9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took thechair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I desire, by way of personal -explanation, to make a statement which tears upon the action I took last night in banding to the Prime Minister an offer on behalf of a constituent of mine to purchase certain vessels of the
Commonwealth. Government Line of Steamers known as the “ Austral “ steamers. I would not again have spoken of the matter but for the fact that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), iu referring to my action, used expressions concerning -which there might be some uncertainty. The honorable member and I have known each other quite long enough to be satisfied that neither of us would take action the propriety of which could in any way be called in question.
– Hear, hear! I quite agree with the honorable member.
– I believe that the honorable member used t£e expression, “It is rather scandalous that the honorable member should take such action.” I do not know of any action I could have taken which would have been more public than that which I did take, namely, on the floor of this Chamber to hand to the head of the Government an offer for the purchase of certain ships which the Prime Minister, in speaking on the Commonwealth Shipping Bil], said would have to be disposed of, as they were not of a type that the Commonwealth Shipping Line could use for the overseas trade upon which it would be entering. I want it to be clearly understood that I have no financial interest whatever in this matter. People outside, and the press also, at times seem inclined to throw political mild at politicians, and it has occurred to me that, because of the action I took, it might be suggested that I was in some way interested, perhaps in a commission that would be paid in the event of the ships being sold. I had no interest whatsoever in the matter beyond serving the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Dalley said that it would be better to have tenders called for the purchase of these vessels; but I took it from the speech made by the Prime Minister that certain ships would have to be sold, and, on behalf of a constituent, I submitted an offer for the consideration of the Government.
– T wish to say distinctly that I am of the opinion that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) would not dream of doing anything which would justify the insinuation that he was not perfectly honorable or might be associated with transactions that could be described as’ shady. What I said was that I was astounded at the unusualness of his proceeding. To me, it is even now astounding that such an unusual course should have been taken. If the Government desire to dispose of these vessels, there is a correct procedure to follow. It should advertise their sale openly in the public press, and call for tenders. I took exception to the action taken by the honorable member for Wentworth last night, because I gathered from his remarks that he had been in consultation with the Prime Minister, and that, as a result of that consultation, he came to this House and presented an offer for the purchase of these ships. I considered that that would establish a very dangerous precedent, and it is on that ground I took objection to what 06- curred. I. am pleased to hear what the honorable member has had to say, and I was pleased also to learn from the Prime Minister that the Government is not prepared to dispose of these vessels in a secret way, and that, if they are to be disposed of, they will be sold openly, and every one will be given a fair opportunity to tender for their purchase’.
Payments to Growers
– I ask the ‘Treasurer when will the final deferred payment of 10 ner cent, be made to growers who supplied fruit to the last Pool?
– The money’ is immediately available.
– In view of the fact that, contrary to the statements pub,lished through the Labour Bureau and in other ways, there are 200 unemployed men in Melbourne ready at four hours notice to go to any part of Victoria to obtain employment, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in. the name of humanity, he will request the Government of Victoria to do something to -find employment for these men ?
– I think the honorable member will agree with me that it is not ‘ quite the proper course for one Govern- ment to take any action to direct another as to the course which’ it should follow in regard to a matter which is its own responsibility.
Position of Mr. PERCY Deane - Appointment of Commission.
– In view of the fact that, as I understand, Mr. Percy Deane has been relieved of his duties, I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether any other officers have been relieved of their duties, or it is contemplated to suspend them pending the inquiry by a Royal Commission into certain sugar purchases?
– The position with regard to Mr.’ Deane is that in the ordinary course it came to his knowledge that the Government had decided that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into certain purchases of sugar, and, as his name was mentioned when the matter was discussed in this House and was before the Public Accounts Committee, he immediately came to me and took what I think the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will agree was a very proper course. He asked that, pending the inquiry by the Royal Commission, he should be relieved of his duties. There is no suggestion that Mr. Deane has been suspended. No officer of the Public Service can be suspended unless a charge is made against him. No charge has been made against Mr. Deane. He has merely been relieved of his duties at his own request, and I think that in making such a request he took a very proper course. It is not contemplated to suspend any other officer, nor do I know of any other officer who might be expected to ask that he should be relieved of his duties in connexion with this matter.
– May I say, by way of explanation of a question I am going to address to the Prime Minister, that I quite appreciate his view, that once this matter had been referred to a Royal Commission it would be improper to discuss it on the floor of this Chamber? But I desire to ask him on what principle or precedent he declines to disclose to this House the communications or revelations, whatever they are, which have formed the basis for the proposed appointment of the Royal Commission? As something, apparently, has occurred in regard to which the .right honorable gentleman proposes to ask the Governor-General to appoint a Royal Commission, I ask him. whether it is not proper that he should take the House into his entire confidence as to the facts he proposes to have investigated ?
– The appointment of a Royal Commission is, of course, an executive Act. I entirely agree with the honorable member that any information I can properly give to the House should be given. I .think, however, that when the honorable member sees the terms of the reference he will appreciate the view that there is no further information I can give at this time without prejudicing the case which is to be submitted and determined by the Royal Commission when appointed.
– “Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the name of the Justice of the High Court who is to be constituted a Royal Commissioner? Furthermore, will the proceedings, as I assume they will, be open to the general public? .
– I .cannot inform the honorable member of the name of the Justice of the High Court to be appointed. I am in communication with Sir Adrian Knox, the Chief Justice, ‘and as soon as I am in a position to do so, I shall make the information available. So far as 1 know, the proceedings will be held in public.
– Yesterday I directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the formation iri New South Wales of a branch of an organization known as the Ku-Klux-Klan. In his reply, the Prime Minister stated that the Government had no legislative power to deal with organizations of this character. Is it not a fact that the Unlawful Associations Act of 1916-17 gives the Government the necessary power? In view of the outrages committed by the Ku-Klux Klan in the United States of America, will the right honorable gentleman take the necessary steps, under that Act, to prevent its formation here?
– The question appaosen’tly involves the legal interpretation 016 a Statute. I suggest to the honorable member that he put his’ question on> the< notice-paper. It iSj of course, -for hian to- determine “whether the question, shwulkl1 be addressed to the Prime Minister &B’ t<r the Attorney-General.
– Are we to take it that in the opinion, of the- AttorneyGeneral’ there is no law in force in Australia to suppress an abominable organization, which in the United States of America has perpetrated personal’ violence, and even murder, on peaceful citizens?
– I ask the honorable member to repeat that question on the notice-paper, and to direct, it to the Attorney-General. That Minister has just- directed my attention to the f ac.t that the Unlawful Associations Act has expired.
– After twenty-four hours’ notice, I desire to ask the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), as Chairman of the . Select Committee inquiring into the administration of the Navigation Act and other matters appertaining to the coastal trade of Australia, whether that Committee has yet determined to admit the public and the press to its- meetings ?
– If violence will not be done to the Standing Orders, I shall answer the honorable member’s question.
– The honorable member is quite entitled to give an answer if he so desires.
– The members of the Select Committee on Navigation are hopeful’ that they will soon be able to take evidence in public, as the Government, I understand, is giving consideration to the position. *
Report of Select Committee presented by Mr. Hubby, and ordered to be printed-.
Address by Mr. Godfrey Isaacs.
– I desire to direct the attention of . the Prime Minister to the fact- that on* the 8th. May last, an address was delivered by Mr. Godfrey Isaacs, managing director of the Marconi Company, to the> members of the’ IndustrialistGroup’ in the British House of Commons, in which he said -
Directly they commence- the erection.- of these stations they will simultaneously erect stations on Behalf of the Australian Company in Australia, stations in South Africa, in Vancouver-, and Montreal,, and they, fully- expect, through the Indian Company, which they have undertaken to create, a station in India.
In the light of this declaration of a proposal to erect an Australian station,. will the Prime Minister inform the. House whether negotiations between the. Amalgamated Wireless and the Marconi Company have reached! a stage which justifies Kim in making a statement on the subject ?’
– The previous questions of the honorable member have been dealt with as urgent, and their importance appreciated. As to the present question, I do not think any harm will be done by the little delay necessary to enable it to be placed on the notice-paper. The present - position is. that I have no knowledge that negotiations have- been finalized.
Dr. Campbell Browne’sreport
– As Dr. Campbell Browne has just returned after a. prolonged absence overseas, is it the intention of the Government to ask* him for his- final report on the New Guinea expedition, which cost the country £10,000?
– I have some recollection that I answered a. very similar question a little time- ago. If,, however, the honorable member will put. the question on the notice-paper, I shall again answer it in a way that,’ I hope, will satisfy him.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it’ a fact that the tenancies of canteens’ on H.M.A.S. Melbourne, Penguin, and Tingira are at? present held by one Maltese firm; if so, . as its is! understood that such tenancies will shortly become vacant, will the announced policy of the Government of preference to ex-service men be -adhered to in the allotment of such tenancies?
– Yes. Applications for new tenants will be invited in due course by public advertisement, and preference will be given, as far as practicable, to ex-service men.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are< as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has his attention been drawn to the invention by Louis Brennan. of the. helicopter, which enables a plane to hover for twenty minutes? 2.. Is this the same Louis. Brennan who invented the torpedo in Victoria?
– The answers to the. honorable member’s questions are as follow*: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This matter is held in abeyance pending a decision on. the question of the disposal of properties transferred from the States to the Commonwealth, in regard to which no arrangement has yet been arrived at’ with the State Governments concerned!
APPLICATION by Mr. CROSS.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether ho will make available the full copy of the Board’s report upon the case of Mr. Cross, of the Costing Section Branch, Sydney General Post Office, an applicant for a; 4th class clerical position?
– The report referred to was made to the Public Service Commissioner under section 50 of the Public Service Act 1902-18, and is, therefore, not within the Minister’s control-. The Public Service Board advises as follows : - “Reports of Boards of Appeal were, furnished for the information of the Public Service Commissioner, in order that he might determine the appeals. It is not considered that these reports should be made available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Until the 1st October next the control of surveys of ships for the purpose of securing their seaworthiness will remain in the hands of the respective State Governments. In the circumstances, it would not be competent for investigation by a Commission or any other body appointed by the Com,monwealth Government.’ When the surveys of ships and the general question of securing their seaworthiness comes under Commonwealth control in October next every effort will be made to prevent any ship going to sea in an .unseaworthy condition.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether lie will favorably consider a proposal that the Commonwealth Government should make a substantial contribution this year to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund
– This matter will receive consideration.
– On the 1st August the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Soullin) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
– On the 6th August the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the followiug questions : -
Generals were on the pay-list during 1913 and 1923 respectively?
I am now in a position <to furnish the following . replies: - 1 and 2. ‘The number of Generals on -the paylist and total amounts paid as at 1st July, 1913. and at 1st July, 1923, areas shown, hereunder: -
It is pointed out that no officers are home ou the -pay-list as Brigadier-Generals. Officers holding such rank receive pay as Colonels or Lieutenant-Colonels, or for . the special appointments held by them. 3 and . 4. ‘The number of Lieutenant-Colonels and Colonels on the pay-list and the total amounts ‘paidas at 1st July, 1913 and 1st July, 1.923, are as set out ‘hereunder: -
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
In Committee of Supply : Consideration resumedfrom 7th’ August . (vide page 2260), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1- The Parliament - namely, “The President, £1,100,”, be agreed to.
-=~In . the Age report of my remarks last night there is either a misprmt . or a jniaseport of my remarks last night. I . am reported to have said -
There was quite . a rmm’ber . of . successful soldier settlers, and quite a number of . unsuccessful ones. The “acid” should ‘be put upejj some of them to pay What ‘they . owed the fjovernment.
What I did say was that if -the . soldier isettlers were compelled to meet tbhei-r ‘liabilities, independently of inter-eat, within twelve months or even two -years, ; they would be “ down and out.”
The Budget speech idis.ejosep that ton -tho 30th June, 1922, >tihe national . debt was £416,070,509, . and op ‘the 30th , 3tHje last £410,996,316, representing a reduction in the twelve months by £§,07$, 193. Included in . the gross ‘debit, as £362,000,000 of war . expenditure. The ^eductions effected . during ithe twelve months were - redemption tof -war . gratuity bonds, £2,866,285; repayment ‘.of ide;b.t fdue to the British Qaroramfeoifc., £1,064,684, and . minor adjustments in several other items of , the debt. The decrease of the public vdab.fc mmst ib.e very satisfactory to honorable jmenibeirs. In addition, there *have fteen during t3ie last two years substantial xemissions taxation, namely,, income fc;ax, £3,000,-000; land tax, £400,000; entertainments tax, £100,000; reduction of postoffice charges, . £1,000,000,; remission of . sulphur duty, £80^00.0,; <ceduption of duty on wire netting arad traction engines, £350,000 ; or a “total of £4,930,000. -Even . the most . pessimistic critic will give . to the composite Government reasonable credit for what they have achieved during the ‘ time they have been in office. We all trust that they will be able to continue ‘their good woirk. These results . show that the Government are ip earnest in trying to -give practical effect to . their promise to reduce the ‘load of ‘ debt that the Australian people -are -carrying.
The . decision to abolish duplicajiion in income tax returns will be commended everywhere. People generally are gratified that the -Government have taken such action.. We are ‘not sure what the actual saving in expenditure, will ;b.e. I consider that it will be about £ 300,000. The taxpayer will also be saved a considerable amount of worry and vexation, and heavy expenditure in fees. Many people pay lawyers .more to compile their taxation returns than they pay in taxation.
Mr. Mathews There is no need for that. The Taxation Department will do it for nothing.
– That may be the honorable member’s .opinion. The migration problem is one of the most important that wo have to consider. It is not a party question. We should face it fairly and squarely, with a determination to do the best thing possible. I invite constructive criticism of our migration policy. Australia has room for a large number .of people. I believe £hat more coordination is necessary. I question whether we are getting ,the -best class of immigrants. We need people who are accustomed to the land and who are prepared to go into .our .out-back ‘ country to develop it. According to Dr. Maloney, we have more labourers in our capital cities than we .can find employment for. A recent -migrant to Australia .discussed with me the policy which Australia was following. Bte was gratified with his surroundings,, but ho .assured me ,that the mode of selection in England could 110 be commended. The agent to whom, he went .received £5 for passing him and his wife and .two children. I. was glad to hear him say that the medical examination was strict, but he said that the examination as to his capabilities .was very lax. The agent .told him that all he had to do in filling in his papers was to state that he was accustomed to farm work and had had experience on the land. The Minister should inquire into that statement. While we are anxious to obtain migrants, it .should be made clear that we will only accept the best class of people. The few million pounds that we propose to .spend on our migration policy is infinitesimal- We should do well if we spent f 50,000,000 or even -£100.000’,000 on a proper scheme of land .settlement.
We are indebted to the honorable member for Wentworth /Mr.. Marks) for his practical and well-thought-out speech on defence. It ,w,as asked which, was the more .desirable-ito spend £5.0*0.00,000 in settling migrants ,on the land, or to .spend .such a sum on munitions of war We may have .to spend .both, but at present I consider it far wiser to spend all the money we .can on land settlement. Our best means .of .defence is undoubtedly to settle people on the land. The honorable member for Wentworth said that a modern (battleship would cost from £8,000,000 to £10,000,0.00. Five such battleships . would cost £50,000,000, and the vessels would : begin to depreciate the day they were completed. If we spent £50,000^00 an land settlement, we should be accomplishing something which would be -of immense and increasing value to the country. Have we at present any thoroughly practical scheme of land -settlement1? I ‘have travelled extensively in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, and South Australia. In only two States -are any really honest attempts being made to solve -the .’great problem of land settlement “Victoria and Western Australia. The work going om in Western Australia is’ a .distinct ;cr.e.dit to the Government, and Sir James Michell is going full steam ahead ; -and Mr. McIver, chairman of the Closer .Settlement Board in Victoria, is doing his very best. It is foolish to think that with our small population we can hold Australia against an enemy; The man who comes to such a ‘Conclusion is narrow-minded. Those who say that they are willing ;to :fight anywhere within Australia but are not prepared to go outside the Commonwealth to fight are equally narrow-minded. If a man in the country sees a fire .in the distance in the summer time, he does not wait until it reaches his own paddock before he commences to fight it. He goes out to meet it. That is .the attitude we should adopt with respect to defence. If the Mother Country should be sat war - God forbid that .that time should come again !- -,we, as one of the Dominions, would also, as was .observed by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), be at war. It is foolhardiness to -think that we can wait here until an enemy arrives. An enemy could bring a few vessels to within a mile or two .of our capital .cities and -open up a bombardment. Within six weeks or two months we should be overcome. We had some excellent speeches on defence from the members of the Opposition. I am glad that they are willing to give the Government reasonable assistance in providing for the defence of Australia. They look at the matter in a slightly ..different way from that in which we look at it. They realize the necessity as part of our defence for settling people on the land. I believe that we could do with more skilled artisans in Australia. At present bricklayers at Canberra are paid 22s. 6d. a day full time. With the scarcity of such workers in the cities, I doubt whether we shall be able to secure the number we need at Canberra. We could do with extra men. Ten thousand houses were built in Sydney last year, and that number, was 10,000 below the actual number of orders given. In consequence of the shortage of bricklayers, many people were compelled to build concrete houses.
We have heard a good deal from the Opposition about the Singapore base. The following paragraph on the subject appeared in the Argus of 31st July last: -
Admiral Tosu, the Japanese naval attache, in an interview said that Japanese naval opinion unanimously believed that the British proposal for the establishment of a Singapore base was necessary from the British point of view and for strategic purposes. He considered that the project’ was not contrary to the Washington agreement. Japan would have done the same if placed in a similar position. The good feeling and amity between the two countries was in no way incompatible with the proposal. He deplored the stress laid upon the subject in the press at moments when the least said the better.
Coming from such a reliable source,, that information is very gratifying, and shows positively that the Mother Country has a keen insight into foreign affairs.
I am voicing the opinion of the Country party when I say that we shall give all possible assistance to enable the Government to go full speed ahead in spending millions of money on immigration, believing that that is the best line of defence for Australia, and that the money is better spent in that way than in the accumulation of equipment and munitions of war.
In establishing the Primary Producers’ Bank no attempt was made at originality. It is simply a copy of the . country banking systems as carried out in various European and American countries. The question naturally arises - why open another bank when there are already sixteen like institutions in Australia? The answer is that there is no meed for another bank conducted on the same lines as the present ones,, but the new < institution is somethi’ng different. The facts that called the present banks into existence should be remembered. They were created merely to make as large dividends’ as possible for ‘ their shareholders. They were not influenced by any desire to help the country, nor in any co-operative spirit outside shareholders’^ interests. It is a well-known fact that if a country branch of a bank does not show good profits, it is quickly closed, however great the inconvenience may be to the people of the district concerned. The present banks only fulfil to a limited extent the requirements of the country, for, just when in our uncertain seasons, a producer of the country’s wealth needs all the financial assistance he can get, ‘ that is the very time when the banks call in their loans and require overdrafts to be reduced. The big banks find it, as a rule, a better policy to deal in foreign exchanges, the buying and selling of drafts, telegraphic transfers and bills on places abroad. It is much better in building up dividend-paying propensities than lending money for the encouragement of local production . . ,…..
The bank will have no palatial offices in the cities. It is out to give every assistance to customers when they require to purchase implements, etc., for it has already made arrangements whereby spot cash will be paid to machinery merchants and others. Ib will attend to insurance of every description - life, fire, burglary, hail, etc., and will help its customers in all matters where money is involved.
If the Commonwealth Bank were run on those lines there would be no need for the Rural Bank. I understand that the Board of Control of the Commonwealth Bank will consider the advisability of giving the primary producers a certain amount of aid. The Government are instituting a huge settlement .policy. Last night I referred to soldier settlement and similar ventures, and if these are to be successful the Commonwealth Bank must render reasonable assistance. By this means the opening up and developing of new areas would be greatly facilitated. The matter of national insurance, which is mentioned in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, is of great importance. Old-age and invalid pensions are to be increased, for which we are deeply indebted to the Government. The proposed increase is small, being only 2s. 6d. per week, but still it is a substantial amount. A married couple will be allowed to have 120s. per fortnight in earnings arid pension,’ which is a fair and reasonable allowance. Still the Government have not gone as far as they might. It is intended to appoint a Royal Commission on National Insurance to investigate the various phases of old-age, invalidity, sickness and unemployment. We trust that in the near future a Bill will be introduced as the result of its findings to give some relief. I am not a financier, but I believe that a comprehensive scheme of national insurance would, in the course of fifty years, not only pay for itself, but make available a large surplus for other purposes. The Public Services of the Commonwealth and the States have the benefit of superannuation schemes, and if such schemes are good for public servants, they are good for every one else. Wc are indebted to the Age for the series of articles on this subject which it is at present publishing. I propose to read two extracts from the article appearing in to-day’s issue. The first refers to the scheme in Germany, and is as follows : -
The so-called national insurance in Germany had birth in the system of miners’ provident funds, established in .the early half of last century. As long ago as 1845 the Prussian Industrial Code enacted the creation of benefit funds providing against sickness, need and death; hut it was not until 1881 that a general scheme embracing .the bulk of the industrial workers .was instituted try the State. .
– Why does not the honorable member read what the Age said about the Budget.
– What has that article to do with the Budget?’ The Budget makes reference to a national insurance scheme and to old-age and invalid pensions, and if the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has no respect for the aged, then I have. The article continues -
From time to time during the intervening period the taw on the subject was amended, until it reached its final form in 1011, when 15,500,000 workers came within its scope. Broadly, the system, provides for the compulsory insurance of lower-paid workers against invalidity, accident, old age and death, with a voluntary scheme ‘for other better-paid classes. Employer and employee contribute0 small sums weekly to the general fund, which is subsidized by the State: The benefits comprise: -
Old-age pensions, claimable at seventy years of age.
Survivor pensions, Lc, pensions to dependants of insured persons.
Gratuities to widows and orphans.
Payments during incapacity through accident or illness.
Sanatorium and other curative treatment.
Then I make the following short extract concerning the provisions of the British Act-
The scope of the British National Insurance Acts, which were originated by Mr. Lloyd George, is not so comprehensive as under the German plan. The first Act, which provided for national health insurance, came into operation in 1911, and its scope has ‘been extended from time to time. During the war period unemployment insurance was added, so that to-day the scheme is divided into two clearly defined sections: - ‘(a) Health; (h) unemployment. Both are administered by State Departments, with the aid of what are termed “ approved societies,” such, for instance, as friendly societies, industrial insurance companies, and provident societies formed by them and the trades unions. In regard to health, insurance is compulsory for all persons between the ages of sixteen and seventy years employed at industrial labour, and all other employees whose annual income is less than cE250 per annum. To this rule there are certain exceptions. . The contributions in the case of .male workers is fixed at 5d. per week, and in the case of females at 4d:, the employer in each case contributing 5d. per week for each employee, and the State granting a subsidy in proportion. The benefits include medical and sanatorium treatment, allowances up to
W» per. week for males, and 12s. per week for? females’ during illness, and allowances of 78: fid’, per week in the case of disablement. Women receive a sum of 40s. on confinement. In 1922 15,000,000 persons were insured under the’ Act.
I am very pleased that the £ge should publish these articles, as their publication ir aS assist a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into this matter. The Government are entitled to credit for proposing, to take action for the introduction of a measure of this kind.
Many matters have been worn almost threadbare during this debate. I should like to say with respect to the grant of £250.000 for- the purchase of wre netting that it will prove of very great assistance to settlers in getting rid ofl a/ very great pest. With respect to the grant, of £500,000 for main roads development,, I trust that the Government will *,nt only continue such a grant each year, but, will be able to see its way to slightly increase the amount to be given for this purpose. We have taken in hand a great immigration scheme on which it is proposed, to spend millions, and we must have roads, railways, and other facilities for the successful settlement of immigrants. The grant for main roads development, small as it is, will no doubt be of very great assistance to settlers.
– Should the grant be made from loan or from revenue?
– It should be made from loan. I should like to say a word or two on- the subject of markets for Australian produce. The slogan of the last Government was, “ Produce, produce, produce!” Our people have responded, and have increased production. Our wool clip is probably the finest in the world, and there is* a reasonable market for it at the present time. We have, done very well in the Commonwealth in the production of wheat, but there is. still -room for enormous expansion in this direction. I can speak with some knowledge of the meat industry, and I have a very kindly feeling towards Queenslanders and others interested in that industry. The Queensland producers gained very little from their transactions during the past year. The drought was bad- enough for their industry, but the low prices obtained for meat, coupled with the high freights and- restricted markets; were worse. We can produce in
Australia- a very considerable quantity of butter, and- in this- connexion I again- ha-ve to congratulate the Government upon having done- something which was very necessary in the’ interests, of this great industry. This is the first Government to make- a systematic attempt, in response to- the agitation of practical’ dairymen to put. this industry on a sound footing by providing for a butter-fat standard the same, as ‘that adopted in New Zealand, and also in Denmark and other parts of Europe, Because in the- past we had not such a standard, New Zealand butter has brought a.- higher price than Australian butter. The Govern’ ment, is doing everything in its power to place the export trade- in this article, on a sound footing. ‘ We. have to-day ‘ an Australian Dairy Council, composed* of practical- men from all the- States- of the Commonwealth, who know the- business from A to Z. The Council will- meet whenever necessary with a view to giving advice- on the subject of the industry- to the Minister- for Trade and Customs-. Ministers, come- and Ministers go, and- we cannot expect them to understand the details of our great industries in- a moment. In the near future we shall have, a Wheat Board, a Wool Board, a Butter Board, and a Fruit Board, constituted of men who- understand the. various industries. They will be practical and voluntary workers, and can confer with the Government from time to- time-, and thus render a very valuable assistance to the industries- with which they are. concerned. That is what is being done, in connexion with the butter industry- at the present time, and I believe that within the course of a year or two its prospects’ will have improved to such an- extent that it will be adding another £2,0.00,000 a year to the wealth of the Commonwealth. It is as simple a. matter to make 1 lb. of good butter as to make 1 lb. of bad butter. It is a. true as. well, as an old saying,. “ There is always room, at the top,,” and if we produce a good article we can find a market for it.
– We need a. better average cow.
– The improvement of our dairy herds will be brought about as a result of measures taken for the testing of herds. On the subject of the fruit industry, honorable members are aware that we can produce abundance of fruit in Australia. Something like £8,00.0,000 has been advanced for closer settlement in Victoria, alone, and if satisfactory, markets are not provided for the fruit we produce, our fruit-growers will be facing a catastrophe. We. can produce fruit in- abundance, but we must have a market for it. We have a. Fruit Council at the present time that is looking very carefully into that question in the interests of the industry.
– What, about starting by enlarging the home market 1
– I am coming to that. I find that the consumption of dried fruit in New Zealand, which is not. far distant, from Australia, amounts ia value to £300,000 annually. The New Zealand people, however, look for some preference in our market, . and it will be for the Government to investigate, the question very carefully, and submit to this Parliament proposals by which we may receive some of the products of New Zealand, the importation of which will not injure Australian producers, in exchange for our dried fruit and other’ products. By reciprocal trade we should be able to open up valuable markets for our wheat, wool, and other products. It is the bounden duty of the Government to consider carefully the provision of satisfactory- markets for Australian products, as without such markets- we cannot succeed. The different parts of the British Empire represent a natural chain, each link of which must bea* its share of strain if ours is to be aselfsupporting Empire. Preference in Great Britain for imports from the farflung Dominions of the Empire would greatly improve our position. People should not run away with the- idea that we are over-producing fruit, wool, butter, or wheat. If that is the case now, what will be the position centuries later, when there may be a population of 200,000,000 or 300,000,000 in Australia ? These are problems which can be solved, and I am pleased that the Government is taking the right action towards their solution. We have been promised’ that ships shall be subsidized for the Eastern trade, and that is certainly one- of the most effective means of opening up new markets. A small syndicate of producers and business men has already sent a representative to the East, and only yesterday I read a letter from him containing the following: -
I sent you this week a cable in which I advised you: of the numerous possibilities- for frozen meat,, mutton, and every available Australian product upon the. Chinese market, which naturally will be a very slow process in establishing our products, hut, nevertheless, the- fact remains that the markets are here, and- once wo’ are able to- get a> footing there is not the slightest doubt that a» gradual increase- of Australian food products- for export, to this, country is assured’. The one important .point’ is that direct’ shipping facilities to Hongkong, Shanghai, and Tientsin, at competitive- rates of freight and insulated space, should’ be established as quickly- as possible, and, although the Government promised this prior to mydeparture -from Australia, I feel that if same has not eventuated by the time this letter reaches you that it is of the utmost importance that you* party will- take a firm, stand and. insist that the promises of the- Government are parried out.
The - Country party does not endeavour- to “ insist” or command, it prefers- to persuade, and our persuasion is bo kindly that we usually get what we desire, We are* now urging the– Government, to* take immediate steps to subsidize ships- to- the East. Personally, I would withdraw every Government representative- from abroad. The representative of the syndicate is- a practical man., who- has been three- times round the world, and knows the East, thoroughly. We- who- are m private business always seek to-‘ put the square peg into the square hole, but the Government seem to do the* other thing. However, if we send capable men to the- East as- commercial representatives we look to the Government, to do- its share’ and provide the; shipping. The writer of the letter from- which I have; quoted has made it abundantly clear that markets are* assured to us, and it is- for- us. to- follow on his advice.
– Where are the markets 1
– Throughout the East, and in China particularly. Speaking generally, the Government, although it may make mistakes, is entitled to a fair run. Notwithstanding the criticisms we hear, I’ believe- that honorable members opposite are inclined to give- the- Government a chance to show what’ it can <fo- for the- good of the country, and if that chance- is given the country will be< recompensed. It is necessary that the Prime- Minister should go Home to- fulfil his engagements, and, with the-, exercise of reason on both sides, the business1 of the session can be1 disposed of in time.
I listened with great interest, yesterday to the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). That is the second address of any importance that he has given this session, and it appears that he is what the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) described as a follower of the Government - with a tomahawk ! The ex -Prime Minister is a man of wide knowledge, and I appreciate to the fullest extent the work he did during ‘the war.. The tactics he has adopted, however, since he relinquished office are to be condemned, and they are condemned by practically all the Government supporters. The tirade of abuse which the right honorable gentleman delivered yesterday was ill-becoming a man who has held such exalted positions , in this country. He told us tales that were not altogether correct. I remember that, during the elections, he spoke in five towns in my constituency. Before his visit quite a number of the electors were in doubt as to whether they should support me or not, but after hearing the then Prime Minister they were quite satisfied to do so. The right honorable gentleman on those occasions did not touch on policy, but simply switched on to abuse of the other side - a method of which he gave us an example yesterday. I can only say I was pleased that the Committee did not take the honorable member at all seriously.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) has a large interest in a butter factory, and we can well understand the “ butter “ he has spread over -the Ministry; indeed, it is a wonder he did not also distribute some bacon. In any case, he ought to feel sure of almost as many post-offices and telephones as he could hope for in his electorate. I suppose the honorable member has been treated kindly by the Government, and speaks what he feels when he describes it as an ideal Ministry which ought to have an opportunity of showing what it can do. Personally, I have nothing to say against the Government; I am quite content to let time tell its tale. It is true that the Government has started badly in proposing to reduce the revenue of the. Post Office by over £900,000, about which not a word of protest was uttered by the honorable member for Indi. It is certainly not the farmers, and primary producers generally, who will benefit by this proposed reduction of the postage rates, but the big warehousemen, bankers, shipping companies, and so forth which send out thousands of letters a year. We must also remember that the amount of mail matter which may be sent for lid. has ‘been increased, so that business men will reap a double advantage. If I were a country representative I should strongly protest against money being distributed in this way, while all over Australia people are crying out for extended postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities. In the past the Post Office has earned, large surpluses, and these, instead of being devoted to postal works, have gone into the general revenue. The honorable member for Indi represents country interests, and represents them well; but he is quite content to pass over the remissness of the Government in this respect. The Postal Department is the most important we have, affecting, as it does, every man and woman in the country. I receive dozens of letters each week, asking why telephones are not supplied although applications have been approved and the necessary fees paid. Considering the feeling of the country people in regard to the manner in which they are neglected, from a postal point of view, I think the Government is making a great mistake in proposing to reduce the postal rates, and thus lose revenue which could well be devoted to making up arrears in postal works. This is a question that should be above all party considerations, and I trust that there will be strong opposition on both sides to the Government proposals. It is disgraceful that at this juncture in our history there should be wealthy men in the community who endeavour to evade taxation they are perfectly well able to bear. Those men advocated fighting the war to a finish, but now that the war is over and we have an enormous. load of debt seek to shirk their responsibilities. It is true that we .are no longer put to the expense of sending large forces to the Front. but we have an enormous interest bill to meet; and, in view of all the circumstances, this is not a time at which taxation should be reduced. The best way to reduce taxation is to reduce our national debt, and thus reduce the interest bill. But a reduction in postal rates is. a step towards repudiation. The Treasurer has made a great mistake. While he has a large revenue to handle his whole aim and object should be to relieve the country of its burden of debt.
– Will the honorable member oppose all reductions of taxation?
– Yes, until we have considerably reduced the national debt. I am prepared to continue paying heavy income taxation to the Commonwealth and States in order to bring about a diminution of the debt. We have no right to pass our burden on to future generations. The Australian people decided to stand up to their responsibilities in the war, and to do everything possible to assist the cause of the Allies. We should be prepared now to meet the debt that we have accumulated, and until that is done there should be no clamour for the reduction of taxation.
I expected that a Budget introduced by a Treasurer who is eminent in the medical profession, would include important proposals for improving the health of the community. Cancer, consumption, and diabetes are the three outstanding menaces of, humanity, to-day, and one would have thought that a medical Treasurer would have placed on the Estimates large sums of money for the promotion of research in regard to those evils. It is useless to bring immigrants, to the country if neglect of the health of the people already here causes a high death-rate. All other countries in the world are taking steps to deal with these three great diseases. Has the Commonwealth Government done anything to secure for our people the benefit of the latest discoveries in regard to the treatment of consumption. We have read of Dr. Spahlinger, who has devoted his life, and the fortune of himself and his father, to the discovery of a remedy for tuberculosis. He is now withoutfunds, and the Commonwealth Government has the opportunity to acquire from him the Australian rights of . his cure. I should have liked to see an amount of £50,000 or £100,000 placed on the Estimates for the encouragement of research in lung diseases. Medical men from the Commonwealth and other countries have tested the Spahlinger treatment, and have declared it to be effective. The country’s money could not be better invested than in the purchase of the right to employ for the benefit of our people such an important discovery. When a battleship is required, or experiments in aviation are proposed, there seems to be no difficulty in getting the necessary money, and I believe that Parliament would support the Government in spending money upon an endeavour to protect humanity from the ravages of the three diseases I have mentioned. Any honorable member who has seen the sufferings of a person dying from consumption will be prepared to go to almost anylength to save others in the community from such misery. So too, in regard to cancer and diabetes, it is the duty of the Government to adopt a forward policy, especially when they have the guidance of a Treasurer who, as a medical man, has a full knowledge of the diseases of the human body and the suffering they cause. Although surgery has made important advances, the medical profession has been practically at a standstill in recent years in regard to the treatment of ordinary ailments. Scientists who have made important discoveries of new methods of treatment should be given encouragement by the Government. I do not suppose the Treasurer, as a member of -the Medical Union, wishes the ravages of disease to continue in order to provide further employment for himself and his fellow-doctors, but the medical profession docs not seem very enthusiastic about the new discoveries.
– The doctors are doing all the prophylactic work.
– The doctors as a whole seem to throw cold water on the new treatments. I hope it is not too late for the Treasurer to reconsider this matter and place on the Estimates a sum of money for the advancement of public health.
Any Government should be only too anxious to deal with the problem of unemployment, and I had expected that the present Ministry would have submitted a great scheme to remove unemployment by proposing national works that would lead to the production of more wealth. But there is no proposal in the Budget that will give relief to the % thousands of unemployed throughout the Commonwealth. I know that unemployment is world-wide, but in a young and undeveloped country like Australia we should be able to deal with the problem more effectively than in older countries. There are a great many national works which should be put in hand. I remember the Treasurer last year, when he was sitting in the Corner, propounding schemes for the development of the country, by the utilization of. hydraulic and electrical power, but no such scheme has emanated - from him as Treasurer. Every man out of employment is an economic loss to the country; .every man employed in the production of wealth is an asset to the country. Therefore, Parliament should devote its attention to keeping the wheels of industry going and .our people employed. The only proposal the Government have made is to place more people on the land. I have never worked on the land, but it .seems to me that land settlement can ‘be .overdone. A great many (people were .encouraged to engage ja .the fruit industry. In recent years they were unable to market .their produce, and ‘the Commonwealth came to their assistance by establishing Fruit Pools, .as a result ;of “which the taxpayers of the Commonwealth have been mulct in a loss of £500,000 Over-production creates a glut, with the result that the -producer gets ‘Only small prices for his fruit. That - remark applies -equally to the production of wheat. (People are -feeing .encouraged to grow more wheat, but where are they to get ,a market for it3 I believe that Oke price of wheat next year will be lower than at -the present time, because other countries are increasing the areas under wheat, and there will not ho a corresponding increase in the demand. As a result of the Conference between the Commonwealth and the “State Ministers, the Government ‘have decided to provide £5y©00/000 for the settlement -of people upon the land in the different States. In some States it ‘will be necessary to purchase land for closer settlement. I suggest that “that money should be spent in the (Northern Territory rather than in States which are already partly developed. In the Northern Territory the Commonwealth owns an area of 523,620 square miles, or 335,116,’800 acres. Those who have visited ‘the Territory say that the land is capable of growing almost everything our people require, and this Parliament has already decided to assist in the development of the Territory by the construction -of a railway. Existing pastoral leases total 186,965 square miles, ot 119,’667;6O0 acres -of which 20,894,080 acres are held on annual tenure, and can he resumed ‘by giving six months’ notice. If the immigrants who are to be brought from a’broad are to be settled upon ,the land, let us settle them in the Northern Territory. I protest against the Government expending £5,000,000 in assisting State Governments to put -people on the land. Let us develop -the estate that the Commonwealth owns. It is good land, with a good climate, and we are already committed to a large expenditure to provide railway communication for the carriage of produce to the c market. Parliament should also adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to subsidize mineral prospectors. Yet I know that there are in the Territory large deposits of tin, copper, and other minerals. If the Commonwealth spends money in the development of the mining industry in the Territory it will do more good than .by providing money to further develop the “States. Increased population in the Northern Territory is essential to the defence .of the Commonwealth. Therefore the Government .should concentrate its efforts upon the development1 of the Territory, spend all the money it can afford for the purpose, and link it up with the immigration policy.
– Will .the honorable member support the through NorthSouth railway?
– I shall support any proposal that will develop the Northern Territory. There the Government have a great opportunity to show their earnestness in desiring to remedy the unemployment difficu’lty. I believe ‘that Parliament will support -“the Government in any policy for the development of -the Northern Territory.
With regard .to the ‘Commonwealth Bank, I deeply regret that we have lost the services of Sir Denison Miller. Ho made a success .of ‘the Bank, and I had hoped to see its ‘usefulness increased under his guidance. The Government proposesto establish a Board for the future control of ‘the Bank. I hope that the Deputy-Governor will be appointed ‘Governor, and invested with as much ‘power as Sir Denison Miller had, and that the :other two members of the Board - if there must -be a Board - .will be only advisers to the Governor. The Commonwealth Bank wiM play an important part in; tlie development of the- Commonwealth, and I do not desire to see any matt who has been associated with a private; bank intrusted with the responsibility of guiding this- national institution. The Commonwealth Bank should branch out on lines different ‘from those followed by private establishments. The development of the land should be one of its main purposes-, and the utmost assistance should be given, to- settlers - safeguarded, of course,, by, .the- necessary security for the money advanced. A man trained in the service- of private banks would take a narrow business-like view of such activities, and would have no sympathy with the national mission of the Bank. I hope, therefore, that the members of the Board will be officers, already employed in the Bank,, who understand and will continue the policy pf the late Governor.
I complain of the way in. which the Defence Department is administered. I cannot understand why defence should, be- costing more money to-day than prior to the war. In 1913 a Labour Government was in office, and its policy was to establish an, efficient, system of defence, by- building up an. Australian Navy,, and instituting compulsory military training of our boys-. In addition, it built clothing; and’, harness factories as part of the- defence- scheme. Yet- we are- spending, more money on defence to-day than we spent during’ those years. On what are we spending it? T believe it is going in salaries to highlypaid officials. No really progressive defence work is being accomplished. When Mr. Massy Greene was Minister for Defence he effected a saving in the. expenditure on defence. We were led to be- lieve that in consequence of the Washington. Conference, and the- work- of the League of Nations, we- would nob need to spend so much on naval and military armaments. After his’ return from the Washington Conference, Senator Pearce reported that there was no danger of war in the- Pacific for the- next, ten years at least. Therefore; the- expenditure on our Army and Navy should be cut down to a minimum, and the- money that otherwise, would have been spent on defence measures- should be made- available for. the> reduction of our national- debt and for the development of our resources. When, the Prime Minister returns from Great Britain .he- will probably place some proposals for’ defence before this” Parliament. We may be told- that he has. pledged’ this country to- assist- Great Britain to construct a naval base at Singapore. The British Government has a right to build a naval base at Singapore if it wants one there. Doubtless’ it knows the best place in which to establish a naval base. That is .its business, and not ours. Having examined the map> I cannot see that Australia is’ likely to benefit much by the* establishment of a naval base- at Singapore. The policy of the Labour party is to defend this country locally; and not to train men to Be sent abroad5. Wo have no quarrel with the Motherland. I have very pleasant memories’ of the Old Country. I do not wish to see” anything done which will injure- hee. But we must lay down our own’ policy for the. defence’- of Australia. If all’ the- nations, of the; world would say that”, they would not allow their people to go fo war in other countries;, and that they would” only permit military and naval expenditure for home- defence,, a great, deal’ would have been done to preserve t’he peace- of the world. I am against incurring, heavy expense’ on naval ‘ armaments. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks)’ told us about the battleships the Japanese were, building. . A short study of the history of” the. British Navy during, the last war will” convince honorable members that the chief concern of Lord Jellicoe was to keep, his great Fleet intact. To do that he surrounded it with submarines, destroyers,, and mines. It was the dread of his life that his. Navy might be destroyed.. Of what use,, then, was the great Navy of which the British people were so proud ? It could have been destroyed’ by submarines or mines or’ from, the air. We should be very careful about incurring expenditure on naval armaments. The Labour party believes that. the. bestarms of defence for Australia are sub: marines and airplanes.. That is a- soundpolicy.
I am glad- that the- Government has ‘ increased the old-age and invalid pensions: I wash the- pensions- had been increased” to £1,. but half a loaf is” better than- no bread. If the Labour party occupies the Treasury bench later it will’ add’ another half-crown. I do not know how the old people can be expected’ to lives on 17s. 6d. a week. The Government may, be congratulated upon having brought the- Budget down so early. My friend- the Treasurer has been in office for only the last, part of the financial year. Seeing that he is a new man on the job, I think that, he has done fairly well. I hope that next year he will be more generous, to the Postal Department, and that he will provide more money for a vigorous public works policy. A reasonable expenditure on public works is always worth while. So long as. no waste is allowed we can afford to adopt a progressive public works, policy. Such a policy will insure that our people are employed. If we had a vigorous public works programme, we should not need to spend large sums of money in bringing immigrants to Australia. There was no unemployment when the Fisher Government was in power. The business people of Sydney said that things were never better than during that period. The strong demand for labour at that time resulted in a continual stream- of people coming to Australia. The Government could repeat the experience if it had sufficient courage. I do not believe in the paltry cry that we should be saving, and that we - should retrench here, there, and else- “ where. That is a short-sighted policy. We can afford to spend money generously so long as we do not waste it. It is a crying shame that immigrants are brought to this country under the existing circumstances. The first thing that concerns a man when he comes off the boat is to find a home for his wife and family. People who should be in a position to help him to find a home, have to tell him that there are no empty houses. The immigrants are thereupon compelled to take rooms in a back street in the city. That gives them a bad impression of our country. If the Government intends to adopt an extensive immigration policy, it should construct homes for the people it proposes to bring here. I hope the Treasurer and Minister for Works will call a conference of the Treasurers and Ministers for Works in the various States to discuss whether a comprehensive house.-building policy can be adopted. If the immigrants are put into- houses when they arrive here, it will help to make them contented. . The Government could take during the recess the action I have suggested. The Labour party has no objection to immigrants being brought to Australia if there, is a demand for labour, but while thousands of . our own people are out of employment,’ we believe it is a crying shame to bring people out here. This party does not desire to obstruct a policy of development; on the contrary, it wishes to see everything possible done to develop the country on proper lines.
Mr. Sim CAN.HUGHES (Boothby) [4.15], ; I was glad to hear the kindly references made by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) to the Treasurer and to the Budget. Some of the criticism of the Treasurer hasbeen neither reasonable nor, I think, quite fair. Honorable members know that the Treasurer has been in occupation of his office for only about six months. It is not reasonable to expect that even a new broom will sweep quite clean in that time. The Treasurer deserves credit because he has taken time to see what sweeping is necessary before setting to work to sweep indiscriminately. Although he has been in office only six months, he has been able to report a reduction in expenditure out of revenue of ?3,200,000 compared with the expenditure of 1921-22, and of over ?1,800,000 compared with such expenditure last year, in spite of the fact that this year’s estimated expenditure includes an increase of over ?1,000,000 for invalid and oldage pensions. That is satisfactory. Taken in conjunction with the Treasurer’s assurance that he will continue to exercise the strictest supervision of expenditure, and the thorough re-organization to be undertaken by the Public Service Board, it is more than satisfactory. I congratulate the Government on having taken other steps to insure more economy in our future financial arrangements. It is proposed to bring this about in several ways. The Government intends to establish a Common wealth sinking fund. It has also been able to induce the States to establish sinking funds of their own. The Government’s effort to form a loan council to prevent competition between the States and Commonwealth in borrowing money in the future is worthy of high commendation. That appears to me to be a most important matter. The Government may be congratulated also for endeavouring to prevent overlapping and duplication in taxation. These negotiations are not yet complete, but they have advanced far enough for us to be able to say that this year throughout a large part of Australia there will be only one collecting authority and only one taxation return. Those who have had to do with the preparation of taxation returns - especially men who are in a small way of business, and men on the land, who really have no time to devote to such matters - will appreciate the Government’s action in this regard. . Forethought is being exercised on defence matters. I am glad to notice that an amount of £350,000 is to be devoted to the establishment of munition factories upon a nucleus basis, &c. This proposal was first introduced by the ex-Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), two years ago. I understand that the proposal has not yet progressed very far. It is high time that more activity was shown. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) assured us that in case of ah attack on this country every Australian would at once leap to arms. That statement is probably true, but to what arms would our men leap 1 Where are the rifles, and the guns, and the munitions?
– And . what about training ?
– Training is necessary also. It is’ of no use a man being prepared to fight if he has nothing with which to fight. Where are our ships, our submarines, and our aircraft? These are all necessary before Australians can fight effectively. We have the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition that Australia is prepared to. defend itself, but, with all respect to him, I cannot agree that that is so. Australia is not in a position to defend itself, and cannot be for many years to come. But I shall not elaborate the subject, because I have dea’lt with it previously this session.
The Government propose to set apart one-third of the accumulated surplus for capital works of the Department of Defence “if such works should become necessary owing to failure of the forthcoming Imperial Conference to formulate a scheme for Empire defence that will satisfy Australia.” I do not know why that condition has been included. It seems to me that the reverse might be the case, and that the money might be required to be used for any satisfactory scheme of defence which might be formulated at the forthcoming confer.ence I regret that the Government should have hedged in this proposal in this way.
I wish to refer to the Commonwealth railways, and particularly to the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, which is dealt with in the Treasurer’s speech. I gather from the speech that a “ considerable expenditure has been debited to the Commonwealth for carriage of material over the South Australian railways “ ; that “,coal, stores and other materials, instead of being landed at Port Augusta . by steamer, -have been railed from Port Adelaide and Port Pirie at considerable cost, and that locomotive machinery which the Quorn shops have been unable to repair has been sent by rail to Adelaide and back again at heavy cost, although there has been ample means for effecting repairs at Port Augusta”; that the “operating costs, especially of the Locomotive Branch, have been higher than those on the transcontinental railway,” and so on. “ Taking all these things into consideration, ‘the Government has decided to assume full control of the line. This involves an expenditure of about £200,000 to obtain necessary rolling-stock, and provision has been made accordingly. As a result of the change, it is expected that a considerable annual saving will accrue.” I read in the newspapers that the firstintimation that the Premier of South Australia received on behalf of his State of the Commonwealth proposal to take over the running of this line, was the speech of the Treasurer. It is regrettable that the information should not have been conveyed directly. It reminds me of an occasion when a commander-in-chief of the British Army, a good many years ago, learned for the first time through a newspaper that his services were no longer required. One can quite understand that railways may be rather a delicate subject between this Government and that of South Australia, especially since the Conference of Ministers ; but it would have been well in this case if the Premier of the State of South Australia had had a previous notification of the, Commonwealth Government’s intention. 1
I am glad that the Commonwealth have agreed to increase their contribution to the Construction of the River Murray works. It will be within the memory of honorable members that, in the first place, the Commonwealth agreed to pay £1,000,000 as their share of the estimated cost of the whole of those works, and that the three constructing States, New South
Wales, South Australia and Victoria were topay over£l,200,000 apiece. It is perfectly obvious that, since this agreement wasmade, owing tothegreat increase in thecostof materialsand labour, the total costof theRiver Murray works will be much more than was originally estimated.In agreeing to increase the contributionof the Commonwealth toonequarterof the total amount the Government have shown their appreciation of the national importance of these works.
Concerning the Postmaster-General’s
Department, I substantially agree with whatwassaid lastnight by thehonorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. -A. Green)as to the underpayment of some ofthe postmistresses.I know thatsome of thesecountry postmistresses arescandalously underpaid, and it is noexcuse at alltosay thatonly womenwho are already inpossession of acertainamount of money are allowed ‘to take -up postal duties. It would notbe regarded as an excuse to say that a man, because hehadacertain amountof private property,was not receiving the minimum wage, although the Postmaster-General ontakingoffice must have had multifarious matters to consider, Ihope that he willbeable to consider also this subject with a view to the increase of the wage of these capable but over-worked andunder-paid officials. I am not tremendously enthusiasticabout the reduction in the postal rates. I agree very largely with what the Honorable memberfor Indi(Mr. Cook) said last night. It is claimedthat “ the concession is distinctly a reduction in the direct taxation of the Commonwealth.” It may be so, but there are very few people in this country who regard it as such. You will search in vain for men who will say that their direct taxation hasbeen reducedbecause the postal charges have been reduced.
– The letter postage rate has beenreducedby1/2d.
Mr.DUNCAN-HUGHES.- Yes, and, ofcourse, the weight allowanceof letters hasbeen increased.I do not altogether like thewords used by the Treasurer whenhe says -
Keeping in view the necessity of making extensions of facilities in the country as well as in town, the Government has found itself unabletomakea greater concession.
That suggests to methat the extension of facilities in the countryhas, to acertainextent, already been reducedinorder that the postage on letters maybe smaller. I do not regard penny postage as at all a. fetish. Whenitwas introduced by Sir Rowland Hill, in England, the penny had a higher value than it has to-day. As values have changed during the lapse of years, it is rather ridiculous for us to insist on penny postage now. There is no doubt that a certain amount of sentiment is attached to the words. ‘I remember the statue of Sir Rowland Hill by the Royal Exchange in London, with this simple phrase below it,” He gave us penny postage.” If twopence nowis equivalent to onepenny then; we might obliterate thesentimental phraseology.
Iadmit thatthe Government, inproposing an increase in the invalidand old-pensions, are actuated by the highest motives. Soone cansuggest that itis for the purpose of vote-catching, because the Leader of the Labour party, during his last campaign - and I think hehas repeated it in this Chamber - stated that his party stood fora 5s. increase. It is my misfortune that I cannot Approve of this increase, and the fact that I am, perhaps, a minority of one, will not deter mefromexpressingmy disapprovalofit. I wish to quote an instance of what appears to be an anomaly. I have receivedthe following letter from the president of the Minda Home Incorporated, atraining institution for the feeble-minded and epileptic in South Australia, whichis admirably run -
Applicantsare admitted to Minda from infancy upwards, butwhen, on attaining the ago of sixteen years, application is made ‘for the invalid pension, it is refused on the grounds thatthePensions Act 1908-16,vide section 47, doesnotprovide for pensionsina benevolent . institution.; although if the applicant is notaflmitteH until over sixteen years, . and is inpossessionof apension at thetimeof admission, the payment iscontinued.
– That anomaly is being wiped out.
– There is no evidence of it.
Mr.Yates. - It is suggested inthe Budget.
-Itsays that anomalies will the rectified, and I am giving this as an instance of an anomaly which should be rectified.It is simply ridiculous that if a boy or girl receives a pension at sixteen years of age, and is then admitted to the home, he or she continues to draw that pension,but if admitted before that age, no payment is allowed. This is unreasonable. Iam in favour of the rectification of suchanomalies. Onthe general question of an increase in the amount of the old-age and invalid pension Ibelieve there are substantial arguments against it, and I propose with the indulgence of the Committee, to give some of them.In the first place, I takethe point that our rates in Australia are about thehighest in the world at the present time. I am not criticising that, but, if they , are, I raise the question whether we are justified in increasing them at present. To enforce my statement that they are veryhigh here, I propose to quote from abook, Australia: Economic and,Political Studies, issued a few years agoby Mr. Meredith Atkinson, who isknown by name ‘to many members of thisCommittee, and, I think, cannot he fairly described as”a hide-bound Conservative.” On pages10 and 11 of his book he says -
When we cometo test the concrete achievement of Australia in the social sphere, we cannotbut consider the total result remarkable.WhileAustralians are apt to ‘exaggerate thesuccess of these conditionson the quantativeside,and tounderestimatethesocial improvements effected by othercountries faced with far more difficult problems, the qualitative testof hercivilizationmust yield to Australia a foremost place -among the nations of the world. The principal items to her credit may be usefully enumerated before fuller particulars are recorded.
He has a note to say -
In all cases ofcomparison thereader is asked to presume that New Zealand standards are quite equal to,and sometimes higher, than those of Australia.
Hethen gives a series of items to show what Australia has done. I make this quotation to give the point of view of one whocannot be called a reactionary. He mentions as his fourth point -
Thegreat strength of the Political Labour movement, andthe frequent accession ‘to place and power of the Australian Labourparty in the States and in the Commonwealth.
That should show that Mr. Meredith Atkinson has no prejudice against the Labour side. Honorable members may agree or disagree with his opinion that that is an advantage to Australia. I now come to a questionoffact which he gives in No. 8 ofhis points -
The system ofold-age and invalidpensions and thebaby bonus on a scale far more generous than that of other countries
– It is not a”baby bonus “ ; it is a maternity allowance.
– I do not suggest that the term “ babybonus “is one which the honorable member or I would haveused, but I assume that in quoting from abook in this chamber, members are expected to quote accurately and not change the words of thewriter according to their own personal views or to meet the views of other honorable members.
– I was correctingMr. Atkinson as well asthehonor able member.
– Thehonorablemember is perfectly entitledto correctme,butsofar as Mr. Atkinson is concerned I suggest that heshould get into touch with that gentleman personally. On page 16 of his bookMr. Atkinsonsays -
The provisions for old-age and invalid pensionsand maternitybonus–
Honorable members will see that though he had fallen fora time, he gets backto grace– are the most liberal in the world.
Thatseems to me to confirm my firstpoint thatthe old-age pension rate inAustralia at the presenttime is a very high rate indeed, andisabout the highest inthe world. Ihave taken the troubleto look intothe legislation onthissubject of some other countries, and it mightastonish some honorable members to learn how many countries there are that have -not provided any old-age or invalid pensions so far Isuggest that we are to agreat extent bound by world conditions. The primary producer in this country,whether he produces fruit or wool, cannotsay, “ I amgoing to create a certain set of financial circumstances whichwill govern me andwill not govern men in other parts of the world.” I submit that, if weare going to deal with old-age pensions or maternity allowance, we must, in orderto come to a fair decision in the matter, have some regard to whatisbeing done in other countries in this direction. It is proper, at any rate, that wo should find out whether our present rates are the highest or the lowest in theworld. I say that so far as I can discover - with the possible exception of New Zealand - and the suggested increase will bring our rate above even that of New Zealand - ours is the highest, and represents the most generous system of the kind in the world. I am not going to rely only upon Mr. Meredith Atkinson in this matter. I propose to quote Lord Bryce. No one will suggest that Lord Bryce was anything but a very broadminded, humane, and public-spirited man. In his book, Modem Democracies, volume 2, page 319, writing of old-age pensions in New Zealand - he refers only casually to .Australia, but the conditions here are substantially the same as in New Zealand - he says -
The tendency of most branches of administration in New Zealand, as in most democratic countries, has been to a steadily increasing expenditure. Old-age pensions, for instance, when introduced in 1878, ten years before they were granted in Britain, were surrounded by a_ number of restrictions and qualifying conditions, which were, in subsequent years, struck ofl” one after another so that the number of recipients has increased much faster than it ought to have done in proportion to’ increase in population. In 1919, it was 19,872; the’ original amount of each pension was £18 a year. The average was in 1919 a’ little over £37. The total amount expended per annum, which, in 1900, was £157,000, had risen in 1917 to £480,000, and, in 1919, it was £743,000.
I have looked up the most recent figures, and I find that in 1922 it was £750,000. Lord Bryce says, further -
The large expenditure had not, in 1910, reduced the amount spent by the State on charitable aid to the poor, but it had diminished private contributions to charitable purposes.
He refers to a book published by two. gentlemen, Messrs. Le Rossignol and Downie Stewart, State Socialism in New Zealand, in which he says many interesting details are given. I regret to say that we do not appear to have this work in the Commonwealth Library, though I think it should be there. Lord Bryce says, referring to this book -
The poor law arrangements of New Zealand are alleged to encourage extravagance by allowing local authorities to spend sums received -from the central .revenue; and the growth of pauperism in a community so new and so prosperous has been frequently commented on, and was deplored even by the optimistic Seddon.
I think I have said enough to enforce the first point I hope to make with regard to old-age pensions, and that is, that our present pensions are the highest in the world to-day. That is something which should be taken into consideration.
– I think that Lord Bryce was rather deploring the conditions which made such provision necessary.
– The. honorable member has no doubt read the book to. which I have referred.
– No, I have not read it.
– If the honorable member will read the two volumes of Lord Bryce’s book, I think he will find that his attitude is a very liberal one - not using the word in a political sense - but that he here rather deplores the fact that old-age pensions in New Zealand, instead of having the result hoped for from their establishment, led to a certain extent to extravagance and pauperism. I come now to my second point, which is to the effect” that our financial position does not justify an increase in these pensions at the present time. It is an easy matter to increase the old-age- pension or any other pension but it is a very much more difficult business to take off the increase granted. I do not think any one will deny that once we make an increase in the old-age pension it will be about the last thing that will be taken off. It would be taken off only in a case of extreme financial stringency. I therefore wish honorable members would take into very careful consideration any proposal to increase the existing pension, realizing that it must bp a permanent increase, and not one that can be taken off at any time. Honorable members should realize, also, that if an increase is given we are likely to go further in the future. Honorable members opposite are- already in favour of an increase of 2s. 6d. in advance of the increase proposed by the Government.
– There are a lot of votes hanging to it.
– I do not say anything on that point. I am giving my view of the position as it appears to me. This increase is likely to lead to further increases; indeed’, it is a regrettable encouragement to them. For the year ending 3.0th June, 1917, there were, in round figures, 93,000 old-age pensioners, while in 1921 there were 102,000. In. the same period the number of invalid pensioners increased from 26,000 to 37,000, showing an increase from 120,000 to 140,000, or of nearly one-sixth of the total number. The increase in population during the same period, taking the years ending on the 31st December, was from 4,982,793 to 5,510,229, or less than oneninth, so that the pensioners are increasing much more rapidly proportionally than the general population. In my opinion the increase both in number and expenditure wilt be much larger in the future. So far only those have become eligible who, when pensions were instituted, were of .middle age. When those who are brought up with the idea that at a certain age they will be provided for by the State take full advantage of the privilege, the fate of increase must be vastly greater. We are already paying nearly £5,400,000 in old-age and invalid pensions, as shown on the 30th June last year. The maternity allowance means an expenditure of £690,700, and we are paying in war pensions of all kinds £7,028,379. I am not criticising these pensions, but merely showing the burden that rests on the shoulders of the people of this country.
– What makes the honorable member so gloomy?
– Perhaps some of - us have not the natural humour of the honorable gentleman; and I may say that I regard this expenditure as a serious matter. I am quite aware that my views are not in accord with those of the majority of honorable members, but I think I am entitled to express them.
– Is the position not much more serious for poor people who may starve ?
– The honorable member can scarcely use the word “ starve “ when he realizes that the pensions paid here are the highest in any part of the world.
– How would the honorable member get along on an old-age pension ?
– I do notregard that as a fair question. I am entitled to express my opinions regardless of what my personal financial position may be. Perhaps the best answer I can make is that for oyer three years, in a fighting unit, I saw conditions, and suffered conditions, which may be similar to those which honorable members opposite have in mind. It is not fair to suggest that an honorable, member is in fluenced in his opinions by his own position. Further, the fact that I am not in need of a pension should nob prevent me from taking as long a .view as other members . of this question as it affects Australia as a whole. I arn taunted with being dismal, but the other day the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), when speaking of the heavy financial liabilities of the Commonwealth, was fairly dismal himself. That honorable member told us that he did not advocate repudiation, and hoped no one ever would, but he suggested that the position was one to give grave cause for thought. I quite agree with the honor. able member; and if we” refer to the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) we see that in the next five years no less than £263,000,000 of Commonwealth loans will fall due, and must be renewed or converted. This is, therefore, not the most suitable moment at which to. grant an increase in old-age and invalid pensions, which, at the beginning, will mean an additional expenditure of £1,000,000, and later may mean a great deal more. Any money that is available is required for national reproductive works. During the last twenty or thirty years we have heard much about national works which have to be completed. Some of these, such as. the Murray Waters scheme, are in hand, and there are the transcontinental line and other undertakings, which should be proceeded with as soon as possible. Since the inception of Federation the consideration of this Parliament has been given largely to the improvement of social conditions in Australia, with the result “that, in respect of these conditions, this country compares favorably with any part of the world. That is a statement which,’ I think, will not be denied by any one who, like myself, has had experience of many countries. As an illustration, I remind honorable members that we have no slums such as are to be found in the older cities of the world.
– Does the honorable member wish to have slums here ?
– That is not a fair taunt to throw at me. I was about to express my - gratitude for the fact that we had nothing of .the kind in Australia. Our social conditions have been placed on a -fairly good basis, and we should now all work together with a view tothe prosecution’ of national and reproductive works. Further, I contend that remission of taxation should come before any increase in old-age and invalid pensions’..
– The honorable member is a true old Conservative - the greatest in the House !
– There are honorable members opposite who seem to assume that the State oughtto give everything and receive nothing. Australiahas progressed far beyond the old Conservatism referred to. Any one with historical reading knows that for hundreds of years in England theState practically took everything and gave nothing; but now we have boxed the compass, or, at any rate, certain honorable members have doneso. During’ this session I have” heard much argument asto whatthe State should do, but very little as to’ what should be done for the State.
– The State is the people, after all !
– HUGHES. - The State is a separate entity. I have alreadybeen attacked for holding that we are largely in the position of trustees for the public. I wish to elaborate slightly the point mentioned by Lord Bryce, that therehasbeen a change of opinion in New Zealand in regard to charitable giving. I know there are some who object to such words as “ charity” and “ benevolence.” The other day I reada book by the Socialist, Dan Griffiths-a writer of sufficientf importance to have a preface to his bookbythe Leader of the British Labour party in the House of Commons-. The title of the book is The Real Enemy and Other Socialist Essays, and the author sets out to prove that’ the real enemy of the Labour party is the labouringman himself, who does not give as much support to his own side as he should. The author says-
In a word’, the real enemy is the ignorant or apathetic of stupid working man himself . . Of course, it is true there are abettors and auxiliary enemies - scores of them. For instance, there is the “ good landlord,” the “villain of the piece,” who gives “charity” to the people (with their own money) in order to blind them to the facts of life. There is the philanthropic capitalist- who gives “ sprats to catch mackerel,” who “ gives that for which he has no use - to people he wants to use.”
A somewhat similar note is struck in a circular I received the other day from the Socialist party. I do not know whe ther I was mistakenly supposed to be a member of that organization, but the circular, which deals with “ Dont’s for the Unemployed,” contains the following: (Submitted for the guidanceof unfortunate unemployed workers who have been deprived of the fruits of their labour and their right to live, who are now the sport and victims of neurotic charity mongers, press hirelings, and political charlatans. )’
I shall not read the whole of the circular, but only this paragraph - .
Don’t bow your heads or bend your knees to inquisitorial charity mongers, or the grudging givers’ of doles, who pose as your benefactors. Remember, these people are out to advertise themselves atyour expense, and to satisfy you with a few crumbs whenyou should be getting the whole loaf.
Mr.DUNCAN-HUGHES. - Iam sorry that any honorable member should indorse that statement. It: indicatesa jaundiced and narrow-minded attitude which cannot be too much deplored. Charity orkindness cannotbe disposed of by suggesting that it is done from interested motives or for purposes of selfadvertisement. Statements of that kind are an undeserved slur upon a large number of exceedingly kind and generous people”; I. do not believe- that charity should be’ discontinued.
– What arotten state of society it is that requires charity.
– We deny that the old-age pension is charity.
-The honorable member for Boothbyis confounding clarity with justice.
– Does the honorable member for Adelaide say that an increased old-age pension is necessarily justice, or a right?
– It is not. If it were a right, it would have been conceded earlier, but it has never- previously been granted in any part of the world. I can understand the argument thata pension is desirable, ButI cannot admit that it isaright. What this community wants ismore kindness, rather thanless of it. Whether it Be called charity or benevolence, we cannot do away with kindness, as expressed in either deeds or money. We cannot measure the kindness done by one person to another, and it would be a bad day for this country if any political party sought to prevent the natural overflow of the human heart in sympathy with our fellow-creatures. I am glad that the Government intend to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the subject of pensions and national insurance. Whilst I do not commit myself in regard to any’ proposal, I have thought for some time past that the best means of placing the social conditions of the community on a better basis would be some form of contributory insurance. Such provision can take many forms, and any proposition which may be brought forward as the result of the proposed inquiry is sure to be highly debatable. I understand that national insurance is a plank in the platform of the Socialist party, but although I am not a Socialist I shall support it if I consider it right. The Royal Commission will collect data and place Parliament in the possession of the most complete information before it is called upon to embark upon this very important venture.
I have endeavoured to speak with moderation on a very difficult subject, I had no desire to wound anybody’s feelings. There are, I know, many deserving old-age pensioners. I have tried to state my case reasonably, and I hope that nothing I have said has been unduly provocative.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [5.11].- When the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) was speaking, the thought occurred to me that if he had been a racehorse he would have been disqualified for a reversal of form. It was astounding to hear him attacking almost venomously the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), who, when he was Prime Minister, was kept in office by the support of the honorable member and his associates in the Country party.
I was astonished by the speech of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). I did not expect at this stage in our social and economic development to hear any man, particularly a young man, expressing in the National Parliament views so out of harmony with the sentiments and feelings of the Australian people. The honorable member’s speech sounded like an echo from a bygone age.
– The views I expressed are held by a very large number of people throughout Australia.
– My experience has been that such views are not held by 1 per cent. of the people. The honorable member is the only person in this House who holds such views.
– At any rate, he is the only man game to express them.
– Perhaps so. Of the111 representatives of the people in this Parliament, the honorable member for Boothby has been the only one to declare that the old-age pension is a charity dole. He has missed the fundamental principle upon which the pension is founded. Does the honorable member mean to say that the old pioneers, who have reared families and helped to develop this country for the last fifty or sixty years, are accepting charity when the Commonwealth recognises its duty by paying to them a monetary allowance in the evening of their lives ?
– I did not use the expression “ charity dole.”
– The honorable member said that the payment was something other than a right. Nobody can deny that it is the right of the old people to five. If the honorable member could forget for a moment his desire for the reduction of taxation in the interests of the wealthy people; if be would dissociate his mind from his pocket and consider for a moment the welfare of the nation, and the duty it owes to its citizens, he could not deny that the old-age pension is an undoubted right. The honorable member quoted the argument advanced by some writers. My judgment is not influenced by even Meredith Atkinson. I have read his writings, and I know that he is always gibing at politicians and assisting those who seek to bring parliamentary institutions and constitutional government into disrepute. I do not care what Lord Bryce says on the subject. The mere fact that something has been written by a lord does not make it conclusive.
– Does not the honorable member admit the greatness of Lord Bryce?
– He may be great in a Conservative sense.I do not know anything about him, and if his writings suggest that the old-age pension is merely a charity dole, or anything less than a right, I do not want to know anything more of him or his writings. The pension may, as the honorable member for Boothby suggests, reduce private charitable contributions. I know there are good people who give to charity, but the only unselfish help given to the poor is by the poor. Very little of the contributions to charitable and benevolent institutions by wealthy individuals and corporations is prompted by other than a desire for self-advertisement. During the war it was noticeable in country towns, as well as in cities, that every contribution to patriotic funds by wealthy people was given due publicity. The donors made sure of their generosity being advertised, and then they sought to get their money back by overworking their employees or by some other means. I resent the argument advanced by the honorable member for Boothby as being alien to Australian sentiment. His views are so hoary and bewhiskered with age that they are a mere relic of the days when these reforms were first proposed.
The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has taken credit to himself for the early presentation of the Budget. That, certainly, is the only thing about the Budget upon which he can congratulate himself, and he has childishly utilized it to gain kudos for himself for an otherwise unsatisfactory document. The Budget is ill-digested. The figures have been thrown together in a haphazard way, and are, apparently, compiled to confuse rather than explain. Why has the Budget been presented earlier this year than in previous years? Is it because the Treasurer wanted to give honorable members the facts’ it contains earlier than Treasurers usually give them? Even if honorable members did get those facts earlier than usual, and in time for us to properly consider them, it would be nothing to boast about. The real reason why the Treasurer brought down this ill-digested and badly-arranged document so early is that he could not help himself. The whole programme of the Government is one of hurry and hustle. We remember well that quite recently we had a certain hastily-prepared and illdigested Bill before us. In consequence of objections made to it by the Opposition, the Government withdrew it to enable the draftsmen to do their work properly. That measure is now at the bottom of the business paper. The Treasurer boasts that he has a surplus. He has it in consequence of a policy of retrenchment. It is easy to show a surplus at the price of efficiency. The Government cannot be commended for adopting a cheeseparing policy at a time when, this country needs a strong developmental programme. It is crying out for development, but the Government has brought forward a policy which will retard development, and has claimed credit because it has a surplus. This composite Government may be compared to a miser who goes about in old clothes and feeds himself improperly, and then boasts because he has hoarded up money. At this, period in Australia’s history, we should have no time for a fetish worship of surpluses. We should see that our finances are placed on a sound and scientific basis, and that money is available for the proper management and development of our great resources.
I view with some alarm the suggestions in the Budget for the future control of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government has dynamited so many useful institutions that I am afraid of something sinister in its Commonwealth Bank proposals. I shall refer later on to a few almost transparent subtleties in the Budget, but until the Bill to amend the constitution of the Commonwealth Bank is before us we are unable to say how far or how subtle are the Government proposals in respect to the Bank. The fact that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) so strongly commended this proposal of the Government, and so roundly condemned other matters in the Budget, is sufficient to justify my suspicions. That honorable member represents vested interests and financial institutions. His clamoring for the best business brains in other banking and financial concerns to be obtained for the future management of the Commonwealth Bank indicates to me that something is in view which the Labour party cannot countenance. The persistent requests from outside that the constitution of this Bank should be altered comes from a quarter which bodes no good to the future of that institution-. Had the
Government given the Commonwealth iBank more sympathetic attention and administration it would have been three times as powerful as it is. Newspapers, such as the Bulletin, which claims to be one of the greatest financial authorities in this country, have also urged a reorganization of the Bank. Honorable members should remember that the Bulletin made a strong attack upon Sir Denison Miller’s management of the Commonwealth Bank. The attack was almost personal. The Bulletin tried to heap ridicule on the institution.- When such an authority, and other representatives of the trusts and financial institutions of Australia, strive so earnestly to secure an alteration in the management of the Commonwealth Bank - which so far has been under national control - it seems to me that we may look for something sinister behind it all. For that reason I shall strongly oppose any meddling with the Bank. The only thing that the Government is entitled to do is to widen the scope of the Bank so that it may become our greatest and eventually our only, financial institution. When that happens it will be comparatively easy to place our national finances upon a scientific and an efficient basis. We, are entitled to assume, from the speeches made from the other side of the Committee, that the Treasurer proposes to . place on the Board of Control of the Commonwealth Bank two representatives of the great financial institutions outside the Bank. What sympathy have these institutions ever shown with those engaged in rural pursuits in this country? The city buildings of which they are so proud, and the’ wealth of which they boast, have been gained through the sweat and tears of the pioneers and producers of Australia. Those institutions have many times ruthlessly foreclosed on mortgages which they held, and have given only two-thirds, aud sometimes only half, the value of the properties they have taken. That land of thing has been done in every State and m ©very district in Australia. Shall it be said that we are willing to hand over the Commonwealth Bank to the tender mercies of these people ? When the Treasurer stumped the country in the interests of the now extinct Country party, he advocated that the Commonwealth Bank constitution should be broadened to enable the Bank to give rural credits, and. also to enable it to establish rural branches. If I mistake not, the proposal of the Treasurer now is that the Commonwealth Bank constitution should; be so altered that the Bank will become an institution something like the Bank of England. A similar proposal has been advocated by a supporter of this Government in the Senate. If we agree to anything of that kind it is “ good night “ to the Commonwealth Bank. I am amazed to find that one who travelled all over this country in opposition to the present Government, and who was the Leader of the late Country party, should advocate such a proposal. Previously he desired that the Commonwealth Bank should be re-organized on a basis which would enable it to render greater assistance to our primary producers. His present proposal was conceived by somebody else long before he entered this House. I did not expect that he would be the one who ‘would bring it forward. It is a great surprise to many honorable members that he should deliberately set out to cripple and dynamite this great institution. Vested interests and private financial concerns have always endeavoured to get a vice-like grip on, and absolute control of, our financial arrangements and credit system, because they have realized that such control would enable them to do as they like with the country. We find no mention of this fact in the Budget. No attempt has been made by those honorable members who so recently opposed the .Nationalist Government to give effect to their promises to assist the primary producers. All their ideals in that, respect have been sacrificed. Their plans for the arrangement of a rural credit scheme through the Commonwealth Bank, which were forcefully advocated by the Treasurer, have been shelved in the interests of a rabid Imperialism. This Parliament is shortly to be closed to enable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to go on a war-mongering excursion to Great Britain. Honorable members on this side of the Chamber have had to’ resist attempts to rush through this House a Defence Bill which incorporated provisions of the British Army Act, an Air Force Bill, and also a Naval Bill, which incorporated halfdigested proposals that were entirely against the declared will of the Australian people. Instead of the members who formed the now dead Country party making an endeavour to relieve the people in the rural areas of the burdens resting upon them, they are standing solidly behind the Nationalists, to whom they were until recently strongly opposed. If the Government will bring forward a scheme to establish a system of rural credits through the Commonwealth ‘Bank, I assure it that there will be very little opposition by the Labour party. It has not brought forward a constructive policy which will enable this country to extricate itself from the havoc occasioned by the war, but it is rushing madly forward to prepare for another war. We should have before us a policy which will develop the resources of the country; but actually we are faced with a programme which will have exactly the opposite effect. The Government still intend to prepare engines of war for the future destruction of mankind. Another remarkable feature of the Budget is that the Leader of the Country party has been so absorbed in furthering the interests of the Nationalists that he has included a proposal greatly to the advantage of the capitalistic institutions. They operate in a subtle way, and under the cloak of a popular reduction such as is proposed in the postal rate, they attain their objective. They are using this proposal as a smoke, screen to hoodwink the people. The postal reduction is an iniquitous proposal. We are told that it is a reduction of the war tax. The general taxpayer of the country writes no more than a letter a week. He is given a 25 per cent, reduction in letter postage, not amounting in the aggregate to more than £50,000 or £100,000 per annum. The people are thrown a sop of a few thousand pounds so that vested interests may rake in a profit of £800,000 or £1,000,000. Very few persons send letters of over oz. in weight. The proposed postage reduction will be of considerable advantage to the merchants of York-street and Flinders-lane. the insurance companies, the legal profession, and the estate agents in the cities. Legal documents, for the postage of ‘ which, under the present system, firms have to pay 4d., will in future be carried for lid. This means a reduction of 150 per cent, as against 25 per cent. The PostmasterGeneral, as a prominent member of the
Country party, told his constituents that he believed in decentralization. Yet, because of the parcel post arrangements, he is centralizing commerce in the large retail houses of Melbourne and Sydney,, and retarding the expansion of business in the small country towns. Does any one imagine that the retail firms of the cities will reduce their prices to customers as a result of this arrangement Not for one moment. The Labour party is not opposed to cheap means of communication between Australia and other, nations. We believe that the more the people are brought together by correspondence, telegraphy, wireless, and telephone facilities the quicker will peaceful civilization develop. But we object strongly to this fine sentiment being prostituted under the cloak of a postage reduction, to profit vested interests. I wish to be fair, and I shall not condemn the PostmasterGeneral for the present state of my electorate; I shall judge him by results. Of course, I do not expect him to work miracles. I shall put on record, for his benefit, a few of the existing unsatisfactory conditions. We were told in the dying hours of last Parliament, and I understand that this Government is committed to it, that a vigorous policy would be pursued to increase and facilitate postal arrangements. It was stated that a large amount of loan money would be available.
– The honorable member did not object to the cheapening of parcel postage rates ?
– I do not oppose cheap communication between the peoples of the world, but I am opposed to the prostitution of that principle to enable vested interests to reap large profits. They are receiving a service which they can well afford, and for which they ought to pay.
– It, was the same in 1910.
– It was not. There was then penny postage. This Government have not returned to that principle. They have taken off merely the ½d war tax, which was placed on -J-oz. letters. We reasonably expected an improvement in the postal facilities of the country centres; but I am not at all satisfied with the Government’s policy. There has been very little improvement since I first en*tered the House. I continually receive information from the Postal Department that telephones will be erected when funds are available.
– The honorable member does not now receive those letters.
– I received one within the last few weeks.
– I shall be pleased to see it.
– In my electorate there is a small but growing village known as Douglas Park. The residents there have continually asked for the establishment of a Savings Bank and a Money Order Department. The pensioners wish to obtain their payments at the post-office. The alteration would involve little expense, yet, for some reason or other, the matter has been shelved. One communication stated that my request would probably be granted on the 1st of this month; yet nothing has been done. The post-office at Boorowa is a disgrace to the Commonwealth. Mr. Webster, in 1917 or 1918, during his term of office, paid a visit to this town, and roundly condemned the building. The Postmaster-General’s Department has informed me that an inspector condemned the building, but funds were not available to make the necessary alterations. I personally inspected the building, and found that the doors would not close. The telegraphic instruments are placed in a small compartment, which is liable to catch fire . at _ any time. The whole atmosphere of the place is quite unhealthy, and it is unfit for occupation. I have pointed this out on several occasions to Ministers in charge of the Department. A few pounds are being spent at the present time in patching the place up, but there ought to be a new post-office built there. Mr. Webster recognised that when he was in charge of the Department, and made arrangements for the choosing of a site for a new office. I brought the matter under the notice of Mr. Wise early in his term as Postmaster-General. I forget what his reply was, but I suppose it was the usual excuse that funds were not available. I brought it under the notice of Mr. Poynton when he was Postmaster.General, and nothing was done. This is a substantial town in one of the soundest wheat, districts in New Smith Wales Tt is a growing place, and its post-office is a disgrace to the Department. It- is by no means suitable to the requirements of the town, and is very inconveniently situated at one end of it. I hope that the present Postmaster-General, when making funds available for works in his Department, will give this case consideration. I want to join with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) in what he said with regard to allowance offices. The payment made to those in charge of some of these offices is scandalous. I. could give names, but I will not take the risk. I intended to take up a particular case, but the lady concerned wrote to me asking that I should not take it up, because she feared that if her name was published, she might be penalized, and lose the office.
– The honorable member need not trouble about that.
– I can refer the Minister to the case of an allowance office where the lady in charge handles close upon £3,000 a year. She “has to attend to four mails out and four in weekly, a telephone exchange, money orders, savings bank, and all the rest of it. I am not arguing that the office makes a profit of £3,000, but that the lady in charge handles that amount annually, and she gets the princely allowance of between 27s. 6d. and 30s. a week. ‘
– The honorable member does not say that the revenue of the office is £3,000 a year. The lady is evidently counting Savings Bank funds as well as post-office revenue.
– I say that, accord-, ing to the figures given to me, the amount of money that passes through her hands each year is between £2,700 and £2,800. I contend that to put a person in charge of such an office to handle some £3,000 a year, and pay only 27s. 6d. a week for the services rendered is to put a premium on dishonesty. If half the money handled were stolen, it would only serve the Government right. It is time that we took a comprehensive view of our postal arrangements, and decided whether it is worth while establishing allowance offices. If it is decided that it is essential to the development of the country districts that such facilities should be provided, we should’ pay those in charge of them fairly. We should not expect people to carry them on at the starvation wage paid by the Department. It would be far better to pay proper wages, and* increase the facilities afforded in the country districts than to bring forward proposals for a reduction of the postage rates in the interests of the wealthy institutions and great commercial concerns of this country. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) severely attacked the Budget, and he was followed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). I had a great deal, of correspondence to attend to and did not hear what -was said by the right honorable member for North Sydney, but I understand” from the press that he was far from laudatory of the Treasurer. In that the right honorable gentleman was only returning a compliment, because the Treasurer was not very complimentary to honorable members with whom he is now allied when he spoke on the Budget of last year, and the year before last. I have a vivid recollection of a passage-at-arms between members of the Government at that time and the present Treasurer, who was then Leader of the Country party. The honorable gentleman talked . of “ manufactured balance’s,” and the phrase was taken exception to by the then honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Massy Greene). I remember, also, that the right honorable member for North Sydney, who was then Prime Minister, was very severe upon the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who is now Treasurer. With honorable members on the other side, criticism of the Government appears ro depend on whether the critic is a member of it or desires to be a member of it. The honorable member for Martin criticises the financial proposals of the Government, but invariably he lines up and votes solidly for them when the division bells ring. Probably the right honorable member for North Sydney will do the same. If either of these honorable gentlemen were Treasurer, he would, in all probability, deliver just the same dry old Budget to camouflage the real financial position of the Commonwealth. That, it would appear, is what a Budget statement is for. No attempt is made to take the people into the confidence of the Government, but every effort is made to camouflage the position in such a way that no one can understand how the finan- cial affairs of the Commonwealth are really being carried on. Many proposals have been made for the reduction of taxation, but I would have preferred a further reduction of the entertainment tax. That would have been better than the proposal to reduce postage rates. The Government might increase the value of entertainment tickets free from tax to 2s. or 3s. The present tax seriously affects residents of small places where the picture show is the only relief from the drudgery of work from Monday until Saturday. I agree with many of the arguments used by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner). They were arguments which honorable members on this side put forward in the last Parliament. We tested the opinion of the House upon them, but, unfortunately, the members of the Country party joined the Nationalists in order to defeat our efforts to give relief to the primary producers.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.’]
– A large measure of relief from taxation might be given to the people of Australia, and the Treasurer might very well devote some of his large surplus to a reduction of the entertainment tax. However, the workers cannot expect much sympathy from the author of a Budget who has the cool cheek to refer to the worker’s pipe as a luxury. That is. the kind of argument the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) might use, but not the Treasurer of a democratic country like Australia. We must remember that when wages are being fixed by the Arbitration Court, tobacco is regarded as a necessity of the worker. However, what can be expected from a Government, amongst the supporters of which, outside, at any rate, are to be found people who only recently ceased preaching the doctrine that marriage is a luxury.
The Treasurer, in his statement, has told us that a saving of £259,623 will be effected by the arrangement made between the States and the Commonwealth regarding the collection of income tax. I cannot conceive how there can be this saving without throwing men out of employment. This is a poor way in which to build a Budget, while, at the same time, bartering away Commonwealth powers to the States. Such a policy is fundamentally bad in principle, and economically unsound, and cun only bring ruin and disaster in its train. For years > the Government, by its retrenchment activity, has been aggravating the evil of unemployment ; and the Treasurer ought to consider very carefully before he takes any further steps in that direction. Ti . the arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States does necessitate the dismissal of some of the employees in the Taxation Department, it is the duty of the Government to see that they are placed elsewhere. As to what this arrangement actually is, we are- in ignorance; but I am opposed, and always will bo, to any action on the part of the Government that will even give colour to a suggestion that Ave ure surrendering Commonwealth rights. We desire to see the Federal spirit grow; and it is creating a wrong psychology when the Commonwealth Government are found prepared to forego Federal prerogatives. Of course, the idea may appeal to State-righters, who arc advocating the creation of fresh States on the same basis as that of the present States; but this Parliament should he the last instrument used to in any way weaken the. Federal spirit. Those who believe, not only in strengthening the Commonwealth bond, but also in increasing the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, and eventually making it the national body to delegate powers of a minor nature to the States, do not like to see the latter made the instrument of a Commonwealth function of this kind.
The Treasurer looks for a reduction in the Customs revenue, though some one has suggested that he may ultimately emerge with a £4,000,000 profit, and take all the credit for earning it. If the Treasurer is sincere, I think he is unduly pessimistic. In any case, this constantly increasing revenue from the Customs only proves that Australia has not an effective Protective policy. I never did, and never shall, support, here or elsewhere, a purely revenue Tariff, for such I regard as vicious. When the present Tariff1 was under discussion, I pointed out that many of the duties were imposed merely for the purpose of producing revenue; and the subsequent increase has justified me.
– Where does revenue stop and Protection begin?
– Provided we have the industries here to supply the demands of our people, the proper course is to protect those industries in such a way as to stop competition from outside.
– Prohibition, if you like, with proper means to conserve the interests of workers and consumers. If such duties are ‘ imposed as enable goods from abroad to come in at a price of 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, above that of the Australian article, there is no Protection. We might as well have a purely revenue Tariff, and thus raise money in an indirect way when the Government has not the courage to resort to direct taxation.
I was forcibly struck by the figures which the Treasurer quoted in relation to the increase in governmental expenditure. In 1913 this expenditure, apart from Avar expenditure, ‘ amounted to £23,160,733, and by 1923 it had grown to £33,600,103, a difference of £10,000,000. There seems to me to be good reason for a little stocktaking. It is just about time the Government, which claims to be. a business’ Government, asked itself what is the cause of this increase. Such an inquiry the Treasurer brushes aside, claiming that much is war expenditure. As a matter of fact, the increase is for the most part caused by the multiplication of Government Departments, as was pointed out last session by honorable members on this side. The method of paying war pensions was changed in .order to find jobs for military officers, though the business was being efficiently and more economically conducted by the Departments that administered old-age and invalid pensions. Then, this Government, like its predecessors, wherever a little trouble arises, appoints a Royal Commission followed by other Royal Commissions or Select Committees, the reports of which result in nothing. All this adds to the governmental expenditure; but it is a favorite means of shelving responsibility. The honest plan would be for the GoAernment to introduce a policy on any given matter, and invite the House to “ take it or leave it.”
During the present Parliament (repeated -questions have been asked in reference to the growing evil of unemployment. In spite of all the information and technical and scientific assistance at its command, the Government takes the view that Parliament is incapable of evolving a comprehensive scheme of national insurance .against sickness and unemployment, and insists on a Royal Commission. After investigating for possibly two years -or more, the Commission may present its report on the eve of an election, when the Government will assure the people. that the recommendations made will be adopted. It is sure, however, that if the same Government be returned to power, some other means will be found to postpone any definite action. I question the Government’s sincerity in the matter.
I object to the increase of per cent, in the interest paid on Commonwealth loans. During the war we were told that money was dear, and interest must be high. The war is now over, yet we find that those “patriots,” who did so much in the way of lending money at high interest, are now demanding even higher. Consequently the rate of interest has to be increased to 5£ per cent. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said to-day that the Labour party does not believe in repudiation. That, is so; but the repudiation need not be deliberate. If we continue to increase the rate of interest, we shall repudiate our obligations by not being able to meet them, and national bankruptcy will result. We cannot go on for ever adding to the burden of debt. Honorable members opposite have said, that they do not believe in making the returns from certain war loans free of taxation. They recognise that the principle is wrong, but the Government had made a certain promise or contract, and it must be kept. That is all right, but past Governments made other promises, which they should regard as equally sacred. Their promises to the returned soldiers are not being kept, and this Budget shows a reduction of over £100,000 in repatriation expenditure. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) and Mr. Lloyd George, and the Prime Ministers of other countries, promised the workers “ a new world” after the war. They have got a new world, but not the one that was promised to them. Why not try to keep that promise as faithfully as the promise regarding tax free loans is being kept? Honorable members opposite shudder when they hear the word “ repudiation,” but they do not seem to be concerned about the possibility of the country being reduced to bankruptcy. Are not the statesmen of the Old World discussing the possibility of cancelling the interallied war debts because of the impossible financial position in which the different nations find .themselves? Instead of trying to reduce the debt of the Commonwealth, the Government are adding to it by floating loans at a higher rate of interest. The Treasurer is now endeavouring to float a loan of £38,723,590, bearing interest at 5 per cent, and having a currency of twentyfive years. At the end of that period the people of the Commonwealth will have paid in interest £49,000,000, and they will still owe the original £38,000,000. Apply the same calculation to the £400,000,000 of Commonwealth debt, and we find that in twenty-five years the people will have paid £500,000,000 in interest, and will still owe the whole of the principal; and, if it is applied to the total national debt of Commonwealth and States, amounting to £800,000,00.0, we arrive at the alarming result that 5,000,000 people, plus such additions as may be made to the population in the meantime, will in the next quarter of a century have to provide £1,000,000,000 in interest, without any reduction of their indebtedness.
– There is nothing new in those figures.
– That may be so, but the honorable member is supporting a Government which is trying to camouflage the facts. I am trying to show the people where they stand in regard to finance. The Treasurer has established a sinking fund to liquidate this debt in fifty years, but it will be a failure, as all sinking funds in the past have been. The national debt, cannot be wiped off by means of a sinking fund. No national debt has. ever been liquidated in that way. The history of all of them is that they increased more rapidly than they were reduced. Nine-tenths of loans falling due are redeemed by the flotation of other loans. Therefore I have not much faith in the Treasurer’s sinking funds proposals. They postulate continuous peace for fifty years. That is our only hope of redeeming the public debt by this means; but whilst the Treasurer introduces a sinking fund based on immunity from war for half a century, he and his Government are pursuing a policy that will bring, about another war. They are entering into Imperialistic schemes and increasing expenditure upon the Army, Navy, and Air Forces.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p..m.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I am pleased that the Government intend to remove some of the anomalies in our old-age and invalid pension system, but I am not satisfied with its proposal to increase the pension payable to inmates of such institutions as the Waterfall Sanatorium in my electorate. At present inmates of such institutions are paid 4s. a fortnight. The Government proposes to increase the payment to 6s. a fortnight. I consider that at least 10s. a fortnight should be paid. If the inmates were outside of’ institutions they would receive 17s. 6d. a week. The. authorities in control of the institutions of which they are inmates receive 10s. a week for each inmate; the inmates, under the. new proposal, will receive 3s. a week, and the Government will thus show a profit of 3s. 6d. a week as against the pension that would be payable if the person were outside of an institution. I protest against that. Surely the Treasurer does not desire to build up a surplus by these methods. I contend that the full pension should be paid in respect of these persons. At. the very least, the Government should pay them 5s. a week”, which would- make 10s. a fortnight, as against their proposal of 6s. a fortnight. Many of the persons in the institution I mentioned contracted their complaint in the course of rendering useful but dangerous service to the general community. Some pf them were miners. Others worked in the sewerage tunnels in big cities. By their work they provided our cities with one of the most effective preventatives of disease that we have. In discharging these duties they contracted the. complaint which is destroying their lives. Surely the Commonwealth Government does not wish to profit by the unfortunate conditions, in which these people now find themselves! If these folk were in homes of their own, or in residence outside the institutions, they would receive the full pension. I contend that they should receive it even when they are inmates of institutions. The’ extra money would make their last days easier. It would enable them to obtain many little comforts that are not supplied by the institutions in which they are living. There is no valid reason why the old-age pensioners should not “also receive the full pension. It would make their last days brighter and more comfortable. The Government could well alford to spend some of its surplus in increasing the pension as I have suggested. This humanitarian proposal should appeal to every member of the House, and even to the honorable member for Foothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). notwithstanding his speech to-day. In its last analysis it is sound economics to care for the aged and invalid people in our community. The Government should not boast of its surplus while anomalies of this kind remain unremedied.
I protest strongly against the Government’s immigration proposals. The finances of the Commonwealth should not be strained at this time to provide by loan £5,000,000 for immigration, nor should we be asked to spend £300,000 out of revenue for this purpose. I condemn those who are carrying out our immigration policy for their lack of ability. The Labour party, as has been said a thousand times, is opposed to any immigrants being brought to Australia until the landhungry people already here are satisfied. We are opposed altogether to a single individual being brought to this country while one person already here remains unemployed. It has been pointed out in this debate that criminals and persons whose health is open to question have been included in our immigrants. When these facts were placed before the Treasurer he endeavoured to side-track honorable members by saying that some one will be sent to Great Britain to inquire into the whole arrangements. I protest against any representative of the Government being sent abroad to inquire into the position unless he is accompanied’ by a representative of the Labour party’ If a Government representative goes by himself the inquiry will not be sufficiently conclusive. We wish to learn the whole truth, and a representative of the party which is opposed to wholesale immigration should be sent abroad with the Government representative. According to inspired press reports, the Prime Minister intends to travel through Great Britain to urge people to come to Australia. That makes it highly desirable that some one should be sent to England to tell the whole truth about immigration, and to prevent people from being shanghaied into this country. ,That is being done at present. -
I support the protest by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) because no money is to be provided by the Government for research work in respect of diseases which are playing havoc with the health of our community. I am not satisfied with the replies given by the Government about the Spahlinger treatment. The circular letter sent to honorable members of this House by the Government does not satisfy me, either. I do not claim that the Spahlinger treatment will cure tuberculosis, but I protest against the evasive attitude of the Minister in charge of the Department of Health. In the circular letter to which I have referred, a statement is made that when Spahlinger was asked for a certain amount of his serum to treat guinea-pigs, he replied that his treatment had gone far beyond the experimental stage. I do not claim to have technical knowledge of this treatment, but from what I have read of it in the press and elsewhere, I understand that before the stage for inoculating the serum ‘is reached, the patient is required to undergo treatment for a considerable period. Fomentations have to be applied to various parts of the body, and the serum is not injected until a certain stage of development has been reached. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro* (Mr. Austin Chapman) laughs. I think he knows about as much as I do of the treatment. I base my remarks on reports I have read in medical journals and elsewhere. The Government was asked to spend a few thousand pounds to purchase the sole right for the Commonwealth of using this treatment. We have had evidence of at least the partial success of the treatment, and under all the circumstances the Government would have been justified in purchasing the sole rights which were offered.
Whispers have been passed round that honorable members are expected to finish this debate and deal with all the Estimates by the end of this week. In those circumstances I am entitled to recall some remarks made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in the course of his criticisms of the Government last year. The burden of many a song that he sang in this House, and throughout the country prior to the last elections, was that we should get back to constitutional methods of government, and that we should restore to Parliament the power to control the purse. I trust the Treasurer has not forgotten those remarks, and that he will do as he expected his predecessor to do. I hope that when the Estimates are being considered in detail by the Committee, he will not bring out the party machine and force through the various items. The Treasurer should do as he wished to be done by when he was a freelance, or, I should say, when he was leading the late lamented Country party. His party contested the last elections with the cry, “ Restore to Parliament the power and control of the purse.” Therefore, if honorable members on this side of the Chamber or on the crossbenches opposite move any amendments during our discussion of the details of the Estimates, the Treasurer should not seek to unduly curtail the debate. If Parliament expresses a desire to have a certain amount added to any particular item, will the Government allow Parliament to have the final voice in the matter? Is the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) going to live up to the promises he made to the people, and stand firmly for the principle he so long advocated - that constitutional government should be reverted to, and that Parliament should have restored to it the power of the purse? If he does not, he will demonstrate that the attitude which he adopted in the last Parliament was so much humbug, and that he was merely attempting to tickle the ears of the people in order to get on the Treasury bench; having achieved which object, he was content to throw his principles aside and follow the beaten track which he had so loudly condemned.
.- The Government is suffering from what I might well call the “ embarrassment of riches.”
– Brewster’s millions !
– I do not think that that condition can be said to have applied only to this Government, because it has existed ever since action was taken which resulted in the surplus revenue of the
Commonwealth being placed to the credit of a reserve fund. That action, I consider, was quite wrong, and morally it was an improper treatment of the funds at the disposal of the Government, because it entirely dislocated the finances of the States, and brought about many difficulties in the local government of those parts of the Commonwealth in which the central Government should have shown a paternal, interest. That practice has been continued year by year ; consequently every year a bigger surplus is carried forward. It is a bad practice, because it induces extravagance and carelessness in finance. The Treasurer is not faced with the necessity to- cut his coat according to his cloth, because he always has a reserve on which to draw should he get into financial difficulties. From the point of view of the Treasurer, it is a very agreeable position. But I hope that the practice will nob be continued after the end of this financial year. I admit that the Treasurer is faced with considerable difficulty at the present moment. He has inherited the surplus, and cannot so adjust his finances as bo dispose of it. Moreover, the Government finds it necessary to do a lot of cleaning up, and it is impossible to accurately estimate its liabilities. I believe that the Government has made an excellent start to place the affairs of the country on a -proper basis. The existence of the surplus has been responsible for a good deal of the criticism that has been levelled at the form in which the Budget has been presented. Technically, ‘the objections that have been voiced may be quite sound, but, from the point of view of the public interests, they do not carry much weight. As long as the money has been devoted to the legitimate requirements of the country, it does not matter very much if technical bookkeeping faults have occurred. I see no reason to severely criticise the Government when the surplus has been devoted to desirable and necessary public works. It has been said in some quarters that the surplus should be utilized to give a greater reduction in taxation. I think the Government has gone as far as it is wise bo go ab the present stage. A considerable amount of relief has been given. In the Postal Department alone relief is to bc given to the extent of about £930,000 as the result of the reduction in the rates of postage.
– That reduction will benefit mainly commercial enterprises.
– That is an absolutely fallacious argument. I cannot conceive how a 25 per cent, reduction in postage can be converted into 150 per cent. Even if it were so, to argue that the correspondence of business houses is entirely in their interests is exceedingly short-sighted and foolish. The correspondence conducted by business houses benefits their clients as greatly us it does them. The reduction amounts to nearly £1,000,000, and to that extent is a lessening of the burden of the taxpayers. Two and a half million pounds are to be devoted towards the redemption of war gratuity bonds, resulting in a very substantial reduction of the ^public debt. Tho establishment of a sinking fund on a systematic basis will for the first time give us a regular and constant means of lessening the burden that rests upon the people. It is true that a reserve of £2,400,000 is to be carried forward t.o provide for losses that may be disclosed when the adjustment is made between the States and the Commonwealth Taxation Departments. I doubt whether such a loss will be entailed, but if the money is required to be used it will render unnecessary the placing of further burdens upon the people. By carrying forward £2,500,000 for defence purposes the Government will be establishing a sane and sensible insurance for the future. If, as we all sincerely hope, the expenditure, of that. money will be rendered unnecessary as the result, of the Imperial Conferences, and the £2,400,000 can still be carried forward, I do not think that those amounts should be devoted - as some people urge. - to a further immediate reduction in direct taxation. Any reduction which is made should affect the indirect taxation that is resting heavily upon the people. Some persons consider that reductions should apply only bo direct taxation. That naturally appeals to the man in the street, who experiences a certain amount of inconvenience when he is called upon to pay his income tax. The ordinary taxpayer welcomes the prospect of any lowering of the amount of direct taxation which he is called upon to pay. Because it is not brought prominently before his notice, he is not aware of the. amount which he pays in the way of indirect taxation. ,
– The honorable member willbe discussing the Tariff in a minute !
– I make no apology for discussing the Tariff when I find it desirable to do so. There is not a single financial or economic question with which this Committee is called upon to deal that is not connected more or less with the Tariff. It is absolutely absurd for an honorable member to think that by making a jeering remark of that kind he is enlightening the people or assisting in the debate. It has been stated in this Chamber over and over again that the collection of a Customs revenue of £30,000,000 imposes upon the ordinary taxpayer, by reason of the higher cost of local manufactures, the burden of finding £120,000,000. In other words, the burden laid upon the taxpayers by indirect taxation is four times the amount actually received by the Government. Therefore, it stands to reason that if the Government surrenders £1,000,000 of the revenue that is derived from indirect taxation, it opens the way to the indirect saving by the people of no less than £4,000,000. If £1,000,000 is taken off direct taxation, that represents the whole of the saving to the people. This is why I say that it is desirable to reduce indirect rather than direct taxation. I hope that the fact that the Government intends this year to devote a part of the surplus to lightening the burden of taxation may mean that they have it in mind to make some reduction in indirect taxation in the future.
– Go on believing.
– I shall, because I have’ some evidence of reformation, even in the Minister for Trade and Customs. There is one matter connected with direct taxation to which I wish to call the particular attention of the Government, and that is the way in which this taxation is collected. I am very pleased that arrangements have been made between the Commonwealth and State Governments for its collection by one authority, but that will mean an unusually heavy payment by the taxpayer at the same time. He will, under the arrangement, receive his assessment for both authorities at the. same time.
– Not necessarily.
-I can assure thehonorable gentleman that that will be the posi tion in which taxpayers will find themselves. I received my assessment two or three weeks ago, and it was a very heavy assessment. Previously in Western Australia the State Government permitted a taxpayer to pay his tax in moieties.
– Why cannot that be done under the new arrangement?
– I do not know why it cannot be done. Immediately on receiving my assessment, I telegraphed to the Deputy Taxation Commissioner in Perth to ask if an arrangement could be made for the payment of my tax in moieties, and I received the answer that that was not permissible: I am giving the facts from personal knowledge, and yet honorable members tell me that the position is not as I stated it.
– I say that that can be adjusted by the Government.,
– That is what I propose to ask the Government to do. It is often a very heavy drain upon a man to have to find a big sum of money at once. I might say that my returns were sent in eight or nine months ago, and I received an assessment with a notice to pay in ten days or a fortnight. It has to be remembered that, in my case, the fortnight must cover communication to and from Western Australia. The payment of the tax for both Commonwealth and State at the same time will befound to be a considerable hardship by a great many people, and the Government should issue definite instructions that this taxation may be paid in moieties, and that it should not be necessary for the taxpayer to apply for the concession. It puts a man in a somewhat invidious position if he has to go to a Taxation Commissioner, and apply in forma pauperis for this relief. The payment of the tax in moietiesshould be in accordance with a general instruction which any taxpayer may take advantage of. Of course, I am aware that it will be said that this would lead to increased cost in collection; but I do not think that the increased cost would amount to very much. It was not found in Western Australia that the practice of making this concession led to any material increase in the cost of col- lection of the State tax. Now that the State and Commonwealth taxation authorities are combined in that State, the concession which previously existed there has been withdrawn.
I have said that I am very glad to see the relief that has been given in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department. I wish to add my meed of commendation to the honorable gentleman for the excellent work he is doing in his office. There was plenty of room for reform in his Department, and the honorable gentleman is tackling his job with an enthusiasm, sympathy and hopefulness that are greatly to his credit. It is only right that he should be given the praise and encouragement that is his due. I hope he will continue his policy “of extending the facilities which may be afforded by his Department to. country districts to increase the amenities of country life. I feel very keenly on this matter, because I have long held the opinion that one of the obstacles to the increase of rural settlement has been the lack of means to make rural life really attractive. If we wish to learn something on this subject, we cannot do better than study the example set by America. The wonderful American Department of Agriculture is an example to the whole world. It has done marvellous work in this direction . I do not know whether honorable members generally have had an opportunity to study its work and its ramifications, but it was a part of my business for many years to follow it up. I can assure honorable members that the great Agricultural Department of America is specially concerned with improving the conditions of rural life. It has a large staff and the command of funds which are devoted to educating, assisting and subsidising efforts for improving the conditions of life in country districts. It has devoted a very great deal of attention to the improvement of the conditions of domestic environment which, to my mind, is one of the most useful avenues in which it could be employed. It is a common thing on going into out-back districts in Australia to find that a farmer has started in a struggling sort of way, and has spent, perhaps, £500 or £600 on farming machinery, whilst, apparently, he has been unable to provide his wife with a decent bathroom. I have visited many farm-houses, where, if a man wished to wash his hands, he would be given a tin dish, which he could rest on the tank stand outside the house. The women, in the performance of their domestic duties, have to carry water in buckets from wells, and perform other difficult labours, when by a little management an over* head tank and small reticulation system might be provided which would carry the water for domestic purposes to where it was required, and give the farmer’s wife some of the simple domestic conveniences that are enjoyed in Melbourne and other cities. These things are very farreaching in their effects. If we consider the hardships which women have to put ap with in the out-back districts until they become thin and worn from constant ‘ drudgery, it is not at all surprising that when their families have to some extent grown up, and they have become a little better off, they should seize the first opportunity to get away from such drudgery and should drift into the towns in order to enjoy amusements and other amenities of civilized life. .We cannot expect to rear a new generation of people, living on the land and fond of rural pursuits, unless they are provided with some, at least, of the conveniences and comforts enjoyed by people in other walks of life. I have not myself been in America, but I am told, and believe the statement to be correct, that one of the results of the » efforts of the American Agricultural Department is that many country, districts of the United States are studded with pretty attractive and comfortable farm-houses, which help to keep the rural population happy and contented on the land.
– Those are homes.
– Yes, those are homes, and not merely houses. That is what we need in Australia. The condition into which things have been allowed to drift in some of our country districts is deplorable. With telephone communication, wireless, and the introduction of all sorts of comforts, the home in the country in America is made as attractive as a home in the town. As one brought up as a country boy, I hold the view that a certain amount of country training is of incalculable value in making one a man and a citizen, although I may be an unfortunate example to the contrary myself. I consider that a home properly equipped and maintained in the country is more of a home than is the ordinary house to be found in a city, and that in such homes it is possible to raise citizens of far more value to the Commonwealth than are many of those whom we see roaming the streets of our cities. It may be said that the Government are attempting to do something in this direction already. I have heard allusions to such institutions as the Institute of Science and Industry. I have heard the statement made in this Chamber that the Government have been starving the Institute, and should have done more to encourage it. I want to say that if the money spent on the Institute of Science and Industry had been spent in the way I have suggested, and if some of the Boards which have been created were replaced by a central authority, such as there is in America, for the promotion of agricultural work and the improvement . of rural life, the result would have been far more beneficial to the country. Some honorable members may be rather surprised at my saying that, but I believe that the money spent on the Institute of Science and Industry has been largely wasted. I do not think that the Institute has given a satisfactory return for the expenditure upon it. I speak of what I know, because- I was associated with the early work of the Institute. I was a member of the first executive of it, for some years, and was” intimately connected with the first steps in the early organization of its work. I entered into that work with very high hopes and a great faith in its possibilities, but it was not long before I was severely disillusioned. The reason was twofold. First of all there was a fundamental difficulty in the way. The idea was that tlie Institute should take up difficulties facing manufacturers and industrialists, o and conduct research work for the benefit of industries. There is a very fundamental difficulty in the way. If a firm has a manufacturing difficulty, and gets a solution of it from the Institute, it wishes to keep that solution for itself; it objects to the information being given to competitors. The Institute, very naturally, as a Government institution, says that the work it does must be public property. The two principles are absolutely at variance, and cannot be carried out together. I foresaw this difficulty at an early stage, and did my best as an individual member to meet it, but I was not successful. I think it will remain, as it has remained, and render it impossible for the Institute to do a great deal of the work originally contemplated. Those who have difficulties to solve will not submit them to the Institute, just because they fear that the information they get will become public property. That is quite right; if competition is the essence of trade and -industry, it is no use a manufacturer giving his knowledge to those competing with him. There are other difficulties in regard to the organization of the Institute, but I prefer not to go into these at this stage. I can tell honorable members a great deal of the work of the Institute, and can. justify every remark or comment I make. I have followed every step of its work, and was closely and personally connected with it. The Institute has failed to realize anticipations, and is not giving an adequate return for the expenditure, and it- would be better to re-organize the method of conducting its work. Before the Institute came into being, there were in all the States technical offices connected with the local Governments. The men -in those offices were facing practical and varied problems in the industrial world, and they had to solve them always with practical ends in view. They were not, perhaps, in some ways so highly qualified as the purely academic scientists, who largely control the Institute of Science and Industry. I take off my hat to those academic scientists, for some of them are great men, who have done noble work for Australia in this particular sphere as teachers and guides of thought. But when it comes to the practical application, of science to the difficulties of the day they, in many cases, lack that judgment that can only be gathered by long experience. . When the Institute was established the State agencies, though not abolished, were largely superseded. Men who had been fighting and battling for years, and who would, with a little- more encouragement, have made great progress, found themselves overshadowed and pushed aside. In many cases problems, in regard to which they had done much, were handed over to the Institute, and they found themselves left just when they wanted a certain amount of help. The opportunity was then taken advantage of by the State Governments, who, instead of spending money through their State agencies, found it convenient to push the work on to the Commonwealth Institute-. In the early days of the Institute many of the problems which had been handed over had already been dealt with by the technical men in the State offices, and, being found impracticable, put aside. Yet the Institute took these ‘ problems over, and again made efforts to find solutions only to come to the same conclusion as their State brethren, and to find that time and money had been wasted. It would be far better if this technical research work was sent back to the State mcn, who work, on problems with which they are in close personal contact. If this work were subsidized, assisted, and encouraged, they are more likely to give the best results. I speak now with the experience of between twenty-seven’ and twenty-eight years, and I am giving my deliberate judgment. The “whole scheme for the founding of the Institute sounded well and looked well, but it was really fundamentally weak, and, in many respects, was ill-advised.
I now wish to say a word or two about trade and its conditions. We have heard a great deal about the want of markets, and of the necessity for finding new ones. This was particularly stressed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning). I listened with interest and attention to the speech of that honorable member, and’ it was a most valuable contribution to the discussion. He spoke as one who knows what he is talking about; -and a man who does that is generally listened to with respect in this House. The only point on which I differed from him was that of new markets. New markets are undoubtedly very desirable if they can be found, but it appeared as though the honorable member’ thought that new markets should be made by some artificial means and supported by some artificial stimulant. The finding of markets is very different from the making of markets. Markets cannot be made artificially, nor can trade be bolstered up artificially if it is to be strong and enduring. I was, therefore, very pleased to see, from the Argus of yesterday, that it is the intention of the Meat Council, of which the honorable member for Macquarie is a member, to take a step which I think is worthy of imitation by other branches of industry. That Council has decided to make a levy on stock-owners of, I think, Id. per head of stock, in order to- provide a fund to be used in exploiting new markets, and opening up fresh branches of trade. That is self-help of the best kind. It will be necesary for the Meat Council ‘ to approach the Commonwealth and State Governments for proper power before they can take the move* they contemplate, and I sincerely trust that they will receive every assistance in their admirable enterprise. If this example were generally followed there would be no need for further subsidies or artificial props for industry’. Let growers organize amongst themselves and use their own initiative and power of organization, and they are bound to find success. No doubt, as the inheritance from the war, we have grown too much in the habit, whenever a difficulty arises, of rushing to the Government for help.
– The action of the Meat Council was started’ in this House lastyear.
– I know it was; I think it was Mr. Jowett, the ex-member for the Grampians, who supported it.
– Mr. Hay, the exmember for New England, started the idea.
– I do not care who started the idea : at present I am only giving the movement my blessing and approbation, which I hope may strengthen it.
I know that the operation of the Navigation Act has been referred for investigation to a Select Committee, and I do not think it advisable to say much in this connexion. But a very real difficulty has cropped up in connexion with the working of the Act as it affects the important timber trade of Western Australia. Honorable members probably know that the hardwood timbers of Western Australia are unexcelled, if not unequalled, in the world. Western Australia has one of the finest reserves of hardwood on the face of the earth. During the war the Western Australian timber merchants were able to open up markets in the eastern States owing to the temporary difficulty in obtaining many imported timbers. I know, of course, that, as compared with some imported timbers, our hardwood is very heavy, and more difficult to handle. Against that, however, our timber presents advantages in structural strength and endurance, advantages which probably outweigh’ any disadvantages Only a few weeks ago ] met the representative of the Western Australian State Saw-mills in Adelaide, and he told me there was an enormous and growing demand for the Western Australian product in South Australia. The State saw-mills, along with other timber businesses, have agencies and markets throughout the eastern States.In the Argus of yesterday there was a picture of a huge shipment of imported timber being unloaded at a wharf in Melbourne. There seemed so much timber as to present some difficulty in dealing with it.
– Shiploads would come in every week under a Free Trade policy.
– The honorable member speaks a little out of his turn. We in Western Australia are quite prepared to compete with those imported timbers on a Free Trade policy, but we are not allowed to follow a Free Trade policy. Our saw-millers have their own markets, and they have no fear of competition in the eastern States. The important point is that the Western Australian timber merchants cannot get their timber to the eastern States. To-day one firm alone has 12,000 loads, representing about 16,000 tons of timber, on order in the eastern States, and cannot get it shipped.
– Because the Navigation Act does not allow tramp steamers to carry cargo from Western Australia to the eastern States.
– It is on account of the coal strike.
– It is nothing of the kind ; there are several reasons operating. Timber can only be carried at rates which are charged by steamers of the tramp type. On account of its bulk and weight, and the difficulty of handling, the timber cannot be carried in any other way cheap enough to pay.
– That means that the Western Australian timber trade has to be bolstered up with coolie labour.
– What on earth is the honorable member talking about?
– Many of these tramp steamers are low-wage steamers.
– That is purely an assumption. Up to some time ago a certain amount of ship space was obtainable from Western Australia; and here I may turn to the coal question that has been raised. Tramp steamers from the eastern States to Western Australia carried bunker coal, and came back with timber. The. shipment of coal has fallen off partly, but only partly, on account of the strike. The fact is that the Collie coal of Western Australia has been developed to such an extent, and is used so much for bunkering, that the demand for Newcastle coal is diminishing, and consequently there is less shipping to take timber as back loading. The consequence is that if a man wants his timber brought to the east he has to pay freight both ways. The other day some of the timber men, instead of 37s., were asked to pay 53s. a ton freight, a price which makes the business quite unpayable. Those are some of the disadvantages which the people of Western Australia have to face. There is a market for the timber, and they have the organization for selling, but they cannot get ships in which to carry their timber to the eastern States. I think there is legitimate ground for asking the Government to put into operation those provisions of theNavigation Act which would allow other ships to call at Western Australian ports to lift this cargo.
I am entirely opposed to the principle of subsidizing shipping in order to find markets in the Orient, and I sincerely trust that the caution which has been expressed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Chapman) will be exercised in the fullest measure before he agrees to such a policy. Last night that honorable gentleman, speaking at a meeting at which the Commonwealth Government was asked to give the fruit industry further monetary support, made a remark which, emanating from him, should be illuminated in gold, framed, and hung on the wall. “ No industry,” he said, “ was any good if it could not get on without help.” I think the honorable gentleman was quite right. His remark shows that there is still hope of his reformation, and that with further patient and persistent effort on our part, he may yet become “ a brand plucked from the burning.”
I heartily approve of the proposals made by the Government in regard to the control ofthe Commonwealth Bank, and I hope that they will be carried out in their entirety. It was indicated, by the Prime Minister, I think, on one occasion, that the proposed reform would apply not only to the organization and management of the Bank, but also to its trading operations. Not only is a Board to be created, but the operations of the Bank are to be extended. That is very desirable indeed. Successful as the Bank has been, it has not yet properly functioned as a State Bank should. It has been merely competing with other banks upon the same lines and in the same sphere. That is not the true purpose of a State Bank, nor can it thus render the greatest service to the community. The Commonwealth Bank should be a discount bank or bank of banks - what is known in South Africa as a Bank of Reserves. If the Government bring about a reform of the Bank’s operations in that direction, the institution will be able to do a great deal to stabilize the financial structure of the community, and will no longer be merely competing for business with the ordinary associated banks, even, so I am told, taking up securities which other banks would not touch.
I welcome the proposal to- appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into- the questions of national insurance and oldage pensions. This is one of the most important investigations required at the present time, and I hope it will be commenced without delay. During the election campaign I urged throughout my electorate that .the fullest inquiry should be instituted with a. view to the establishment of a national insurance scheme, and everywhere the proposal was received with the heartiest support and approbation. I hope that the Commission will inquire not only into old-age pensions, sickness, and unemployment, but also into the maternity allowance, so that it may be able to evolve and recommend to this Parliament a comprehensive scheme. ‘Of course, this is a very difficult and intricate question. However, much may be learned from the experience of other countries, and only by a Royal Commission carefully studying the question with concentration, and collecting information from all parts of the world, can the foundations of a scheme that may be relied upon as sound and trustworthy be laid down.
As a result of a conference held in Melbourne, the Postmaster-General recently issued regulations with regard to the control of wireless and broadcasting. I fully believe that the Minister is doing his very best with a difficult problem. Some of the regulations have been criticised by the public and in the press, and I personally nave discussed them with the Postmaster-General. There are some regulations to which grave objection may be taken, but I can appreciate the difficulty of the Minister in view of the fact that the regulations were framed by the very people who are interested in the business, and who declared that the set of rules they drafted meets all requirements.
– In regard to them the members of the Conference were unanimous.
- ‘When the PostmasterGeneral pressed the delegates to declare, whether or not they had any objections to the regulations, they persisted in saying that they unanimously approved of them. That makes it difficult for the Minister to introduce any alterations which he personally may think are desirable. I fully understand his position, and I am not speaking critically of his actions, but an awkward position lias been created, and I think another Conference should be convened as soon as possible to reconsider the regulations with a view to the removal of the objectionable features.
– We should give our young people a chance.
– I agree, but I do not wish at this stage to enter into a detailed discussion of the technical objections. T mention the matter to-night only because I believe that if, by public criticism, I can strengthen the hands of the Minister in seeking another Conference to reconsider regulations that were so ‘ recently framed, 1 shall be doing some service to the community, and giving the Minister some assistance in a difficult situation. No responsibility for the regulations rests upon him, but mistakes have been made, and it is desirable that the representatives of the wireless associations- in the different States should be called together to frankly and fully discuss the whole matter. Wireless telegraphy and telephony are one of the great developments of the day, and will be greater in the future, and we cannot afford to start our system of control upon a false basis.
I know that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie intends to deal at length with the subject of lighthouses at a later stage, and as I have no desire to steal his thunder, my reference to the subject will be brief. To an electorate like that of Kalgoorlie, which embraces about onesixth of the Commonwealth-
– Lighthouses are of paramount importance. When I first came to Melbourne to take my seat in this House, being much impressed with the need for further lighting on the West Australian coast, I inquired why more lighthouses were not being provided.I discovered that a systematic programme of construction had been carried out on the Queensland coast, and that a large number of new lights had been installed. 1 do not object to that, because 1 recognise that the Queensland section of the coast is probably that which most demanded lighting, but that protection having been afforded to shipping, th ere is no reason why some effort should not be made to improve the lighting on that other great stretch of coast line along the west of the continent. I was informed that oneof the obstacles to the carrying out of such work was that if more lighthouses were built, the Department would not have the necessary steamers to visit the lights. I am very glad, therefore, to see on the Estimates an amount which I understand is to be applied to the construction of two additional lighthouse steamers, which will enable a further programme of lighthouse construction to be put in hand. From what I can gather, however, even this shipbuilding programme is insufficient to permit of proper control of the whole lighthouse system on the Australian coast, and at least one more steamer should be built. On a previous occasion I spoke to the Minister for Trade and Customs in regard to this matter, and I impressed upon him most strongly my view that there should not be undue parsimony in regard to lighthouses. If his advisors say that another ship should be built that advice should be followed, because nothing is more important to life, shipping, and trade than the proper lighting of our coast.
I apologize to the Committee for the length of my remarks. I hope that this discussion will not be regarded as critical, but rather as an endeavour on the part of honorable members, by viewing matters from different points of view, to assist the Government to handle some of the tasks which confront them.
.- I propose to strike a note which has not been sounded very much in this debate. Before doing so, I congratulate the Treasurer on having brought down the Budget much earlier than has been customary during our twenty-three years of Federal parliamentary life. I have been a close student of Federal politics, and I cannot remember an occasion on which the Budget was brought down so soon after the close of the financialyear, nor can I remember an attempt to pass tooth the Budget and the Estimates through the Parliament within a few days of their presentation to honorable members.I do not like to look for ulterior motives in this exceptional experience, but I am inclined to think that it suits the present Government to try to rush through these Estimates so that it may have twelve months’ Supply. I suppose all honorable members have noticed the figures in the Budget with respect to exports and imports. Australian imports have increased enormously in the last few years. That is not an unmixed blessing for the people of this country, nor is it an unmixed blessing that we have an accrued surplus of £7,500,000. I cannot congratulate; the Treasurer upon the proposed allocation of that surplus. Most honorable members will agree with the proposal to redeem £2,500,000 of the national debt by taking up bonds, but surely we cannot agree that there is need to place £2,500,000 in reserve for expenditure on defence. I do not think that it will be necessary for this country to spend this money in the present financial year.It is unnecessary to set aside £2,500,000 of the surplus to meet taxation emergencies that may arise.. The agreement which the Treasurer is seeking to make with the Treasurers of the various States will not be a good thing for Australia, in my opinion. I do not look with any degree of pleasure upon the enormous revenue we have obtained from imports, because it means that Australian industries and Australian workmen have been adversely affected. The right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who was Treasurer last year, estimated that we would receive a certain amount in Customs revenue. His estimate of revenue has been exceeded by £5,152,000. More than £5,000,000 of that sum has come from import duties. That means that the imports into Australia have been far too heavy for the good of Australian industries. I recommend honorable members to look carefully at the details of our Customs revenue. They will find that duty on imported stimulants gave us a revenue of £2,294,264. The estimated income for this year under that heading is £2,100,000. I do nob see that we can object to the estimate, because we do not manufacture many stimulants in Australia. We have many natural resources and facilities for so doing, and I believe that if we were to bring a few skilled workmen from the other side of the world we would be able to manufacture stimulants equally as good as those which we now import. The next items given on page 13 of the Budget statement are narcotics, sugar (not including glucose), and agricultural products and groceries. I have no remarks to make on those items. Our revenue from duties on apparel and textiles last year was £5,825,461. We estimate that we will receive £5,250,000 under that heading this year. I believe we could manufacture at least half the material that that duty represents. From metals and machinery we received duty amounting to £3,732,677. The .estimated receipts for this year are £3,310,000. Oils, paints, and varnishes are the next item on the list. I do not suppose we can manufacture much more of those articles than we are doing at present. The revenue from duty on earthenware amounted to £557,000 last year. This year we expect to receive £475,000. In Australia we have every class of clay necessary for manufacturing the earthenware which the Australian people require. I do nob know why we cannot manufacture a greater proportion of these requirements than we are doing at present. We must have imported an enormous quantity of earthenware goods to have obtained £557,000 in duty. The revenue in duty on wood-wicker work and cane amounted io £1,054,000, and we estimate that £790,000 will be received in such revenue this year. Does it ever strike people who buy cheap wicker work and wood work that the articles they purchase are manufactured in the cheapest labour countries of the world ? Honorable members have only to look up the details respecting these imports to ascertain that that is so.
The duty on leather and rubber imports was £1,131,572. That is far greater than should be necessary. If we had a proper
Tariff we could build up our leather’ and rubber industries. Duty on paper and stationery yielded us £746,906 last year. The latest expert investigation into the possibilities of manufacturing paper in Australia has shown that we have suitable wood to manufacture nearly every kind of paper. This heavy influx of im- . ports means that Australian industry is being seriously hampered, and that Australian men and women are unemployed. I would rather see a few million pounds spent to encourage Australian industry and give employment to good Australian workmen than see Australian money spent to pay low wages in the cheap-labour countries of the world. If we allowed for an average duty of 20 per cent, on all the imports which come into Australia it would bc found that the value of the goods so imported would be about £70,000,000. If we could so arrange our fiscal policy that industries could be started locally, and that those already established could be encouraged to extend their operations to such a degree that half the goods represented by that £70,000,000 could be manufactured in Australia, it would mean tremendous progress for this country. It would mean, also, that thousands , of good Australian workmen would have full-time employment at good wages. Instead of the Government adopting a policy that will tendto that end, they have brought before us a proposal to remit altogether the duty’ on sulphur. The result of that will be that several struggling Australian industries may cease operations. I trust that this Committee will not agree to the remission of the duty on sulphur. Possibly, such a. remission will suit the members of the Country party, because they think it will cheapen the price of fertilizers. We all know that sulphuric acid is largely used in the manufacture of fertilizers, but there are two or three places in Australia which could supply all the sulphuric acid that is needed for fertilizers at a reasonable price, if we refused to remit this duty. To do so would, perhaps, mean an increase of a few pence per acre in the cost of production to the primary producer. It would also mean that the manufacture of our fertilizers would bc a purely Australian industry. I speak feelingly on this subject, because a very big industry which is about to start in
Tasmania will be seriously affected if the duty on sulphur is remitted. I do not know whether the promoters of that industry will be prepared to go on at all in view of the announced attention of the Government. It would be far better for the farmers to pay slightly more for their fertilizers, and so make possible an Australian industry, than for them to demand the remission of the duty on sulphur. I appeal to the members of the Country party who are supporting the Government to use a little more common sense on this matter, and also in respect of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. It would be to the advantage of Australia” for our own ships to carry our own products to our own people. I would like to see the words “ Made in Australia “ written up on hoardings all over the country. Surely that should be the surest passport to the pockets of our people. There is too great a craze for imported goods. We have not as effective a Tariff to-day as we had when that great Australian, Charles Cameron Kingston, first stood at this table and fought his long battle, extending over a period of eighteen months, for the first Australian Tariff. He was one of the greatest men Australia has produced, and he carried that Tariff, despite the opposition of the strongest Free Traders, who had been gathered from the four corners of Australia to the first Federal Parliament. As a young Australian, I could not help admiring the grit with which he stuck to his task.
– There is a bigger value of imports coming in to-day.
– That is so. So long as that continues, we cannot say that Protection <s the settled policy of the country, or that we are doing what we can and should do to build up new industries and properly encourage existing industries. The majority of the supporters of the Government call themselves Protectionists, and on that policy they went to the country at the last election. Country party members are generally good Protectionists when they have anything to sell, but when they have to buy they are good Free Traders. This Budget demonstrates plainly that the volume of imports is growing.
– The imports are greatly in excess of the exports.
– That is so. We should get out of .the old rut and try to initiate a bold policy of development. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) this afternoon recommended the Government to spend portion of the £2,500,000, which it intends toutilize in making taxation adjustments, in developing the Northern Territory. I have not been through the Territory, but I hope to have the pleasure of - going through it before long. I understand that the Government intends to make arrangements for a chosen number of members of this Parliament to gothrough the Northern Territory, when the House rises, spend a few weeks there, and make themselves personally acquainted with its resources. I believe it is to be a party limited in number. It would be well, in the interests of the country, if the Government made arrangements for the visit of any honorable member who was prepared to put up with the discomforts of the trip in order that he might gain at first hand the knowledge which honorable members must have in order to legislate properly in the interests of the Territory. Big questions will require to be -threshed out relating to the Northern Territory, and the information gained on such a trip would be invaluable to honorable members. I am told by some honorable members, who have seen the fringe of the Territory, and by some residents of Australia who have been in’ the Macdonnell Ranges and Alice Springs districts, that there is a tremendous area that is known to be mineral-bearing. Those who have had close association with the mineral fields of Australia know that the opening up of a big mining field works wonders. Some persons say that the Northern Territory to-day is a desert. If that is the case, the opening up of one big mine would make the desert “ blossom as the rose.”’ It has been said that Kalgoorlie at one time was a desert. I went to Kalgoorlie in 1905, when it had reached the zenith of its prosperity. I remember how greatly I was struck by the developments that had been brought about as the result of the opening up of one mining field 400 miles from civilization. The late Lord Forrest, Conservative though he was in politics, by reason of his environment in his early youth, was a big Australian. The Kalgoorlie water scheme, which he initiated and pushed through, enabled tremendous settlement to take place in Kalgoorlie, which a few years previously had been a desert. When I went to Kalgoorlie, it was a magnificent city, having a tramway system, electric lighting, and splendid business premises. 1 was over there two years ago; and, looking at the mining records, I found that something like £52,000,000 worth of gold had been taken from the belt known as the “ Golden Mile.” Very nearly half of that amount had been paid out as dividends, the remainder being utilized in the provision of work for a large number of men. I have a distinct recollection of the financial slough into which Tasmania had descended a few years ago. On the west coast, silver-lead was discovered shortly after the Broken Hill mines had proved their great richness; and because of that one small discovery by a couple of intrepid prospectors, who burst their way through an almost impenetrable scrub, within a year or two Tasmania was more prosperous than it had ever previously been in its history. Thousands of people flocked there from all over Australia, taking with them money with which to open up the mines. Many were wild-cat ventures, while others proved to be payable concerns.
– Mining will be the greatest factor in opening up - the Northern Territory.
– I agree with the honorable member. I have seen mining in most parts of Australia. I went to Chillagoe, in Northern Queensland, when the boom was on. It did not turn out as well as we hoped and expected, but a tremendous amount of employment was provided. Mining has done more than any other industry to open up new country. When we develop those portions of the Northern Territory which have been declared by mineralogists and geological experts to be suitable for the deposition of minerals, the Northern Territory will come into its own. We offer a bounty for the discovery of liquid oil. That is a good thing. But why not also offer a bounty for the discovery of payable gold, tin, copper, and lead fields? The winning of those metals would provide employment and open up new country. I do not think there is in the Budget any proposal to grant a bounty Oil the production of cotton and coffee. We have been told by those who have seen cotton and coffee grown in other parts of the world, that very many portions of the Northern Territory are suitable for their production. Instead of hoarding up £2,500,000 against a possible emergency, we should devote a little of it to an attempt to develop that great heritage which has been handed over to us for good or for evil. If the Territory contains the possibilities which many people believe it to contain, let us try to bring them to light.
I desire to discuss briefly a matter of enormous importance to a numerically large section of the people of Australia - the payment of pensions. Listening this afternoon to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) I said to myself, “ Thank God, for the sake of humanity and the future of Australia, there are not many members of Parliament like the honorable member!” He has as much right to his opinion as I have to mine; but it is a fortunate thing for the people of Australia that there are not many honorable members who hold his opinions. Not only was he opposed to the increase which the Government propose, but he did not think any pensions should be granted; he wanted to make it a charity dole. It is all very well for -a gentleman of his type, who has been “born in the purple,” and sent into the world “ with a silver spoon in his mouth,” to forget the hardships of the pioneers who built up the country to the position it occupies to-day. The pension is not a charity to the men and women who have made Australia, and for whom honorable mem-. bers on this side are trying to secure a little extra assistance. The old-age and invalid pensions are the work of the Labour party. It is often said it was not the Labour party that introduced the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act; but it was the Labour party who put the pistol to the then Prime Minister’s head and told him that the Government had delayed long ‘ enough and must give- the pensions or go out of office.
– Why did not honorable members opposite increase the pension when they had the opportunity f
– We have a better opportunity to do so to-day than we ever had before. Will honorable members opposite agree to increase the old-age pension in the way we have proposed ? If we can secure, the support of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) and other honorable members on the other side, the old-age pension will be increased from lbs. to £1 per week. I should like to say her© that I have always maintained that our pension system is not complete. There is still a section of the community that suffers not the less severely because it suffers in silence. I refer to widows with young children dependent upon them. Our pension system, will never be complete as a humanitarian system until we provide pensions for widows with young children dependent upon them. For many years I have made the granting of these pensions one of the dreams of my political life, and I hope to see it realized before my retirement from political life. It is a dead certainty that such pensions will be granted if the party on this side are returned to power. It is remarkable that all these things first advocated by the Labour party, inside and outside Parliament in Australia, have been bitterly opposed in the State and Federal Parliaments by all opposed to Labour, and yet one by one they have been taken up, at least in part, by those who previously opposed them. So that even if there is not shortly’ a change of Government in the Commonwealth, I believe we shall still see widows’ pensions added to the pensions now paid. New Zealand was the first of the British Dominions to establish widows’ pensions. Since the Act to provide for them was introduced in New Zealand, I have followed the matter up. I have here the twenty-fifth annual report of the Pensions Department of New Zealand. They have had in that Dominion an old-age pension system from the time of that great man “ Dick “ Seddon. In 1913 the widows’ pension was added to their pension scheme, and by reference to what has been done in New Zealand in this direction it can be shown , that we can well afford the institution of these pensions ‘in the Commonwealth. The cost of the New Zealand widows’ pension scheme has naturally increased a little every year., I find from this last report of the Pensions Department that on the 31st March, 1923, the number of widows in receipt of pensions was 3,411, and the number of children 9,693. In the Dominion a widow left with young children entirely dependent upon her, instead of having to look for assistance to the cold charity of the world - and we all know how cold it can be sometimes - is given the right to a pension for herself and her children. The Parliament of. New Zealand decided that it was better in the interest’s of the country that the widow and her little dependent kiddies should be given a certain amount per week than that the youngsters should be left entirely untended whilst the mother went out to earn bread for- them.
– What is the amount of the pension in New Zealand ?
– The amount of the weekly pension at first paid was 10s. for the widow and 2s. 6d. for each child. I am. not certain of the amount of the pension paid to-day. The total cost of widows’ and children’s pensions in New Zealand for the year covered by the report from which I quote was £188,000, or 2s. lid. per head of the white population of the Dominion. The population of “New Zealand is .1,305,000, and as we have in Australia a population of 5,346,000, according to our last census, the cost of these pensions on the same scale as in New Zealand would amount to about four times the cost in that Dominion, or, speaking roughly., to about £750,000. If the Treasurer has £2,500,000 which he can hold against future taxation contingencies and another £2,500,000 for defence works, I say that it would be better, in the name of common humanity, to use half of the £2,500,000 proposed to be held against future taxation contingencies and to institute widows and children’s pensions in Australia straight away. I am quite satisfied that we have the constitutional power to do this. Some doubt was raised on the question some years ago, but if we have the power to grant a maternity allowance, we certainly have the power to grant pensions to widows. It would be well for the Treasurer to apply £750,000 out of the £2,500,000 he is going to hold against possible contingencies in taxation, which may never arise, to the establishment of widows and children’s pensions. I do not believe in hoarding up money if a good use can be found for it. The payment of pensions to widows having young children dependent on them would be a sound economic policy for the Commonwealth to adopt. It would be a very good thing for Australia that we should rear good citizens, sound in mind, and body. Those of us who make it their business to visit the slums of Australia see youngsters poorly clad and half starved, playing in the gutters, because their mothers have to go out to earn a few shillings after the bread-winner of the family has been taken away. I need not remind honorable members opposite of these things. They know them as well as we do. I am sure their hearts are in the right place, and that they do not desire the continuance of such conditions. When one looks at these widowed mothers the story of their daily lives is written in their faces. It would be a splendid thing if, by the expenditure of a few hundreds of thousands of pounds, we could raise the children of these poor women to be good, healthy citizens instead of having to look forward to them helping to fill the gaols of the country, as, without assistance, some of them may do.
– There is a children’s allowance paid in most of the States.
– That is so. In Tasmania, a poor widow with two or three children who may be starving can go to the Government for some assistance. She should not have to ask for assistance as a charity, but should be entitled to it as a right. The old men and women who built up the prosperity of this country, and whose labours have enabled many people to-day to make big fortunes and to ride about in motor cars, do not ask for charity, but they are able to go every fortnight to the nearest post-office to get their pensions. This is a right which widows with young children dependent on them should enjoy as well as old-age pensioners. I suppose that in nine cases out of ten these widows have a good deal of pride about them, and they do not care to go to a Government official and ask for relief. We should give them the right to relief as a part of our pension system, and we should do so without any delay.
– Will the honorable member give us his views as to the kind of Royal Commission that should be appointed ?
– I would rather sec no Royal Commission appointed in con nexion with this matter. I would prefer the Government to h.’ive the courage to grasp the nettle, if it. is a nettle, and declare its policy.
– lt is not a question of grasping a nettle, but of rectifying anomalies, and including the matters to ‘ which the honorable member has referred in an up-to-date scheme.
– My experience of Royal Commissions has been a very sad one. When a big question, with all its ramifications, is referred for inquiry by a Royal Commission, the Commission commonly thinks it necessary to travel to the four corners of the Commonwealth at very great expense, to collate all the information it can obtain, and it may submit a report in two or three years’ time.
– It was an inquiry by a Royal Commission that really crystallized the present scheme of old-age pensions. . We want the system brought up to date.
– If the Treasure could get away from his Conservative environment, or could persuade his fellow members of the Ministry, I believe he would be inclined to admit that attention to widows with young children dependent on them is a necessary addition to the existing pension scheme of the Commonwealth. I believe that all the information necessary for the purposeis in the hands of the Government today, or might be obtained from the State Governments, and, therefore, I see no necessity for an inquiry by a Royal Commission. I believe the Government could, within a few weeks, obtain all the information necessary to enable them, to bring down a comprehensive scheme for unemployment and sickness insurance, and the different classes of pensions which honorable members on this side contend should be provided for.
I wish now to refer to another matter of vital importance. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) yesterday asked the Prime Minister whether he had seen some references by the Director of Immigration in Launceston to the class of immigrants that are being brought to Tasmania. Only last Friday evening the Sun published the following: -
Speaking at a meeting of Now Settlers’ League last night, the Tasmanian Director of Immigration (Major B. Simpson) said that altogether sixty immigrants had arrived in Tasmania since April, and there were twelve on the way. He would have to place them, of course, but had cabled to Australia House asking the officials not to send any more immigrants until advised by him to do so. He had done that because Australia House had not been using very great discretion in the selection of immigrants. The last two batches had not been of the most desirable type. They were not the kind Australia wanted.. Some were cockneys and others came from pitheads. He certainly would not care to have them in his own home.
I do not know that Major Simpson need have used the term “ Cockneys,” seeing that large numbers of good Australian citizens came originally from London. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) is a “Cockney,” as I believe him to be, we could do very well with many more of his stamp. It is for the Government to ascertain whether Major Simpson really made that statement, and whether, of course, it absolutely represents the facts. Only last week the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) read extracts from the- Daily Guardian of Sydney, disclosing a shocking state of affairs in the case of the Ballarat contingent of immigrants. Some honorable members seemed disposed to discount the statements, but the honorable member for Gwydir pointed out, and quite truly, that he was not reading newspaper comments, but the words of Captain Thompson, the welfare officer on board the vessel. Here, again, it is the duty of the Government, to ascertain whether Captain Thompson made those statements, and whether they were justified. I cannot help feeling that these allegations from all parts of Australia, and in various newspapers, are not all untrue; on the contrary, I am strongly of opinion that a large proportion of the immigrants are not of a class cither required or desired in Australia. Many of them are of the kind who are quite ready, not to go on the land, but to push others already here out of jobs. I have met quite a number of immigrants who have come to Tasmania in the last year or two, and I say quite frankly that they are not of the stamp we should get in return for ari expenditure, in this year alone, of £5,500,000. But whether they are desirable or otherwise, it is nothing short of national suicide, to spend such enormous sums of money in bringing thousands of people here only to displace others already in Australia. There can be no doubt that many of these unfortunate immigrants will be compelled to undersell their brothers and sisters in the labour market. The unemployment evil is very intense, but the National Government regards the matter as one for the States, and will not give a contribution of £100,000 to relieve the distress, although it is prepared to spend millions in bringing unnecessary and unwanted people to Australia.
– This Parliament has voted £500,000 to the States for distribution.
– Yes, to assist in the making of roads, and a very useful work, too ; but at present I am referring to immediate cases of need - to the plight of many men and women who to-night are without the price of a bed or a meal. On constitutional grounds the Government will not interfere, and this only shows the necessity for a revision of the Constitution which will give this Parliament power to step in at a time of national stress. This Parliament is elected by every man and woman in Australia, whereas the States, with their Legislative Council’s, have only half their Parliaments elected.
I unhesitatingly say that I am opposed to the financial arrangements arrived at by the Commonwealth and the States, because I do not think they will be conducive to the best interests of either the States or Commonwealth. My own State, at any rate, could very well go on for a few years longer under the present conditions; and I think that that would be the- better course for the Government to adopt. I feel sure that I am speaking for the great majority of the Tasmanian people when I say that the present arrangement is preferable, though, of course, it may not suit the State Premier and Treasurer. If the per capita system is abolished, Tasmania will have to face a deficit, and the burden will not be placed on the shoulders of those best able to bear it,, but on the shoulders of those who are least able. Any legislation providing that people must pay taxation according to their means would have no chance in the Legislative Council of Tasmania.
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that the Government was going to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into certain allegations regarding . some sugar deals. He reminded the House that the matter was sub judice, and I certainly do nob intend to discuss it. All I desire is an assurance that the inquiry will be held with open doors. At the opening of the session we were told that certain phases of the War Service Homes administration were to be investigated; but since then we have heard nothing of the matter. I hope that the Government will investigate not only those certain phases, but any others that the Public Accounts Committee might have reason to regard as rather shady. The previous investigation by the Public Accounts Committee was held in private, because, as I am informed, a majority of the members was against the open door. Surely we have not reached a stage in this country when members of a Committee of the kind desire to hide facts from the public? It ought to be laid down by Parliament that all Committees, select or otherwise, and all Royal Commissions, shall meet in public. The people who “ pay the piper” ought to be allowed to “ call the tune “; that is, the taxpayers ought to know who have been robbing them.
– If they knew the facts they would be startled.
– We hear that statement often, and wo know that it is true. If the people knew what the members of the Public Accounts Committee .know, but what the majority of the Committee would not allow to be made public, they would commence to sit up and take notice. Therefore, I hope that in future all inquiries will bo conducted with open doors.
I congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) on an innovation which, I believe, will be a considerable convenience to a large number of business people. I refer to the decision to allow telegrams to be telephoned to the addressees. In the past that has been done at times, but only as a personal favour; in future it is to be the regular practice. I ask the Postmaster-General to win further credit for himself by removing the stigma of hypocrisy that rests upon’ this Parliament, by reason of the law compelling the institution known as Tattersalls to collect the Federal taxation on the prizes won in lotteries, although under the Postal Act the delivery of letters to the office of Tattersalls is prohibited. Of course, the Federal Constitution does not empower the Commonwealth to declare gambling in any form illegal, but the Postal Act allows the Postmaster-General to decline to deliver correspondence to any institution which he believes to be engaged in gambling. Each State has its own gambling laws. The State of Tasmania declares Tattersalls and the totalizator legal, and the bookmaker illegal. Victoria declares the bookmaker legal and the totalizator illegal. Western Australian laws sanction both the totalizator and the bookmaker. In New South Wales the bookmaker only was legal for some years, but now bookmaker and totalizator operate side by side. In South Australia the totalizator is legalized, but nob the bookmaker. These variations show that’ gambling is a matter to be controlled by the States; but this Parliament, having no constitutional power to declare ‘TattersaU’s an illegal institution, did its best to crush ib by means of the Postal Act. No Postmaster-General would dare to declare the residence or office of a big bookmaker in Victoria or New South Wales a prohibited address within the meaning of the Postal Act, but this Parliament sought by similar means to stamp out Tattersall’s lotteries. Its hypocrisy was aggravated when it imposed income taxation upon prize money won from TattersaU’s, and made Tattersall’s collect the tax. That action was childish and absurd, and I recommend the PostmasterGeneral to clear this Parliament of the accusation of hypocrisy by introducing an’ amending Postal Bill to remove that embargo upon, correspondence addressed to Tattersalls.
I did not take part in the very able debate on the Imperial Conferences, but I listened to it with great interest, and I may be pardoned if I express the opinion that the best speeches were made by honorable members on this side. We have arrived at rather a peculiar stage in Parliamentary government, when Parliament is asked to sit unreasonable hours and transact business in a hurry in order to allow the Prime Minister to represent Australia at Imperial Conferences. If it is necessary that the Prime Minister should represent Australia at the Conference - and he considers it is necessary - surely his obvious duty, if he cannot trust Parliament to remain in session during his absence, was to call it together two or three months earlier. He did not do so., and, therefore, Parliament is to be closed in a fortnight in order that the right honorable gentleman may leave for London towards the end of this month. The Prime Minister told the House that he will net commit Australia to a large expenditure on defence without submitting the proposals to this Parliament.
– The whole of the decisions of the Imperial Conference will be submitted to this Conference.
– I do not believe that it is necessary to appropriate so much money for defence as is provided in these Estimates, apart from the defence reserve fund of £250,000. I believe that by means of the air service it will be possible to defend Australia at considerably less cost than in the past. Honorable members opposite have had a great deal to say about the terrible suffering caused by the late war, and the disastrous aftermath in every country that took part. I direct their attention to these remarks made by Field-Marshal Earl Haig in a letter reminding the public of Great Britain of the significance of the 4th August, the date upon which war was declared in 1914-
It is now nine years since the incident of “ the scrap of paper.” promises were made to our fighting men. Are they to be. fulfilled? About 5,000 ex-officers are still seeking work, 100,000 wholly or partially disabled ex-service men are still forced to look to charity to supplement their exiguous pensions, and 400,000 capable of work are unable to obtain it.
That is the result of war. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) referred to the £141,000,000 of extra taxation as the monetary price paid for peace. I wish that were the whole price. Consider the price we are paying in the aftermath of the war. Remember the sacrifice of 60,000 of the best of our Australian citizens, and the ‘ circumstances of many bereaved fathers, mothers, widows, and fatherless, children, who are practically starving. Notwithstanding the war pensions, very many dependants of soldiers are not receiving from Australia the treatment that was promised to them. When the banners were waving, the drums were beating, and great processions of soldiers were passing this building, the public said to the men about to depart, “ Go, and may you come back, but if you do not come back, we shall take care of your dependants.” Are we doing that?
Is’ Great Britain honouring the promise to her soldiers? The answer is contained in Earl Haig’s testimony. Men who were patriotic and rushed to the Front in defence of their country, or who responded to the call of adventure, may now, when the war is over, do as they did before - get a crust as best they can. That is the position in Australia. One of the saddest sights in our big cities ana throughout the country is that of limbless men going about looking for some way in which to earn a shilling. Earl Haig’s statement continued : -
The conference of experts on the question of disabled ex-service mcn, which has been sitting at the International Labour Office at Geneva, has concluded. It decided that employment should be found by the employment exchanges for disabled men, and that the disability pension should not affect the wages paid, which should be equal to those current for uninjured workers.
The Australian soldiers were promised something like that; the promise is not being fulfilled. The Treasurer could employ’ some of his surplus money in relieving the distress of limbless and disabled soldiers who are searching for work and are not able to find it. If we made some of that surplus money available to relieve such distress, we should worthily fulfil our function as a National Parliament, and we should be doing much better than we shall do if we hoard up this £5,000,000 for possible emergencies in taxation and for defence expenditure which may never be required.
.- I wish the Government would grant an adjournment of this debate. I protest against having to address honorable members at this hour. The Government has been very fairly treated, and it should not compel members to sit here all night. No honorable member feels equal, at this hour, to the discussion of important subjects that are now before us. We have been here all day, and we might reasonably expect an adjournment of the debate. I shall deal with the extraordinary attitude that has been adopted by the Government, and by our doctor-Treasurer, in cutting down the expenditure of the Public Health Department by about £1,000. The health of the community should be protected against the ravages of disease. In the financial year, 1922-23, the Public Health Department spent £122,915, but for the present year only £121,986 is allowed. It is a reflection on this Parliament that out of an estimated expenditure of £61,000,000 only £121,986 is allowed the Public Health Department. A certain section of this House has endeavoured to make this a live Department, but so far we have not succeeded. It is now our “.Cinderella Department.” It concerns no one, and the duty of looking after it is tacked on to the duties to be discharged by the Minister for Trade and Customs. He is given the title of Minister for Health, but we expect nothing from him because of the way in which the Department has been treated in the past. From the time I entered this House I have endeavoured to direct the attention of honorable members to the serious position of this country with respect to disease, and to our extremely high mortality. Many thousands of deaths which occur annually in Australia could be prevented. The Commonwealth Department of Health lias co-operated in some respects with the Health Departments of the various States, but owing to the indifference of the Commonwealth Government nothing of a concrete or lasting nature has been achieved. Health matters are essentially national matters. The germs of small-pox, tuberculosis, cancer, and many other diseases which ravage Australia to-day know nothing about State boundaries. While we propose to spend millions of pounds to bring people from other parts of the world to Australia, we are allowing thousands of our children to die every year. In some instances they are dying because a sufficiency of nourishing food is not available to them. In other cases they are dying from preventable diseases. We cannot altogether blame the unfortunate parents of some of these children. Their lack of education, and the social environments in which they find themselves, are such that, we cannot expect them to do very much more than they are doing to care for their children. Obviously and palpably, the duty of caring for the health of these children should be assumed by the State. Our Health Department has certain objectives, but so far as I can see no attempt is being made to reach the objectives. Political window-dressing is no good as a treatment for cancer, tuberculosis, and venereal diseases. The objectives of the Commonwealth Department of Public Health include co-operation with the States in treating small-pox, venereal diseases, and diseases which come within the scope of the quarantine regulations. The Department also aims to investigate diseases, and to establish laboratories for the manufacture of serum and vaccines. Excellent work is being done in the laboratory which has been established. .1 believe it manufactures hundreds of different types of vaccine and serum. The collection of data with respect to health matters is another objective of the Department. We have established an Institute of Medicine in the north which is doing valuable research work with regard to the hook worm and other tropical diseases which play havoc with our white population. The quarantine administration absorbs most of the money we set aside for health purposes. It is a distinct reflection upon this Parliament, and especially upon this Government, that only £121,000 is provided for the Health Department. When’ the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) came into this House, we expected that, with his special knowledge and training, he would be able to render valuable help in dealing with health matters. He did so until he became a Minister. Now that he is in a position to help this Department more than formerly, he has failed to do it. His first Budget provides for a reduction of nearly £1,000 in public health expenditure. It is deplorable and, in my view, a tragedy, that the Treasurer should suggest such a reduction to this Committee. This is a depressing subject to speak on, and a depressing subject to listen to; but we should give close attention to it, because too much preventable mortality and too much preventable disease occur in Australia. The deaths from cancer in Australia in 1921, the last year for which I could obtain figures,’ totalled 4,768. The number of such deaths is rapidly increasing annually. In 1915, the death rate from, cancer was 74 per 100,000 of the population. In 1921, it was 87 per 100,000 of the population. We cannot regard indifferently that increase of 13 per 100,000. Australia is doing nothing in cancer research. The British Government is doing exceedingly valuable work, and the German, French, Austrian, and American Governments are all carrying out useful research work. Australia is remiss in her duty in this regard. I know of no Government in Australia which is spending a penny on cancer research. The Commonwealth Government has done a certain amount of work for the tubercular soldiers; but, with the exception of having assisted in the establishment of a sanatorium at Bendigo, nothing has been done for the general public. In 1921, there were 3,687 deaths in Australia from tuberculosis. Fortunately, the death rate from this disease has fallen. In 1915, the death rate was 71 per 100,000 of the population; and in 1921 it was 68 per 100,000. The Commonwealth Government has no legislation in operation to prevent “ quacks “ from treating cancer, tuberculosis, or venereal diseases. We still have Chinese and Japanese herbalists, and all kinds of quacks, selling nostrums and obtaining the people’s money for them.
– And medical clairvoyants.
– They also are to be found in the community. I have here a fair example of the type of advertisement which appears in most of the country newspapers of New South Wales and Victoria. It may appear also in the newspapers of other States. I believe that these advertisements constitute an evasion of the law dealing with misleading advertisements. This is headed -
(Nephew of late Dr. Lamsey),
Chinese Herbalist, 333 Hargreaves-street, Bendigo.
It purports to quote a letter received from a patient, and states -
I wish to convey to you my heartfelt gratitude for your effective treatment of my son, Ernie. I took him to a wellknown European doctor in Bendigo, and he said that he was simply affected with a common sore throat, the remains of a simple cold, but the child was suffering such pain that I was advised to bring him to you. You at once said that he was affected with cancer, and that as he was brought to you in time you could cure him. That was on the 14th of last month, and on the 26th of the same month your treatment ceased, and the child was completely cured. . . .
The implication is that that Chinese herbalist can cure cancer, from which the number of deaths in Australia in 1921 was 4,768. Not only are there such persons as that, but chemists evade the law by pretending to be able to cure many diseases to which the human flesh is heir. The question of venereal disease is just as important as that of tuberculosis and cancer. As the result of the negotiations which took place between the Commonwealth and State Governments many years ago, the States agreed to pass certain legislation of a more or less uniform character to deal with venereal diseases. On that understanding the Commonwealth Government agreed to subsidize the States up to a certain point. Victoria is particularly interesting, inasmuch as it has gone further than most of the States, though not so far as Western Australia. The Victorian Act provides for compulsory notification, by a number; the patient is not notified by name unless he ceases to undergo treatment, in which case the doctor reports to the Chief Medical Officer, quoting the number under which the case was reported in the first place. Extraordinary work has been done under this Act, proving to the satisfaction of those who are administering it that if the different States and the. Commonwealth tackled the venereal diseases problem seriously their incidence could be materially reduced. The Commonwealth pays invalid pensions. While one is not in a position to give an idea of the expenditure which this disease has rendered necessary, it must be very high ; because there are not many diseases or malformations which are not, in some way or other, connected with venereal disease. The loss to the Commonwealth in that direction, and to the State by reason of the taking away of a wealth-producing unit, is so great that it would pay over and over again if the Commonwealth took those measures which have been indicated from time to time by the medical men of Australia. I refer particularly to Sir James Barrett, a gentleman who has long been keenly interested in venereal diseases; Dr. Cumpston, Dr. Bennie, Dr. Chubb, of Sydney; and the late Sir Herbert Maitland, who did very great work. The Australian section of the British Medical Association, at its conferences, from time to time, also has dealt with this subject. The cases of syphilis and gonorrhoea treated at the clinics under the Victorian Government system, have fallen from 7,988 to 4,948. It is estimated that practically the same number has been treated by private doctors. It is particularly interesting to note that the cases of syphilis treated per annum have been reduced from 2,418, in 1918, to 1,380, for the year ended June, 1922. During the whole of that five-year period no fewer than 40,000 cases of venereal diseases were treated officially under the Victorian scheme, and undoubtedly a further 40,000 cases were treated by private doctors. In that time there have been only five cases of prosecution for non-notification or refusal to continue the treatment. The laxity of the administration and the very great necessity for amending the Act in order to tighten up the loose links are shown by the fact that for the five years ended June, 1922, 5,909 patients failed to continue the treatment; no fewer than 3,032 of whom have not been traced. That discloses laxity, to a certain extent, first of all onthe part of the medical practitioner in not having taken proper care to Bee that the right address was given. One can quite appreciate the fact that many patients, because of a sense of delicacy, may neglect to give the proper address or wilfully mislead the authorities as to their place of residence, and possibly as to their correct names. Society is, to a great extent, responsible for the extraordinary mental attitude of the people generally towards these diseases. Until five of six years ago the newspapers rarely referred to them. When they did so, they called them the “ dread scourge.” Of late, one has seen a broadening of the mind, especially in our press. The Melbourne Herald on 27th July and 31st July last published two very informative articles which dealt with the problem as it should be dealt with - frankly, openly, hiding nothing. Victoria particularly is dealt with, and the great value of the clinic’ system and the operation of the Venereal Diseases Act is clearly shown. In a portion of one of the articles it is stated -
The five years’ experience discloses that the Venereal Disease Acts are in urgent need of amendment. Aboveall, the Acts require to be fearlessly administered. At present the Department of Public Health appearsto allow sloppy sentimentality to stand in the wayof prosecuting great numbers of persons who flagrantly violate the law. The work of the variousclinics seems vividly to emphasize the terrible menace of the evil, and should move the Government to the strongest possible measures.
I have just quoted figures showing that 5,909 patients failed to continue treatment, and that no fewer than 3,032 were never traced. Those 3,032 unfortunate people are at large, spreading the disease - maybe accidentally, by means of barbers’ towels and razors, drinking utensils, conveniences, cracked tea-cups, and all sorts of things which a person may use in his daily life and which are all carriers of the disease. Every person suffering from that disease is a menace to society. Steps should be taken to insure that everything possible is done to combat the disease, and to see that laxity does not continue. I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Will returned from the Senate, with amendments.
House adjourned at 11 o’clock p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230808_reps_9_104/>.