9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30. p.m.,and read prayers.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Report of Chief Inspector of Stock
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table the report of the Chief Inspector of Stock for the Northern Territory for the year 1922.
– The report of the Chief Inspector of Stock for the Northern Territory for the year . 1922 was published as an appendix to the annual Administrator’s Report for that year, and has. already been printed as a parliamentary paper. This officer subsequently furnished a further report, of a confidential character, after his visit to the Barkly Tablelands during last year. This report is not confined to stock matters, but extends to questions affecting the police, the financial position of private individuals, &c, which it is not desirable to make public. The Minister will, however, be pleased to have extracts made of the portions relating to stock, andthe stocking and improvement conditions of leases, and to lay them on the table of the Library.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As already pointed out, the reason it became necessary to appoint a Royal Commission in this instance was that the Sumatra, being a Government ship, was exempt from the New South Wales Navigation Act, and, consequently, outside the control of a State Court of Marine Inquiry. Furthermore, until the 1st October next the control of surveys of ships for the purpose of securing their seaworthiness will remain in the hands of the respective State Governments. It would not be competent, therefore, for investigation by a Commission or any other body appointed by the Commonwealth Government. It may be added, however, that when the surveys of ships and the general question of securing their seaworthiness come under the control of the’ Commonwealth in . October next, no effort will be spared to insure that no ship shall be permitted to go to sea in an unseaworthy condition.
Mr. BOWDEN.On the 19th July the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked the following questions:-
What are the names and ranks of military officers now employed who receive over £600 a year?
What were the pay and rank of these officers on the 1st June, 1914?
What positions do they nowfill?
What was the pay attached to the same positions on 1st June, 1914?
Have any officers received increased pay for filling positions or offices in the Department caused by the retirement of officers under the Defence Retirement Act 1922; if so, how many?
What is the amount of such increased pay?
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: - 1, 2, 3, and 4. The particulars are as set out in the schedule.
Schedule - continued.
– On the 18th July I promised the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to lay on the table a summary of the communications which passed between the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and the legal representatives of the Irish Republican envoys. I now do so.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Buildings for the year ending 30th June, 1924, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
. - I have the honour to present the Budget for 1923-24. I am gratified that in my first Budget I am able to carry into practical effect two principles I have strongly advocated - that the
Budget should be presented at the earliest possible moment after the commencement of the financial year, and that it should contain practical measures directed towards the abolition of duplication of administration, which has been the chief obstacle to all attempts at effective economy.
This Budget is presented earlier in the financial year than any other hitherto presented to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Parliament is thus enabled to exercise over the whole year’s operations that full financial control which is one of its chief prerogatives.
Only as the result’ of strenuous effort, however, can a Budget be submitted so soon after the close of the financial year. The final operations of the expired year have to be gathered from London as well as from various parts of Australia, and all must be brought to account in the Treasury in detail. Then the true significance of the results must be weighed and studied before it is possible to reach conclusions as to the proposals for the ensuing year, and, finally, much printing has to be done. I am pleased that all these difficulties have been overcome, so that the House will be-in a position to deal early with the finances, and I am glad to acknowledge the cheerful and elf-sacrificing efforts of an able staff.
Expenditure of the Commonwealth in the Last Decade. - It will be convenient to notice the ‘ expenditure out of revenue of the Commonwealth in the decennial period just closed. The first year, 1913-14, immediately preceded the outbreak of war. The expenditure has been -
Here are startling increases, but it must be remembered that they are largely due, directly and indirectly, to the war. While we cannot easily get rid of the burden imposed by the war, we may by mere arrangement of figures immediately eliminate the direct cost of it from our tables. Omitting war expenditure, the totals are -
The great increase occurred after 1918-19, and it will be noticed that the first sign of reduction appears during last year, for the first portion of which the present Prime Minister was in control of the Treasury.
The additions to the expenditure between 1918-19 and 1922-23 have occurred in this way -
As to the increases in the Departments of Customs and Postmaster-General, it should be pointed out that there has been a great expansion of revenue, entailing increase of expenditure for administration and collection. In 1918-19, the Navigation Act, administered- by the Customs Department, had not been brought into operation. The increase in the Defence Department is due wholly to the fact that in 1918-19 the Fleet was on war commission and military personnel was largely engaged abroad with the Australian Imperial Force, the cost of these war services being charged to war loan. Now, of course, the cost is charged to revenue. Invalid and old-age pensions have increased because the fortnightly rate is greater and the number of pensioners is growing larger year by year. Interest and sinking fund require more money now, because it has been the policy of the Commonwealth to provide for capital expenditure out of loan moneys. The taxation office up to the present has been an expanding service, hence the greater cost. Increases in prices since 1918-19, with the consequent living allowances to public servants, have caused large additions to the expenditure of all Departments. The reasons for the other increases are obvious.
Revenue of the Commonwealth in the Last Decade. - In the same decennial period the revenue of the Commonwealth has been -
The most notable increases between 1913-14 and 1922-23 are-
Customs and Excise Revenue. - Stimulants and narcotics have contributed more than any other items to the large Customs and Excise revenue which is now being received.
It will be seen how large a proportion of the increases in Customs and Excise results from the duties upon non-essentials and luxuries. In passing, reference may be made, also, to the fact that of the total Customs and Excise revenue, amounting to £32,872,129, a sum of £14,234,988 was collected in 1922-23 from stimulants and narcotics.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - In 1913-14 the total revenue of the Postmaster General’s Department was £4,511,307. In the year just closed, the receipts amounted to £9,792,273. In nine years the receipts of that Department more than doubled. The larger returns are due to greater volume of business and to increase of rates.
Direct Taxes. - Income tax, estate duty, and entertainments tax did not exist in 1913-14. They were necessitated by the war.
Note Issue. - A profit was earned on the Note Issue in 1913-14, but it was not carried into the revenue account. The profit on the note issue, however, really was used to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Under an elaborate system of bookkeeping, the money was transferred from the Notes Fund to the Loan Fund, and, to legally complete the transfer, the Treasurer sold Treasury bills to himself. The Treasury bills were regarded as assets of the Notes Fund. When the Note Issue was transferred to the control of the Commonwealth Bank, the Treasury bills, amounting to more than £7,000,000, were cancelled, and thus the abolition of a peculiar system of bookkeeping has come to be understood by some as a redemption of public debt to the extent of £7,000,000. The present method of carrying the earnings of the Note Issue direct into the revenue account is shorter and simpler. The only difference between the effect of the new method and that of the old one is that the earnings formerly were used for public works, whereas they now are used for public works and other general purposes of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Expenditure out of Revenue in 1922-23. - The total expenditure out of revenue was £63,700,485 in 1922-23. The total estimated in the Budget having been £62,273,693, it will be noticed that an excess of £1,426,792 occurred. The excess arose in consequence of the expenditure on Fruit Pools and the provision for other items as disclosed in the following table: -
None of these items was provided for in the Budget. Eliminating them, it is found that the expenditure of the Commonwealth was £619,843 less than the estimate.
The expenditure may be divided into four groups, namely, ordinary expenditure, special expenditure, war expenditure, and cost of Fruit Pools. I shall state the figures for 1922-23 under these four heads, at the same time indicating the increases or decreases in comparison with the previous year : -
Revenue received in 1922-23. - The revenue of 1922-23 amounted to £64,720,635, that being an excess of £5,152,385 above the estimate.
There were not any notable differences between the amounts of revenue estimated and the actual collections, except in the case of Customs and Excise, which yielded more- than £5,000,000 above the estimate, and above the receipts from that source in the previous year. The exact increase over the collections of 1921-22 was £5,241,770, made up of-
Expenditure out of Loans in 1922- 23. - The information I have hitherto given has had relation only to the transactions of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The loan expenditure of the Commonwealth has now become. important both in purpose and in amount. In the year just closed the loan disbursements were: -
Outside of actual loan expenditure, there were redemptions of loans amounting to £7,109,420, made up of -
flr. Earle Page. “ Surplus on Revenue Account at 30tb June, 1923. - Despite the estimated deficit of £2,705,443 of last year’s Budget, the savings in departmental expenditure, arid the increase in receipts, from Customs and Excise enabled a surplus to be shown, the figures being : -
The finances of the year thus were better than was anticipated, to the extent of £3,725,593.
Adding the new surplus of £1,020,150 to the accumulated surplus of £6,408,424, existing at 30th June, 1922, we find that the accumulated surplus revenue at the present date is £7,428,574. The question of the surplus will be dealt with at a later stage of this speech.
The Finances of 1923-24. Total Estimated Expenditure. - In framing the Estimates of Expenditure for the current financial year, each item has been subjected to the closest possible scrutiny, with a view to reducing expenditure. An effort has also been made to cut out all proposals which are not considered essential; and I believe that the amount now remaining on the Estimates is the minimum required to provide the public with efficient services under present conditions. Notwithstanding the extreme care already taken, the strictest supervision over expenditure will be maintained throughout the year in order to make any further reduction which may be found possible. The Government expects that, for this purpose, the thorough investigation and re-organization of the Departments, to be undertaken by the recently appointed Public Service Board, will be valuable.
Ministers will explain and be prepared to justify their several estimates.
The total estimate of the expenditure out of revenue in 1923-24 is £61,896,098, which shows a reduction of no less than £3,210,851, compared with the expenditure in 1921-22, and £1,804,387 compared with that of last year, despite the fact that this year’s estimate includes new expenditure of £1,065,984 for invalid and oldagepensions.
The reductions , in 1923-24 compared with 1922-23 are brought about in the following way: -
Postmaster-General’s Department. - The decrease of ordinary expenditure of all Departments, amounting to £136,275, has been brought about notwithstanding the necessity to increase the vote for the upkeep of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The expenditure of that Department in 1922-23 was £7,642,704, and the estimate for the current year is £7,997,131- an increase of £354,427. This Department assists in providing comfort, convenience, and profit to all sections of the community. There is no other public activity which enters more intimately into the life of the people, who naturally demand that the services of the Department shall be extended in every direction, and shall be of the most efficient character. Those services are the chief means whereby our pioneers in the country are enabled to keep in touch with the outside world. The general extension of the services along cheap, efficient lines will serve to break down the isolation which is the biggest har to successful settlement ‘ in Australia. Modern invention gives a hope that, by these services, the disadvantages of the country, as regards isolation, education, and recreation, may be minimized, and that the present drift to the cities may be turned back towards natural life and settlement. ‘ After the most careful review of the requirements, I am satisfied that the sum which has been placed upon the Estimates is the minimum which will, under existing conditions, provide the facilities which the people expect to have a right to get.
Treasury. - It is expected that the expenditure of the Treasury Department in the current year will be £336,840 less than it was in 1922-23. The decrease is due partly to the expectation that a less sum will be payable on overdrafts, which have been, used during the last few months instead of the usual methods of public borrowing. The overdrafts were obtained in London, where money was cheap, and the rate of interest paid was very much less than the rate at which long-dated loans could have been obtained by public flotation. The amount of interest was £99,663, and the estimate for the present year is £45,000. The most important reduction in the estimates of the Treasury Department, amounting to £259,632, arises out of the Commonwealth proposals for the removal of duplication in levying and collecting State and Commonwealth income taxes.
Special Appropriations. - Under the head of “ Special Appropriations,” the expenditure is estimated at £16,529,000, as compared with £15,691,869 expended in 1922-23. The increase is £837,131, and has arisen in connexion with the following sub-heads: -
Interest and Sinking Fund. - The increase of interest and sinking fund is due to the fact that the ordinary loan expenditure of the Commonwealth has increased.
Invalid andOld-age Pensions. - The Commonwealth of Australia began to pay old-age pensions in 1909-10. At first the rate was 20s. per fortnight. It was raised to 25s. in 1916-17, and to 30s. per fortnight in 1919-20. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that where food, groceries, and housing cost 20s. in the year 1909-10, the cost in 1922-23 was 34s. 3d. It therefore appears that the rate of invalid and old-age pensions has not been increased in proportion to the increase in the cost of living. The Government therefore proposes to pay invalid and old-age pensions at the rate of 35s. a fortnight, the first payments on the new scale to be made on 13th September next. Invalid and old-age pensions are now a very heavy burden upon the taxpayers, and it is certain that, in consequence of the continued increase in the number of pensioners, the burden will become greater. Even so, the Government believes that the present system does not fully satisfy the needs of the community; it does not remove that sense of cruel insecurity which haunts great masses of our people through the whole of their life - the fear that accident or temporary sickness may break up their home, the continual fear of unemployment due to causes entirely beyond their control, and finally the fear of a destitute old age after a life of toil. The Government, therefore, will appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the question of national insurance, and to draw up a recommendation as to the steps which might reasonably be taken by the Government to make a more liberal and more assured provision for both casual sickness and permanent invalidity, as well as for old age and unemployment. The Commission will also be asked to inquire into the operation of the maternity allowance system with a view to the incorporation in the national insurance of a scheme for rendering more effective pre-natal and other assistance to mothers. The Government will also ask the Commission to consider the possibility of associating the existing machinery of friendly societies with any administration created, in order to curtail administrative costs.. In the meantime the Government intendsto meet certain anomalies which have become apparent in order that, in the case of those affected, the winter of age may be brightened. At present an old-age pensioner is permitted to earn up to 20s. a fortnight, without incurring the loss of portion of his pension. The Government has decided to amend the law, so that in future the pension will not be affected by earnings up to 25s. a fortnight. Thus the total pension and earnings may be 60s. a fortnight. In the case of a married couple, the pensions may be 70s. a fortnight, in addition to their combined earnings amounting to 50s. a fortnight. In such a case as this, the total income of a married couple will be 120s. a fortnight. Supposing they own a cottage and live in it, they would be living rent free, and would be in receipt of pension and earnings of 120s. a fortnight. Some minor alterations are intended in relation to inmates of benevolent asylums and hospitals. Where the inmates are at present in receipt of 4s.a fortnight, the payments will be raised in September next to 6s. a fortnight. Up to the present, the allowance has been paid only to those inmates who were pensioners before entering the asylums. In future, all the inmates will receive the 6s. a fortnight, provided that they have qualifications which would entitle them to pensions if resident outside. The total annual cost to the revenue ofall the extended benefits to invalid and old-age pensioners is estimated at £1,136,000 per annum. At 30th June, 1923, there were 147,453 invalid and old-age pensioners, that number representing 2.6 per cent. of the population of the Commonwealth.
War Services out of Revenue. - The amount provided for war services out of revenue, under which are included interest, sinking fund, pensions, repatriation, &c, shows a reduction of £1,660,837, of which £1,151,171 is on account of repatriation ofsoldiers. Therewas remaining in the Repatriation Trust Account on the 30th June, 1923, an unexpended balance of £457,000, which will be available towards the expenditure of the current year. If, instead of providing this amount in the year 1922-23, it had been included in the Estimates of the current year, the decrease in the repatriation expenditure out of revenue would have been £237,171.
Repatriation. - It is anticipated that, including payments from the Trust Fund, the sum of £1,188,000 will be required for general repatriation purposes during the financial year - a reduction of £371,231 compared with the expenditure of the previous year. During the current year it is expected there will be a reduction in the receipts of the Trust Fund of £134,060 as compared with the actual receipts of last year ; thus the reduction in the amount to be provided from revenue is £237,171. The receipts of the Trust Fund consist of repayments of loans made, sales of products, &c. The decrease in expenditure is due not only to the completion of the preliminary training of soldiers under the vocational training scheme, but also to the completion of those general activities which aim at the restoration of the soldier in civil life. At 30th June, 1923, 21,518 men had completed their vocational training, and 7,141 trainees were still being dealt with. The majority of our soldiers are now repatriated. Their initiative and experience are proving a leaven for progress throughout the community.
Estimated Revenue of 1923-24 - Totals under the Various Heads. - The estimates of the revenue of 1923-24 are : -
The falling off is due almost wholly to the estimated reduction in the receipts from Customs and Excise, which last year yielded £32,872,129. These collections have been on such a high scale that it would be unwise to expect receipts equal to those which were experienced last year. Already there are indications of shrinkage. In carrying out the established policy of initiating new industries and encouraging the development of existing indus.ties, considerable concessions in the payment of duties have been granted to secondary industries. The provisions under the Tariff enabling certain machinery and material to be imported free of duty, provided such cannot be commercially manufactured in the Commonwealth, have been largely operated on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Without these provisions, many industries would have to pay heavy duty on special machinery, minor articles, and raw materials not procurable in the Commonwealth. Thus, contributions would be made to the revenue without any benefit to Australian industries.
Land Tax-. - Land tax is estimated to yield £2,000,000 in the present year. That is approximately as much as in the year 1922-23. Right of purchase leases and perpetual leases were the only Crown leaseholds which were made taxable by the original Land Tax Assessment Act of 1910. By an amending Act of 1914, the majority of the Crown leases became taxable. The first assessments under this amendment of the law were issued in April, 1915. Such grave discrepancies arose between the valuations of the Department and those of the owners that urgent representations were made by taxpayers as to. the unfairness of the departmental valuations. Owing to the unsurmountable difficulties involved, Mr. Watt, the then Treasurer, in March, 1918, gave directions that the collection of the tax on Crown leaseholds was to be suspended. That direction has been followed up to the present time, even though assessments at considerable cost have annually been made. Each year the value of these leases has been diminishing in accordance with the remaining life of the lease. In view of the great difficulties which have arisen in the administration, and of the necessity of easing the burdens resting on one of our greatest industries, as well as of encouraging settlement in the back country, the Government has decided to submit to Parliament a Bill to abolish the tax upon
Crown leaseholds. The Government considers that it would be grossly unfair now to call upon leaseholders to pay arrears of tax for the many years which have elapsed since its suspension, and the intention is to make the repeal operative from 1st July, 1917, so that all such leases owned at 30th June, 1917, and later, will not be taxed.
Income Tax. - Income ‘ Tax yielded £12,904,518 in 1922-23. The estimate for the present year is £13,000,000. One of the objects of the recent Conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers was to devise a method whereby the overlapping caused by the operations of both Governments in the same field of income taxation, with the consequent necessity for duplication of returns, should be eliminated. The Commonwealth Government had felt that unnecessary administrative expense was being incurred, and that avoidable vexation and loss was being caused to the taxpayers in preparing their returns - largely for the purpose of collecting revenue to be handed over to the States in the form of capitation payments. It was evident that the possibility of the Commonwealth evacuating the income tax field would be accelerated by the cessation of capitation payments and by the separation, as far a3 possible, of Commonwealth and State accounts. It is most undesirable that one Government should be responsible for raising the money required to meet the expenditure of another. A most. salutary check against extravagance is provided when the Government spending money has to justify its actions to the taxpayers whose money is involved. It was evident, too, that the aggregate cost of the collection of the income taxes of the Commonwealth and the States was excessive. The Conference was therefore asked to adopt a proposal under which the Commonwealth would cease to levy taxes upon individuals having incomes of less than £2,000 per annum, and, at the same time, would discontinue the capitation payments. The States were also asked to forego the interest they derived from the Commonwealth on transferred properties. The State Ministers were not prepared to accept this ‘scheme, but put forward proposals for the complete retirement of the Commonwealth from the field of income taxation. The States were willing, on that condition, to relinquish the capitation payments, and to contribute to the Commonwealth Treasury sums to cover any Commonwealth loss entailed under the proposals. Commonwealth Ministers rejected the offer of the States, on the ground that the arrangement would prove anti-Federal in its working, and it became necessary to look for some other solution. The Prime Minister then proposed that the Commonwealth should vacate the field of taxation so far as it included the taxation of individuals, the Commonwealth continuing the taxation of companies, with certain limitations. At the same time, the Commonwealth was to cease paying to the States the capitation allowances and the interest on transferred properties. Before completing the new scheme, it would be necessary to ascertain the exact value of the field to be evacuated by the Commonwealth, because certain cash payments to be made by the Commonwealth to the States, to save embarrassment of State finances, could not be calculated until that value was ascertained. Ultimately, five States, New South Wales dissenting, agreed to accept the principle of the new Commonwealth proposals. The statistics relating to income tax have since been carefully investigated, and it has been found that figures, on which to base payments to the States, will not be available till about the end of September. As the Budgets of the Commonwealth and of the several States could not be deferred until that time, the Commonwealth Government was compelled to postpone for a year the coming” into operation of its proposals. When it was realized that a full measure of relief could not be secured this year, efforts were made to arrange for one collecting authority in each of the States for both Commonwealth and State income taxes. Satisfactory results are already in prospect, agreements having been drawn up between the two more populous States - New South Wales and Victoria - and the Commonwealth, under which the State taxation officers will collect both Commonwealth and State income taxes, except where the Commonwealth incomes are derived from two or more States. Incomes derived from more than one State will be dealt with by the Central Taxation Office of the Commonwealth, as at present. Efforts are also being made to secure a larger degree of uniformity in the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and of the States. Considerable progress has been made in this direction by a conference of officers, and a Bill for the purpose will be submitted to the House at an early date.
– This session?
– Yes, this session. It is anticipated that, within a short time, some of the other States will enter into similar agreements with the Commonwealth. The arrangements contemplated will give much relief to taxpayers, even if it should not be possible at once to enter into agreements with all the States, because 70 per cent, of the Commonwealth taxpayers reside in New South Wales and Victoria. If agreement can be reached with all the other States, 98 per cent, of the taxpayers will have to prepare only one return of income tax. The steps already completed include the preparation of one form of income tax return, in which the taxpayer will include all the information required for the double assessment. This new system of collection will provide machinery of a kind which can be used by the States in collecting tax, without leakage, in any income tax field which may at a later date be evacuated by the Commonwealth under its proposals. The method is such that incomes may be traced and aggregated throughout all the States. The cost of administration will be, greatly reduced, the expense of the single staff in each State being shared by the Commonwealth and the State. With a view to bringing about more uniformity in the taxation systems, and to make the administration less expensive, the Commonwealth Government has decided to submit an amendment to Parliament providing for the imposition of a tax on companies at the flat rate of ls. in the £1, instead of the present tax on undistributed profits. Where, however, the normal income tax rate imposed upon an individual is in excess of ls., he will be charged income tax upon those dividends as at present, subject to a rebate of ls. in the £1. This change will facilitate the collection of Commonwealth tax by State officers, as proposed. Nothing has been done to abrogate in the slightest degree any of the taxing powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. The State staffs will collect the Federal tax under the super vision of the Federal Commissioner of Taxation, and will pay the proceeds day by day into the Commonwealth Treasury.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - Another head of revenue, which calls for special reference in the Budget is that >* the Postmaster-General’s Department*. Honorable members are aware that there has been for a long time a public demand for reduction of postal rates. I am glad to be in a position to say that, after full consideration, the Government has decided to reduce the rates on many classes of mail matter. The rates for letters (inland and within the British Empire) will be reduced from 2d. for oz. to l£d. for 1 oz. The future rate for letter cards will be lid. instead of 2d., and postcards will be carried at Id. instead of l-d., as formerly. Corresponding reductions are to be effected in the rates for commercial papers, merchandise, and other classes of mail matter. It is estimated that the reduction of revenue for the first full year, as the result of the reduced rates, will be £930,000. It will be realized that such a large sum can be given up by the Treasury only with difficulty, and that the concession is distinctly a reduction of the direct taxation of the .Commonwealth.
There may be some who will think that the contemplated reductions do not go far enough.- I have only to say that, after the most careful and most sympathetic consideration, and keeping in view the necessity of making extensions of facilities in country as well as in town, the Government has found itself unable to make a greater concession. As showing clearly that the Post Office will not be used as a taxing machine, the following statement is submitted: -
As a further reduction in postage rates would require a sacrifice of revenue amounting to at least £930,000 per annum, and as the surplus shown above is only £318,590, obviously the Treasury cannot face any further reduction at present.
The concessions to the customers of the Postmaster-General’s Department are not confined to reduction of postal rates. In’ addition, several changes in the conditions under which telephones are supplied have been decided upon. In future, charges for trunk line calls will be based upon the radial distance instead of on the route wire mileage. The effect of the change will be to remove many anomalies and reduce the charges for trunk line calls by an aggregate of £60,000 per annum. Another change is that telephone subscribers will be allowed to make Sails at the unit cost of1d. or11/4d. exchanges within a radius of 5 miles, instead of paying trunk line fees as at present in many cases. This change will result in a reduction of charges amounting to £6,000. The conditions governing the erection of telephone subscribers’ lines in country districts have been amended to provide for the estimated development along a route to be considered in determining the cost which shall be borne by the Department in respect of each subscribers service. According to the new policy, lines will be erected in a large number of cases for the full distances between the exchange and the subscribers’ premises. The cost is £12,000. Formerly, where a line extended for more than 2 miles from the exchange, an extra charge of 10s. per1/4 mile was made. This has been reduced to 7s. 6d. The alteration will effect a considerable number of subscribers in country districts, and will cost £5,000 yearly. The rent of Govern ment poles used by subscribers has been reduced from 10s. to 5s. a mile, in the case of double-wire lines, and from 5s. to 2s. 6d. a mile for single-wire lines. This also is a reduction affecting a number of country subscribers, and the cost is approximately £2,000. Summarized, the concessions referred to will affect the revenue to the extent of £85,000 annually. War-time Profits Tax. - The sum of £250,000 is included in the Estimates, this being expected to accrue as the result of belated assessments. The tax applied only to profits earned prior to 30th June, 1919.
Interest on Loans to States for Soldier Land Settlement. - The expectations are that a total of £1,300,000 will be received during the present year under this head.
The scheme of soldier land settlement is being carried out by the Commonwealth, in co-operation with the various States, the Commonwealth providing the money and the States controlling the settlement.
Altogether the commitments of the. Commonwealth under the arrangements made with the States are: -
Up to 30th June, 1923, the commitments have been discharged to the extent of £34,444,415, sums having been advanced to the States under the following heads: -
The number of ex-soldiers settled on the land in all States is 32,920.
The moneys advanced by the Commonwealth are to be repaid to it by the States. During the first five years after the making of advances, the States pay interest to the Commonwealth at rates which are 21/2 per cent. less than the rates which the Commonwealth itself pays to the public on the money borrowed. After the end of the five years, the States are to pay to the Commonwealth the whole of the interest cost.
The amount of interest thus rebated by the Commonwealth to 30th June last was £2,035,509. In addition, the Commonwealth is allowing the States a concession at the rate of 21/2 per cent. per annum for five years on certain State securities issued for the purchase of land. The amount of this concession to 30th June, 1923, was £62,837. In these ways, the Commonwealth has already made a direct contribution of £2,098,346 towards land settlement of former soldiers.
Estimated Surplus on Revenue Account at 30th June, 1924. - The estimated revenue in 1923-24 has already been stated at £61,943,250, while the estimated expenditure has been shown as £61,896,098. Thus it is ascertained that on the revenue transactions of the year 1923-24 there is an estimated surplus of £47,152. To that is to be added the accumulated surpluses of previous years, £7,428,574. The total of the accumulated surplus at 30th June, 1924, is therefore likely to be £7,475,726.
Loan proposals of 1923-24. - The Loan proposals of the Commonwealth for 1923-24 are as follow: -
It will be noticed that the total includes £9,000,000 to be advanced to and expended by the States, and £9,945,622 to be expended by the Commonwealth.
Migration.- A sum of £5,000,000 will be borrowed this year, and will be made available to the States entering into agreements with the Imperial and Commonwealth Governments for the settlement of migrants from the British Isles. This is in furtherance of the plan outlined in the Empire Settlement Act. For the first five years interest will be paid by the Imperial, the Commonwealth, and the State Governments in one-third shares. After that period the principal and interest will be paid wholly by the States. This is part of a system of cooperation between the Imperial and Dominion Governments to secure a transfer of suitable settlers from the British Isles to the Dominions. By this means it is hoped to secure such an equilibrium between the natural resources of the Empire and its national needs as will enable us to hold our position as a nation. Under the agreements made with the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, migration was confined to land settlement. It is the desire of the Commonwealth Government that migration projects should be extended to cover developmental works and power undertakings, so as to produce a reciprocal and proportionate development of primary and secondary industries, thus leading to the influxof British capital for new industries and the opening up of new avenues of employment. In addition to the £5,000,000 referred to, a sum of £500,000 appears in the Estimates for passage money of assisted migrants.
Soldier Land Settlement and War Service Homes - No new policy or extension of programme is involved in the provision of £4,000,000 for soldier land settlement and £3,000,000 for the construction of war service homes. In the States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia the work of construction of war service homes has been placed in the hands of State authorities, which will act as agents of the Commonwealth. Further efforts will be made to induce the other States to act similarly on behalf of the Commonwealth.
The adoption of the contract system instead of that of day labour has made it impossible that any home shall cost more than the amount recognised by law. The new method also has obviated the necessity for huge contracts in respect’ of materials, such as timber, ironmongery, tiles, slates, glass, joinery, and other requirements of building. The Government hopes that under the new arrangement the troubles of the past will not recur.
These arrangements have already resulted in considerable saving in administrative charges.
Ship Construction. - The provision of £750,000 is for the completion of shipbuilding as begun by a former Government. No new construction is in contemplation.
Federal Capital. - As outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, it is intended very shortly to introduce a Bill creating a Commission to control the Federal Capital Territory, and to carry on the works necessary for the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra. The Bill will give the Commission authority to raise loans for the purposes of the expenditure. The provision on the Loan Estimates is £166,500, this being intended to carry on the works during the period of three months, at the end of which it is expected that the Commission will be at work. The difference between chat sum and the amount of £151,500, shown in the table just referred to, is £15,000, which will be received as revenue of the Territory, and will go to the aid of expenditure.
The foundations of the hostel have been completed, and the erection of the superstructure is proceeding. The reports of the Public “Works Committee with regard to the Parliament House, administrative offices, and hostel for officials, have been presented to Parliament, and will receive the early attention of the Government. The first of the primary schools, with necessary playsheds and accessories, has been erected, and shortly will be opened. Some thirty-nine residences are in various stages of construction. The main out-falls and intercepting sewers have been steadily pushed on, and the sewerage reticulation proceeded with. The reticulation mains for conducting water to the public buildings and residences have been laid, and a further service reservoir has been constructed on the north of the river, insuring a supply to the Military College and the residential area to the north. About 20 miles of avenues and streets have been metalled. This will be a great convenience in the further construction of the city. A contract has been entered into for the construction of a bridge over the Molonglo. Afforestation, tree-planting, housing of workmen, supply of materials, and numerous other matters are continuing to receive attention. As showing the extent of the tree planting, it may be stated that there are now in the Territory 865,000 living trees, planted by the Go vernment. Of these, 57,200 have been planted for ornamentation of the city.
The Government intends that the establishment of the Federal Capital shall be pushed on with all possible expedition.
Defence. - The amount of £351,415 provided for the Defence Department is required towards the establishment of munition factories upon a nucleus basis, and for other Defence purposes, which will be explained by the Minister when the items come up for discussion.
River Murray Waters.- The sum of £357,400 is provided for conservationof the waters of the River Murray. The works now in course of construction are the following: -
The Lake Victoria Storage ; and Five weirs and locks, one of which (Torrum- barry) is approaching completion.
One weir and lock (Blanchetown) is now in operation. The Commonwealth Government is fully alive to the urgency of the works contemplated by the agreement with the States, particularly those works which will provide for the dual needs of irrigation and navigation. The Government will do everything possible, in cooperation with the three contracting State Governments, to insure that the whole of the works shall be finished at the earliest practicable date. Following upon a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Commonwealth Government agreed to increase its contribution to a quarter-share of the cost. It is proposed, at an early date, to submit to Parliament an amending agreement to cover this and other matters decided upon at the Conference. The total expenditure incurred up to 30th June, 1923; amounted to £2,020,000, towards which the Commonwealth Government contributed a sum of £441,016.
Capital Expenditure of PostmasterGeneral’s Department. - It will be within the recollection of honorable members that the last Government agreed to provide the sum of £9,750,000, to be expended during three years, in providing for the capital works of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The present Government is continuing the programme. During 1922-23 the capital expenditure amounted to £2,510,346, including £221,709 charged to revenue. It is proposed to expend £220,000 out of revenue and £3,941,766 out of Loan during the present year. The total expenditure is, therefore, expected to reach £6,672,112 by 30th June, 1924.
In addition to providing for telephone extension throughout the Commonwealth, the Estimates include sums -for the construction of post offices and for buildings in upwards of 276 cities, towns, and hamlets.
Commonwealth Railways. - Of the £385,990 included for Commonwealth Railways, £100,000 is required for new rolling-stock, ballasting, residential accommodation, and other capital works connected with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway ; £67,990 is required for a bridge over the Katherine River and for other works on the Northern Territory Railway; and a total of £218,000 is to be expended on rolling-stock and other works on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta Railway. The railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta (478 miles) is the property of the Commonwealth. At present it is. being worked by the South -Australian Railways Department under an agreement which is terminable at twelve months’ notice. The Commonwealth pays- the loss each year. The loss in working expenses, excluding interest, ,has grown from £26,062 in 1914-15 to £71,813 in 1922-23. Although the Commonwealth purchased the railway from the State, no rolling-stock was acquired. South Australia supplied rollingstock, at present valued at £143,000, on which interest at the rate of 4f per cent, is paid. South Australia now claims that the amount on which interest is payable should be increased to £188,558. The rate of interest is based on the average rate of interest in South Australia, and therefore may be increased from year to year for some time to come. At present the Commonwealth is debited with the cost of State offices at Quorn, administrative charges in Adelaide, and a locomotive workshop at Quorn. Savings can be effected by employing Commonwealth officers already located at Port Augusta, and by using the Commonwealth workshop at Port Augusta, which is only 25 miles from Quorn. Hitherto, considerable expenditure has been debited to the Commonwealth for carriage of material over the State railways. Coal stores, and other materials, instead of being landed at Port Augusta by steamer, have been railed from Port Adelaide and Port Pirie at considerable cost, and locomotive machinery which Quorn shops have been unable to repair has been sent by rail to Adelaide and back again at heavy cost, although there has been ample means for effecting repairs at Port Augusta. Operating costs, especially of the Locomotive Branch, have been higher than those on the transcontinental railway, although on this line the locomotives are heavier; and conditions not so favorable. Taking all these things into consideration, the Government has decided to assume full control of the line. This involves an expenditure of about £200,000 to obtain the necessary rollingstock, and provision has been made accordingly. As a result of the change, it is expected that a considerable annual saving will accrue.
The Northern Territory. - To develop the Northern Territory it is essential that means of communication and transport shall be provided, including shipping, railway, telegraph, and road communication. These facilities must be provided in the Territory if development is to proceed. To this end the Government is asking for sufficient money this year te inaugurate these services. The present high cost of transport, which is a bar to development, will be reduced if effect is given to this policy. The proposed facilities will, in addition to decreasing the cost of living, also materially reduce the cost of production, thus leading, it is hoped, to the introduction of sheepraising, which will provide a greater outlet for capital and labour. Provision is also made for assistance, on a limited scale, to the agricultural and mining industries. These industries will benefit largely by the proposed improved means of transport. There is good reason to believe ihat a considerable portion, of the Territory is suitable for cotton -growing. Experimental plots have been successful. It is hoped that the adoption of the proposed policy will enable the meat works to resume operations. Provision is made for continuing the work of sinking bores on the stock routes. The existing bores have proved beneficial.
Redemption and Conversion of Loans. - In addition to money required for new expenditure, the Commonwealth Treasury has to handle some large loans falling due for redemption or conversion during the year. The necessary redemptions and conversions are -
It should be possible for the Treasury to carry a considerable portion of these conversions and redemptions by using surplus and other moneys in its hands. At the present time the Treasury has a conversion loan open, dealing with the unconverted balance of £21,497,980. The effective rate of interest is about 51/2 per cent., that being an increase of per cent, on the rate hitherto paid.
National Debt-The Debt Reduced.During 1922-23 the gross debt of the Commonwealth was reduced by £5,074,193, the figures at the opening and close of the year being -
This decrease was brought about by the redemption of £2,866,285 of war gratuity bonds, the repayment of £1,064,684 of the debt due to the British Government, and by minor adjustments in several other items of the debt. No Commonwealth loans were issued during the year for public subscription, either in Australia or in London, but an offer of conversion was made in Australia to holders of the loan maturing on 15th September next. This offer was accepted by holders of stock and bonds of the value of £17,224,210.
The Gross Debt. - The gross debt is composed of-
Of the total debt, £280,830,927 is redeemable in Australia and £130,165,389 in London. Of the debt payable in London, £90,388,604 is due to the British Government under what is known as the Fund ing Arrangement, which was made in respect of war obligations.
Dates of Maturity. - The debt of the Commonwealth matures as follows : -
In view of the very large sums maturing in the next four years, the trend of the money market is a matter which deeply concerns the Commonwealth, and may seriously affect our finances.
The Net Debt. - Against the gross debt of the Commonwealth, there must be set off the moneys which are repayable in cash to the Treasury, the sinking funds and the loan moneys in hand. Large sums are to be repaid by the States in respect of soldier land settlement, silos, and public works. The advances for War Service Homes, the indebtedness of the British Phosphate Commissioners, and other recoverable moneys, must also be taken into account.
No deduction has been made from the gross debt in respect of the properties, valued at £11,042,988, transferred from the States to the Commonwealth, or on account of assets created by the expenditure of £26,688,397 on works. Deduc- tiona have been made only in respect of cash on hand, of sinking funds, and of moneys which are repayable, with interest, to the Commonwealth. The reduction in the net debt during 1922-23 was £4,639,220.
The Debts of the States. - The latest date at which particulars of the public debts of the States are available is the 30th June, 1922, when the debts were: -
The States have substantial assets to set off against their debts, nearly all the State loan moneys having been spent on ( reproductive works, the cost of which exceeded £500,000,000. The increase in the’ State debts in 1921-22 was £48,641,930. The increase from the beginning of the war to June, 1922 - eight years- was £197,939,468. The rapid growth of the State debts in recent years is notable. The sinking funds of the States total only £14,462,608, but an improvement of the position may be looked for, because, at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the States agreed to the Commonwealth Government’s proposal for the establishment of sinking funds of not less than 10s. per cent, per annum on all new loans.
Aggregate of Commonwealth and State Debts. - The aggregate debts of the Commonwealth and States are -
Taking the total gross debt of Australia at £879,303,040, the sum per head of population is £154.
Tax-free Loans. - Altogether six taxfree loans were issued by the Commonwealth, originally aggregating £138,000,000, and bearing interest at the rate of 4J per cent. The last of those loans was floated in April, 1918. All Commonwealth, loans floated after that date in Australia are subject to Federal income tax, but are free of the State income taxes. Practically all of the loans issued by the States in Australia are free both of Federal and State income taxes. No Federal or State loan, raised in London, is free of British income tax, but neither Federal nor State income tax is levied upon interest payable in London. Altogether the tax-free debts of the Commonwealth and the States amount to about £350,000,000, the interest thereon being about £16,000,000. The income tax which would be paid upon the £16,000,000, if it were not exempt, cannot be accurately stated. Probably if the interest could be made subject to the ordinary provisions of the laws relating to income tax, the revenue of the Commonwealth and the States would be increased by about £2,000,000 per annum. There is a setoff to this loss of revenue because it is to be inferred that the Commonwealth and the States are paying less interest than they would have had to pay if all the loans had been made taxable. Possibly the Commonwealth and the States are saving interest amounting to £700,000. Whatever the loss may be, it must be greater than the amount of interest saved. If that were not so, investors would not have shown the existing preference for tax-free loans. The advantages of tax-freedom are so great that many investors, whose funds under other circumstances would flow into productive enterprises, are compelled, by the pressure of income tax, to purchase tax-ex- ‘empt securities. The result is that the Commonwealth and the States lose revenue, industry loses capital, and undue advantages are obtained by some investors. Another serious defect of the system of tax-free loans is that, all Federal loans now being taxable, the States are securing a monopoly of the moneys available for investment by persons who have large incomes. Thus the flotation of Commonwealth loans is undertaken at a disadvantage.
The Commonwealth Government saw that the difficulties might become acute on the maturity, in 1925 and 1927, of Commonwealth. tax-free loans now amounting to £126,000,000. Then the Commonwealth must pay huge sums in cash to persons who will be desirous of continuing tax-free investments. In the result, the States would be able to borrow great sums at moderate rates of interest, while the Commonwe’alth would have difficulty, even if it offered high rates, in securing money for paying off its loans. These and other arguments were placed before the State Ministers at the recent Conference, and every State Government agreed to discontinue the issue of tax-free loans as from 1st January, 1924. The intention is that all loans issued in Australia in the future by the Commonwealth and the State Governments shall be subject both to Federal and to State income taxes. I should make it perfectly clear that the terms on which past loans have been issued are not to be interfered with in any way. Where the loans have been made free of tax, they will remain so until the dates of maturity. The proposed alterations will apply only to future issues.
Co-ordination of Borrowing. - In prewar days, it was held that the competition of the six States with each other, in borrowing, had ill effects. It cannot be said that the difficulties were exaggerated. There was a natural corrective of great abuse, however, because most of the borrowing was done in London, and was arranged through one group of underwriters, under the guidance of a noted financier. Though six States might have approached him, he took care that no two of them came on the market at or about the same time. The only competition of the States was in securing the aid of one group of underwriters. Now the position is different. A large portion of the loan money is obtained in Australian markets, - and, while London business is controlled in the same manner as before, the borrowings in Australia have been subject to no real control at all, except such as was exercised by consent of the States during the period of active war. When arranging for the large conversion operation which is now being carried out, Commonwealth Ministers could not get the States wholly off the market while the operation was in progress. In the long run, such a state of affairs could not fail to bring disaster. The States have now agreed to the proposal of the Commonwealth for the establishment of a Loan Council, consisting of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurer of each of the States. The Council will meet in the month of May, also at other times when required, and there will be a subcommittee of the Council, consisting of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurer of the State of Victoria, who will communicate with the other members of the Council by correspondence. The ‘Council will determine the order in which the Commonwealth, the States, and the various public bodies created by the State Legislatures shall come upon the Australian market, and will advise each Treasurer as to interest and other terms of loans. The States stipulated that the Council shall not have executive powers, and shall act in an advisory capacity only.
Australian Industries - Wheat.- It is expected that the Australian Wheat Board will shortly be in a position to wind up the five compulsory pools. The work practically has been completed. A final statement of accounts, audited in London, ‘is expected to arrive in about two weeks from the present time. When it has been received, no effort will be spared by the Australian Wheat Board finally to settle all the business of these pools. The 1921-22 voluntary wheat pools in all States have been completed, and all liability of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the guarantee of 3s. per bushel, plus 8d. for handling and rail charges, has been discharged. The guarantee wag renewed for the 1922-23 harvest, and the liability under this guarantee will be fully discharged by all States. Sales of wheat in all the pools have been made as fast as market conditions would permit, and only small quantities of the exportable surplus remain to be sold. Sufficient wheat is being retained to meet home consumption during the period which will elapse before grain of the new harvest will become available. The decision of the Government to continue the guarantee for the .1923-24 voluntary pools haj> given general satisfaction amongst growers. It is understood that the wheat producers in each State will make an effort during the next twelve months to raise capital, which, with the security offered by the wheat, will be sufficient for the finance of future pools on a basis similar to that of the past, but quite free from any Government guarantee or control.
Wool. - The wool industry is of the greatest value to Australia, and the worldwide acknowledgment of the superiority of our merino wool is most gratifying. Iri the past year wool again proved to be our most valuable export, and it is satisfactory to note that the product reached and maintained a high price throughout the year. The industry has received a temporary set-back owing to the droughty conditions which prevailed in the latter part of the year 1922 and the early months of 1923. For this reason, the production of the past year is not likely to be reached in the current year. The loss of grown sheep and the partial failure of the lambing seem certain to result in a reduced clip. Nevertheless, r the prospects of wool-growing are good so far as values are concerned, and given good seasons, there can be no doubt of the successful results in future. Beneficial rains have fallen over the whole of the Commonwealth, insuring a most satisfactory season in many parts, and a more modified relief in others.
In order to assist small holders in combating vermin, the Government has . decided to make available a total of £250,000, to be advanced for the purchase of wire netting on long terms. Of that amount, a sum of £50,000 has been set apart for the Northern Territory, and £200,000 will be made available for the other parts of the Commonwealth.
Meat. - The past season witnessed record shipments of lamb from Australia. Mutton exports also were above the avenge of recent years. Prices for both were high. Beef shipments were considerably below the average, and prices were disappointing. The subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government to cattle raisers, and the reductions in freight and freezing charges resulting from the action of the Commonwealth Government lastyear, were most beneficial to the industry. The advantages continue during the present year, and materially compensate the industry for the losses which have occurred owing to low prices. The steps taken by the Government have modified the tendency to abandon cattle raising, the loss of which would be harmful to the Empire, as well as to Australia. The coming season points to a considerable reduction in lamb shipments. The falling off in mutton exports is even more marked, owing to the demand for re-stocking. The prospects for good prices in the future for both lamb and mutton are promising. The beef position is less satisfactory. During the war, and up to 1921, Argentine sent large quantities of beef to the Continent. The large shipments resulted in great increase of cattle production in Argentine, and as an effect of the decrease since 1921 in the Continental shipments, a much greater quantity has been sent to England, where the market is relatively low. Argentine sends out chilled beef mostly, with which Australian frozen beef cannot compete on level terms, the difference in prices in the United Kingdom, in 1922, being about 33^ per cent, in favour of Argentine. Part of the normal demand in England for frozen beef has therefore been supplied by Argentine chilled. This state of affairs seems likely to continue for some time yet, and the prospects of the Australian beef trade are not satisfactory. We believe that Great Britain is concerned in the preservation of the Australian meat trade, because consumers in the Old Country will pay more for their beef if the Australian industry come to grief. This is a point which should induce the Mother Country to consider whether, in one way or another, an effective preference could not be established in favour of imports from Australia.
Sugar. - The agreement under which the Commonwealth had undertaken to purchase the total output of Australian sugar, at the minimum price of £30 6s. 8d. per ton f.o.b., expired on 30th June, 3923. In order to assist the industry to gain strength to stand alone, the Government will continue the existing embargo on black-grown sugar until 31st August, 1925, subject to conditions. The industry is expected to use the period of the embargo to organize its business so that it will be able, with effective protection, to compete successfully with outside sugar. After having arranged that the commodity shall be available to consumers at a reasonable price, we are abandoning all control over sugar. The industry is to form a pool, free of Commonwealth Government control. The pool will buy the raw sugar of the 1923-24 season, paying for it not more than £27 per ton at the mills. The price to be paid for raw sugar of the 1924-25 season is to be determined by a tribunal, on which the consumers and the Commonwealth Government will be represented, such price not to exceed £27 per ton. The pool is to make arrangements with the Colonial Sugar Refinery and the Millaquin Company for the refinement and distribution of the product, on the lines of the recently terminated agreement with the Commonwealth, the price for the services being subject to Commonwealth approval. The pool is required to provide sugar for the manufacture of goods for export at a price equal to current world’s parity. That price will be determined by a Board, on which the Commonwealth Government will have a representative. Sugar required in the manufacture of goods for home consumption is to be made available at a price, approximately £5 per ton cheaper than that under the old agreement. The new arrangement will result in refined sugar being retailed in all the capital cities of Australia aLt the uniform rate of not more than £42 per ton, or 4£d. per lb. The full benefit of any reductions effected from time to time in cost, including reductions in the cost of refining and distributing, is to be given to the public.
Dairying. - The Commonwealth Government’s proposals for the adoption of a national brand to be applied to butter and cheese, intended for export, have at last been approved by the Australian Dairying Council. The Council has requested the Government to issue a plo’clamations, to take effect from the 1st August, 1924, thus giving all factories sufficient time to install the necessary pasteurizing plant. The value of any proposal by which the quality and selling price can be improved will be appreciated, when it is mentioned that an increase of Id. per pound means an additional payment to our dairymen of over £380,000.
Fruit. - -It is admitted on all sides that the fruit industry is in a most disorganized condition. The Commonwealth Government last year took action, resulting in the formation of an Australian Fruit Council and State Advisory Fruit Boards. At the recent Premiers’ Conference, an agreement was reached, whereby the State Premiers will provide the expenses of their respective State Advisory Fruit Boards, and the Commonwealth Government that of the Central Council, for one year. The case for a really strong and representative central organization for handling Australian fresh fruit in Great Britain is overwhelming. Its functions would be the regulation of supplies to the right port at the right time, the securing of concessions in freights, “and, perhaps most important of all, the provision of cold storage to avoid gluts.
The total amount paid to the growers by the canned fruit pools for 1921, 1922, and 1923 was £336,952, whilst the payments to the canners amounted to £943,211 (including tin plates, sugar, wages, &c). The loss to the Commonwealth will probably be £492,000, made up as follows :- 1921, £75,000; 1922, £237,000; and 1923, £180,000. It will be seen that the estimated loss exceeded the amount paid to the growers by £155,048. Costs f.o.b. Australia are at present as high as duty paid values in London. There is now much less disparity between the quality of Australian and American canned fruit than heretofore, and considering the advantage Australian fruit has over American from point of flavour, there is no reason why, if our standards ‘are properly controlled, we should not successfully compete with America on the English markets. Apart from this, new markets must be opened up if the industry is to be revived. This can be done only by an organized body representing the whole trade’, which would be responsible for both standard and marketing. The Government is at present considering the best means of enabling the industry to organize itself for this purpose. The Government is endeavouring to bring the Pools to a termination as soon as possible.
Sulphur. - While the Government recognises the national importance of establishing the manufacture of sulphuric acid, as the basis of other manufactures, it realizes also that the farmer should not be penalized and should be able to secure fertilizers at the cheapest possible price. In order to overcome the disabilities of the primary producer, while not overlooking the claims of the secondary industry, the Government intends to bring forward Bills for the abolition of the duty on sulphur, and for the grant of a bounty on its manufacture.
Secondary Industries. - During the past year some important additions were made to the established industries and other industries have greatly developed. The more important of the new industries are, the manufacture of large turbo alternators, telephone and telegraph cables, chamois leather, sulphuric acid, and straw envelopes. The closing down of the’ Broken Hill Proprietary works at Newcastle’ very seriously affected the metal industry. Important developments have taken place in the cement, water tube boilers, rubber sand boots and shoes, and other industries. On the recommendation of the Tariff Board, the Industries- Preservation Act has been fully operated, with satisfactory results to local industries. Special consideration has been given by the Government to the admission, free of duty, of machinery and equipment for large power plants to provide current to industries. Such plants are of the greatest importance in the establishment of industries, and for this reason it is desirable to reduce capital charges as far as possible in order that power may be provided at the minimum cost.
In 1921-22, the value of exports exceeded the value of imports by £24,780,000. In 1922-23, the imports exceeded the exports by £14,128,000. The increase in the imports in 1922-23 was largely due to apparel, motor vehicles, leatherware, timber, and manufactures of metals. The values of the principal exports compare as follows : -
There was- a decrease of £10,068,000 in the value of the exports for 1922-23, as compared with 1921-22. This was mainly due to the fact that there was a decrease of £20,136,000 in the export of wheat, and £1,854,000 in the export of butter. Apart from these two commodities, exports showed an increase of £11,922,000.
The World’s Economic Outlook. - The unfavorable trade balance during the past year, due to the diminished production of an unfavorable season in some parts of the Commonwealth and to* lower prices in some commodities, renders it desirable to notice the world’s economic and commercial position, especially in view of the projected increase of our population and the necessity of obtaining wider markets. In the United Kingdom, there was a distinct improvement in industry and in the export trade, during the early months of this year. The effects of the complications in Europe are now being felt, however, and the immediate outlook is by no means reassuring. In France, there is very considerable industrial and commercial activity, but the military measures she has seen fit to adopt are a very severe strain on the finances of the country. Germany’s industries are feverishly active, but her financial collapse can only be regarded with grave anxiety. Conditions in Russia are not such as to justify any hopes of an appreciable trade revival for some time to come. . Italy is slowly recovering, but Austria is commercially negligible. India has been passing through severe depression, intensified by political unrest, and has not yet recovered her pre-war position. Japan’s position is uncertain. After amazing prosperity during the war, there was a violent reaction in 1920 from which she is only just recovering. China is seething with internal discord, and has suffered floods and famine. Many British firms of- long standing in China have incurred very severe losses, and the general outlook is far from reassuring. In the United States, there is great industrial and commercial activity, but the conditions of her present prosperity have some, elements of uncertainty. This brief survey of world conditions is depressing. We can only hope that restoration, of Europe will be speedy, and that, with modern methods, the world’s recuperative capacity will prove vastly greater than in previous periods of depression. We in Australia with our boundless resources may or1 may not be able to escape the effects of world depression, but it behoves us to look facts in the face, and take every possible precaution to consolidate and strengthen our position.
Markets. - The Government realizes that its responsibilities, in relation to migration and to soldier land settlement, do not end with the placing of settlers on the land. The fundamental difficulty which hampers Australian producers is the inadequate local market provided by our small population. This renders the export market - hitherto, mainly Europe, with its long ocean freight - altogether disproportionate in importance, and places the Australian producers more at the mercy of world fluctuations than most of their competitors. These considerations ‘emphasize the imperative need that our population shall be increased and that our producers shall organize. Steps are being taken to develop new markets, especially in the East, and to increase the markets within the Empire. Efforts are being made to secure reciprocal trade treaties, giving preference to Australian products, both in the Mother Country and ‘in the other Dominions. These Empire markets should aid in providing satisfactory outlets for our increasing production, and should be the means of advancing the mutual interests of the Dominions and of the Empire.
Empire Exhibition. - Everything is being done to make the Australian section of the Empire Exhibition a success, and full advantage is being taken of the opportunity afforded of improving markets for Australian produce. -The exhibition should stimulate the feeling in favour of Imperial preference.
Commonwealth Bank. - A Bill will be introduced to provide a Board of Directors for the Commonwealth Bank. The Government believe this to be necessary in order that continuity of policy may be assured, that the Bank may function in a truly national way, and that due assistance may be afforded to the expanding primary and secondary industries of Australia.
Government Trading. - In conformity with the Government’s policy of getting out of trading ventures as far as practicable, the Government have closed the Harness Factory, and have disposed of the “Williamstown Shipbuilding Yards and the Geelong Woollen Mills’ The Commonwealth Shipping Line and the
Shipbuilding Yards at the Cockatoo Dock are being placed under a Board, which will operate on the. same conditions as apply to other competitive undertakings.
The amount written off the shipbuilding venture represents loan moneys against which no assets exist. The loans will now be paid off, in common with all other loans, by means of the ordinary sinking fund to be established under the Bill introduced this session.
Remission of Taxation. - I have already informed the Committee that the Government are prepared to face an annual reduction of Post Office charges amounting to over £1,000,000. The concessions are distinctly a remission of direct taxation. The Government would have been glad to go further, and to reduce other forms of taxation, but have been reluctantly compelled to abandon for this year an attempt to do so. In the year just closed concessions were made in income tax rates, and in other directions the incidence of that tax was lightened. After making adjustment in respect of arrears of collections, the income tax of 1921-22 was about £16,000,000, and the estimated return from that source during the present financial year is only £13,000,000. The reduction of taxation, therefore, has been £3,000,000. Altogether, the lightening of the annual taxation burden in the last year and the present one is as follows : -
In addition to providing for these reductions in taxation, the Government has made further concessions in the payment of bounties and in increasing the payments to invalid and old-age pensioners. The figures are as follow: -
It must be pointed out, too, that the Government has faced the following inevitable increases in expenditure: -
The Treasury has to bear, in the present year, the combined effect of the reductions of taxation and the increases of expenditure, aggregating £7,611,000, made last year and proposed this year. In the circumstances of this year, in which the expenditure is only £47,000 less than the estimated revenue, the Government does not intend to make use of its accumulated surplus to further remit taxation, but intends to deal with the surplus in the following manner: -
Disposal of Commonwealth Surplus. - As already stated, the accumulated surplus on revenue account at 30th June, 1924, is estimated at £7,475,726.
In the year 1914-15, the whole balance on revenue account was used for meeting expenses of the war, and, therefore, the year closed without one penny of deficit or surplus. Since that time the revenue account has shown the following deficits’ and surpluses: -
The question of the disposal of this surplus has been very carefully considered by the Government, which feels that there is no necessity to apply the whole of it in redemption of the public debt, because definite arrangements have been made for an adequate sinking fund. It is proposed that it shall be dealt with in the following way: -
The proposal is that one-third of the surplus shall be devoted towards the reduction of the national debt, one-third set aside for capital works of the Department of Defence, if such works should become necessary owing to failure of the forthcoming Imperial Conference to formulate a scheme for Empire defence that will satisfy Australia, and one-third to remain in the Treasury in order that increased taxation will not be necessary em a result of any adjustment with the States or of an unexpected shortage of Customs and Excise revenue.
In conclusion, I hope honorable members will see in this Budget evidence of the Government’s determination to grapple with the everyday problems of both primary and secondary production and to reduce Commonwealth expenditure, whilst maintaining the effectiveness of the services rendered to the people. An effort has been made to lay bare the financial position of the Commonwealth in the simplest form possible. A reduction of the- National Debt has been disclosed, substantial remissions in taxations have been indicated, and the finances of the Commonwealth have been shown to be in a healthy condition. From the point of view both of defence and national economy, the Government appreciates the urgency of developing the great latent resources of thi3 country in order to attract an influx of sturdy satisfied settlers. The Government is prepared to do everything possible to assist primary and secondary producers in the development of their industries, without interference or competition from the Government, and to aid their organizations for marketing their products. The economic condition of the world is still unsettled, but the Government believes that Australia can congratulate herself upon the conditions existing here, and that, if her people will take full advantage of the opportunities available, she can look forward confidently to a period of increasing development and prosperity.
I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of the Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
The following papers were presented : -
The Budget 1923-24 - Papers presented by the lion. Earle Page, M.P., for the information of Honorable Members on the occasion of opening the Budget of 1923-24.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Bruce) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, find (on motion by Mr. BRUCE) read a first time.
– I move -
That it is expedient to carry out the erection of Provisional Parliament House buildings at Canberra, a proposed work which has been investigated and reported upon by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921.
The history of this proposal is a somewhat chequered one. It was originally intended to erect a monumental Parliament House at Canberra. In 1914 a world-wide architectural competition was invited, but owing to the outbreak of war, it had to be postponed. Again, in 1916, architects were asked to compete, but, in November of that year, at the request of the Royal Institute of British Architects, there was another postponement. It was found that owing to the accentuation of war conditions it was impossible for architects to engage in any work of the kind. Changed economic conditions since the war have led the Federal Capital Advisory Committee to recommend a provisional Parliament House in lieu of the monumental ‘building originally intended. The Public Works Committee, after investigation, has made two recommendations - one that the nucleus of a permanent building be erected, and the other, as an alternative, that there be a provisional building, with certain alterations and additions’ suggested in their report.
– That was to obviate any delay in dealing with the question.
– The issue to be decided by the House is very clear. We have to say whether we will sanction the’ nucleus of a permanent building, with such temporary additions as may be necessary for present’ purposes, those temporary additions to be demolished as the construction of the permanent structure proceeds. The officers of the Works and Railways Department, and the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, favour a provisional building, and- not the nucleus of a permanent structure, and reasons are given for that view. One is that the building of the nucleus of a permanent building would delay the completion of the work. There is a difference of opinion between the Public Works Committee and the officers of the Works and Railways Department as to the actual extent of that delay. In its report the Public Works Committee states that the erection of the nucleus of a permanent building would cause just so long a delay as would be involved in arranging the competition, and, ‘ if necessary, bringing out the successful architect should the winner not be found in Australia. It seems to me, however, that the Committee assumes that the erection of the permanent nucleus would not take any longer time than would the erection of a provisional building. But as the cost, even on the Committee’s own estimate, of the permanent nucleus is much greater than that of a provisional building-
– What do you mean by “ much greater “ ?
– The provisional building is estimated to cost £220,000, while the Committee’s’ estimate for the permanent nucleus is £350,000, a difference of £130,000. That estimate of the Works Committee is disputed by the officers of the Department, who, as experts, know, or ought to know, what such a building will cost. Their estimate for a permanent nucleus, as recommended by the Committee, is £470,000. In addition, the extra work involved in the drawings, and in the construction, would occupy, at least, one year more than t*he erection of a provisional building. The Public Works Committee’s own estimate of the time required for the work is from four to five years, and if we add another year, its recommendation means that the Seat of Government could not be removed to Canberra for five or six years. The departmental opinion, which is supported by the Advisory Committee, is that it would be six to seven years before the change could be made.
In support of the permanent nucleus scheme it has been urged that it is uneconomical to erect provisional structures which will, subsequently, have to be pulled down to make way for the permanent building. That, at first glance, appears to be a sound argument, but, when analyzed, does not represent the position. In view of the variation in the estimates, I should like to place the financial position clearly before honorable members. If, instead of erecting a permanent nucleus building at a cost of £350,000, we erected a provisional building at £220,000, and paid the difference of £130,000 into a Loan Redemption Fund, there to accumulate for fifty years - the estimated life of the provisional building - then, I am informed by the. Commonwealth Statistician who has checked the figures, the fund, in the saving on interest, depreciation and maintenance, would at the end of that time amount to about £1,000,000. That is a very important consideration. The erection of a provisional or temporary building may seem un-economical, and yet we are told, on good authority, that it is just the reverse. There are other advantages that the Government see in a provisional building. In dealing with these matters we have to contemplate great lapses of time. In the case of a temporary building we may think in terms of thirty to fifty years, but a permanent building is expected to endure for centuries; and in that light we must consider the respectivemerits of the schemes. At present I submit it is impossible for us to properly visualize what will be necessary in a Parliament House a century hence.
– Half-a-century hence.
– It really does not matter whether I say half-a-century, onecentury or two centuries. At the end of forty or fifty years our successors will be in a better position than we are to judge of the then requirements.
– Would they, too,, not have to look forward?
– We have no means of knowing what constitutional changes there will be in the meantime.
– There may be no Parliament at all then.
– Quite so, and if that should happily, or unhappily, prove to be the case, the erection of a provisional building is the most sensible course to adopt. If the pessimistic “prophecy of some honorable members, who strongly oppose the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, that that place will be deserted forty or fifty years hence, is borne out, we -can confidently look to them for support for this proposal to erect a provisional Parliament House. If, on the other hand, the faith of the optimists, amongst whom I number the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). who believe that in Canberra we are to have the world’s most beautiful city is confirmed in forty or fifty years’ time, the work of building a Parliament House worthy of such a city is too big a job for us to tackle at the present time, and might well be left to posterity. If the erection of the permanent nucleus is proceeded with, the main features of the building must be such as would supply the needs of the Federal Parliament for a very considerable time. Take, for instance, the size of the legislative chambers. It is obvious that if we are going to build for the future in the way suggested, they will have to be considerably larger than they need be in a provisional structure.
– In its recommendation with respect to the provisional Parliament House, the Public Works Committee had to look forward in the same way.
– That is so;but it had not to look forward to the same extent as would be necessary to supply the needs of this Parliament a century hence. I have noticed that the Committee, in its recommendation for a provisional building, proposes that accommodation should be provided for 112 members of the House of Representativesand 56 members of the Senate. In addition to the delay which would take place were we to proceed now withthe nucleus of the permanent building, there would be involved a delay in the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra of at least three years, and we should lose interest on the money expended for at least that period. The more quickly we get to Canberra the sooner we shall receive some return from the money expended there.
– A statesman!
– It is not often we get compliments of that kind from the other side, but I have no doubt that, on this motion, I shall have the active support of the” honorable member and his colleagues. I wish to pay a tribute to the work done by the Public Works Committee in connexion with this inquiry. The Committee has done good work, particularly in this case, because it is obvious that the requirements of a Parliament House are much better understood by its members than by the officers of the Works Department. The manner in which the Committee has marshalled the facts is undoubtedly a credit to it. It has made numerous recommendations. First of all it recommends considerable alterations on the plan of the building as originally submitted to it, and the departmental officers responsible for the original plan concur in the opinion that the recommendations of the Committee represent a great improvement on the original plan. The Committee make minor recommendations and suggestions with regard to the amended plan. In the main, although there may be one or two minor suggestions which it may not be practicable to carry out, the departmental officers concur in the Committee’s recommendations, and they will be given effect. The building proposed will provide a commodious and comfortable Parliament House that will meet fully the requirements of the Commonwealth Parliament for many years to come. It will be more convenient and much better ventilated than the building we now occupy. From a financial standpoint it is the most economical and businesslike proposition that has been made, and honorable members will agree that the financial aspect of the matter is important. The Government desires that Canberra shall not be a sink for the pouring out of public money, but shall be run on business lines. It does not desire to overload the Federal City with a huge capital cost at the expense of the taxpayers. With this policy in mind, for the erection of the provisional building in lieu of the permanent structure, I ask the House to pass the motion.
.- I have no wish to labour this question, or to cause delay. Whilst thanking the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) for his kind references to the Public Works Committee, I am wondering whether the honorable gentleman has had an opportunity of reading its report or has spoken from what he has heard from the departmental officers. I say this because quite a number of honorable members have said that they have not seen the report, and have had no opportunity to read it. The Minister has said that the Committee is responsible for the statement that if the nucleus of the permanent building were started now it would mean a delay of three years, or more.
– I did not say more. I said “ about three years.”
– The Committee did not say so. I do not think that such a delay would be necessary. I should like to put the matter from my point of view. As chairman of the Public Works Committee I know that there was some doubt whether the report might not be biased in some degree owing to my opposition to Canberra. That was the reason which led the Committee to suggest two alternatives for the decision of this House. When that . decision is arrived at there need be no further delay. I felt that the House would probably approve of the proposal for the erection of a provisional Parliament House, because I was aware of the desire of many honorable members to get to Canberra as quickly as possible. As soon as the House has expressed its determination there need be no further investigation, as on the plans submitted, with such alterations as may now be determined, the work can be proceeded with. In recommending that we should build the nucleus of the permanent House, I was guided by a number of considerations. There seemed to me to be on the part of the Advisory Committee a desire to put up very temporary buildings instead of erecting buildings which would insure to members of this Parliament, and the administrative officers, the degree of com- fort which I think is essential. When I tell honorable members that it was intended to spend an enormous sum of money on a series of small buildings of wood, with galvanized-iron walls, and tiled roofs, for the purpose of housing the administrative staffs at Canberra, they will see why I was led to the conclusion that there was a desire to erect very temporary buildings there. A wood and galvanized-iron building might have a life of forty years, but I am sure that the Parliament and the people would not tolerate the erection of such buildings at Canberra.
– Did the Advisory Committee recommend a wood and galvanizediron building?
– Yes ; for the whole of the departmental administrative buildings.
– But not for Parliament House.
– I have not said so.
– We could not expect the officers’ to work in such buildings in February.
– The ‘Committee reported differently. If its report had been in the hands of honorable members they would know that the Committee recommended permanent buildings for administrative purposes. The Minister told the House that in 1914 a competition was opened for designs for the future home of the Parliament of Australia, from all the architects of the world. When war was declared the competition was postponed. It was opened again in 1916, and then again postponed. I believe a great number of architects registered themselves for the competition, and a considerable amount of work has been done by them. I desire, if possible, that the Commonwealth should keep faith with the architects of the world in this matter. Telegrams from architects’ organizations throughout Australia were received, and a good deal of correspondence from the British architects’ associations. They feel that Aus- tralia is pledged in this matter, and they have gone so far as to say that they will have a legal claim to compensation if the competition is not proceeded with. I have not the slightest doubt that to proceed with the competition would not involve a delay of more than twelve or at the most eighteen months. If the conditions were altered to include only Australian architects it would not mean a delay of six months, but that would not befair to architects abroad who have already registered.
– How much longerdoes the honorable member think it would take to erect the building-?
– I believe that we could have the , provisional Parliament House ‘Within three, years. We could get the plans prepared, call tenders, and have the provisional Parliament House, and the administrative offices as well, erected within a period of three years. I should say that I believe there are obstacles which may prevent the Parliament meeting at Canberra within that time unless we go ahead more quickly with the building of the Capital than we have done in the past. As the Minister knows, the Advisory Committee in its report anticipates that private enterprise will get to work and erect an enormous number “of cottages and hostels; but at present there is not one block of land available for such a purpose.
– We hope to remedy that soon.
– That may cause considerable delay, and I do not think that we can expect that this Parliament will meet at Canberra within three years. If honorable members are satisfied that diligence is being used they will probably not consider a delay of six or twelve months important. I have no desire to cause any delay, and it ‘would not be fair for me to do so. I think that within from three years to three and a half years this Parliament should be able to meet at Canberra, subject to private enterprise, as anticipated, taking a hand in the building of the Capital, or the Government getting to work seriously in the erection of cottages there. The Public Works Committee has not been behindhand in its warnings in this connexion. Two years ago it pointed out the necessity for building cottages at Canberra, particularly for workmen, and the Works Department has been advised that such action is necessary.
– That is apart from the motion under consideration.
– Very little progress in this direction has been made. I have said that I want to have faith kept with the architects of the world. We would be wise to call in the best brains of the world to design all our monumental buildings. By doing so we would get different designs, various ideas, and better work. I have the greatest admiration for the Commonwealth architect, who is highly esteemed and respected by architects throughout Australia, but any one man’s brain is limited. Even the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who wished to present a minority report, recommended that competitive designs should be called for the administrative offices. I mention this fact to illustrate the unanimity of opinion on the Committee. The removal of this Parliament to Canberra would be delayed by about eighteen months or two years if it were decided to provide the nucleus of a permanent building instead of a provisional building. That length of time might be required to hold the competition, consider the award, and bring the selected architect out to this country. ‘ If the nucleus of a permanent structure is built, the foundations and basement will have to be more substantial than would otherwise be necessary. I estimate that six months will be required for this extra work. The Minister should not accept, without further inquiry, the estimate of the Director-General of Works regarding the time required to build the nucleus of a permanent House. It may be necessary to get some one who can hustle a bit more. In arranging a competition the work involved will be very little more for a nucleus than for a provisional House: The Director-General of Works gave the Committee the following forecast: -
Preparation of Report by the Parliamentary Works Committee submitted to Parliament and debated in House as from the present day, one month.
Drawing up conditions of competition and approval thereof, reference to the architectural profession and approved by the R.I.B.A., finalizing conditions, and advertising them in Australia and England, five months.
Duration of the competition (working time for the competitors to -prepare drawings), one year.
Competition drawings to reach Australia and be opened for adjudication, two months.
Adjudication in Australia, one month.
Consideration by Government, and approval of adjudication, one month.
Preparation of working drawing, specifications, and details on which to call tenders, nine months.
Calling for tenders throughout Australia, but not abroad, including preparation of quantities by quantity surveyors (for Builders, and Contractors’ Associations), four months.
Accepting -tenders and arranging contract and to point of commencing construction, one month.
Time for construction under contract, two years six months.
Time for installing equipment, fittings, and preparation for Parliament House to be used, six months.
Four years and two months are allowed for calling for tenders and the erection of the building, and of that period only two and a-half years will be occupied in actual building operations. I am quite satisfied that the estimate is exaggerated: I believe that in four and a-half to five years a nucleus could be provided. I favour the nucleus idea very strongly, but assuming that Parliament might reject the proposal to build a nucleus, the Committee prepared plans meeting all the requirements for a provisional House. Special arrangements are proposed in each of the Chambers. In the Chamber in which we are now sitting we have very poor ventilation. It is proposed ‘that, at Canberra, the Speaker shall sit in the centre of the building, and the members in a semi-circle round him. Members will have double seats, with desks in front. Members on either side of the House will be able to step out through a corridor into the fresh air, while still remaining within easy reach of the Chamber: Members of the Opposition will be able to pass through a corridor on the left, and Ministerialists through a corridor on the right. There will be windows opening into the fresh air. The best possible ventilation will be provided, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Committee thought it would be justified in making a recommendation regarding the ventilation of this House, for it realized that Parliament would have to remain here for at least another three years. I do not know whether other honorable members feel the effect, of the bad ventilation as I do. Perhaps my recent illness has something to do with my feelings, but after being in the House for an hour I get a heavy, sick feeling, and am compelled to go outside for fresh air. The ventilation of this House is abominable, and the Committee went out of its way to recommend that special engineers should be consulted with a view to seeing whether an improvement could be effected. Personally, I have no great desire to go to Canberra, but the Committee has loyally carried out the request made by Parliament. I regret that the report was not printed; earlier. The delay was no fault of the Committee. Honorable members have to decide whether they will delay the project for eighteen months or two years in order to commence with a permanent House. The alternative is to erect a provisional building, which ought to last for fifty years. If a sum of £220,000 is spent on a provisional building, the structure ought to be made to last for forty or fifty years. The Committee has assumed that the building would have to provide a home for Parliament, with the possible addition of new States and alterations to the Constitution, for fifty years. Unless it is understood that the building will be occupied for forty or fifty years, an expenditure of £220,000 is not justified. It has been said that to construct a portion of the building now and add to it later would be inconvenient for Parliament. That policy, however, has been adopted in connexion with the building in which we are now accommodated. A portion only of the Parliament House of New Zealand has been built, and the great parliamentary building at Ottawa is not complete. I invite honorable members to go to the Public Works Committee room and see there the beautiful photographs of that magnificent building which, although not complete, has been occupied for a considerable time. The work is being carried on continuously, and it will be many years before the building is finished. Therefore, I do not regard the objection as sound.
– I do not desire to detain the House at great length, because I and other members of the Opposition are anxious that Government business should be expedited. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr, Gregory) has given reasons why a permanent structure should be erected. That question was not specifically referred to the Public Works Committee. The reference to the. Committee was for, a provisional House or a temporary building. At this late hour, a camouflage about a nucleus of a permanent building is introduced. Much of the matter in the Committee’s report ought not to have been printed. Honorable members know all they want to know about the history of Canberra. They are aware that the land was given to the Commonwealth by the State Government.
– Some honorable members’ are not.
– Nonsense ! Half of the report could be cut out. The outstanding fact is that Parliament can go to Canberra sooner, and a sum of £130,000 can be saved, by providing a provisional House. Is an additional expenditure of £130,000 justified in order to provide the nucleus of a permanent building ?
– The Commonwealth is not justified in spending any money there.
– That is the voice of Victoria, expressing a strong national view ! If by the erection of a provisional building £130,000 can be saved, it is our duty to effect that economy. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee would have the House believe that when we get to Canberra we shall have no accommodation. As a matter of fact, we shall have in the proposed provisional Parliament House more accommodation than we have in the building we now occupy. The main elevation shown on the plans of the provisional Parliament House is very imposing, and certainly the drawings indicate a well laid-out structure with high and well-ventilated chambers, from which there will be direct access to private gardens. Within six months the hostel formembers will be completed. It will have accommodation for 100 boarders, but the building will remain practically empty until Parliament is transferred to Canberra. We must realize that Parliament has expended a lot of money in the Federal Territory, and that expenditure will become reproductive only when Canberra is a city in being. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has complained that land has not been thrown open for selection by private enterprise. Why should the land be thrown open when it is of no value?
– The Advisory Committee anticipated that private enterprise would build, at least, 300 cottages before Parliament met at Canberra.
– If we do not proceed Avith the erection of the official buildings, we cannot expect private enterprise to invest money there. The private investor will derive courage from seeing that we are in earnest in our desire to develop the city. Once money has been appropriated- for the erection of Parliament House, the Government may with confidence throw the land open for selection, and the enhanced value the Commonwealth will get from the leases will more than repay the expenditure that is being incurred. Financially, the Commonwealth need have no fear for Canberra. The Territory comprises 900 square miles, and every year its land values will increase, so that ultimately the whole cost of creating and administering the city will be recouped by the revenue from the Territory. I am quite satisfied to support the motion submitted by the Minister, so that Parliament may transfer to Canberra as cheaply and expeditiously as possible. When the erection of Parliament House has been commenced, and land has been thrown open for selection, the population of Canberra will substantially increase, and the Territory will develop rapidly. Already one contractor is established there with a big plant.
– Has he plenty of men?
– He has experienced no difficulty in getting workmen, because he offers them good conditions, erects homes for them, and pays good wages. He is actually ahead of the schedule time in connexion with the erection of the hostel. The Government have never offered adequate inducements to the workmen. The provisional Parliament House could be completed in twelve months.
– We cannot erect, the building in less than two and a half years. Plans and specifications have yet to be prepared.
– The Works Committee had plans of the building before it.
– Those were only sketch plans.
– The Committee did not recommend the layout of the building which the Government architect submitted.
– The original plan has been altered only in minor particulars, and those alterations should not cause a great deal of delay. If the Government are in earnest they can complete the building in less than two/ years. The Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, which is a larger and much more expensive building than the provisional Parliament House will be, was built in less than two years, and the Melbourne Exhibition -building was built in less than twelve months.
– I assure the honorable member that we shall complete the building as soon as we possibly can.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, and I congratulate him on the courage he has shown in this matter. Although he is a Victorian member, he has not been influenced by the Melbourne press, but has taken a firm stand for what he believes to be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Parliament must vacate the building that it now occupies. The Victorian Parliament will not lend it to us indefinitely, and we should not expect it to do so.
.- Onmany previous occasions I have spoken in opposition to the removal of the Commonwealth Parliament to Canberra. I recognise that Parliament is determined to transfer to the Federal Capital with the utmost despatch,- and that it is futile, therefore, to continue opposition to the project. Before, when I have spoken on the subject, I have been told that, never having visited Canberra, I was ignorant of my subject, and had no right to ( express an opinion. In January of this year I did visit the site of the future “ celestial city,” and I was not impressed with what I saw. Admittedly the country was in the throes of a drought, and was not seen to the best advantage. But from the outset I was amazed by the wasteful expenditure that has been incurred in connexion with road construction. Upon my return to Victoria I described some of the roads as “ leading to nowhere.” The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) took exception to my statement, and said that all the roads had been constructed according to a definite plan. I do not dispute that, but I do say that there has been a great deal of unnecessary expenditure on roads that are not likely to be of any use for many years. Thousands of settlers in other parts of the country are without roads upon which to convey their produce to market; but at Canberra money has been absolutely thrown away upon road construction. I was astounded to learn that one section of road over which I was shown by Mr. Goodwin. the Surveyor-General, was costing £3,500 per mile to make. Having worked as a navvy’ in my younger days, and later as a sub-contractor on road construction, I have learned something about road making, and I consider that the expenditure of £3,500 per mile upon the road to Euriarrawas extravagant, and that the Commonwealth has hot received value for the money. A booklet issued by the Minister for Works and Railways shows that at Canberra11/2 miles of metalled road and 51/2 miles of gravelled road have been constructed at a cost of £18,700, and that 11 miles of road now in course of construction are estimated to cost £58,250, or an average of £5,295 10s. per mile. Such expenditure is “ over the odds,” and I protest against waste and extravagance in the creation of such costly thoroughfares at this early stage in the history of the city.
– The honorable member is not entitled to roam over the whole of the works in that Territory.
– I propose now, Mr. Speaker, to refer to the brickworks, a subject which I shall be able to connect with the matter under discussion. A fine brickworks has been established under very capable management. An excellent article is being turned out; but I am informed that the bricks cost £4 1s. a thousand, or over £1 a thousand more than the best bricks cost in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
– The Canberra bricks are much superior to the Melbourne bricks.
– I believe they are. The bricks are being hauled by traction over the newly-made roads.
– And the roads are being cut up.
– That is so. It is an absolute waste to spend at present so much money on the roads. I think’ no honorable member who knows the position will attemptto justify the expenditure that has been incurred on Adelaideavenue. That road cost thousands of pounds. It was cut through a hill of practically solid rock. It is a fine track for motorists to drive over, but it is being cut up by carting the bricks necessary to erect the hostel and Parliament House.
– They have a railway there now.
– It is time. Mistakes have been made, and a large sum of money wasted because those responsible have not looked far enough ahead. I told the Surveyor-General, during my visit, that some things that, I saw impressed me greatly, but I was depressed by other things that I saw I agree with the motion under notice. We are not justified in spending a great amount of money to erect the nucleus of permanent parliamentary buildings at Canberra when we can provide, at much less cost, buildings which will be suitable for all our requirements for many years. The estimated cost of these buildings is £220,000, but we all know that Government estimates are frequently 25 per cent., 30 per cent., and, in some cases; even 50 per cent. below the actual cost of the completed works.
– That is a reflection upon the Public Works Committee.
– I cannot help that. In my opinion it is a fact. The hostel is being erected for the convenience of members. I am inclined to think that very few members will avail themselves of it because they will be unable to afford the tariff.
– That is an argument in favour of an increase in salary.
– When honorable members get to Canberra, and are away from the influence of the metropolitan press, whichthey seem to fear so much, I would not be surprised if a move were made to obtain an increase in salary.
– Would you take it?
– Yes, if my constituents approved.
– The question of salary is not under consideration at present .
– Parliament has decreed that an early removal shall be made to Canberra. In these circumstances, I shall vote for the motion. I believe it will be in the best interests of the community.
.- Like the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), I have been consistently opposed to the transference of the Federal Parliament to Canberra, for reasons which have seemed to me to be quite good. I confess to the House today that I have been entirely converted. I desire to take my place humbly at the penitent form, and to confess that I have been misguided in the past in my opposition to this move. I have often wondered, since coming into this House, how it is that we have so many disgraceful scenes here. Much parochialism, sectionalism, and sectarianism have been displayed on both sides of the Chamber. Since I listened to the last debate we had on the Canberra question I have come to the conclusion that all the evils of that kind from which we have been suffering have flowed from the fact that the Parliament of the Commonwealth is located in this wicked city. Whenever the name of Canberra has been mentioned here the unanimity of certain honorable members has been perfectly touching. We have seen honorable members of opposite political parties billing and cooing together. One recognises, therefore, that we have been suffering, as a Parliament, from thesinister influences that operate in this terrible city. The wicked Argus, the unscrupulous Age, and the silly Herald have affected us. I do not know how to characterize the other sections of thepress.
– The scintillating Sun.
– I am satisfied now that these adverse influences have held honorable members in their grasp and have thus prevented them from taking that broad outlook which should characterize members of this House. I have therefore come to the conclusion that in the interests of the Commonwealth, the Empire, and humanity it is advisable that we should escape from this house of bondage at the earliest possible moment and wend our way to the land of promise at Canberra. Let us get out of this city by all means as soon as we can, but let us have a fitting ceremony to mark the occasion when this happy band of legislative pilgrims wends its way to the land of promise. I propose that our company be led by the portly figure of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). I suggest that his brow be adorned with a wreath of laurel and that he carry the palm of victory in his hand. It would be fitting also that the procession should set out hand in hand, two by two. Let us have such a pair as the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) could be accompanied by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). That would show how possible it will be for the lamb to lie down in peace with the lion when we have escaped from influences that savour of narrowness and sectionalism, or anything of the kind.
– And we shall Teach the place “ where every prospect pleases and only man is vile.”
– With whom will the honorable and learned member go?
– I should be very glad to accompany the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and I am sure we should get on well together. As this happy band of pilgrims, led by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, wreathed with laurel, marched out on its way to Canberra, I suggest that it should sing, with one heart and one voice, this song of triumph -
We are not divided
All one party we;
One in hope” and outlook,
One in policy.
I have the greatest possible pleasure - in the interests of the Commonwealth, the Empire, and humanity- in supporting the motion.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) upon his conversion, and upon his brilliant oration. I shall support the motion. But I wish to place before honorable members the position of the architects of Australia and others, to the number of 200 odd, who undertook to prepare plans for the Capital. I will do this as briefly as possible. I refer honor- _ able members to the evidence of Mr. Walter Burley Griffin, whose design obtained the first prize. In his evidence before the Committee, he said -
The Government called a competition in June, 1914; and again in August, 1916, requesting the architects of the world to formulate their plans and register their acquiescence in the arrangements. Sufficient time thus was allowed for the architects practically to complete their plans, so that they would be now available. No plans were received by myself or by the Government; the architects were informed that they would not be received. I’ do not think that it would take more than a few months to have the plans approved.
I call the attention of honorable members to that evidence, which bears out the statement of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). There need not be more than eighteen months’ delay. Mr. Griffin said in that connexion -
There is no necessity to give new-comers an opportunity of competing; but if, as a matter of policy, it was decided to do so, six months would be ample time in which to enable them to draw up their plans.
He’ said later on -
A promise was made to the architects of Australia in regard to the matter of the Parliament House, and any other course would be a deliberate repudiation of a legal and moral obligation.
Later, in reply to Mr. Mathews, he said -
Legally and morally the Commonwealth is bound to go on with the competition. The successful competitor has the right to be appointed architect, providing the conditions of the contract are met.
I do not wish honorable members to decide this question without the case for Australian and other architects being placed fairly before them. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) charged the Public Works Committee with going beyond its reference. Let -me tell that honorable member .that the Committee might have reported against this reference altogether, but, instead of doing so, suggested an alternative.. The action that the Committee took shows that it was quite unbiased on . the question.
There seems to be an idea that as soon as the Parliament House is constructed we may move to Canberra. Honorable members are very cheery optimists if they look forward to anything of- the. kind. It will be little short of a miracle if we find ourselves at Canberra inside three years. I am strongly of opinion that nearly five years will be necessary. I look at the matter from a practical point of view. In addition to accommodation for 112 members, I understand provision must be made for over 3,000 people, - including 1,000 members of the Public Service, and their families. It will be no use our going there if members and the official staffs have to live in tents or ramshackle buildings.
.- The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) made some reference to the construction of the Euriarra-road. That road was constructed largely to give relief work to returned soldiers, and without desiring to make any reflections on the latter, it is only fair to the Department to. state that many of them were inexperienced, with the result that the cost was greater than it would have been in other circumstances. As to the breaking up of the roads by the heavy cartage of bricks, that difficulty has been overcome by the construction of a light railway line. The honorable member for Corio said that we might put the actual cost of the buildings to be erected at 50 per cent, more than the estimate. The hostel is the largest building the Government has undertaken at Canberra as yet, and in that case the Advisory Committee’s estimate will not be exceeded. I am satisfied that the estimate for Parliament -House will not. be exceeded to any great extent, certainly not to anything like 50 per cent., or even 20 per cent. It is true that during recent years nearly all estimates for buildings and other large works have been exceeded, but that is due to the change in economic conditions and the consequent rise in wages and costs of materials. The problem of the architectural competitions is a legacy from previous Governments; in any case, we have to remember that the war caused many difficulties which in normal circumstances would not have to be met. I am at present in communication with the Federal Council of the Institute of Architects with a view to some amicable arrangement in regard to what has been described as our “ moral obligation. The promise given that architects would be asked to compete for buildings referred only to monumental buildings, and not to those of a temporary character. At the present time we are inviting architects to compete for a group of about forty cottages at Canberra. I trust that the motion will be supported by members on all sides as a most business-like solution of the Parliament House difficulty. In spite of the pessimistic view that we shall not be able to go to Canberra within four years, or, perhaps five, I venture to predict that, in the absence of any untoward circumstances, the Government will make every endeavour to insure that Parliament meets at Canberra in accordance with the recent resolution passed by the House, and in conformity with the policy of the Government as indicated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In moving -
That the Bill be now read a second time,
I do not consider it necessary to go into the details of what I regard as a formal measure. The Act which it is proposed to amend expires on the 15th March next, and it is necessary to take action to insure the continuance of the Board. The Bill provides for an additional member of the Board.
– For what reason ?
– The Tariff Board works incessantly every day of the week, and, as the Minister in control, I know that an extra member will prove of great use. The Board is kept very busy. It inquires and recommends and advises, doing a great deal of the work that the Comptroller-General did in the old days; and it also supplies information to manufacturers and others who write to or visit the Department. Another member of the Board will prove useful, especially in busy times, or when any of his colleagues are absent through sickness or from some other cause; besides, “ in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
.- The Tariff Board is doubtless doing good work, and faithfully endeavouring to give effect to the desires of Parliament; but that an additional member is required is beyond my comprehension. No sufficient reason for such a step has been disclosed. I know there is a disposition amongst country members to claim some voice in Tariff matters; indeed, recently Major Oakley, the Chairman of the Board, was summoned to a meeting of their party. That was certainly a most unusual occurrence, and one that I trust we shall not witness again. Notwithstanding the fact that the Country party is part and parcel of the Ministerial party, its members, in separate meeting assembled, evidently had some fault to find, and called in Major Oakley to explain. Is it in consequence of some dissatisfaction on the part of the Country party that the Government proposes to appoint another member to the Board ? It would be difficult to justify another member, even if we assume that he is to be a representative of the primary producers. * I am not against primary producers, or any other large section of the community, having a fair share in giving effect to our legislation, but it would be strange if the Government were prepared to appoint a country representative on this Board, in view of the fact that only the other day they refused to allow the employees any representation on the Shipping Board, although such representation might involve the successful or the unsuccessful working of the Commonwealth Line. If representation has to be given to every section of the public that is dissatisfied, it is difficult to see where such a policy will end. There are many other interests that have equal claim to representation on the Tariff Board.
– Probably more.
– I did not understand that the Minister desired another member of the Board as the representative of any particular interest, but only in order that the work may be more efficiently done.
– That is just the difficulty. I am convinced that the three members of the Board can do their work, and that they are acting in what they consider to be the best interests of the country.
– I do hot think there have been any complaints about the work of the Tariff Board.
– What !
– There have been complaints. It is complained that the Board is practically a law unto itself; but that is not my experience, and I suppose I have had more experience of the work of the Board than any other honorable member. I say that without fear of contradiction.
– The honorable gentleman has done very well.
– I cannot say that I have done very well so far, because I have not completed the matter I have in hand with the Board. I have to speak of the Board as I find it. Major Oakley, the president, is well known to all of us; but I have been specially pleased with the conduct of the other two members of the Board. They were strangers to me when they were appointed, but now that I have had experience of them I say that they are excellent men for the positions they occupy.
– Is there the complaint that the Board cannot overtake its work J
– I have not heard of such a complaint. That is why I say we should be careful in this matter. If we are to appoint men to Boards of this kind in order to satisfy different interests, there is no knowing where that will lead us. When Parliament enacts a Tariff, the work of the Tariff Board is to give effect to that Tariff. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not believe that the Tariff Board, or any other Board, should go beyond the limit of the powers intrusted to it. I do not know that the Tariff Board has done so.
– The Board proposes to take away the only limit there was.
– May I remind the honorable member that the Tariff Board has power only to recommend?
– Is that all?
– The Board has to recommend to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– That is the theory.
– That is the practice, so far as I know, which the Board has followed. If there is anything in connexion with the work of the Board to which honorable members takeexception, they must look to the Minister for a remedy. This Bill provides for one thing only. It is not a question now of opening up the Tariff, which would lead ‘to endless debate. What we have to ask ourselves is whether there is any justification for the appointment of another member to the TariffBoard. If such an appointment can be justified, I will take no exception to it; but I know of no reason for such an appointment. I do not think that there is any genuine reason for it, unless it is that it is considered that certain sectional interests should be represented on the Board. If that be the object in view, I consider it a bad policy to pursue. We do not know where that kind of thing will lead us.
– Will the Minister say what is the intention ?
– I have given it once, and will repeat my statement in Committee.
– We have to save as much as we can in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth, and if the present Tariff Board is adequate, why should we go to the expense of appointing another member ? I shall not hesitate to give any one who can establish a case, representation on the Board. It appears to me that the Board is endeavouring to carry out the legislation we have passed, and to do its best in the interests of the primary producers. I have been engaged now for a long time in connexion with a matter about which I shall not say much at this juncture, but I will say for the Tariff Board that the matter to which I refer affects, not industrialists, but the primary producers of the country, small men on the land who are at present only eking out an existence. To do the Tariff Board justice, I may say that whenever I have desired to discuss a matter with it, it has willingly granted me an interview, and nas even gene further and assisted me to secure interviews with persons interested in the matter about which I have been concerned.
– One would suppose, listening to the honorable gentleman, that my remarks were levelled against the members of the Board personally.
– I do not suggest that. I am merely saying that from my experience of the Board, it is looking after the interests of the consumer and of the man on the land.
– Wehear too much of that sort of nonsense.
– I have proved what I say, and I must speak of the Board as I find it.
– I will prove the contrary when I get th« opportunity.
– The honorable member will be within his rights’ in so doing, but his experience of the Board must have differed from mine.
– We know which way the honorable gentleman’s interests go. He is concerned about the manufacturers.1
– I am speaking now of primary producers; men on the land who are, supposed to be represented by the .honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the party to which he belongs. It has appeared to Me that the Tariff Board is able to grasp the situation, and I require some genuine reason for the appointment of an additional member. I have always been prepared to do my best to assist the primary producers, with whom I have as much sympathy as any other member of this House. Up to the last general election I represented in this Parliament a great number of primary producers. The honorable member for Robertson ‘(Mr. Gardner) now represents a considerable portion .of the electorate I formerly represented. But there are still a great many of my constituents settled on the land, and I desire to see justice done to them. If the additional appointment is for the satisfaction of a certain party supporting the Government, we are not justified in consenting to it unless good cause is shown for it, and so far I have heard nothing which would justify me in taking a view different from that which I have expressed. I shall be the first to condemn the Tariff Board or any other if I find it is not carrying out its work in accordance with the intention .of Parliament.’ In connexion with a particular matter I have been dealing with the Tariff Board for the last eight or nine months. Although. 1 have not reached finality with the matter I have in hand, I do not blame the Board for that. It has played its part well. The matter affects people who are eking out an existence on the land.
– Not manufacturers, as suggested by the honorable member for Swan.
– No. I am referring to the case of a number of officers who were paid off in Great Britain and received a considerable sum of money because their services were dispensed with. They came to this country, and some of them have gone down altogether, whilst others have gone through their money and are on their last legs. I want to say that I never met any one more sympathetic than the members of the Tariff Board in endeavouring to find a solution for the difficulties confronting these people. Should it be necessary, I shall, at the proper time, say what that difficulty is, but I am hoping to reach a solution to-morrow and that there will be no occasion to refer to the matter further. As the present members of the Board are using every effort to give effect to our legislation, what is the necessity for loading the Commonwealth with another salary? If such an appointment is made to satisfy a particular section, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for’ the gander, and other sections will expect to be similarly treated. We have created a great many Boards in recent years, and we are creating more. Some are doing good work, but it is doubtful whether that is true of all. We are not justified in adding to the cost of these Boards by creating additional members if there is no work for them to do. I cannot imagine what a fourth member on the Tariff Board could do.
– Perhaps there is some idea of giving different members of the Board charge of sectional work.
– It would be a very difficult thing to give a member of the Board sectional work. If an important Tariff question comes before the Board, the work of listening to representations from outside persons and the taking of evidence in the matter could not be left to one member of the Board. That course would not give satisfaction to manufacturers, primary producers, consumers, or any one else. It does not appear to me that the Board could do its work in sections. The Board as a whole must deal with all big questions, though from time to time, in connexion with small matters, one member of it might be detailed to make an inquiry and report. 1 have referred to what occurred at an early stage of the session, when Major Oakley had to attend a party meeting to explain certain things. Prom that time on some dissatisfaction has been displayed by one section of the members of this House, and it occurs to me that it is probably in order to appease that section that the additional appointment is to be made. If that is the object in view, I say that a wrong procedure is proposed, and should not be adopted. I shall not approve of the proposal unless I am given information to justify it.
.- I ask the Minister to allow the debate to be adjourned. The first reason for the request is that the Bill was only put before us to-day, and it is quite impossible for us to judge at once of the effect of the proposed amendment of the law. No one has had an opportunity to read the Bill. Mr. Austin Chapman. - There is only one important amendment.
– There are many amendments which may be found to be important, and there is no reason why the Bill should not be dealt with tomorrow as well as to-day. There is one very important reason for the adjournment of the debate, and it is that the Tariff Board was appointed to inform the people of Australia of the incidence of the Tariff. Where is its report? When the Minister was laying on the table this report, which is one of the most important that could be submitted to Parliament, he did not propose that it should be printed. I raised the question, and, the report has been printed, but I have not yet seen it.
– I have just received a proof copy of it.
– I ask the Minister whether he will agree to the adjournment of the debate?
– The honorable member has had the same facilities as the Leader of the Opposition, who has already spoken on the second reading of the Bill.
– I have a great deal to refer to. The Minister knows very well that great dissatisfaction with the Tariff Board has been expressed.
– By whom?
– By every person who brings goods into Australia.
– The Board is carrying out the Act.
– If the Government are unfair they will experience difficulty in getting their measures through this House. I want that to be clearly understood. I do not mind a fair fight, but I insist upon an opportunity to state my case. I want to fight this Board. Nothing should be done without the knowledge of Parliament. I am prepared to accept whatever Parliament does, but I will not agree to everything this Board does. I intend to fight the issue in this House. I intend to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. If the House does not accept it, I shall be content. I want the printed report. I shall be prepared to go on with the matter to-morrow, and I am likely to deal with it much more bitterly to-day. I ask the Minister again to agree to the adjournment.
– I want to continue the debate.
– Very well. The Tariff Board was appointed for two years, and on the 13th . December next the Board will disappear, unless reconstituted. The Minister, is apparently very anxious to extend the life of the Board, and has brought in a Bill for that purpose. A report of the Tariff Board has been tabled, but, unless honorable members have been to the Clerk of the House and read the copy in his possession, they cannot know what it contains. Yet the Leader of the Opposition is confident that the Board has done good work, and some honorable members do not want to see the report. When, the Board was appointed honorable members were told that it would make inquiries, and would report to Parliament, and through Parliament to the people of Australia, regarding the incidence of the
Tariff. If the Board were doing that, I would be content. I move -
That all the words after “now” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ withdrawn and introduced after redrafting so as to provide for -
A Board of three members being representative of the manufacturers, the primary producers, and of the public generally.
That the duty of the Board should be to inquire into and report to the Parliament of the incidence of the Tariff, how. it affects the industries of Australia, what industries are suffering from unfair or undue competition, and to what extentand by what method such industries should be fostered and developed, and generally to inform the Parliament as to the best means of developing the resources of Australia, primary and secondary.
That in their investigations their procedure be similar to that adopted by the Inter-State Commission, all evidence to be taken in public and on oath, except when, in the discretion of the Board, such course is inadvisable in the public interest or contrary to justice, and with no power to compulsorily obtain evidence regarding secret processes.
That they should specially inquire into and have the fullest power in respect of alleged combinations and restraint of trade which, in their opinion, are detrimental to the best interests of Australia.
That these amendments take effect as from 15th December, 1923.”
I have moved that amendment because I am not satisfied with the work of the Board, or with its methods. I am not content to give to the Board and the Minister powers which Parliament alone should exercise. I desired an independent Board that would report to Parliament, and Parliament should receive the Board’s reports. The Board should not be allowed to make inquiries and suppress its decisions. I do not say that these have been suppressed, but I do say that in the commercial life of this community incidents in the nature of restraints of trade have come under the notice of other people, if not of members of the Board. Parliament should have been told of those things. The especial duty of the Board should be to inform Parliament how the incidence of the Tariff is affecting industries. The Board should function in the interests, not of the primary producers or manufacturers, but of the people, who pay enormous duties upon almost all the goods imported into this .country from overseas. I would like the Minister to say where the report of the Board is. The House has. a right to see it. I have read it, but it ha« not been made available to the public. Parliament wants to know how industries can be promoted. I am sure that every honorable member, whether’ he be a high or a low tariffist, aims at promoting the growth of new industries; but people ought not to be able to go to the Minister or the Board and state only one side of a question. Let us have these things done fairly and in the open, so that the people may know what is happening. Those who believe that heavy duties will promote industries should be prepared to fight in the open. I would like to know what new industries can be promoted in this country. But I want to be informed, and the people do also, whether protected industries are exploiting the public. We have heard nothing about that from the Tariff Board. In what industries is there restraint of trade!
– We would also like to know why the Tariff has produced so much revenue?
– That fact shows that something is wrong with our manufactures or our industrial conditions. Those who desire to build up the industries of this country should realize that there is something wrong, and that the sooner it is righted, the better. The industries of this country ought to be able to compete with those of other countries. It was reported a few days ago that bootmakers, were out of employment. Ought we not to be able to export boots all over the world? The industry has been protected, particularly in Victoria, for the last thirty or forty years. It should be able’ to obtain the best machinery available, and surely our workmen are as good as those in any other part of the world. Why, then, can the industry not compete in other countries? I understand that we are losing our trade with New Zealand. The Tariff Board should ascertain where there is restraint of trade and where industries are exploiting the public. Those who believe in high protection can fight their battle on the ground that they want to provide good conditions for Australian workmen and manufacturers. They do not want the Tariff to create millionaires, and to :give opportunities to a few manufacturers to exploit the people. I do not believe that honorable members of the Opposition ever had that desire. That is not the reason why honorable members opposite agreed to impose high duties on the people of this country. When the Bill was introduced to create the Tariff Board, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) said the Board would give up-to-date information to members. Where is that up-to-date information ? Last year the Government asked Parliament to pass the Australian Industries Preservation Act, but, although we were then told of what the Canadian Parliament had done regarding anti-dumping duties, the Board did not tell this Parliament that the Canadian Parliament had completely altered its method of dealing with imports from countries where the currency was depreciated. .The position in this country is a scandal. Some small articles came to Australia recently which were not worth the thought of manufacturing here. They cost 4s. each in Germany, and were retailed in London at 7s. 6d. An Australian imported between 300 and 400 of them, and the duty that the Minister, through the Tariff Board, imposed was 16s. 6d., or 412^ per cent. The Minister sent me a letter, presumably on the advice of the Tariff Board, stating that such a duty was absolutely necessary to save the Australian industry from certain ruin. They do not have all this rigmarole in Canada. There they assess a duty, and when goods come from countries which have a depreciated ‘currency, they value them at the price at which they could be manufactured in Great Britain. If a similar article is not manufactured in Great Britain, the value is taken as it would be in a European country where the currency is not depreciated. The Board did not inform the House of that. Whom does the Board represent? Before it was created I had a definite promise from the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) that a representative of the primary producers would be appointed to it. The Act provides that the chairman of the Board must be an’ officer of the Customs Department, and Major Oakley was appointed. Mr. Brookes is a gentleman for whom I have every respect, but he is a representative of the manufacturing interests, and none other. I do not know what Mr.
Leitch ‘s private interests are now, but, during the war, he was employed by the Commonwealth in connexion with the manufacture of munitions.
– He was formerly a manufacturer.
– He has a wellbalanced mind.
– I say nothing against him personally. Although I am attacking the Board, I am not concerned with the personal character of its members. If the practices of the Customs Department during the past twelve months continue we shall have, within the next five or ten years, Tammany practices as bad as any that have arisen in America. Graft will develop under the present system. I do not desire that to happen and I am sure that the Minister does not; presumably he does not think there is any risk of graft. To obviate the possibility of such a thing, let Parliament decide what the duties shall be, and let the Board’s functions be confined to making inquiries in the open, and reporting to Parliament.
– The honorable member mentioned the duty on a certain article imported from Germany. Does he suggest that it should be impounded by the Customs Department until Parliament had decided whether the duty should be 10, 20, or 100 per cent.?
– I have not suggested anything of the sort; but when the Minister states that a duty of 400 per cent, is necessary to save an industry from certain ruin, then God help that industry ! If the Minister understands the Industries Preservation Act he must know to what my criticism applies. Is there one member of Parliament, or any member of the commercial community who knows what duty he will have to pay if he imports an article* from a foreign country t The importer does not know even the duties that will be levied upon goods imported from Great Britain. This Parliament enacted that wire and wire netting from the United Kingdom should be admitted free of duty, but if imported from foreign countries should be subject to a duty of 10 per cent. In December last, some wire netting was imported into Western Australia. The invoice value was £113, but some Customs officials said that the home consumption price was £158, and accordingly a duty of £45 was imposed. A similar course was adopted in regard to wire. I sent a long telegram to the Minister for Trade and Customs regarding this case, and told him that unless the instruction to collect that duty were withdrawn, I would urge the Prime Minister to interfere. On the following day an urgent telegram informed me that the impost’ had been’ lifted. The Department attempted the same practice a few months later. Again we protested successfully. Recently some mild steel bars arrived in Victoria from Great Britain. Somebody in the Department declared that the home consumption price was not £12, as shown on the invoice, but £14 per ton, and that a dumping duty would have to be paid. Under the Industries Preservation Act that dumping duty may be the difference between the price in the country of origin and the price at which the article could reasonably be sold in Australia.
– The honorable member knows that a large quantity of German and Belgian steel, to which 20 per cent, of value has been added in England, is being imported to Australia, and getting the advantage of the British preferential duty.
– I do not know that; but such things may happen. In regard to the article imported from Germany, the price in Australia was £1, and the dumping duty imposed was the difference between that price and the price of 4s. in the country of origin.
– If an extra dumping duty is imposed, and there is some doubt as to the justness of that duty, the importer can pay under; protest, and, if his protest is upheld, get a refund.
– That practice may be all right for an importer in Melbourne, but it does not help a man in the northwest of Western Australia. It is a practice that opens the way for graft. Does not the Minister see that when the invoices are being checked, and the checking officer says, “I believe the home consumption price is higher than is shown on the invoice,” the importer may say, “Do not impose the extra dumping duty; let the goods go through.”
– I am willing to hear any suggestion for improving our methods. What does the honorable member think the Department should do when an article is being sold in England for £2 more than the price at which it i9 invoiced to Australia?
– Who is to know what the price is in England?
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I ask the Minister what the Tariff Board has done to assist industry to expand ? If we examine the Tariff revenue figures we find that every man, woman and child in Australia pays an average of £5 per head in Customs duty. An average family of five persons pays £25 per year. Did the report of the Tariff Board point these things out? I contend that honorable members should have had these facts placed before them. Honorable members opposite, especially, should realize that the Tariff has a great deal to do with the high cost of living in Australia. The Tariff Board should have given the House some information on the incidence of the Tariff. A report has been prepared for presentation to Parliament. It is not yet public property because it is not printed. I shall refer honorable members to some paragraphs in it. The report states -
It was found in connexion with the soldier and other settlement policies of the States, there were urgent demands for supplies _ for wire netting, fencing wire, and galvanized wire.
I am sorry that honorable members did not hear the lecture on- the Northern Territory, delivered the other night by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). He described the conditions of settlement in the interior of Australia. The Prime Minister was present, and he was much impressed with what he heard and saw. He praised the intrepid nature of the people who brave the dangers and difficulties of life in the far interior. We were told how necessary such material as fencing wire, wire netting, and galvanized iron was to these people. The report of the Tariff Board says in that connexion -
These goods were absolutely essential to the primary producer who was starting to bring under control and cultivation large tracts of country much of which was in its virgin state.
Though the Board makes remarks like that, its actions differ from them. Some time ago, when a parcel of wire netting arrived in Western Australia, a duty of 33 per cent.- was placed on it. That duty was taken off a few months later, but very shortly after that again the Board reimposed the duty. Where was the sympathy of the Prime Minister at that time? We went to the Minister for Trade and Customs and asked him for an assurance that British wire and wire netting would not be placed under the provisions of the - Australian Industries Preservation Act. He did not give us a promise, but told us that at present it was not intended to place wire netting under those provisions. The Tariff Board report goes on -
Unless ample supplies of the goods mentioned were obtainable at the lowest possible cost, it was evident to the Board that’ the developmental policies would be greatly restricted, and in those instances when the material was obtained the settlers would be penalized with heavy initial expenditure which would seriously hamper them for years, and prevent them extending their borders.
The Board, on its own initiative, recommended the Government to remove the duty and to grant a bounty. The Government, however, claimed credit for the removal of the duty. Apparently it was not the Government, but the Board, that was responsible. Though the duty was removed, the people found almost immediately afterwards that when there, was a possibility of getting a little cheap wire and wire netting into this country from Great Britain, a duty was placed upon it again.
– There is no duty on netting from Great Britain.
– A duty was imposed at first.
– A duty of £46 was imposed on one parcel, and when it was brought under my notice I immediately ordered the amount to be refunded.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro was not in office at the time the incident occurred to which I refer.
– There were two cases. On the last occasion when the duty was imposed, I caused a telegram to be sent to the Collector of Customs at Perth instructing him to repay the amount.
– How can trade be carried oh satisfactorily under such conditions? Assuming that the £46 was repaid by the Collector, of Customs, it is quite possible that the importer had sold the wire and had added the duty to the. price of it. If he were an honest man he would refund the amount. In another case he might not.
– What would you have me do in such a case?
– The Minister has not power, when goods come from England at a price which appears to be under the ruling rate, to place such goods under the provisions of the AntiDumping Act without gazetting them. I desire the House to realize what great power it is permitting the Minister to exercise. Under the conditions I have mentioned, trade is quite disorganized. Importers do not know from day to day what duty they may be required .to pay. The consequence is that they do not take risks, and the ultimate purchaser has to pay a duty whether the importer does or not. The report of the Tariff Board goes on to deal with the great development which has taken place at Renmark and Berri in the fruitgrowing industry. It found in these places that the orchard area was being increased from 20,000 acres to 70,000 acres. The report stated -
Such enormous expansion brings with it the serious responsibility of providing overseas markets for the products.
Great extension is going on in Victoria and New South Wales, and particularly in Western Australia, where we can grow currants as fine as the best’ produced in any part of the world. I know that first class raisins are being sold to distilleries in Victoria at abnormally low prices.
– At Id. per lb.
– That position has arisen because no markets have been found. The Tariff Board discusses the possibility of finding markets. In connexion with the great development in the fruit-growing industry, the report stated -
This impressed the Board with the necessity of making every possible effort to provide for overseas markets. No opportunity has been lost in the efforts to influence distinguished visitors, &c, to induce Great Britain granting greater preference.
The Board mentions Great Britain, but not a word is said about Canada. This House should be acquainted with what is being done to secure reciprocal arrangements with Canada. We have had no statement from the Minister on this matter. We should be given full information. We are producing thousands of pounds’ worth of currants, raisins, and dried fruit. A magnificent market is available in Canada. What is being done to avail ourselves of that market? The Board has made no mention whatever of Canada. It says we are likely to get a special preference in Great Britain. Why has it not referred to the possibilities of a similar preference in Canada?’
– If Canada offered us a reciprocal preference the Canadians would get the best of it.
– The Americans, you mean; because, really, they are American industries that are concerned.
– If American industries are established in Canada, Canadian labour and Canadian material is used, and the industries are subject to the Canadian laws. What difference does it make whether the capital comes from the United States of America or from Great Britain. I want a market for our produce, and it is open to us; but the Government hide the facts from us. I contend that this Parliament should have complete control of the Tariff. If any alterations are to be made they should be made by this Parliament, and not by the Tariff Board. The Prime Minister spoke with enthusiasm at the lecture of the honorable member for Bass. He told us that the people who went into the interior and did pioneering work were responsible for. the progress and wealth of the country. I ask what he and his Government are doing to find markets for the produce of these people? No honorable member in this House is more strongly in favour of bringing people into Australia to settle on our soil than I am. The object of bringing people here is to increase our produce; but what is the good of increasing our produce if we cannot get it to th’e markets of the world? It is the successful marketing of our produce that will make us a prosperous people, and no effort should be spared to attain that end. The report of the Tariff Board deals with the duties on sulphur. I wish Parliament to realize what the position really is in this matter, because Parliament should be supreme.
We should not place duties on one section of the people and allow another section to go free. Why should some people be able to obtain relief from the Tariff charges because they are able to come to Melbourne and state their case, while other people who are not able to come to this city have to pay the duties?
– That is not happening now. You are objecting to my permitting 1,400 tons of sulphur to come into the country to be used in making superphosphate for the farmers.
– The . Minister knows that the happenings to which I refer occurred before he assumed office. I refer particularly to the unmitigated arrogance and brazen cheek of certain people who came to the Minister to urge that a duty should be placed on sulphur. Honorable members know that a deferred duty was imposed. It was brought into operation on 31st March of last year. I immediately saw Mr. Rodgers, who was the Minister at that time. There was a conference with the Broken Hill, Mount Lyell, and Electrolytic Zinc people. They were strongly in favour of the imposition of a duty on sulphur. A committee was appointed, and two reports on the matter were submitted to the Minister. The result was that the Minister insisted on a duty being imposed on sulphur. Let honorable members get these facts clearly in their minds. The conference was held in May. The committee made its report in June. In July, the Sulphide Corporation, one of the parties which would profit by a duty being placed on sulphur, wanted some sulphur for its works at Broken Hill. That company made representations to the Minister, and the duty was removed for one day only. In this way the Sulphide Corporation was enabled to obtain 500 tons free for its works at Broken Hill, while the farmer had to pay a duty of £2 10s. per ton on sulphur for the manufacture of superphosphates. I am not reflecting on the company which benefited, but on the administration of the Act.
– You are referring to the last Administration, and to last year’s work.
– I am referring to the powers which I desire to se© taken. away from, the Board. It is to Parliament that the Board should report, and the .evidence given to the Board Should be given in public. I do not wish it to be possible for any section of the public to be in a position to make representations on which the Minister may subsequently act; everything should be done in the open. If a good case is made out for increased duties, or the remission of duties, Parliament may be relied upon to agree to the changes suggested. There was. an application made that wire should be brought under the anti-dumping law. Prior to the Ruhr trouble, Australian wire was slightly under the English price, but when that trouble arose, and the price began to rise in England, the price here rose from £18 to £22 per ton. We were paying’ a bonus for the manufacture of wire in Australia, but . the Australian price went up with the English price, so that we obtained no advantage from the protection given to our manufacturers. The power to raise or impose duties may be applied to other commodities, and the mere fact that the duty is taken off one day is no guarantee that it will not be re-imposed the next. When the Tariff was under consideration, duties pf 10 per cent., British, and 20 per cent., general, were imposed on ingot copper, but very shortly afterwards that duty was removed, not from copper goods, but from ingot copper. Duties of 10 per cent, and 30 per cent, imposed on spelter were taken off in a similar way. Then honorable members will remember the fight there was over the item of rennet for the manufacture of cheese. It was clearly shown how impossible it was to obtain rennet of the necessary quality to build up a great export trade, but the then Minister insisted on a duty of 6s. to 8s., only to remove it shortly afterwards.
– Quite right.
– But we. in the first place, asked that there should be no duty imposed.
– Is there power under the Act to do what the honorable member has described?
– I say there is not.
– Does the honorable member say that I am breaking the law?
– It was done before the honorable gentleman became Minister.
– Then this is ancient history!
– It is history since the Board came into being, and I require a different Board, with different powers, and with the duty to report to. Parliament. Honorable members do not seem to realize the powers given by items 174 and 404 of the Tariff. These powers are quite an innovation ; under the old Tariff Acts, if a Minister desired to take a duty off, say machinery, he had to get the approval of Parliament. In order to give members an idea of how these powers are used, let me refer them to the Weekly Notice of 13th January. That is a most extraordinary notice, referring to a number of articles of machinery which the Minister claims to have the power to put on the free list. A remission of duties on electrical machinery operated on the 21st June, 1922, and ceased to operate on the 22nd of the same month. ‘ Some little time ago a person imported refrigerators for household use, and the consignment, although it could not be ‘-for the purposes of manufacture, was admitted free of duty, the articles being made free for one day only, to be made dutiable again the next.
– How long ago was that ? -Mr. GREGORY.- Just before the present Minister came into power. The duty on coal-working machines operated on the 29th June, but ceased to operate on the 30th.
– Why should they not be free if they cannot be made here ?
– Surely Parliament could “revise the Tariff yearly if necessary. I pointed out some time ago that Mr. Massy Greene, when Minister, allowed tram rails to come in free on the ground that they were machine appliances. The duty on traction engines was operating on the 21st of the month, and ceased to operate on the 22nd, and in the case of envelope-making machinery the duty was operating on the 9th November and ceased to operate on the 10th. I have here over twenty similar instances all in one week. The remission of ‘the duty on sulphur was made in July, but it was not until March of ‘ the ,next year that the fact was publicly notified. I would sooner that there were no Board at all than have a Board like ‘the present one. We Were able to administer the Customs three years ago without all this circumlocution. I do not say that the Board is’ exceeding its powers, which are exercised under the authority of this Parliament, but it is a bad thing to give such powers to any Board or Minister. The principle is a wrong one, and if we continue to act upon it, God knows where we shall end.
– I do not think it was ever anticipated that the Board would work in this way.
– It was not. I fought strenuously against the exercise of such powers, but the Tariff schedule under discussion had been so long, and there was such a poor attendance here,’ that no notice was taken of my protests. On the . 29th July, 1921, Mr. Massy Greene, as Minister, when the Tariff Board Bill was before us, said -
All the Board will be able to do is to investigate, to inform, and to recommend. It will be able to make , its investigations as thorough as possible, its information as comprehensive as possible, and its recommendations as wise as possible, but when these three things are done Parliament alone can fix the Tariff.
You, Mr. Speaker, then on the floor of the House, pointed out that the Minister could remit duties without Parliament being advised, and Mr. Massy Greene assured you that there was no intention to alter the existing procedure in the slightest degree. In other words Mr. Massy Greene was misleading the House. On the same occasion the present Honorary Minister (Mr. Atkinson), when Mr. Massy Greene was speaking, interjected -
The Minister cannot do anything until Parliament has sanctioned his action?
To this Mr. Massy Greene replied -
No; so far as those things are concerned in relation to which he must now obtain Parliamentary approval.
The Board has been of no use to Parliament, and, whatever its value may be to the manufacturers, it certainly has been of no use to the primary producers. It has done nothing to aid the development of the primary resources of the country. This Parliament has not been made acquainted with the work of the Board, except by means of a small report which appeared last year, but which gave no indication of the Board’s methods. Another report, not yet printed, contains very little of value. If there is one thing from which the country is suffering it is restraint of trade that enables profiteering to be carried on. There are combina tions here which do act in restraint of trade, and the Board, if it did its duty to householders and the community generally, would make a thorough investigation. I read in the newspapers three months ago, in connexion with the manufacture of tiles in Sydney, that a combination existed there, and that in consequence there was a sudden increase in price from £14 to £18 per ton. The press gave the full names of the firms, and explained how all orders had to go through the secretary of the combination.
– That had nothing to do with the Tariff.
– Most decidedly it had.
– That is a Combine within Australia.
– When there is a Combine in Australia of manufacturers of a particular article, who decide to keep their price right up to the price of a similar article imported from Great Britain, does the honorable member not see that we may be imposing duties which would have to be paid by Australian consumers of the article and would be justified in such circumstances in asking that those duties should be reduced ? I do not speak of things of which I have no knowledge. When the Tariff was under consideration, I read the terms of an agreement between the Broken Hill people and the Hardware Association, or the Metal Association, under which certain firms undertook to make all their purchases from the Broken Hill Company, under certain conditions. I do not know if the statement is true, but I am told that the same thing exists in connexion with wire. We are protecting manufacturers under the Tariff in order to secure the goods they manufacture at the cheapest possible price for the people of this country, and they should not be allowed to combine and take full advantage of all the protection given them under the Tariff and under the extraordinary Act known as the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which is really an Act to prevent any competition’ with an Australian industry. If we are to get good work from the Tariff Board it should be freed from the Department of Trade and Customs. We have at present a Controller of Customs, who has a deputy acting in his place, whilst he is also Chairman of the Tariff Board. When the Board was created it was said that the Chairman would give the whole of his time to its duties. Apparently, now he need not do so. I suppose that he will receive half the salary of Controller of Customs and the whole salary of the Chairman of the Tariff Board.
– There is no public officer in this country who more fully earns the salary paid him.
– I am not saying that he does not earn his salary, but 1 Believe that his sympathies are wholly and solely in one direction. I want a Tariff Board independent of the Trade and Customs Department. I want it to be in a position to send in reports in the way that the Inter-State Commission sent in its reports. I want a Board that will take evidence on oath. I desire that no person, because he is near the seat of Government, shall be given preference over other people. I do not say that this is done consciously, but honorable members will realize that a business man in Brisbane, Perth, or Adelaide has not the same opportunity to put his case before the Tariff Board as a business man in Melbourne.
– I sent the Tariff Board to the capitals of the other States to take evidence.
– The members of the Board may go to the other States and acquire a certain knowledge of industries carried on there. If an inquiry were to be held to decide whether we should increase or reduce the duties on agricultural implements, evidence on the subject should be taken on oath. I believe that the agricultural community should be able to obtain agricultural implements at the lowest possible price, because our agriculturists have to compete with the world. They are further from the markets of the world than their competitors in other countries. They have to pay higher freights, and compete with cheaper labour in other countries, and yet they are called upon to pay very much higher prices for agricultural machinery than those engaged in agriculture in other countries. . They have to pay from 60 to 100. per cent. more than is paid by primary producers in Canada. I understand that the manufacturers recently, fearing that some concessions would be made to the agricultural community, made certain representations to the Department. If honorable members will turn to the Year Booh, they will find that, in 1911, 1912, and 1913, we had a magnificent export trade in agricultural machinery. To-day it is nearly gone. From £120,000 to £150,000 annually, it has dropped down to £20,000.
– That is because the other fellow is looking after himself.
– If is because with such high prices ruling here we cannot compete with other countries, and cannot send our goods to the Argentine and toNew Zealand, as we should be able to do. Representations made to the Tariff Board should be made on oath, and in public, so that those who may be opposedto them may be in a position, if necessary, to refute them.
– These Free Traders are insufferable.
– The honorable member, whilst the Tariff was under discussion, did all he could to enable certain people here to become multi-millionaires. Why he should for ever be trying to increase the cost of living to poor unfortunates who are receiving small wages I am quite unable to understand. The workers of this country are beginning “to realize that high prices are injuring them, and they may demand, as workers in England have done, that the few pounds they earn shall go further than they do at the present time. I regret that the Minister for Trade and Customs has not shown the same consideration to honorable members as has been shown in connexion with other Bills brought before this Chamber. He has given us no reason why there should not be an adjournment of the debate. The report of the Tariff Board should have been in the hands of honorable members before this. The Act creating the Board was passed on the 15th December, eighteen or nineteen months ago, and we should have the report of the Board before us, particularly as it is asking for ah extended lease of life. This Bill was laid on the table only after the Minister concluded his speech on the second reading, and honorable members have had no opportunity to consider its contents or to find out what is the effect of the amendments it proposes in the principal Act.
.- I am much surprised at the action of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin
Chapman) in connexion with this Bill. We all respect and esteem him, and this is not what we would have expected from him. We did not think that he would rush the Bill through in the way he is trying to do this evening. The Orders of the Day yesterday contained no reference whatever to this Bill, and honorable members were led to believe that as soon as the motion in connexion with the erection of a provisional Parliament House at Canberra was concluded, the debate on the Agenda of the Imperial Conference would be resumed. That is a big subject, and has no doubt engaged the attention of a number of honorable members. Only this morning we discovered, when the notice-paper appeared, that the Tariff Board Bill was put in the place which it now occupies. The Minister knows that important engagements have occupied the time of honorable members all day, and that they desired an opportunity to consider this measure and see what it contained.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) came prepared to discuss it.
– The honorable member for Swan is familiar with the subject. Hehas been dealing with it for years, andis probably better prepared to deal with it than is any other member of the House. . Fortunately, (he was available to jump into the breach and take the floor on this occasion,” otherwise the Bill might have been rushed through without any discussion whatever. It is evident, from remarks which have fallen even from honorable members opposite, that they are a little surprised at what it contains.
– Why say “ even “ members on this side.
Mr.MANN. - Because honorable members opposite are in.f avour of the Bill.
– None of them have spoken yet upon it.
– The Leader of the Opposition has spoken.
– What did I say?
– The honorable gentleman used words which certainly indicated that he had no complaint against the Bill.’
– I said I knew of no reason for the appointment of another member to the Board.
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon; he certainly did say that, but apart from that he had no complaint to make against the Bill.
– The Board is intelligently carrying out its work.
– That shows how little honorable members understand the contents of this Bill. The report of the Tariff Board has not been printed. There is but one typewritten copy of it available for honorable members, and in the circumstances how are they to know the meaning of the Bill, and the importance of its bearing upon trade and industry? We should have been given an opportunity to study the measure. The Minister spoke on the second reading in a casual sort of way, and said, in effect, “ I do not think there will be any trouble about this, because every one is satisfied with the work of the Board.”
– It is one of those little Bills that contain a 1otof mischief.
– I do not know whether it is the Minister’s own bantling or is a foundling imposed upon him, but he has fathered it, and has suggested that it is a harmless little Bill that would not hurt a fly, in the hope, possibly, that honorable members would take it to their arms- and give it their blessing. Whether the Bill is eventually passed or not, I intend to make the strongest protest I can make against it. In speaking of the Bill and the Tariff Board, I want to reiterate what it should be unnecessary to emphasize, and that is that I am not making any personal attack upon the members of the Board. I know them, and have every respect forthem, and in referring to the Board and its operations I do not impute personal motives. Sometimes it is difficult to find a phrase which will not give that impression, but I want it- to be distinctly understood that that is not what I wish to convey. The Board was established two years ago by an Act which gave it a life of two years. According to ‘ the last section in the Act it was to exist for “ two years and no longer.” Why was thatprovision inserted? Because the Board is one of the most important bodies that can be associated with the administration of this country. It deals with £34,000,000 of the revenue of the Commonwealth. It can affectthe course of trade and industry throughout the Commonwealth. It is one of the most powerful, influential, and important Boards ever created. It was modelled after the American Board, which was created to meet the protests of the antiprohibitionists when the high Tariff was imposed in that country, The two Boards were created for a similar purpose - to investigate and give relief in cases of injustice or extreme harshness in the operation of the Tariff. I think I am correct in saying - I have been very hurried this evening, and have not been able to check my memory - that after the American Board had been in operation for a few years it was found impracticable and unworkable, and has now almost ceased to exist. The Board was created as an experiment to meet the protests levelled against the excessive Tariff. There is no doubt that behind the proposal for its establishment was the assurance that “ Even if these duties do seem excessive, even if they do appear to be likely to injure industries, here is a Board which will consider all cases upon their merits and will give relief where it is justified.”
– The Board cannot give relief.
– It can do so by recommendation to the Minister. The honorable member should not be too literal. That was the stated function of the Board, and, in order to find out how it would work, it was given only two years of life. I feel morally certain, although I was .not here when the Board was created, and have not had an opportunity of reading the debates fully, that the object of limiting the Board’s, life to two years was to give it a fair trial, and to prevent it being judged too hastily. It is an extreme step to provide in an Act that* a Board shall exist for “two years and no longer.” It was obviously intended that the whole of the work of the Board should, come up for revision at the end of that period.
– I find that the report of the Board was laid on the table of this House on the 5th July, and was ordered to be printed on the 10th July.
– That is so, but the Minister will perhaps note the circumstances in which it was ordered to be printed. The report was first referred to the Printing Committee, and a majority of the members of that Committee were not in favour of it being printed. It was only on the personal representations of certain honorable members that the Minister decided to print it. It is still in the proof stage, and has not been distributed to members.
– Am I to blame for the report not being available?
– I am not blaming the Minister. I am stating the facts. I am only blaming the Minister’ for not giving the House an opportunity to discuss this matter after the report is available. Undoubtedly the whole of the operations of the Board should come up for revision^ its work should be examined, its reports should be taken into consideration, and the effect of its operations upon trade and industry should be considered by this House.
– That is a sop to the Free Traders.
– Nonsense ! It is a sop to common sense. I admit that the creation of the Board was probably intended to convey to those of moderate views an assurance that excessive duties would not be levied. It was a concession to those who were not prepared, like some honorable members, to be ‘ ‘whole-hog “ Protectionists - a policy which, I think, will bring this country to ruin if it is persisted in. ‘I cannot see why the men of moderate views, who include in their ranks men of sense and wisdom, should be looked upon with contempt, or why their interests should be disregarded. The Board was intended to “be a safetyvalve, to protect the public against the excessive application of Protective duties. It has ceased to be that, and now the Minister has introduced what is called a “harmless, inoffensive- little Bill.” Clause 9 of the Bill says -
Section 37 of the principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the word “ two,” and inserting in its stead the word “ seven.”
Who on earth could object to a harmless little thing like that ? Honorable members have perhaps not had time to compare the Bill with the principal Act. What does the clause mean? It means that the Board, which was appointed experimentally for two years, shall have its term extended to seven years. This is the little, harmless, innocent Bill which the Minister thinks there should be no difficulty in passing, because, in his view, every one is satisfied with the operations of the Board ! The Bill has been introduced in a most unfair way. I do not say that the Minister- is intentionally acting unfairly, but I believe the Government has not given honorable members a fair chance to understand fully the purpose of the Bill. The Board has become far more powerful that it was originally intended- to be. Its functions are set out in section 15 of the principal Act, which says–
The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters : -
The matters which may be referred to the Board are set out in detail. They include -
The classification of goods.
The determination of the value of goods for duty.
Any dispute arising out of the interpretation of any Customs Tariff or Excise Tariff.
The necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties.
The necessity for bounties.
The effect of existing bounties.
Any proposal for the application of the British preferential Tariff or the intermediate Tariff.
Any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded by the Tariff.
The same section also provides that -
The Minister may refer to the Board for their inquiry and report the following matters:-
The general effect of the working of the Customs Tariff and the Excise Tariff in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth ;
the fiscal and industrial effects of the Customs laws of the Commonwealth; ‘
the incidence between the rates of duty on raw . materials and on finished or partly-finished products; and
any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the Tariff.
The following section states that -
Upon receipt of a report from the Board in pursuance of the last-preceding section, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, take action according to lawin respect of any of the matters dealt with by the Board in its report.
I suppose that means the Minister can bring certain regulations into operation and report to the House with a view to having duties altered. It is obvious that the Board is required to report more particularly to the Minister.
-Duties are altered without reference to this House.
– Such action is taken ostensibly in the name of the Minister. When the Board intends to do something, it cannot issue an official decision until it has obtained the Minister’s signature. There is no doubt that all questions are decided virtually by the Board. Apparently, the Board was supposed to exercise a balanced judgment, and to determine whether duties should be removed or imposed. Its members were not to be Protectionists or Free Traders, or to represent any particular fiscal opinion. They were to hold the balance evenly between contending interests and different views. It is not unfair to say that, on the whole, the functions of the Board have been exercised more in the direction of maintaining or increasing Protection than otherwise. They have become practically the executors of the Protective policy of the Commonwealth.
– Protection is the policy of Australia to-day.
– Is it? I doubt it. I do not agree with that statement. If I were to ask the honorable member if the policy of this country were prohibition, I wonder what he would say.
– I should at once say “ No.”
– The honorable member for East Sydney ‘ (Mr. West) has no right now to say anything.
– I heard the word “ No,” and I also heard an interjection earlier in the debate to the effect that far too much revenue is being gathered through the Customs Department. It has been stated over and over again by members of the Opposition that unless the Customs Tariff is high enough to prevent goods coming into this country, it is not protective. I, therefore, -say that what the honorable member calls “protection,” but what he disowns under the name of “ prohibition,” is truly prohibition, or, at least, is tending that -way. I should like to know how this country would have fared during the past twelve months without its Customs revenue. The principle which is now operating in these matters is not only Protection,’ but also prohibition. Members of the Tariff Board are the executors, not only of the Tariff, but of the protective policy.’ I do not blame them. They evidently think they are doing their duty.
One of them is an officer of the Customs Department, and I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that it was not fair to that officer or the Commonwealth to make him a member of a Board which adjudicates upon the decisions and operations of his department. The Bill proposes to increase the number of the member’s of the Board to four. It is suggested, although not provided for in the Bill, that one shall represent the primary producers. The three members of the present Board will presumably remain, and the Chairman will have a deliberative as well as a casting vote. He will have two votes, as against one possessed by each of the other members. His influence as head of the Department and Chairman of the Board will be preponderating. Constituted in such a way, the Board will not have the judicial and investigatory character that it ought to have. I do not wish to reflect on members of the Board personally, but I want to point out some of the directions in which they have exceeded their functions. They have been encouraged to do it. I have had time only to skim rapidly through their report, from which I shall extract some paragraphs. The first is -
When visiting Western Australia last October, the Tariff Board -took active steps to assist the wheat-growers in that State. Upon representations from the Primary Producers Association, the chairman, on behalf of the Board, wired to the Prime Minister a full statement of the requests made by the Wheat-growers, and urged the withdrawal of some of the conditions imposed by the Commonwealth Bank in connexion with the advance to be made on the wheat to be harvested during the then approaching season.
I do not say that the removal of these restrictions may not be a very excellent policy, but how can it possibly be regarded as the proper business of the Chairman of the Tariff Board? Here is another paragraph -
This impressed the Board with the necessity of making every possible effort to provide for markets overseas. No opportunity has been lost in the effort to try to influence distinguished visitors, commercial - and industrial leaders, and journalists from’ Great Britain with the necessity of the United Kingdom granting greater -preference to the products of the irrigation and other settlements. The Board has much pleasure in stating that these efforts have met with unvarying success, and visitors have acknowledged the justice of the request, and have undertaken, on their return to England, to do all they possibly can to assist the claims which are being put forward by the Commonwealth Government for further preference.
I submit that that is no part of the business of the Board. It is intrusted with the duty of inquiring into Tariff matters and reporting thereon for the guidance of the Minister and the House. It has no right to engage in political propaganda regarding preferential trade. The members of the Board are not entitled to press any particular policy upon the Mother Country or the Commonwealth. In attempting to do that they are exceeding their functions. On page 5 of the report the Board said -
During the visits to the States advantage has - been taken by the Board to inspect as many factories as possible. In this way opportunities have presented themselves to members to assist manufacturers with advice and information concerning the Tariff. Frequently the Board has been able to advise manufacturers where they can obtain their raw material in Australia. Many applications are received for permission to import certain classes of machinery, but the Board, through visits and in other ways, have such an extended knowledge of every class of machinery locally produced that they are able to refer the applicant to where he can obtain machinery in Australia.
In other words, the members of the Tariff Board are becoming commercial travellers for manufacturing firms in this country. That is most improper. How shall we get proper competition, and stimulate business acumen and enterprise, if a Government Board is to become the advertising agent for local manufacturers? Such procedure is monstrous. I have personal knowledge of such happenings. A manufacturer in Perth wanted a small finishing article, which was essential to the perfection of his product. A German had been making that article for very many years, and his product was recognised to be the best in the world. The Western Australian manufacturer tried to get in Australia what he wanted. Samples were obtained from every manufacturer in the Commonwealth, but in each he discovered a defect. He sent to the Tariff Board samples of the locallyproduced goods, pointed out their defects, and said that he wanted to import some of the German goods, because they alone would give him satisfaction. After two or three months of inquiry the Tariff Board replied to him that permission to import could not be granted, because soandso in Sydney was producing these goods. He promptly communicated with the firm in Sydney, and received this reply: - “We very much regret that owing to the multiplicity of orders we cannot’ accept your commission.” He communicated that fact to the Board, and again sought permission to import. After another six weeks or two months the Board decided that the anti-dumping duty could not be waived in respect of the goods from Germany, because a certain firm in Melbourne was making a similar article. . What happened after that I do not know. But those negotiations had occupied four or five months during which the Western Australian applicant could not get the goods he required; meanwhile his manufacturing was held up because the Board had constituted itself a commercial agent operating to direct trade into certain channels. Even if the article he required was being produced in Australia, it is quite possible that it would cost more to get it to Western Australia from the Eastern States than it would to import it from Europe. The article in question was only a subsidiary item in manufacture, but because of the attitude of the Board this man’s production was hampered. In another paragraph the Board said -
In its effort to assist local industry the Board has departed from the usual method, but it is claimed the result fully justifies the action taken.
The Board seems to arrogate to itself extraordinary powers-
On several occasions, at the request of local manufacturers, the Board has deputed the Chairman to go to different States to assist in obtaining orders for Australian engineering . shops, and thus avoid serious unemployment and the standing idle of valuable machinery. On one such occasion the efforts resulted in a large engineering shop obtaining an order which meant work for hundreds of men for a considerable period.
Good work undoubtedly, but not work, that comes within the functions of the Chairman of the Tariff Board.
– This is what happens: Somebody asks that certain goods be admitted free, because they cannot be manufactured in Australia. The Board knows that the goods can be manufactured by half-a-dozen different firms, and writes back to the applicant, giving him the names of local manufacturers who can supply his requirements.
– I have already given an illustration of how that policy works out in practice, and how the Board was for months “ chivvying “ round to find somebody in Australia who could produce the article that was required. It was a standard line, and it should have been the business of any manufacturer producing it to discover possible customers and let them know that he could supply their requirements. It was no part of the Board’s duty to canvass orders for him. On page 7 of the report appears this paragraph -
Some years ago, investigation by the Department disclosed ,the urgent necessity for a definite policy in regard to the application of the powers conferred on the Minister by Tariff item 174. A recommendation wak then mads to the Minister, and subsequently approved by Cabinet, that exemption of ‘duty was to be granted under Tariff item 174 of machines and appliances in those cases where conclusive evidence was produced and verified by departmental investigations showing the machines or appliances could riot be commercially manufactured in Australia.
The Board suggested a policy to the Minister, and Cabinet confirmed it ! What of this Parliament? Should not this House be the judge of policy ? It seems to me that we are in the extraordinary position that the Board is superior to Parliament. That is utterly wrong. The Board says -
The greatest care has to> be taken that freedom of entry is not given to any minor article or raw material that can be commercially produced in Australia.
It may not be produced, but if in the opinion of the Board it can be produced, imports can be blocked.
– Evidence has to be adduced that the article is being commercially produced in Australia.
– A section of the Industries Preservation Act provides, in effect, that only when detriment to an established . industry has been shown can the provisions of the Act be brought into operation. Who is to prove detriment to the industry? Is there any complaint from the manufacturer? Often, no. In many cases, when the article has arrived from abroad, the Board forms the opinion that it will be detrimental to a local industry even though there has been no complaint from the manufacturer, and thereupon, without further proof of detriment, the dumping duty is imposed.
– The honorable member contends that the imposition of that, duty is the function of Parliament. In the event of goods being dumped from countries with a depreciated exchange, and our own workmen being consequently thrown out of employment, what procedure would the honorable member adopt while Parliament is closed down during the next eight months?
– The honorable member makes two assumptions, and I do not know that either is justified. What he calls “ dumping “ I might not so regard. It appears that the word “ dumping “ is to be given a very wide application.
– Dumping is supposed to be the selling of goods at less than the selling price in the country of origin.
– That is the generally accepted definition, but recently imported steel bars were regarded as dumped because they could be sold’ at less than the fair market price in this country. Is anything which is sold at a price lower than that of the locally-produced article to be regarded as dumped?
– What shall we do with immigrants if we allow free importation from other countries with resultant unemployment of our own people?
– The honorable member is trying to draw me into a general argument on the merits of Free Trade versus Protection. I have been endeavouring to show why this Bill should not be agreed to m its present form. It is intended to perpetuate an objectionable institution which is acting in a manner different from the intention of the Legislature at the time when the Act was passed. What I have read shows the danger of another amendment proposed in this Bill. It is an innocent, harmless looking little thing. It is proposed to amend section 15 by omitting the words, “in relation to the Tariff “ which appear in paragraph d of sub-section 2. That sub-section reads -
The Minister may refer to the Board for their inquiry and report the following matters : -
Paragraph d reads - .
Any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary, industries in relation to the Tariff.
If those last five words are struck out, we shall give to the Tariff Board, in my opinion, the general management and direction of all the primary and secondary industries in the Commonwealth. That is a monstrous proposal. This is an innocent, baby-like little Bill!
– I think it has its teeth by this time.
– It has its eyes open.
– I hope the Minister has his eyes open by now, and that he sees the danger of the Bill. If so, he will consent to its withdrawal. I am sure the Minister did not realize, when he introduced the measure, how far-reaching it was. The debate is necessary to point out the true position. There is plenty of work within the proper scope of the Tariff Board to keep it fully occupied. We should not send it out over the length and breadth df Australia to deal with any matter that concerns the establishment of primary or secondary industries. We have our Board of Trade, and Commercial and Industrial Bureau. Does the Minister desire the Tariff Board to supersede these ?
– This Board only recommends.
– That is what the others do. Shall we approve of a policy of duplication? I begin to wonder what we are coming to.
– The words “ in relation to the Tariff “, that you complain of, limit the operations of the Board.
– That is so. The proposition in the Bill is that we shall remove the limitation. I do’ not agree with that. I object,, also, to the manner in which this Board makes its inquiries. Frequently in this House we have asked for information on certain matters into which the Board has inquired. We have been told that the information was confidential, and could not be disclosed. Such information should not be confidential. If manufacturers or institutions ask Parliament for special protection and assistance, they should be prepared to put all their cards on the table and give evidence openly in support of their requests. Nobody should expect to receive assistance through private and secret representations. When the Tariff Commission sat in 1906, the evidence was taken in the open. The Board which deals with these matters in Canada hears everything with open doors. If a Canadian manufacturer requires’ protection or assistance, he has to place on the table all his costs to the last penny before he can expect to receive help. That system should obtain here.
– We should soon reach a pretty state of affairs if we followed that practice.
– I contend that it should be done. I wish to refer briefly to the vexatious and trying delays that occur before decisions by the Board can be obtained. I do not necessarily blame the Board, because I know its members are very busy men. The problems with which they have to . deal are complex and voluminous.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that. It is for that reason that I want an extra member appointed to the Board.
– The appointment of another member will not expedite decisions. They sit together, and it will mean that four members instead of three will have to deal with matters, and that will prolong the discussion. I have several instances of vexatious delay to add to those cited by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I have selected them at random. A matter was placed before the Tariff Board in October, 1922. In May of the following year I agreed, in response, to requests made to me, to make representations to the Board. I did so. No reply has been received yet, and the matter has not been finalized. It involved a question of great importance to the mining industry of Australia.
– Could it reasonably be expected to take all that time?
– I think not. The delay was the more vexatious because it concerned manufacturers here who were anxious to make large and expensive extensions to their business. They had sent a special representative to London in connexion with the proposed extensions, and the time at their disposal was more or less limited. They were specially desirous to obtain a decision while their representative was in London, so that he could complete arrangements for the extensions of the business. The only reply that has been received to the request for a decision on the matter has been, “ Inquiries are being made, and you will get a reply in due course.” The plain fact is that the Board has too much to do. It cannot cope with the work that is expected of it. In another case of a very simple nature which was put before the
Board it took three months to obtain a decision. Still another case of which I know took five months to settle, and, as far as I am aware, no inquiries that could have been made in Australia or elsewhere could have helped the . position. It was a matter that should have been settled at the moment, according to one’s own judgment. It is necessary that the House should be made aware of the way in which business is being hindered. I shall cite some instances of the excessive duty that has, to be paid on certain articles. These, also, I have selected at random. One firm imported an article worth £33 and had to pay £68 18s. 8d. in duty.
– Did that article come from Germany?
– I do not know where it came from. It may have been German. I know of another case similar to the one quoted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
– Did the articles come from Germany in this case also?
– I believe so: but I can prove conclusively that they did not compete with anything made in this country or in Great Britain. Articles of the same kind were being sold cheaply in Australia, and the ordinary man was benefiting. Nearly every man uses one of them. The value of the importation in this case was £77 14s. 2d., and the duty imposed was £555 16s., or over 800 per cent.
– What were these goods ?
– Safety razors.
– Are safety razors not made in Great Britain ?
– This was a special type of razor. I contend the duty was altogether too high. Unreasonable things of this kind are going on at present. It should be. necessary to provedetriment to an Australian industry before such actions are permitted. It is not good enough simply to assume that an industry may be detrimentally affected. The case should be proved. It by no means follows that because a certain article is manufactured in Brisbane the importation of a similar article to Perth would be detrimental to the Brisbane industry. There may be no market whatever in
Perth for the Brisbane article. This Board, apparently, is to deal with trade and commerce. For what is our Department of Trade and Commerce? What is “ trade “ and what is “ commerce “ ? Surely these terms mean the interchange of goods.
– It is very difficult to connect the honorable member’s remarks with either the motion or the amendment.
– I understand that the object of this Board is to promote trade, but instead of doing that it is stopping trade. I shall endeavour to connect my remarks with the matter before the House. The objectionable practices to which I refer are interfering with trade and commerce.
– Notwithstanding that, the honorable member should not make this a general Tariff debate.
– I did not intend to do that, and I apologize if I have done so. I object to the continuation of the objectionable restraints on trade, for which I believe this Board is responsible. I consider the Board is preventing the interchange of goods, which is the essence of trade. I understood the Minister to say that one of the objects of the Bill was to appoint a representative of the primary producers on the Board. He did not specifically say that. I would like to know if that is his intention.
– I did not say that.
– It has been announced somewhere that that is the intention of the Government. I would like a direction from you, Mr. Speaker, on whether I am entitled to assume that to be the intention of the Bill?
– The honorable member may assume it if he wishes.
– Then I shall assume it; though I do not wish to be considered to be presuming. The amendment makes specific mention of the necessity for giving representation on the Tariff Board to. primary producers, and in order to show that this necessity exists I shall refer to a . case which has recently attracted a great deal of attention. It has already been referred to by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). On the 1st May last representatives of the farming community waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs and asked for a reduction of the duties on agricultural machinery. On the 20th June the, agricultural machinery manufacturers had a counter deputation to the Minister, and their case as submitted to him has since appeared in the Australian Industrial and Mining Standard, under the headings, “ Australian Agricultural Implement Industry- Vigorous Repudiation of Misstatements - Its National Importance Amply Demonstrated.” Their case contains a number of important statements in regard to the effect of the Tariff upon agricultural implements and the agricultural industry of Australia. The other day I put some questions to the Minister in this connexion, and he informed me that the whole matter had been referred to the Tariff Board for report. But in my opinion, the Board have been far too long in coming to a decision in regard to it.
– Do the Board get all the information they require from the people with whose case they are dealing?
– That is what I want to know. Ever since I saw the report of the deputation I have been busily collecting information from every possible source. I find that there is not one important statement in the case as presented by the agricultural machinery manufacturers which cannot be absolutely contradicted.
– It is an easy matter to contradict a statement.
– But I can furnish proof.. The statements made in the manufacturer’s case with regard to the relative prices of machinery in Australia and Canada are not correct.
– Why does not the honorable member submit that information to the Board?
– They have not asked me to supply it.
– I shall see that they ask the honorable member to do so. He can then prove his statements.
– The Board can obtain the information if they like; but up to two days ago they had not been anywhere near a very proper source of information.
– That is merely an assertion. I presume that before comingto a decision the Board procure all information they deem necessary.
– The honorable member may presume what he likes; but I want to know what is being done. Therefore, I claim that there should be open inquiries into these matters. Are we to be left to draw our own conclusions without knowing the evidence tendered to the Board?
– The honorable member has left us to draw our own conclusions. He has made a statement that is simply a contradiction of what some one else has said.
– I can supply the figures to prove my statement.
– The honorable member’s statement is contrary to my experience. I know that the Tariff Board take a lot of evidence.
– I did not say they do not take evidence. I said that we do not know where they get it, and that a most important source available to them, one that no Board dealing with this matter should fail to tap, had not been approached by them up to two days ago.
– The Board may not place as much importance upon that source as the honorable memberdoes.
– Of course, that is simply a matter of opinion, but one who wished to ascertain the prices of machinery would naturally go to the people who sell it. My figures are capable of proof. In some cases I can produce price lists, and in others I can refer honorable members to my source of information.
– Information can . also be obtained from persons who have bought goods from the vendors.
– There are proper means of making comparisons. After I made my first speech in this House, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) said, in the polite language that he always uses, that I did not know what I was talking about, because the price of agricultural machinery in New Zealand entirely “blew me out.” From that moment I made it my duty to ascertain the prices of agricultural machinery in New Zealand, and I am now prepared to show honorable members that the prices there are lower than they are in Australia.
– The honorable member is making a comparison to suit his own case.
– I am prepared to show my figures to the honorable member.
– Why not give, them to the House?
– Because I have been warned by Mr. Speaker not to make this a Tariff debate, and because I do not wish to weary honorable members. It would take me half-an-hour to go through these figures. However, I shall quote a few facts.
– What is the price of harvesters here and in New Zealand?
– I have a very important comparison between Australian manufactured machinery and Canadian manufactured machinery.
– I asked for a comparison between Australian and New Zealand prices.
– I shall not have time to make a comparison between the price of agricultural machinery in the Commonwealth and the price at which it is purchased in New Zealand, but I have the figures with me. The Canadian comparison is the more important. It deals with a larger number of articles. The conditions in New Zealand are not strictly comparable with those in Australia. The methods of agriculture there are not the same as those practised here, and the number of machines in use in New Zealand is smaller than the number in use in Australia. A better comparison oan be made between the prices of machines supplied by the Australian manufacturer to the Australian farmer, and the prices of similar machines supplied by the Canadian manufacturer to the Canadian farmer. It is a fair comparison, because the prices of the raw material are practically the same in both cases.
– What about the wages paid?
– The wages paid . in . Canada are higher than those which are paid in Australia.
– Nearly every Australian farmer will say that the Australianmade article is worth two of the Canadian.
– In certain classes only. I am perfectly willing to take up that challenge, but in the little time at my disposal I want to quote the figures on the basis of comparisons I have made. With wheat at 4s. a bushel, for a grain and fertilizer drill the Australian farmer is paying to the Australian manufacturer 141 bushels of wheat more than the Canadian farmer is paying ; for a binder, 140 bushels more; for a mower, 79 bushels more; for a rake, 45 bushels more; for a cultivator, 82 bushels more; for a plough, 46 bushels more; and for his little harrow, 11 bushels more. 1 was asked about the wages, and I think it is fair to state that the Canadian manufacturer is at a decided disadvantage in comparison with McKay, at Sunshine. This is indicated in a table taken from an official publication of the Canadian Government. The actual wages paid in the factory of Massey-Harris are higher than the Victorian Wages Board Determination for agricultural implement workers as applying on the 16th June, 1923.
– I can understand references to this matter, but the honorable member’s remarks have no direct relationship either to the motion or to the amendment.
– I shall content myself by saying that wages are higher in Canada, which fact has a very important bearing on the prices charged for agricultural machinery, and that the Tariff Board should have been able to get all this information and come to a decision upon it just as I have done. I want once more to emphasize my opinion that Parliament is wrong in applying to this Bill a principle which, so far as I know, does not apply in other cases. The Act gave the Board a life of two years. Possibly it was only right that the Board should be given a fair trial, but now that it has had that fair trial, whether it has proved effective or not, it is proposed to renew its life for another seven years, and thus make its position unassailable during that period. Why should the Board be put in such a position that it would be independent of what might be the changed opinion of Parliament at any time during that seven years? I hope that I have said sufficient to show that there is solid ground for my objection to thisBill, and that there are very many issues connected with the functions vested in this Board that justify us in seriously considering whether it should be continued under conditions which, while they may look all right, are really dangerous in their effect.
.- No honorable member can have listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) without realizing that they were directed not only against the proposal for an additional member of the Board, but also against the actions of the Board itself. When the Board was appointed during the last Parliament, we allunderstood that its duty was to study Australian industries - primary and otherwise - with a view to seeing justice done all round.
– We hoped so!
– And because cases which are of personal interest to the honorable member himself are not settled in his favour, he denounces the Board, while calling the members of it honest gentlemen. I do not intend to follow the example of the honorable member for Perth and enter into a Tariff debate, but I may say that it has been clearly shown, not once, but dozens of times, that, notwithstanding the duties on agricultural ma chinery, the Australian machinery is not only better, but much cheaper, than that sold in New Zealand, where no duties are imposed. The honorable member for Swan referred to the duty on wire and wire fencing. I was opposed to the removal of the duty on this commodity and the granting of a bonus, because I regarded that arrangement as a sop to the country members of the House.
– I wish the honorable member had to go out and develop new country !
– I suppose that I, as well as the honorable member; have done some developmental work. Now that the dutyon wire has been removed, we find the honorable member - that erstwhile ardent Free Trader ; honestly, I believe, and at all times and at all costs - complaining of what he deems to have been a mistake by the Board. When this duty was under discussion it was alleged that Australia could not produce enough wire by means of Australian labour and machinery to meet Australian requirements. May I say that in my electorate at the present moment the works, since their re-opening, are drawing 185 miles, and in a few weeks will be drawing 250 miles of fencing wire per day ? At the same time the production of wire netting is increasing in proportion. As I have said, the Tariff Board was appointed to study the conditions of Australian industries, both primary and secondary, and despite all said to-night, they have performed that duty fairly.
– Tell us why Ryan has increased the price of fencing wire in the last twelve months.
– I have no information on the point, but without evidence from a proper source I cannot believe that the price has been increased during the last twelve months. I do know, however, that the prices of Australian agricultural machinery have been reduced during the last two or three years.
– During last year.
– And also the year before, as I happened to know, having been connected with the purchase of one or two machines. My objection to this Bill is taken from quite a different standpoint from that of the two speakers to whom I have referred. On this side of the House we are half afraid that the fourth member of the Board is to be appointed for the purpose of still further lowering duties. We on this side are Australian enough to believe that we can make anything in this country if given the chance, and that we ought to make use of Australian manufactures in preference to manufactures from Germany or anywhere else.
– No matter what they cost?
– This Government was returned to power on a policy of Protection, and honorable members who support the Government ought to support that policy. As I say, my only fear is that the fourth member of the Board is to be appointed, not for the purpose of preserving Australian industries, but with a view to still further increasing the revenue through the Customs. Honorable members opposite may say that we on this side are prohibitionists. If we are, why is it that there has been such a great increase in the Customs revenue during the last year or two? The factsuggests that the Tariff Board, whose recommendations must be approved by the Minister, has not directed its efforts to the furthering of the Protectionist policy; and it is clear that there are honorable members whose desire, apparently, is to upset the settled policy of the coun try. The honorable member for Swan instanced several cases in which the Board had done nothing in the way of reducing duties. What did the Board do in the case of sulphur? Although sulphur is produced in Australia by processes which help the mining industry, the duty on it was removed in order to help the farming community. We do not complain of the farmers being helped, but we do object to the Tariff Board being interfered with in the exercise of its judgment.
– Then we have to be silenced ?
– I do not say anything of the kind. I agree with the honorable member that the reports of the Board should be submitted to Parliament; and the fact that they have- not been placed before us is the fault of the Minister and the Department. We should know from the Minister and through the reports submitted to him what is happening. But that is a very different thing from having the Tariff Board giving interviews to the importers of this country, taking evidence in public, and giving some indication of an . intention to remit duties.
– I asked that the report of the Board should be made available to members.
– The honorable member did not make the suggestion I have mentioned, but the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) did so. What would be thought of a Minister for Trade and Customs who, three months before he tabled a Tariff in this House, made public throughout the country the duties he intended to propose? If that were done, the country would be robbed of millions of revenue by goods Being taken out of bond beforehand. Those who talk of publicity in connexion with the imposition or reduction of Tariff duties only show their inexperience. The report of thp Tariff Board is sent to the Minister. He has to approve of it, and he is here to be criticised for any action he takes upon it. The feeling of honorable members on this side is that there is no necessity for the appointment of another member of the Board, and we fear that an extra member is proposed for one particular purpose.
.- I intend, to speak very briefly on this Bill. In 1921, after long debate and consideration, this House passed a Tariff. Follow- ing that, it passed the Australian Industries Preservation Bill. Neither of these measures was passed with my consent. Later on, after a very promising speech from the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene), a Tariff Board was appointed. This House was given to understand that the Board would oversee the operation of the Tariff, and take into consideration any errors which Parliament might have made in framing it. The Board was* to impartially” consider every matter and see that the operation of the Tariff did not crush any industry in the Commonwealth, whether primary or secondary. ,1 cannot understand why the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and some other honorable members should have such a fear that one member of the Board may represent the primary producers of Australia, in view of the fact that honorable members on both sides admit that this is essentially a primary producing country, and that 76 per cent, of the wealth upon which we all live comes from the primary industries. The primary producers of Australia are in open competition with the people of all other nationalities in the world, and must sell the fruits of their -industry in the open, Free Trade markets of the world. The sources from which we derive our wealth for the benefit of the manufacturers and the constituents of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) are the primary industries. Were it not for the high prices that have prevailed during the last few years for wool and wheat our credit would not be as good as it is to-day. I understood when the Tariff Board was appointed that it would receive informa- tion and evidence of the effect of the Tariff. The representatives of the secondary industries are right at the back door of the Tariff Board’s office. Almost any time we go there we find some of them waiting to interview the Board. The “ cockies “ of Australia are too busy to come in deputations to the Tariff Board, but the manufacturers of this country have their representatives on the spot. Even if the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) does intend to put a representative of the primary producers on the Tariff Board, what crime is there in that? How can the members of the Opposition object to such a proposal, in view of their professed desire for a representative of the primary producers on the Shipping Board? The primary producers require to have a representative on the Tariff Board to explain the disabilities under which, they labour, and the burden which the Tariff places upon primary production. The Bill proposes that the number of members of the Board shall be increased by one. I agree with that. There are other matters contained in the measure which can be discussed in Committee. I am satisfied that, in view of the case which can be made out on behalf of the primary producers for representation on the Tariff Board, the. Government will do what is just and fair. I cannot believe that they will refuse to do what is just in the interests of the people who pay the bulk of the fixed taxation. It is not a fair deal if those who have to buy goods are not given an equal say with those who manufacture them. Honorable members know my views of the Tariff and of the Antidumping Act.
– What are they?
– I think we would be infinitely better without an’ Antidumping Act. Even the Tariff Board that is so highly spoken of by honorable members opposite, and by some honorable members on this side, has admitted’ that another pet Act of the Opposition is retarding the best interests of the country from a fiscal point of view. That is only one instance of the so-called advanced legislation of Australia. Unless they are in a position to defend their interests, the men on the land must be crushed out. They are in competition with black labour in other countries, and have to face competition just as much as the men engaged in the secondary industries. I think there should be an additional member appointed to the Tariff Board, and I will leave it to the good sense of the Government to say whether he should not be one in a position to carry out what Mr. Massy Greene told this House was the object of the Tariff Board, and that was to view the whole operation of the Tariff and advise the Minister for Trade and Customs how to give a fair deal to all the industries of Australia. I should like an explanation from the Minister as to the reason for the deletion from section 15 of the Act of the words “ in relation to the Tariff,” because there must be some limitation.
.- Although the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) appeared to have a dagger in his hand, and to have been inspired with a desire to stab the Government to the heart, the smiling face of the Minister (Mr. Chapman) assures me that the Government have nothing to fear. The honorable member having achieved his purpose, will forthwith seek to withdraw the amendment. I can assure him that members on this side of the House are heartily with him. We feel that, with the unified support of the Country party, we ought to be able to destroy this Government utterly. But what is the position of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) ? He is Assistant Government Whip. He draws emoluments from the Government. He is one of their supporters. Wo may be sure, therefore, that having waved the flag of defiance, he will go round surreptitiously and ask honorable members not to vote for the amendment.
– Did I say that?
– No-, but we all know that this is an occasion for tactics, and that when we get an explanation from the Minister, the honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan will be satisfied for the time being. The Minister will rise in his place, offer his explanation, and the honorable member for Swan will ask for leave to withdraw his amendment, because, if he persists, the honorable member for Forrest, who is a supporter of the Government, will be in a serious dilemma. But other honorable members in this House have certain rights. Amongst those rights is the right to object to the withdrawal of any amendment ; and 1 1 can assure the honorable member for Swan that we shall not allow him to withdraw his amendment on this occasion.
– The honorable member should wait until I ask for its withdrawal. I intend to call for a division.
– Then, in the pursuance of our deadly purpose to destroy the Government, it will he our duty to vote with the honorable member. Consider, then, the parlous position of the Assistant Whip ! He will either have to vote against the Government and lose his emoluments, or oppose the amendment. He will have to choose between the sacrifice of his emoluments and the sacrifice of his principles.
– Why not debate the Bill?
– I cannot better discuss the merits of this Bill than by considering the amendment. It will be my duty, as a member on this side of the House, to support the honorable member for Swan. We shall compel the Assistant Whip to vote against the Government. If the amendment is carried, it will be “Goodbye, Whip,” and “ Good-bye, Government.” The honorable member for Forrest contends that there ought to be a representative of the primary producers on the Board. As I am anxious that the primary producers shall be so; represented, I intend to vote for the amendment. Their interests should be safeguarded. The honorable member for Forrest says it is vital that they should have this representative. But what was his attitude towards the proposal to give them representation on the Shipping Board, which will control the transport of their commodities to Europe ? When it came to the acid test, he voted for the Government and against his principles.
– There is no analogy between the two sets of circumstances.
– Of course there is not ! I never yet knew honorable members opposite to confess that there was any analogy when the argument was against them. It is a sound fundamental principle, however, that the primary producers should have representation on that Board. -The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has insisted on many occasions that unfair charges were being levied upon them, but when it came to the vote he and other members of the Country party cast aside their principles. Their . attitude is only so much pretence. On this occasion they will vote against the honorable member for Swan, and for the Government. My opinions on this subject are as clearly defined as were the views of the Prime Minister when he made his statement yesterday concerning the forthcoming Imperial and Economic Conferences. The honorable member for Swan has given us the benefit of his opinion. I can now only’ say, in the words of the Prime Minister, “ Gentlemen, I shall be pleased to hear your opinions. As for my own, I keep them to myself.”
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted’ stand part of the question (Mr. Gregory’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
In division -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
For the convenience of honorable members, I wish to let them know that tomorrow I propose to move that the House, at its rising, shall adjourn until Monday next. This will give them an -opportunity to make the arrangements necessary to enable them to attend on that day instead of Tuesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230726_reps_9_104/>.