9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways when it is contemplated to introduce the amending War Service Homes Bill to which he has publicly referred?
– The Bill, will be’ introduced in due course.
Sib NEVILLE HOWSE, M.H.R.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) on the ground of urgent public business.
The following paper was presented: - .
S.s. Sumatra - Report ofRoyal Commission appointed to inquire into loss of. -
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that he intends this morning to more the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The unsatisfactory treatment meted out to the sugar industry by the Commonwealth Government, and the advisability, even at this late hour, to grant the sugargrowers £27 per ton net for raw sugar, and an embargo for five years on blackgrown sugar, instead of two years as already arranged.”
On receiving this intimation, it became my duty to decide whether the course proposed to be taken would be in order. The parliamentary practice on the subject is stated on page 241 of the Tenth Edition of May, and I shall read, for the information, of the honorable member and the House, the passage which is applicable to this motion. May says -
The Speaker is bound to apply to these motions the established rules of debate, and to enforce the principle that subjects excluded by those rules cannot be brought forward thereon ; such as a matter under adjudication by a Court of law, or matters already discussed during the current session, whether upon a previous motionfor adjournment, upona substantive motion,upon an amendment, or upon an order of the day.
Honorable members will perhaps recollect that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) moved the adjournment of the House on Thursday, 5th July, after giving notice of his intention to doso, in terms substantially to the same effect as that of those contained in the notice of the honorable member for Capricornia. That notice is recorded in the Votes and Proceedings of the House for that day. In the circumstances, I feel obliged to rule that the notice of motion submitted by the honorable member for Capricornia cannot be accepted by the Chair, as its discussion is precluded by the practice of Parliamentas laid down in May.
– I find that the honorable member for Herbert moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing -
The unsatisfactory position in which the sugar industry is placed owing to the proposed arrangement under which the price of raw sugar will be reduced to £27 per ton, and the placing of an embargo of only two years upon the importation of foreign sugar.
The honorable member for Capricornia proposes to move the adjournment in order to discuss -
The unsatisfactory treatment meted out to the sugar industry by the Commonwealth Government and the advisability, even at this late hour, to grant the sugar-growers £27 net per ton for raw sugar and an embargo for five years upon black-grown sugar instead of two years, as already arranged.
I submit that there is a difference between the two motions, though it may be argued that they are the same in substance. The motion of the honorable member for Her bert dealt with the question of an embargo for two years, but the honorable member for Capricornia, in consequence of information received from people interested, contends that it is necessary that the embargo should be extended. It is because of the urgency of the matter that the honorable member wishes to bring it before the House at the present juncture. This is a very urgent matter in the opinion of the sugar-growers of Queensland. Thereis nothing in our Standing Orders to prevent the moving of two motions for the adjournment of the House to deal substantially with the same matter if they are submitted on different days. I admit that you, sir, are guided by May’s Parliamentary Practice, . but I think you will admit that there is some distinction between the motion moved by the honorable member for Herbert and that proposed by the honorable member for Capricornia. The first dealt with the proposal made by thePrime Minister, which provided for a price of £27 per ton and an embargo for two years. The honorable member for Capricornia wishes to discuss quite another matter. He desires to contend that £27 per ton net shall be paid for raw sugar to the grower instead of £27 per ton gross,which, when charges for freight and other charges are deducted, would leave the growersonly £26 per ton. The honorable member for Herbert did not put that aspect of the matter before the House, and the honorable member for Capricornia proposes to break entirely new ground. It is found that the sugargrowers would get something less than £27 per ton, and the honorable member proposes to show why they should get £27 per ton,as intended by theGovernment Again, the honorable member believes that the sugar-growers are not given sufficient protection by a two years’ embargo on black-grown sugar, and proposes toshow that the embargo should be extended to five years. In the circumstances, I do not think that it is quite right to prevent the discussion. It is not as if it would be wasting the time of the House, because this is a matter of grave importance to the people engaged in the sugar industry. I ask, sir, that you reconsider your decision.
– I have listened with due respect to what the honorable member has submitted. I said, in my ruling, that the two notices of motion are substantially the same. I do not suggest for a moment that the verbiage’ of “the two is precisely identical, but the field which might be covered and the matters which might be dealt with by each are identical, and that must determine my ruling. .That the honorable member for Herbert used arguments different .from those which, the honorable member for Capricornia proposes to submit is not the concern of the Chair. It is upon the form and substance’ of the notices of motion that the Chair must rule. The fact- that we have no Standing Orders on the subject does not invalidate the ruling, nor does it affect the authority of the Chair to decide the question, because, as the honorable member for Hunter knows, under the first of our Standing Orders all matters not provided for by them are to be dealt with according to the practice of . the House of Commons. That practice is stated definitely and clearly in the Tenth Edition of May, from which I have quoted. I, therefore, cannot vary my ruling, or allow the motion to be moved.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The ruling cannot be discussed ; but, with the indulgence of the House, the honorable member may speak.
.- (By leave.) - Of course, I must bow to your ruling in this matter, but I regret that I have not been permitted to move the adjournment of the House on this very important question. It was my intention to contend for something different from what the . honorable member for Herbert proposed. Although that honorable member moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the sugar industry, he did not fight the Government. He said he was satisfied with the price offered by the Commonwealth Government, but desired the embargo on imported sugar to be extended for three years. I am not satisfied with these terms, and I intended to make it clear that I considered that the embargo should be for five years, and not two, as proposed by the Government, and the price of raw sugar to the growers £27 per tcn net, and not gross, as proposed by the Government. The difference would be about £1 per ton more to the industry, and by effecting certain economies in the intermediate charges between the grower and the consumer, the latter would still be able to obtain sugar at 4½d. per lb. Since the honorable member for Herbert moved his motion I have received certain communications from sugar associations in my electorate and in other parts of Queensland putting new phases of the question. When I consider that over 100,000 people are depending on the industry, I regret that the greatest publicity possible cannot be given to this matter, because I recognise that the sugar-growers have a good case. I hoped by moving the adjournment of the House to-day that I would be able to put certain facts before honorable members which would influence them to vote for a motion on the subject, which I will submit later in some other way. I hoped that they would recognise that the sugargrowers have not been given a fair deal, and that it would be, not only in their interests, but in the interests of Australia generally, to give them more generous assistance than has so far been given them by the Government. It is not my intention to question your ruling in any way, but I wish to say that the arguments I proposed to adduce are substantially different from those used by the honorable member for Herbert, and the wording of my motion is altogether different from his. 1 cannot but admit that the two motions cover a discussion of the sugar question, but it is a very wide question; it enters into the everyday life of the community, and therefore affects the whole of the people of Australia. I wished to nut my views in order to give honorable members a better knowledge of the case, in order that they may cast an intelligent vote on the question when ‘I bring it forward in another form. I regret that I have been denied that opportunity. I shall, however, avail myself of all the privileges I possess in this House in order to put up a fight for the sugar interests of Queensland, because I consider that they have not been properly treated. An effort has been made to please everybody. The growers, at. any rate, are not pleased. Probably the . Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the jam manufacturers have been treated in the way they desired to be treated ;*but the sugar-growers whom I represent have not been given that for which they asked, and I intend to continue my fight in their interests.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House as to whether it is intended that the Murray Waters Commission Agreement will be amended for the purpose of allowing an alteration of the site of No. 10 lock from above the junction of the Darling and Murray to a point below such junction, and whether such amendment will take place before the House adjourns?
– Yes. At the recent Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers it was decided to recommend to the four contracting Governments that the River Murray Agreement of 1914 be amended to enable the proposed weir and lock in the vicinity of Wentworth to be constructed below the junction of the Rivers Murray and Darling. An amending agreement has been drawn up, and now awaits signature by the four- parties to the agreement. It is anticipated that a Bill to ratify this agreement will be submitted before Parliament rises.
Colonial Combing and Spinning and Weaving Company’s Agreement
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. Yes. 4 and 5. The amount payable under the exPrime Minister’s promise has not yet been settled. When this has been ascertained to the satisfaction of the Government, the question of payment will be immediately considered.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inform the House when members will be supplied with copies of any agreement arrived at to deprive the Commonwealth of the power to collect income tax?
– It is not the intention of the Government to arrive at any agreement to deprive the Commonwealth of the power to collect income tax.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, before his departure for England, it is the intention of the Government to extend the embargo on black-grown sugar from two to five years, and agree to the price of £27 per ton net, in accordance with the wishes of the sugar-growers?
– Negotiations are still in course in regard to the exact basis of the arrangement to be entered into. When the proposed agreement has been finalized, the honorable member will have an opportunity of taking any action he desires.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has at any time donated land or money for the purpose of a soldiers’ memorial in any of the States of the Commonwealth; if so, will he give particulars!
– The information is being obtained.
Consideration resumed from 2nd August (vide page 2080),, on motion by Dr. Eakle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1 - the Parliament - namely, “The President, £1,100,” be agreedto.
– We enter oh the discussion of this, the first, Budget of thepresent Treasurer (Mr. Page), with heavy hearts, and with a vision that is darkened by the fact that he has given no indication of a remission of taxation in the near future. It may be well said that this Budget is a disappointment, and that it is uninspiring. It presents a remarkable contrast to the promises made both to this House and to the electors outside when the honorable gentleman and his friends became a distinct party in the Parliament. I well remember the speeches made by the honorable gentleman during the last Parliament. He promised that if ever he became Treasurer there would be a veritable revolution in the methods and in the extent of taxation. The Departments were to be re-organized and everything would work like well-oiled machinery. I regret that the reality is far more disappointing than is generally the case. It is said that anticipation is always better than realization. The Budget illustrates the truth of that statement. Honorable members on this side predicted that the Country party would not survive in this Parliament, but that it would be swallowed up by the more astute and more powerful Nationalist organization. A perusal of the Budget shows that the reforms which we who represent country electorates might reasonably have expected to emanate from the Country party Leader have, not materialized. It might be argued that criticism is to be expected from honorable, members on this side. ‘ But the great organs of publicity which support the Government are amongst its severest critics. Certainly no more severe criticism could be levelled by the most hostile member on this side than has been levelled at the Treasurer by one of the most influentialand responsible financial organs published in Australia. Although not favorable to the policy of Labour, the A ge is acknowledged to be one of the best written financial newspapers, in Australia. In a leading article extending over three quarters of a column this morning the Age most scathingly criticises the Budget and the Treasurer; I should like to put the whole of the article on record, because I believe it should . be read far and wide throughout Australia, if only to show that incompetence is prevalent in the Government. It says : -
Mr. Page’s confused and unsatisfactory Budget does not improve on closerexamination. The Treasurer’s work has fallen far -below his election promise, and it is likely, unless there be an improvement, that . the Government may have to consider the wisdom of transferring him to a more congenial department. The Hughes Government’s system of finance, which Mr. Page ‘himself attacked, has ‘been continued, and in some respects accentuated. The economy cry of the Country party stands for the present as a political joke.
When the honorable gentleman’s supporters outside find it necessary to take him to task and even to go so far as to say that he should be sacked, I suggest that he be placed in charge of War Service Homes, where, probably, his ability will have sufficient scope.
– The Standing Orders provide that no honorable member shall read extracts ‘from newspapers or other documents referring to debates in the House during the currency of the session. The honorable member, therefore, is not in order.
– I have quoted one of the main statements.’ The Age has on its staff responsible financial writers, and, I believe, expresses the opinion of the man in the street. It is even suggested outside that the Treasurer should withdraw the Budget and resubmit it in a more acceptable form. There cannot be any doubt that there is very grave disappointment because the policy of hoarding surpluses is to be continued, instead of endeavouring to re-organize the public departments and give remission of taxation, which at present is a great bar on investment and industry. Before he joined the Government the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that he would drastically reform the departments, that the pruning knife would be applied, and that there would be a cessation of wanton and extravagant expenditure. The expenditure proposed this year is not different from what it was last year. I was astounded at the result when I analyzed the figures of the Postal’ Department in relation to country and city works. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) last night took io task the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) because of the figures they quoted in connexion with city and country works to be constructed out of loan money. The honorable member for Gippsland quoted figures showing that ISO buildings were to be built in the country and 91 in city and suburban areas. That may be correct; but what is the value of those buildings? Many of the works in the country are merely repairs costing £300, £400, £450 and £500. The buildings to be erected in the cities are to cost £1,000, £3,000, £60,000, and so on. The Treasurer represents a country electorate and knows that men in the backblocks are asked time after time to put their hands in their pockets to subsidize mail contracts, for the extension of hours at telephone exchanges and the provision of other- facilities which the Government should provide.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) will show conclusively that more is being given to the country than has beengiven by any previous Government.
– That may.be so. These services have been starved to such an extent by. previous Administrations that the expenditure of a large amount of money is required now to put them in the condition in which they ought to be. I remind the Treasurer again that in New South Wales £58,462 is to be spent from loan money on country post-offices, and £244,429 is to be spent in the metropolitan area.
– Is that a fair comparison? Should not the comparison be between services rendered and not between values?
– We object to the great disparity .in the expenditure. It is” abnormal. It should not be nearly five times as great in the city as in the country. In a number of hamlets throughout New South Wales the postoffice accommodation for the authorities and the public is disgraceful. . .
– Should not the city facilities be increased as well as the facilities in the country?
– If so much can be spent in the city, we say that more should be provided for the country. The. honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), was placed at a disadvantage last night. He had a number of figures thrown at him which he endeavoured to explain. The result of his effort may be compared to a half-baked batch of bread. It was indigestible.. He . said that £3,000,000 was to be spent in the current year on telephone services in the country. The real position is that we are providing £4,161,766 from loan moneys and revenue for new works and buildings and telephones. The Budget figures show that about £3,200,000 of that sum is to be spent on new works and buildings. Therefore, no more than £900,000 is available for telephones.
– I think your figures are incorrect.
– I think not. I suggest that the Treasurer should read his own Budget, and he will see that, in spite of what the honorable member for Gippsland said, we can only have about £900,000 for telephones. Honorable members in this Chamber are very disappointed that provision has not been made for giving greater facilities in the country.
Drastic alterations should be made in the proposal to reduce the postage rate before this Committee finally determines the matter. The’ Government could not do better than follow the example of the Labour Government which introduced Id. postage for £-oz. letters. The proposal of the Government will be of great benefit to the big firms in the city, which will get 4d. worth of mail matter at our present rates for ld., and thus be 2½d. ‘ better off on each package. Ordinary people do not write letters of more than J on. The Government would be doing the fair thing if it provided Id. postage for1/2-oz. letters and 2d. postage for 1-oz. letters. That would be a real benefit to the general community, and also would mean a good deal to the commercial houses. A decrease of £930,000 is contemplated in the Postal revenue this year through the proposed alterations in charges. The . general opinion of the people whom I represent is that it would be preferable to provide better facilities for them than to decrease the postage rate. They would prefer three mails a week instead of the two they now get, and they would rather that the mails were carried nearer to their homesteads. ‘ The business of the mail-man is to deliver the mails. The business of this Parliament is to provide money for the delivery of mails. People in the country would willingly continue the present rale of postage if they could have the mails brought nearer and more frequently to them. In dry periods it is not always convenient for a man to leave his stock and drive two or three miles on the chance of obtaining letters, but he frequently has to do so because important letters may be waiting his attention. This Parliament has the duty of providing an adequate sum for our mail services in the country districts. The Government should thoroughly re-organize these services in the back country. I suggest that the Government should confer with the DeputyPostmastersGeneral in the various States to see what reorganization is desirable. I have the very highest regard for our Deputy PostmastersGeneral. I believe they are honestly endeavouring to do the fair thing with the amount of money placed at their disposal. They could say what the needs of the country really are, and, after all, we should consider the real needs of the country. I ask representatives of city constituencies who have trams passing their doors, and who have a fast train service available for their use every few minutes, to think of the position in the back country. I have been in places where, under dry conditions, we could get a mail once a week, but in wet weather we could only get a mail once a fortnight. The supporters of the Government should think of these things. They should break the masterly silence they have preserved during the past few weeks, and, as free and independent men, say what their mind really is about these matters.
– Supposing they have no mind ?
– They have a mind outside of this Chamber, but, in some miraculous manner, they seem to lose it when they get in here. These men boast that they are not Caucus-ridden, but are free.
– What you are asking for is being done.
– I would like the honorable member to explain how and where it is being done. Honorable members on this side would very much like to hear his views, and also the views of others who are behind the Government. We are surprised at the silence they have cultivated lately. They remind me of the Towers of Silence of the Parsees of India, on the top of which are nothing but bones. Is it any wonder that Parliament is brought into contempt when members opposite, act as they do? It is no wonder that the public outside thinks as it does of Parliament when members are as tame as the honorable gentlemen opposite have been in the last two weeks. Honorable members opposite say that the Labour party does nothing but talk. They say this is a talk shop. I ask them what can we do here but talk. Do honorable members opposite expect us to yoke up a team of horses to an eight-furrow plough and drive it through this Chamber? I could do it, but this is not the place for work of that kind. If honorable members opposite have any brains, I ask them to give us the advantage of those brains. If they have tongues, let us see that those tongues are in working order. Let us see that they are prepared to endeavour to translate into concrete form the ideas of which they are so full outside this Chamber.
It is to be regretted that the Prime Minister sees fit to close Parliament so soon. The sorry record of this Government will go down in history. This Government has closed Parliament for a longer period than any previous Government which has been in office for the same length of time. I do not know that Ministers will continue to hold office for very longafter their supporters realize the ridiculous position in which they are placed. The Prime Minister called Parliament together for a while, and then apparently he came to the conclusion that there was very little in common between the interests of Flinders-lane and the country. On reaching that determination he looked for a wider sphere of activity, and the Imperial Conference was arranged. He proposes now to transfer the field of argument from this Chamber to the other side of the world. This Parliament should be sitting to deal with pressing .problems that will arise between now and Christmas. One matter to which we could well give attention is the formation of a compulsory Australian wheat pool, so that the competition between the voluntary wheat pools shall not continue. It suite buyers from the other side of the world to come here and find this competition. Big business has realized the wisdom of concentrating its activities in one place. In that way the best returns are secured. If that principle is good for big business, I contend that it is good for the selling of our wheat. It would be far more advantageous to the farmers to have one compulsory pool, and to have their selling business handled by men of experience such as could be obtained in Australia to-day.
I regret that the Government have not outlined any proposals to encourage small wool-growers to improve their flocks and herds and bring them to the highest possible standard. A good deal could be done in that direction by propaganda. The Institute of Science and Industry could also work more vigorously if Parliament ‘provided more money for it. . - A greater number of scientists could be employed to give consideration to the ways and means of- eradicating the pests which afflict <.the man on the land.
In regard to the meat industry, I at one time was under the delusion that some advantage to Australia would be derived from the periodical Imperial Conferences, but the history of these gatherings forces us to the conclusion that they are held only for the purpose of securing advantages for Great Britain from the Dominions.. I do not expect the Prime Minister to gain any benefit for Australia from his visit to Great Britain. It seems to be his idea that the Commonwealth should contribute large sums of money towards the creation of a naval base at Singapore. I believe that that is the reason for £2,250,000 being placed to a defence reserve fund, so that after the Prime Minister’s return a mea- sure appropriating that money for the Singapore base may be rushed through Parliament, probably on the ground of an alleged danger in the Pacific. No advantage has ever come to Australia from the Imperial Conferences. All they have done has been to din it into the ears of Australian parliamentarians that this country must grant preference to British manufacturers. When trade and commerce are at stake the British Cabinet and manufacturers drive a hard bargain. Having regard to the enormous burden of debt that Australia has to carry, I hope that the Prime Minister will represent to the Imperial authorities that if they wish to give some earnest of their desire to help the Dominions, they will reserve portion of their meat contracts for the Dominions. I do not expect the right honorable gentleman to succeed in that endeavour. During the war large amounts of British capital were invested in the meat industry in South America, and those interests are so powerful in the Imperial Cabinet and Parliament that they will take care that nothing is done to interfere with their investments. For that reason no advantage to Australia will result from the Prime Minister’s mission. Even if an agreement were reached at these Conferences, it could have little effect, because the personnel of the present Governments in Great Britain and Australia will not long remain in power. It is said that Cabinets are born only to die; they commence to decline as soon as they are created. I believe the present Commonwealth Ministry will be very short-lived ; already it shows signs of both infantile paralysis and senile decay. Therefore, any proposals advanced by the Prime Minister in England will not carry much weight with the Imperial authorities, as the right honorable gentleman has no mandate from the people: The Commonwealth Cabinet was brought into existence by means of parliamentary intrigue and the subversion of principle to political expediency, and that fact is known in Great Britain. I regard the Prime Minister’s mission to London as involving a waste of public .money that might be applied more advantageously to the development of Australian industries and the provision of work for our people. The unemployment that is rife in Australia to-day is no credit to the present Government, some members of which made ‘ lavish promises to the soldiers before they went overseas.
Heavy income taxation imposed by the Commonwealth is doing a great deal to paralyze industry and to discourage the re-investment of money in reproductive enterprises. It is undeniable that if taxation is excessive those controlling industry are forced to adopt a conservative’ policy; they cannot afford to take any risks in investment lest they be unable to meet their taxation liabilities. People did expect some relief after the accession of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to the ‘ Treasury. During the hectic period when the formation of the Government was being negotiated, and the present Treasurer and his friends were seeking to placate men like the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), one justification advanced for the coalition with the Nationalists was that ii the honorable member for Cowper was in charge of the Treasury he would grant the people some relief from the burden of taxation. The Budget gives no promise of any remission. With a great flourish of trumpets the Government submitted to the Premiers’ Conference a scheme for the more economical collection of taxation, but it has been postponed for twelve months, and I believe that next year it will be further postponed, because it was so unsatisfactory to the State of New South Wales that the State Treasurer declared that he would be unable to meet his obligations without reducing the exemp-tion to the smaller taxpayers or, alternatively, imposing heavier taxation upon the wealthy classes. In either case it would have a serious effect upon investments and industry.
– That statement has been contradicted.
– Of course, I do not expect the Treasurer, as the promoter of this scheme, to admit the justification of the criticism, but the Treasurer of New South Wales holds the view which has been expressed by honorable members on this side. He said he would have to reduce the exemption to such an extent that his Government could not survive the next election. I suggest that during the approaching long recess the Treasurer should seriously consider the granting of relief from the crushing burden of. taxation. Between sixty and seventy pages of these Estimates relate to the Department of Defence, and I am astounded to find that five years after the conclusion of the Great War there are still so many highlypaid officials in that Department. Immediate re-organization is necessary. The Commonwealth spent £400,000,000 in connexion with the war, a great proportion of which was applied to the training of several hundreds of thousands of men, of whom the majority will be available * during the next ten years for the defence of Australia if our safety should be threatened. Methods of warfare are changing. In connexion with airships, aeroplanes, and submarines, development follows development very rapidly. Money should be provided for experimentation, with these new arms, and the whole defence system should be re-organized along the most modern lines. There is no necessity to continue to employ large staffs of highly-paid officials in the Defence Department. I believe those officials realize that the maintenance of such staffs is quite unnecessary, and causes popular discontent’ with the defence policy.
I am very pleased to notice one remarkable change in the attitude of the present anti-Socialistic Government. I remember asking the then Acting Prime Minister on one occasion that something should be done by the Commonwealth in regard to the provision of wire netting for men in vermin-infested areas. I was told rather haughtily that wire netting was no concern of the Commonwealth, but was a matter to be dealt with by the States. But I have always held that as these settlers are taxed for the benefit of the Commonwealth revenue, it is the duty of the Federal authority, if the States are not realizing their responsibility, to go to their assistance. The Commonwealth has greater monetary resources than have the States, and men on the land should not be allowed to go to the wall through no fault of their own, if this Parliament, by the exercise of its financial-power. can save them. I appreciate the provision of £250,000 for the purchase of wire netting, but I regard that amount as altogether insufficient. During the last few years the price of wire netting has increased considerably, and a much larger sum must be provided by the Commonwealth if holdings throughout Australia are to be safeguarded against the rabbit pest. I trust that the Treasurer will realize the necessity for making further sums available for the purchase of wire netting.
The Estimates disclose that £5,000,000 of loan money and a further £500,000 are to be expended during the coming year upon the encouragement of immigration. The Labour partes attitude in regard to immigration has been continually misrepresented. Honorable members opposite have said that we are opposed to all forms of immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth. But we do object to men, .who are probably holding in England positions commensurate with their capacity, being induced, by means of highly-coloured pamphlets and specious promises, to come to Australia where thousands of men, including returned soldiers, are unable to secure employment. Very many country towns are losing their population, and offer no scope for the new arrivals. There is in Australia a big demand for men with capital, men who have shown themselves to be thrifty in their own country, and who may be expected to contend successfully against nature in all her varying moods. But is it fair to ask the “deadenders” - the men who have neither trades nor capital - to surrender positions in Great Britain, where they have friends, in order to come to a new country where they will be amongst strangers, where the conditions are entirely strange to them, and where they, will be required to put up with many inconveniences? The Labour party have no objection to as many immigrants as can be brought here, provided they are of the right type, and that provision is made for them before arrival. We should see that the States make available the most suitable land on reasonable and proper terms, and that it is not overloaded with costs before it is occupied, so that there may be a reasonable chance for the new settlers. The emigrants being brought are, to a large extent, without capital, and without any knowledge ‘of the strenuous conditions that have to be met in the back country.
In order to show that under the present scheme undesirable emigrants are coming, I draw the attention of the Treasurer, the House, and the people of Australia to the alleged happenings on the Ballarat, which arrived at Sydney on the 23rd July this year, as reported in the Daily Guardian, of that city, on the 24th of the same month. It is alleged that there is insufficient medical inspection before emigrants are shipped in London, and that a boy passenger on the, Ballarat hanged himself just after the vessel reached Fremantle. A post mortem examination disclosed that he had suffered from a notifiable and revolting disease, which must have been contracted before he left Britain. This was not ascertained at the medical examination, nor would the fact have become known had the boy not committed suicide. The Daily Guardian says -
At the subsequent post-mortem, however, it was officially declared that the lad ‘had suffered from a filthy disease, contracted apparently long .before the liner left London. The postmortem finding was a grave reflection on the medical officers in London responsible for selecting new settlers for Australia. The one isolated instance of the revolting disease was’ only divulged through the boy’s untimely death, not by the exercise of medical supervision, either in London or on the ship.
That is most startling. It is further alleged that many of the emigrants were of an entirely unsuitable type, and the list is given of the trades and occupations represented. Farmers and harvesters were few and far between, and unskilled labourers were in the majority. We certainly do not desire an influx of such emigrants. Amongst those brought were kitchen hands, porters, cooks, shop assistants, clerks, typists, butchers, miners, and motor-drivers. With the sole exception, perhaps, of the miners, there was not one class of which we have not more than sufficient already. A miner is a man prepared to go out and rough it, but it is said that even the miners in this lot were not the proper sort. If the medical examination at Home is so cursory as not to discover the state of the unfortunate boy, we may have landed in Australia many to prove a menace to our people. The whole matter requires probing thoroughly, and drastic action should be taken with those at Australia.
House who are responsible. Captain Thompson, the welfare ‘officer in charge of the Ballarat emigrants, in his statement published in the Daily Guardian, says that the responsibility lies with the officials of Australia House.
– What -was the number of this contingent of emigrants?
– The number is not given, but evidently the vessel was fairly crowded. The Daily Guardian says -
Concerning the immorality among the men and women, Captain Thompson continued, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything to equal it. Many of the women especially seemed to go to hell almost as soon as they were aboard. Captain Hignett and his officers did all they could to curb the evil, but it was impossible to post guards day and night to police cabins.” . . . The immigration officials regarded the grave complaints in a serious light. They communicated- with London immediately to prevent a recurrence. They admitted that on a cursory inspection the contingent of boys was far below the standard of those previously shipped her.e under the scheme. Several had been ear-marked as probable causes of annoyance in the near future. A review of the official lists: shows that only four had come from farms among the boys.
– They had “ gone to hell “ before they went on board!
– At any rate, all this shows the un desirability of the emigrants now being brought here under the scheme of selection at Australia House. Mr. Jackson,. - Were there any nominated passengers?
– What does it matter whether they were nominated or assisted; they are such emigrants* as should not be brought to Australia.
– Australia is paying for them anyhow!
– We certainly “ pay “ after they come, if not before. Captain Thompson said he considered the basic trouble was at Australia House -
Those responsible for the selection of the lads for New South Wales, he said, were drawn from clerks who had no idea of the type required.
Is it fair to vote money to promote emigration, and then leave the selection of the emigrant, not to a hardheaded Australian who knows the type required, but to clerks in London? The Government ought to be kicked from office if they allow this disgraceful administration to continue. The newspaper account goes on to say that the emigration officials are “perturbed,” and no doubt they are when such ugly facts come to light. If necessary, we should send men of experience and knowledge from Australia to undertake the work of selection. We do not want penniless emigrants; the cities are full of such people, who are of no use to this country. They are not of the type to hump a swag, and face the conditions of the back-blocks in the way many of us have had to do. They insist on staying in the cities, and take the view that, as the community brought them here, it is the duty of the community to support them. On the ground of this maladministration alone, we should be prepared to put the Government , out of office, and in saying that I think I express the feelings of every man who has the welfare of Australia at heart. The question may be burked for days, months, or a year or two, but the electors have to be reckoned with. Many new faces appeared here after the last election as an evidence of the great discontent with the old band of legislators. Time after time during the. last Parliament, we on this side referred ‘ to the unsuitability of the emigrants brought from Great Britain, and of the mal-administration at Australia House; and the disclosures then made so affected the minds of the public that at the first opportunity they made great changes in the personnel of the Parliament. Unless the new members wish to meet the same fate as that of their predecessors they must show that they are fully alive to the present position. They must not think they have done enough if by their votes here they can ‘ ‘ down “ the Opposition; they must safeguard the interests of the public, or take the consequences. I ask the Treasurer to have the fullest investigation made, and, if necessary, root out the old gang at Australia House. If men are thriftless in Great Britain there is not much likelihood of them making thrifty citizens of Australia, and men with trades, who yet are penniless, have little chance of success here. An emigrant should be called upon to show that he has at least sufficient money to keep himself for a time, so, that he may not be a burden on the community from the time of his arrival.
– Was this shipload landed in New South Wales?
– The emigrants disembarked at various ports.
– One would expect a protest from the officials of the States where they landed.
– I shall hand the Daily Guardian to the honorable member so that he may see the facts for himself. Captain Hignett reported that scarcely a table or chair was left whole, and bunks were broken and other damage done. Here is one of the published statements : -
On the arrival of the steamer, the immigration authorities took a serious view of the charges, and forwarded them to London for investigation. They admitted that many of the boys’ for Sydney were below the standard, and on appearance and behaviour were not suitable new settlers. The method of the robberies indicated that there was more than one expert juvenile cracksman aboard. But they were soon checked when the complaints got to the ears of Captain Hignett and his officers.
These are not statements by the Daily Guardian, but by. Captain Thompson, the Welfare Officer. This newspaper may, perhaps, indulge in a little “ yellow “ journalism, but on this occasion the allegations axe those of people with an intimate knowledge of the circumstances. The Daily Guardian is a new and apparently reputable journal, which is trying to obtain public approval, and I should say it would be a foolish proceeding for it to publish false statements.
– The matter certainly demands investigation.
– That is what I wish to impress on the Treasurer. If such a terrible state of affairs is found in the case of this ship, how many other cases of the kind may there not be - cases showing the same lack of medical supervision, the same undesirable types of emigrants travelling either without characters or with characters supplied by irresponsible, people ? The Treasurer may say that it is not the intention to bring such emigrants here.”
– Sir Neville Howse, as soon as he arrives in England, will look into the question of the medical inspection of emigrants.
– The facts I have laid before the House amply justify all that has been said in the past by the
Labour party against the present system of immigration. The Ballarat shipment is only the culminating point. Time and again we, on this side, have challenged the Government on their immigration policy, but honorable members opposite have voted consistently in its favour, thus keeping the same old officials at Australia House to carry on in the same old way, and bring about the same old results. I speak feelingly on this matter, and I say that honorable members will not be doing their duty if they permit these matters to go on serenely in the same bad way.
I wish to refer now to the administra-‘ tion of the War Service Homes. Department. Owing to the drift of population from the majority of country towns to the cities, it would appear that the Department is not disposed to give facilities for the purchase or erection of homes in country districts. It takes a very long time, and a considerable amount of trouble, to secure authority for the purchase of a home already erected in a country district, and it is absolutely useless building new homes at the presenttime in many of those districts. The establishment of manufactures in the cities and the introduction of modern methods of agriculture have led many people to leave the country districts. Men do not do this merely in order to secure better conditions for themselves, but in a very great many cases because they are thus better able to secure a good education for their childrens. I am very pleased to know that we have heard nearly the last of the old idea that what was good enough for the fathers was good enough for their children. Many of those men deliberately denied their children the advantage of a better education than they had received themselves. Australian parents desire that their children shall secure a better education than they themselves have had, and they leave the country districts for the cities in order that their children may enjoy the advantages of technical and high school education. Land monopoly is, of course, responsible to some extent for the drift from the country to the city, because farmers, and the sons of farmers, are unable to secure land in their own district owing to the monopoly of the squatter. The drift of population to the cities has resulted in the fact that there are many, empty houses in country districts, andI suggest to the Treasurer that a larger amount of money should be made available for the purchase of homes for soldiers in country districts. For £250 or £300 a returned soldier may secure a wooden building which would be perfectly satisfactory to him. Many of the houses in the country districts are built of cypress pine, which is known as the “ everlasting timber.” The returned soldiers would be satisfied with these houses, and their purchase would not involve such heavy expenditure as the purchase or erection of buildings of brick. If adequate insurance was provided for, the Department would run no undue risk because of the greater inflammability of a wooden house. I wish to bring under notice a case *in which the War Service Homes Department has refused to give the assistance which might have been expected from it. It is the case of a returned soldier living at Inverell. I went to school with him, and know him to be one of the most honorable and upright young men in the community. He was given an advance by a private firm in order to build a home, and he desires that the War Service Homes Department should take over his loan. Although he was granted an advance by the hard-headed business members of a private firm, the Department refuses to make him an advance within at least £50 of that made him by this firm. Inspectors have been sent out who, in my opinion, do not know the district, and they have put a low valuation on the building, which was honestly and faithfully erected by day labour. It is situated not more than half-a-mile from my own home, and within 3 miles of Inverell, but the Department persist in saying that the house is in the bush and in an unsaleable position. It is adjacent to the only brick-works in the district, but the Department argues that if this man should die the property would be unsaleable. That is a matter of opinion, and it is certainly not more likely that this man will die than that members of the War Service Homes Commission will die. The departmental officials may be right in the stand they take up, and I suppose they feel they must be guided by the valuation placed upon the property by their officers, but members of this Parliament are responsible for assisting the returned soldiers. I ask the Treasurer whether he thinks that the Department is justified in refusing to advance to this man, in order that he may secure a home, as much as has been advanced to him by a private firm. It seems to me that this man has not been given a fair deal, and as I have not been able to secure it for him, I ventilate his grievance here in the hope that there will be some alteration of the practice of the Departmentin this regard. -
– The honorable member is speaking not for one man, but for a number of men similarly situated?
– That is so; but I speak of the case of a man who is personally known to me. What applies to his case probably applies to hundreds of other cases. This man, through the action of the Department, is being forced to pay a higher rate of interest on his advance than he would have to pay on an advance from the Department. I say that that is not carrying out the intention for which the War Service Homes Department was established.
We wish to take the Government to task for their inaction in connexion with the Kidman-Mayoh contract. A considerable sum of money was paid over to this firm for nothing. These men should have been prosecuted for a criminal act, because if the boats they built for the Commonwealth had been taken to sea their crews would ‘have met the same fate as has overtaken the unfortunate crew of the Sumatra. These men have resisted the payment of an award of the court and the Government should bring them to book.
– The Government is going as fast as it can in the matter.
– Then it needs a bit more petrol and’ a new sparking plug. I say that on the evidence which the Government had, this firm should have been prosecuted for a criminal act. I say without hesitation that they were deliberately guilty of an act which would have resulted in the murder of Australian seamen, if the vessels they built had been sent to sea. They should have been made an example of, because the facts in the case reveal a scandalous sta’te of affairs. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) said that the firm should be prosecuted, hut his enthusiasm in the matter died out and nothing has been done in that direction. We paid £114,000 of the people’s money to Kidman and
Mayoh for nothing. When the matter was referred to arbitration the arbitrator decided that Kidman and .Mayoh should pay back £75,000 to the Treasurer, but the Commonwealth has been without the use of the £114,000 for upwards of four years. In addition to that sum we have lost about £30,000 which might have been earned by that money if it had been retained by the Government. I hope that the present Government will show itself more in earnest in dealing with this matter than the last Government. It is very ready to evict out of work returned soldiers if they do not pay their rent, but it does not show the same readiness to have these men brought to book. It would appear that those engaged in big business can flout the will of the people and the Government as they please.
– The Government was very quick to pay compensation for bad flour exported to South Africa.
– As sthe honorable member reminds me the Government lost no time in paying compensation to traders in South Africa. Upwards of ninety-five claims for compensation were paid for rotten flour sold to people in South Africa. Those people had no moral claim upon the Commonwealth and there was no obligation on the Commonwealth Government to pay them the compensation which was paid them with such alarming haste. The ex-Prime Minister said that those responsible for the export of the inferior flour should have been, prosecuted.
– Was it ever found out who they were?
– There is a marked reticence -on the part of the Government in the matter. The names of those who were responsible for selling inferior flour should be advertised throughout Australia. We should know who* they are. Are they friends of the Government - people whom- the Government desire to shield? Are their interests paramount to those of the people of Australia? Is it to be regarded as a principle that private traders may call upon the resources of the Commonwealth to cover their losses? I ask honorable members opposite, who are violently opposed to socialistic trading by the Government, whether they would not condemn from the housetops a Labour
Government guilty of such socialistic Commonwealth administration. Why do they not protest against socialistic traders securing money from the Commonwealth Government to cover their losses. When I asked for the names of the exporters of inferior flour I was told by the ex-Prime Minister that because it was possible that an action might be taken in court against these men, it was not considered advisable to make their names public. . As though the purchasers of the wheat would not know from whom they bought it.
– The Court proceedings were dropped.
– Because’ the then Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) rushed in and handed over the money provided by the Commonwealth taxpayers in order to save ‘these persons.
The Commonwealth Shipping Line has not carried out its work as satisfactorily as might have been expected. It has now been placed on a new footing, and I hope that the Board will not look so much to the accumulation of profits as to the rendering of services to the people. We on this side attempted to make the Line more effective by having placed on the Board a representative of the primary producers. Unfortunately those honorable members opposite who represent country electorates displayed greater allegiance to the Government than consideration for the requirements of the primary producers, and we did not succeed in our aim. I trust that the Board will base their charges as low as possible, consistent with the efficient running of the LineDuring the war grave rumours were in existence to the effect that the Commonwealth Shipping Line was working in conjunction with the Shipping Combine to a certain extent in order to keep up freights. I hope that uo action of that description will be taken in the future. If it is, and a Labour Government is in power, it will immediately take steps to see that the persons in control are superseded by others who have at heart the real interests of Australia. It is necessary to makesuch a declaration, because men are appointed to a Board for an extended term of years and are told that they are i absolutely free from all political interference. They take that as an invitation to perform many acts which are not in the best interests of Australia. We found that such appointments in the past have on many occasions resulted in great. injustice being done. There is too much pandering to the bogy of non-political control, which in many cases leads only to inefficiency. I believe that on every Board there should be a representative of the Government, who would be directly responsible to Parliament, because we could get from such men information that we could not obtain outside. The railways in New South Wales are supposedly controlled by a non-political Board of Commissioners, and it is impossible to obtain, certain information in regard to the cost of running them. Nobody is responsible to Parliament, and the Chief Commissioner, in polite, but very firm, terms, tells the people that they can “ Go to the devil.” Such a state of affairs is not in- the best interests of the community. It might be all right if the people were a lot of uneducated fools, or were incapable of making known their requirements. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Shipping Line should serve the interests of the primary producers of Australia in regard to the pro_duce_it will ship to other parts of the world, I regret very much that honorable members opposite supported the Government instead of our proposal to place on the Board a representative of the primary producers. The electors will judge their action, and I trust that they will not forget the way in which honorable members opposite let them down. I have no doubt that on many occasions we shall have to protest against unfair dealing towards the primary producers, perhaps through ignorance on the part of the Board of the requirements of primary producers. Unless the Board is prepared to agree to our wishes our hands will be tied. I do not believe that when large sums of money are involved Parliament should prevent itself from obtaining the redress of grievances.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government is pushing on with the development of the Northern Territory?
– I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Oppo.sition (Mr. Charlton) that proper encouragement is not being given to Northern Territory development. The Government could well consider the ques tion of opening up another port in the Northern Territory. It should run out lines from existing ports into not only pastoral, but mining areas, and encourage men to settle on the land. We are continually being met with the cry that the Commonwealth does not control lands; that that is the business of the States. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has shown conclusively that the Northern Territory contains a large area of very desirable country, equally as well suited to closer settlement as any portion of Australia. We are led to believe that the growing of cotton is going to be a big thing in the future. The Commonwealth ought to set an example to the States, and not continually criticise them and “ throw cold water “ on their efforts. ‘ I suggest to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) that a great opportunity presents itself to him to create a new State in the Northern Territory. I believe that the Northern Territory can best govern itself. We would enthusiastically support the Treasurer if he brought forward such a proposal. The only difference ‘between our ideas and those of honorable members opposite is in regard to the type of State which it is desirable to bring into existence. Honorable members opposite desire to perpetuate the evils that have made themselves apparent in the old States.. While extending the powers of the Commonwealth, we want to grant greater powers of local control to any States that may be brought into existence. If neither side can get all it wants, we should at least come to some understanding in regard to an amendment of the Constitution. There are in this Chamber two responsible parties which adequately represent the great body of public opinion in Australia. The Treasurer could advance his proposals, and if we disagreed with them, we could submit ours as well as those of the Government at the referendum. I do not think that the lot of the worker would be very different under either scheme. We believe that ours would tend towards the creation of a national sentiment, while that of honorable members opposite would perpetuate such an evil as that which has prevented the Treasurer from getting his taxation proposals accepted by the State of New South Wales, with the resultant continuation of the duplication which <we say should be wiped out. I know that’ the Treasurer feels very strongly on the question. I think that he owes his position in Parliament to the fact that his- section of the North Coast has- been badly represented. The neglect of the North Coast has been due to the fact that it has not been represented by Labour members. It is provided with the worst facilities that are to be found in any part of Australia - no roads, no /bridges, quagmires all along the coast; where there should be a bridge there is a horse-ferry, or one has to wind himself across the river with the aid of a windlass. I can well understand the discontent of that section of the North Coast.
– Has the Gwydir electorate “gone to the dogs “ ?
– The northwestern section has had in the State Parliament Labour representatives who have well watched its interests. The railway system of New South “Wales was designed on a wrong basis. The lines run parallel to the coast, instead of at right angles to it. My home district is placed at a disadvantage because of that fact. Honorable members who have visited that district realize that it is most inconveniently placed ; it was a case of accepting the railway’ offered or of lsiving no connexion at all ; and we chose the less of the two evils. The Treasurer controls large sums of money, and he has casually mentioned in his Budget that a certain amount is to be made available for water conservation and other works. I suggest that the Treasurer should endeavour to come to an agreement with the New South Wales Government to have a railway constructed from the north-western district of. the State to the coast. Finance may be a difficulty. The Commonwealth could overcome that by advancing the money. There should be no obstacle in the way of doing so. The New South Wales Ministers recently visited the district, and they recognised the need for railway connexion. Such a railway would be a benefit to the residents on the north coast, whom the Treasurer represents.
– Are you in favour of new States ?
– I am. Is there any member in this Chamber who is noi? The difficulty is that honorable members opposite want to give the proposed new States too much power.
– If we do that, we shall but multiply our present evils.
– That is so. I have given one example) of what would happen under those conditions. Instead of having conflicting authorities we should have one authority in Australia. To obtain unanimity would be advantageous to the whole of the Commonwealth. I believe that the welfare of the Commonwealth as a whole is often overlooked by the ‘States. The States are afraid to grant certain concessions for fear that political capital may be made out of such actions by people who believe in what they call the sovereign rights of the States. We should endeavour to work towards a national spirit in Australia. It is regrettable that certain people cannot see beyond the border of their own State. One can travel for thousands of miles in Australia and meet people with the same cast of countenance, who belong to the same stock, who speak one language, and whose ideals are the same. In spite of this, honorable members know that’ in some cases as much hostility is shown by persons in Victoria towards persons in New South Wales - and vice versa - as one would expect to exist between our people and aliens from another part of the world.
– That is not so; we are broad-minded.
– Honorable members know that what I have described is a fact. We should wipe out Stateboundaries. To do so would remove a. very great difficulty in the way of Australia’s progress. Our people should march forward with one Australiannational ideal.
– Would you wipe out StateParliaments ?
– I would. Australia has too many Parliaments. Theycause a large amount of unnecessary expense. We could evolve a scheme of government under which administrativepowers could be given to local bodies, which would be under the control of onecentral authority. Under such a systemwe should not have the different Statesbuilding railways of various gauges ins places which suit the big cities instead of the people of the country.
– If the Treasurer would drop his flummery, we could carry out suchascheme.
– I believe that the Labour party’s proposal in this respect meets with the approval of the great majority of the people. I have conversed with men in different parts of Australia, and when I have pointed out to them how hampered the Commonwealth Parliament is because of its restricted powers, andhow much better it would be if we had wider powers, these men have entirely agreed with me that our Constitution should be altered. If we could convince honorable members opposite that our scheme is a good one, and as a united Parliament go to the country on it, we should easily carry the proposals.
– But you said you favoured new States.
– It all depends upon the kind of States.
– That is so. We should not perpetuate the evils and anomalies of our present system of government. The natural corollary to Federation is a National Parliament with a national spirit. Why should we take the retrograde step of creating more States with sovereign powers ? We cannot obtain unanimity at present. We should find it much more difficult if we increased the number of States. ‘ The only place where we can ourselves . create a new State is in the Northern Territory. If we ran a railway to the Territory, and set up an Administration there which would be answerable to the National Parliament, it would be a fine thing. We could give the people of the Territory the right to elect the Administration and conduct their own local affairs. Provision for placing people upon the land would be all that would be necessary then to make the Territory progressive. We are toldthat that country is eminently suitable for cotton growing. The immigrants who are coming to Australia from Great Britain will be required to adapt themselves to new conditions. Why not provide such facilities that we could send them straight to the Territory? That would do much to advance the prosperity of Australia. We should break the stranglehold that our present land settlement policy has upon Australia if we made land available in the Territory, and the subsequent development would very soon be reflected in the prosperity of our people.
Sitting suspended from 12.54 to 2.15 p.m.
.- Judging the Budget speech impartially,, one must admit that it is very satisfactory, and I congratulate the Treasurer on’ having submitted the. Estimates to Parliament so early in the year. It is highly important that honorable members should have an opportunity of discussing proposed expenditure for the coming year, before the money has been actually disbursed. Frequently the Budget has been submitted so late in the year that the greater portion of the expenditure had ‘ been incurred . before Parliament could discuss it, and that fact practically pledged Parliament to the balance of the proposed expenditure. This year, however, we have a. chance of carefully examining all the proposed, outgoings while there is still time for our criticism to be effective. We must all credit the Treasurer with having a desire to economize to the utmost extent compatible with efficiency, and the fact that the expenditure is still very large corroborates what was said by his predecessor at the Treasury (Mr. Bruce), that statutory commitments preclude the possibility of further economy to any great extent.
– The honorable member does not believe that.
– I am forced to that ‘ conclusion. I wish it were possible to further reduce expenditure, because until we are able to lessen the burden of taxation we cannot hope to lower the cost of living - an aim which honorable members on both sides will agree is most desirable. Notwithstanding the satisfactory Estimates for the current year, it is absolutely essential that the Treasurer should continue to keep a watchful eye on the expenditure in order, if possible, to discover avenues in which further reductions can be made without impairing the efficiency of the Public Service.
A very pleasing feature of the Budget speech was the announcement that the Government intend to propose an increase of the old-age and invalid pensions, and liberalization of the conditions under which they are granted. Although the amount of the pension is barely sufficient for those who have no other means’ of subsistence, no one - least of all Federal members who are brought constantly into touch with the pensioners, , can fail to realize what a humanitarian stipend it is. . The increased payment of 2s. 6d. per week, small though it be, will give considerable relief to those who are entirely dependent upon their pension. I was pleased to hear that the conditions governing the granting of pensions are to be liberalized to some extent, but I suggest to the Treasurer that he might inquire into other means of making the pension more effective, and removing hardships that undoubtedly exist. At the present time the pension is reduced according to the capital which the pensioner has in the bank. The amount of capital allowed before the pension is affected is the same as when the original Act was passed, and it would be only reasonable to increase it in the same ratio as that in which the pension has been increased.
– That would bring in many thousand more applicants.
– At the risk of that happening we would be justified in taking that step. If a pensioner is fortunate enough to be living in his own home there is no reduction of pension on that account; but any income apart from the pension is rightly taken into consideration. It may be, however, that a pensioner has been able to pay £200 or £300 towards the purchase of a cot- tage, and that there is still a mortgage upon the building representing 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, of its value. The interest upon the mortgage should be regarded by the Department as a fair charge against any money that the pensioner earns. The equity of that proposal is so evident that I trust the Treasurer will make a note of it. I know of one old lady who had scraped together enough money to pay a deposit upon a home, but she had to allow £400 of the purchase price to remain on mortgage, and she could get no relief in respect of the interest she was paying. I am fully alive to the necessity for the Department to safeguard the country, because we all know of instances in which the pension is being abused. It was not intended to be drawn by all persons who reached a certain age, but, in practice it frequently i* so drawn, regardless of whether or not the recipients are in need of it. They think they are entitled to claim the pension.
– So they are.
– The pension should not be paid to any person who is able to maintain himself. According to the view of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports- (Mr. Mathews), even a person with an income of £10,000 per annum should be eligible for the pension upon reaching a certain age. In my opinion,’ if sufficient money were available for that, it would be better to allot it to those requiring it. However, I am anxious to liberalize the system as far as possible for the benefit of those aged persons who are in need of a pension.
– The same principle applies to the maternity bonus.
– I do not approve of its application to the maternity bonus, either. In another respect the conditions governing the payment of pensions might be liberalized. I have had brought under my notice the case of a man with an imbecile son twenty-three years of age. He maintained that son as well as a wife and another child. His income was £5 4s. per week, or about £270 per annum. On that amount the father, mother, claimant, and another child - equal to three and a half adults - are maintained. The total income, divided by 3^, gives a result of £77 each. In view of the fact that the limit of income under the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act is £65 per annum, it. was held by the Department that ‘the claimant was in receipt of adequate maintenance, and his application for a pension was disallowed. 1 am glad to say that when I represented this case to the Treasurer he saw the injustice that was being done, and through his intervention, the . pension was granted. If that man, instead of acting the proper part of a parent by maintaining the imbecile in his own home, had at any time after the boy attained sixteen years of age, turned him out to shift for himself or had cast him upon the care of the State, he would not have been legally liable for his maintenance, but because he did his duty, he was debarred from receiving the pension. Disabilities of that kind should not continue. Persons who are entitled to an invalid pension should receive’ it regardless of the fact that their parents, singly or conjointly, have an income sufficient to maintain them. In regard (to the further liberalization of the pension it is true, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. jackson) interjected, that every time we make the pension more generous we increase the number of applicants. If the pension were increased to £1 the additional burden upon the Treasury would be not only the extra payment to the present pensioners, but the additional payments that would have to be made to further applicants. The Commonwealth is not in a position to increase the pension to £1 at the present time, but I congratulate the Government on the steps they are proposing to make the payments and the Conditions governing them more liberal. I hope they will give consideration to the other suggestions that I have made. I feel sure that if they do, no undue strain will be imposed upon the Treasury.
I welcome the announcement by the Treasurer that he has come to some arrangement with the States for the collection of income taxation on one return. I have always felt keenly that either the Federal Taxation Department should be abolished, or some authority should Le created to collect the taxation for both Commonwealth and States. We cannot afford to have two Departments doing practically the same work, and it is not fair to put the taxpayer to the extra expense of submitting dual returns. There is one income, and one set of taxpayers. What is the necessity for ‘ two returns? I know that the income tax returns are compiled in different ways, but that is only an excuse, not’ a reason. When I was a trustee in an estate, I asked my co-trustee what the exact income was. He replied that, according to the Federal authorities, the income was so and so, and, according to the State authorities, a different amount, but that the real income was yet another. This is an absolute absurdity, and I trust the Treasurer will not rest until he comes to some arrangement with the States to remove the anomaly. Why should we collect income tax from the taxpayers of a State, and then hand it back to them. We all know that .every time money passes through hands some of it “ sticks “. When the “ Braddon blot “ was introduced it may have been necessary; at any rate, it involved a genuine payment out of revenue collected through the Customs Department. Owing to war com mitments, however, the money has to be paid out of the consolidated revenue, whether it is derived from customs or direct taxation. The taxpayers have about reached their limit of endurance, and demand that something shall be done for their relief. I regret that this matter was not settled during recent conferences, but no compulsion can be exercised, and, in any case, it is better to reach finality by compromise. Considerable relief will be afforded by the arrangement that has been made to collect the tax through one authority, and on one return only.
I should like to make another suggestion which I fancy may call forth some hostile criticism. I suggest that a different rate of tax should be collected on income from money invested in primary industries. We hear a great deal about the drift of people from the country to the cities, and this drift is certainly deplorable, and ought to be checked ; but we ought also to check the drift of capital from the country to the cities. Every inducement should be offered to people to invest in country securities, so as to assist primary production, whether the money be the settlers’’ own, or borrowed on mortgage. There are numberless men on the land who, if they could get hold of a little extra capital, could make very good use of it; and the. Treasurer should consider the advisability of some remission in the case of income derived from this source. At present there is every inducement to replace country securities by city securities. I know that some of the big financial institutions will accept only city securities, but, fortunately for New South Wales, there are other institutions’ which prefer the opposite policy. The Commonwealth Bank, strange to say, does not, to any extent, lend for investment in the country. It would be a great deal better for the bank if, instead of lending £1,000,000 to the city of Sydney for street exten- sions, it advanced money in such a way as to do great service in country districts. My suggestion, I know, will not be accepted without full consideration; but I am sure that, if greater inducements are held out to capitalists to invest in this very , desirable direction, production will be increased, and the lot of the man on the land made easier and mere attractive.
I am pleased to hear the decision of the Government not to collect taxes on leaseholds. Much hardship and worry has been caused topeople on the land by the present policy.
– Some of the leaseholders are very wealthy people.
– Possibly ; but we desire to encourage people to go out into the western districts of New South Wales and Queensland, and the northern districts of South Australia and Western Australia, and we certainly ought not to penalize them with a taxation assessment every year. There was no uniformity in the way in which these leases were valued. In some cases , the value for taxation purposes was more than the value of the leasehold, the stock, and the improvements altogether. In other cases, more particularly in Queensland, leases rented at £400 a year might be valued at £800. The Department then calculated the capital sum equivalent to £400 per year for the unexpired term of the lease. So far as I understand, no taxation of this kind has been collected since 1917, hut the assessments have been sent out every year, thus holding a sword over the heads of men who are fighting nature under very adverse conditions.
Another matter that calls for attention is that of overlapping services. A move has been made with the Taxation Department, but there are other services duplicated most unnecessarily. For instance, in the case of dairy produce, there is a State inspector for produce for local consumption, and a Commonwealth inspector when the intention is to export. In the meat industry- the same trouble arises, so that we have a little army of officials, when one authority could do the whole business. The trouble is that many of our wholesale meat men, when the killing is going on, do not know whether the meat is to be put into the retail trade or exported. Only a few months ago some 80,000 sheep were killed and placed in the freezing chambers at Homebush, with a view to the export trade, but a shortage of mutton arose in Sydney, and the carcasses were put into local consumption. This necessitated double inspection, and double expense; and the same thing happened in the case of beef. When meat is killed with the intention of export, an odd beast, perhaps the best in the lot, is found to have a bruise, and is rejected by the Commonwealth inspector; before that meat can go into local consumption it must be passed by the State inspector.
I understand that the Cabinet is to take some steps to relieve anomalies in the collection of the lighting dues on the coast. In Sydney Harbor there is only one light kept up by the harbor authorities, and yet the dues to be paid are the same as when those authorities were responsible for the whole. The proper course would be for the Commonwealth to take over the whole management of the lighting.
– There are 625 miles without a light on the Western Australian coast.
– I do not know whether the honorable member blames the States or the Commonwealth, but the fact he mentions does not justify double charges.
There has been much discussion on the administration . of the Postal Department. I must confess that if any one had told me when I was elected to this House, that I should approve of a reduction of the postage rate to11/2d., I should have been very much astonished. But conditions have improved so much during the last few months that I think the Treasurer is justified in now making the reduction. My opinion always has been that there should be no reduction until there was greater efficiency in the services. At the same time, I realize that we have adopted a wise policy of postal extension by the use of loan moneys. It was absolutely impossible, without imposing a great burden on the community, to make the necessary extensions out of revenue. If we wish to make conditions better for our rural settlers we ought to give them improved postal and telephone facilities. People require to have lived out-back to realize the advantages of such conveniences, which tend more than anything else could to keep distant parts in touch with civilization. At one time I lived some 400 miles from Sydney, and, owing to the fact that I had the telephone in ray house, I was able to, keep myself as fully informed with war news as any business man in the capital.
I was 24 miles away from the post-office, but every lunch hour I was able to ring up the local newspaper office, and obtain the substance of the cables which had appeared in the 11 o’clock editions of the Sydney evening newspapers.
– That is as it should be.
– I agree with the honorable member. If this were carried out to a greater extent it would check the drift of people from the country districts to the city.
Something might be done by carrying out hydro-electric schemes where possible - and there are not many places in the eastern States where such schemes are not possible - to provide electric light and power for farmers, and thus help to make life on the land more, pleasant. I compliment the PostmasterGeneral on the good work he is carrying out. I have no personal pull with the honorable gentleman, and did not know Mm until I came to this House; but since he has been in charge of the Department much has been done in my electorate to remedy the deplorable lack of postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities from which the country districts suffer.
– Is it not a fact that the honorable member is reaping the benefit of the work done by the gentleman who pre- viously represented Macquarie?.
– If that question is put to the electors of Macquarie, they will say, “ No “ to it. They give me the credit, and that is what I want. I am bold enough to think that since I have represented the Macquarie electorate, the claims of the electors have been put before the Department better than they ever were put before.
Probably the greatest problem’ with which we are faced at the present time is the development of markets for our products. The best brains of this House should be devoted to the solution of our difficulties in this connexion. It is not a party matter, and I trust it will never be made the plaything of party politics. We all desire to see this country advance, and it cannot advance as it should unless wo establish fresh markets for our products. The British market is the best we could have, but being so far from it we need special treatment for our products in order to take the fullest advantage of it.
– Does not the honorable member think that the -local market is important ?
– I do, and I believe that in a very short time there will be a considerable increase in the local market. It is when we are right up against a difficulty that the best traits in the British character are -asserted, and the work of overcoming it is faced with determination and persistence. Australia produces a great many products which are badly wanted in the world, but it is necessary that we should be able to place them in the markets of the world at prices which will pay the producers. That is our difficulty, and I trust that the Prime Minister, while in England, will be able to achieve something in this direction. Trade preference is a big thing to ask for, ‘especially in Great Britain, where Free Trade principles are so strongly ingrained in the people. We .consume in Australia only five-eighths of the beef we produce, and unless ‘we can find .a market under normal conditions for the other three-eighths, the industry will be in a deplorable condition. There should be a market for our meat in England. At the present time the South Americans are in that market with their, beef, and they have a great advantage in freight, and in being able to put meat in a chilled state on the English market. If the South Americans can force us out of the English market, they will be able to charge their own price, and they will make the British public pay through the nose. That is a very strong trump card for the Prime Minister to play at the “Imperial Conference. We must have a market for our dried fruits.
– Does the honorable member not think that we should have considered the question of markets long before this?
– I do; but it is of no use to talk of what should have been done. We must face the position as it exists to-day. We have to pay for the mistakes made by previous Administrations. Let us get down to “ tin tacks,” and fight our way through. No man can go into the irrigation areas, and see the wonderful production brought about in arid and semiarid districts without desiring’ to see the good work extended. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) lives close to one of the irrigation settlements, and he knows, as I do, that the settlers cannot be expected to carry the whole burden of, the cost ‘of the irrigation schemes. .Experiments in irrigation . had at first to be made, and it has been found that the country of least value for grazing is of most value for irrigation for the purpose of agriculture. It is not’ fair that the whole burden of the experiments should be borne by those occupying the irrigated areas, in view of the fact that we have in those areas an asset for all time. There is a market in Great Britain for our products, and I say that it is of no use for the British people to put the Anzac on a pedestal and worship him, while they continue to buy the products of Greek, Egyptian, and Turk in preference to those of their own kith and kin in Australia.
– Does the honorable member not think that it is unreasonable to expect’ the British public to give more for Australian meat than they can get meat for from other countries?
– We must look, in these matters, at more than appears on the surface. We know that Australia is one of the best customers that Great Britain has. We are offering to take her surplus population at the present time.. We are prepared to take them out of the blind alleys they are in in Great Britain, and give them a better existence in Australia. In asking for some trade preference, we are asking only for what ia reasonable. We have to solve a very difficult proposition, because, in Great Britain, there is not only a Free Trade school of thought opposed to what we desire, but there is also, as there is in every English-speaking country, a body of people anxious to take advantage of such questions as this for the purpose of making political capital out of them. I believe that we are sending to Great Britain the best representative Australia could have to deal with these matters. T consider that it was very inadvisable for the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) to say that while it was right that we should make representations for preference to the people of Great Britain, nothing would come from those representations. I wish ‘ the Prime Minister God-speed, and a successful mission to the Old Country. I am satisfied that if he is unsuccessful in this matter, the fault will not be his. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that the Prime Minister had issued a threat to the British Government that if they did not give us preference, we would go to other markets,, and he said that there were no other markets. I say that there are other markets, and that we will have to develop those other markets.
– Where are they?
– In the East. I am in a position to know that. The Australian Meat Council sent two practical men to the East, and the reports we have had from them are most satisfactory. We have every reason to think that, as a result of the efforts of our delegation, a most advantageous market for our meat will be opened up in Japan. The Japanese are anxious to get it. The refrigerated space available is insufficient, and it is a matter of getting it to Japan at a price which the people there can afford to pay, and which, at the same time, will pay Australian producers. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said that there was a market for £1,000,000 worth of our meat in Japan. Whether that is so or not, I cannot say; but I do say we have had most satistac-tory reports from our delegation that is now leaving Japan, and intends to go round the coast of Asia and to India.
– What are they? Are they travellers?
– They are two representatives whom the Australian Meat Council has sent on its own account. One is a representative of the producers, a man who has spent his life on the land, and fully understands that side of the business, and the other is a man from a meat works who understands all the technicalities and details of that particular business.
– They are business men who are interested in the industry ?
– Exactly. I do not contend’ that the market is sufficient to absorb the whole of our exportable surplus; but the possibilities are very good, and a most, useful trade may be developed. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), said that he knew that it was right that Imperial preference should be granted, but he did not think there was the slightest chance of our getting what we were asking for. The right honorable gentleman did not adopt that attitude during the war. - That was not the spirit which animated the Australian soldiers, who made a name which will never perish, when they were confronted with difficulties that appeared to be insurmountable. They went right on and attempted to overcome those difficulties. When the ex-Prime Minister was faced with difficult questions in Great Britain he did not give up trying because they appeared to be insoluble. We know that we are asking for that which is in the interests of Great Britain as well as of Australia. It is our duty to support the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and to trust that he will secure satisfactory results. In the British Parliament the other day an honorable member said the only loan that had not been floated on the British market was that for Empire development ; and it would probably pay the British investor much better than any other loan. A great deal of discussion has revolved round the present position of the wheat market. I am a wheat-grower, and 1 know that the position is not very satisfactory at the present time. I do not, however, consider that it is hopeless. We may obtain a lower price this year than we have obtained for years. I do not think that the Government would have been justified in guaranteeing as a firstpayment for the wheat at country railway stations a price greater than 3s. per bushel. The United States of America are large wheat-producers. Before the war that country had practically ceased to be a wheat exporter, and the reason it increased its production was the high prices that were ruling. Land in the United States of America has become too valuable for wheat-growing in many cases, and unless high prices are obtained the land can be utilized more remuneratively in other directions. If the price of wheat becomes low, some of the land which at present is being devoted to its growth will cease that production. Quotations have been made from a report of a Special Committee of the Legislative Council of New South Wales to show that it costs 4s. 6d. to produce a bushel of wheat. I know of no subject on which there has been more prolific argument than that of the cost of producing a bushel of wheat. Some very successful farmers in the Cowra district appointed a committee, which went into the matter very fully, and arrived at the decision that it cost 7s.01/4d. to produce a bushel of wheat. The fact that they were most prosperous men, who had been growing wheat for years, and had never received 7s.01/4d. per bushel, disproved their assertion. When ascertaining the cost of production, allowance is made for the farmer’s labour at current rates, rental value of the land, the return on capital, and depreciation. The farmer makes his profit out of his labour. No sane man would try to grow wheat if he had to rent land and pay for ploughing and planting; he would be insolvent in no time. When these men engage in wheat production, they probably do in a day as much work as two paid men could reasonably be expected to . do. It is an ‘ advantage to Australia to have men who will work like that. Although the industry may be under a cloud, probably that cloud will prove to be not as heavy as it appears. The industry must be kept going. It and the gold-mining industry have done more to develop Australia than has anything else.
– And the wool.
– The wool is easily the most valuable asset that Australia has, but wool-growing has not developed and populated the country to the extent that wheat-growing and gold mining have. A great impetus was given to development during the gold-digging days, yet the gold has never paid for its production, as it has not been produced under £5 per ounce.
– Is that stock exchange value, or actual money spent?
– Actual money spent. Yet gold has done more than anything else to develop the country in a short time. A number of districts at present devoted to farming were in past times the scenesof gold digging; the agricultural settlement followed the gold mine, and many of the miners took to farming when the mines petered out. I hold decided views on the necessity for land settlement. Although I realize that the sheep and wool industry will be the mainstay of Australia for many years, yet I believe that men who are holding land suitable for a higher rate of production close to railway lines must be prepared to get out, but they must receive fair compensation. A greater population must be settled on such country in order that fares and freights can be lowered. We have before us direct evidence that the only way in which to decrease the burden of taxation is to increase the number of shoulders which are bearing it. I look forward to the time when the Northern Territory land Ordinances will - come before the House. Although I know as much, probably, as any honorable member regarding the land in the eastern portion of Australia, I have yet a great deal to learn regarding the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said the other day he hoped that, within five years, 1,000,000 people would be settled in the Northern .Territory. He was laughed to scorn. When .we talk about bringing people to Australia, we are told that we cannot absorb them. I have here figures which show the extent to which population increased in Victoria in the days of the gold diggings. In 1850, there were in Victoria 71,191 persons. In 1855 the number had increased to 338,315 persons; and by 1860 it had reached a total of 534,055, an increase in ten years of 462,864, despite the lack of transport facilities. The excess of immigration over emigration in regard to Victoria was ‘400,045, and in regard to Australia 576,328 persons. In the country districts examples are often cited of persons who have started with nothing, < and done exceptionally well. The capital value of a man te the community is not generally realized. Lord Goschen, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, in England, had inquiries made by actuaries to ascertain the capital value of a man to the nation. At that time the average earning power was 15s. per week. The actuaries, after careful investigation, declared that the value was £250. The capital- value of . 300,000 men to Australia would therefore be about £600,000,000. The only way in which we can hope to defend this country is by increasing our population. The honorable member for Wentworth the other day gave us some very Valuable information. He pointed out that the natural increase in eastern coun- tries is so great that they must find an outlet. The history of the world proves that a nation which possesses a country that it cannot defend and bring to the highest state of production has to give way to others. Unless we increase our population at a very much greater rate than we are doing, we cannot hope to hold this country. That may be accepted as a maxim. The Commonwealth Government have a possession of very great value in the Northern Territory.
It has been said that we should be represented abroad by business men. I feel very strongly on that. Much more cooperation is possible between the Commonwealth and the States in our representation abroad. If we could secure it, we should add greatly to the efficiency of our representation, and also achieve considerable economy. At present, each State has its Agent-General in England, and we have our High Commissioner. Our representation would be much more effective under one head. Whether he should be Ministerial or otherwise is a matter which could be discussed. Such a representative could easily handle all the financial work of the States and Commonwealth, and better results would be obtained. I also believe that each of our primary industries should be represented in England by one man. Those representatives could meet together at intervals under the chairmanship of the Commonwealth representative. They would be able to do much to increase our markets, and the cost’ of such representation would be much less than the present expenditure in that way.
– Do you suggest . cutting out the Agents-General?
– You will soon be a unificationist. You agree with us on two lines.
– I am glad there are some lines on which honorable members opposite have some common sense. I commend the Government for providing £250,000 to be spent on wire netting. Like the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), I believe it would have been better had the amount been much larger. The Government is not making this amount a gift to the settlers, nor do the settlers desire that. The money will enable both small and large land-holders to obtain wire netting, which they are not. able to get under existing conditions.. Some of the large land-holders in our western country need wire netting badly, but under existing conditions they cannot afford it. Few people realize what a curse the rabbits are to Australia. Some think that, because an export trade is being done in rabbits, they are an asset to the country. It is a parasitic industry, however. It may be bringing money into the- country, but the rabbits are causing very much greater losses than are compensated for by the trade in their skins and flesh. New South Wales had 63,000,000 sheep in 1893. At that time, the country was, to a great extent, unimproved. Since then, millions of pounds have been expended in clearing the land and providing water conservation. I believe that New South Wales should be capable of carrying 100,000,000 sheep; but we know we are well stocked if we Have 45,000,000. It is a good many years since we had even that number. The rabbit pest is to blame. It would astonish honorable members to realize how great the losses have been in the last ten years because of this curse. At any time in the last ten years we could have carried 45,000,000 sheep if there had been no rabbits. The carrying capacity of the country is reduced by 50 per cent., becauseof the rabbits.
– The rabbits have been a source of cheap food for the public.
– A very much greater supply of cheap meat would have been available had we been able to fully stock the country. I realize that at times the rabbits provide cheap food, but we would have cheap food at all times if we had no rabbits. With one exception, the rabbits are the worst curse we have. They go out into Central Australia where large areas of counttry are unoccupied. In good seasons they breed rapidly, and the dingoes and wild dogs live on them. They also increase exceedingly. When a drought comes, the rabbits die out and the dingoes come into the settled areas and kill thousands of sheep. Unless something is done in the western divisions of New South Wales, similar to what has been done already in South Australia, that country will be unable to carry sheep. It is highly necessary that provision should be made for the landholders to obtain netting to enclose their holdings. One station owner told me the other- day that in the last twelve months he has paid for the destruction ‘ of1,500 dogs. The number’ of dogs killed was probably much greater. The establishment of this fund will mean that money will always be available to providewire netting, for annual repayments made by the land-holders, including a small instalment and interest, will maintain the fund. An honorable member opposite asked during the debate whether our home markets were not the best markets. It was also observed that, if we increase our population, we shall need all our products. I do not think we can live by taking in our own washing, although the United States of America consumes 93 per cent, -of its primary products locally. We have not its population, however. We have 12,000 miles of coast line, and, if the present population of Australia were spread at equal distances around our coast, there would be only one man, woman, and child for every 12 feet. That is serious, not only from the point of view of production, but also from the stand-point of defence. We cannot defend this country unless we populate it. Honorable members opposite have said that they favour a scheme of home defence. The best scheme of home defence is the provision of a large rural population.
– That is part of our scheme.
– We have any amount of country, andwe should make it available. The old tale has been told by the Labour representatives. They have said, “What is the good of bringing people from overseas when we cannot find land for our own people ? “ That is not the position. In the first speech I heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), he quoted a case in which there were eighty applicants for one block of land. He said the land was in a drought-stricken district. That land was near Armidale, in New South Wales, which is one of the safest districts in that State. A temporary droughtis a godsend to them, because it gets rid of many of their pests. Their trouble is that they’ get too much rain, not that they get too little. At present, they are suffering from the effects of a long and severe winter. A few miles from Armidale you have the location of the highest railway station in Australia.
-When I referred to the land at Armidale, as mentioned by the honorable member, the country was suffering from a drought.
– I admit it; but I repeat that those periodical droughts are the best thing that could happen for that country. In my own district, country of a semi-arid character was thrown open, and eight blocks were applied for by about 600 people. The conditions were so easy that anybody could apply. If a block of land in Collins-street were offered for sale, it would probably be some time before it would be purchased at its proper value. If such a block were to be given away, all Melbourne would be after it. That is the position with regard to much of our land. It is hard to imagine easier conditions for acquiring land than those obtaining in New South Wales.
– Is a man who already holds land in New South Wales eligible to apply for these blocks?
– No; but under the rotten system of balloting for blocks, any one who has a bicycle, or a wheelbarrow, or a sulky has as good a chance to get a block as a share-farmer who has a plant, or a man who has some capital behind him and who is likely to make a success of the block. I can quote a worse instance than that already given by me. On one occasion I drove Senator E. D. Millen to a place in Wyalomg where balloting for blockswas in progress. For thirty-seven blocks there were 2,900 applicants. If those applicants had been properly sifted by the Land Board, it would probably have been found that only about 100 of them had a decent prospect of becoming successful settlers. I do not say that a man must have money before he will make a good settler. Many people have started in this country off scratch, like I did, and . have made good. They have not done it by working the hours which are proposed now as proper working hours.
– Did I understand the honorable member to say that the leaseholds which he mentioned some’ little time ago were worth £3,000 at the time of allotment?
– Not the land I have just mentioned; but, in the case of Bolagamy, to which I referred a little while ago, the country had been leased, and was well improved. It was some of the best in the district, and honorable members know the value of wheat-growing land in those areas. Each of those blocks comprised from 900 to 1,150 acres of good land, and every acre was well improved, and could be cleared for wheat for probably not more than 5s. per acre. Honorable members who are conversant with the value of wheat-growing land in New South Wales and South Australia will realize that the valuation I mentioned was correct.
– Are the lessees allowed to dispose of their blocks?
– After five years they can dispose of them without the Minister’s consent, but often they are permitted to do so earlier. If a misfit has possession of a block the sooner he is got rid of and a man who will bring the land to a proper state of production is substituted the better for the country. It is useless to compel a misfit to remain on a block of land, at the risk of the area becoming vermin infested and a menace to neighbouring country. The policy adopted is that which the farmers and settlers have been urging in New South Wales for the last twenty years, namely, that land settlement and not revenue should be the paramount consideration. The lessees should be able to apply the whole of their capital to improvements, in order to bring the land to a proper state of production. Under the conditions of these leases the payment of rent is suspended for the first five years if the holder undertakes to expend an equal amount upon improvements. The leases are for twenty-five or twenty-eight years without reappraisenient, and the lessees have the right at any time to convert to freehold at the original capital value. Thirty years ago, when I, as a young man, took up a block , of land in belah scrub country, the conditions were very different. When my first instalment became due at the end of three years I had to pay up or surrender the lease. The land not being certificated, I could not get an advance on it from any financial institution, and I had to pay three times the ordinary rate of interest for the money with which to pay the rent due to the Crown. That has been the folly of the land policy in the past, and we should remember in connexion with the development of Northern Territory lands to make revenue considerations subordinate to settlement.
I trust that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will, at the Imperial Conference, bring to a successful issue the various problems with which he will be called upon to deal. I consider that the proper representation of Australia at the Conference is of the utmost importance. A great deal of clap-trap is talked about the folly and wrong of closing Parliament during the Prime Minister’s absence. What this country most needs is sane administration rather than more legislation. One honorable member opposite gave as his reason for objecting to the closing of Parliament that certain legislation should have been passed twenty years ago. I do not know what legislation he had in mind, but we have managed tolerably well without it, and no great harm will be done by further postponing it until the next session. I trust that the Prime Minister realizes that he will carry with him to England the best wishes of this House, and that during his absence we will endeavour to “ keep the home fires burning.”
Bill returned- from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
.- I move-
That as a mark of rasped to the memory of the late WarrenG. Harding, President of the United States of America, the House do now adjourn.
I regret to have to inform the House that information has been received through the press that Mr. ‘Warren G. Harding, President of the United States of America, is dead. I ask the House to adjourn as a mark of respect to a very great man, and as an indication of our sympathy with our great sister nation. Next week I shall formally move a motion which will give this House an opportunity of recording its sympathy with the American people in the tragic loss which they havesustained. In the meantime I propose, on behalf of the people of Australia, to cable to them through the proper channels our. very sincere sympathy, and our regret that one who ever laboured in the cause of peace has been taken from us. The late President Harding has left an enduring monument to his memory in his conception of the Washington Conference.
.- Isincerely regret to learn of the death of President Harding. Only yesterday we welcomed the news that be had safely passed a crisis in his illness, but now he is gone. In these troublous days the leaders of the great countries of the world have stupendous tasks ahead of them, and many lose their lives in their endeavour to carry on their national work. President Harding was always regarded with respect by the whole of the civilized world. His effort to promote world peace by initiating the Washington Disarmament Conference will ever be remembered. It stands to his credit that that” Conference, for which he was solely responsible, was successful to a large extent. The world, with its many serious problems to solve, can ill afford to spare such men. To Mrs. Harding we offer our sincere sympathy, and with our cousins overseas we mourn the loss of their dearly beloved President.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230803_reps_9_104/>.