in possession ‘of a rent-producing property for ever. Why could we not adopt .that plan at Canberra ?
– Because we have not a sufficient population there.
– The population of Guernsey is very small compared with the population of Australia. When members’ of this Parliament meet at Canberra they will want homes there. If a man required a house which it would cost £1,000 to build, and were charged rent for it on a basis of 5 per cent., its construction cost would be repaid in twenty years. By adopting the system I have referred to we might within twenty-one years pay the whole of the cost of the construction of Parliament House at Can-‘’ berra. The only additional expense would be that involved in the printing of Canberra scrip notes. The financiers of the world tried to destroy the evidence of the system adopted in Guernsey for the construction of public buildings, and but for the publication thirty years ago of a booklet on the subject by an American, that system would have been lost to the world. To-day there is quite a respectable library of books on the system. We can. compare that system with the infamous system of private ownership. No less than three trains leave London within a few minutes of each other for Liverpool, travelling by different routes, and but for the system of private ownership of railways in England one of those railway lines could be doing the work which is now done by the three. Had we been cursed here with the system of the private ownership of railways, we would probably have two lines between Melbourne and Sydney, and perhaps two between Adelaide and Melbourne, but our country districts would be left without railway communication. I can remember that Mr. Justice Higgins, when a member of the Victorian Parliament, called for a return, which showed that at the time Victoria had borrowed £50,000,000, had paid back in interest and a portion of the capital over £50,000,000, and still owed £50,000,000. If the system to which I have referred had been applied to the construction of railways in this State, it would have been a simple matter to pay off the debt incurred by their construction. I have advocated the adoption of this system from many platforms, and although I have advocated the establishment of the Federal Capital at a place distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney, I have been able to persuade the electors of Melbourne to return me year after year. Honorable members will be aware that our architects recommended the construction of a building for the printing of Commonwealth notes. In order to secure a site for the building, a property belonging to the unfortunate German Turn Verein was forcibly acquired by the then Minister for Defence. On behalf of a charitable institution in this community, I was empowered to offer £10,000 for this property, but the Commonwealth Government took it oven- by force and paid some £8,000 for it. Plans which were approved by the Public Accounts Committee were prepared for the erection of a building on the site of the property acquired ; and yet, forsooth, a certain gentleman, who manages to get his relatives the Commonwealth Bank’s architectural business, was able to set the proposal n side, and we had a great waste of effort and a loss to the community of over £30,000. All this expenditure might easily have been saved. I obtained a return of the buildings rented in this city for Commonwealth purposes, and if the Government completed the Melbourne Post Office, which in its present position is an absolute disgrace to the city, it would provide ample room for the accommodation for many of the Departments for which we are now paying a very large sum by way of Tent every year. I can-
Dr. Maloney. not see why we should delay in the building of the .Federal Capital. The Prime Minister is committed to the old system of finance.. He is afraid to make a move unless the gentlemen who control banks tell him it is perfectly safe to do so. If honorable members desire to know something of the power we have in the matter of finance they have only to read a wonderful report sent out by a United States Commission. I think that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and myself are the only persons here who have read that report. Honorable members have only to read it to discover the financial powers we may exert through the Commonwealth Bank. That institution financed the Commonwealth to the extent of £350,000,000. Mr.’ Scott, the author of The Circulating, Sovereign, and one of the greatest financial experts in Australia, asked the late Sir Denison Miller whether as manager of the Commonwealth Bank he was prepared to finance Australia- in order to organize the Commonwealth to the same extent as he did in connexion with the war. Sir Denison Miller tried to evade the question, but he finally, admitted that if he were approached by the Commonwealth Government he would be prepared to find £350,000,000 for the proper organization of Australia. In this country we have the only continent in which only one language is used. Every inhabitant of the Commonwealth thinks and speaks in the, same language, and this gives us a power of combination possessed by no other people. There is no reason why we should not have a glorious Capital established at Canberra. If, later on, the people of Australia are not satisfied with Canberra as a capital they can change it, as history shows other nations have done. I may say that my vote was not given for’ the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. The selection of that place was the result of log-rolling. I remember Mr. Chris Watson, going round asking honorable members for their votes. To humour him I tried to see how far he would go, and he went further in the matter of log-rolling than any other man of whom I have had experience. I wished to vote for Dalgety, and I shall never forget the impassioned speech which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.
Austin Chapman) delivered in advocacy of the establishment of the Capital at that place. I have been to Canberra, and it is a beautiful, place. I see no reason why a beautiful Capital should not be built there.
– Are you listening, Maxwell?
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is only a quarter-time man in this House, and I do not blame him for not desiring to go to Canberra. I do not wish the honorable member to think for a moment that I am advocating the meeting of the Federal Parliament at Canberra as a means of getting rid of him. I will give my vote in favour of the motion moved by the honorable member for Dalley. I hope the honorable member will press it, because, public opinion in the Commonwealth is in favour of the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, and it is our duty to keep our sacred pledges.
. -There seems to be an impression that because certain members of the Public Works Committee, myself included, are opposed to the project of building the Federal Capital at Canberra, they may obstruct or delay the submission ‘of reports to Parliament in regard to work at the Capital which has been referred to ‘them for investigation and report. I can assure the House that every effort has been made by the Committee to lay before Parliament the fullest information concerning the work referred to it. The Committee’s report is already in the hands of the printer, and should be available within a fortnight. Delay may possibly be occasioned by ‘the lithographing of a plan showing the alterations which the Committee have recommended in connexion with the provisional Parliament House, but I have had under consideration the suggestion that it would, perhaps, be wiser to have the report printed without the lithographs, and make the plan itself available for the inspection of honorable members. This would enable the Committee’s report to be presented as speedily as possible. However, when the report is available, honorable members will be in a better position than they are at present to decide whether it would be wiser to agree to the motion of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) to-day or to leave it to the. good sense of the Government to decide when Parliament should be called together at Canberra.
– Is it true that the honorable member, as Chairman of the Public Works Committee, is endeavouring to block the submission of a minority report ?
– That is not the question before the House.
– There will be no minority report. It is absolutely necessary that the members of the Public Works Committee should report faithfully upon the evidence submitted to them, and when honorable members see our recommendations they will find that they are faithfully based on the evidence submitted to us. We are submitting two alternative proposals for the consideration of the House, and if the second be adopted, I do not anticipate that there will . be the slightest difficulty in having a provisional Parliament House completed within three years after plans have been prepared and tenders have been called. A year is but a short period in the life of a nation, and I hope that the anxiety of honorable members to get to Canberra speedily will not cause this Parliament to come to a decision which may render it impossible to effect a large saving of expenditure in the erection of a provisional Parliament House. There is no reason why the two administrative offices, the” erection of which is also recommende’d by the Public Works Committee, should not ‘be completed within three years, but I do not think that this Parliament would expect the large staff necessary at the Seat of Government to be removed to Canberra until reasonable accommodation had been provided for them. To my mind there has been an unconscionable delay during the last few years in carrying out quite a number of works that would have expedited the meeting of Parliament at the Federal Capital. It is true that within three years a water supply will be available in the area . which will be occupied, and that the sewerage system will also be available,, but there is not yet a. sufficient number of cottages there, nor is the proposed hostel accommodation sufficient. According to the report of the Advisory Committee, it will be necessary to have a
Parliament House, administrative quarters, hostel accommodation for officials, members of Parliament, and departmental officers, and 300 cottages in which to accommodate Federal officers. At the same time the Advisory Committee anticipated that private enterprise would provide an additional 300 cottages. But no land has yet been made available for this purpose; in fact, no effort has yet been made to encourage private enterprise to commence operations at Canberra. There is also a lack of means of railway communication. Will honorable members representing Victorian constituencies and engaged in their own business be compelled to reach Canberra by travelling to Goulburn or Sydney and thence by the line to Queanbeyan?
– The direct line has already been surveyed, and the State Government are prepared to build it at once if we decide to meet at Canberra.
– Under an agreement the State Government are obliged to construct that line, but nothing has yet been done in this direction. I understand that the Prime Minister has stated that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Commission to carry on the work of building the Federal Capital. Unless this Commission consists of three strong men, provided with ample funds, it will be a difficult matter to provide at Canberra . accommodation which will enable Parliament to meet there within three years. I am supported in this view by the evidence tendered by officers of the Commonwealth Works and Railways Department.
– It did not take three years to provide accommodation in the Exhibition Building in Melbourne for the Parliament of Victoria.
– One great difficulty is the. scarcity of artisans. Even now it is difficult to get bricklayers to go to Canberra. Twelve months ago the Public Works Committee recommended “that workmen’s cottages sh’ould be put up at the Federal Capital in order to attract artisans to go there with a certain prospect of having many years’ work in front of them. The accommodation thus recommended has not yet been provided.
– The same argument may be advanced three years hence if we do not make a move now.
– If we decide to push on with an enormous quantity of work at Canberra at the present time, I doubt very much whether we can get the artisans who will be required.
– The contractor who is building the hostel has no trouble.
– That is only one undertaking. The honorable member must realize that in addition to the .provisional Parliament House we shall need administrative offices, further hostels, and additional cottages, and private enterprise is expected to actively engage in building cottages and business places at Canberra. Honorable members may be disappointed if they pass a motion to-day compelling Parliament to meet at Canberra before everything is ready at the Federal Capital for such a move. Honorable members should realize that one member of the Ministry is the honorable member for -Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), than whom no one is keener in seeing that the work of building the Federal Capital is pushed on. We have also had the assurance of the Prime Minister that every effort will be made to carry out the work as speedily and economically as possible. I do not think that the House should come to a determination until the report of the Public Works Committee is made available. I am strongly of opinion that when the Government have learned the desire of Parliament they will be in a position to have, should the House so. decide, the provisional Parliament House and all the necessary accommodation completed within three years after plans have been prepared and tenders have been accepted. There will be close on 1,200 officers at Canberra for whom cottages and hostel accommodation will be essential. Proper railway communication will also be necessary; but I think that it will be quite possible to have all these conveniences provided within three years. Nevertheless tho dearth of labour and many other little difficulties that may crop up may cause a delay of six months or twelve months, and in such circumstances it would not be wise for Parliament to commit itself to a definite date for meeting at Canberra. The better course would be to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, feeling assured . of their strong support, and realizing beyond doubt that every effort will be made by them to carry through this work in the appointed time.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) puts some of his friends in a rather invidious position because of his over-enthusiastic attitude towards the rein oval of the Seat of Government to Canberra. I have nearly always supported Canberra; but I have done so sometimes with a little compunction, arising from the fact that there is a great deal of ill-considered carping talk from certain people in Sydney, who, in their selfish parochialism, quite exaggerate the importance . attached to this question by people in Victoria. As a matter of fact, the Victorian electorates generally have not taken sufficient interest in the location of the Federal Capital to turn a parliamentary vote upon it, and I have never met an elector of mine who took any burning, or even serious, interest in it. Therefore, when persons in New South Wales, who are an inconsiderable and very noisy minority, presume to tell the people of Victoria that the retention of the capital in Melbourne is due to the greed and selfishness of Victorians, I feel a certain amount of compassion for them, and yet I feel almost persuaded to vote against my mature judgment in favour of the establishment, in due time, of our Parliament at Canberra. However, these demonstrative and self-opinionateid persons, with. whom I do not for a moment associate my friend the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), who looks on this question from the broad national standpoint, are associated with another political party than that to which my honorable friend belongs - that is if they support any political party at all - and, at all events, they will not persuade me to vote against the principle of the Capital City. I believe in national territories, and this is one of the few distinctly Australian territories that we have. My main reason for supporting the Capital City movement is this: It is not a mere question of the city. There is a Federal Territory many thousands of acres in extent, and for the first, time in Australian history we have the satisfaction of knowing that the increase in value that takes place from year to year- with the growth of settlement becomes an Aus tralian asset; not an asset of the land speculator. I feel a certain sense of pride in the possession of this distinctly Australian asset.
– Which is unproductive;
– The honorably member probably has not seen the Territory. I am not pretending that it contains the richest land in Australia.We have in Victoria, as even my honorable friends from New South Wales will agree, land of much greater potential productivity than the land in the Federal Capital Territory. The land in the Territory is what one might call second class, or even third class land, but still there is a great acreage of good quality sheep grazing country, and much is suitable for closer settlement. It is not poor, unproductive land, as my friend the honorable member for Darwin has suggested. I am a supporter of the establishment of the city. I think it will have, from the point of view of health, an ideal location. From the point of view of scenic beauty, the site certainly bears very favorable comparison with the best outlooks in Australia; it is not a position of grandeur, perhaps, but it is undulating, and on the whole beautiful, and eminently well suited to a handsome , city. I am very glad to know that substantial ‘progress has been made with afforestation under the capable management of those in charge of tree planting in the Territory. My regret is that this work was not pushed on with a great deal more vigour in the early days of Federal administration, because trees which are now coming on as small plants would have been by this time nearly full-grown. Had we done that, it would have been a distinctly beautiful territory to-day. Road construction, too, has been proceeding on lines of durability, and, I think, sanity. So far as the work generally has gone, although, at first glance, not very far advanced, it is proceeding on sound lines, and, for the most part, is of a permanent and useful character and in conformity with the plan on which the city is to be erected. Unquestionably, when it does reach completion, Canberra will be a model city. The honorable member for Dalley wishes to pledge this Parliament to a resolution in favour of meeting there at an early date. While 1 would like to have the honour of being a member of the first Parliament at Canberra, and while I think that, for many reasons Canberra would be a much more comfortable place to meet in than this insanitary dungeon in which you, . Mr. Speaker, are compelled for so long to preside over the destinies of this unruly assembly, I cannot regard the matter as urgent, and I am certainly not going to invite this Parliament to hasten from its present location to Canberra:
– You prefer this dungeon ?
– It has its disadvantages I know, but we are accustomed to suffer for the people, and we had better continue here for a little longer rather than make an ill-considered resolution to go to Canberra in so. short a time as three years. There is no hurry. I quite approve of the building of the city. I heartily indorsed the acceptance of this fine Territory. I believe in all the work that is going on, and to which I have referred. All these activities, I think, should be continued steadily on sound, permanent lines. The work is not being undertaken for to-day or to-morrow, or even the next fifty years ; but for the life of a nation. We are founding the Capital for the centuries to come. That being so, the mover of the motion, and his supporters., must curb their very natural ambition to get to Canberra within the next year or two. Our little lives, great and important as they are, must appear, in the history of a nation, as very short. Therefore, I am sorry that although I have gone along this national road of Capital building with my honorable friend for some distance, and have supported many of his wise efforts to secure funds from the Treasurer to lay the foundations of the Capital, I cannot ask honorable members to pledge themselves to hasten to Canberra for the next Parliament. Bad as this Melbourne Parliament House is, I feel that we should bear with it in patience rather than enter with undue haste into our new heritage.
.- For once I find myself entirely in accord with a speech made by the honorable member for Batman.
– Well,, don’t apologize for that.
– I do not intend to do so, because it is the fault of the hon orable member himself that I have not been in accord with him on other subjects. I desire to approach the consideration of this question from the realm of practicability, and I claim that it is impossible for this House to fix a time for its meeting at Canberra as indicated in the motion submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). It is true that the Advisory Committee, which has been referred to by two or three speakers already, declared that we could get to Canberra within three years.
– If we were in earnest.
– The Public Works Committee have been taking evidence, and from what I have heard during the last month or two, the opinion of the Advisory Committee is not sustained by the facts placed before us. Let me put the position before the House. In addition to accommodation for 112 members of Parliament, provision must be made for about 1,100 people, representing the staffs of the Parliament and members of the Public Service, whose presence at the Seat of Government will be essential. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) told us a little while ago that already there were 100 houses erected at Canberra. All I can say is that within the last six or seven weeks I have had them counted, and have found there are thirty-nine houses completed. There is a batch of twenty in course of erection, and, I understand, tenders have been called for another nineteen. The Advisory Committee stated that 300 houses would have to be built by the Government for the necessary staffs, and added something which has not been mentioned hitherto in this debate, namely, that they expected private enterprise to provide another 370 houses. I remind the House now that, until the Government come to some decision with regard to land tenure and values, and throw open a certain area for selection, we are not likely to get any of those 370 houses built by private enterprise.
– We are not likely to get them until Parliament moves to Canberra.
– Exactly ; and the Government cannot fix a date until we make a start with the building, of the Parliament House, which is going to take something like three years to complete.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity of discussing this matter when the proposal is before the House.
– Is it not a fact that you are the secretary of the AntiCanberra League?
– I do not see how that can be regarded as a factor in this debate.
– It explains your attitude, at all events.
– If the honorable member looks at the records of the House, : he will find that, on the last occasion when a vote was granted for Canberra, I supported it. I think I said on that occasion that the compact having been made it had to be carried out, and that it rested with those honorable members who had consistently opposed the project until then to get to work and see that the money was spent to the best possible advantage. That is what I am out to do. I do not desire to hold up the building of the Capital city for a day. I hold no brief for Victoria or New South Wales, or, for that matter, any other State, in connexion with this proposal. I think, with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), that the building of this Capital city is a wonderful experiment. In an article which I have had published in the Tasmanian press I have set out my views somewhat lengthily, stating that this project is a great experiment and one well worthy of being carried out by the Commonwealth. I cannot see that this Parliament can be moved to Canberra in less than five or six years. In addition to a Parliament House, administrative offices must be built, and at the present time extreme difficulty is experienced in inducing bricklayers and other artisans to go to Canberra. ‘ If we cannot get sufficient workers for building construction in big centres of population like Melbourne and Sydney, what will be the position if 500 men are required to go to Canberra in the next year or two? The labour available in the cities would be lessened to that extent. If it is a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, a mere1s. a day is sufficient to keep a man in a city, and prevent him from going to a place like
Canberra. Working men will not live at Canberra in such disgraceful conditions as now exist there. I refuse to be a party, in this House or elsewhere, to saying that Parliament should go to Canberra by a certain date when that would mean that hundreds of people would have to live in tents. I do not know whether those honorable gentlemen who advocate rushing to Canberra before proper accommodation has been provided realize that the temperature there fell on one- occasion to 11 degrees.
– Nowwe are hearing the honorable gentleman’s real objection.
– I do not complain of the coldness of Canberra, for Iknow that the altitude of the site makes it one of the most healthy places in the Commonwealth, and I should be better pleased to live at Canberra than in Melbourne. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said that the sewerage system was nearly complete. As a matter of fact, it was stated recently in evidence given before the Public Works Committee by an engineer, that the sewerage system would not, and could, not,be completed under three years, and that if more artisans were employed for the construction of buildings fewer would there be available for sewerage, road, and waterworks. It has been said that the transfer of the Capital to Canberra would save the office rents now being paid by the Government in the State capitals. I have given this matter careful consideration, and have come to the conclusion that when Parliament moves to Canberra there will be, not a decrease in this item of expenditure, but an increase. In other words, the savings that will be made in rents in the principal cities will’ not be equal to the interest charges on the money expended upon the construction of the new buildings. I trust that the good sense of honorable members will indorse the views expressed by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and that they will not agree to rush blindly into this undertaking. A rash decision now may cause consternation within the next year or two.
– Does the honorable member know that the transfer of the Capital is already twenty-three years overdue? .
– Tes, and I realize also that a number of other undertakings have been promised for a long time in Australia. The North-South Railway, for instance, is many years overdue.
– Not one of the other things was mentioned in the Constitution.
– I have yet to learn that Australia is suffering because we have not moved to Canberra, and it has to be proved to me that we shall suffer inordinately, or at all, if we defer the change for three, five, or even. ‘ ten years. I do not believe that the change will affect Australia to any appreciable extent. The North-South railway will be a developmental work, and it should have been under taken many, years ago. It would certainly confer much more benefit on Australia than would the building of the Federal Capital, although I think that the Federal Capital will eventually become a payable proposition. I sincerely trust that the House will not blindly pass the motion proposed by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony).
.- It requires a very little stretch of the imagination to realize why the honorable member who has just spoken is opposed to the motion. He was secretary of the Committee which opposed the construction of the Federal Capital. It is evident, also, that he has no knowledge of building construction. He may have been a member of the Works Committee, but that does not make him a carpenter or a plumber. I have always looked upon the Federal Capital as an important means of furthering the policy of decentralization. We have been told that it was part of a compact made with New South Wales. I say, as one who took an active part in Federation with Sir Edmund Barton and other great men, that the people of New South Wales were the pioneers of our Federal system. It took a long time to educate the other portions of Australia up to the high standard of national life attained by them, and it took us a few years to bring about Federation. The men who took part in forming the Federation were aware that in other parts of the world capital cities had been built. The people of the United States of America to-day are proud of their Washington, which is a show city for visitors. Our more closely allied brothers in Canada have their Ottawa, which is one of the finest cities, containing some of the finest buildings, that architects and mechanics have been able to design and construct. The ambition of the people of Australia is to have a Federal Capital, and those whose duty it is to give effect to the will of the people and carry out the necessary work, ought to have minds that can rise above the spirit of “ little Australians ‘”’ and can think in national terms. We must create a national atmosphere in which there is none of the parochial spirit which is found in all the State capital cities. Honorable members who, like myself, have travelled over the whole of Australia, understand the benefits that will accrue to the nation from the establishment of ‘a Federal Capital.
Let us consider the cause of the delay in building the Capital. I wonder whether honorable members have read anything about the construction of the Panama Canal, or the erection of a huge irrigation dam in the Soudan. If they have done so, they know that difficulties were encountered there similar to those met with at Canberra. The first thing that had to be done was to provide water, sewerage facilities, and light forthe men employed in construction work. When the Labour Government of which I was a strong supporter took active steps to establish the Capital, it followed lines similar to those which were laid down by the engineers who undertook the great works to which I have referred. A water supply has been provided at Canberra, the sewerage system is well advanced towards completion, and roads have been made. All that remains to be done is to erect buildings, and that could easily be accomplished in three years. I do not know what the Works Committee’s report will contain, but I charge the members of the Committee with being Canberra butchers, because the information which has come to me indicates that they have not tackled the job like men experienced in building construction. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) came to the conclusion some time ago that the first buildings to be erected would have to be capable of being utilized later when the permanent structures were put up. The permanent structures, I admit, will cost a considerable sum of money, but they will be monuments which will make our children feel proud of the foresight of their forefathers. Examples of rapid building are furnished by the Melbourne and Sydney Exhibition Buildings. The latter, which was burnt down thirty-five years ago, was built in twelve months. The Government of the day, led by Sir Henry Parkes, thought that an International Exhibition ought to be held in Australia, and instructions were given for the Exhibition Building to be erected.’ The ‘architect was Mr. Barnett, and I think it was a Melbourne builder named Mr. Young who put up the structure in twelve months. The Victorians in the days- before the land boom were a progressive people, and they decided to have a great exhibition in Melbourne. The building then erected was of a much more permanent character than is usually built on such occasions, and it stands to-day, utilized partly as a Parliament House for the State - a Parliament House, I may say, much more comfortable than that in which we do our business here. Materials and labour, similar to those employed in the erection of the Exhibition Building, would be sufficient to provide Canberra with a Parliament House and all accessories for the legislative work of the ‘Commonwealth. In my young days men were to be found to carry out such a work in the time now proposed, and we can hardly suppose that the brains and energy of the people of to-day are not equal to those of the people of a few years ago. I am told that there is a proposal to build a sort of “ lean-to “ around which the remainder of the Parliament House will be gradually erected; but who ever conceived such an idea is no friend of the Commonwealth or of Canberra. The workmen who would be engaged on the outer portions of the building would interfere with the legislative work being carried out in the internal portions. The men who, during the term of office of a Labour Government, laid what might be called the foundations of the Federal Capital, all insisted on its being made the Seat of Government in the shortest .possible time. I do not think that the Government of to-day have any intention of going on with the building of the city; it is my opinion that if the people of New South “Wales desire the Federal compact to be carried out in spirit as in letter, ey will have to wait until a Labour Government once more reigns. There are many men con nected with our parliamentary life who have business associations with Melbourne, and it is rather boo much to expect them to remove their parliamentary work to a city which to them presents no financial advantages. But if this Parliament is prepared to go on, and we get to Canberra within a reasonable time, I believe that members, and Ministers, will be more contented; at any rate, they will be free from the influence of the *Argus and the Age, to which some of them, in my opinion, attach undue importance. “We cannot expect newspaper proprietors to decry the city in which their newspapers are published. Of course, it shows a good spirit on the part of the people of Melbourne that they are ambitious to make their city a greater metropolis than Sydney; but we must remember, when we are returned to this Parliament, that we are legislating, not for particular cities, but for the whole of Australia. We ought to take u broad outlook on such questions, and stir up the ‘national spirit throughout the States. I wish the .present Government had the same point of view as that of the Labour Government in 1910-13. If it had, I feel confident that, with the work already accomplished in the Federal Territory, there would be nothing to- prevent Australia, in three years’ time, inviting people from the other side of the world to the opening of Parliament at Canberra. Such an event would be a great advertisement for Australia, and do much to remove that narrow local spirit which is much too prevalent.
– As one who had the honour to nominate the Yass-Canberra district as the Federal Capital Territory, I am as deeply interested as any other honorable member in seeing that Parliament is removed there at the earliest possible moment. Fortunately for us, a great deal of spade work has already been done, and the way prepared for much more rapid development of the Capital than, perhaps, was hitherto practicable. ,At the same .time, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that there has not been that enthusiasm displayed by successive Administrations that there might have been, and that I should have liked to see, in pushing on with the Capital. The delay caused by the war, although inevitable, was not wholly responsible for the dilatory progress of the work. However, we know now that the preparatory steps have been taken, and everything is really in readiness to push on with the building of the capital- as rapidly as possible. There is no reason that I can see why the work should not be carried out and completed in really a much shorter time than three years. What is to prevent three continuous eight-hour shifts during the whole twenty-four hours? By that means, provided the necessary skilled labour is available, we could get the work completed at no greater ultimate cost, and we might meet there much earlier than otherwise would be possible. At the same time, like other honorable members, as well as members of the Government, I feel somewhat embarrassed by the terms of the motion of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). That motion is as follows: -
That His Excellency the Governor-General be respectfully requested to summon the first meeting of the Tenth Parliament at the Federal Capital, Canberra.
I am in favour of the object- of the motion, but it seems to me that the honorable member has lost sight of certain possibilities - let us hope they are not probabilities - not the least important of which is that this Parliament may not survive its full term. It is quite possible that in the course of political events honorable members may find themselves engaged in an appeal to the country very much earlier than they anticipate.
– Not in weather like this, I hope!
– In passing, may I say that I think appeals to the country every three years are too frequent for the National Parliament? In my opinion the duration of the life of the National Parliament should certainly be fixed at not less than five years. However, we all know that the accidents of political life may precipitate us into the turmoil of another election contest at any time, possibly within the next twelve months. In such an unfortunate event it would be obviously impossible for the tenth Parliament to be- summoned atCanberra, and, in view of this, to carry the motion, as drawn, might place us in rather a ridiculous position.
– Is the honorablemember threatening us with an election in twelve months ?
– I think it rests -more with honorable members opposite than ‘with honorable -members on this side. I do not look forward with any degree of pleasure to any such untowardevent. However, I suggest to the honorable member for Dalley that he amend his motion in a way that will enable the supporters of Canberra to vote for it. There is no reason, so far as I can see, why the Government should not immediately take steps to formulate its policy in regard to the land tenure in the Federal area for business people and others. Once that is done, it will be known on what, terms sites may be occupied, and an estimate can be formed of the business requirements of the Capital. I have no doubt that many private people would he quite willing to erect their own buildings, always, of course, in conformity with the general design of the city, and with the approval of the official and responsible architects of the Government, Private enterprise could be encouraged ‘to undertake the erection -of such buildings, and so expedite the completion of the Capital. It must also be remembered that we have at present between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000 of the very finest quality bricks lying at grass, absolutely idle, available for building purposes’. The plans for . the provisional Parliament buildings are prepared, and honorable members have, had an opportunity of studying them. Draft plans have been re-drafted, and now we have the plans for a provisional Parliament House, which, so far as I can see, will meet all requirements for the next fifteen or twenty years at least. In addition, electric power is provided, and an ample water supply, which only requires reticulation from the reservoirs. The sewerage scheme is nearly completed,, and the same may be said of the survey of the railway to the border; it only remains to continue the Federal line to the border, there to link up with the State system atYass. This is a work which might well be finished within a period of twelve months, and certainly within three years. So far as I can see, all the essential elements for speedy progress are present, and it only remains for Parliament itself, and the Government, to show a determination to push on with the work in order to insure that within, at any rate/ the next three years we may he meeting in our national home at Canberra.
The amendment that I suggest to the honorable member for Dalley is that all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting, in lieu thereof, the following words : - it be an instruction to the Commission, to be appointed by the Government, to expedite the building of the Federal Capital, so that it will bo ready for occupation as the Seat of the Federal Government within three years.
If the .honorable member would accept that amendment I think he would find that it would receive a larger measure of support than he could look for from his motion. In its present form it would place some of the supporters of the establishment of the Federal Capital in an embarrassing position. If we agree to a motion in the form of an instruction to the Commission to push on with the building of the Capital, and have it ready for occupation within, the next three years, some progress may be looked for, and once the Capital is- made ready for our occupation, no time will be lost by the Federal Parliament in removing to its proper habitation.
Amendment not seconded.
– A great deal has been said on this matter, and I do not know that anything that can now be said upon it by any one will alter the opinions we have formed as the result of a fairly lengthy acquaintance with the subject. The attitude of the Government, so far as it was expressed in the speech of the Prime Minister, is quite satisfactory. But one has to remember that we have heard something very like this before. I have had a long and a rather chastening experience of this question, the progress of which is a sort of outward and visible sign of the vanity of human effort. From the day upon which my late colleague (Mr. Fisher) commenced the building of the Federal Capital until the present time obstacles have been* placed in the way of the accomplishment of the purposes of various Ministries who have been concerned with it. These influences have been referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr, Mahony) and others. That these are very real influences, and that they are at work to day, any one who has given the matter ten minutes’ thought must be well aware. I am profoundly convinced, therefore, that nothing the Government can say, and no instruction to a Commission, will be in themselves of any avail. .The Government cannot rid themselves of the responsibility which attaches to them by virtue of the fact that they are the Government of the Commonwealth. They cannot place their responsibility in this matter upon the shoulders of a Commission. The establishment of a Commission is, no doubt, a very proper thing, but the responsibility for the completion of this great national work will remain upon the shoulders of the Government.’ We have, therefore, to as’k ourselves whether the Government really mean to get this work done. I believe that they are as earnest as any other Government, but I think that the influences that have baulked previous Governments will baulk them unless counteracted by a firm and persistent determination to get this work done. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has made himself notable in previous Parliaments by his championship of the establishment of the Federal Capital, and were he in any other position than that which he at present occupies, we should no doubt hear him speak with great force in support of the motion. But the honorable gentleman is now silent. I believe that we ought to be at Canberra, and should have been there long ago. I believe that three years is ample time for the erection of a building to accommodate this Parliament, not the permanent structure to which the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) referred in such eloquent terms, but a place fit for the likes of us. We can leave to posterity the work of rearing for itself that mausoleum which is suited to its shadowy greatness ; but such a place as would be pre-eminently suited to our talents and upbringing could be built in three years or less. The present Government, in common with every other Government, is susceptible to influences to which I need not specially refer. If the Government thoroughly understands that these influences are moulding themselves into a resolute determination to complete this great work, and that it is very important to them that Canberra should be completed without unnecessary delay, then we shall be there in three years; otherwise we shall not. The members of the Government are torn to a certain extent by conflicting emotions. I put it in that way to avoid hurting their feelings; Some of them want to get to Canberra, some are not so particular about it, and some are even against going there. Naturally such a Government will find some difficulty in expressing its desires in terms of action. I have been, during all my political career in the Commonwealth, a believer in Canberra. I have had, or my Governments have had, unique opportunities for carrying out the work of the establishment of the Capital there, but I am bound to say that, although I have been accused at times of autocratic exercise of authority, I was never able to grapple effectively with the influences to which the honorable member for Dalley referred. I wish, to say, with all respect to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, that the people look to him in this matter, and hold him responsible. He has said a very great deal on the subject. I used to listen t . him; he now listens to me. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) is a little afraid that this Parliament may not last its time, but I do not think there is any real fear of that. I could vote for either the motion or the suggested amendment; but if by the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lang intended that there should be merely ;an instruction given to the Commission, I could not support that for a moment. The responsibility in this matter rests upon the shoulders of the Government, and to put it quite plainly, if Canberra is not ready for us in 1923, Commission or no Commission, this Government will have laid itself open to such censure that, in the State of New South Wales, at any rate, it cannot live. I believe the Government are doing all that can be done, but they must keep on doing it, and must be prepared to take a word of advice from those of us who regard this as a very important matter. That advice is to tell the people who are everlastingly putting forward some new obstacle that this thing has got to be done. If the Government do that, the work will be done, and we can watch, as time goes on, the rate of progress to
Mr. W. itf. Hughes. see whether the Government are doing all that is possible. This is not a party matter, ‘and ought not to be so regarded. Honorable members hold very different opinions upon it. When I was the representative of a Victorian constituency I held as strongly as I do now that the Federal Capital should be at Canberra. Without labouring the matter further I shall support the motion, but I believe that the honorable member for Dalley would be wise if, instead of pressing his motion, he were prepared to accept an assurance from the Government that no unavoidable delay would be permitted in the removal of this. Parliament to Canberra.
.- As the representative of a Queensland electorate, I have great pleasure in supporting the motion. I listened with interest to the remarks that have fallen from the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I -recognise that he has for many years held a very important position in the public life of Australia, and that he knows what he is talking about when he refers to those influences that have been at work in the past to delay the removal of the Federal Parliament to Canberra. We are bound by the Constitution to remove the sittings of the Federal Parliament to Canberra. We are already thirteen years late. There can be no gainsaying the fact that, while the Commonwealth Parliament has been sitting in Melbourne, the policies of Commonwealth Governments have been affected, to some extent, by the influence of the powerful press of this city. Conservative Governments have taken their views very largely from the Conservative press. They are always influenced in their action by a desire to avoid adverse press criticism. They have been influenced here to follow lines of policy calculated to suit the interests of Melbourne and Victoria, and not the interests of remote States, such as Queensland. We, as Australians, should take a national, and not a parochial view of public affairs. We find that - State jealousies still exist. But Australia, which has proved itself a nation, should have a broader national outlook. I believe that the influence of the Melbourne press will, while the Parliament meets in this city, be exerted to prevent the remodelling of the Commonwealth Constitution, which progressive Australians aim at to invest the National Parliament of Australia with greater powers, and the subdivision of the big States into more manageable areas with simpler and cheaper forms of government, leaving questions of merely local development to subordinate Legislatures throughout Australia. “We may look for some .progress in this direction if we remove this Parliament to Canberra, and can induce the Government to set aside a special session in which to review the Constitution, but I prophesy that certain influences will block the reform while the sittings of the Commonwealth Parliament take place in Melbourne. In one of the fourteen points submitted by the Country party to the electors at the recent elections, they proposed the creation of a Constitution Convention, for the purpose of reviewing the Constitution. Although the Country party has powerful influence in the present Government, we have had no statement from the Treasury bench of an intention to call together a Constitution Convention or to remodel the Commonwealth Constitution facilitating the creation of new States and Provinces. Probably, some of the influences so eloquently referred to by the honorable member for North Sydney are at work to prevent the calling together of any Convention for the purpose of reviewing the Constitution. I join issue with those honorable members who declare that no part of Australia suffers through the Federal Parliament not sitting at Canberra. Queensland industries do not get from the Parliament sitting in Melbourne, influenced as it is by Melbourne interests, that sympathetic, consideration which they would receive from a Parliament sitting at Canberra. There it would be away from those powerful parochial influences which are exercised by great cities, and, in neutral country, could regard everything from a broad Australian point of view. For the past twenty years certain influences have skilfully succeeded in preventing the removal of this Parliament to Federal territory at Canberra. Successive Governments have promised that everything would be done to expedite the building of the Capital, but, to-day, we are not much nearer our goal than we were twenty years ago.
Commissions have been appointed, and a great deal of money has been spent, but those opposing influences with which the ex-Prime Minister has said he has been unable to grapple have always been able to secure the upper band. The honorable member for Dalley is wise in asking the House to fix a date on which the Federal Parliament shall meet at Canberra. That does not allow the Government to side-step the question. Of course, the Government can always find a way out of any difficulty in which the adoption of ‘ this motion may place them if they shelter behind a Royal Commission, but we expect something definite from them, particularly when we know that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) has always been an earnest advocate of the removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra. The responsibility rests with the Government. It has been said by persons who are in a position to speak with authority that the necessary buildings could be erected within two and a half or three years. As a proof that all that should be done is not being done, we have the fact that £90,000 of the money voted on’ last year’s Estimates for works at Canberra has not been spent.
Queensland has every reason to feel aggrieved at the unsympathetic treatment meted out to its interests by Government*” located in Melbourne and under the influence of the powerful press of this southern city. The great bulk of the people engaged in the sugar-growing industry, that has enabled the consumers of Australia to save £17,000,000 during the last six years, have a real grievance against’ the parochial views taken by a Commonwealth Cabinet sitting in. Melbourne, influenced daily by writers on a biased and conservative press who have not a proper understanding of the industries of the northern State or of the peculiar conditions associated with them. These writers do not realize that these industries are the bulwark of our White Australia policy, and that every consideration must be extended to them if the northern part of the Commonwealth is to be properly developed’. I strongly urge honorable members to vote for the motion. Do not talk it out. “ Have a vote taken to . see where Canberra’s friends are. This is a non-party question, and the carrying of this motion will enable us to realize at an early date all our ambitions in regard to Canberra, and cause a greater and better national spirit in Australia to be created, tending to the speedier development of this great country of which we are all so proud.
.- The location of the Seat of the Federal Government is a matter of considerable importance, and likewise the motion submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is important, because it seeks to fix the time when this Parliament shall meet at Canberra, thus enabling intending property-holders at the Federal Capital to secure their leases and proceed with building operations .while we are doing our share by making provision for the housing o.f Parliament there. This is an important aspect if we ar© to look at the proposition in a. business-like way. It is pleasing to me to note that the arguments for and against the establishment of a Federal Capital at Canberra have practically ceased. T know that there are still a few objectors who say that we should not go there at the present time. As a matter of fact, the removal of the Seat of Government to our own territory is already thirteen years overdue. The delay has undoubtedly been caused by the war, but it is part and parcel of the Federal compact that the Seat of Government should be on neutral territory. Under our Constitution the power of each State, in so far as its representation in the Federal Parliament is concerned, is strictly defined, and the representations of each State should have their due weight; but when we find ourselves as we are at present, not on neutral ground, but situated in -one of the largest capital cities in Australia, naturally we are so influenced by environment that the Federal idea is lost. I do not blame Melbourne in this respect. The people of this city are paddling their own canoe. If we are anxious to be outandout Australians and to carry, out the Federal arrangement, Parliament must meet on neutral ground where the fullest weight can be given to the representatives of the various States. The- press of Melbourne may take it as a compliment that they are considered as being capable of influencing members of this Parlia-ment. But when a case is put before a jury both sides are heard. In Melbourne only one side is heard, and it is hard, indeed, for an honorable member, no matter from what State he may hail, to read the Melbourne newspapers and not’ be influenced consciously or unconsciously by the political views expressed therein. The politics of the people of Victoria may be very sound, but that is not the point at issue. When the States entered into the Federal arrangement the understanding was, as it also was in the United States of America, that, in order to avoid any possibility of State influence, the Federal Parliament must meet on neutral territory. The matter of honouring the Federal compact to build the Federal Capital in the State of New South Wales has also to be considered. Those who are opposed in any circumstances to the removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra, say that our financial position will not justify us in raising sufficient money to erect the buildings that will be required: but seeing that we shall have control over 900 square miles of terri-. tory, it is reasonable to suppose that the Federal Parliament will eventually be able to finance this undertaking from the revenue it will derive from its own lands. I quite agree with what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said concerning the quality of the land comprised in the Federal Territory. There is no finer wool-growing country anywhere else in the world. It is also excellent dairying land. Altogether, the Territory which we shall occupy should prove eminently suitable for our purposes. But the question whether it is the most suitable spot in Australia for a Federal Capital has been settled long ago. The matter of greatest importance to-day is that this Parliament should meet on neutral territory, so that every State may get the full weight of the representation to which it is entitled under the Constitution. I believe that we can do this by meeting at Canberra, and that when we meet there we shall have better and cleaner legislation, more truly Australian in character, than that which the people are getting today.
.- In supporting the motion submitted by. the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), I point out that if it is adopted the responsibility will still be upon the Government to carry out .the work. I trust that this question will not be treated as a party matter. Former Governments were not in earnest over this project. The present Government have not been in office long enough to judge, but I hope that they will bring down a progressive policy, and that, if the motion is carried, as I feel sure it will be, they will give effect .to the wishes of this House. It has been said that the present Parliament may not run its full term. This is an argument which one might expect from objectors to the proposal, and, so far as I can judge, it has up bearing upon the question at issue at all. I agree with the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) that the Government should without delay come to a decision’ with regard to land tenures, so that private people who desire to build for business or other purposes may have an opportunity of commencing as soon as possible. The statement by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) that it is not possible to have construction work sufficiently advanced to enable Parliament to meet at Canberra in three years is not indorsed by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee. In its first general report, published in July, 1921, that Committee states, in clause 73 -
The period of three years assigned by the Committee for the first stage is the minimum that the resources in materials and labour would permit without unduly increasing cost.
That report was published two years ago. Only one year of the three-year term mentioned now remains, and still we are sitting in Melbourne. “We can only hope to get to Canberra within a reasonable time if we adopt the motion now before the House. The people in the United States of America were in the same position with regard to their Federal Capital in the earlier years of the Republic. Delays were so exasperating that finally Parliament decided by resolution to meet at Washington at a specified date. That is what we must do in connexion with a proposal to establish the Seat of Government at Canberra. I have no desire to take up the role of a carping critic of the present Government on the Federal Capital question. They have not been long in office; but if, three years hence, we find the position much the same as it is to-day, there will be good reason for the strongest censure, which I hope will be delivered from both sides of the House by honorable members supporting the project. If we decide that the first session of the next Parliament must meet at Canberra, then, in spite of officialdom and any other obstacles, the work of building the City will be expedited in preparation for that event. So long as it remains in the capital city of any State, so long will the parochial .view-point predominate. But we should consider the effect which the building of this Capital City will have upon the national life of Australia,, and, for that reason, and in spite of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I think it is quite possible for Parliament to meet at Canberra three years hence. It is easy for those who have no practical knowledge of building: construction to say that the work cannot be done in that time. We had the definite statement, made by experts two years ago, that it was possible for Parliament to meet at Canberra in three years, so it is useless now to contend that we shall not be able to meet there within another three years. I hope that the motion will be carried, and that unlike many other similar resolutions with regard to Canberra, it will, not be regarded as merely a pious expression of opinion.
.- I cannot support the motion because it will place the Government in a very awkward position. We must regard this as an actual business proposition. I understand that the sum of £175,000 has been earmarked for the building of the temporary Federal Parliament House at Canberra. It might be said that if that were the only building to be constructed, it could be completed within the time specified,, but I say definitely that it could not. In addition to the Parliament House, it will be necessary to provide a number of other buildings for administrative officers and members of the Public Service, and members of Parliament, so probably another £100,000 will have tobe spent. As a builder of many years’ experience, I claim to know somethingabout a project like this. . There are many difficulties in the way. In the first place, there is a serious shortage of skilled labour. I do not know whether the estimate of cost has been based on an award of the Arbitration Court, but I know that in Melbourne, owing to the scarcity of skilled labour, bricklayers are getting substantially more than the award rates. Men going to the country will demand still higher pay. It is possible, however, that the construction could be carried out in reinforced concrete instead of brick. Many such buildings are now being erected in this city owing to the shortage of bricks and skilled labour. I understand that the Government have 8,000,000 bricks available on- the site in Canberra, but in view of the shortage of skilled! labour they are useless.
– The Government are building the hostel now, so skilled labour is available.
– If they pay the wages.’
– Yes. If the Government pay the wages N demanded, no doubt skilled labour will be obtainable, but if wages are to be substantially higher than the rate upon which the estimate of cost has been based, instead of costing £175,000 Parliament House will cost probably £275,000. I defy any man, without plans and specifications, to say what a building of that description will cost, and, therefore, the adoption of the motion will place the Government in a very difficult position, because it will be an instruction to have the building ready in 1926. Already we are half through 1923, and I venture to say that the plans are not yet ready.
– They are.
– I will undertake to say that the authorities have not a set of plans upon which a builder could give a price.
– They have the plans ready to lay on the table of the House next week. The Public “Works Committee have, been considering this matter.
– Notwithstanding, what the honorable member for South Sydney says, I will guarantee that they have not yet a plan from which a builder could give a price. It will take six months to prepare detailed plans and specifications. Advertisements would have to be published calling for tenders, and the tenders could not be obtained and considered in less than another two months.’ Thus over twelve months would be gone before a start could be made. I oppose the motion because this House, by carrying it, would place the Government in an awkward position. I realize, that the transfer of the Capital to Canberra is an obligation which ‘has been placed upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution. A city must be built at Canberra, and I am in favour of its being built. Three million pounds have already been spent there, and I have seen the works that have, been carried out. These include the provision of a splendid water supply and underground drainage system, and the erection of buildings and some four-roomed cottages. The cottages, . which cost £1,200, took as long to build as half-a-dozen would have taken in ordinary circumstances. ‘No man can say when the work can be finished, and that is the reason why I am so anxious that the motion should not be carried. I have yet to be convinced that a temporary building should be erected for a Parliament House. If we must ultimately build a Parliament House to stand for all time, why should we not build it at first, instead of spending money on a temporary structure which will probably have to be pulled down later? The parliamentary building will cost nearer £270,000 than £170,000. _ “We have to realize that buildings have also to be erected to accommodate members and the staff of Parliament. I am not yet convinced that Canberra is a good place for a Capital city, for there is not sufficient agricultural country surrounding it to make a good city of it. It may be a satisfactory political Capital. but without a thriving back country it can never ‘become a big city. I believe, however, that good legislation will come from it. There are at Canberra some plantations of pine trees, and I was surprised to see the amount of work that had been done in that direction. The first building put up was the powerhouse, which is built of reinforced concrete. After the Government had built this, it also spent from £50,000 to £60,000 to establish a brick works. The bricks I saw at Canberra were the finest I had ever handled; but, if the Government had continued to build in reinforced concrete, unskilled labour could have been employed, and the city would have been completed in a much shorter time than will now be possible.
.-I have much pleasure in briefly supporting the motion moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), and I am more convinced than ever of the necessity for it after listening to the futile outburst from the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). In advocating further delay in the completion of the Capital he referred to the cost of erecting a parliamentary building, but entirely overlooked the fact that something like £3,000,000 has already been spent on ‘Canberra, and is so much capital lying idle. If the completion of the city is delayed, the capital cost will be increased. I would remind honorable members on the Government side of the House that there is -very much unemployment in Australia at the present time, and that if the- construction of the Capital is expedited it will afford an excellent means of absorbing a large number of unemployed. The arguments that have been used in “this debate, by those who may be termed dishonest advocates of delay
– Order ! It is not parliamentary to refer to arguments used in this Chamber as “ dishonest.”
– Then I will say arguments that are unscientific and illogical. For the past ten years, ever since the foundation stones were laid at the Capital site, certain honorable members from Victoria and Tasmania, and some from the other States, excepting New South Wales, have been advocating delay.
– Not all Tasmanian members.
– That is so. Some of the arguments which were used ten years ago have been repeated to-day. This is not a party question, but it is a matter of urgent national importance. The time has arrived when the compact made in the Federal Constitution should be honoured by this House. I agree with, the utterances made by a certain honorable member who referred to the baneful influence of the Victorian press, and I think it would be in the best interests’ of the Commonwealth, to remove the Federal Capital to Canberra, where Parliament would be free from parochialism and “ big business “ influences. I hope that a vote on the motion before the House will be taken without further delay.
. - I oppose the motion because I feel it would be most unfair to tie the hands of Parliament in a matter of such great national importance. We have to consider the construction not only of a Federal Parliament House, but also of administrative offices, official quarters, a hostel, and workmen’s homes, and railway communication must be provided for members to travel to and from the State capitals. The time limit proposed is much too short, and it would be impossible to complete the work satisfactorily in such a short period. Experts are of opinion that it will take at least five years to- complete the work and make the city ready for the transfer of the Federal Parliament. Accommodation will be required for about 1,200 officers, and when the high cost of buildings, and the shortage of labour are taken into account, it becomes obvious that it would be inadvisable to rush the work through in the time suggested. I do not object to proceeding with the undertaking on sound lines. We ought to honour the compact with New South Wales. The time has passed for objecting to the site, so much money having been spent there that we must reconcile ourselves to making the best of the job, whether the site is a good or bad one. There is not the slightest need for the break-neck speed desired by some honorable members. Millions of pounds are involved in the scheme. One of the principal arguments used in favour of the removal of Parliament to Canberra is that honorable members will then be able to get away from the influence of the daily newspapers of Melbourne. Honorable members have argued that public criticism warps and directs their minds. Are they aware, however, that they have not the slightest chance of escaping the scorching criticism of the press even if they move to Canberra? The press will be there, and will criticise just as forcibly as it does to-day. It is desirable that we should have a press and a public to criticise us. All public men should be under the searchlight of reasonable, honest criticism, which is an incentive to a man to do his best. I sometimes feel that, the honorable member who desires to get to Canberra so hurriedly may ‘ have an inclination to do something which would probably not stand the searchlight of public criticism- I encourage criticism to the . fullest . possible extent.
My constituency is a large one, about 300 miles in length, running in the direction of the Federal Capital Territory, and I can say that, from one end to the other, I never heard a word spoken in favour of hurrying on the work at Canberra. I spent a fortnight in Sydney, and ‘during my visit I questioned people on boats, in the trams, on the streets, and business people generally, and I ascertained that the great howl in favour of our removal was from a few press writers and public men. On the other hand, I found a large body of influential sound ‘ business men who held the view that at present we could put our money to a much better use than the building of the Capital. These men are not against a Federal Capital nor are the people in my electorate against it, because they recognise that the agreement made should be kept; but they feel that there is no necessity for the break-neck speed advocated by many members of this House. I am prepared to give the movement reasonable support, but I am not prepared to tie the hands of the Government by a time limit.
– I suppose it is not necessary for me to declare what my views are on this question.
– It is very necessary!
– My attitude is as well known as that of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who has opposed it almost as strongly as I. have always advocated it. However, it is pleasing to think that after all these- years our labours have come to fruition. I remember travel ling from Sydney to Melbourne by train when there was not to bo found on. board more than one supporter of the Canberra scheme. It is pleasing to think that merit tells, and that to-day there is really no opposition to the building of this Capital. There are a few dying wails that “ the time is not now,” from those who say they are prepared to do what is reasonable. But who is to be allowed to define the word “reasonable”? After all, the parochialism that has been -voiced ‘ in this Househas failed. Even leading Victorians have ceased their opposition, and to-night we have ‘been definitely told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) on behalf of the Government, that it is his policy, if it be possible, to have Parliament meeting at Canberra within three years. .
– You cannot get there by then.
– I believe we can. The only trouble connected with the motion is that it speaks of the next Parliament meeting there, whereas I see no reasonwhy this Parliament should not sit in Canberra.
-Will the honorable gentleman move to that effect as an amendment ?
– I will show the honorable member how this Parliament may be able to meet in Canberra. I hope and believe that the present Parliament will survive three years. Probably at the end of the third year the session will finish near December, 1925, then we could have a formal opening at Canberra, and the Departments could be moved and got ready there, while the elections were being held early in the following year, and the new Parliament could start in its permanent home. The present Parliament 1 may say, rushed to the polls three or four months before it need have done so. I have no doubt that the proposed Parliament House at Canberra can be completed within the time mentioned. I have heard and believe, on pretty reliable authority, that the Public’ Works Committee mention that as the period within which the Department is of opinion that a Parliament House can be completed.
– The honorable gentleman is, no doubt, influenced by the Queanbeyan press!
– I am sure no one would accuse the honorable member of being influenced by the Melbourne Age, much less the Queanbeyan Age.. We Canberraites, who have fought our battle in season and out of season, have found a good friend of the movement in the Age. But for the battering and hammering which that newspaper has given us, I doubt whether we’ could have succeeded at all for many years. That newspaper has helped to bring Canberra to the front, and for that I thank it. What I say is proved by- the tone of the discussion tonight. I cannot understand any honorable member who says he is not. influenced by the newspaper press, because I take it that newspapers reflect public opinion.
– They ought to.
– I am sure they do - at any rate, when they praise the present Government ! However, I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) when he says that, while itis the policy of this Government to appoint a Commission, the Government will shoulder the responsibility that it has undertaken. As I said before, the Prime Minister, has stated definitely to-night that in his opinion Parliamentought to meet in Canberra at the earliest possible moment; and this, of course, represents the policy of the Government. No one is opposed to our going to Canberra, but no one is anxious, not even the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) or the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), to rush the work through at - perhaps double thenormal expenditure. The work can be carried out in a reasonable way.
– Those honorable members mentioned wish to rush the work through at any price !
– I do not agree with the honorable member. Surely twenty years is a good long time to wait, and no one can say that the compact has been fairly kept. I make no reflections on the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) ; I give him credit for what he did under very difficult circumstances, with a divided Government, and many of his colleagues opposed to the removal to Canberra. Pie has always been a solid Canberra man. It is true that, although the Government propose to appoint a Commission, that appointment is for the purpose of expediting the work on business - lines. The responsibility is that of the Government ; if they appoint a Commission they are responsible for what that Commission does. At the same time, Parliament puts an obligation on the Commission, for Parliament is the power behind the throne; the Minister is the instrument of Parliament to carry out its will, and, practically, Parliament is unanimously in. favour of removing the Seat of Government to ‘Canberra.
– Will the Commission be under parliamentary control ?
– This is not the time for questions, and, in any case, I could not answer the one put by the honorable member. The Government have promised the Commission, and the aim of the Government is to expedite work in a reasonable way. Not one voice has been raised against the declared policy of the Government. This is a responsibility of the Government, and the Prime Minister has said he is prepared to accept it to the full. The honorable gentleman has told the House in plain language that he believes and hopes we shall be in Canberra within three years, and that also represents the unanimous voice of Parliament.
– There is no real enthusiasm for Canberra beyond New South Wales.
– After all, the real test of the opinion of Australia is a vote in this House.
– And twenty-nine members for New South Wales is a good start !
– And all those members are good. men. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory), who ought to know, has told us that the evidence and the Committee’s recommendations will show that a perma-. nent Parliament House can be built within the time mentioned. By “ permanent “ I do not mean a great structure, but a building which will last for twenty-five to thirty years. This is not the time to build “ marble halls “ to cost millions, but, at the same time, we do not want a galvanized-iron structure.
– That is what the Advisory Committee suggests !
– I should be opposed to any structure of that kind. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) has told us that the bricks manufactured at Canberra are the best in the world. That is quite true, and the stack of bricks there is the biggest in the world. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no danger of our running short of building material, and the Prime Minister has pledged the Government to carry out the work in the time mentioned.
– What is your objection to the motion?
– None . The honorable member is generally fair, and I am surprised at his present attitude. Some of the best friends of Canberra sit in the Labour corner, though they may be misguided in every other way. After all, the discussion this afternoon has shown that, members of different parties can stand solidly together on this question, and, at any rate, I need not make any declaration as to my attitude, which has never changed - “ Canberra, at once.” My proposal is that the Parliament shall meet in Canberra at the earliest possible moment ; and once we get there what does it matter if we are a little uncomfortable, although there is no necessity why we should be? After thirty-two years of parliamentary life I know something of members of Parliament, and if they are not comfortable at Canberra when they arrive, it will not be, long before they are. The history of Parliament shows that what I am now saying is true.
A great deal of work has been done at Canberra that does not show on the surface ; for instance, the sewerage system is a very fine work, suitable for a city of 300,000 inhabitants, and it is more than half completed. The Government have the right to resume 500,000 acres of land, some of it very good, and about half that area has been resumed and paid for. These resumptions, on the average, are returning at least 5 per cent, on the expenditure. “Who can talk of waste at Canberra ? There cannot be any waste on those figures. We have planted 1,500,000 trees.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said the number was 800,000.
– I did not include the planting this year.
– There are 300 houses at the Capital area, and over 100 families living there.
– German concentration camp huts !
– Not at all ; many of them are. brick houses. I do not wish to labour the question.
– You will vote for my , motion ?
– Yes ; I shall vote for going to Canberra at the earliest possible . moment. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has said that there is no enthusiasm for Canberra except in New South Wales, but I point out that Canberra has some of its best supporters in Victoria. There is the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), for instance, who has always been in’ favour of our removal to Canberra.
– The late Mr.. Tudor was another great supporter.
– That is quite true ; some of our strongest and most enthusiastic supporters are in this State. No matter where honorable members may come from, there is a large majority in favour of our removal’ to Canberra. There is no one, not even the honorable member for Henty (Mr. F. Francis), who will say definitely that he is opposed to the building of Canberra, but some tell us that we must proceed steadily, and that the time is not ripe for our removal to the Capital. In my opinion,, in the opinion of the Government, and, I believe, in the opinion of a majority of members of this House, now is the time to make real progress with the construction of the Capital. It would be a pity to tie ourselves up by the passing of a motion for the calling of the tenth Parliment at Canberra, because as the result of some unfortunate contingency not at present anticipated, this Parliament might not run its full term. At any rate the Government ‘ ‘ stand pat “ on the opinion that we should remove to Canberra within three years, and the best efforts will be used to give effect to that view. I have not changed my opinion on this subject in any way, but I am delighted to think that some who have been opposed to Canberra have seen the light and have come round to my way of thinking. I congratulate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) upon having seen the light, and I hope he will go on seeing it. We welcome converts to our fold.
An Honorable Member. - Let us divide on the motion.
– I am quite willing that we should divide on the motion. I conclude by saying that it is the unanimous desire of the members of the Government that we should get to Canberra within a reasonable time, and that three years is a reasonable time. We shall make every effort to get to the Federal Capital within that time.
Motion (by Mr. F. McDonald) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Several honorable members rising to speak,
– Honorable members will . resume their seats. When this motion is proposed, it must be put forthwith without adjournment or debate.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Groom) adjourned.
Sittingsuspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message).
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to make provision for the redemption of the National Debt, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Pageand Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now rend a second time.
In submitting a Bill of this character it is appropriate that I should set out the present position of the national debt of the Commonwealth. On the 31st March, 1923, the total loan indebtedness of the Commonwealth was £412,000,000. Of this amount £364,000,000 represented money borrowed to meet war expenditure, and £48,000,000 money borrowed for Commonwealth works generally and for advances to the States, and the value of transferred properties. Of the total amount £127,000,000 is owing in London, while £285,000,000 was borrowed in Australia. The Commonwealth was very fortunate in being able to raise such a large part of its loan requirements in Australia, because money owed to the citizens of a country is not so serious a load on its taxpayers as money owed overseas. The interest paid by the general taxpayer to local lenders circulates among the people of the country.
It is essential, as the great bulk of our loan indebtedness has been incurred for war purposes, that we should take steps topay it off as soon as possible. A national debt is like a tooth that aches - it is best to get rid of it as soon as possible. However, it is not possible for us to pay off £412,000,000 very speedily, and so it is necessary to redeem it gradually by establishing a sinking fund to which annual contributions will be made from the Consolidated Revenue.
A sinking fund, if managed on proper lines, will ultimately wipe out the whole of the debt, and is useful too, because, showing, as it does, a desire on the part of a people to meet its obligations, it tends in some degree to raise that people’s credit, and that enables such renewal transactions as take place from time to time in regard to portions of the debt to be handled in a much more satisfactory manner than when there is no stocking upon which to draw, and the whole of the loan falling due has to be provided for. Nothing is more encouragiug to a lender than the fact that the borrower has a regular and definite programme for paying off his debt. Investors are further benefited, because a sinking fund managed on proper lines always keeps the market for their stock more or less alive, thus permitting them to obtain ready cash for their security if occasion demands its sale.
Prior to the war the Commonwealth debt was insignificant, and, although provision was made for a sinking fund, there is no need for me to make particular reference to it at this stage. In 1918, however, when our war obligations had become extensive, the present Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt), who was then Treasurer, brought in a Loan Sinking Fund Bill, which simplified the earlier provisions relating to sinking funds, and was the Commonwealth’s first effort to pay off the war debt of Australia. The House passed that measure. It provided for an annual payment into a sinking fund of not less than 10s. per £100 of the debt, the money so set aside being left in the hands of the Treasurer. It was directed that he should use the fund so created for the reduction of the public debt, and for’ no other purpose whatsoever. The transactions which have taken place in connexion with the Sinking Fund of the Commonwealth are as follow: On the 30th June, 1923, the amount that will have been transferred from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth to the Sinking Fund will be, approximately, £11,675,000. At that date the interest earned by the investment of the Fund will amount to about £265,000, making the total receipts of the Fund £11,940,000. For the redemption of securities the sum of £9,670,000 has been used, leaving a balance of £2,270,000 in the Sinking Fund on the 30th June of this year. This sum is held in the following way : -
Commonwealth -securities issued for new loan purposes - £968,000.
Bonds surrendered for probate duties- £720,000.
Cash in the Public Account, £582,000. As the figures for the year have not yet closed, these amounts are approximate; but for all practical purposes they can be taken as accurate. -All securities purchased with the £9,670,000 have been cancelled.
– Were those securities war loan scrip?
– Yes. The result is that the debt upon which the½ per cent, for Sinking Fund is calculated is reduced in similar proportion, and interest on the redeemed debt is no longer chargeable to the Consolidated Revenue. The Sinking Fund as now established does not get the benefit of accumulations at compound interest; it must be regarded as a redemption fund, and not as a true sinking fluid. If we continued as we have been doing, with a gradually decreasing indebtedness, taking out every year a smaller percentage of the total, we should find at the end of 100 years that 60 per cent, of the total debt remained unredeemed. Even if the. annual payment to the Sinking Fund were 1 per cent, per annum, there would still remain at the end of 100 years 36 per cent, of the debt unredeemed. No Government desirous of placing the finances of Australia on a satisfactory footing would contemplate with equanimity such a scheme of reducing its national debt. A further weakness of the existing method is that the Fund is always in the complete control of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and can be used for purposes which are not strictly those appertaining to a sinking fund. It will- be noticed that £968,000 has been investedin new loan securities.
– That is most improper.
– It is most improper. It is simply substituting another I.O.U. for what should have been an actual cash transaction. A further weakness of the present system is that the Treasurer is enabled to invest the fund in any of the securities of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or any State. This - gives too wide a discretion as to the manner in which the Fund may be invested. Owing to bad judgment or something unforeseen transpiring, the Sinking Fund may not be drawn upon readily when actual cash is required for the redemption of a loan. At first sight it might seem that there is no reason why the money should not be invested in any State security; but if a considerable amount of debt had to be paid off at one time, there would be considerable difficulty in keeping the market buoyant while disposing of the securities. Having in view these three weaknesses of the present system, the Government decided to submit this Bill to Parliament.
– Has the Bill any weaknesses ?
– It may have, but it at least will remove the three features of the existing law which have been proved, by actual experience to be unsatisfactory. In the first place it will repeal the existing sinking fund provision; and, in the second, it will establish a Commission to control sinking funds, independently of the Treasurer. The Treasurer now has full control of the sinking or redemption funds. Contributions to the sinking funds will be made, on such a basis as will provide for redemption of the existing debts in fifty years. During that fifty year period similar contributions will be made in respect of any new debt created, so that, although the Bill will apply for only fifty years, it will provide a good basis for meeting future debts. It is in accordance with the proposals agreed to at the Conference of State Premiers and Treasurers held in Melbourne last month, when it was unanimously decided’ that sinking funds on a basis of £ per cent, should be inaugurated for the extinction of debts.
The sinking funds will be used for the redemption of the Commonwealth’ debts, but, pending such redemption, the funds may be invested ;n defined securities. Before I deal in detail with the actual provisions of the Bill, I would like for a few seconds to indicate briefly what are the provisions made in other countries for sinking funds. First I will turn my attention to those which exist within the British Empire. Great Britain formerly provided for capital expenditure practically out of revenue, and she always used any surplus revenue for the actual reduction of her debt. The main feature of the present English system is the provision of an annual fixed sum for the reduction of the national debt. As in normal times there is no borrowing by the British Government: the debt is continually being reduced. The conditions, however, have been very greatly modified by borrowings for war purposes, and a slightly different system has now been inaugurated. The sinking funds in Great Britain are under the control of the National Debt Commissioners, who are : The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Master of the Bolls, the Lord Chief Justice, the Paymaster-General, the Governor of the. Bank of England, and the DeputyGovernor, of the Bank of England. In his Budget speech in April, 1923, the British Chancellor said he was providing a sinking fund of £40,000,000 for 1923- 24, increasing to £45,000,000 in 1924- 25, and £50,000,000 as a maximum thereafter. As the total ‘ national debt of Great Britain at the 31st March, 1923, was £7,773,506,000, it will be seen that the sinking fund for this year -£40,000,000- is just a very little in excess of 10s. per cent, of the debt. In 1922-23, the payments from revenue to the sinking funds totalled £21,750,000. After providing for this payment, there was a surplus in the revenue account of £101,500,000. This surplus was used for the reduction of the debt. The total amount applied to the reduction of the debt in 1922-23 was £123,250,000. In 1921-22, the sinking fund contributions from revenue totalled £25,000,000. The surplus of revenue over expenditure in that year was £45,693,000. This surplus was applied- in reduction of the debt. In addition to these two amounts, certain other funds totalling £17,773,000 were used for the reduction of the debt. The total amount applied to debt reduction in 1921-22 was £88,466,000. In 1920-21, the total amount used for redeeming debt was £259,500,000. In that year, and in 1921-22, large sums were received by the British Treasury as the result of the sale of war assets, &c. These special ‘ receipts totalled £288,000,000 in 1920-21, and £170,806,000 in 1921-22. From the outbreak of war to 1920, Great Britain suspended all sinking fund payments.
The New Zealand sinking fund is con: trolled by a Board, consisting of the Minister of Finance, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the Public Trustee, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the New Zealand State-guaranteed Advances Office Superintendent. Their sinking hind contributions are 1 per cent, per annum on outstanding war debt. Funds are invested by the Public Trustee at 4-i per cent. The war debt will be extinguished in forty years. On other debts, the annual payment is a sum sufficient to provide for the redemption of the debt in seventy-five years from, the date of the issue of each loan. Taking the war debt and the other debt together, the average annual contribution is about 10s. per cent., or the amount which it is suggested Australia should maintain. Sinking funds totalled, at 31st December, 1921, £8,763,072; and the New Zealand war and other public debt at 31st March, 1923, was £219,000,000.
In South Africa the management of the public debt is vested in a Board -of Public Debt Commissioners, consisting of the Minister of Finance, who is, ex officio, chairman; a member of the Railway Board, and one other member appointed by the Governor-General. The sinking fund contributions total between J and per cent.
In Australia, the only State which has had a really honest sinking fund, and has maintained it properly, is “Western Australia, which has followed the same policy ever since the inception of responsible government: and even before, when she was a Crown Colony, her loans were provided with a definite sinking fund. It was first a sinking fund of 2 per cent. ; and it later became 1 per cent., on a somewhat similar basis to that proposed in the Government’s Bill. The sinking funds provided since responsible government are not controlled by Crown agents, but by two trustees in London, one of whom is the Agent-General. The trustees are appointed by the Governor-General in Council : their positions are purely honorary, and they control the whole of Western Australia’s sinking funds, including those provided for local inscribed stock. The full amount’ provided from Consolidated Revenue for this purpose is remitted to them for investment monthly, and is thus placed beyond the use or influence of any impecunious Treasurer. The amount at the credit of the sinking fund on 30th June, 1.922, was £S;370,160, of which £8,292,802 was invested in Government securities, £31,447 in an assurance policy, and £45,911 was cash in the bank.
In Victoria, redemption funds were established in 1898. In the early stages, the sinking fund was fixed at 1 per cent., but after a short experience it was, in 1906, reduced to A per- cent. Since 1906, these moneys have been used for investment in redemption loan stocks, instead of for redeeming the debt outright. Thus the fund has been turned into a sinking fund, interest on the investments being credited to the fund. The funds are in the hands of the Trust Fund trustees, but the authority for investing is wholly in the hands of the Treasurer. Investment, however, is restricted to Victorian Government securities. The amount to the credit of the funds on 30th June, 1922, was £2,754,000.
Tasmania has had sinking funds, on and off, for thirty or forty years. Sometimes they have not been on a very’ sound basis, but during the last seven or eight years they have been placed on a more satisfactory foundation. There was at the credit of the funds on 30th June, 1922, £1,118,020, which was invested as follows: - Government debentures, £33,800; Commonwealth inscribed stock, £462,119; war gratuity bonds, £32,094; municipal debentures, £43,500;’ local inscribed stock, £539,410; and cash in bank, £7,097.
There has been a nominal sinking fund in New South Wales for many years, but it has been used nearly all the time for meeting deficiencies in revenue. There is ostensibly an annual contribution to the fund of £350,000 from the Consolidated Revenue, but the total amount standing to the credit of the fund is now only £498,602.
The Bill before the House provides first of all for the repeal of the present sinking fund provisions. The Loan Sinking Fund Act 1918 is wholly repealed, with some provisions of the Loan Act 1913-14. A National Debt Commission is proposed, consisting of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth as chairman, the Chief .Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the Secretary to the Treasury, and the Solicitor-General.
– What does a Chief Justice know about finance 1
– The object is to create a National Debt Commission which will command respect, will be impartial in its view of the position, and will not be too readily overwhelmed by any local political situation. I think the constitution of the Commission will not permit of its probity being questioned, and will give it a respect which will warrant its being intrusted with the duties allotted to it. The Bill provides that during a period of fifty years a sum of £1,250,000 shall be paid annually out of the Consolidated Revenue into a National Debt Sinking Fund. The sum of £1,250,000 has been arrived at as follows: - The total national debt is £412,000,000. The amount of debt in respect of which no contribution is to be made to the sinking fund under this Bill is £161,000,000, which leaves a balance of debt of £251,000,000. I will explain exactly how the £161,000,000 is made up, and how the redemption is already provided for. A sum of* 10s. for each £100 in £251,000,000 amounts to £1,255,000 or roughly £1,250,000. The proposed payment of 10s. is based upon the reduced sum of £251,000,000, because there are special arrangements for treating the amount not subject to the contribution of 10s. The funding arrangement with the British Government provides for a special sinking fund of slightly more than 1 per cent, per annum on the amount originally due to that Government, in respect of payments made by them on behalf of Australia during the war. That sinking fund will extinguish the debt in 1956. By adding together the sum of £251,000,000, in respect of which the sinking fund of 10s. is provided by this Bill, and the sum of £90,388,604, provided for in the funding arrangement with Great Britain we get a total of £341,388,604. Deducting this total of £341,000,000 odd from the total of the national debt of £412,000,000, there remains a sum of £71,000,000. This sum represents moneys lent to the States for public works and for soldier land settlement, moneys expended on War Service Homes, other advances which are repayable to the Commonwealth in cash, and the balance of loan moneys in hand. Obviously it is not necessary to provide a sinking fund in connexion with these portions of the national debt, and the Bill provides merely, that, on the repayment of the moneys to the Commonwealth, they shall be credited to the National Debt Sinking Fund. If the securities purchased out of the funds belonging to the national debt sinking fund were allowed to accumulate, a vast amount of securities would exist, and their existence would give a wrong impression because, while the balance-sheet would show a great sum in hand; that sum would really be valueless from a practical point of view. The Bill therefore provides that securities repurchased or redeemed shall be immediately cancelled. In order that the sinking fund may have the benefit of compound interest, however, it is intended that in each of the fifty years referred to, a sum of 5 per cent, per annum on the amount of the cancelled debt shall be paid into the sinking fund. This will not cause any additional burden upon the revenue, because the 5. per cent, will be paid to the sinking fund in lieu of the interest previously paid to the owner of the bonds.
– Does the honorable member contend that the 10s. per cent, contribution will pay off the debt in fifty years ?
– In fifty years, at compound interest. There is no intention to accumulate huge funds which will be embarrassing to the finances of the country. In respect of future debts a sum of 10s. for each £100 borrowed is to be paid annually into the National Debt Sinking Fund. Provision is made here only up to the end of the fifty-year period already referred to, and will not be sufficient to wholly redeem the new debt. The Government think, however, that it would not be wise now to pass legislation to regulate what might happen after the lapse of fifty years. Provision is made for half the net profits of the Commonwealth Bank after the 1st July, 1923, being paid to the National Debt Sinking Fund. Up to the present the profits of the Bank have been divided equally between the Bank reserve fund and the redemption fund. The redemption fund may be used in repayment of any money advanced to the Bank by the Treasurer, or in redemption of debentures or stock issued by the Bank, or for redeeming Commonwealth debts or State debts taken over ‘by the Commonwealth. No part of the profits of the Bank has yet been applied towards redeeming Commonwealth debts or State debts taken over by the Commonwealth, and as the Bank has not issued debentures or stock, and has no advances from the Treasurer, half of the profits of the Bank to date have remained in the redemption fund. The balance of the redemption fund at the 31st December, 1922, was £2,099,483, of which £98,653 represented half the profits for the half-year ended 31st December, 1922. As there may be some misapprehension as to why this course is adopted, I shall read the section of the Commonwealth Bank Act referring to this matter. Section 30 relates to disposal of profits, and reads -
The net profits derived by the Bank shall be dealt with as follows: -
There are practically £4,000,000 profits accumulated at the Bank for its own use.
– Is it proposed to take the whole of the redemption fund now existing at the Bank?
– No. Repayments of purchase money and advances made under theWar . Service Homes Act are now credited to a trust fund, and the Treasurer may direct that those moneys shall be credited to the Loans Sinking Fund. The new Bill provides that these moneys shall bepaid to the National Debt Sinking Fund, and the Treasurer, therefore, will have no discretion as to the method of dealing with these repayments. The prospectus of each now loan is to contain the’ provision that in respect of the loan, . Sinking Fund . contributions will be paid in accordance with this new Act. The existing sinking funds will be merged in the National Debt Sinking Fund. Moneys standing at the credit of existing funds will be transferred to the new fund. Investment’s of the old funds will become investments of the new fund. These balances total £2,270,000, and are represented by investments to the amount of £1,688,000, and cash in the Public Account. £582,000. The Treasurer is now under obligation to accept at par certain Commonwealth stock and bonds in payment of probate and succession duty; also the Treasurer has undertaken to redeem, before date of maturity, certain stock owned by the Public Trustee.
– ‘Have you made any provision for reparation payments from Germany?
– I have always been an optimist: but I must confess that I have not made any provision for German reparation payments. The Sinking Fund Commissioners will in future accept securities tendered for probate purposes or by the Public Trustee. The National Debt Sinking Fund is to be used in repurchasing or redeeming . Commonwealth securities, or anyother portion of Commonwealth debt. Repurchased or redeemed securities are to be at once cancelled, and the debt reduced accordingly. Where the
Commission is satisfied that greater benefit will accrue by making investments than by repurchasing or redeeming Commonwealth debt, the Commission may invest moneys in securities of the Government of the United Kingdom, the Government of the Commonwealth, and the Government of any State. British or State Government securities are not to be purchased except within three years of the date of their maturity. This restriction is necessary so that funds intended for redemption of the Commonwealth debt shall not be tied up in long-dated British or State Government securities, which could not be realized at the time the cash is required for redemption purposes. The Commission may also place the Sinking Fund moneys on deposit in any bank. The Commission will furnish to the Treasurer, for presentation to Parliament, an annual report on the operations of . the National Debt Sinking Fund: In framing this measure we have endeavoured to avoid difficulties which have arisen in connexion, with other sinking fund Bills. Its purpose is to insure such con- . trol of the money that an impecunious Treasurer cannot readily obtain possestion of the ‘Sinking Fund without his action being exposed in the full glare of public and parliamentary criticism.
– Has the honorable member prepared a schedule showing how the redemption in fifty years is figured out?
– The figures are simply actuarial calculations. The total debt to be redeemed is £251,000,000. We are making provision for an annual fixed appropriation of Consolidated Revenue of £1,250,000, which, at 5 per cent., will wipe out the debt completely in fifty years. The method is laid down in the Bill, and it is practically a scheme to take the compound interest at 5 per cent.
– It would be rather interesting to see the schedule.
– The figures will be available on the second-reading debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned. .
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bo made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the export of beef and cattle from the Commonwealth.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chapman and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chapman, and read a first time.
. -I move -
That the Bill be now rend a second time.
I ask honorable members to carry their minds back to the last Parliament, when the cattle and meat industry was in a very bad way, and we passed a Bill to enable a bonus or bounty to be given on frozen meat and cattle for export. The bonus was id. per lb. on beef for export, and 10s. per head on cattle, under certain conditions outlined in the Bill. That measure proved a great success. It was enacted for one year, and this year found the cattle industry in a very parlous state. There was a big demand from graziers and- others that the Bill of last year should be re-enacted, and an endeavour made to help them out of their troubles. There had been drought conditions right throughout the Commonwealth, and when it was represented to the Government that the industry was suffering, -we determined that assistance should be rendered. A large deputation waited on the Prime Minister in Sydney about last Easter, and he promised that a similar Bill would be passed this year, with certain small alterations in the conditions. In the first Bill it was stipulated, that certain reductions in the cost of canning were to be made, and also certain reductions in the wages and transport charges. The bounty given last year was ¼d. and 10s.. and the reduction in wages was 12s. a week, to which the men had agreed in order that the industry might be kept going. This year the Prime
Minister promised the same bonus of¼d. and 10s., and it was decided that the authorities in Queensland, where the bonus is principally paid, should not be asked for a reduction in wages, as these had just been fixed.
– Are the wages . under this Bill an increase on what they were in the last Bill ?
– I think they are the same.
– The Government could not very well ask for a further reduction.
– That is what the Government thought, especially as the wages had just been decided. The Prime Minister determined that he would not grant the bonus of¼d. 10s. until the shipping and canning companies made some further reductions as compared with last year; and it will be remembered that he stipulated for1/8d. reduction by the canning companies and 1/8d. by the shipping companies. Those interested in the meat industry said some harsh, unkindly things about the Government, because they considered that we were too hard on -them, and were depriving them, by making these conditions, of the benefits as promised. As a matter of fact, those people put their shoulders to . the wheel, and, as a consequence, the shipping companies agreed to the reductions I have mentioned. These reductions, added to the bonus, made the latter up to about½d. Last year . the total bonus paid was £121,000, and this year it will probably amount to £120,000.
– If they sold cheaper meat they would not require to export so much.
– They do sell the meat cheap: these are growers, not butchers : as a matter of fact, there is an agitation to have meat supplied to Victoria and New South Wales, where the prices are high, so that these prices may be reduced. However, the meat I am speaking of, and on which the bonus is paid, goes across the seas.
– Our people are paying a higher price for meat now than they have paid for a long time.
– Explain to the taxpayer and the ordinary “ Billjim “ why they pay so much for meat, while so much money is given to the “beef barons” in a charity dole!
– Honorable members are out of order.
– There is no unemployment in the meat industry, because the effect of the Bill last year was to keep the works going; and if the honorable member for Adelaide objects to that, it means that he wishes the work to stop. As a fact, “ Billjim “ is the man working at the factory, and if this bonus were not granted he would have no employment. This is proved . by the fact that when the measure was passed last year the men agreed to a reduction in wages in order that they might be kept employed.
– How is it that we are importing cattle from New Zealand to Victoria, and at the same time giving a bonus on, the export of cattle?
– Mr. Speaker will tell the honorable member that the time for questions’ has passed. The honorable member, in one breath, blames the Government for the high price of meat, and, in the second breath, blames the Government , because bullocks are coming from New Zealand to reduce the cost. The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) reminds me that, owing to the changing conditions in Queensland, and throughout the Commonwealth, caused by the breaking of the drought, the chances are that the’bonus may reach £160,000.
An Honorable Member. - No hope!
– I am giving the estimate supplied by the Department. The action taken by the Government was to save the industry and keep the works going -to save people practically from ruin.
– Look after the “ beef barons”!
– Does the honorable member object to “ beef barons “?
– I think the workers ought to have a bounty, too.
– It is easy for honorable members to gibe at the “beef barons,” or at anybody who has any possessions, but such tactics do not “cut ice” in this country. Have we reached the stage when, because a man owns a bullock or a dairy cow or two, he is a “ beef baron,” and subject for condemnation ?
– You look after the wealthy; but you do not look after the workers.
– Order ! I am afraid that I must caution the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). Even after the stress of last night it is necessary that parliamentary decorum should be preserved.
– I remind honorable members that this is an industry which pays good wages, and the benefits of such measures as that before us flow to a great number of small owners. But if all the benefits went to the* big owners, is it a crime for a man to own cattle in this country ? It certainly would appear to be so from the remarks from honorable members. ‘ When the industry was in a bad way we had requests from even honorable members opposite for assistance; and it is the duty of the Government to give such assistance where necessary. It is estimated that owing- to the bonus there came to this country a great deal of money that otherwise would have been lost.
– What does the bonus cost ?
– I shall be glad to deal with the details of the measure in Committee. At present I merely ask honorable members to accept the Bill on its broad principles. The cattle and meat industry has done much for Australia, and during the last year or two most of the cattle people have been ruined, owing to low prices and drought conditions. There is no improvement on the London market in canned meat prices or other prices. I take it that this Bill is a step in the right direction, and, after all, it gives help to all concerned. When the Government grants money in this way it has to consider whether it will help and stabilize an industry ; and in this case it has helped not only cattle-owners, but also the workers. As I said before, the Prime Minister insisted that the shipping companies and canning companies should make reductions.
– And that the workers also should accept reductions.
– Nothing of the sort; that is absolutely untrue.
– It is true.
– Order ! Interjections are disorderly.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) has said that a statement of an honorable member is distinctly untrue. I was turned out of the chamber last night for saying the selfsame thing, and if one honorable member is debarred from expressing his opinion in that way, all honorable members should be restrained from doing so.
– I understood that the honorable member was discharged from the services of the Committee last night for another reason.
– However, it is not correct to say that the utterance of an honorable member is untrue, and I ask the Minister for Trade and ‘ Customs to retract the words.
– If the words are disorderly I withdraw them. What I did say was -that the statement that we asked the workmen to accept a reduction of their wages is untrue.
– I say it is true.
– Honorable members opposite will not prevent me from getting in the statement that the Prime Minister stood up to the “ beef barons,” referred to by the honorable member for Darling. They said that the Government’s proposal was of no use to them. However, they subsequently accepted the proposal.
– Has anything been done to induce them to improve their methods ?
– Yes. All those considerations were put to them at the time I saw them.
– According to the newspapers, the Prime Minister read these people a lecture and told them how to carry on their businesses. I take it that the House will support the Government proposal to give assistance to this big industry, which has been suffering for the last two or three years.
– I will assist the honorable gentleman, but I think the workers should have some consideration also.
– The honorable member is always haranguing us about the workers. He is hot able, however, to throw dust into the eyes of this House- as he does, into the eyes of the workers. He will not make honorable members believe that he is the only true- blue representative of the workers. The object of this Bill, like that of the Government, is not to help any particular class, but to give a fair deal to every class in the community.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of aBill for an Act to establish and provide for the administration of an Australian War Museum Trust Fund, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Atkinson) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a Bill for an Act to amend the Papua Act 1905- 1920.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Atkinson do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Atkinson, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It has been found necessary to make a few amendments in the Papua Act 1905-1920. One of the objects of the Bill is to overcome a difficulty that arises from a change of the Minister in charge of the affairs of Papua. Another object of the Bill is to do away with the office of Administrator. It is practically a dormant office at present, filled by Mr. Staniforth Smith. The Administrator’s duty is to act for the LieutenantGovernor when he is absent from the Territory, or is prevented from performing his duties through illness. It is thought better that the Senior Executive Member of the Legislative Council should undertake the duties of the office. Unless this change is made some friction or confusion may arise.
– Will any saving be made by the change?
– Not immediately in money.
– Will it involve any additional cost?
– I shall come to that directly. Another feature of the Bill is that it makes provision to enable transfers of land to be made to natives and to enable them to transfer land to the Lieutenant-Governor. The reason for the proposed amendment is that, as the Lieutenant-Governor has explained, there is at present no means for exchanging laud with natives, or for restoring to natives land that is not required by the Administration. It sometimes happens that it is desirable that this should be done. A case occurred in which a considerable area of native land had been flooded, and it was desirable that some land in lieu of it should, be given them upon which they would be more comfortable. The Legislative Council of Papua consists of nine members. Six of those are the officers of the Executive Council and three appointed from outside. They are noEl.nated by the Lieutenant-Governor, and appointed by the Governor-General. The existing Act provides that the number of official members “ shall not exceed six.’’ It is proposed by this Bill to alter that provision to read “ not less than six.”
– If there is no maximum number fixed the Government may appoint as many as they please.
– That might bc so. It has been pointed out that it is not always possible to get the Council together when the number is limited to six. The Lieutenant-Governor considers that it would bc very much better to make the existing Act more elastic in this regard.
– Does that mean that the Government can swamp the Council with official members?
– If no maximum number is fixed by the Bill that will be possible.
– We cannot, have it both ways. The existing provision has been found to be’ too rigid,, and it is necessary to make it more elastic.
– The Government could fix a maximum as well as a minimum number of official members.
– There is no intention to flood the Council with official members. The object is to overcome the difficulty of getting a sufficient number of Councillors to come together to carry on the work. It is the practice at the present time to pay the LieutenantGovernor a salary and allowances, but it has been thought better to cease the payment of allowances, and give this officer a salary equal to the present salary and allowances.
– What do the Government fix the salary at?
– At present the Lieutenant-Governor of Papua receives a total remuneration, of £1,800 - a salary of £1,250 a year, and an allowance of £550.
– What is the allowance paid for?
– I am not prepared to go into details at this stage. I have explained the provisions of the Bill, and if honorable members desire further information> I shall be glad to supply it when we come to the Committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
During the war considerable difficulty was occasioned by some employers whose apprentices had enlisted. Some employers treated their apprentices or articled clerks with justice and with the greatest liberality, but others made it as difficult as possible for them to enlist, and, in some cases, claimed them back from the Defence Department, or instituted proceedings to compel them to return to the work to which they had been apprenticed or articled. The difficulty was remedied in regard to the Military Forces by section 40a of the Defence Act 1918, which provides -
In time of war any person who is employed under articles of apprenticeship may, notwithstanding any provision of or obligation under the articles, enlist in the Military Forces, and any person who so enlists shall not be liable, during the period of his service in the Forces, and untila. reasonable period thereafter, to be claimed for serviceunder the articles.
This Bill incorporates that provision in the Naval Defence Act, so that apprentices may have, in- the Navy, that protection which they are afforded in the Army .
When the apprentices who had enlisted returned from the war, some employers were not prepared to re-employ them, or permit them to complete their terms of apprenticeship. That difficulty was met, so far as the Military forces were concerned, by section 40b of the Defence Act 1918, which provides -
In order to cover youths who enlisted in the Naval Forces, this provision is also sought to be included in the Naval Defence Act.
We have had a very serious difficulty in regard to the graduates of theRoyal Military College, and the Royal Naval College. It arises from the fact referred to by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) last night, that many of the cadets, after having availed themselves of the privileges of the colleges, and after having been trained at the expense of the Commonwealth for a particular class of work, leave the Military or Naval Forces, as the case may bo, and seek civil employment, finding greater benefits outside the Service. ,
-Is not. that a good thing for the men themselves?
– But they have been trained at the expense of the Commonwealth for. a particular work for which it was expected their services would be available to the Commonwealth.
– What does it cost to train graduates at either of the Colleges?
– Anything between £800 and £1,000 per annum for each student. The Commonwealth incurs considerable expense in training these youths. The student enters Jervis Bay at the age of thirteen or fourteen years, and is trained, for four years. He then proceeds to England and returns with a commission in the Royal Australian Navy. But before a boy can enter the Royal Naval College he and his parents or guardians must undertake that he will serve the Commonwealth until he is thirty years of age. Thus each graduate from the Naval College upon obtaining his commission should spend twelve years in. the service of the Navy. A similar undertaking is given in regard to boys who enter Duntroon College, but as the Duntroon cadets graduate later than the Jervis Bay cadets the period of service they are required to giveas commissioned officers in the Army is about eight years. Both naval and military graduates, however, are obliged to serve until they are thirty years of age. In fact, they enter into a bond, which is’ signed by the students and their parents or guardians, that they will not withdraw from the service of the Commonwealth until they reach that age, unless they have previously obtained the consent of the Navy or Military Board, as the case may be, and. paid a sum, which is fixed at £375 for each student. The trouble we have experienced is that under the Defence Act and the Naval Defence Act the moment a graduate of either College becomes a commissioned officer he ceases to be governed by the regulations controlling the Colleges,” and passes automatically under the Defence Act or the Naval Defence Act, which both provide that an. officer may resign from the Service on giving three months’ notice. The result is that, although these people, have deliberately entered into an obligation to serve the Commonwealth until they are thirty years of age, once they have entered the Commonwealth Service they claim the right . to leave on giving three months’ notice. This Bill will give legal force to the undertaking entered into by the student that he will not resign from the Service until he is thirty years of age except by the permission of the Navy Board and upon payment of the prescribed sum.
– Is it not a fact that there are no positions open to these students when they graduate from the Colleges ?
– That is not the case at present. During the recent period of retrenchment students who had just graduated from the Duntroon College and from the Naval College were allowed to leave the Service, because there were no positions which they could fill.
– As a matter of fact, they were compensated under the Defence Retirement Act.
– Some who had received commissions were compensated where their positions were certified to he in excess of the establishment; but in other cases boys who were going through the course of training at Duntroon or Jervis Bay, and had not received commissions, were simply told that there was no work available for them. They were obliged to seek employment in other spheres. Such a condition of affairs had a very material effect upon the Colleges and upon the number of students offering, but at the present time there is no doubt that the whole of the students in residence will be required for the Forces. In fact, we fear that there will, not be a sufficient number of them coming forward from Duntroon or Jervis Bay, with the reduced establishments there, to fill the positions that owing to the wastage of the Service will become vacant during the next three or f our years. The deficiency will be intensified if the students coming forward now are permitted to retire and leave us as soon as they get into the Forces. That is why this clause has been placed in the Bill. A similar clause, to apply to the military college, has been placed in the amending Defence Bill. The men will not be allowed to leave except in special circumstances, with the permission of the Military Board, and on the payment of compensation’ which may.be assessed.
A provision which has given much trouble, and is still doing so, affects the enlistment of men for special work and special service in the Navy. A man may be wanted for a special job at a special time, but under the Naval Defence Act the Navy Board has no power to enlist him for a shorter period than two years. It was customary under the British Act to enlist men for six months, or, in the later days of the war, for the duration of the war. In Australia, there is no power to enlist men, in any circumstances, for a period of less than . two years. The Bill removes that restriction, and gives power to the Navy Board to enlist men for any period that may be necessary. In the Defence Act there is provision that the Governor-General may discharge or dismiss an employee in the naval service. As a matter of fact, so far as the ratings are concerned, that section is never acted upon. Under- the regulations men may be discharged when their term of enlistment expires; they may be retired for a variety of reasons; and they may be dismissed, which is a punishment for offences. The Navy Board has always dealt with these cases. In practice it is almost impossible to send men whose services are dispensed with, or who are dismissed, to the Governor-Geueral. As the men are not employed by an Executive minute, but under the regulations of the Navy Board, it is thought that the authority which creates the employment should be empowered to discharge or dismiss the men employed. Although the power of the Governor-General will not be taken away, the section of the Act, if altered as proposed, will read, “ A seaman may at any time be discharged or dismissed by the Governor-General or as prescribed.”
– What are the qualifications controlling that?
– There are no qualifications controlling it. The Board, may prescribe any regulations it thinks fit.
– Is there any right of appeal ?
– Any man who thinks himself aggrieved can, under . the principal Act, appeal through various channels to the Navy Board. Apparently an officer, under some old regulations, has a final right of appeal even to the King, through the Governor-General, but, as far as ratings are concerned, the appeal - stops at the Navy Board.
– An officer could take steps to see that the appeal never reached the Navy Board.
– It is an appeal by right, not by permission. A man can be discharged now by the Navy Board only on the recommendation of an officer.
– Has a man any right of appeal if he is discharged ?
– No, because it would be an appeal to the same body that had discharged him. He has a right to state hiscase to the Board and make a final appeal before it adjudicates on it.
– Surely a man is tried by Naval court-martial before he . reaches that stage?
– Yes, but I am now stating how far a man can go in the direction of appealing. The intention of the clause is to give to the Navy Board power which is held only by the GovernorGeneral at present.
– The clause says, without any qualification, “ He may at any time be dismissed or discharged.”
– I do not know what qualification the honorable gentleman wouldsuggest. The power of dismissal and discharge must rest with some authority.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has suggested a Naval court-martial.
– But the decision of a Naval Court martial has to be confirmed by, a higher authority.
– There may be cases, if the proposal is adopted, in which a man will not get a public hearing.
– That will not he so, because under the Naval Act he has the right to state his case fully before being dealt with.
– Does the Defence Act contain the same provision?
– How far will the Bill override the rights a man may have under the King’s Regulations?
– Not at all. All that’ it proposes to do is to take away the right of appeal to the Governor-General, which is never exercised, and to leave the confirmation of a man’s discharge or dismissal in the hands of the Navy Board.
Another section of the Act which has given much trouble is that which vests in the ‘ Governnr-Genernal the power’ to transfer a man from, one ship to another of, say, the Royal Navy, or from ships of the Australian Navy to ships of the Royal Navy. If the interchange of vessels between the British Navy and the Royal Australian Navy takes, effect, as proposed, at the end of’ the year, the Adelaide will then go to the Mediterranean Sea, and will, perhaps, be attached afterwards to the Atlantic Fleet. The object of these changes is to give officers and men as great an insight as possible into the methods and systems of training’ employed in the Royal Navy,- as well as an opportunity of working in the different ships of the Royal Navy.
– Will they be subject to all the regulations of theRoyal Navy? Will they be liable, for instance, to flogging, which is not permitted in our Navy?
– No. I shall return to that question later. In order to transfer one of our men or officers from the Royal Australian Navy to the Royal Navy, the permission of the GovernorGeneral has to be obtained. The transfer might be only for a period of a week of two. It might be that the men would be required to transfer from one institution, say the victualling yards, to another, such as the ordnance stores, and would be passed backwards and forwards in order to obtain experience. Every one of these changes has to be approved by the Governor-General before it can be made. It is impossible in practice to carry out the requirements of the Act. The Bill proposes to give power to the Navy Board to make changes between different ships in home waters, or between shore establishments and the ships of the Navy, without reference to the GovernorGeneral. In the case of ships in foreign waters, the senior naval officer may permit his officers or men to go into the ships of the Royal Navy for a limited period. I understand that in the past this has been done first and confirmed by Executive minute afterwards. That practice, of course, is very undesirable. “During the war the difficulty was intensified, because many of our ships were on the other side of the world, and more opportunities for the interchange of men occurred. - It is not fair to ask the GovernorGeneral -to sanction things which have been done before they have been brought before him. Men transferred tothe Royal Navy come under the provisions of the Naval Discipline Act. In the same way, men of the Royal Navy who come to Australia are automatically subject to the provisions of our Act. I will deal later with the other Acts, but this point is not of very much importance.
– It is a very important point; for instance, is flogging allowed?
– No. Our men, either in peace or war, are subject to the Naval Discipline Act, but only so far as it is not varied by the Commonwealth Naval Defence Act and the regulations prescribed under those Acts. The same section appears in the Army Act, which governed the Australian Forces during the. war. The Army Act is also subject to the limitations of the Commonwealth Act and regulations.
– The Commonwealth Act really controls our men?
– Yes. We could always vary the provisions of the Army Act by regulations. There have been no executions of members of the Royal Australian Navy or the Australian Imperial Force. The same thing applies to the Air Force, with which I will deal tomorrow. Most of the provisions in the Bill are matters for Committee consideration. The other two . are purely formal. This is a machinery Bill, providing for certain alterations of no- great importance.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
House adjourned at 9.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 June 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230628_reps_9_103/>.