9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Advances to Statebankof South Australia
– I asked the Treasurer a question the other day concerning the making available to the State Bank of South Australia of money necessary to proceed with the erection of War Service Homes in that State. I was informed, in answer to my question, that certain amounts were being made available each month. I ask the Treasurer now if he can give me an assurance that that is so. The gentleman with whom I am in touch on the matter has directly questioned the State Bank authorities on the honorable gentleman’s reply to my question.
– The honorable member is in danger of making a speech.
– I have no desire to make aspeech.May I justread the information supplied to me, as it may assist the Treasurer in answering my question !
– I think the honorable member had better put his question.
– The authorities of the State Bank of South Australia are holding up and refusing applications for War Service Homes because money is not made available to them. How does the Treasurer reconcile that fact with the answer he gave to my previous question on the subject?
– I understood thatthe position in South Australia was that the State Bank authorities had already received more than their allotment on the per capita basis of enlistment. I shall look into the matter again.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the Argus newspaper of to-day reference is made in an article headed, “ The Vice of Charity,” to a speech I made in this Chamber yesterday. The portion of the article to which I wish to refer is as follows: -
For this year £6,490,000 is set aside for oldage pensions, and £690,000 for the maternity bonus, ora total of £7,180,000. That is an annual charge which, if capitalized at 5 per cent., represents £144,000,000, or more than one-third of the total public debt of the Commonwealth. The point made by Mr. DuncanHughes was that itwould be more advantageous tothe community, including the pensioners, if thishuge sum were devoted to developing Australia.
That seems to me to imply, no doubt inadvertently, that in my speech I advocated the abolition of old-age and invalid pensions. I did not advocate anything of the sort. What I suggested was that it would be better to devote the amount involved in the proposed increase to national reproductive works. That is made clear in the Hansard report of my speech.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways if he is aware that proposals are being made to disfigure with advertisements the lounge oars on the transcontinental railway? If so, will the honorable gentleman take immediate steps to prevent such an abomination?
– I shall look into the matter, and give it my attention.
– With regard to the very serious circumstances associated with certain contracts for the purchase of sugar, which I understand are to be investigated, is the Prime Minister in a position to inform the House which of the High Court Judges will be appointed to conduct the inquiry?
– I am not in a position at the moment to do so.
asked the Minister for - Trade and Customs, upon notice -
The quantity of onions imported . into Australia during the last Ave years, showing quantity imported each year, and the country oi origin?
– The figures are as follow: -
Rates of Wages
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in connexion with the likely retirements from the Commonwealth Public Service, through the co-ordination of income tax returns, the Government will consider -
The question of calling for voluntary retirements from the whole Public Service, as was done recently in connexion with retirements from the Defence Department?
The question of spreading the compulsory retirements over the whole of the Service, and not confining them to the Taxation Department only?
Making arrangements so that returned soldiers receive preference of employment, and that eligible and unmarried officers who did not enlist be the first retired?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The report is not a Commonwealth Government document. It was printed at the New South Wales Government Printing Office, for the Associated Railway Commissioners, and circulated as confidential, and the consent of all the Railway Commissioners would have to be obtained to any part being made public. The honorable member might apply to the Secretary, Railway Commissioners’ Conference, Sydney.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will state when the employees in the Records Branch and other clerical branches of the Sydney General Post Office will proceed to take their annual leave?
– This is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, who will be asked for the information.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The bounty will expire on 31st August, 1923, and the question of continuing it is receiving consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the agreement of 28th March, 1922, the Commonwealth with Amalgamated Wireless, what, if anything, has the company done -
Australia and the United Kingdom; (f) To. arrange for the erection of a station in Canada?
– Inquiries are being made, the result of which will be communicated to the honorable member at an early date.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In connexion with wireless telegraphy regulations issued on 20th July last, will he state-
How many broadcasting stations are there at present in Australia?
Where are they situated?
Is it contemplated to erect any more such stations?
If so, where?
What is the amount of annual subscription payable to broadcasting station licensees ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as f ollow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Inter alia, “ 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”?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 12th July the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cairns to Melbourne, per ton, 57s. 6d. Townsville to Melbourne, per ton, 47s.6d. Brisbane to Melbourne, per ton, 30s. New Zealand to Melbourne, per ton,37s. 6d.
– On the 25th July the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
The following papers were presented : - Defence Department - Estimates of Expenditure, 1923-24: - Explanatory Statement prepared by direction ofthe Minister for Defence.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 99.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Nundah, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Goulburn, New South Wales.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 8th August (vide page 2353), 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.
.- When the debate was adjourned last night I was dealing with the extraordinary indifference of the present Government, and past Governments, to a class of diseases which have a very high mortality in Australia. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who is a doctor, recently said in my hearing that if overeating and venereal diseases were eliminated from society, sickness and mortality would be very materially reduced. Venereal diseases are responsible for the highest degree of mortality, though because of the psychology of the people, it is extremely difficult to trace and determine their prevalence. Unfortunately, owing to feelings of delicacy and a policy of “ hush,” the statisticians and the medical fraternity nowadays provide statistics and give death certificates which are not nearly indicative of the position. The percentage of infection is variously estimated, in the case of syphilis, at from 10 per cent, to 14 per cent. of the population. That we may take as a conservative estimate, inasmuch as the British Medical Association is of opinion that the infection is from 10 to 12 per cent., and such an organization would not name a figure without very careful consideration. To ascertain the prevalence of gonorrhcea, the system adopted is to multiply the known syphilitica by four. This means that if the syphilitics are 10 per cent, of the community, the infection of the other disease is four times higher. Syphilogists consider that it would not be too much to multipy the syphilitic cases by five or six, or even six or seven, for this and other countries. The fact remains that we have amongst us in Australia unfortunate people thus affected, many of whom are not even aware of their condition. Last night I pointed to the menace to society presented in the fact that over 3,000 people, who have been treated by the authorities in Victoria, are at large, free to disseminate these dis- eases without check and without prosecution. One can visualize the effect. I have had, I shall not say the privilege, but the honour of visiting a hospital in company with two eminent Australian syphilologists. In that hospital there were ten unfortunate children, all in the last stages of the disease, some with tongues and cheeks eaten away, and, in the words of one of the medical men, with “ absolutely no hope.” The Commonwealth Parliament, more than any other, owes the duty to the community to try to prevent the spread of this disease. The Western Australian Venereal Diseases Act is framed on practically the same lines as the Victorian measure, but it is taken more seriously by the people of the State, and is administered much better. Tasmania, Queensland, and New South Wales also have laws providing for compulsory notification by number, free clinical treatment, and free hospitals, and in some cases salvarsan and other curative medicines are available free at the hospitals. I shall not quote in detail the results of treatment in each State, but I shall take the figures for Victoria as a fair indication of the marvellous results that have been achieved by grappling with this problem, notwithstanding the laxity of administration. All of those States which have passed venereal disease laws in conformity with the desires of the Commonwealth Government are entitled to a subsidy, provided they follow the general principles laid down by the Federal authorities. By the way, I notice that only £15,000 is provided on the Estimates this year for subsidies to the States. Of 9,363 persons treated at the Lonsdale clinic more than half were not of the prostitute class. That is very significant and serious. Of 649 females treated, 481 were, in medical parlance, “ amateurs.” This shows that the majority who contaminate society are not from the streets, but are from the ordinary respectable classes. The evil actually permeates our family life, and the statistics show what a tragedy it causes. Of 9,363 cases at Lonsdale-street, 1,885 were married mem, and considerably more than half of the patients were average members of society, and could not be classified as belonging to a low type. Ten per cent, of the women admitted to the Women’s Hospital % Melbourne, are contaminated. It has been estimated that from 70 to 80 per” cent. , and even 85 per cent. , of the operations performed in women’s hospitals are due to syphilis. In connexion with the Eighth Medical Congress held in Melbourne some time ago, a special meeting was held to deal with syphilis. Dr. Bennie, who is an eminent authority on the disease, reported that fully 25 per cent, of the sick children in Melbourne are tainted with syphilis, and that about 10 per cent, of the total number of children in the city are syphilized. Similar proportions are found in all our cities. Nearly half the children who die are infected with the disease. That is a most disturbing thought. Dr. Bennie, continuing, said at the Conference - ‘ ‘ In many cases of tuberculosis and meningitis 60 per cent, were syphilitics. Of 300 families attending regularly 14 per cent, are infected.” In regard to the effect upon the birth rate, let me mention that one patient at Langwarrin Camp, only thirty-three years of age, who was married fourteen years ago, suffered from syphilis twelve months before his marriage. He is the father of eight children, five of whom were still-bora, the other three being syphilitic. In 150 families showing evidence of syphilis, out of 1,001 conceptions there were 122 miscarriages or still births, 229 infants were born dead, 390 were born alive but diseased, 210 were born alive, and are so far well. Professor Allan reported having made post-mortem examinations of 200 cases in the hospitals. Of these, 66 cases showed clear and unmistakable proof of infection from syphilis, and in 4.0 cases the symptoms were doubtful. It has been estimated that up to 60 per cent, of the inmates of lunatic asylums - I accept the more conservative estimate of 25 per cent. - and 22 per cent, of the inmates of blind institutions, owe their affliction to venereal disease. Dr. Sir James Barrett, of Melbourne, to whom I paid a tribute yesterday, carried out an extremely interesting investigation some years ago at the Eye and Ear Hospital. Of 500 consecutive cases he found that 14 per cent, were syphilitic. According to Bulletin 8 issued by the SurgeonGeneral of the American Army, investigating and reports lead him to estimate that 75 per cent, of sterility, and 80 per cent, of blindness in the new-born are due to venereal disease. I am informed that it is a common practice to treat infants immediately after birth in order to prevent blindness and other diseases from developing. The available statistics to which I have already referred are incomplete inasmuch as the Year-Book , of 1921 gives the following figures: - Deaths from gonnorrhoea, 10; syphillis, 130; general paralysis, 151 ; and locomotor ataxia, 76. The three latter diseases are caused purely by syphilis, as are many other diseases which, ave shown under different headings in the Australian Year-Booh. For instance, 33 per cent, of the mortality from both apoplexy and softening of the brain ia due to syphilis. Taking tha 1921 figures, the deaths from those diseases would be 1,818. per annum. Paralysis without specified cause shows 33 per cent., and simple meningitis 9 per cent, of mortality through this disease. Deaths from organic heart disease are shown as 33 per cent., and, if applied to the figure 5,166, of 1921, 1,720 deaths from organic heart diseases can be attributed to syphilis. Then 75 per cent, of the deaths from disease of the arteries, aneurism, and atheroma, is due to syphilis. Tu Bright’s disease, quite a common disease, it is 19 per cent., showing 1,400 deaths per annum. Prom congenital debility the mortality due to syphilis is 100 per cent. In 1921 there were 3,758 deaths from that disease. I have taken the percentages of a few of the outstanding diseases, but by following the system adopted by a Royal Commission which was appointed by this Parliament in 1914-15, or 1916, and applying it to the figures of the Year-Booh, it proves that there were over 7,000 deaths per annum from venereal disease alone, which is an astounding figure. I would indeed be reluctant to use these figures if I were not satisfied that they were a correct summing up of the situation. If the percentages as laid down by Warbusse, an eminent syphilologist of Paris, were applied to the mortality of Australia it would be found that over 7,000 deaths per annum were duc to syphilis. In New South Wales the Venereal Diseases Act operated splendidly. Notification was compulsory, and excellent results were being obtained. The suspension of the compulsory notification sections of the Act practically emasculated it, inasmuch as doctors are not compelled to report the discontinuance of treatment of patients before cures are effected. But, under the Victorian, Western Australian, Tasmanian, and Queensland Acts, the doctors are compelled to notify, first of all by number, and then - if the patient discontinues treatment without cure - by supplying the corresponding name and address. If possible, the patient is traced. Out of 5,000 cases of venereal disease in Victoria, five led to prosecution. In New South Wales, unfortunately, because of the influence of a deputation which waited upon the Minister of Health some eighteen or twenty months ago, pointing out the hardship of compulsory notification and treatment, the compulsory notification sections of the Act were suspended. The clinics of Sydney are doing splendid work, but they are hampered and restricted because a patient suffering from syphilis is not compelled to report to the medical authorities. This is a depressing subject, but unless some one is prepared to take the load by frankly and freely discussing this menace to ‘ society, the system of hush will be continued to the very great detriment of society. It is not a disease which comes from the lower classes. It permeates society, and no class is immune from it. Ten per cent, of the members of society are known to have the worst form of venereal disease, which inevitably will injure the body of the patient, and may lead to blindness, lunacy, or early death. No matter what legislation is passed for the betterment of the conditions of society generally, unless it is a healthy society, able to appreciate what is clone for it, the disease will not be properly attacked and dealt with. Vast sums of money have been expended on public hospitals and on invalid pensions. We have charitable institutions that are a burden on those who are able to produce and to work. The Commonwealth Government, of all Governments, should separate the Department of Health. I am making no reflection upon the Minister for Trade and Customs, as I recognise that the Customs Department is very important. But, seeing that the promotion of the public health is the most important feature of our governmental activities, it should be exclusively under the control of one Department. I realize that there are State rights. Despite the restricted amount which the Commonwealth have granted for health by subsidizing the States, we have laid the foundation for bigger things. Although this Government granted £15,000 per annum to subsidize the States, only £13,000 odd was during the past few years claimed by them. Why should the Commonwealth Government allow the States to continue their laxity? Efforts should be made to compel them to attempt to cope with these diseases. People all over Australia are vitally concerned in this matter. The Commonwealth Government should establish the Health Department upon a substantial basis under a special Minister, and it should continue its efforts to coordinate, all State activities which have to do with the public health. Certain officers of the Health Department have endeavoured on many occasions to reach the ideal which the Department has set before it, but success cannot be attained until the Commonwealth Government takes the Department seriously. Of the £121,000 to be set apart this year for the Health Department, 95 per cent, will be used in quarantine administration. The cost of the Tropical Institute of Medicine and of the laboratories is not included in that £121,000. The Commonwealth Government should provide drugs for all the public hospitals in Australia which are willing to treat venereal disease cases.
– It is partly a question of special medical skill.
– No doubt special skill is required, but many medical officers in Australia have the experience necessary to administer the drugs. Patients who need treatment could be required to attend, say, ten or twelve of the main hospitals in New South Wales, where qualified doctors could provide the special treatment. The same policy could be adopted in the other States.
– Doctors with the necessary skill could be found in all the large country towns.
– That is so. I deplore the fact that the Commonwealth Government and its doctor-Treasurer do not appear to appreciate the serious position we are in.
– It is almost impossible to do anything effective until the duplication in the different States is abolished .
– Then the Treasurer should take the initiative to abolish the duplication. It will be a long time before it is abolished if the Commonwealth Government continues its present indifferent attitude. Action has been taken in respect of duplication in our electoral rolls, and in the last twelve months we have had numerous newspaper articles on the desirableness of abolishing duplication in income tax matters. We had a Premiers’ Conference sitting in this very chamber deliberating on that subject. Questions which affect the electoral rolls and income tax duplication sink into insignificance when compared with the serious public health situation in which we find ourselves. Doubtless good work is being done in some of the States, but health is a national matter, and it must ultimately come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. A sufficient measure of co-ordination could be obtained to greatly reduce the number of deaths which occur annually from cancer, tuberculosis, and venereal disease. Until the Government realizes the necessity for dealing with the situation by placing a much larger sum than £121,000 on the Estimates for the Public Health Department, our present high mortality in consequence of these diseases will continue.
.- Questions affecting immigration, soldier settlement, closer settlement, irrigation, and similar problems are of the utmost importance from the national view-point, and should be seriously considered by members of all political parties. The class of immigrant that is being brought to Australia is not by any means the best that we can get. We need farm workers, agricultural labourers, men who have a little money of their own, which would enable them to take up farm holdings, and also skilled artisans. We have room for a good many men of the artisan class. We are altogether too short of some classes of tradesmen. Unfortunately, the type of man now being brought here does not meet the requirements of the country. Immigrants who have been trained as doctors, dentists,, and clerks, and who have been following various other professions, are coming here. They are sent to our country districts to do farm work. Within a few weeks they tire of their employment. They find that they are utterly unsuited for the positions which they occupy, and, in consequence of all-round dissatisfaction, they drift into the cities, and swell the ranks of the unemployed. Recently I met some immigrants who had been in my own district for two or three months.
They had no complaints about their labour conditions, their remuneration, or their accommodation, but they had discovered that they were quite unsuited for farm work. The farmers also were dissatisfied. Men of this class very quickly return to city life. All the men who are brought here should be required to sign an agreement to remain in the country for twelve months or two years. We do not want people from Great Britain brought into our already overcrowded cities.
– Would not the honorable member allow them to come here as free men 1
– We want men who are willing to undertake agricultural duties, and not men who will drift into our cities to receive unemployment doles.
– Why do these people return to the city ?
– Because of the good conditions, the higher wages, the shorter hours, the frequent race days, the numerous picture shows, and other circumstances of city life which are not obtainable in the country. We cannot afford those attractions in the country; but under the system that has grown up in this city, the people living here can alford them.
– What they do in the country is to pay men 15s. a week, and work them fourteen hours out of the twenty-four.
– We are prepared in the country to pay a good man quite as much as he could earn in the city, if his board and lodging, as well as his wages, are taken into consideration.
– Does the honorable member think that 15s. a week is a fair wage?
– I do not say that 15s., £1, or even £2 per week, would be a fair wage to pay a good man, but there are any number of men being brought out from the Old Country at the present time, who, as country workers, could not earn such wages. They are not to blame, because they are entirely, unsuitable for country work. If a man who has been educated to be a doctor or a dentist is given the work of grubbing trees, he cannot earn 15s. a week. Such men are absolutely unsuitable immigrants for this country.
– Y - Yet the honorable member is supporting a policy for the expenditure of £5,000,000 on immigration.
– I do not agree with the spending of £5,000,000 on bringing immigrants to this country at the present time if they are to be settled on fruit areas or areas for intense cultivation. I propose to deal at some length with the driedfruit and soft-fruit industries, and to point out that, in my opinion, it is useless to settle returned soldiers, immigrants, or our own people on small areas for intensive cultivation under the conditions existing to-day. The Government of Victoria has spent between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 on water conservation and the construction of reticulation channels for irrigation, stock, and domestic purposes. We have here one of the finest irrigation schemes in the world. New South Wales has constructed Burrunjuck. and irrigation channels on the Mumimbidgee and other areas in that State. I suppose that before the Murray Waters Scheme is completed anything up to £10,000,000 will have been expended upon it. What is it all leading to? It simply means that in the Murray Valley, the Goulburn Valley, and on the Murrumbidgee small areas of land are being used principally for fruit-growing. On the Murrumbidgee alone there are no fewer than 873 returned soldiers who are being repatriated on fruit farms. The same thing applies to Victoria. At Merbein there are 1,000 returned soldiers, and a very large number of Victorian settlers on other small areas. It is the same at Redcliffs, Nyah, Tintinda. and in the Goulburn and Murray Valleys. The result is that we are faced to-day with an overproduction of soft fruits, dried fruits, and citrus fruits, for which there is no market. The Government need to consider very seriously, not only the position to-day, which is desperate, but what the position will be in a few years’ time if the same policy is continued. The present desperate position will become more acute, and if the Government have no better means of settling immigrants, it would be better not to bring them here at all. To continue to settle men on the land in this way will mean disaster to the immigrants and to the country also. We might settle some men on dry areas. There are huge areas of Crown lands in every State in the Commonwealth, and I would suggest that instead of settling men to go in for fruit-growing we should endeavour to settle them on dry areas, although for some considerable time it is very likely that even dry farming will be found to be unprofitable.
– The settlers will settle themselves if they grow fruit.
– Many of the men on the closer settlement areas growing fruit today are well and truly settled. We talk of the unemployed in Melbourne, but if this policy is continued, the present position will be so accentuated that the men will leave their small holdings, because they will have nothing to look forward to. They will come down to Melbourne, and will cost the Government more in unemployment doles than it would cost to tide the people on these small areas over the present crisis. The State and Federal Governments should see that no further moneys are provided for the settlement of returned soldiers, or any other class of settlers on small holdings to grow fruit. If private persons, in spite of what they know of the position, choose to take up these holdings they will know what awaits them, but the Government should not go into this business further with its eyes wide open. I have recently been closely in- touch with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) with a view to seeing what can be done to help the soft-fruit growers out of their present difficulties. They do not know where they are. I received a letter, only a few moments ago, from a man settled in the Goulburn Valley, and this is an extract from it -
I saw the announcement of Mr. Austin Chapman re fruit in to-day’s Aye. He pledges the Cabinet to help of some sort or another, but no Pool. I trust that you will urge for a speedy and definite answer as to what help will be given. As tilings stand at present there exists such a delightful doubt about the future which the banks are making full use of, whilst si.l 1 the fruit-growers are in their debt. Ask for their scheme at once.
I have been pressing the Minister for a definite pronouncement. We urge that he should give the growers a Pool or financial assistance of some form. I know that the honorable gentleman is absolutely sympathetic. He is aware that the fruit-growers are up against it, and anything he can do to help them I feel sure will be done. But I suggest that he should make his pronouncement on the subject at the earliest possible time, because the fruit-growers are in the clutches of the banks, and the bulk of them do not know where to get the money necessary to carry on from week to week. I do not wish to stress the returned soldier business, because it is always thrown up against a man if he argues that the returned soldier is being unduly pressed and is in straitened circumstances. But we have to face things as they are, and I have said that there are 873 returned men on the Murrumbidgee; there are over .1,000 at Merbein, and there are hundreds in the Goulburn Valley, at Redcliffs, Nyah, Tintinda, and other places. These men are asking for an immediate announcement of the intentions of the Government, not only with regard to soft fruits, but with regard also to dried fruits.
– We are prepared to give a substantial bounty.
– I appreciate what the Government are prepared to do, but at the moment I am unable to say whether the assistance given should be by means of a pool or of a bounty. I understand that negotiations are now proceeding with a view to seeing what can be done to help the fruit-growers. Honorable members on both sides should realize that fruitgrowing is one of our primary industries in which thousands of men are engaged, and on which in providing irrigation millions of pounds have already been spent. Every man who represents country interests should take this matter seriously to heart. I feel assured that honorable members on both sides will see that something is done to help in thi3 really national work. I know that we are invited to “eat more fruit.” Some time ago I went to the Spencer-street station on my way home, and, noticing Mr. Clapp’s invitation outside the station to “ Eat more fruit,” I proceeded to purchase some peaches at a stall on the railway station. The young lady in attendance asked 8d. per lb. for green peaches that I would not feed to ray pigs, and I told her that she could keep than. This is the way in which Mr. Clapp helps us to respond to his invitation. On a Victorian railway station he permits people to charge 8d. per lb. for inferior fruit whilst in the country we cannot get Id. per lb. for good fruit. One of these small fruiterers in Melbourne makes more money than is made by a dozen fruitgrowers in a small way in the country. I may be told that the fruiterers have to pay high rents. Every one is conversant with the fact that recently there has been a considerable increase in rents in Melbourne. It is frequently said that the cause of high rents is that workmen are slowing down, are working shorter hours, lay fewer bricks a day, and so on. There may be some truth in this, but I can refer honorable members to an experience I had recently. An organization with which I am connected leases three floors of an old building, for which it has been paying £1,200 a year in rent. It received an intimation that the owners of the building proposed to charge £1,600 a year for the three floors. The organization then said that it would vacate one of the floors, and the owners’ reply was. “ If you use two floors the rent will be £1,400 a year,” or £200 a year more for two floors than the organization was originally paying for three floors. As a result, this organization has secured more convenient offices in a new building at less than half that amount. When I went to my barber the other day he told me that he was leaving the place ho was in and going to a place in Little Collins-street. When I asked what his trouble was he told me that for the place he occupied, which was a comparatively small room about 18 ft. by 12 ft., he was originally asked to pay 25s. per week rent. Later he was charged £2 10s. per week, and he had just been informed that in future his rent would be £6 per week. He said that he could not pay that rent, and was going out of the place. The point I wish to make is that these buildings were not erected recently by expensive labour. They were built many years ago, and long before the war. It is high time a Fair Rents Court was created. To-day rents in Melbourne are bo high that primary producers are feeling the effects. It might appear at first sight as if the primary producer was not interested, but if the rent of his agent is £6, instead of £3, he must pay a share of the excess. While the present abnormal conditions obtain, it should be possible for people to buy soft or perishable fruits at any time up to 9 o’clock at night. I received a letter recently from a large grower in the Goulburn Valley, who’ says -
I would suggest that. to get at the solution of the difficulty, we must first look for the cause, and after finding the cause, cither remove same or prevent the cause from getting worse and nurse the industry buck to normal conditions.
The fruit industry requires and receives a protective duty to enable it to sell on the Australian market in competition with other countries, so that being so, it must be evident that, to compete outside Australia at a profit to the industry must be impossible unless there is some preference received from England anil the rest of the Empire.
We do not, however, receive any preference, so must face the position as it is to-day, and realize that the only market we have for our products is within Australia.
Australia being the only market on which we can hope to sell our goods at a price that will return us cost of production, it is imperative that our production must not exceed the requirements of this market.
This brings us to the cause of the present difficulty of our industry, viz.. over-production.
About eleven years ago, the Kew South Wales and Victorian State Governments started their immigration and closer settlement policies, and. noticing that the fruit industry seemed profitable, and also that this industry gave the greatest amount of employment per acre, and also in many other indirect ways gave employment, they started to encourage the planting of trees with the promise of finding markets for the increased production. No inquiry, so far as I know, was made as to the prospects of competing on the oversea markets with the surplus production, nor, so far as I know, was there any effort made to collect the statistics of the varieties of fruit already planted by private enterprise.
The fruit industry would have arrived at the present position in about the year 1910, but. owing to the war contracts for jams and canned fruits, the surplus production was absorbed. Since the end of the war, the State Governments have been pursuing a vigorous policy of settling returned soldiers on new areas, and financing them to plant further areas under fruit, the money being .found by the Federal Government.
The Government ought to cry a halt, for no good can come of further aggravating the position. So long as the Federal Government finds the money, so long will the State Governments spend it, and the Federal Government will be left “ carrying the baby “ of the Fruit Pools.
To-day, growers, realizing that there is overproduction, are being forced to cut down large areas of trees while Government-financed growers are planting the same varieties of trees that are known by experienced growers to be in excess of requirements.
The cost of production and manufacture must either come down so that our industry can compete on the world’s markets, or else the production must be reduced to come within the requirements of the Australian demands.
The present policy of the Government, however, ia to fix the wages of the employees in the fruit industry by Arbitration Courts, and also all the requirements of the industry are produced under the same policy, together with! a very high Tariff, which also increases the cost of materials and machinery plant, &c, used by the industry; therefore, we cannot reduce the costs under the present policy.
This means that the only remedy is to increase the consumption of our products as far as possible within Australia, and, at the same time, discontinue the planting of new areas.
I have placed various suggestions before the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Chapman) with the object of getting rid of the present huge stocks of soft fruits. In America, five cans of soft fruit per head of the population are consumed, whereas in Australia the figure is no higher than one and one-eighth per head. This shows that something is wrong. I suggested to - the Minister that by vigorous propaganda - by means of a “ fruit week “ or something of the sort - the virtues of our fruits might be displayed to the public more prominently than ever before.
– Reduce the price and all the fruit will be sold.
– It ought to be known throughout the Commonwealth that fruit is offered at 2s. 6d. a dozen below cost. The endeavour should be to dispose of most of the fruit for home consumption. If three and three-eighths cans per head of population were disposed of, the trouble would be at an end. I have received some suggestions from another grower, who states -
The machinery of distribution as at present used by the Pool is too slow and cumbersome to suit the present situation. The Pool is working along the recognised lines of distribution - it has always been its aim to use the regular business channels for its purpose. Wholesaler, retailer, broker, &c., with each resulting increase in costs. Melbourne prices in’ Shepparton and Kyabram, plus railway freights. Victoriangrown, Sydney-processed fruits, for sale in Victoria, possibly Victorian grown and processed, sold in New South Wales, extra travelling, one crossing the other needlessly, all the time piling up the losses and costs in the Pool.
The Government, it is said, desires to get “ out of business,” and cannot see its way to finance a Pool. I propose to wait and see what the Government proposes to the fruit-growers. I know that .the Government is anxious to help, and prepared to spend a large amount to that end; and I wish to see that the money is spent effectively, not only in helping the grower this year, but in stabilizing the market for the future.
– Has the Government not definitely decided against a Pool this year 1
– I understand so, but, of course, we do not know how matters will work out. The suggestion is made that the canners should take the whole of the fruit and process it. I do not know how much the canners ‘ would pay for the fruit, or whether, indeed, they would pay anything. I am told, however, that the Shepparton and Kyabram canneries, in the past year, have processed 50 per cent, of the canned goods produced in Victoria. The Shepparton cannery alone processed 295,000 dozen last year, when, in the season, they were turning out each day sufficient canned fruit to’ give one can per day to every household in Melbourne and suburbs. There are cooperative factories in the country which have no capital on which to work. The Shepparton cannery is largely financed by the State Government, the proprietors net seeing their way to carry on without such aid. In fact, the whole position is such that special efforts are being made by those interested to arrive at a solution satisfactory to all. As to dried fruits, I hope the Prime Minister, when he goes to London, will endeavour to obtain some Empire preference for Australia. We give Great Britain an enormous preference here, and surely we may ask for some in return, particularly in the case of dried and canned fruits. We have the New Zealand, the Canadian, and the British markets. New Zealand is prepared to give us a preference of 2d. per lb., or £18 13s. 4d. per ton, in return for a certain preference from us. I do not know whether the primary producers here are prepared to give New Zealand the preference asked. My idea is thatNew Zealand ought to ask for a preference from the secondary industries, and not place the whole burden on the primary producers.” Canada offers a preference of 1-^d. per lb., or £14 per ton, but I understand that the Dominion imposes almost impossible conditions. I do not know what these conditions are, but I surmise that Canada asks for a remission of the duty on agricultural implements. That, of course, would SUit Australian primary producers “ down to the ground,” for then they would get their machinery, if not duty free, at any rate at a much smaller duty than at present.
– If the man in the city cannot earn money, what is the use of the primary producers growing fruit ?
– If the primary producers do not grow fruit of all sorts, wheat, oats, barley, wool, meat, and so on, it is certain no wages will be paid ; that is the sum and substance of the position.
I should now like to give some indication of the quantities of fruits processed and handled in the Commonwealth. Tha information I have has been supplied by the Australian Dried Fruits Association. The estimated output of currants for the present year is 8,000 tons, of which the Commonwealth consumes 3,000, and 5,000 tons are exported. This means that 62^ per cent, of the total crop is exported. There was a time when the Australian consumption of dried fruits was about 80 per cent, of the crop, only 20 per cent, being exported. To-day we export 62$ per cent, and wo consume locally only per cent. The position is rapidly becoming worse. It is estimated that in 1927 we shall be exporting 80 per cent, of our dried fruits, and consuming locally
Only 20 per cent. hence the urgent necessity for providing an increased outlet for these products.
– What proportion of our canned fruits is consumed in Australia?
– Of about 900,000 cases of canned fruits packed, 300,000 cases, or one- third, are consumed locally; but it is estimated that if sales were pushed the Australian consumer would probably take the whole of the pack. The following table sets out the details of the pack by the Australian Dried Fruits Association in 1923:-
I ask honorable members to bear those figures in mind for the purpose of com parison with some I shall give later regarding the enormous quantity of dried! fruits packed in America and sold in markets which should belong to the Commonwealth growers. The Australian carry-over from the previous season amounted to 1,359 tons, and although the final packing-shed returns have not yet been received, the figures quoted are practically correct. In addition, the following production will probably be marketed by people outside the Dried Fruits Association, but it is difficult to get information in support of these figures: - Currants, 1,200 tons; sultanas, 300 tons; apricots, 200 tons; peaches, 100 tons; prunes, 150 tons - or a total of 1,950 tons, making a total production, including the figures of the Dried Fruits Association, of 28,500 tons. Honorable members will realize that, with the increased production, unless profitable export markets are secured, it will be impossible for the driedfruit industry to make headway, and, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth and State Governments have spent millions of pounds on the repatriation of soldiers in the Murray Valley, it is essential that everything possible should bc done to find markets. Owing to big expansion in the planted areas, mainly through the activities of the various Governments in settling returned soldiers on irrigated blocks, it is impossible at the present time to give anything like reliable figures. But it is fairly safe to reckon that each acre of vine fruits in bearing will yield an average of 1 ton per acre, and it is estimated that the 1924 production in Australia will reach 33,000 tons, which should represent 33,000 acres, gradually increasing until by 1927 the production of vine fruits will exceed 50,000 tons. Where are we to find markets for these fruits? I shall quote from the New York Commercial, of 9th April, 1923, to indicate to honorable members what the American growers have been able to do : -
The American raisin .is making a new record in its invasion of the world’s markets. Thetotal exports in the fiscal year 1923, which ends ninety days hence, will exceed 100,000,000 lbs. against 50.000000 in the fiscal year of 1022, and 75,000,000 in 1016. The value of the year’s exports will approximate $15,000,000, and will also exceed that of any earlier year.
This high record in the quantity and value of our raisin exports, -says the National City Bank of New York, is especially interesting in view of the fact that the other great raisin field of the world, the Levant, has recently resumed its contributions to the world market. Prior to the war, the area fronting on the eastern end of the Mediterranean was a large contributor to the world raisin markets, especially those of Europe. With the reduction in agricultural activities in that area during tlie war, production was greatly minimized,, and raisins from the United States wore largely imported by Europe, and, in some cases, supplied to their troops in the field, and the world thus came to know the value of the American raisin.
The growth in world popularity of our raisins is evidenced by the fact that the exports advanced from 16,000,000 lbs. in 1013, to 56,000,000 in 1918, the closing year of the war, and 110,000,000 in 1019. With return of the Levant to raisin production and exportation* however, our exports fell to 53,000,000 libs, in 1920, and 33,000,000 in our short-crop year 1921. With the high record of production of 1922, however, which is materially in excess of any earlier year, our exports for the current fiscal year seem likely to equal the high record of 110,000,000 lbs. in the calendar year 1919, in which the Levant had not yet re-entered the world markets.
New Export Factor.
The raisin is a comparatively new factor in our export trade. It was only in 189S that the quantity exported was of sufficient importance to obtain a place in the export records of the Government, and the total exports of that year amounted ito only 3,000,000 lbs., advancing to 5,500,000 in 190S, 56,000,000 in 1918, and 110,000,000 in 1919.
It is duc, .however, to .the growth in home demand that the raisin industry of California, our chief raisin producer, has so rapidly developed. The total production of raisins in California was in 191.3, 130,000,000 lbs; in 1919, 360,000,000; and in 1922, 450,000,000. and we are now producing more than one-half of the raisins of the world. About four-fifths of this ‘big production is consumed in tlie United States. Of the 3,000,000,000 lbs. produced in the past decade, 17 per cent, was exported, and the remaining S7 per cent, consumed at home. Even this big consumption from our own fields, does not fully cover the requirements of our people.
Great Britain is the largest single buyer of American raisins, our total exports to that country in 1922 having been 44,000,000 lbs. against only 5,000,000 in 1021.
The sales to Great Britain in 1922 totalled over 19,000 tons, as compared with the exportable surplus of all classes of Australian dried fruits, namely, 17,219 tons -
Canada ranks next to Great Britain in the taking of American raisins of 1922, her total for that year being £29,000,000.
That is equal to nearly 13,000 tons, and more than Australia’s total pack of raisins; yet, although Canada is a fellow- partner in the British Empire, Australia gets no preference from her -
Japan has suddenly developed a taste for American raisins, exports to that country in 1922 totalling something over £4,000,000 as against £2,000,000 in the preceding year. All the world seems to have developed a taste for American raisins, the number of countries to which they were’ supplied in 1921, the latest year for which details were available, was seventy-five, aud represented every grand division of the world.
This enormous trade is not duo to the fact that the American product is better than the Australian. Our soft fruits, especially those of Shepparton and Kyabram, are equal to tlie best Californian pack, and the products marketed by the Australian Dried Emits Association are as good as the best produced in any part of the world. There is no fault to be found with the quality of our goods. The industry is handicapped solely by our inability to find markets. I quote now from a pamphlet issued by the National City Bank of New York in April of this year, entitled, Economic Conditions, Governmental Finance, United States Securities: -
Tlie Go-operative Raisin Growers.
The raisin growers of California have furnished an example of successful co-operative business. They control a large proportion of the raisin production of California, and have been successful in bringing order out of chaos in the industry, and making the industry prof table.
When the “ Sun Maid Raisin Growers “ was formed in 1912, there apparently existed a state of over -production in the industry, for prices of grape growers were unremuncrative, the growers were in debt, and the outlook unpromising. Under the operations of the association the demand for raisins has enormously .increased, prices hare advanced to a remunerative basis, and production has increased several it;lines over.
The records of tonnage handled by the .association, and of prices and aggregate value of production handled is as follows: -
Hie tonnage of the early years was disproportionately small,, inasmuch as the association waa building- up .its membership, and did not handle the share of the crop which it has liter. Mr. Seymour, its general manager, has stated that the average of the total tonnage for the five years prior , to 1012 was about 70,000 tons. The organization now handles about 00 .per cent, of the raisin production.
The raisin growers have been very prosperous in recent years, as may bo judged by the figures for prices and values. Their lands have advanced to high selling values. $1,000 per acre or thereabouts, they have had money to spend or invest, <ind the cities in the raisin territory have all reflected the improved conditions.
It .might appear to the casual observer that all this bad boon brought about simply by raising .tho price through concentrated control over selling, but the management knows bettor than that. The fundamental factor in the improved conditions has been ‘.the increased consumption. Before the association began operations raisins were a drug on the market, with a heavy carry-over from year to year, depressing the price, but a demand was developed which cleared up the crop year after year at advancing prices.
Developing the Demand.
Probably the raisin growers took a loaf from the experience of other fruit-growers on the Pacific Coast,, who hod learned to standardize their (product, guarantee quality, and (market it in an attractive manner. At any rate, , they offered raisins in appetizing array, and then they ‘launched upon an advertising compaign which has involved a steadily increasing expenditure, until, for 1023, the appropriation is said :to ibo $1,200,000. The advance in. price has 1been an incident to the increased demand and would not have been possible without Lt.
The raisin producers, within the Sun Maid Association, however, have no monopoly. It is favorable to the formation of such, an association that the bulk of the raisin grapes are grown within a comparatively small territory, instead of over a great territory at home and abroad,, as in the case of the farm staples, but it lis not difficult to increase the production of raisin grapes in California, as appears from the above figures. As the price goes up, naturally tho acreage in grapes has been expanding, and Mr. Seymour is responsible for tho .statement that the plantings to date indicate that, within five years, the production of raisins will bo above 400,000 tons per year. The price is behind the production, but behind the , price must be consumption. The raisin crop each year must disappear in consumption to make way for the next. Price fixing that would merely provide for buying and storing the crop would accomplish nothing.
That is the trouble in Australia. We have some of the finest” irrigation country in the world, which is served by huge reservoirs. The Murray Valley consists of hundreds of thousands of acres, which can be successfully used for the growing of any class of fruit. Unfortunately, we have not the markets. I appeal to the Government to make every endeavour to dispose of the soft fruits pack which is at present unsold. I urge the Prime Minister when he” is attending the Imperial and Economic Conferences to do his utmost to bring about reciprocal arrangements between the Commonwealth and Great Britain and Canada. The success of the people on the land depends upon access to oversea markets, which are at present exploited by America. Prewar prices must eventually obtain throughout the world. The price for wheat is rapidly falling, and next year I would not be surprised if it were down to the pre-war level. Even in that event it is doubtful whether the consumer will get any relief. Recently when the price of a 4-lb. loaf in a certain suburb was 10d., (lour was selling at £12 15s. per ton. The price of flour fell to £11 per ton, but that of bread remained as previously. Subsequently flour rose to £11 15s. per ton, and immediately the price of the 4-lb. loaf was raised to lid. The efforts of the primary producer to meet the consumer are rendered futile by the bakers’ refusal to give any concession in price. Taking the 4-lb. loaf at lid. to-day, the baker is getting 6i.v the miller Id., and the farmer 3id. Flour is practically the cheapest article of foodstuff in the Commonwealth, and can be bought over the counter at 2id. per lb., while a pumpkin is 3d., oatmeal 3-Jd., and meat anything from lOd. to ls. 3d. per lb. High prices cannot long continue. The scarcity of fat stock accounts for the present exorbitant prices. As a farmer, I have been unable for many months to kill a single sheep for home use, and I do not expect to do so for some time to come. Some four or five months ago, before the drought set in, beef at the Newmarket yards could be bought oil the hoof at under 3d. per lb., and it was then very nearly as dear retail as it is to-day. The same thing applies to mutton. . A friend of mine sent 250 bags of good English malting barley to Melbourne, which returned him £50, each bag averaging 4s. This is what the farmer is up against. Practically everything he is growing to-day is sold at pre-war prices. Undue profits are being made in many of the secondary industries. I admit that very high wages are paid in those industries.
I am a staunch unionist, and I believe that any industry should pay the highest wage possible. I do not stand for low wages. As a farmer I much prefer to see even better conditions and higher wages than those which obtained during the last eight years. If pre-war conditions are soon to be experienced the farmers must take action. I do not suggest that wages should be lowered. The working man, whilst commodities remain so high, finds it difficult to make both ends meet on a wage of from £3 15s. to £5, and a rental of 30s. per week. Still, there is some’thing wrong, and I do not know how it can be rectified. Assistance must come from the other side.
– How can the Labour party act, not being in power?
– The primary producers are prepared to assist the working class. I have a suggestion which can be applied to large cities, but not to small country towns. We produce everything that is required in the way of food - such as wheat, meat, butter, eggs, cheese, milk, &c. Co-operative distributing companies must be formed to supply tlie consumer direct. The working classes, say, of Northcote, Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Brunswick, and Richmond should contribute fi or £5 per head to the establishment of a co-operative distributing association, which would purchase the goods direct from the primary producers and distribute them to the workers. Instead of having eight or ten carts delivering milk to a few people in one street, one cart would supply all the residents of several streets. If the Labour party . will consider this suggestion, I am prepared to arrange for persons to speak at the various town halls in the thicklypopulated districts of the metropolitan area to inform the working classes of the benefit of such an organization. The primary producers have their own cooperative companies, and they are prepared to co-operate with any organization which is formed by the labouring class for the distribution of necessary commodities.
.- I compliment the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) on his elucidation of the problem of distributing Australia’s production. I agree that effective work may be done by co-operation. Unfortunately, the honorable member is in the wrong company. The party which he is supporting is opposed to co-operation, or to any measure of Socialism such as he has suggested. It says that we should rely upon the mad principle of private enterprise. We have only to look at the buildings of Goldsbrough, Mort and Company, Dalgety and Company Limited, and similar firms in all our capital cities to realize how they have profited through the work of the primary producers. The result of their robbery is that when the sons of the farmers grow up and want to establish homes for themselves, they have to come to the city to earn the money necessary; and when the farmers’ daughters wish to settle down they have to come to the city to find husbands who can afford to keep them. Australia is capable of producing everything that our people need. I travelled round the world a good deal in my younger days, and as far as I was able to judge, no country is so capable as this continent of making itself self-contained. Our people do not yet realize that the great ideal of the Labour party is that we should become self-contained and self-supporting. Our party has built upon a groundwork of humanitarian ideals. Some day people will fully realize this. We wish Australia to become a land in which every citizen can make a decent living. Our hearts are specially sympathetic with all who go into the interior of Australia, and open up the country so that it may become populated. God has given us this land to cultivate and develop. Some of our early pioneers, however, determined to get the country into their grip. They did it, and now their descendants, who still hold the land in their grip, say, in effect, to the ordinary people, “ You can be damned, so long as we have the land and the fruit from the land.” We are reaping the miserable results of the early policy adopted to settle this country. I feel very strongly on this matter.
I am’ disappointed with the Budget. It does not give this Committee sufficient information. We could expect only a conglomeration of figures because the Treasurer had to prepare the Budget hastily to enable the Prime Minister to make an early departure from Australia to meet his Imperialistic friends in London whom he has not seen for some years. We have no Auditor-General’s report, and the Budget is an illustration of how figures may be manipulated. It gives the people of Australia a false idea of their financial position. It has been said that figures do not lie. In my opinion, those who handle figures are the biggest liars on the face of the earth. I am anxious about the future of our Australian note issue. The note issue was organized by the progressive Labour party, when it was in power, with a view to using the profits to open up unsettled areas in the Commonwealth which would never be opened up if we had to wait until we could afford to borrow money for the purpose. It was never contemplated that the profits from the note issue would be placed to the credit of the revenue account. Mr. Andrew Fisher, and other gentlemen associated with him in authorizing the Australian note issue, realized the necessity for building railways, and carrying out other great public works in unsettled parts of Australia, such as the Northern Territory. The Labour party believed that a substantial profit could fairly be made through the note issue. We discovered in those clays that Australian gold coin was being sent to the Eastern countries, and that a considerable wastage was occasioned by the use of gold coin in ordinary commercial activities. Persons belonging to the Oriental races wore earning money in Australia, obtaining payment in gold coin, and sending the coin to the East. They were receiving 21 s. and 21s. Sd. each for sovereigns. Our party believed that our gold coin should be kept in our own country. Some years ago I asked Sir Joseph Cook, who was then Treasurer, for some information about this matter. He told me he did not claim to have acknowledge of it. That was an honest admission, though I do not know whether he thought he was “pulling my leg.” Subsequently I saw that certain gentlemen who were closely associated with the big financial institutions of Australia were to be appointed members of the Note Issue Board. When I read the names of those gentlemen I thought that something was about to be done with the note issue which was not in keeping with the purposes of its originators. I believe that we have an evidence of the spirit of such gentlemen in the proposal now before us to place the profit from the note issue into the general revenue account, instead of using it for the con- struction of large and necessary public works. To use a race-course phrase, “ thimble-rigging “ is going on. The profits from the note issue should not be allowed to swell the general revenue account. That was the last thing that was intended when the note issue was established. One redeeming feature about such an action is that it may reduce taxation, but the Labour party does not believe that taxation should be reduced by such means. Last year the Treasurer announced a reduction in income taxation. Nobody asked for the reduction. I do not like to be hard on the right honorable gentleman who was then Treasurer, but I believe that that move was intended to be a sop to the people on the eve of an election. I know that the Postmaster-General looks after telegrams, letters, and telephones, and so on, but the expenditure of the Department is largely controlled by the Treasurer. The Post and Telegraph Department shows a profit upon its operations. I have tried to reason the thing out, and I begin to think there must be something wrong with my brain, because I am quite unable to understand why a Department which has earned a profit of £1,500,000 should borrow money to enable it to increase its services, instead of using the money it has earned to afford further facilities, and to increase the wretched payment at present made to those in charge of country offices.
– It has so used its profits, and £2,500,000 in addition.
– The honorable gentleman should wait a minute until I have done, when he will be sorry that he spoke. Instead of spending the profits made by the Department in the way I suggest, the Government propose to borrow money for it. When the Labour party came into power in 1910, the Government was faced with the fact that for seven years previously the Post and Telegraph Department had been starved. It decided upon a vote of £3,000,000 for the Department, and that £1,000,000 should be spent upon it each year. But the Government did not borrow the money. They took the £3,000,000 from revenue, and devoted the surplus of revenue over expenditure for three years to improvements in post and telegraph services. To-day the present Government propose to borrow money to the extent of £9,000,000 for this Department. This will mean that £450,000 must be added to the cost of running the Department to meet the bill for interest, and in ten years interest to the amount; of £4,500,000 will have to be paid for the borrowed money.
– The Department showed a loss in 1910, and the Labour Government reduced the postage rates.
– But that Government met the expenditure out of revenue, and did not go to London to borrow money for the Post and Telegraph Department. We shall have to pay in ten years £4,500,000 in interest on the money borrowed for this Department under the present Government, and at the end of that time there will be a debt of £9,000,000 still to be met. I cannot understand this method of finance. I have for a number of years tried to unravel the finances of Australia, State and Federal, and I quite fail to understand why the Government should borrow money forthe Post and Telegraph Department. There is one thing for which I can give the Treasurer credit, and that is the improvement in the borrowing industry. He is carrying that on well. Let me point out how serious the position really is. We have wooden telephone boxes which the white ants will destroy in five years. We have insulation which will perish, and when it does the damp will get at the wires and they will corrode and become useless. We have numerous electrical appliances all of which have a very short life, and yet all these materials are purchased from loan. I do not care whether it is the Railways Department or the Post and Telegraph Department that uses material that has only a short life, if money is borrowed for its purchase, a fund should be established to redeem the loan when the material has become useless Is that not sound finance ? Who will contradict me in that? An ordinary private company that erects a fine building will allow nothing for depreciation for the first year, but in succeeding years will charge 5 or 6 per cent, to depreciation or for keeping the structure up to the original standard.
– Does the honorable member mean that business properties generally depreciate at the rate of 5 or 6 per cent, per annum ?
– The depreciation on. a building is from 21/2 per cent, to 5 per cent, per annum, according to construc tion. I ask honorable members to go into any telephone exchange, and then he will find that the appliances there have only a short life.
– No; a life of fifty years; and the same thing may be said of the cables, which cost so much money.
– The honorable gentleman has been in the Post Office only a little while, and I have been over all this business before he was born. The large cables are composed of wires that are protected by insulation which insures a long life, but there are many wires put underground that are not so insulated and have only a short life. Take the case of automatic telephones. Any one who reads the Scientific American as I do every month will know that Bell has a new system, which is more effective than the automatic system. I ran the wires for the first telephone installed between the Sydney Morning Herald and the New South Wales Parliament House, and since the first telephones were installed in Australia there have been three or four changes in the system, and tons of material have been scrapped. I am not blaming any on© on this account. I am casting no reflection on departmental officers, because these are things over which they have no control, and which takes place in other parts of the world as well as in Australia. None of these materials are permanent. There is depreciation in even a steel rail. Most electrical material is of a very flimsy character. The white ants have a glorious picnic on the telegraph poles in country districts, and if the poles escape the white ant they perish and rot at the bottom. Deterioration goes on in all the materials used by the Post and Telegraph Department, and I am justified, in the circumstances, in asserting that a substantial redemption fund should be provided when money is borrowed for the purchase of material for this Department. The Government would have displayed more business capacity and a better judgment of the requirements of the people if, instead of the Department reducing postage rates to satisfy the press and business houses in big cities, it had devoted the many hundreds of thousands of pounds by which the revenue of the Department will be depleted in this way to the improvement of postal and telephone services. I do not know how many miners post more than one or two letters a year, or how many wharf labourers write more often. I know tha4” men in the building trade do not send much correspondence through the Post and Telegraph Department, and would be prepared to pay 2d. per i oz. on the letters they do send, especially when by doing so they would be able to help our friends of the Country party to secure increased telephone and telegraph facilities for the country districts. In my opinion the Government is pandering to those from whom it thinks some support may be obtained. Certainly it has some reason for this concession.
I arn not opposed to immigration, but I am utterly opposed to the immigration policy and administration of the Government. When a Labour Government was in power the social and industrial conditions of Australia were so much improved as to be the envy of the civilized world. There was then no need toborrow millions to spend on immigration. One year we increased the population by 89,000 without borrowing. The Savings Bank deposits were heaping up, and the merchant, the butcher, the baker, the tailor all shared in the general prosperity. Every man and woman who then came to this country knew there would be every opportunity and facility to achieve success. The Labour party ever since has been trying to maintain the high standard of living then set. Unfortunately for Australia, this humanitarian party is now sitting in Opposition. The legislation of the Labour Government was of a truly national character. There was nothing low, local or puny about it, there were no proposals to vote 10s. a head to wealthy cattle-owners, or anything of that kind. Latterly, however, attempts have been, and, indeed, are being made, to make employment scarce. In this the Broken Hill Proprietary Company at Newcastle has taken a prominent part. Owing to the action of that company in closing their works, with the object I have indicated, £25,000 worth of rails had to be imported into Western Australia. Other works at Granville and. elsewhere have been closed.
– I think the honorable member ought to give his authority for such statements.
– I am giving nothing but facts, and what I have spoken of has been going on for some time. These great employing companies are trying to defeat the objects of the Arbitration Court, and the coal barons of Newcastle are assisting in the work. To-day the whole Newcastle district is in the hands of three men - a coal man, a shipping man, and a merchant. Do honorable members fancy that men strike for the sake of striking. Could anybody be so stupid, or .lost to reason, as to strike without cause? The real truth is that the men are fighting against encroachments on their liberty, and they would not be of the same flesh and blood as myself if they did not do so. The State Government of New South Wales has done much harm by closing the State Saw-mills. This has left the trade in the hands of a Combine, and the price of timber has been raised 12 per cent, or 15 per cent. The same conditions are to be found in the roofing tile trade, and the price of tiles has been raised from £8 to £18 a thousand. Our immigration management is a disgrace to both State and Federal Governments. Immigrants are brought here and landed on the wharfs, with no one there to guido them. If they wish to go to the country, married men are offered 25s. a week, and when they accept they are left to find their own way. Conditions were very different in New Zealand when I landed there in 1874. I may say that I was not an immigrant, and I cannot claim to have reached the Antipodes with the proverbial sixpence in my pocket. Those who had been brought out on assisted passages had their luggage looked after, were found shelter while awaiting employment, and were conducted to their destinations in the country. Not long ago, as a member of the Public Works Committee, I visited a timber area, and there the president of the shire, who required two carpenters, was utterly astounded when I asked him where the houses were in which these men, with their wives, would have to live. The only shelter there was for them was a lean-to by the public- house. They were amazed when I suggested that they should provide habitations so that any tradesmen who came to the district might bring their wives and families and live a normal married life. Until the people in country districts appreciate the necessity for providing homes for workers and their wives they will continue to experience difficulty in getting labour. When I called at Cairns a few years ago on my return trip from Papua, a strike was in progress, and I heard many people complain that the seasonal workers from other States came to Cairns to cut the sugar crop, earned big cheques, “ painted the town red “ for a while, and then went away. My inquiries elicited the fact that nothing was done to induce those men to settle in the district, and I advised the townspeople that until they provided habitations and other inducements to men to take up their residence there they must expect a continuance of the practices of which they were complaining. It seemed to me that some of the labourers were treated worse than prisoners.
I consider it my duty to condemn the Treasurer for the manner in which he has handled the recent loan flotation. Prior to the last election, knowing that about £38,723,590 of Commonwealth debt would fall due this year, I asked the. then Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) what arrangement the Government was making for the redemption of tho loan. The right honorable gentleman answered that at the proper time the Government would take the usual course. Subsequently a change of Government took place, and on 11th June last I urged the Government to take steps to convert the loan into consols; but a few days later the Government announced the issue of a conversion loan carrying interest at £5 ls. 5d. per cent. or ls. 5d. more than was paid during the war period, and having a currency of twenty-five years. I warned the Government at the time that the loan would not be a success, because long-dated issues are not suitable to the commercial requirements of Australia. My prediction has been verified. The interest paid on the £38,723,590 up to the date of maturity was £7,695,780, and the expenses in connexion with flotation amounted to £72,000, making a total of £7,767,780. Had the new flotation been successful, the taxpayers of the Commonwealth would have paid, in twenty -five years, interest to the amount of £49,619,845, so that by 1.948 they would have paid a total of £57,387,625 for the use of £38,723,590, and would still owe the whole of the principal. The Treasurer is now endeavouring to float a loan of £21,000,000 at £98, with a currency of five years. That means that the new issue will cost the taxpayer £5 9s. 3d. per cent. The general community does not understand the seriousness of those figures. Had such a proposal been made by a Labour Go vernment the press throughout the country would have hounded it out of office. If it so mismanaged the finances and fleeced the people as the present Government are doing by their maladministration of the loans it could not continue in office for a week, so great would be the outcry. In 1918, when the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), the then Treasurer of the Commonwealth, was in England - I refer to tho occasion when he was posing in England as Prime Minister, and was reminded by cablegram by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) that there was only one Prime Minister of Australia, in consequence of which rebuke he resigned his office - he submitted to the Imperial Government, with the sanction of the Commonwealth Government, a scheme for handling the war debts of the British Empire. His memorandum commenced -
Tlie Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, with tha approval of the Government, has the honour to submit for the consideration of tho Governments of the United Kingdom, and of the various British Dominions, a scheme for the administration of the war debts of the Empire, their conversion from time to time, and their ultimate extinction.
The right honorable member proposed to place all the war debts of the British Empire under the control of a commission which would have power to convert the loans into Consols, redeemable at any time, and to grant premiums to any purchaser of loan stock. The commission was to have power to raise money in any part of the world, which would have meant that Australia would have been paying interest to Japanese and Americans, and others, and this Parliament would have lost control over the note issue and Australian securities. Although I was in favour of the conversion of the loans into Consols, I proposed that the Commonwealth should follow the example of Great Britain after the seven-years’ war. The British national debt was then converted into Consols bearing a sliding rate of interest which diminished from year to year until it reached the minimum of 2$ per cent. Consols, being repurchasable at any period, could be redeemed by the Government whenever there was surplus money in the Treasury. That policy had been adopted by Walpole, Gladstone, Goschen, and other eminent British statesmen, so I was not in bad company. The proposal of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was circulated in printed form., but ho must have received a tip to suppress it, for no more was heard of it. However, it did reveal the honorable member’s belief that the loan stock should be converted into Consols. When the first Commonwealth war loan was floated at 5 per cent, the Government of the day was told that the interest was too high, and must be made the maximum, but within six months hanks, insurance companies, and building societies advanced their rate of interest by 1 por cent. Until this Parliament takes steps to remove from the market giltedged Government securities, the proceeds of which are free of taxation, the community will never get rid of high interest, high rents, and heavy taxation. Those costs go to the very root of the trouble regarding the disposal of fruit and other primary products, of which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) complained. As much as £25 per week is paid for the rent of a shop at Circular Quay, Sydney, for the sale of confectionery and fruit.
– That is a strong argument against the creation of big cities.
– Even though Sydney is the wealthiest city of Australia, that rental is too high. In Melbourne, a few days ago, £2,227 per foot was paid for land at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth streets, with a £12,000 building upon it, which is used as a clothing shop. How can we expect to get. cheap collars, ties, shirts, and pants when such an enormous price is paid for a business site? This Government’s method of converting the recent loan was one of the most disgraceful episodes that have ever happened in the administration of any Government in Australia. They issued a loan for twenty-five years at £5 ls. 5d., and to rectify the blunder they issued another loan for five years at £5 9s. 3d. They are everywhere displaying conspicuous posters, enticing the people to participate in the loan. They are offering attractive rates of interest which no commercial institution could possibly afford. If a builder contracts to build a house, he usually obtains an overdraft from a bank at 7 or 8 per cent. The other day a friend of mine settled his son on a farm, and in order to purchase a threshing machine for £200 a certain banker was approached for a loan. The banker agreed to lend the money, and paid the firm supplying the machine. When the young man met the debt, to his surprise he had to pay £23 interest for one year. No one can be expected to settle on the land under those conditions. Very few people can purchase a dwelling without mortgaging the property. When I bought a house in which to live, I was able to pay as a deposit only half of the money, and I suppose there are hundreds and thousands of people in the same position. The Prime Minister submitted to the Conference of Ministers a proposal for the collection of income tax by one authority, but, unfortunately for Australia, the State Premiers, being State Righters and inveterate opponents of Federation, refused to adopt it. The Taxation Commission, after an investigation covering a period of two years, recommended that there should be one collecting authority, viz., the Federal Government. I completely fail to understand why there should be seven collecting authorities, when one would be sufficient. No member of the Committee knows exactly what are the proposals. Within the last few days I have read in the newspapers the statements of Sir Arthur Cocks, of New South Wales; Sir William McPherson, of Victoria; and Sir Henry Barwell, of South Australia, and not two of them agree. A great monetary saving would result from the unification of taxation within the States. In New South Wales the exemption is £250, with an allowance of £50 for each child. A person with four children would have an exemption of £450. Under the present proposal, the Federal Government is to collect the tax on incomes of over £2,000. The Government of New South Wales will then need to adopt the Federal exemption of £156, and £30 allowance for each child, or else increase the tax on incomes from £250 to £2,000. This will affect persons who derive their incomes; from professional services and from personal exertion. The Treasurer of New South Wales knows that if he increases, the taxation on incomes he will be defeated at the next election, because the people of that State are very anxious to expel the Fuller Government. The Commonwealth Government are in an absolute muddle, and no. one knows what will result. The Trea- surer informs us that the taxation arrangement with the States will be for a few years; but why alter the machinery of taxation unless there is in view some specific and workable scheme? The States are anxious that a certain section of the community paying a heavy Federal income tax shall not be similarly treated in the future. I commend to honorable members the report of the Taxation Commission, as it is worthy of their close attention. Within the next five years, the Commonwealth Government have loans of £250,000,000 falling due which must be converted. The national debt of Australia is £850,000,000, and possibly, owing to the Government’s desperate effort to obtain money, it will soon be £1,000,000,000, to be spread over a population of nearly 6,000,000. The Government’s inability to properly administer the affairs of this country, as shown by the recent loan conversion and taxation proposals, should be advertised broadcast. The example of Great Britain should be followed. The Manchester Guardian is above party politics, and at all times writes in the interests of the people unbiased reports of public matters. Unless the Government mend their ways, drastic steps will be taken, such as imposition of a wealth tax, compulsory loans, or repudiation. We are piling up debts to be a burden on future generations who will curse us for our “stupidity. The British Government are determined to meet war conditions. They had a surplus of £101,000,000, and instead of reducing the income tax they have reduced the national debt. For every million of money used in this way there is £50,000 a year less to raise by taxation. I have submitted a similar proposal to the Government, and I ask them to bring down a Bill to test the feeling of this House. I am in earnest, in those remarks, and I think no good will come to Australia if we allow the present loose financial situation to continue.
.- 1 have sat silent for long enough in this Chamber, but I must apologize to honorable members because my opening remarks are to be on such an uninspiring subject as myself. I want to explain how I got here, and what attitude I intend to adopt now I am here. I was elected as an Independent. I was perfectly frank to the people who elected me. I told them that I had no party prejudices, preferences, or leanings. Some people think it is impossible for such a man to be a politician. They say, “ Every man must have party leanings.” Well, I have none. No act or vote of mine will carry any party significance. I told the electors that I believed that parties were being developed along wrong lines. I said that on the platform, and I repeat it in this Chamber. For that reason I cannot subscribe to any party. Parties are splitting this country into two factions, and are dividing the people into two camps seriously affecting our social system. I shall go further into this subject on a future occasion when I have found my parliamentary feet.
Some of my friends have been writing letters to the newspapers about me. I knew nothing about those letters until they were brought under my notice. Some of the letters have been derogatory to my character and to my position as a politician. Possibly I cannot take exception to the remarks respecting my character. They may be true. The remarks on my politics I care nothing about, because I am not anxious to be regarded as a great politician. Other letters, however, have been most eulogistic, and extremely embarrassing to me. A few days ago such a letter was brought under my notice by a friend, who said to me, “Look at the nice things people are saying about you.” I had not seen that let’ter until my friend showed it to me. I did not inspire it. and I said to my friend, “ I wish they had not written in such a way, because I shall have to crawl into my place in Parliament House feeling like a man who has been offered a cigar on the way to the scaffold.” I wish people would not write such articles concerning me. I have been sailing this old craft for fifty-nine years. I do not know that anybody is justified in saying very much good about it. The only tilings that may be considered good about it are that it has a certain stubbornness in a gale, aud a tendency to scud before the wind in fair weather. I do not take credit for that. So far as I know only two people in the world have much good to say about me. One of them is my mother and the other is my wife. Even they do not always express themselves in a way that I would like. One of these letters said, in effect, “ This man is so rigid in his independence, that he will not associate with his pals in the party rooms, but keeps to himself, determined to work out his own destiny.” I wish to disabuse the minds of honorable members on that score. I can say safely that I am a conformable man, though I do not know that I am a very companionable one. There is not the slightest egotism in me. I do not consider that I am cut out to guide the destinies of Australia. I wish to help Australia. If, remaining independent of party, I am able to do anything to justify the confidence of the people who trusted me, and sent me hero, I shall be very glad. Since I entered this House, I have been tryingto get things into focus, and to find out how political worth is appraised. I have heard some wonderful oratory here, and I have said to myself, “ If the usefulness of honorable members is to be tested by their powers of oratory, I am gone.” I have heard some remarkably eloquent speeches, and I have said to myself : “ If honorable members are to be tested by their eloquence, then, I must be counted out on that score.” I have thought that criticism is desired, but I dislike destructive criticism. I do not want to be like Mrs. Fagan’s goat, which was only useful because it was a nuisance. If that is the only way in which I can be useful I do not intend to remain in this Parliament. If I cannot serve Australia by assisting to realize some of her great ideals, I shall not stay in this Chamber, much as I like honorable members. Possibly I should explain exactly what I mean by Mrs. Pagan’s goat. Mrs. Fagan lived in my native town. She had a goat. Nobody could see anything good in that old goat. It was ugly, useless, and vicious, and it had other bad qualities too numerous to mention. We could not understand why Mrs. Fagan would not get rid of it. So far from attempting to do that, she cared for it like a mother would care for her bairns. One day one of the neighbours asked Mrs. Fagan, “ Why do you keep that old goat? It is an awful thing to have around the place.” Mrs. Fagan replied, “ Och, I would not sell it for love nor money. It keeps peace in the home.” She was asked how it kept the peace. She replied, “ It keeps Mr. Fagan so busy settling quarrels with the neighbours that he has no time to get drunk or do other worse things.” I can promise honorable members that I do not intend to be like Mrs. Fagan’s goat. If the only way in which I can do something useful is by being a nuisance I shall soon be missing. I do not intend to become an obstructionist, or to indulge in recrimination. I shall not impute improper motives to honorable members. If I find fault at all it will be because I believe that what I say is true. I have come here as an Independent, and I intend to remain so. I am here to help Australia. If honorable members can show me how I can best help, I shall be delighted to accept their advice. If they cannot show me, or if I cannot find the way myself, I have no desire to remain here. I regret that I have had to spend so much time on making an explanation to the Committee, but my ambiguous position seemed to demand it. I assure honorable members that I shall not become a party man until party tactics change. I would rather go right out of politics than become a strong party man under present conditions. I had some remarkable experiences during my election campaign which proved to me how biased people can become when they are obsessed with party ideas. One night I must have delivered what was an exceptionally good speech for me, because after the meeting a gentleman who was in the audience came to me and said, “ I badly want to support you, but I cannot.” I was rather surprised to hear him say that he wanted to support me and yet he could not. I asked him why he could not. He replied, “ Because I am a Nationalist.” As he said that he puffed his chest out like a pouter pigeon. I do not mean that remark to be derogatory to the Nationalist party. I am simply stating what happened. He also remarked, “ You see you have said that you have no party preferences at all, and you might even follow the Labour party.” The idea shocked him. I replied, “ I shall vote for measures which I believe to be in the best interests of the country. I shall not care from whence they come.” He asked me, “ Supposing the Labour party introduced some measure which you thought would be wholly and solely in the interests of Australia, would you support it?” I replied, “ I would catch hold of it with both hands, and do my level best to put it through the Parliament.” He said, “ There you are !. You would play right into the hands of the Labour party.” I replied, “No, no, no! I would be playing right into the hands of Australia.” That is just my position. I believe the bias of party is a dangerous thing to this country, and that it is luring lis in the wrong direction. I intend to support all measures which I believe to be in the interests of Australia, even if they should come from my honorable friend the member for East Sydney (Mr. West), notwithstanding that he has been drumming his ideas into my ears to such a degree that I can hardly stand up.
– You are a man after my own heart !
– I ask honorable members to believe that I make these remarks in all seriousness.
– Oh yes, we do.
– I do not say it Because he is a Nationalist, nor even because he is our Prime Minister. I have given some consideration to the Prime Minister’s antecedents. Personally, I am a Democrat, and a bit of a Socialist. I have always had great sympathy with people who have had to struggle. But I think that the Prime Minister is the right man to go to the Imperial Conference for the following reasons: Tho two most important questions with which he will have to deal concern trade and defence. I should say that his inherited commercial instincts and business training should enable him to render Australia very valuable assistance hi connexion with, one of these questions, and his war experience should represent an asset to Australia in his handling of the other. Those are reasons why I think the Prime Minister is the right man for the job. I have been discussing with various members, whom I have learned to respect very much, the matter of the closing of Parliament whilst the Prime Minister is away. I may say thatI have learned to respect every member with whom I have come into contact so far, and I have been greatly surprised at the earnest desire, as far as I can judge, which animates honorable members generally to do their best for Australia. I did not expect that when I came here first. I have been told that all politicians are time-servers, and I find that they are not. I am satisfied that many honorable members, even though they have not a free leg, are a fine type of men, and Australia should derive great benefit from their services. Their division into parties is bad, because it influences them at times to support proposals in which they do not altogether believe, and to say things about the members of rival parties which they would not say but for their desire to push their own party’s interests. I think this is a great pity. I do not see how anything else is possible under the party system, and I cannot blame honorable members in the circumstances. I cannot for the life of me see why this Parliament should be closed because the Prime Minister is going to the Old Country. I have been trying to get light on the matter. I have discussed it with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and with several of the brainy men in my corner. They have many reasons to urge why the Parliament should be closed, and they may be right and I, a new chum to Parliament, may be wrong. I have reasoned the matter in this way : I cannot see how we can be an important body of men if our services can be done without for forty weeks out of the fifty-two.
– T - The people will think in that way, too.
– I never consider what the people think about me. I never have done so, and I never will. So far as I am personally concerned, it would bc better for me to be at home than to be here. I have nothing to gain by being here, unless it is to learn something and pick up a few good ideas from brainier men than myself. I was going down the street the other day and saw two men mending the road. One said to the other, “ I say, Bill, the ‘ shop ‘ at the top of the hill is closing down again for about six months.” “Oh!” said the other, “Talk about the go-slow policy, they can give us points.” The first man said, “I see that some member of the House has been advocating the system of paying members according to the number of hours they sit. “Would you recommend it ? “ and the second replied, “I don’t think I would, because they would all go broody.”
– And hatch nothing.
– I might mention in this connexion a little incident that happened to myself. I thought I was a very important man in my own little way. I have a business which I built up myself, and which is part of my being. I really thought I was indispensable to it. I contested the Fremantle seat because of a pledge I had given, since I have no great ambition to be a politician, and I suppose I can never be a statesman, though now I am here I will have a cut at it. When I won the seat I was very much concerned about my business affairs. My eldest sons, who would have been left in charge of the business, had they come back from the war, are dead. I had to leave it in charge of a son of about twenty years of age, a great tall fellow 6 ft. 2 in. in height. I have a number of old employees. They are old friends and “ cobbers “ of mine, and when I was coming away they asked me to meet them at a certain hour to say good-bye. I did so, and they presented me with a token of respect which I shall cherish to the last breath I draw. They appointed one of their number to give an address, and he gave a much better address than I could give. In that he said, “ We have had the idea that you will be very much concerned about your business affairs during your absence. We have had a meeting, and have pledged ourselves individually and collectively to do better work during your absence, so that you need have no worries concerning your own affairs whilst you are battling for your country’s interests.” I am not saying this to give the impression that I am a great man, hut merely as an illustration j and events have shown, as far as my business is concerned, that I might have been elected to Parliament long ago. I wish to tell the Prime Minister that if he trusts the members of this Parliament, on his return he will find them a homogeneous body who have cut out all the party humbug, and are working together in the interests of tlie country. If there is a member of the Committee, I do not care to what party he belongs, who would make political trouble while the Prime Minister is trying to watch Australia’s interests abroad under difficult conditions, I say he is not fit to be here. I can tell the right honorable gentleman that while he is away I shall be prepared to fight to keep things going in order, and I should not care how much I had to sacrifice to do that. The right honorable gentleman will carry with him my very best wishes. I hope he will come back crowned with success for this country and satisfaction to himself, and I can wish him no more.
– Does the honorable member think that the Prime Minister will come back?
– I should like him vo come back, and as Stanley Melbourne Bruce. I do not care for remote people. I think that very often a man who has ability and patriotism, and using it in the interests of his country, is spoiled by a title. I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will come back as Stanley Melbourne Bruce, and that we shall then get round him and help to pull Australia out of the mud.
– The honorable member is putting ideas into the Prime Minister’s head that he never had before.
– No, I am not. One of the most difficult matters with which the right honorable gentleman will have to deal is trade. I have said that his commercial ‘instincts and business training should be of value to him at the Conference in dealing with trade matters. I have myself had a little to do with trade, and I say there is no sentiment in trade and business. It would, perhaps, be better if there were, and better also if there were more sentiment in politics. If we are going to pay our interest bill and make provision for paying off our national debt we must find markets, and mighty big markets, too. The Prime Minister knows that, and Australia’s interests in that regard will be safe in his hands. It is necessary to be very careful in arranging trade matters. Down through history trade has been a fruitful source of difficulties and wars. I am an Empire man, absolutely loyal to the back-bone. I think we all are. But I say that whilst preferential trade within the Empire sounds all right, and may be a very good thing in many ways, we should not lose sight of the fact that no country can live altogether to itself.
– Drive that in.
– Oh, no ! This is not Free Trade, sir.
– A well-merited rebuke.
– I did not intend it as a rebuke, but as a statement of fact. I should be very pleased if the Empire could be entirely self-contained; but if we tried to live to ourselves altogether other nations might wish to have a say in the matter. I do not wish to refer to this matter further. It is safe in the bands of the Prime Minister.
I come next to the question of defence, and I want to say here, and now, thatI hate and abominate war. There are not many men in the community who have a greater reason than I have to hate war. I will go still further, and say, I think, without being egotistical, that I would make as big sacrifices to prevent war as any other man. But I have not the sublime faith in human nature that some people seem to have. I wish I could have it. I wish I could believe that we need not trouble about defence, that we could devote all our energies and money to the development of this country. I fear w-e shall not find human nature quite so conciliatory. I once discussed this question with the best-informed man I ever associated with - unless there is somebody here whom I do not personally know. I was a little laddie at the time, and I remember saying, “ There will be no more brutal wars; civilization has reached a point at which war is impossible.” He said, “ Get that out of your mind. Civilization is a veneer, and only a veneer, and beneath it is brutal man.” I replied, “ Well, if there ever is a war it will be fought on humane lines; human nature is loo refined now to descend to the brutal methods of the past.” To that he answered, “ The next war will be just as brutal as the old wars, just as brutal as human ingenuity can make it; and pray God that it may never come in your time.” Little did I dream that I would live to see the most atrocious, awful, fiendish war, and that my family would take such a tragic part in it. I am no warmonger or scaremonger, but I say that it is just as well to be ready. I would not for a moment agree to anything in the nature of aggression, but we should do our level best to be prepared to defend this glorious country which is our heritage. I remember once, years before the war, discussing the question with a German with whom I had large business relations. True, when the war broke out and my sons went away to take part in it, that German and I separated mighty quick. I can say, however, that he was a very fine fellow, and I have nothing but good recollections of the man. He was well-informed, and used to bring forward argument after argument in support of the view that war was impossible between Germany and England. He declared that England was only wasting money on her Navy. But may not that Navy again be wanted ? I believe we here should prepare, so that if danger should come, though we hope it will not, we shall be ready. Whether submarines or aeroplanes form the best defence, I cannot say; that is a matter for the few experts among us.
Now I come to the question of foreign relations. I assure honorable members that I have enjoyed myself listening to their speeches on this subect. As I listened I thought that if I could only know as much as did the speakers what a well-informed man I would be. Foreign relations are a most remarkable business. Apparently, the Prime Minister is expected to arrange that we shall be consulted on every little detail. That, of course, is impossible; but I think we should be consulted quickly and openly, if at any time foreign relations are likely to seriously affect Australia. Long before there is any possibility of our being dragged into war, we, and the people generally, should know all the facts - everything should be done in the open. But while we worry so much about external relations, would it not be well if we directed our attention a little more to internal matters? After all. a nation is but a conglomerate of individuals - a number of homes. We have to get down to homely similes in talking on a subject like this. My experience teaches me that a man who does not make his home his first consideration and affection will not have a very good one; so a woman who is always chasing about telling other women what they ought to do, or - I am sorry to say it - doing a little backbiting, leaves her own home to go to pieces. Similarly, foreign relations are very much affected by internal relations. If Ave could cut out a lot of our discord-
– Mind our own business !
– Yes, mind our own jolly business. If we could do this, our foreign relations would be so much the better. Everybody respects the homeloving man, the home-loving woman, and the home-loving family. If we all had that home love, and had less internal discord and conflict, we should be respected and honoured by others, and have a better chance of reciprocity in foreign relations. And the first thing to cut out is party politics.
As to immigration, we all agree that we should, as soon as possible, secure a large, a white, and a virile population. The trouble seems to be that we are not ready to receive immigrants. During the election campaign I said that our asking immigrants to come here at the present time was very much like asking a man home to dinner when one was going to have a row with his wife. Here in Australia there is so much quarrelling and bickering, and so much division, that, apparently, we have no time to make any provision for immigrants. No matter how fine your dinner, your house, and your lawns may be, if there is a domestic tiff, your visitor will be sorry he came.. We have 3,000,000 square miles of territory, nearly all with possibilities of one sort or another. We have 5,500,000 people occupying a few thousand square miles, and exploiting one another. We are all waiting for the unearned increment, rack-renting one another, and combining against one another.
– Hear, hear !
– And honorable members opposite are not altogether faultless. We have room in Australia for many millions of immigrants. Australia could, I suppose, easily maintain a population of 100,000,000 under proper conditions.
But with conditions as they are to-day I do not think that we can absorb immigrants. It is my experience that a great number of the people who are being brought here arc not suitable. Since I have been a member of this House I have heard - and I expect it is true; at any rate, as true as most statements - that £5 commission is paid on each immigrant. Whether this commission is paid to the shipping companies or to agents, or why or how it is paid, I do not know. What I do know is that if this be the practice it ought to be stopped. We do not wish to buy immigrants; if we cannot make this country sufficiently attractive without paying such commissions, we do not want immigrants. If it is known that £5 per head is paid for immigrants, numbers of men will be found ready and willing to find them. These agents may be honest up to a point; excuses are easily found if £5 is “ hanging to’ it.” An agent, we may suppose, would look at a prospective immigrant, and say, “ The man is not much, he is hardly suitable in a way ; he is a poor weakling, and his habits are not altogether frugal or pleasing; but when he gets to Australia the- beautiful climate may invigorate him. - and, after all, it is not much of a man that is not worth £5 “ ! That seems to me to be about the position, and the possibilities are that under such conditions we shall get unsuitable immigrants. Let me, in this connexion, tell honorable members a story of my early days, when there was no gaol in Castlemaine - my home town - the nearest being in Melbourne. Three Chinamen were convicted for gold stealing. There were few policemen in those days; whenever any trouble arose, a blue jumper and cap were clapped on a man and he became a policeman for the time being. When the trouble was over, he became an ordinary citizen again. Two men were commissioned to convey the Chinamen to Melbourne, and were to be paid so much a head for the work. At the first wayside inn - at Kyneton - the three Chinamen were left outside while their custodians went in for a drink. When they came out again the Chinamen were gone. This, however, did not daunt the temporary policemen, for they arrested the first three Chinamen they could lay their hands on, and brought them on to Melbourne. This may sound humorous, but there was a little of tlie tragic about it also. No doubt these custodians salved their consciences by saying that all Chinamen were foreigners and rogues, and ought to be in gaol anyhow. It seems to me that something of the same spirit might creep into this commission arrangement in regard to immigrants. Honorable members seem amused, but I can assure them that I am not in the slightest trying to be funny. I am telling exactly what happened. Possibly the shipping companies divide the commission with the agents; and I hope that the Prime Minister, when he goes to England, will stop the practice. If this be not the practice I am sorry to have said what I have, but as so many have spoken of it, it must exist, and it is a’ disgrace to Australia. I have been the means of obtaining positions for a good many immigrants and of placing many on the land. Some appeared to me from the first to promise absolute failure. I knew one man, who though he could hardly be called an immigrant, had £300 when he arrived. He acquired a farm at Bruce Rock, and there took in a partner - a foolish thing to do. He did not know much about farming; he had been a music hall artist and could sing, not very well, but, perhaps, a little better than I can, which is not saying much. His partner also knew very little about farming, but a good deal about tho public-house, and, as he had no money, the two of them were soon stranded. “1. am relating this story to illustrate how a man can “bog” through all sorts of difficulties, and ultimately make good in Australia. The story is absolutely true, and the lesson it teaches may be useful to others. The farm plant was seized, but the ex-music hall artist was not evicted, because he had nowhere to go. Later lie reached Perth by some means; probably he stowed away in the train. He was a very fine-looking young chap, but very delicate. In Perth he commenced to sing in the streets, and on tho first night collected 15s. - not because he was a wonderful singer, but because there was a certain amount of pathos in his appearance and earnestness in his begging, and, perhaps, the people did not care to listen to him for long. “With that 15s. he bought groceries and sent them immediately to his wife and kiddies. He was content to sleep in the park. After a few weeks the singing business became a bit dull, but he continued it as long as he could, until he had practically lost his voice, and then his income stopped. He next turned up at a blacksmith’s shop, where he borrowed a set of small truck wheels and an axle. From my shop in Perth he begged a bacon box, and with this and the wheels he produced a truck. In Western Australia there is a shrub known as the grass tree, or blackboy, the resinous butt of which, when dry, makes a very good kindling material, and is sold for ls. per bag. There was no blackboy to be got within 4 miles of the city, but this fellow pushed his truck out into the country and drugged it back over that distance. He was to be seen early every morning coming into the city with a load, and the proceeds from his sales he applied to the maintenance of his wife and family. Then somebody gave him a brumby. Brumbies are very plentiful in Western Australia; honorable members will probably judge that from the class of representatives that the electors of the State send to this Parliament. He obtained a bit of harness, which with wire, rope, and string, he made more or less serviceable. He then transferred the wheels and axle to a bigger box. About the management of horses he knew nothing - hardly ou which end of the animal to put the collar. I have a paddock about 5 miles from Fremantle, and one day this fellow walked into my establishment and asked me if I would sell him the blackboy in it. I asked him who he was and what he was doing, and having heard his history, I told him he could have the blackboy for nothing and that the land would be well rid of it. From that time onwards I followed his career closely, and later I employed him. He continued to fight through difficulty after difficulty, notwithstanding that he had to support a wife and six delicate children. One of them I personally carried into hospital, when she was supposed to’ be dying ; but she is a fine healthy girl to-day. In the midst of his other worries he developed lung trouble. At that time he was in my employ, and the doctor who attends to my employees said, “ His lungs are touched ; send him to a sanitorium and he will get better.” He was in the sanitorium for nine months, and on being discharged did not return to my employ. He said that an uncle at Home had died and left him “ a fortune.” I naturally concluded that it amounted to a few thousand pounds at least, but I subsequently found out that “ the fortune “ was a mere £80. With that money he bought a horse and dray and a little block of land in the district in which I live. On that he erected a house, which was as awkward a structure as one could ever wish to see, for he knew even less about building than he knew about farming or managing horses. But through all his troubles he battled on, and to-day he owns two blocks of land, a small house, and a fine horse and cart. One daughter is a school teacher - and a fine girl she is, too - and a fifteen-year -old son is doing well and bringing money into the home. Altogether this man is a fine citizen and a credit to Australia. The moral of this little story is that we should not condemn the new arrival too readily. I have observed a number of immigrants who, I am certain, will not face, difficulties as this man did; but we must not condemn any of them until they have been given a chance. Ninety-nine persons out of 100 would have condemned the music hall artist as an impossible immigrant, and he would not have had a chance. But he had grit and won through, and there is not a finer citizen in Australia to-day.
Sitting suspended from 6. SO to S p.m.
– During the recent election campaign I was asked to give my views on the Government’s taxation proposals. I stated that I was not an expert on finance, and could not give an opinion which was worthy of consideration. But I told my interrogators that one taxing authority would be an excellent innovation. We are all agreed upon that. It is not so bad to have one man putting his hand into your pocket as to have two, as at present in connexion with directtaxation. There is a very good principle that those who have the spending of money should have the onus placed upon them of collecting it, and I go further and say that if possible it would be a great deal better if every one who had the spending of money had to earn it.
– There is common sense in that statement.
– The sooner we realize that, the more quickly shall we arrive at economy and effective spending.
The overlapping of Arbitration Court awards is bad. At present two Arbitration Courts may make awards for the same industry, with disastrous results. I shall give an illustration. Last year some members of the Engineers Society in Western Australia applied to the Federal Arbitration Court for anew award. Other members did not desire to do so. The Federal Arbitration award gave the men less money and longer hours, with which principle I do not agree. Under the State award the men were getting more money and fewer hours. At the State Implement Works, two men working side by side would be employed under separate conditions - one under the Federal award and the other under the State award. Of course, trouble arose. The men asked to be allowed to continue under the State award, which would expire in about six months from that time. The employers took an injudicious stand; they were legally right and morally wrong. They said, “ No, you asked for this award, and you will have to abide by it. ‘ ‘ The result was that these men would not work, and for six months a number of engineers in the West were out of employment, and, of course, their homes were destitute. There is too much of the “ get back at you “ spirit shown by both the employers and the employees; but the former can afford to show tolerance, although frequently they do not. The employers of labour and wealthy people generally should realize that they are the custodians of the public weal, and should therefore show tolerance to those working under them. I used not to do it, but my opinion changed as I grew older. Like wine, we improve. As I get older I get a truer perspective, and am able to focus my mind on the other man’s, view. 1 can best illustrate my meaning with a story. Back in my native place a man named Pat Egan obtained a contract to cart blue metal. One day I met him stuck on the road with a big load of metal. He had a leader and a shafter. and he was akimbo across the stones, with reins in one hand and whip in the other. He was calling the horses “ spalpeens “ and using language not within my vocabulary. I was young, green, and unsophisticated. I said, “ Look here, Mr. Egan, don’t you think that you had better get down and give a lift at the wheel ?” Being in a bad humour, he replied, “ Will you repeat that.” I said, “ If you get down and give a lift at one wheel and I give one at the other, we may be of some use; the trouble is that the horses plunge forward and then back, and the wheels are sinking farther into the bog.” He replied, “Can’t you see that while the beasts, are beneath me they have a just appreciation of their inferiority, and while I am above them I assert my superiority; if I get down beside them they will take me for an equal, and divil a bit will they pull.” Ultimately, he had to. get down, and I helped him to unload the blue metal. If we do nob realize our responsibilities to one another and to our country, there will come a time when the State carriage will be stuck iu the social bog. Now is the time to get down and give a lift at the wheel.
I have now a very unpleasant duty to perform. From what I heard last session I was under the impression that the sugar position was serious. I was told by some people that the sugar-growers received too much for their produce, and that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were profiteering, and others denied it. During the recess, I took the opportunity to visit Queensland. I thought the best thing to do was to follow the advice which was given to me when a lad by an old man, which was something to this effect : ‘ ‘ As you get older, laddie, you will find that it will not be wise to believe anything that you hear, and you must accept only half of that which you see.” I went to Brisbane, and came into contact with fairly large users of sugar. They knew me, but did not know my purpose. I admit that I was a sort of private detective. I found the human element in Brisbane similar to that of Melbourne and Perth. In general conversation, I said, “ What do you think of the sugar agreement?” They were up in arms at once, and stated that it was all wrong, that the sugar-growers were profiteering, that the workers were getting three times too much, and as for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, they were exploiting the people. To shareholders of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company I casually said, “ You are having a. fairly good time.” They replied, “No.” I said, “ Your shares have appreciated in value from £23 15s. to £45.” The reply waa, “It is not too bad, but it might have been better.” I met one man who had retired on the money he had received for sugar lands. I am giving honorable members my experience. I am just as anxious as any of them that the Queensland industry should be maintained, and that white labour should be employed. I am not in favour of killing or injuring any industry. I wish to tell the truth for the sake of Australia. I said to this retired grower, “ What about the sugar-growers?” He said, “ Theirs is a doubtful job, and there is nothing in it.” He informed me that I had no conception of the difficulties associated with the work; but I said that as he had retired he must have done very well out of the land. He thereupon informed me that the Government had no right to fix the price, that they should have prohibited importations, and that if the growers had fixed the price he would have a lot more money than he then had. Later I left for the sugar districts, where I interviewed a land agent, whom I told I was from the south, and was making inquiries concerning the price of sugar land. When I asked him if he had any for sale he replied, “ Not much.” After discussing the question with him, he told me that land was available at £35 per acre, but if I required anything like a good block for sugar-growing it would cost from £80 to £120 per acre. I told him that I could not make sugar-growing pay at that price, and, probably because he was an agent and anxious to sell, he said that there would be no difficulty in that respect. When I told him that the Government were not going to renew the sugar agreement I expected him to say that sugar land would be available at £8 to £10 an acre ; but he said that there was no occasion to worry, even if the agreement were not renewed, because there was plenty of money in1 sugar, and that there were more motor cars per head of the population in the sugar districts than in any other part of. Australia. Feeling that it was my duty to consider the matter, I strolled along the road, where I met a man stone-breaking, with whom I had a somewhat lengthy conversation. When I discussed with him the price he was receiving for his labour, I asked him whether it would not pay him better to grow sugar; but he said there was little likelihood of that, as the land was too dear. I then asked him if he could not engage in cane-cutting, because I had been told in Brisbane that men were earning £30 a week at that work. He told me that he was unequal to such laborious work, but that he had two strong, virile sons, who earned on an average £1 per day during the cutting season, which lasts about four months. There are occasions, I know, when the cane-cutters do better, but, taking the season right through, the rate I have quoted is a fair average. He had been in the district for thirty years, and during that time the price of sugar land had increased to a remarkable extent. After I had detained him for quite an hour and a - half, I asked him if he would accept some payment, to which he replied, “ No; I do not want anything.” I could not refrain from telling him that I earned money in a much easier way than he did. He looked wistfully at me and said, “ Are you a politician?” I replied in the affirmative, and asked him if he did not wish he were also one. His answer was, “ No, I do not think I do. I am going home at 5 o’clock. I have brought up a large family, all of whom are good citizens, and after the evening meal the old lady and I sit before the fire and ruminate. To us life is very happy. I have a conscience, and I always feel that I earn what I receive.” I am not suggesting that politicians do not. I am anxious that the sugar industry shall be a success, and if I found that land had depreciated in value I would say so. I found, however, that quite a number of workers were purchasing land at £100 per acre with borrowed money, for which they were paying 15 per cent, interest. What is to become of these unfortunate individuals when the inevitable deflation in values sets in? It is totally against the best interests of the industry to capitalize land beyond its productive capacity. Notwithstanding the information I have received, from what I regarded as reliable sources, I visited the bank with which I have transacted business for thirty-five years, and informed the manager that as I was interested in the sugar business I was anxious to ascertain the actual position. I asked him to wire to the bank’s office in Batavia to ascertain the average price of the best Java sugar over a period of five years. I received a reply, but I did not regard it as final. As I knew a young man going to Java to represent a business firm, I requested him to go very carefully into the matter, and to advise me concerning the true position. -The statement has frequently been mad© that had it not been for the Australiangrown article our consumers would have been compelled to pay much more for sugar during the last five years. I have done my best to ascertain what the position would have been, and from Java I have received the average price for superior head sugar for these years. Superior head sugar is not equal to our 1A sugar. It is good and dry, but is not so granular as is 1A sugar. For four years, viz., 1918-19 to 1921-22, the average price of this sugar, landed in Australian warehouse, duty paid at £9 6s. 8d. per ton, would have been £27” per ton; but for the year 1920 it would have been £57 per ton, duty paid Australia would have paid in the year 1920 approximately 7d. per lb. retail for Java sugar and 3&d. per lb. in the other four years. For the years 1921 and 1922 the Australian people paid, approximately, £4,000,000 more for sugar than the imported sugar would have cost, or about 14s. per head of the population per annum. The experience gained during my trip, has convinced me that a grave mistake has been made, and while I do not accuse those concerned in the Agreement of being actuated by personal or political motives I am satisfied that many industries, particularly fruit-growing, have been unnecessarily penalized, and the people of Australia overcharged. I say that straight out, and I believe there is no one who can deny it, but that will not get us out of the difficulty sugar-growers are faced with in Northern Queensland, because of the high price of sugar land. The net result has been to create an unwholesome and dangerous land boom, and to unduly increase the value of the Colonial Sugar Refining shares, which will prove, in the final result, to be not in the best interests even of the industry. Many people are buying these lands and securities at exorbitant prices, and, in the case of the land often paying abnormal interest, and when the inevitable drop in prices comes these people will suffer severely, and the industry itself will receive a setback. I am satisfied that while the cost of production may be slightly increased by white labour, it is not increased to anything like the extent those interested in the business would have us believe. Owing to the greater efficiency of white labour it is questionable whether the increased cost for refined sugar would be more than £3 or £4 per ton, and possibly not even that. I am convinced that while the Australian people are quite prepared to pay a price for sugar that will enable the growers and refiners to employ white labour at a liberal wage, and still leave the producers a reasonable margin, based on a reasonable price for land, they are not prepared to be exploited to provide big profits for speculators and land boomers.
I have dealt in generalities, and have made what might be called an academic speech. I do not pretend to be a financier, or a man with a subtle brain, but when it is a question of commerce or business I am possibly able to hold my own with some here who have had no business experience. I have tried to tell honorable members what I am, and what they can expect from me. If they think that I can give, them a hand to be of service to the country I shall be glad to do so. In connexion with the sugar business, I thought it mv duty to give clearly the impressions I have formed, and I believe that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) will agree that I have been right in what I have said on this subject.
– I should like the honorable member to say whether the land to which he referred as for sale at a high price had a crop on it that was almost ready for harvesting?
– I - I understand that there was some crop on the land, but it was not ready for harvesting.
– Was there a sugar mill on it?
– Not at all; there waa no sugar mill on it.
– What price was the Commonwealth Government paying for Java sugar when the honorable member said it was worth £57 per ton?
– I gave the average price for the twelve months. I believe that the Commonwealth Government paid more than £57 per ton for Java sugar at the time referred to, but that only proves that the buyers did not know their job. I should not expect many members of the Committee to be able to buy sugar. I suppose there are not more than half-a-dozen of them who know anything about commerce. They may be great’ on high finance, but when it comes down to “ tin tacks “ and the pur* chase of an article, I do not suppose they could buy a suit of clothes to advantage.
I wish now to refer to the matter of preference to returned soldiers. The soldier question is a very dear one to me. There is much talk about preference to returned soldiers. I have had quite a lot to do with soldiers, and more than I hope I shall ever have to do with soldiering again. My experience has been that the true soldier, the real “ Digger,” has not asked for undue preference at all, but for a fair deal. What he says, in effect, is: “I have been away making the world safe for Democracy, fighting and winning a war to end all wars. I have been away for three or four years, and have come back clean out of touch with affairs here, more or less incapacitated, and with nerves disturbed, and alf I ask is that Australia shall give me a chance to get back to civil life again.” Is selling him a little house for £800 or £900, the intrinsic value of which is perhaps from £250 to £300, preference to soldiers? Is it preference to the soldier to go round the country paying landlords prices which ‘ . have enabled them to retire, though the land had been left to them by their parents, and they could not make a living on it? Is it preference to the soldier to charge him £20 to £40 per acre for such land? No; that is not preference to soldiers, and the sooner Australia realizes that many millions must be written off the value of land upon which returned soldiers have been settled the better. An honorable member said the other night that there is no glory in war. Who knows it better than I do ? War is fiendish ; it is hell ! There is no glory in war, but I want to say that there is glory in sacrifice. I have have had experience which has taught me to readjust my ideas with regard to loyalty. I do not call myself a Nationalist to-day, because where we expected to find Nationalism we found corruption. I am not referring now to the National party, but to people who prated of patriotism and loyalty, and, when it came to the pinch, were neither patriotic nor loyal. I know of a family in my little district who were put down as anti-British. I was president of a Relatives’ Association, 1,400 strong, who got together to comfort one another should serious trouble come to any “of them. It was the duty of members to visit others who had lost boys at the Front. One day we got word that Mrs. So-and-so had lost a son. I crawled up to her home, and when the poor old body came to the door I said, “ I have come to tell you how sorry we are, and to ask if there is any service we can render you.” She asked me to come inside, and, when we went into the room, showed me, hanging on the wall, her honour board, the photographs of four sons, all she had in the world, who had gone to the war. The father had understated his age to secure enlistment, and had gone to the Front. His photograph was in the centre between those of the four sons. The photograph of the youngest son was on the right-hand side, and as the old mother fixed her eyes on her boy, every maternal instinct in her was shaken. I said, “ My God, I wish I could help you in your trouble, but I cannot.” She straightened up her old back and, fixing her eyes on her hoy’s picture, she went over every incident of his life, the first words he lisped, the first steps he took, his growth, from the puny infant in her arms to the rosy-cheeked lad, and so up to the strong young man who put his hand on her shoulder and said, “ Mother, I have enlisted.” Then she said, “ I do not want your help, Mr. Watson. He died for his country. He could not do more, and I am satisfied.” I will finish with that. There is a glory in such conduct as that. I do not care whether a war is just or unjust, I say that the man who has anything to do with promulgating war is a devil. But that does not detract in the least from the glory of sacrifice.
.- We have listened with great interest to the admirable speech and entertaining wit contributed to the debate by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson). I wish to refer to certain responsibilities born of the war that Australia has to shoulder, and involves our international relationships. At the Versailles Peace Conference the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) pressed for, and accepted, on behalf of Australia, responsibility for a Mandate to govern certain islands in the Pacific. We do not fully realize the obligations the Mandate imposes upon us. I feel that it is not altogether a matter for congratulation that Australia has been given this Mandate, because all our energies and resources are required for the development of our own continent. It would have been more to the advantage of Australia if the right honorable member for North Sydney had accepted the view of President Woodrow Wilson when he proposed the internationalization of these islands, and that responsibility for their administration should be imposed upon a group of nations rather than upon one. The right honorable member was prepared to sacrifice Australia to some extent in order that he might be able to bring back some prize in the form of a practical annexation, which may yet involve us in international difficulties, because the Mandate for a “group of islands a little north of the equator has been given to another nation to satisfy and equalize concessions in the Pacific. This has brought a nation concerning whom certain fears have been expressed, at least 2,000 miles nearer. I think that a greater measure of security would have’ been afforded to Australia if the right honorable member, as the Prime Minister and representative of the Commonwealth, had been prepared to accept the proposal for the internationalization of these Mandated Territories.
– And have the same results as have occurred in the New Hebrides ?
– However, we have the responsibilities, and we must honorably face the situation. The determination of the Government to make the revenue of the Mandated Territory suffice for the expenditure on administration and developmental work is ridiculous and unworkable. I was there twelve months ago and I saw the difficulties under which the Administration labours. In the last year prior to the war, Germany contributed from the Imperial Exchequer, £120,000 as a subsidy; and yet in a period of transition, when there is great difficulty in marketing copra, which is the chief product, we expect the revenue to meet all expenditure. In the case of Papua, a subsidy is provided, in order to finance developmental undertakings and afford protection to native life, thus enhancing the credit and reputation of Australia.
During my visit, in May and June last year, the Administration was negotiating for a loan from the Commonwealth Government, but it was only in the early part of this year, or some eight months later, that officials from the Territory were able, I understand, to finalize an arrangement for accommodation. Such facts as these do not add to the good name or reputation of Australia, but only prove that we are not realizing to the full the responsibilities we accepted under the Mandate. It seems to me that the Mandate will prove more of a millstone than a blessing to us, for if we ai-e to administer it satisfactorily we must be prepared to expend money that at present we can ill alford.
The local Administration suffers from disadvantages other than financial. The housing accommodation, in Rabaul in particular, is by no means satisfactory. Owing to -this, the officials sent there were obliged to leave their wives and families in Australia, and were thus called upon to bear the expense of keeping up two homes. This is a matter which gives the Public Service of the Territory much concern, and they are most anxious that the Government shall make better provision for them. Then there are the European children to consider. Certain Ordinances regarding provision for their education have been issued since my visit, but I doubt whether a full measure of justice has been done in this respect. There are just twice as many Asiatics as people of European origin in the Territory. The Asiatic children have their own schools iu Chinatown, and the natives are able, to some extent, to receive education at the various mission stations. But for European children, however, there were no educational facilities at all.
There is a very genuine complaint as to the unsatisfactory character of the shipping services. Burns, Philp and Company have a complete monopoly of the trade of the islands, and the natives have named the firm the “ pirates of the Pacific.” Burns, Philp and Company, in the matter of contracts, seem able to turn the Government in any way most suitable to the firm’s own ends, much to the inconvenience and dissatisfaction of the island community. More frequent mail and passenger services are required, and, under the circumstances, the Govern ment ought to seriously consider the advisability of utilizing some of the idle Commonwealth ships.
Complaint was also made about delays, in the gazetting of mining and land’ Ordinances. . Delays and difficulties havethe effect of bringing the administration, absolutely to a stand-still. If this iscontinued, it can only bring discredit on the Commonwealth ‘Government, and severely damage Australian prestige: Matters relating to native labour conditions, also expropriated properties, will because of absolute need for brevity require to be left until another occasion. I regret that the present Government has not seen its way to follow the example of ‘ the previous Government, and appoint a Minister or UnderSecretary to be absolutely responsible for the administration. The work is quite onerous and important enough to call for the services of a man able to devote to it the whole of his time and oversight. The previous Government set aside a Minister-
– He was “ set aside “ all right!
– He He was ; but not in the manner I desire. When the previous Government made that appointment, the people of the islands were very much encouraged, for it gave them some hope for the future. However, the present Government evidently are not seized of their duty to these people in such distant parts. There is occasion for great concern; and I hope that the Government, before it is too late, will revert to the former arrangement, I welcome the suggestion that members of this Parliament may be afforded every opportunity during the recess to visit and make themselves familiar with these new possessions under the custody of Australia by a mandate from the League of Nations. It is the duty of every member to personally investigate and survey the vast Territory under their care.
I should like to say a word or two of the administration as it affects the native population. A visitor to the Territory must regard the native,* and his position in life, from a different angle from that taken in Australia. Here, the attitude towards the natives of the Pacific is not altogether sympathetic. We are committed to the admirable policy of a White
Australia and we realize that the intrusion of Pacific natives into the Commonwealth would be most undesirable.- Upon this we insist and will not compromise. A visitor to the black man in his own country must look at the black man from his stand-point; we have to adopt an attitude of greater interest in his wellbeing and protection in his own country.
Of all the white man’s enterprises in the Pacific Islands, none has proved more worthy, or reflected greater credit on the white race, than that of Christian missions. But there is some unfairness associated with the affairs of the missions and the natives of which we should take notice. I shall relate the circumstances of one case which was brought to my attention. A native girl, stated by the missionaries recorded in the baptismal register, and, I am informed, supported by Dr. Brent, to be eighteen years of age., and by the Administration to be under sixteen years of age, was working at a mission station, and receiving education. In accordance with native custom, she had been sold by her parents to a native, whose wife 6he therefore became. When a native desires to marry a girl, he bargains with the parents for her, and if an understanding is arrived at, she passes into his possession after certain payments have been made. The girl’s wishes in many instances are not consulted at all. This girl had by her association with the mission acquired a higher standard of civilization than prevailed in her native village, and when her husband, or purchaser, claimed her, she was not prepared to go with him. All this time, so the mission authorities intimate, the girl was given every freedom to take the course she desired, and she sought the protection of the Mission. The native thereupon complained to the district officer at Kaewieng, who wrote to the mission, and demanded that the girl be handed over to her native husband. He set out the following reasons why the girl should be required to go back to the primitive village life, and forego all opportunity of furthering her interest in the Mission, and. progressing towards a civilized and Christian life -
I have carefully investigated the above case, and find as follows: -
The Mary is apparently well under sixteen, and therefore cannot be held at your Mission without the consent of her parents. (Such consent should have been obtained in the first place, vide N.L.O., section 62 (1), and (1) (a) Amendment, 1921.)
The Mary admits her parents wish the marriage to take place.
She has been bought and paid for according to native custom by her prospective husband.
The fact as to whether she is willing ot not is immaterial.
Although under sixteen, she has reached the age of puberty, and is fit for marriage according to native custom. .
The fact as to what religious marriage ceremony takes place (if any) does not affect the matter, my duty being to take cognizance of native marriage only, the religious portion (if any) not being material.
I take particular exception to paragraph 4. Although the officer stated that the girl was still under the control of her parents, he still considered her the property of the husband who had bought her, and demanded that she be handed over. Upon the matter being referred to the Administrator, in Rabaul, he upheld the district officer’s decision. However, to overcome the difficulties in this case, he said, in the course of a letter to the missionaries, on the 28th December, 1921-
In the case of Mananok, I have decided that, although she does not come under category No. 2, she will be handed over to the district officer, who Swill act as her guardian for three months, at the end of which period the case will be again referred to me.
Category No. 2 included “ the native who had reached a certain stage towards habits of life and education similar to an Asiatic or European.” A series of three groups that the Administrator admitted in his correspondence should govern marriage among natives. Notwithstanding that he had undertaken that the girl would be handed over to the district officer for three months, at the end of which the case would again come up for review,, the Administrator wrote to the Mission on the 18th January, 1922-
Since writing my reply of the 28th ultimo, I have received a further radio from the district officer Kaewieng, advising me that Mananok states that she was at the Mission for one year only, and is now living with her parents at their village. In view of the short time Mananok was with the Mission, and as she has elected to return to her people and the pure native life, the intention to hand her over to the district officer, as expressed in the last paragraph of my letter of the 28th ultimo, will not now be carried out.
That means that this girl has been forced to accept a marital relationship which was repugnant to her. There are contradictions in the facts presented by the Administration and the Mission respectively. I consider that whilst it is desirable to observe native customs, any native girl who embraces a higher standard of life, through the opportunities afforded her by a mission, should nob be forced back into the primitive village life, and above all that every man or woman, whether native or otherwise, should have a full and free choice to determine their wish in any marriage contract to which they are required to be a party. Mr. Cardew, who is in charge of native affairs in the Mandated Territories, is a most capable and sympathetic officer, and we are fortunate in having the services of a gentleman of his undoubted ability and valued experience; but, unfortunately, he has not the administrative power that he should have. Too many cases, such as the one I have mentioned, are dealt with by the Administrator or his secretary, who cannot, perhaps, appreciate the difficulties involved as could a more experienced officer like Mr. Cardew. When I protested to the Administration in Rabaul against certain undesirable features of the case I have related, I was coolly told that I did not “ think sufficiently black “ upon these matters. It is regrettable that time will not permit me to place on record the full correspondence, but I advise members to peruse the departmental file dealing with this case, which I have endeavoured honestly to briefly record. I desire that the people in the Mandated Territories, whether they be white, black, or brown, should receive the most humane treatment, and that wise administration will add to their comfort and progress, and give added lustre to the international prestige of Australia. I hope that the administration in future will not be such as to cast doubt upon the sincerity of the Commonwealth in professing to administer the affairs of the Islands with sympathy and justice.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) on his maiden speech this evening, and we ourselves are to be congratulated upon having amongst us a new member who is undoubtedly sincere and full of courage, and resolved to do his utmost to insure that the legislation of this Parliament shall be in the interests of the whole of the people. The honorable member certainly has made a name for himself to-night, and I am confident that the people in Western Australia have in him a true friend and helper.
It is hardly necessary to impress upon the Government the need for further economy in administration. We cannot ignore the great increase that has taken place in the public debt, and the fact that during the next few years large sums of loan money will have to be converted at a. higher rate of interest than the Commonwealth has paid previously. That will necessitate not only economy, but higher taxation. With increased borrowing and a heavier interest bill, in addition to sinking funds, the Commonwealth will have a very big liability to meet, and we must slow down in expenditure, and try to develop our industries in such a way that we may be able to honour our obligations. I regret that honorable members opposite, while finding so much cause for criticism in connexion with the Government’s trading operations, are yet continually urging them to persevere in those transactions. I hope that the Government will shut down entirely on trading, operations. It is manifestly unjust bo the taxpayer that the people’s money should be invested in industries that will compete with the enterprises of the men who are paying the taxation. And when the conduct of huge business concerns is intrusted to public officials who have had no special training for that class of work, it is not surprising that they do not prove successful. There have been numerous attempts at State trading in the States as well as in the Commonwealth, and nearly every one has proved a failure. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will withdraw from such enterprises.
– We are doing our best.
– I am quite content with what the Government have done in regard to trading operations, including the Commonwealth Shipping Line. I realize that it would be wrong at this moment to endeavour to dispose of all the ships in the Government fleet. I should have been glad to see the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers disposed of even at a loss. Yet I can quite understand the Government wishing to continue it under the management of a Board. The Shipping Line might hf successful if political influence were not exercised in its control, but, fi om experience, I know that to be impossible. One Minister may have good intentions, but the, next wishing to get a good name will allow political influence to become rampant, and the trading concern may go to the dickens.
– The best thing is to keep it out of the Shipping Combine.
– The venture will be absolutely useless if it joins the Shipping Combine.
– Does not the honorable member consider it will assist the primary producer to market his produce ?
– No No. This Parliament will have granted so many concessions, such as high rates of wages and improved working conditions, that the Line will be unable to compete with private companies trading with the Old Country, and paying much lower rates of wages.
– The Commonwealth vessels will be made safe for travellers.
– They will not be made safe. If I had time I would show the need for the reform of the industrial affairs of this country. We live in a fool’s paradise, and the sooner we realize it, and place this country in a position to compete with other countries, the better. Generally, I compliment the Government on the Budget, although I have one complaint to make concerning it. A mistake has been made in placing one or two items in the expenditure of last year for which no authority has yet. been given. Concerning the Tariff Board, things are being done to-day outside the responsibility of Parliament, which under its control would never have happened. I am always prepared to give way to the decision of Parliament; but we should demand the absolute control of the public purse. This is essential, because we have a recollection of the large expenditure incurred by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), without first submitting proposals to Parliament. During the war in many cases this was necessary, but it is not so now. No large commitments should be made without Parliament being first consulted.
We are all agreed that there should be one tax-collecting authority in Australia, and that either the State or the Federal authorities should collect the income tax, and, if possible, the land tax as well. But whatever action is taken, care must bo given to see that returned soldiers do not suffer. I am doubtful as to the wisdom of dispensing entirely with the per capita payments. There will still be two collecting authorities. It is a mistake to have a separate land tax collecting authority, and arrangements should be made for one authority to take that in hand as well. When Federation took place, a great future was predicted for Australia. We were to get rid of the Customs duties between the States, and there was to be Free Trade throughout Australia. Difficulties of finance arose, and it was decided that for the first ten years the States should receive three-quarters of the total receipts from Customs and Excise. Later the per capita payment was arranged for, whereby the States received 25s. per head of population. A section of unificationists in this Parliament desires to destroy the finances of the States. I am personally a Federalist. The closer home rule is brought to the people the better will be the government. The National. Parliament should deal with national affairs, and social, and local government should bc left as much as possible to the people themselves. The people of Western Australia are very much perturbed because the finances of that State have been greatly disturbed by the high Tariff imposed by the Federal Parliament. Western Australia, which has made the greatest sacrifices in the Federation, is making the greatest effort of all the States to settle people on the land, and one or two very good systems have been adopted. We have been very successful in the south-west of Western Australia., where there are a number of group settlements composed of local men, and men from the Old Country. Subject to certain conditions, they have a great future before them, particularly in regard to markets. The working of the Tariff is greatly hampering their successful settlement. The great majority of the people in Western Australia are Federalists. If there is any desire on the part of the Unificationists, who are associated with the Government, to injure the financial position of the States, Western Australia will make a big effort for secession. During the last few years the people there have become very dissatisfied, and in any agreement which is made between the States and the Commonwealth concerning the finan- cial proposals, care must be taken to see that the States finances are not unduly disturbed. The States provide for the every-day needs of the people. Let us take the enormous revenue of the Commonwealth and analyze it, and ask ourselves how much of this is returned to the people, how much is spent in education and in assisting to get produce to market, to build railways, and to provide other facilities? Outside of ; the Post Office what does the Commonwealth do for the people ?
– There is a large expenditure for defence purposes.
– There is an expenditure on defence, and also a large expenditure in interest on the great war debt. Even before the war the Commonwealth was spending large sums of public money, . and the States received very little assistance for country telegraphic and telephonic communication unless the people concerned agreed to pay for it. 1 wish to congratulate this and former Governments for the efforts they have made, during the past four or five years, to increase the facilities for communication given to the people in the back country.
I am slightly at variance with those advocating the new States movement. They should come out in the open and state whether they wish to build on the Federal or Unification system. Statement after statement has appeared in the press advocating greater powers being given to the Federal Government by an amendment of the. Constitution, to enable the creation of new States. If the Federal system is to be continued, the States will not object to an alteration of their territories to provide for the creation of new States on terms to be approved of by this Parliament. If by this means we could encourage population to the north-west of Western Australia I would welcome such a movement, and do my best to assist it. We would be quite justified in agreeing to the creation of a new State at one of the great outposts of the white people of Australia. I do not think there would be any grave objection from Western Australia; but it is of no use beating about the bush and asking for an amendment of the Constitution that will have no practical effect. Action must be taken within the States. It has been proposed that there shall be certain amendment’s made to the Constitution. In chapter8, under the head of “ Alteration of the Constitution,” it is clearly laid down under what conditions amendments of the Constitution can be made. It is there stated -
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any ‘ State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives,’ or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve of the proposed law.
We cannot alter the original representation of the States in the Federal Houses of Parliament. Parliament has not the power to alter the boundaries of a State without the consent of that State.
– Unless the Constitution is amended.
– It cannot be done even by amending the Constitution. The only method is to repeal the existing Constitution and have a new one framed.
– Does the honorable member think that new States are possible under those conditions?
– If there were sufficient people in the northern part of Western Australia, for instance, to warrant the formation of a new State there would be no objection to a new State being formed if it were constitutionally possible, that is, if the State agreed. The formation of new States would not be the means of destroying our existing industries, but would probably tend to build up other industries. It is not a question of whether we desire new States, as our constitutional powers arc limited.
– The Constitution can beamended.
– The boundaries of an existing State cannot be altered even by means of a referendum unless the approval of that State has first been obtained.
– But the boundaries can be altered if a majority of the people in a particular State agree.
– Yes. This question must be decided in a State Parliament. Other sections of the Constitution can be amended, but the people of that State have to agree before the boundaries of a State can be altered. I have referred briefly to the position inwhich Western Australia is placed under the new financial proposals, and I should like to know whether it is not practicable for the Government to adopt a bookkeeping system for twelve months to show the position in which a particular State is financially placed. Under present conditions Western Australia is contributing enormous sums through the Customs, and is not receiving any commensurate return. We have enormous areas to develop, the wheat belt in Western Australia is larger than the whole of Victoria.
– Is it all under cultivation?
– No, it is in the. early stages of development, and the settlers there, in common with those in other newly-settled areas, are encountering difficulties and expense in obtaining water. Some time ago I made a fairly long trip through the eastern portion of Western Australia, and on several occasions I twitted some of the settlers on the fact that, although they possessed motor cars, the provisions made for water were most primitive. They were carrying on their operations fairly successfully merely because they have obtained high prices for wheat, but the prices realized during recent years are not likely to be maintained. The settlers in the newly-opened areas will have to engage in mixed farming, and should later be able- although it will take some time - to produce butter, milk, cheese, bacon, ham, and fresh and dried fruits. From a large area in Western Australia currants, equal to those produced in any other part of the world, are being exported. It is costing an enormous sum to develop newly-settled areas, because those engaged in the work have to be assisted, and are not like our hardy old pioneers. Their efforts will be attended with success if we can only find markets for their produce. I trust it is not the intention of the Government to keep hidden in the archives of the Customs Department the document containing the offer made by the Canadian Government in relation to trade reciprocity. What is being done in this matter? I have read the speech of Mr. Fielding, the Minister for Finance in the Canadian Government, who said that an offer had been made to the Commonwealth Government, and that they are prepared to give us special concessions in connexion with the importation of currants and dried fruits. Why are we not told what offer has been made and what Canada is asking in return? I am looking to the time when the machinery required for the development of our lands will be available at the price at which it can be. obtained by a Canadian farmer. The supply of agricultural implements at a reasonable rate is the only means by which rural development can possibly progress. The value of the development of secondary industries in the Commonwealth, according to the statistical abstract for 1922, was £324,000,000. The added value was £118,000,000, and of that £46,000,000 went to New South Wales and £40,000,000 to Victoria. That added value has arisen as a result of protection. Queensland, also, gets special protection, and, surely a White Australia policy is as necessary in the west as in the east. I direct honorable members’ attention to a very striking paragraph in the Tariff Board’s report, which states that it costs more to send goods from Adelaide to Fremantle than from Fremantle to Great Britain. We are living in a fool’s paradise. Have honorable members given a moment’s attention to the excessive port charges imposed on a vessel visiting, say, Melbourne? The following statement may be of interest : -
Port Charges - Melbourne 1921.
Tonnage of vessel - gross, 9,512; net, 6,099. Arrived in Port of Melbourne with 1,037 tons of cargo.
Stay in port, 64 hours.
Charges against vessel (Governmental) -
Those charges were imposed on a vessel which brought 1,037 tons of cargo to Melbourne. Local industry could not live for a day without high protection and a local market, as Australia has no overseas market for her manufactures at present. Prior to the imposition of high duties we were exporting from Australia, and even to-day- we ought to be able to trade in agricultural machinery. In 1913 £190,000 worth of implements was exported, but when high Tariff duties were imposed our exports dropped right down to about £20,000 worth in 1920. The boot industry in Victoria has been protected for forty years, but a fortnight ago I was astounded to read that the manufacturers were working on short time.
– Owing largely to importations.
– We should not be importing, as the Australian manufacturers should install the best possible machinery to enable them to compete with manufacturers overseas.
– What connexion is there between the imposition of high Tariff duties and our inability to export.
– The existence of Combines and industrial conditions generally have destroyed the best that is in our operatives, and manufacturers are now unable to compete. Reference has been made to the sugar industry; hut we can easily go too far in providing protection to the producers of this commodity. We have already gone too far, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) mentioned, in placing an embargo on imported sugar. With additional population our secondary industries will expand, and increased employment will be found in meeting the local demand. The following newspaper paragraph is of interest: -
A suggestion to run British industry on the lines of Henry Ford’s Detroit factory is contained in a Times leader, which expresses the opinion that payment by results and not piecework is the real solution of Britain’s industrial difficulties. “ There is no charity about Ford’s system, under which a man is paid extra on a scientifically devised scale for what is done and produced above the required standard, because he is worth it,” says Tha Times. “Mutual confidence is the only durable basis of good relations between employers and workers. That confidence exists at Ford’s factory, which is run on a prosperity-sharing plan, and productivity, efficiency, and high wages are the results.” “ If British industry is to secure a new lease -of prosperity, it must be run on those lines, with the co-operation of the trade unions, the simplification of the union system, and the institution of a general system of payment by results. “ There lies the real hope of Britain’s ability to sell goods on the open market.”
A Canadian gentleman informed me the other day that in going into the yard at a stove factory he saw a number of motor cars. He said to the proprietor, “You must employ a very expensive staff here judging by the number of cars.” He was then informed that they did not belong to the staff, but to the workmen, and that if a visit were paid to the yard on a Saturday he would probably see forty cars. It is not a question of what men are being paid, but whether they are- doing their best for the remuneration they receive. In the Census Bulletin, No. 18, the following paragraph appears: -
As mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the primary producers have ceased to be the most numerous of the occupational classes. In 1911 the primary producers numbered 586,148, or 29.9 per cent, of all the breadwinners, and although the numbers increased to 598,604, this greater number represented only 25.S per cent, of the breadwinners in 1921. The number of persons engaged in agriculture increased by 18.5 per cent., which was sufficient to increase slightly the proportion which the agricultural workers bore to the total breadwinners in 1911. The number engaged in the pastoral industries declines from 151,861 to 142,080, or by 6.4 per cent. The number engaged iu mining was less in 192.1 by 39,043, or 36.9 per cent., having fallen to 66,761 from 105,804 in 1911.
The number engaged in the pastoral industry increased from 151,000 to 102,000, or by 6.4 per cent. The number engaged in mining was less in 1921 by 39,043, or 36.9 per cent., than it was in 1911, the falling off being from 105,804 in 1911, to 66,761 in 1921. That should be enough to make people think. I intended to quote the railway returns to show, approximately, the increases in tonnage carried, and the enormously increased cost in the handling of products; but I have not time to go into those matters. I had taken out some figures with regard to the jam industry. I point out that one firm that had a great name in Australia, and helped to build up the fruit industry of this country - that of Henry Jones and Company, of Tasmania - at no time asked the Government for protection in any shape or form. The firm’s products were first class, and were sent to every part of the world. Now we have all sorts of Government interference, and our statistics show that in 1916 the value added to goods in the factories through labour costs of production, interest, and so on, was £856,000; whereas in 1921, in treating approximately the same quantity of fruit, the added factory value was £1,797,000. Is it any wonder that the fruitgrowers despair of the future? I say we are living in a fool’s paradise. At present, things look fairly well. Our export figures look all right until they are analyzed. If we take out quantities and values, we will see that very few industries show any progress whatever. We have been getting high prices for our products at Home, but those high prices will not be maintained in the future. When tho values of our products come down, we cannot expect to continue industrial conditions as they exist in Australia at the present time. They cannot be kept up; and the sooner we endeavour to bring employer and employee together to organize better industrial conditions and cheapen the cost of production and the cost of living, tho better. There is profiteering in this country .which should be prevented. I know that there are Combines here. I do not by any means throw all the blame upon the workers of the country. No doubt, honorable members saw in the newspapers the other day that a baker brought a miller before a Court because he would not supply him with good flour. The evidence showed that, because the baker refused to charge as much for his bread as other bakers, he was supplied with bad flour. That is the only inference
I could draw from the evidence. The State and Commonwealth Governments should endeavour to put down tho Combines that are arising in our midst, and that are a danger to this community. I hope that the Government will make arrangements for a. conference between employers and employees to bring about industrial conditions under which the worker will be able to give of his best, and we shall have no “ go-slow “ movement, and no union regulations preventing men taking piece-work. I hope that conditions of employment will be agreed to such as are found in Canada, where a man who is expert in his trade may possess his own motor car, and be a gentleman in his own particular industry. If matters arc allowed to drift as they are drifting to-day, the time will come when we shall have most serious distress in Australia, and when, unfortunately, the worker will have the worst of it. I make these remarks more in the interests of the worker than of any one else. I hope that some organization will be arrived at to secure cheaper living and better conditions for the people of this country. We must have Tariff reform, and non-interference by the Government in our industries.
.- I have listened with interest to the Budget debate. “The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things,” and I believe that every subject under the sun affecting the political management of the country has been talked of on the Budget. But how many have got down to tin-tacks? I wonder what the Government are going to do as the outcome of the debate. Will it alter its policy in any respect because of the arguments used on either side? One thing which must have struck every member of the Committee was the wonderful attention paid to the only absolutely honest man I think there is in this chamber at the present time. Of course, I speak politically. That honorable member did speak with transparent sincerity and honesty of things as he saw them. He owes allegiance to no party, and while he admitted that there were many things about which he knows nothing, what he does know he revealed. The majority of us are here for the game of politics, and that is all.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– I admit that I am here for the game of politics promoted by the party towhich I belong, and I am as sincere as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) in my belief that the policy of that party is in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and that that would be proved if it could be put into operation. I reiterate what I said the other night to the effect that all the legislation placed on the statute-book of the Commonwealth by the Labour party has been successful. That is why have such great hopes for the future when the Labour party will be on the opposite side, governing the country instead of on this side talking about it. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is a great Free Trader, and doubtless believes that his policy would be in the interests of the Commonwealth. But we on this side are Protectionists. As the Free Trader, who has just resumed his seat, said, we have combines in this country that are exploiting the people. He toldus of a man who could not get the means to make the staff of life without paying tribute to the flourmillers’ Combine.
– I said the same thing. Mr. YATES. - What do we say as Protectionists? We do not want cheap manufactures imported from other countries. We think that Australia can be made self-contained when it is under proper management. We are Protectionists; but we are not going to protect any big manufacturers, when we can work our will upon the opposite benches. We tried that once, when we established the New Protection policy, which was intended to protect the industry, the employer, and the workman, and the consumer, who is willing to pay for the goods he requires what he should be prepared to pay, living under Australian conditions.
– In the meantime, the honorable member’s vote is feeding the combines.
– Possibly it is, but if we reversed our policy, we should merely be feeding combines in some other country. We would be feeding the importers as was done before we had a Protective Tariff for Australia. I tell honorable members, as I have told those who have accused me of building up capitalists in this country, that I prefer to build up a capitalist here where I can keep my eye on him to building up a capitalist in some other place on the other side of the world. I would sooner pay high prices to operatives in Australia producing our requirements than to people in other lands, who would exploit us.
– In the meantime, is not the honorable member ruining the primary producers who cannot protect them- selves?
– We always talk blue ruin. We are the worst advertisers of our own country to be found in any part of the world. If honorable members will look up the statistics in connexion with any industry, they will find that we have not receded, although we have been through one of the greatest calamities that ever befell the world. We sent 400,000 men overseas, and 300,000 of them were drawn from industry. They represented the virile manhood of the nation. They were occupied for four years in destroying humanity at the behest of the very forces which we complain we cannot control in this Parliament. Even the honorable member for Fremantle has had to admit that trade breeds war. It. creates war. Greed makes war. We withdrew from industry in Australia 300,000 men, and yet we” have never experienced a period of greater prosperity owing to” the beneficent seasons enjoyed by the primary producers. Their only difficulty is that they cannot get as much out of things as they want to get. We have had an illustration of that in the references by the honorable member for Fremantle to the price of sugar lands. I believe the story of that honorable member as to the real position of the sugar business. The same thing applies to every other industry in the country. There is profiteering in this country, and the profiteers give allegiance only to their own interests. That is revealed by the statistics of the country. Let us consider the area under wheat production. I believe that it was 3,000,000 acres more in 1917-18 than the area under wheat to-day. Why is that so? Is the price of wheat not high enough?
– If the honorable member had listened, he would have understood.
– I forget for the moment the reason that has been alleged. I cannot see why there should be a reduction in the area under wheat, seeing that the price of wheat is sufficiently high to induce the utilization of every inch of land.
– The cost of production has increased more than that of the commodity.
– And, may I add that the profit, in your opinion, is not sufficient ?
– It has been found more profitable to grow wool.
– I take it that that is only a transfer of the incidence of production, and that the same people own the land. May I ask the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to tell us how many growers, to his personal knowledge, have gone through the Insolvency Court?
– In quite a number of States, growers have gone insolvent.
– But why? There was a land boom once in Victoria, in consequence of which many men went through the Insolvency Court. In 1913-14, when there was the worst drought we ever had, there were only 24,000,000 bushels reaped, but the next year the result was 179,000,000 bushels, as against 103,000,000 the previous record. In the year following that, the crop was 156,000,000 bushels, the next year 145,000,000 bushels, and the next year 116,000,000 bushels. Then the crop dropped to 75,000,000 bushels, when it was said there was a drought. I am giving these figures from memory, but I am open to bet that they are right. Why all this calamity howling about Australia as an awful place to live in ? The people are doing too jolly well - that is the position. But they want to do better, and, because they cannot attain the high altitude they did during the war, they are beginning to squeal. I remember once meeting in Adelaide a business man, and an old friend of mine, who got his first rise from a lucky hit at Tattersalls. We had a conversation about trade conditions, and the demands of trade unionists. He, knowing what I was and what I stand for, said, “ When are your chaps going to stop? They get a couple of ‘ bob ‘ rise, knock an hour’ off their time, and then they come and ask for more.” I replied, “ Yes, that is quite so; but I remember your starting business with a shop, now you have another shop with two fronts, and I should like to know whether, if you had a chance of buying out Foy and Gibson’s next year, you would do so?” To this he said, “ Yes,” and then 1 asked, “ And when are you going to stop ?” When do these business men ever stop? When we really set ourselves to make Australia what it should be, then what now seem insuperable obstacles will fade like mist in the rising sun.
– The honorable member would not say that if he were a wheatgrower.
– That is easy for the honorable member to say. I wonder how many wheat-growers in Australia, with the munificent rains we have had, are anxious as to their position when their profits are revealed.
– There are a great many strugglers.
– There are, and 1 admire the struggling man. In all industries there are strugglers whom we cannot but admire. I am prepared to admit that the man on the land depends on the Almighty for his success or otherwise, but he can always rely that, given a fair spin, with no undue interference from the cormorant banks, he does not starve. That, I think, fairly represents the “ struggling farmer,” even though he may have bad luck.
– Not always.
– Perhaps the men the honorable member has in his mind have become disheartened, or the banks are asking too much. In such circumstances these men come into the ranks of Labour, and they make good unionists. I entered a factory somewhere about 1882, and I dare say that now I could pick out twenty of my then mates, all honest, skilled, sober, reliable men, who to-day are no better off than they were then. That is the fate of many men, good season or bad season, whereas a man on the land, presuming his land is any good at all, has only to have two or three good seasons, when he becomes comparatively affluent, and may ride about in his motor car. Let any one go round the city of Adelaide, for instance, and observe the number of retired farmers living within the vicinity of the city. These men prove that Australia does not offer meagre opportunities to those who set out to develop her lands.
– I thought the honorable member prided himself on speaking generally, and not of the few.
– I think I am generalizing pretty fairly.
– The honorable member’s average is pretty good !
-I take it that the honorable member sincerely believes that. But I have been drawn off my theme, which is the Budget. This Budget is just the same as any other Budget. I do not say that from any personal knowledge gained by dissecting it and comparing it with the Budget of last year. I speak on the authority of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), who tells us that there is nothing new in the Budget, and even says that what the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) says is, really is not. This must make the people outside wonder; and in my opinion it is juggling with the financial system, which will have to be altered before we can get any redress or benefit. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has shown us what will be the result of this kind of juggling. The financial system of to-day is closely approximating to a pyramid balanced on its apex, and is likely to fall at any time. There is no doubt about the policy of the Labour party. During this debate every honorable member has talked politics, with the exception of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), who honestly told us what he really thinks, and showed things as they really are.
– Speak for yourself !
– The honorable member is following a party, whereas the honorable member for Fremantle is not - he owns allegiance to neither Labour, Nationalist, or Country party. Is the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) prepared to be as outspoken? The honorable member has compromised his position by following the present Government. It is not a Country party Government, but a composite one, and no doubt the honorable member has had to sink some of his principles. If ever the Labour party returns to power it will be as a Labour party, with no admixture cf Nationalist or Country members. The policy of the Labour party is already in print, and ready for the public. Our idea is that majorities must rule, and it is by that means that our policy is arrived at. We always come out in the open. I desire to address myself to one or two subjects that are dealt with in the Budget In one matter to which I invite attention, namely, the revenue from the duties of narcotics and stimulants, I hope I shall have the friendly interest of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to the same extent as if I were advocating the abolition of the duties on agricultural machinery. I especially impress on the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) that last year the increase in revenue from stimulants and narcotics was £8,108,320. The point I wish to make is that this impost, in the main, falls upon the working classes.
– The Tariff has increased the cost of living generally.
– I do not think that the Tariff is to blame for everything. I remember reading the report of a deputation that waited upon the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) a few days ago, complaining that roofing tiles were practically in the hands of a Combine, and that builders could not get supplies at a reasonable price. I think the Minister threatened that if certain allegations were proved definite action would be taken.
– It was not a threat ; it was a warning.
– Perhaps it was; but I fancy I can see the Minister waving his 3tick when he issued the warning, and implying that if the Combine did not desist the stick would come down - and pretty heavily, too, I hope. The same influences are at work in connexion with the supply of bricks, lime, and cement. The big business men are responsible. I challenge honorable members supporting the Government to prove otherwise. If what I am saying cannot be disproved, the responsibility must rest upon them, since they represent that element in the community. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) also quoted a case in point, mentioning the action of certain millers who declined to supply flour to retail establishments except under certain conditions. The ramifications of these Rings extends throughout Australia, and, in the words of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), I ask honorable members opposite, “What about it?” These difficulties were existent prior to the war, but the war furnished the opportunity for further exploitation of the people, and the position since then has become infinitely worse. As honorable members are aware, we desired to alter the Constitution to give the Government power to deal with Trusts and Combines. We also wished to insure that the Tariff should not operate in such a way as to benefit manufacturing industries only. Unfortunately, sufficient lies were told to induce a. majority of the people to vote against the proposal to alter the Constitution in the direction I have indicated.
– Did not members of the honorable member’s party oppose that referendum ?
– We opposed the jerrimandering of the proposals. In essence they were not identical with the amendments agreed upon when the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) was a member of the Labour party. Had they been, every member of the party would have been behind ‘them. I believe certain members of my party were in favour of accepting the proposals as an instalment, although they were not all that we required. I opposed them then, and would do so again. I believe it is no ‘use adopting half measures in connexion with the alteration of the Constitution in relation to industrial powers. I join issue with the honorable member for Boothby in connexion with the proposed increase of oldage pensions.. Many of these pensioners who now require this assistance”” in their old age have contributed heavily to Customs and Excise revenue by their use of narcotics and stimulants. As a matter of fact, I believe we have got from them more than they will receive in the way of pension payments. At one time I was not strong enough in mind or character to talk as I am talking now; I was foolish enough to drink sufficient intoxicants to float a ship. I do not think the honorable member for Boothby was fair to the old-age pensioners, or those who may qualify for pensions, when he said that the Commonwealth cannot afford to provide the money. He poInted out that the bill for old-age pensions amounts to £5,400,000; and for the maternity allowance, £690,700. If the cost of war pensions is added, the amount is increased to £13,000,000. The old-age pension is merely a partial recompense to the old people who have experienced the stress and trouble of rearing families, and who, by their efforts. have developed the Commonwealth into tho splendid country it is to-day. Throughout their lives they have been taxpayers according to their circumstances. All have contributed to the revenue of the country through Customs and Excise duties; and those who earned an income above a certain amount made a further contribution through the income tax. Our loan indebtedness’ involves the Commonwealth in an annual interest bill of £21,075,943. If to that is added the £911,000 paid in interest on moneys loaned to the States, the total interest paid by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth is £21,986,943. That interest is a certain income for those who have lent the money; they know that it will be paid on the due date as surely as the sun rises. In addition, the States pay £21,37.6,390 in interest each year, making the total interest bill of the Commonwealth and States £43,363,333 per annum.
– How much of the capital expenditure it represents is reproductive?
– That is a big question. I am inclined to think that very little of the borrowed money returns sufficient income to pay the interest bill. The war loans are not productive. Waterworks do no more than pay interest, and the railways do not give even that result. As a matter of fact, almost the whole of the interest payment comes out of Consolidated Revenue, which is represented mainly by Customs and Excise duties, and direct taxation. Does the honorable member for Indi know of one railway line that pays interest on the capital expenditure? I shall not delay the Committee at this stage in further discussing the public debt, to the continuance of which I am entirely opposed; but I shall later state my views as to how Commonwealth finance should be managed. The present system is out of date, and must be changed. At the outbreak of the great war, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach told the people of Great Britain that it was immoral to continue the old system of borrowing in order to conduct the war, and that a new system of finance would have to he evolved. That remark applies equally to the Commonwealth. I claim the attention of the Treasurer for a few minutes while I seek enlightenment in regard to one passage in Ms Budget speech. The honorable gentleman said -
Some minor alterations are intended in relation to inmates of benevolent asylums and hospitals. Where the inmates are at present in receipt of 4s. a fortnight, the payments will be raised in September next to 6s. a fortnight. Up to the present, the allowance has been paid only to those inmates who were pensioners .before entering the asylums. In future, all the inmates will receive the 6s. a fortnight, provided that they have qualifications which would entitle them to pensions if resident outside.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), referred to the Minda Home in South Australia, and I am very curious to know whether that paragraph will apply to the inmates of that institution. If any person is entitled to a pension he is the chronic invalid. I interpreted the Treasurer’s statement to mean that the inmates of Minda Home will benefit from the liberalization of the pension.
– If that home is a benevolent asylum its inmates will be qualified for the increased payment.
– It is conducted through the benevolence of the people of South Australia, subsidized by the Government; but it is not a State institution like the Old Men’s Home or Destitute Asylum in Adelaide, or the Home for Consumptives. It comes under the same category as the Old Men’s Home, at Beaumont, Adelaide. In Minda Home are gathered invalids who cannot fend for themselves, and I hope that the Treasurer will see that they benefit by the increase in the pension.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– If the honorable member speaks now, the compact to terminate the debate at 11 o’clock is off, and no more such compacts will be made.
– The interjection is rather uncalled for, because no member occupies less time in speaking in this chamber than I do.
– Honorable members opposite refused to speak last night. If the honorable member for Parkes speaks, honorable members on this side will be at liberty to continue the discussion to the limit of time allowed by the Standing Orders.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Parkes is * member of this Committee, and as such he has a perfect right to speak without interruption.
– For no Budget that has been presented to this Parliament has more time for discussion been allowed than for this. I have a perfect right to speak. The Opposition occupied nineteen hours in this debate yesterday.
– The honorable member knows that an arrangement was made to allow the members of the Opposition to speak.
– No compact was mad» to prevent members on this side from speaking. Honorable members opposite know that my remarks’ would occupy but ten minutes of the time of this Committee. I wish to refer to the economic position of the world.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorumformed.’]
– I wish to deal with the trade of countries immediately adjacent to Australia. The debate on the agenda for the Imperial and Economic Conferences indicated that in relation to the world’s trade Australia was in a critical position. The disposal of our surplus produce is of vital importance to this country. The Govern- ment should realize the necessity for opening up markets in’ the East. As Central Europe is closed to the trade of Australia, we must look to countries in our vicinity in which to market our surplus produce. I am opposed to the creation of any new Commissionerships. We should follow the example of the Canadian Government, and establish exhibition halls in the markets of the Eastern countries. The Canadian Government have one at Shanghai, wherein their products are exhibited. Their merchants visit the . various countries where a market may be found, and make their own selling arrangements. A co-operative institution, representing the primary and secondary industries of Australia has recently been established. The object is to obtain markets in the East and other countries adjacent to Australia. This cooperative company should be encouraged. It has three men operating ‘n th-*. East - >at Shanghai, Singapore, and Batavia. There is also an exhibition at Bandoeng. The Commonwealth Government should establish exhibition halls at various centres outside Australia, in order to advertise its products. This Government should assist this Australian cooperative company in the same way as the Canadian Government finances Canadian organizations. Herbert Hoover, the Secretary for Commerce in the United States of America, dealing with co-operative marketing, stated -
Co-operative marketing associations should receive the encouragement of Governments, because they make for economic distribution and for stability in markets and marketing. They bring about an improvement in the quality of the products handled co-operatively, and save waste.
One item of particular interest and importance to Australia is the proposed scheme of national insurance. It should be introduced as soon as we can bring it about. If a Commission is appointed,, it should submit to this House arguments pro and con based upon experience gained in other -countries. That would be of great benefit to honorable members, and would assist them in devising a sane and satisfactory system.
.- At the .outset of my remarks I desire to enter an emphatic protest against the attempt which is being made by the Government to bludgeon this Budget through.
– If the Government was bludgeoning the Budget through, the honorable member would not now be talking,
– The Opposition entered into a compact with the Government to close this debate at 11 p.m., on the understanding that we would have a full opportunity to discuss the Budget. By common agreement among members on this side a time limit was fixed for speeches. We entered into that compact in the belief that the supporters, of the Government, consistent with their actions throughout this debate until to-day, would remain silent and give us our rightful opportunity to express our opposition to many of the proposals in the Budget and the Government’s policy generally. They have broken this arrangement, and I, with other honorable members on this side, enter my emphatic protest. I consider the tactics of the other side most unfair.
– The honorable member could not “ play the game.”
-Some honorable members on the Government side evidently do not know what “ playing the game “ is. No Government has had more consideration from an Opposition than has the present Government. Owing to our fairness we have been subjected to criticism by the so-called organs of public opinion which voice the political views of members of the Nationalist party. I, for my part, consider that we have “played the game” too long. If we had displayed more opposition to the policy and methods of the Government we would have done no more than our duty to the people who sent us . here. We have been elected to this Parliament to oppose the Government, and we are definitely pledged to oppose its policy. I certainly object to any restriction being placed upon us in the discharge of that duty. I would draw the attention of honorable members on the Government side to the fact that the Budget contains proposals of far-reaching importance. It involves an expenditure of many millions of pounds, including loan expenditure of £19,000,000. The alteration in the method of collecting taxation, and various other matters, are involved, and in view of their importance no restriction should be placed upon the discussion. I have listened carefully to the debates, and have attempted to form an opinion of the Government’s policy. I admit that it is difficult to do so, particularly in view of the fact that the Treasurer, who formerly led a party known as the Country party, has seriously departed from his pre-election promises. Before the elections the Treasurer was lavish in his promises to the electors of Australia. He promised all kinds of concessions to the farming community. He told returned soldiers that cases of hardship arising out of the administration of the War Pensions Act would be ameliorated by amending legislation. He said that the occupants of War Service Homes would be relieved of the exorbitant charges levied upon them. It might well be said that we were promised a veritable financial banquet, whereas we are confronted with a .Barmecide’s feast, a sham, and a delusion.
– A snare.
– Yes, a snare. I would like to refer to the way in which the Budget has been presented. I hope the time is not far distant when the Budget will be presented in such a form that any one can readily understand it. In the present Budget there is a lot of unnecessary information that has no direct reference to the financial affairs of Australia, while, on the other hand, much explanatory and important information that ought to have been included has been omitted. Our national balancesheet should be so simplified that the man in the street can readily understand it. At the present time it seems to be designed with the object of confusing not only the people outside, but the members inside Parliament. I thought that the Treasurer, who was an advocate of economy when he was on the election platform, before he became a member of the composite Ministry, would make proposals for a reduction of our debt and a restriction of our rate of borrowing. We find, instead, that the Government’s proposals will not appreciably reduce our burden or make our position any safer. Official statistics show that Australia is more heavily burdened with debt than Great Britain. Great Britain owes, approximately, £7,000,000,000, while we owe about £900,000,000, which, per head of our population, is greater than the debt of Great Britain. In fact, our financial position is infinitely worse than that of many other countries. With the proposed additional loan of £19,000,000, and the accumulation of interest, Australia’s financial position before very long will be acute, and we shall be on the verge ‘ of national bankruptcy. The position is, indeed, a serious one. The Treasurer, after his expressions about economy in his pre-election speeches, might have been expected to propose something to reduce our burden of national debt. Let us consider the loans that will need to be redeemed next year. Speaking from memory, £76,000,000 of loan money will fall due next year, and I understand it was raised at 4J per cent. The Government is experiencing great difficulty to-day in converting a loan at £5 9s. 3d. per cent., which is practically 5£ per cent. It is quite obvious that when £76,000,000 falls due next year, the national debt will be materially increased, owing to the fact that the new loan will have to be raised at a much higher rate of interest. . I should have thought that a Government that pledged itself to economy would , have brought forward proposals to re duce the tremendous burdens which Australia is carrying at the present time. We owe a war debt of £90,000,000 to Great Britain, and are paying interest and principal at the rate of per cent, per annum, which means an annual payment to Great Britain of £5,000,000 per annum. I thought that the Government would, at least, have brought forward proposals for the funding of that debt on the basis upon which British debts to America have been funded at 3 per cent. That would reduce our annual payments to Great Britain by nearly £2,500,000 per annum. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) has rightly suggested that the Government should take back the Budget and simplify it so that the financial position of the Commonwealth might be made more clear. Other honorable members have criticised the manner in which the Budget has been presented. If there are to be economies effected, and I think there should be, they should start, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has contended, with defence expenditure and the restriction of expenditure on immigration. It is typical of a Government dominated by commercial class interests, that it should not propose to reduce the heavy burden of military expenditure although it does propose to reduce the number of public servants in the Taxation Department under the proposed arrangement with the State Governments. It proposes also to curtail the staff of the Repatriation Department. It seems to me that a reduction in military expenditure is the only economy that can be practised which will not result in untold suffering and hardship. I do not think there is any justification for the reduction of postal rates in view of our present financial position. Higher rates will have to be imposed in the future to meet our commitments. The reduction of postal rates will not benefit the workers of the country, but only the commercial interests and big business firms. If we are to believe what appears in. the press the Government receives substantial donations to its party funds from the commercial interests, and one is impelled to believe that the reduction of postal rates is proposed as a quid pro quo. Instead of reducing postal rates, it would be better to apply the surplus earned by the Post and Telegraph
Department to the improvement of postal facilities in the country districts and generally throughout the Commonwealth.
With reference to the Government taxation proposals, I claim that there is no justification for the surrender of taxation by the Commonwealth. In its proposal to hand over the collection of Federal income tax to the State Governments, the Government has surrendered a power which has been exercised by the Federal authorities, and will be needed again ifconditions do not improve.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I believe that the Treasurer is strenuously endeavouring to justify himself politically by embarking upon startling departures of policy. No real benefit will be conferred upon the people of Australia by giving the collection of State and Federal income taxation to one authority. The fact that taxpayers will be required to fill in but one schedule will not materially benefit them. The issue of one assessment for State and Federal income tax will mean that the taxpayers will be called upon to pay both taxes simultaneously, and that will make it more difficult for the people, and particularly the workers, to meet their taxation obligations. , The State and Federal methods of assessment differ, and I believe that the collection of State and Federal income taxes by the State authorities will lead to confusion, and that mistakes will be made in assessments which will result in general dissatisfaction. Any proposal involving unemployment should be regarded very seriously at the present time, The saving of a few hundred thousand pounds per annum by the retirement of Federal taxation officers will not justify the change to be made. The creation of unemployment when there is so much of it prevailing throughout Australia is a very serious matter.
Whilst I was abroad I had an opportunity of observing the immigration methods followed in London. I have been through Australia House. In New York, also, I saw the Trade Commissioner’s office at work. In looking through the Estimates, I find that a very small amount is being set aside for the purpose of advertising our products and trade in Great Britain. In Australia House, when I was there, complaints were general amongst senior officers regarding the small amount that was voted by Parliament for the purpose of advertising Australian products. Honorable members will notice that the upkeep of Australia House will this year cost £56,000. Of that sum, the miserable amount of £1,500 is to be spent on advertising. That is totally out of proportion to the enormous amount that is to be spent upon the high-salaried officers, eight of whom are to receive salaries totalling £5,090, or an average of £631 each. When I was in London the messengers, clerks, and other lowly-paid officers complained that they were being sweated by the Commonwealth. A perusal of the Estimates shows me that no real improvement has been effected in their remuneration. There are seventy- four employees receiving an , aggregate remuneration of £8,500, which works out at £115 per annum each. My knowledge of English conditions convinces me that £2 a week, even in present circumstances, is not an adequate salary. In 1920 the staff were openly in revolt, and threatened to strike until they were given a cost of living allowance. Low wages, after all, are a very bad advertisement for Australia. Efficiency cannot be expected from an immigration staff unless those officers are paid decent wages. The payment of these low wages is, no doubt, largely responsible for the many complaints that have drifted to Australia regarding Australia House. If the Government paid decent wages, it would secure an efficient clerical and general staff, which would do more good for Australia than a High Commissioner who spends most of his time in attending banquets. There are big trade possibilities in Great Britain. We have neglected to open up fresh markets by propaganda. We should not bring immigrants to Australia until we have created markets for our products. If greater attention were devoted to advertising and publicity work generally, in England and America, and attempts were made to overcome the English prejudice towards our frozen meat and other products, much good would accrue. A great deal of good would result if, at five-year intervals, the administrative officers were brought to Australia, and others sent from Australia to England. At the present time there .are on the staff in England officers who have 11 ut, been to Australia for twenty or thirty years. They are completely out of touch with this country, and are not acquainted with the conditions that now exist here. Too much attention is being paid by the High Commissioner’s office to the entertainment of visitors. The New York office is serving a very useful purpose. I pay a tribute to the efficiency, capacity, and energy of the official secretary, Mr. D. Edwards.’ The Estimates disclose the fact that “this officer is not receiving adequate remuneration. -He is getting £500 a year, whereas the present Trade Commissioner has had his salary raised from £3,000 to £3,250 a year, and, in addition, is receiving an allowance of £2,167 per annum. - The expenditure of £11,000’ on that office has more than justified itself, in comparison with the expenditure of £56,000 on Australia Blouse. I should like to see more attention paid to the development of trade with America. Many persons say that there is no .possibility of improving our trade balance with America. I disagree with that opinion. When I was in New York I found that the American opinion of Australia was grotesque, even among educated business men. They knew very little about this country, and cared less; it was as far removed from their political and geographical outlook as Uraguay or Patagonia is from ours. If Australia paid more attention to the cultivation of trade relationships with America, much good would result. During the’ year 1920-21 the exports from Australia to America were valued at nearly £10,000,000. This represents a substantial increase over previous years. On the other hand, our imports from America amounted to £36,000,000, hut I think this balance could he improved if there’ were more trade propaganda. We ought to advertise extensively in the United States of America, with the idea of encouraging the investment of capital in the establishment of branch American factories in Australia. This would develop our secondary industries, and lessen unemployment.
The proposed increase in the old-age pension is inadequate. The pensioners ought to be allowed to -earn at least as much as their pension. Then, again, the property limit applied to pensioners is unfair, and .should be raised, together with the allowance to hospital patients and inmates of other institutions. At present such persons are each paid 2s. per week, while the State takes 10s. 6d. for maintenance, and the Commonwealth retains 2s. 6d. Why the Commonwealth should do this 1 do not know, but I presume that, under the new arrangement, it will hold a still larger amount. 1 suggest that the pensioner should receive the full pension or the States should he given a larger sum. The Commonwealth has no right to retain any portion of the pension.
I should like to know from the Treasurer whether he will redeem his preelection promise to ameliorate the hardships of -war pensioners.
– I have been going thoroughly into their cases.
– I am very pleased to hear that, .and I hope the honorable gentleman will liberalize the conditions, particularly in the case of those who have been denied pensions on the ground that their disability was pre-war.
– At this late hour I do not intend to occupy more than a small portion of my allotted time, but I take advantage of this opportunity to speak because I- may, perhaps, not have another. I desire to call the attention of the Treasurer to the operation of the Public “Service Superannuation Act, which came into .force this year, under which a few very hard cases have arisen. I am sure that “if the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page); -and the Government .generally, were conversant with the facts they would lend -a sympathetic ear, and do what the Superannuation Board finds itself unable to do under the Act. It appears that between the date of the coming into force of the Act, and the date on which the .contributions of Ihe public servants to the Superannuation Fund commenced four or five of them died. In these cases, of course, no payment had been made to the Superannuation Fund, although the deceased persons had signified their intention to take up certain units. Because of the fact that they had not contributed to the fund, their widows and children have no legal claim on it. But if these men had lived a few days longer, their widows would have been entitled to their proportion of the pension. These widows have thus suffered a double misfortune. The Government might ask. the Board to make the pension payments, and then indemnify the Board, or the Government itself might declare that they regarded these cases as corning within the Act. These men ware previously State public servants, and, had they remained in the State service, would have received State pensions, and their widows and children would not have, been left dependent on charity. When State servants were transferred to the Commonwealth Service, it was stipulated by the Constitution that all their rights should be safeguarded. This was a right which came subsequently. If the Treasurer will assure me that the Government will give this matter its sympathetic consideration I shall say no more.
– I shall look into the matter.
Item agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230809_reps_9_104/>.