9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minis ter in a position to reply to the question
I asked him about a week ago, concern ing an application for a leasehold in New Guinea by one Carl Frost? The right honorable gentleman said that he would inquire into the matter and would supply the information for which I asked. The application for the leasehold was made five years ago.
– I shall try to get the information for the honorable member at once.
Application of Navigation Act
Mr.CHARLTON asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that 50 per cent. or more ofthe trade from Nauru comes to Australia, will be sympathetically consider the question of negotiating with the New Zealand and British Governments atthe Imperial Conference, with a view to the application of the Australian Navigation Act to the shipping of Nauru?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Nauru has been exempted from the provisions of the Navigation Act by yearly exemptions. The present exemption does not expire until 31st December next. This is a matter in which, as honorable members are aware, both Great Britain and New Zealand are interested equally with the Commonwealth Government. Before the expiration of the present period of exemption, the whole matter will be considered.
Conditions of Transfer to States
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not possible to furnish the information asked for. All the questions are receiving consideration.
Dismissal of L. F. D. Carter
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House the papers concerning the. dismissal of L. F. D. Carter by the Expropriation Board, Rabaul ?
– The honorable member asks that the papers he laid on the table of the House,but as the position will be fully met by laying them on the table of the Library, hewill find them there in due course.
Transfer of State Officers
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Sick Pay and Sick Leave
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Special provision is also made under the regulations for the granting of sick leave to returned soldiers temporarily employed when the absence is due to war service disability.
Provision for Training
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Laboratory of Health, Kalgoorlie
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the ravages of the dread industrial disease of miners’ phthisis among the miners in Kalgoorlie and Boulder, will he arrange for the establishment of the bureau, as already promised, to deal with this scourge - the bureau to be proceeded with immediately?
– As I have already indicatedto honorable members, the ques tion of establishing a Laboratory of Health at Kalgoorlie will receive the fullest consideration of the Government.
asked the Trea surer, upon notice -
Mr. BRUCE (for Dr. Earle Page).The law imposes upon the officials the duty of maintaining secrecy with regard to the affairs of taxpayers, but it may be said that all steps required by the law have been taken in relation to the British Imperial Oil Company.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Suspension of Regulations
– On the 1st August the honorable member for Kalgoorlie asked for certain information regarding the s.s. Gascoyne and other vessels which trade on the north-west coast of Australia. I promised to obtain the desired particulars, and have now ascertained that since the granting of the permits to the vessels in question a call was made at Wyndham by the s.s. Gorgon on the 26th June last.
Appointment of Mr. Ennis
– On the 19th July the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On 27th July, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked the following question : -
In view of the published statement that farmers are well protected by Customs duties on the following products: - Sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, bacon, butter, and cheese, butter substitute, egg albumen, egg yolk, bananas, dried fruits, wheat, barley, maize, hay and chaff, honey, jams and jellies, hops, lard and lard oil, linseed meal, malt, meat (fresh or smoked), frozen meat, preserved milk, onions, straw, vegetables - will he state the revenue received by the Customs Department during the past twelve months under each of the above items?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 9th August the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1. (a) 1,177,922 lbs., £92,538; 1 (b) 1,135,346 lbs., £63,604. 2. (a) Nil, nil; 2 (b) 788,926 lbs., £66,584.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That hehave leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section 29 of the. Land Tax As sessment Act 1910-1916.
.- This motion has been moved without any explanation, though it deals with one of the most important questions that has ever come before this Parliament. In ordinary courtesy, the Government, when asking for leave to introduce a Bill, should tell us what the Bill is about.
– The honorable member knows that that is never done.
– I am going to oppose this Bill at every stage. It contains a most outrageous proposal.
– I thought you did not know what the Bill was about!
– I found a reference to this Bill in the Budget speech. The motion asks for leave to introduce a Bill to amend section 29 of the Land Tax Act. That section refers to the taxation of Crown leaseholds, and the Budget speech, as I have indicated, tells us what is the meaning of this proposal.
– The Government are looking after their friends.
– Precisely. In his Budget speech, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) told us that the Government had decided to submit a Bill to abolish the tax on Crown leaseholds, and to make the repeal operative from the 1st July, 1917. During all these years, there has been a breach of an Act of Parliament, and now the Government propose retrospective legislation to legalize the illegality. There are two principles involved in the Bill. It proposes that all taxation now due on account of Crown leaseholds shall be foregone; and, secondly, there is to be no further taxation of these leaseholds. The amount of money at stake is anything from £1,250,000 to £2,000,000. This is the sort of legislation that the Government can introduce to benefit large land-holders, some of whom are probably absentees.
– No wonder the AttorneyGeneral made no explanation.
– The Bill is introduced with all the bashfulness shown by a young man in making a first present to his young lady; and this is a very rich present. In 1914, the Act was amended to include Crown leaseholds, and for very good reason. It is true that these leaseholds were not included in the first Act passed by theFisher Government; but, at the first opportunity, that Government did include them. It appears that there was some dispute about valuations, which resulted in difficulty in collecting the tax from the larger land-holders. The smaller men were paying up, but the larger men disputed the valuations. There may have been some foundation for these disputes, but in March, 1918, the then Treasurer (Mr. Watt) gave verbal instruction to the Commissioner to suspend the collection of the tax, pending an investigation. I refer to this because Mr. Speaker’s name is mentioned in this connexion in the Budget speech, so as to give, I suppose, some backing to the Government’s proposal . When he was in State politics, as in Federal politics, that right honorable gentleman was particularly sound in regard to land taxation ; but I have no quarrel with what he did on that occasion, because, if there is a dispute, there ought to be an investigation. In December, 1918, a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter, and it reported in the following year, recommending an amendment of the method of calculating the difference between the economic rent and the rent paid; and further, that, in general, the taxation of Crown leaseholds should be continued. That Royal Commission consisted of Mr. Knibbs, Mr. Allen, and a third gentleman, whose name I forget, who represented the pastoralists. The first-named two gentlemen made the recommendations I have mentioned, while the third dissented. As to the equity of this taxation, the Royal Commission declared that it was on all-fours with that of the taxation on freeholds. In 1919, our present Speaker, then Treasurer, was, unfortunately, ill, and the then member for Grey, Mr. Poynton, was Acting Treasurer. In that capacity, he announced in the Budget that the Government had decided to accept the recommendations of the Commission, one of which was, as I say, that the tax on leaseholds should be continued. However, from that moment to this, not a penny of the tax has been collected, although it was imposed under an Act that was suspended pending the investigation by the Royal Commission. One of the worst features of the matter is that,, although no tax has been collected for six years, assessments on leaseholds have been issued every year at .considerable cost. In 1921, another Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the subject of taxation generally, and it investigated this very question of the taxation of leaseholds. Its recommendation was strongly in favour of taxing Crown leaseholds. The personnel of the Commission was: - Mr. W. Warren Kerr, chairman, representing the Chamber of Commerce; Mr. John Jolly, representing the pastoralists; Mr. J. G. Farleigh, representing the Chamber of Manufactures ; Mr. W. T. Missingham, a farmer, and now a member of the Country party in New South Wales; Mr. John Thomson, ex-member of the House u£ Representatives; .Mr. S. Mills, an exmember of the Inter-State Commission; and Mr. M. B. Duffy, representing the. Trades Hall Council. Six of these seven members of the Commission recommended the continuation of the tax. The member who objected was the representative, of the pastoralists. The representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Farmers’ Union party, the Nationalist party, and the Trades Hall recommended that the tax should be continued. Their words, taken from the Commission’s report, are as follow : -
After careful investigation of the question of the taxation of lessees’ interests in Crown leaseholds, we are unable to discover any principle of taxation upon, which such interests should be relieved of land tax if other interests in land are taxed.
That expression of opinion is quite clear. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when he was Treasurer, eulogized the work of this Commission, but he now proposes to ignore its recommendations. Instead of collecting the arrears that are due, the Government proposes to repeal the tax and make the repeal retrospective to 1917. That would be equivalent to making a substantial gift to the big pastoralists, amounting to something between £1,250,000 and £2,000,000. I cannot state the figures definitely, but the Commission, in its report, said that up to that time the amount involved was over £1,000,000. The Commission was referring to the outstanding tax only, and did not include the amount paid.
– What will become of the little man who has paid the tax?
– That question now arises. Is it proposed to refund the tax to those persons who have paid it? If that is done, the amount involved will be nearly £2,000,000. I£ the tax paid is not refunded to them, very little encouragement will be given to people to pay taxation promptly. As has been indicated, the Government is relentless when dealing with small people. If any one is late in paying income tax, or in sending in a return of income, the Department quickly brings pressure to bear upon him. Why is leniency shown to the big pastoralist? Why was not the tax collected ?
– The price of wool has not been low!
– It has not! There is no doubt of the intention of the Government. The proposed Bill will attack a big principle, and will set a bad precedent by remitting taxation which successive Governments have allowed to accumulate for six years.
– The Government did something similar for the British Imperial Oil Company.
– I believe that was so. I do not , quarrel with the Government, which suspended the collection of the tax pending investigation into the matter, hut I quarrel with it and succeeding Governments for not giving effect to the recommendations of the Commissioner after they had completed their inquiries. If the House refuses leave to introduce the Bill, it will assert a sound principle, and save the Government much time, which- is now precious, besides the cost of printing the Bill, and considerable revenue as well. I suggest that the Government should put the proposed Bill where the Air Defence Bill is. It is proposed to grant the exemption in respect of Crown leases, but not leases from private owners. The proposed Bill would not exempt from taxation those who hold’ leaseholds on the rightof -purchase system. It would not exempt perpetual leaseholds. It would exempt mainly the largest leaseholds, containing millions of acres. I have examined the suggestions put forward, and they were examined very carefully by the Royal Commissions. I pay my tribute to the work done by both the Commissions. There is not a scintilla of reason, in view of the recommendations of the Commissions, why the Government should make this proposal. The Government would probably experience some difficulty in collecting all the - arrears, which have been outstanding for so long, and it might have ‘ to make a composition with some of the leaseholders, and deal with individual cases on their merits. That difficulty, however, does not justify the wholesale repeal of this class of taxation. Let us examine the principles upon which this class of taxation is levied. It is argued that we should tax only the freeholders, and not the leaseholders. The man who owns a freehold has to buy it, and must either pay interest on the capital cost of it, or allow for interest on it. He has also to pay the land tax in full, but if a leaseholder pays per cent, of the unimproved capital value of the land as rent, he does not pay tax. The leaseholder is called upon to pay a tax only when he has what is called a leasehold interest in the property. A leasehold interest is the difference between the economic rent and the actual rent he pays. If he has a lease, and its rent value is above the price paid for the lease, a calculation is made of the unimproved value of the land, the econo- mie rent basis of that unimproved value, and the difference between that economic rent and the amount the lessee is paying. That difference is capitalized, and tax is imposed thereon. That is an eminently fair procedure. No man who believes in the principle of land taxation can deny the justice of it, and certainly no Government that is imposing taxation on other leaseholds or freeholds can justify the exemption of these selected few. It is argued by some people that these leaseholds have no value, but, if so, they would in no case pay tax. Some leaseholds in Australia have no leasehold value, and are on that account not assessed for taxation. The only leaseholds that are assessed for taxation are those that have a taxable value. If they have a taxable value they are taxed, but not otherwise. If one considers the recent traffic in leaseholds one need look no further for proof of the great value of them. The honorable member for “Macquarie (Mr. Manning), when speaking on the -Budget, commended the Government for proposing to remit this class of taxation. He said that in many cases there was no value to tax, but a few’ moments afterwards he told the House, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who was dealing with the number of ‘applicants for land, that the reason why there were- so many applicants was that only one man could .be successful in a ballot, and the lease for a comparatively small holding might ‘he worth something like £3,000. That statement may have referred to “ right to purchase “ leases; I am not sure of that, but, in any case, it is only a difference in degree. Some of these leaseholds are very valuable. The Commission, which went into this question thoroughly, states, in its report, that there is a large taxable interest in these leaseholds, and it gives some illustrations. I shall quote one out of many, and I recommend honorable members to read the whole report. On page 191 of the Commission’s report, a witness from New South Wales is reported to have said -
On one side of a river which forms part of the boundary of the Western Division, privatelyowned lands have a rental value up to about 5s. per sheep-area; while, on the opposite side of the river, within the Western Lands Division, the maximum rental chargeable under the” Statute is 7d. per sheep-area. The Chairman of the Western Lands Board stated that within the Western Division about 1,000,000 acres are of quality similar to the privately-owned lands referred to - that is, are worth approximately 5s. per sheep-area.
– Is the land in New South Wales?
– Yes; it is in the Western Division of that State. Lessees are paying 7d. per sheep-area for millions of acres of laud estimated to be worth 5s. per sheep-area.
– Does “area” mean the area necessary to carry one sheep ?
– Yes. Some land, of course, will carry so many sheep to the acre, whereas in other instances so many acres are required to carry one sheep. The report also states that a good deal of evidence was obtained showing that there was a demand for leaseholds, and that the tax had not had an adverse effect. Every hardship experienced owing to the low price of meat, and the occurrence of droughts, can be met under the Land Tax Act, and every argument submitted - I am not at all unsympathetic in certain cases - applies with equal force to those who hold freeholds and private leaseholds. I want to know why special consideration is being shown to one section of the community. The statement contained in the Budget speech to which I have referred is the only declaration on the part of the Government as to why this special concession is being made. Those who will benefit if the measure becomes law will be the big pastoralists, the grazing companies, and financial institutions, and I am anxious to know what individuals and companies will benefit. I asked the Treasurer these questions on this matter on the 6th August : -
Whether he will furnish the following information : - (a) The list of names of lessees whose land tax it is proposed to cancel; (b) the value of the taxable interest held by each lessee; (c) the amount of tax to be collected in each case.
The reply was -
The information desired will take a considerable time to prepare, but an effort will be made to get the details.
I know something concerning the Land Tax Department and the efficiency of its officers, and I believe that if the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) or the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) gave me authority, I could obtain an answer within two days. I submitted the question over a week ago, but up to date I have not received an an swer. Why? Because in one statement the Government would knock out all the arguments which they are likely to advance in support of their action. Who is involved? Those who hold Crown leaseholds, and whose taxes are in arrears, include some of the wealthiest men in Australia, and one of them carried the anti-Labour banner at the lastelection. The Government will relentlessly pursue the small taxpayer who is in arrears, but when a million or two is involved those who are liable are to be relieved of their obligation to pay. It is my intention to oppose the Bill at this and every subsequent stage, because it is pernicious legislation, framed in the interests of one particular section of the community. Let honorable members consider what effect it will have. I knowof one very rich man who secured a lease at a very low rate, merely because of the liability attaching to it in the form of accumulated taxes; but now the Government are to relieve him of the liability by wiping out the arrears.
– They will not reduce the price of land and houses sold to soldiers.
– No. In my own electorate I know of a man who will shortly be called upon for the payment of last year’s income tax, although he is at present out of employment. In the case of a man holding freehold and leasehold land, the taxation on the freehold land is being collected, but that assessed on the leasehold land is held in abeyance. If such a person should be holding £20,000 worth of freehold land and £20,000 worth of leasehold land, the assessment should be based on £40,000, and he would pay at a higher rate than if only on the freehold land. What is the logic of the Government on this question? Because they now find it difficult to collect the arrears, they propose to abolish the tax altogether. The arrears should be collected. Why are the Government deliberately proposing to remit taxation over a period of years ? Why are they wasting money in making these assessments if they do not intend to collect the tax ? Why are they ignoringthe reports of two Royal Commissions which inquired into this matter? Land taxation is equitable, and should be fairly and not partially administered. At present the Treasurer is begging all over
Australia for contributions towards a loan, and some of those who will have their taxation repealed will probably be subscribers to the loan. If the Government collected the £1,250,000 due on Crown leaseholds it would assist in relieving the Commonwealth of some of its indebtedness. The Government sacrificed to Mammon the people’s profitable woollen mills at Geelong, and in this instance the revenue of the country is to be sacrificed in the interests of a few. I intend to put the Government to the test at this and every subsequent stage of the Bill. I move -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the motion be withdrawn”, and immediate action taken to collect the land lax due on Crown leaseholds.”
– The course adopted by the honorable member for Yarra is most unusual, and has been adopted on only very few occasions during the history of this Parliament. That it is an undesirable course was demonstrated by the honorable member’s own remarks. He repeated a series of questions to which he asked the Government to give answers. The ordinary procedure in this Parliament is that leave to introduce a Bill is asked as a matter of form, and at the second-reading stage the Minister in charge gives a full explanation of the measure. If it were customary to debate measures upon the motion for leave to introduce, I would offer no objection to the amendment moved by- the honorable member for Yarra, but this Parliament would be stultified if before the measure had been circulated and explained the House were to come to- a decision upon it. It is perfectly clear that the matter can not be satisfactorily debated at this stage. Questions have been asked as to the position of those leaseholders who’ have already paid the taxation from which it is now proposed to exempt them. That question will be answered in the ordinary way by the Minister when moving the second reading. I ask .the honorable member for Yarra to withdraw his amendment, and so let the House have an opportunity of seeing the Bill and hearing from the Minister in charge what the Government’s proposals are. If the most unusual course he has adopted were persisted in, it would be quite impracticable to conduct the business of the House. Every honorable member could, under such a procedure, talk upon the motion for leave, and then, without the House having full and sufficient knowledge of the measure concerned, a vote would be taken. If the motion were agreed to, the whole debate would be repeated at the second-reading stage. The Government cannot allow two debates to take place on every Bill. Such procedure would be intolerable. I therefore ask honorable members opposite not to depart from the accepted practice of the House. I make no complaint that honorable members opposite take a different view of the proposed legislation from that taken by the Government, but they will have full opportunity to state their objections to it at the second-reading stage. I know that honorable members opposite have no desire to obstruct business, but upon the procedure adopted by the honorable member for Yarra to-day no other interpretation can be placed by persons who . have not the same knowledge of honorable members as I have. It is undesirable that such an impression should be created. If the Bill is allowed to go forward to the second-reading stage honorable members may then exercise their voices and votes to endeavour to prevent the passage of legislation of which they do not approve.
.- Throughout this session the Opposition has been very reasonable in its attitude, towards the introduction of new measures. There would be a great deal of force in the Prime Minister’s contention, if the purpose of this Bill had not been clearly stated in the Treasurer’s Budget speech -
Right of purchase leases and perpetual leases were the only Crown leaseholds which were -made taxable by the original Land Tax Assessment Act of 1910. By an amending Act of 1914, the majority of the Crown leases became taxable. The. first assessments under this amendment of the law were issued in April, 1915. Such grave discrepancies arose between the valuations of the Department and those of the owners that urgent repre- sentations were made by taxpayers as to the unfairness . of departmental valuations. Owing to the unsurmountable difficulties involved, Mr. Watt, the then Treasurer, in March, 1918, gave directions that the collection of the tax on Crown leaseholds was to be suspended. That direction has been followed up to the present time, even though assessments at considerable cost have annually been made. Each year the value of these leases has been diminishing in accordance with the remaining life of the lease. In view of the great difficulties which have arisen in the administration, and of the necessity of easing the burdens resting on one of our greatest industries, as well as of encouraging settlement in the back country, the Government has decided to submit to Parliament a Bill to abolish the tax upon Crown leaseholds. The -Government considers that it would be grossly unfair now to call upon leaseholders to pay arrears of tax for the many years which have elapsed since its suspension, and the intention is to make the repeal operative from 1st July,, 1917, so that all such leases owned at 30th June, 1917, and later, will not be taxed.
In view of that very definite statement, can the Prime Minister urge that the House doesnot know what is intended to bo accomplished by this Bill? Is he still justified in saying that the House should wait for the second reading before expressing any opinion upon the measure. Would not time bo saved if the Government were to withdraw the motion for leave to introduce the Bill, or if the House were to come to a vote immediately upon the question of whether or not it is desirable to remit nearly £2,000,000 of taxation?
– How will time be saved if the debate takes place now instead of at the second-reading stage?
– If leave to introduce the Bill is refused, there will be no further debate.
– Suppose the House is in favour of the introduction of the Bill?
– That will show that a majority of the members of the House believe in the remission of this taxation.
– Yes. On the notice-paper are two motions for leave to introduce Bills, which I shall not oppose, but that now before the. House is in a different category. We have a definite announcement in the Budget of the purpose for which this Bill is intended. In the face of that, why should the time of the House be taken up in discussing it, even in the initial stages. The matter should be settled at this stage once and for all. If honorable members do not approve of the amendment of the existing Act to permit of the remission of this taxation, they are in duty bound to vote against the proposal at this stage, just as they would be at a later stage. It is idle to say that we do not know what is in the Bill which it is proposed to introduce, because we already have the information that it is for the specific purpose to which I have referred.
– The statement of the Minister in moving the second reading of the Bill will explain . its introduction, and that will be in accordance with the usual practice.
– The statement appearing in the Budget is quite clear as to the intention of the measure, and it is juggling with words to say that we can only learn that from the speech of the Minister on the motion for the second reading. We have either to collect the tax or to remit it. That is the only principle involved in the Bill, and if honorable members are opposed to the remission of this taxation they can vote on that principle now, and save the time of the House, in view of the legislation which has yet to be considered within the next fortnight. I remember that in 1912 the Bill, when introduced, did not include leaseholds. There was an amendment made in that year, and in 1914 a further amendment was made. I can recall a speech by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) at that time in favour of this taxation. He voted with the Government, which was a Labour Government, in support of it, because he believed it was only equitable that people who held large tracts of country under leasehold should pay land tax, provided they were not charged upon an amount, according to the rent they paid, over and above the economic value of their leaseholds. There are tables in the Act which set out the means by which the tax to be levied shall be arrived at. I ask leave to continue my speech at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I desire to intimate for the information of the House that four distinguished Japanese visitors are within the precincts of the House. They are members of the Japanese House of Peers - Count Yoshii, Dr. Joji Sakurai, and Dr. Kanasugi. With the concurrence of the House, I desire that they be provided with seats in the Chamber.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
The distinguished visitors were introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and provided with seats on either side of the Speaker.
– Because this taxation was not being collected, two Commissions were appointed to inquire into the matter, and they recommended that the tax should be collected, because, in their view, it was fair and equitable. It isnot of much use for this House to appoint Commissions to make inquiries into these intricate questions if we are going to disregard their findings. That is what the Government is doing in the introduction of this Bill.
– The Government has accepted some of the recommendations of the Commission.
– That is so, but it proposes to disregard their most important recommendation, and this will involvea loss of £1,250,000 or more of revenue which should be collected. We cannot reasonably be asked to follow such a course as that. What is the purpose of expending public money upon an inquiry by a Commission if we are to altogether disregard its recommendations ? The Government take up a monstrous position, in my opinion. I cannot realize why the introduction of this Bill is proposed in view of the recommendation of two Commissions that the tax should be collected from lease-holders. We need the money.
– The Minister’s secondreading speech will make all that clear.
– We have the information in the motion for leave to introduce the Bill and in the Budget speech, in which what is intended is fully set out. There does not appear to me to be any justification in the circumstances for waiting for the second-reading speech of the Minister. This House is either for or against the remittance of this taxation. If honorable members are in favour of lease-holders being placed in the same position as other land-holders, they will vote against the introduction of this Bill.
– We are entitled to full information.
– Of course we are, and we have been given full information in the Budget. The statement appearing there is clear and definite, and is entirely in Opposition to the recommendations of the Commissions. I marvel at honorable members opposite trying to find excuses for the introduction of such a measure.
– How long is it since the Commission sat ?
– Quite recently. A Royal Commission dealt with the matter in 1921.
– And reported last year.
– I have said that land taxation was imposed in 1912, and in 1914 and 1916 there were amendments of the Act. The House deliberately decided that this taxation should be collected from lease-holders. , It made every provision to prevent any unjust imposition upon lease-holders. There are many different, kinds of leases. There are settlement leases, conditional purchase leases, perpetual leases, and leases of other kinds. The conditions of different leases are met by the special tables included in the Act to provide that where the leaseholder is paying in the shape of rent the full economic value of the lease, he shall not be liable to taxation. That is a very fair provision. In order to arrive at the taxable amount, the unimproved value of the land is taken, and if it is shown that the rent paid is not more than 4½ per cent. of the unimproved value of the land the tax is collected. If the lessee is paying only the equivalent of 2 per cent. of the unimproved value of the land, he is taxed on the difference between 2 per cent. and 4½ per cent. No one will contend that 4½ per cent. of the unimproved value is more than the economic value of the land.
– The lessees hold on to theirleases
– Yes, and many of those who have these leases are in a far better position financially than are many persons who have the freehold of their land. They desire to continue to hold them, and surely it is fair that they should be asked to pay this taxation. Four and a half per cent. of the unimproved value is less than1s. in the £1, and the taxation imposed is so reasonable that I cannot understand why, in the face of the recommendation of the two Commissions that inquired into the matter, the Government should persist with legislation of this kind, especially in the dying hours of a session, when we have still measures of great importance to consider. I think that this proposal might well be deferred until Parliament assembles next year. Personally, I believe that we are in duty bound to collect the money owing to this country under our existing legislation. Let us consider the case , of leaseholders who have paid the tax imposed upon them. Where will be the equity of this proposal if we are going to remit this taxation to those who have so far failed to comply with the law ? They may be persons who are holding big leasehold estates, . and better off than leaseholders who have already paid the tax. Two Royal Commissions have by a substantial majority agreed that this taxation is fair and reasonable, and have recommended that it should be collected. In view of this fact, will the Government not be open to the charge that they are endeavouring to do something which will favour certain individuals in this community as against others ? We can put no other interpretation upon their action at this juncture in endeavouring to relieve these people of taxation which theyshould have paid three or four years ago. The Government go so far as to propose the introduction of legislation for the remission of this taxation, and to make it retrospective.
– The honorable member would not suggest that the Government is underan obligation to accept all the recommendations of a Royal Commission ?
– Two Royal Commissions are fairly unanimous in recommending that this tax should be collected, and the Government should give effect to the recommendation. The second
Royal Commission took evidence in every State of the Commonwealth, and there is not the slightest ground for suggesting that these taxpayers should be relieved in the way proposed. All other sections of the community have to pay their fall taxes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has taken exception to. the action of the Opposition, but, in my opinion, this is a Bill that should be fought at every stage. Why allow this breach of a principle that we have placed on the statutebook? We know why this legislation is introduced, and the reason cannot be camouflaged. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in his Budget statement is very definite as to the object of the Government. The honorable member for Yarra is to be commended for submitting the amendment. It is quite true that we, on this side, have never before opposed leave to introduce a Bill, and we only do so now because we fully realize the gravity of the consequences. This action by the Opposition should have the effect of saving the time of the House, seeing that honorable members, at the very outset, are given an opportunity to declare whether they are for or against the Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question (Mr. Scullin’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … 8
In division -
– The sand is supposed to run for two minutes, but the officers of the House inform me that a somewhat longer time is required.
-i drew the attention of a previous Speaker to the fact that the time is three minutes.
– I shall have the matter investigated during the recess.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Majority . . . . 10
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom.
Motion (by Mr Groom) put -
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Mr Groom) put -
That the second reading of the Bill be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section 7 of the War Precautions ActRepeal Act 1920-22.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the War Service Homes Act 1918-1920
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 14 -
. When any aircraft is lost or wrecked at any place within the Commonwealth the pilot or owner shall without any unnecessary delay …
Clause 35 -
. Sub-section (1) of this section shall not apply to -
an averment of the intent of the defendant, or
proceedings foran indictable offence or an offence directly punishable by imprisonment.
No. 1. - Clause 14, line 27, after “ aircraft “ insert “ arriving from parts beyond the seas “.
No. 2. - Clause 35, sub-clause (4), line 42, leave out the words “ Sub-section (1.) “, insert “ The foregoing provisions.”
– These are two minor amendments, which have been made by the Senate, and as they improve the wording of the Bill, and more clearly express what is intended, I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
– I have no desire to oppose the amendments, but I cannot see why the words “ arriving from parts beyond the seas “ have been inserted after the word “ aircraft.” There may be good reason for inserting these words, but I think that the provision as it left this Chamber covered all that was necessary. The clause will now read, “ When any aircraft arriving from parts beyond the seas is lost or wrecked at any place within the Commonwealth.” I may be quitewrong, but several recent amendments of the Senate appear to have been made simply to show that that Chamber is doing something.
– Will the clause apply to aircraft from the Mandated Territories and other territories, as well as from foreign countries?
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the supply of wire netting to settlers.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Austin Chapman and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Austin Chapman, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide settlers in the country districts with wire netting at the lowest possible cost. Provision is made for an amount not exceeding £250,000, to be payable out of Consolidated Revenue funds. The Bill gives the Minister power to purchase wire netting, and to supply it to settlers in the Commonwealth at such a price and upon such conditions and security, and subject to such terms as to payment as may be prescribed. Any moneys received by way of payment for wire netting supplied under this Bill shall be paid to recoup the Trust Account. It is intended that a Committee shall be appointed in each State to control all moneys in connexion with allocation and distributions in a State. All applications from the primary producers for wire netting will be made to that Committee. It is intended that the terms for payment shall be made as easy as possible, and shall extend over a number of years, and practically be free of interest as far as we are concerned. The terms under which advances will be given and payment made will be governed by regulations. The Bill is intended to give settlers in isolated places the opportunity of obtaining wire netting at the lowest possible cost and on fairly long terms.
– How are the committees to be constituted?
– The Government are awaiting particulars as to what is being done in the other States, where in some instances settlers are being suppliedwith wire netting on easy terms. We have telegraphed for information, but up to the present have not obtained full particulars. We propose to appoint committees which will allot quantities on easy terms.
– Do the Government intend to hand the work over to the States ?
– That will bedone under the regulations.
– Is it intended to hand the money over to the States, distributing it on an area basis, as was done in connexion with the main roads grants?
– Every State will receive a fair proportion, and will be responsible to the Committee for the distribution.
– Is the netting to be sold at cost price, on long terms, and at a low rate of interest, or no interest at all?
– At cost price, and without any charge by us for interest.
– Not under cost price?
.- It is a very laudable thing to provide settlers with wire netting at a reasonable price and under easy conditions, but I notice that there is no provision in the Bill stating how the money is to be distributed. In reply to an interjection, the Minister (Mr. Austin Chapman) said that that would be done under regulations. We should know if the money is to be handed over to the different States for distribution, and, if so, on what basis. The Bill provides for the appointment of committees, but we should know to whom it is to be advanced. I presume it must be handed over to the States, asI do not think the Government will undertake the responsibility of distributing £250,000.
– They have not the machinery.
– No. We would have to depend upon the States. We should know whether it is to be distributed on a population or an area basis, or on a happy compromise between the two. Honorable members are naturally anxious to protect the interests of those in the State which they represent, and it is our duty to ascertain if the money is to be wisely expended. I have grave doubts that it is, in view of the statements that are received from time to time. In addition to this £250,000 for the purchase of wire netting, the Commonwealth has undertaken to borrow £4,000,000 to advance to the States for soldier land settlement. That money is intended to be expended for a. good purpose, but we are not justified in heaping up the national debt, unless the settlement is conducted on sound lines and both the soldiers and the public are protected. It appears to me that that is not the case. The Commonwealth borrows money, and hands it over to the States, and they place returned soldiers upon the land. Very many complaints have been made of the treatment which has been given to these settlers. Some endeavour should be made by the Commonwealth, which is responsible for the financial side of the scheme, to insure that the money is expended to the best advantage, and that men are placed upon land upon which there is a chance of them making good. It is useless to settle soldiers upon areas which will not yield a living to them. There is sufficient good land in Australia upon which soldiers would have every opportunity of becoming successful settlers if they applied themselves to their work. I have heard of many complaints of the manner in which this scheme is operating. The following paragraph appeared in the Argus of 16th April last: -
“Daylight Through Cracks.”
YEA, Saturday. - Mr. Moore, of the Closer Settlement Board, conferred with twenty-five Killingworth soldier settlers yesterday, when the settlers asked that payments on their blocks be suspended for two years and added on to the end of the term, to enable them to tide over the bad season. Mr. Moore’sattention was also directed to the excessive cost of the houses on the estate, as much as £340 being charged for a two-roomed house in one instance. In a case where the building cost £523, the architect’s commission was stated to be £34 4s.10d. Defects in the houses were also pointed out, daylight and rain coming through the cracks.
Mr. Moore was unable to give any encouragement regarding the suspension of payments, but promised that the Board would not press the settlers in the meantime, the settler being the Board’s first consideration. He added that the Board would remedy defects in houses without cost to the settlers. A further promise was made that an officer of the Board would visit each soldier settler’s block and inspect the houses.
That shows that the houses erected with the money borrowed by the Commonwealth and advanced to the States are not serviceable, and that the soldier occupants are not being treated fairly. Here is another statement in regard to the quality of the land upon which the soldiers are settled -
The terrible plight of some of the soldier settlers in Gippsland is the subject of a report which Mr. S. E. Dunslow, secretary of the Melbourne branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia is making to the State president, Mr. E. Turnbull. “ I venture to say that in this instance,” Mr. Dunslow emphasized, “ it is a standing reproach to the Government to let a soldier settler and his family live in the conditions which surround them. It is a case where assistance should be rendered immediately, and a fresh holding be granted.”
To describe the plight of each individual digger settler, Mr. Dunslow declares, would make too lengthy a report. Their conditions are practically the same throughout. None of them is able to make a living,let alone any money wherewith to repay the Government. Their selections are infested with rabbits. “ One settler told me,” Mr. Dunslow reports, “ that a single rabbit trapper in three weeks had taken off his block no fewer than 2,000 rabbits.” “ Another so-called farm which I visited was settled by a returned soldier, his wife, and five children. It was one o’clock in the afternoon when I arrived there, and I found the mother and two of the girls, aged sixteen and fourteen, and two younger children, armed with fern hooks,about to go out to cut down bracken, while the father and son of twelve were busy in another paddock ploughing.”
“I asked this pioneer also what his prospects were, and he told me than he had been there two years, and that, besides what he had earned, he had put £180 of his savings into the selection, and if he could stay another two years and found a gold mine he might make it pay - not otherwise.
He said to me, ‘ When we came here we had a few rags to our name - now we are all blasted rags.’ “
This man’s holding consists of 160 acres, nearly every yard of which is overrunby and bracken.
The last case cited by Mr. Dunslow was in close proximity to the one above. The settler is the father of eighteen children, of whom eleven are at home, and live in a three-roomed hut on the farm. Like the other settlements, this one was destitute of arable land, and was in no condition fit for dairy farming. To their other woes was added that of bush fires. “ I did not find one single settler in the whole of that district who had met his obligations under the Soldier Settlement Act,” Mr. Dunslow added. “ What was more, I did not find one soldier who thought he ever would be able to, and this opinion was confirmed by the principal practical farmers of long standing in the district.”
Statements like those should cause the Government to make inquiry before borrowing more money to advance to the State Governments. If the soldiers are not being settled on land of a quality which will give them an opportunity of making good, we had better discontinue this expenditure. I have just read a definite statement that a number of the soldiers cannot hope to repay the money that has been advanced to them. Already the Commonwealth debt is more than £400,000,000. A good deal of the money which the Commonwealth is borrowing to lend will not be repaid. That will represent a burden to be borne by the taxpayer. At the same time, soldiers and their families are being placed in an invidious position. A man must have a reasonable opportunity before he can hope to make good on the land. One man has spent £180 of his own money in addition to that advanced to him by the State, and he has.no hope of making a living. He is a married man with five children, and he has no chance of making good. He has failed, and if my advice were sought I should tell him to give up the land at once and try something else. He has no chance of being successful and repaying the money that has been advanced to him.
– That may be. A good many unsuitable men are placed on the land. The Government should be careful in the selection of settlers, but once a man has been chosen for a career on the land he should be given good land, and every opportunity to succeed. There is plenty of good land, but it is locked up in big estates, and the Governments are not taking any steps to make it available for the selector. Although we have this record of failures on the part of our own soldiers who have gone upon the land, millions of pounds are to be expended in bringing immigrant settlers to Australia.
– Has the complaint which the honorable member read been investigated ?
– The land settlement is carried out by the States, and honorable members of this House have no opportunity of investigating these matters; but we should take care that when the Commonwealth lends money to the States it is wisely expended.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– That the Commonwealth Government should consult with representatives of the States, and point out to them that the country is being over-burdened with debt, much of which represents money that is not being spent to the best advantage. We should urge upon the States the most careful selection of the men who are to be placed upon theland, and insist that those chosen shall be given land of. good quality, and not be put upon barren areas that nobody else would select.
– Does not the honorable member’s suggestion mean the creation of a Federal inspectorial staff, which would be tantamount to the Commonwealth taking over the control of the whole scheme ?
– This is a matter for the States to adjust. They should be required to pit the system on a more satisfactory basis, or the Commonwealth should discontinue advancing money to them. If the present methods are allowed to continue the Commonwealth will be weighed down by its debt. When the Budget is presented we are told that the gross debt is so much and the net debt so much less, because certain sums have been advanced to the States, and we expect that they will be returned. I very much fear that’ we shall have a repetition of what we must expect under the War Service Homes administration, and that by-and-by we shall have to write flown a lot of these advances. We are not justified in making these advances from time to time without having some control over the expenditure of the money, so that we may be able to see that it is wisely expended. It is idle for us to say that we have clone our part, and that the internal management of their own affairs, must be left to the States. I say that we have some duty to perform when we raise money for advances to the States, and that duty is to see that the State Governments do the fair thing in connexion .with their expenditure. The Commonwealth has a responsibility to the returned men, and we are dealing with returned men in connexion with the advance provided for in the Bill under consideration. If they are settled on the land without any prospect of success’ we must share the responsibility. There is no escape from that. We said that we would give the returned men a fair deal, and would give them every opportunity to make good in life, and it is, therefore, idle to say that we can take no notice of these things. We may pat ourselves on the back for having done one good thing in making so much money available for this purpose; but we are only loading up the debt of the Commonwealth without any hope of a return of the money we advance. It is like putting capital into a gold-mine that is known to he a “duffer.” I have, of course, nothing to say against advancing money for the purpose of assist ing settlers. I desire to give them all the assistance I can. But I still say that we must be careful in these matters, and there should be some provision in the Bill defining how the money to be advanced shall be expended. No doubt the Bill will pass, and I certainly shall not oppose it. When we go into ,recess, regulations will probably be drawn up for the distribution of the advance, and the Governments of some of the States may claim that they have suffered as a result of the distribution made. It is clear that the distribution should not be on a population basis.
– Should the money be divided according to area?
– That might be equally unfair. - The distribution should be upon a basis of area as well as population.
– It is the number of rabbits and wild dogs in the States which should count.
– No doubt that should be taken into consideration. Various aspects of the matter ought to be considered, but. there is no provision in the Bill which can give us any satisfaction with regard to the allocation of the grant. We shall have the satisfaction of voting £250,000 to provide’ wire netting for settlers, but we do not know how the money is to.be distributed. Much of it may be advanced for places where there are very few rabbits or wild clogs.
– On what basis does the honorable member suggest that the distribution of the grant should be made ?
– That is not a question which can be answered offhand. I should like to have facts and figures before me, and some time to consider how the distribution should be made.
– The success of the scheme will depend largely on the men who compose the Committee.
– No doubt it will, and the Committee should consist of men possessing knowledge of this subject. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds is a large sum of money, and the Bill should contain some provision to indicate how the amount will be distributed. Since the war we have got into the habit of talking in millions. We think nothing now of voting £1,000,000, but I can look back for ten or twelve years to a time when £1,000,000 seemed to us a vast amount of money. To-day we regard £500,000 as a bagatelle. In the aggregate these advances make up a very large sum. I am not against the Bill, but I say that it does not go far enough, in that it makes no provision for the manner in which the advance is to be allocated.
.- We have only just had this Bill put into our hands, and, therefore, I am unable to form an opinion with regard to its provisions, but I express my satisfaction that the Government has taken the step of proposing to advance money for the purpose of providing wire netting for settlers. As one who has knowledge of the losses suffered by small land-owners through the ravages, particularly, of the rabbit pest, I very much appreciate the action of the Government in providing this money. I know it has been said that the Commonwealth should not take such a step, but I consider that this Bill deals with what is really a national question. This will be admitted when we consider that there are tens of thousands of acres of land to-day throughout the country absolutely mined by rabbits, and not producing what they did produce before the advent of the rabbits. Land that some time ago carried one and one and a half sheep to the acre is now carrying not more than one sheep to 5 acres. Those who have knowledge of land will readily understand that that is not in the interests of Australia. The Federal Government is dependent for a portion of its revenue on land taxation, and if land is being depreciated in value to such an extent by the ravages of rabbits, it is clear that this question has a national bearing, and the Commonwealth is absolutely justified in advancing money to the State Governments to enable them to assist those who are not in a position to buy wire netting straight out. Wire netting has become so dear that it is impossible for men of small means to pay cash for what they require. For many years the Government of South Australia has been making advances to settlers through the various district councils for the purpose of wire netting their holdings. The plan followed in that State is that a settler applies through his local districtcouncilfora certain amount of wirenetting. The councilrecommends his application or otherwise. If the application is recommended, the necessary advance is made to the district council through the local Government Department of the State. The advance is then made to the settler by the district council, and he has twenty years in which to repay the amount.
– Is the district council responsible for the amount?
– The district council is responsible to the Government for the advance, and the applicant is responsible to the district council. The loan to the settler becomes a first charge upon his land. If a borrower fails in South Australia, the next man who takes up the land has to bear the liability.
– There is a similar Act. in Victoria.
– The arrangement in South Australia is as I have described. The borrower pays 5 per cent. of the principal, and interest on the balance over twenty years, with the advantage of very easy instalments. I suggest that these advances should be made to the States which are in the greatest need.
– The Bill makes no such provision.
– That should be done, although I confess I cannot suggest how. It is possible that over a great portion of Victoria very little assistance of this kind is needed.
– Much is needed in Gippsland.
– And also in South Australia, where in many cases land has been depreciated by more than half its value. Before the advent of rabbits, cattle and sheep could be turned out on what was considered third class country, and could be got into good condition. Now, however, that country will not carry a hoof of any description; it is simply overrun with rabbits. Men of small means cannot carry on without some assistance towards the purchase of wire netting, more particularly where large estates have been cut up for soldier settlement. Before the cutting up the owners, in their own interests, saw that the rabbits did not increase, but the smaller man permits the rabbits to come over the boundary, to absolutely wipe out his crops. The Commonwealth is responsible for the money and, therefore, the
Commonwealth should look to its own protection. I hope the Bill will he amended so as to provide definitely by whom the money is to be distributed.
.- Although this Bill does not affect my constituency, my deep interest in the welfare of country people compels me to say a few words upon it. I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee for a few years, and I find that the more we go into the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, the more need we see of protection, for the Commonwealth. The position is very awkward in relation to War Service Homes. For instance, the agreement with Victoria is so loosely drawn that the Commonwealth apparently hae no control whatever. A few days ago we found that in connexion with the construction of. roads, all was not in accord with the wishes of the House, but when we seek to have the matter righted we are told that the States have full control. Honorable members on this side have no objection to this form of assistance being given to men on the land, but we must see that money advanced by the Commonwealth is spent in the right direction. Money has been advanced to New South Wales for soldier settlement, but I feel sure that many of the settlers will be compelled to leave their holdings.. I have been asked to visit some of these settlements during the recess in order that I may personally investigate the position. £ admit that we have the security of the States, but we ought to go further, and see that the money is properly spent. The Bill provides that the money shall be put into a Trust Fund, but there is nothing to indicate whether the State Governments, the municipalities, the shire councils, or the farmers and graziers’ associations are to have control. As a matter of fact, the Bill does not inform us whether this £250,000 is to be taken from the Consolidated Revenue or the Loan Fund. I do riot wish to see a repetition of the confusion and mismanagement that we have seen in connexion witH War Service Homes. However, I felt confident that the whole of the money advanced for that purpose will never be returned to the Commonwealth. So far as I “can see, the Commonwealth itself will have no control over the expenditure of the money . advanced. It is surprising how such moneys are spent by the States, and .even by our own officers. Of course, after Yoting £63,000,000 in a few hours the other day, £250,000 does not seem much, but the public will look to us for an account of our stewardship. The Minister is as silent as an oyster; he has simply placed what he calls a “little Bill “ on the table, and asked us to accept it. Mr. Collins or some other official of the Treasury may have control. Honorable members have no means of ascertaining who will control the money, and if they vote for the Bill they cannot console themselves with the knowledge that the money will go to those for whom it is intended. I raise no objection to wire netting being supplied to those who require it, and whose circumstances warrant their receiving assistance from the Government. That class of person has my sympathy, but I desire to know who will control the expenditure. The Minister cannot inform us what the term qf the loan will be. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) said that the loan would possibly be granted for twenty years. That i3 a long period for a loan for such a purpose. We do not know whether interest will bo charged. If the loan is to be free of interest, Parliament ought to say so. The War Service Homes Commissioner lent a sum of £14,000 free’ of interest, and shortly afterwards the man who received it sued the Commission for heavy compensation, because it had relieved him of a contract earlier than he should have been relieved. I have made up my mind to do what I can to improve the loose system of conducting the public expenditure of this country. I have learned * much on the subject during the last three years. I have facilities for knowing what is happening, and I am giving the House the benefit of my information. My object is to prevent recklessness in spending public money. An agreement was drawn up with Victoria, and I interviewed the Minister and asked him how a certain thing, which I knew was not right, could be done. He said, “Well, West, the agreement is so loose that I do not think we can do anything.” The Bill appears to be as loose as that agreement. I do not wish to accuse the State ‘Governments of carelessness, but I say that they are not as cautious as they ought to be in handling money which they get from the Commonwealth. In New South Wales, land for returned soldiers has been purchased under a Resumption Act at very high prices. I do not understand how the returned soldiers who have been placed on that land can be expected to repay the heavy debt placed upon them. The price of the land in some cases amounts to £2,000 or £3,000. For the first four or five years the whole of a settler’s earnings will be sunk in providing a home, and in fencing and wire netting, his property. When his military pension and repatriation benefits cease, it will become impossible for him to remain on the land. The House may give the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) credit for knowing something of the subject of which he has spoken. I do not believe that he would make a statement which was contrary to the truth, or was exaggerated. He made it clear to nic that the State Governments are not spending Commonwealth money as carefully as this Parliament would desire. The Government, in advancing this money, should take precautions such as would be taken by a banking institution lending money on mortgage. At the present stage I am merely asking the Government for more information. I have taken the first opportunity available of placing my views before the House. I hope I shall not do an injury to those for whom the benefit is intended. As a mater of fact, I believe I shall do them more good than injury. That is one of the reasons why I have spoken.
.- I desire to commend the Government for introducing this Bill. While honorable members may desire to know how the money will be distributed, I suggest that they should trust the Government to deal with that matter. After the arrangements have been made by the Government, it should inform the House of its decisions, so that honorable members may then have an opportunity to express their approval or disapproval. Some parts of Australia do not come under the jurisdiction of the States; I refer to the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory. I know that many of the settlers at Canberra desire, to bc assisted in the direction proposed.
– Surely there are no rabbits at Canberra!
– There is a great -number of rabbits there, but the Territory is rapidly becoming a clean area. The Government ought not to forget the needs of the settlers at Canberra.
– Am I likely to forget Canberra?
– The settlers at Canberra, and in the Northern Territory, are the Commonwealth’s first consideration, and they should not be overlooked. The Commonwealth is handing over a large share of its responsibilities to the States. In the matter of soldier settlement, we have lost too much. control. With our responsibility for raising and spending money, which we have to supply, and for which, we are answerable, we should have a full knowledge of the manner in which the proposed Committee is to distribute the amount. In its distribution I trust the Government will see that the settlers in the Northern Territory, represented by Mr. Nelson, and those in the Federal Capital, who have no representation at all, will be allotted that to which they are entitled.
– I, too, am surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), in moving the second reading of this Bill, did not supply the House with more information. It is an easy matter to say that the sum of £250,000 will be distributed under regulations framed under clause 7. We know that regulations are framed consistent with the provisions of an Act, but that is insufficient. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) moved the second reading of the Main Roads Development Bill, detailed information was given as to how the money was to be allotted to the States. For instance, although the population of Victoria is 1,600,000, this State received less than a State with a population of 400,000, the allocation being partly on an area basis and partly on a population basis. In that instance full details were given, but now it is proposed to spend £250,000 presumably on the recommendations of a Committee to be appointed. If honorable members will refer to page 21 of the Budget they will see that in order to assist small holders to combat vermin, the Government have decided to make available the sum of £250,000 for the purpose of supplying wire netting on long terms, and of that amount £50,000 is to be set aside for the Northern Territory. If such a pronouncement can be made in the Budget, surely the Minister ought to be able to tell the House how the remainder isto be distributed between the various States. The object is a laudable one, and I intend to support the Bill, and even if more money were to be voted I would not offer any objection.
– I would not mind if a larger amount were to be spent in the Northern Territory.
– The sum of £50,000 has been allotted to the Northern Territory, and, surely, the Minister could have told us how the other £200,000 was to be spent.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I do not think it should be distributed on an area basis. A big proportion of Western Australia remains Unoccupied, and large areas of Crown lands in that State are breeding grounds for rabbits, dogs, and other pests. The State Governments and the municipalities are the biggest offenders, because in many instances they do not destroy the rabbits on Crown lands and on main roads. It would not be a fair proposition to distribute this sum on an area basis. There is no more difficult country in the whole of Australia than in Gippsland, because it is so thickly wooded.
– Unless we get this Bill through we shall have more of the Gippsland country unoccupied.
– Perhaps so. I do not wish to speak parochially; but if the Government act upon the principle of distributing the money on an area basis, desirable settlers in some of the smaller States will not benefit.
– We could do with some of it in the Healesville country.
– Probably. Some small blocks are surrounded by large areas, unfenced and uncared for, where no attempt is made to destroy the vermin. There is land within 50 miles of Melbourne as thickly timbered as the country in Gippsland or in the vicinity of Cape Otway, where little is done to destroy vermin. It is peculiar to find in the Budget figures for 1922-23 the sum of £250,000 for wire netting, and that al though we are now in the second month of the financial year 1923-24, we are making provision for the expenditure of thatamount. It is an audacious act on the part of the Treasurer to say that he is effecting a saving of £250,000 on this item. The Budget is a funny thing.
– The honorable member knows that the Estimates have been passed.
– I am merely referring to the matter in order to institute a comparison.
– The honorable member can make only an allusion to the Budget.
– I should like to know why the amount has not been included in the expenditure for the present financial year. The first column is blank; in the second column £250,000 is shown, and in the third that amount is shown as a saving. Victoria was allotted £91,000 of the main roads grant, and some of the States, with a population of perhaps less than 400,000, received over £100,000. Western Australia was one.
– A certain amount was allocated to each State.
– But not on a population basis. The area of the States was taken into account, and I have no objection to that. The suggestion has been made this afternoon that this money for the purchase of wire netting should be distributed on an area basis.
– I said so, and I still think that.
– I suggested that consideration should be given to those States with the greatest area of vermininfested country.
– That would almost necessitate a census of the rabbits, and that is quite impossible. A schedule should be attached to the Bill setting out how the money is to be allocated. I hope that the Minister will, before the debate on the second reading is concluded, give the House an indication of what the Government’s intentions are.
I dare say that a considerable proportion of this money will be expended upon blocks occupied by returned soldiers. When this Parliament first announced its willingness to borrow money to be advanced to the States for the purposes of soldier settlement, I expressed the view that the closest Federal supervision would be necessary. I cast no reflection upon the State officials, but I still think that when the Commonwealth provides money to be expended by the States, it should closely supervise such expenditure. In some classes of settlement the returned soldiers will make a greatsuccess, but settlements of other kinds have had failure written on the face of them almost from their inception. Of a group of about a dozen men from overseas who settled upon some irrigation blocks a few years ago, probably not one is on the land to-day. Many of them have returned to the city. I was speaking to a Victorian inspector of lands recently, and when I told him that in view of my observations I did not expect that more than 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. of the soldier settlers would be successful, he said that fully 50 per cent. would make a success of their holdings. Even that result gives one cause to think. If there are to be 50 per cent. of failures amongst the soldier settlers, what is to become of the money which has been advanced to them? The States are responsible for the money which the Commonwealth has borrowed.
– The honorable member’s percentage of failure does not apply to soldier settlements generally.
– I have already said that in some classes of settlement returned soldiers are doing very well. But I knowfrom personal observation that within a short period of being placed upon the land some settlers began to make their way back to the cities. If that inspector’s estimate is correct, and 50 per cent. of the soldier settlers of whom he has knowledge are to be failures, the Commonwealth should seriously consider the position.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the State Governments will not pay back the money which the Commonwealth has advanced to them?
– I do not suggest that, but the money was advanced primarily for the settlement of people upon the land. If the States came to the Commonwealth with a land settlement scheme which they asked the Commonwealth to finance, and they estimated that only 500 of every 1,000 settlers would remain on the land, would this Parliament advance money upon those conditions?
– If the States are willing to accept full responsibility, should we not allow them to do so ?
– The States represent the same taxpayers as does the Commonwealth. .
– I hope that the Minister will furnish the House with complete information regarding the allocation of this £250,000, and the method by which the scheme will be operated.
.- The expenditure of £250,000 for the purposes set down in the Bill will be of immense advantage to the settlers if properly administered. I believe that all the States have some form of distributing organization such as will be required in connexion with this scheme. New South Wales has a system which does not seem to be cumbersome, but when this form of assistance was first introduced into Western Australia, the difficulties in the way of getting it were so great that it ceased to be of use; in fact, the settlers had to give Che whole of their property as security before they could get any help. I believe that the regulations have since been amended and improved. The Commonwealth Government would be wise to make sure before commencing distribution that the organization in each State is satisfactory, and not too cumbersome for the settlers. If the purchase and distribution of the wire netting are to be controlled by a Board, that body should comprise men who know how and where to buy the material. It is rather important that the Board should not, in order to get a cheaper article, accept the offer of some mendicant pedlar of wire netting. The material should be of the proper gauge and mesh. The sum of £250,000 will purchase, approximately, 4,166 miles of netting, of which 833 miles will be for the Northern Territory, and the balance of 3,333 miles for the States. I am. estimating £60 per mile for netting of l¼-in. mesh and 17 gauge. WhenI purchased 10 miles of wire netting some time ago in Western Australia, the best quotation I could get was £64 per mile, but I hope that the Commonwealth, when expending £250,000, will be able to make a better deal than I could.
– Surely wire netting is not at that price now?
– Yes, £64 per mile is the best quote I could get in Perth, and on that, as the honorable member knows, the Government desired to impose an anti-dumping duty of 15 per cent. As I have just had landed 10 miles of wire netting I know what I am talking about. When it is considered that the cost of enclosing a holding against vermin is over 100 per cent. more than it was in 1914, it is only right that the Government should come to the assistance of the settlers, because if the rabbits are not excluded from their properties, nothing can be produced on them. The Government should make provision for a small Committee composed of men who understand the business, who will be able to make a reasonable allocation of the advance, having regard chiefly to the districts in which wire netting is most needed. One might put in a special claim for Western Australia, not so much because of the area of that State as because it is the State which has most recently been invaded by rabbits. The rabbits have attacked Western Australia on a very large front, which was, may I say, contemporary with the German advance on Belgium in 1914, when, it will be remembered, Australia experienced its greatest drought. Wire netting was then worth £28 per ton, the price rose to £70 per ton, and to-day it is £64 a ton. The settlers have been quite Unable to resist the invasion. There is a huge number of settlers in Western Australia whose holdings are not protected against the rabbit. I admit that there are more rabbits in the older States on Crown lands adjacent to settlers’ holdings, but in those States very large areas have been fenced with wire netting. It will be in the interests of Australia to enable settlers in Western Australia to secure the wire netting they require on convenient terms of purchase in order to enable them to be prepared for the further advance of the rabbits in that State. I hope the Government will provide for a Committee of persons who understand the business, and will be able to take all the circumstances into consideration.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the debate be adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
.- If we are to have many more of these proposals to establish trust funds of public moneys for the support of the interests of private individuals, I shall be forced to conclude that the policy of the Government of non-interference with private enterprise will suffer the loss of some of its virginal whiteness. I have taken part in debates on proposals designed to provide a bounty for the rich pastoralists engaged in the export of meat. I have heard something, also, in this House of a proposal to support the growers of wheat on a large scale, in respect of the erection of wheat silos. In all these cases curiously enough the Government, which came into power pledged to do away with this interference with the smooth working of private enterprise, is the very Government that has been the chief instrument in continuing that form of benevolent interference. Now it comes with a proposal to add to the very long list of trust funds under the Audit Act another trust fund, into which it will pour £250,000 for the purpose of benefitting some undisclosed persons in an unknown way. I gather from the debate, rather than from the Bill, that the special purpose of the measure, if it ever becomes an Act, is to enable advances to be made to some unnamed settlers for the purpose of acquiring wire netting. It may be that the Government will buy wire netting because it will have the power to do so under the Bill. It may be that it will distribute it. We do not know. It may be that the State Governments will have the distribution of it. We do not know. It may be that the repayment of the public money to be so disposed of will be adequately secured. We have no means of knowing whether it will or not. All of these things are left to the discretion of the Government - this or some other - whose main pledge was that it would not interfere in any way with the fundamental principles and smooth running of private enterprise.
– This is not an interference with private enterprise.
– I shall be obliged to the honorable member if he will tell me just what it is.
– It is intended merely to advance loans to settlers.
– In his speech the honorable member extolled generally, and I think rightly, the principle of investing, and even of spending, money discreetly for the purpose of advancing closer settlement. That is a general principle with which, as my leader (Mr. Charlton) said, we can all agree. Although the second reading of the Bill may be accepted, I certainly do not admit for a single moment that the information presented to the House by the Government is anything like sufficient. It is a curious thing that at this moment - in fact, this debate was interrupted for the purpose - a Bill has been presented to this House by the Minister for Works and Railways concerning War Service Homes. I understand that the main principle of that Bill is the writing off of a debt somewhat similar to the amount for which we are dipping into the Treasury in respect of wire netting. I do not blame the. Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart). I am hopeful that his Bill will be a success. This is not the time to discuss that Bill ; but I know that some such measure has become absolutely necessary, from causes which arose prior to his taking office, causes for which the present Government and its immediate predecessors are entirely responsible. There is every reason for fearing, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out, that we may have to write off a great deal more - that we may have to write off some of this £250,000, and a very considerable part of it. I am not quite clear, either, whether under this Bill, as it is presented to us, the money must be spent for wire netting. I see nothing in the Bill to require that. The Bill certainly says the money may be spent for such purpose, but the main principle is to create a Trust Fund, and enable the Government to satisfy the Audit Act. Certainly the only fund mentioned is one for wire netting, but it is quite obvious that other purposes may be created. I had thought at first that this proposal was directed specially to the conditions of soldier settlers. Naturally, the members of the House are disposed to be more indulgent to them than to the general public. Apparently, however, we are not limited to soldier settlors.
I am not quite clear,either, that we are committed to the holders of any particular areas - that we are limited to holders of small areas.We are not, by this Bill, necessarily advancing a policy of closer settlement, which generally has the support and good-will of every member of the House. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke in terms of miles when he talked of wire netting frontages in Western Australia and elsewhere.
– What area is your city ranch ?
– It is a small block that is included within a mile.
– I do not say that a mile encloses a large block - it depends on the frontage. The honorable member for Forrest spoke about erecting wire fences as though across a frontier where the rabbits come down, as the Germans invaded Belgium - apicturesque figure employed by the honorable member himself. I may tell him that I understand the country, and I understand rabbits. But I do not believe in giving the Government, first of all, a signed cheque for £250,000, and then carte blanche as to the disposal of the money. We should certainly know more about the matter. Is this a complement to the special gifts which we made to the beef barons? Is it to be a gift to the squatters for wiring in their ranches in various parts of the Commonwealth?
– Is it like the Bill introduced this afternoon to relieve the Crown leaseholders ?
– Quite so.
– If the whole of this money were spent in Western Australia and the Northern Territory it would not be anything like adequate.
– The Northern Territory is to get £50,000, which should serve some good purpose in that vast territory, though it will not go very far. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that it is undesirable to go into the details of the expenditure of this money - that we should leave the responsibility with the Government itself. If I were a follower of the Government, as the honorable member is, I might be disposed to leave some responsibility to it.
– Knowing that the money will go to the States, which willbe reponsible to the Commonwealth?
– With my knowledge of the dreadful record in respect of War Service Homes and matters of that kind, I feel less disposed to leave this business entirely to the Government, if wo can have placed in the Bill some conditions and terms, some guarantee, for instance, as to the management. If one knew that some responsible officer would have charge of the allocation of this money, if we were informed as to the persons who were to benefit and the extent of the areas they occupy - if we knew some of the multiplicity of details which are very important, we might have less anxiety about the Bill. But the honorable member for Fawkner says that the money is to go to the Slates. Well, that is the first I have heard of that. Of course, it has been suspected by honorable members that the money is to be handed over to the States to be expended by them. But we have heard nothing from the Minister, and there is nothing in the Bill to enlighten us in that regard. I do not know that, because we are going to hand over this money, we should hand over to the States the responsibility for its proper allocation. I am quite satisfied that money should be judiciously expended, either for ordinary closer settlement, including soldier settlement, on adequate security, for opening up and developing land which is either potentially or actually reproductive. I am entirely favourable to special concessions being made to soldier settlers, whom we have placed on the land. But if we are asked to make an advance from the public funds to buttress up the interests of soldiers whom we have deliberately placed on inferior lands - men who will never make a living there, and who are being driven by the harsh pressure of circumstances to give up their areas - if, after having done that, we now propose to waste further money in an endeavour to induce those who have not left to remain on their holdings, because of the concessions in the way of wire netting, I am opposed to any policy of the kind. For those reasons, I really think we should have a great deal more information. Finally, I say that on those gentlemen who have so condemned the Labour party for its State socialism, for its buttressing of State enterprises which, according to them have been a failure, rests the responsibility of justifying the course of procedure outlined in the Bill, which is a moderate, but not a well considered, measure of State Socialism. That responsibility rests on honorable members opposite, more than it rests on us. We of the Labour party should not be the only “ watchdogs” of the Government. But when it comes to a matter of country interest, honorable members opposite lose sight of their eternal principles. Members of the Country party, if it serves their special interests, forget the basic principle on which they were returned here, and the same applies to my friends the Nationalists, who are associated with the large pastoral interests.
– The provisions of the Bill are in the interests of the hardest pressed men in the country.
– How does the honorable member know that? I tell the honorable member, who, I believe, is perfectly sincere and honest in this matter, that if he can assure me that what he says is correct, and can produce proof of it, I will give him my whole-hearted support.
– From long association with this question, I know that the man with money never applies for loans for wire netting. It is always the small man, who cannot pay for his netting, who asks for assistance.
– I know from personal experience extending over a large number of years that most people do not try to borrow unless they want money badly. That is so in regard not only to wire netting, but also to smaller and more personal matters.
– Even the large holders in Queensland want this assistance, because they have not the money with which to buy wire netting.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay is now speaking of the large holders - his friends.
– And for the small holders, too.
– Which proves that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) has not the full sum of knowledge of this subject at his disposal. He is in sympathy with the struggling small farmer, but the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is keeping his eye on the larger vested interests with which he is particularly associated. That bears out my contention.
– I am keeping my eye on both large and small interests.
– Whether on either or on all, there is nothing in this Bill about it. The distribution of the money will be merely a matter of discretion. It may even be a matter of favoritism, for anything honorable members know. We have no guarantee in that regard. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has spoken of the exercise of common sense in this matter. I understand that he desires to speak, and will do so if I do not speak too long. I invite him, in the exercise of that much larger measure of common sense and political experience which he possesses, to inform the House precisely how the money will be expended, and what the safeguards will be in regard to security, area, and the other matters to which I have referred. If he will do that, and can satisfy any reasonable, prudent man - I do not ask him to satisfy an exacting solicitor, or a legal adviser - that this is a business proposition, and that it will not be anything like so dismal a failure as many of the public enterprises with which this Government has been associated, he can rely for once at least upon the whole-hearted support of the member for Batman.
. -I wish to commend the Government for its action in introducing this Bill. At the same time, we must all agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), whenhe said that it was absolutely essential that these advances should be safeguarded. I can speak from personal knowledge of the measures taken in New South Wales and South Australia to safeguard advances to settlers. In New South Wales advances are made on the advice of the Pastures Protection Boards. The State is divided into a number of districts, and the members of the Boards are elected by the stock-owners of each district on the principle of “one man one vote.” The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will observe that the members of the Boards are elected on a democratic basis.
– But they are all squatters.
– They are not all squatters. They are very often small holders. Advances in that State are made on the recommendations of these Boards, which are responsible for the regular repayments.
– Are there any returned soldiers on those Boards?
– Money has been advanced to returned soldier settlers as well as to others. A Board’s responsibility for repayments is the same whether the money is advanced to a returned soldier or another person. If a Board considers that an applicant for a loan is not likely to repay it, it does not recommend the granting of the application. The present Government of New South Wales has more than doubled the amount available for providing - wire netting for landholders, but the demand is so great that the netting cannot be supplied to all small holders, let alone to large holders. The Government has confined its assistance to supplying wire netting for enclosing cultivated portions of blocks. In my electorate the district of Bathurst is badly infested with rabbits. The members of the Pastures Protection Board for that district, being practical men, are fully seized of the necessity for discharging their duty and seeing that the landholders destroy the pest as the law requires. One of these men, speaking to me in Bathurst, said he was very keen on rabbit extermination, “ but,” he added, “unless we can give the settlers wire netting, it is not prosecution, but persecution, to bring them to the Court for not keeping down the rabbits.” The position is very serious. Different kinds of netting are stipulated under the State Act. By buying large quantities, the Government is able to supply netting at a very much cheaper rate than that at which private individuals can purchase it. A similar result, it is hoped, will be achieved by the expenditure under this Bill. I have no doubt that the money will be allocated by the States in the businesslike way that has always characterized them in such transactions. I am content to leave the Government to attend to that matter. I urge the Minister, when making advances to the States, to do so only on the distinct understanding that the States must not reduce their expenditure proportionately. The amount granted by the Commonwealth should be in addition to the grants by the States. The rabbit pest is the biggest problem Australia has to face. The State of New South Wales will probably have a total of not more than 32,000,000 sheep by the end of the present year. There is no other reason for that than the rabbit pest. The droughts of recent years would not have caused such a loss of stock but for the rabbit pest. In 1893, New South Wales had upwards of 60,000,000 sheep, and, speaking from personal knowledge of the subject, I can assert that the carrying capacity of the sheep land of that State has been improved to such an extent since that year that, but for the rabbit pest, it could now carry fully 100,000,000 sheep. Whenever the number increases to 45,000,000, a few months’ dry weather reduces it again. Hundreds of miles of country which was in a virgin state in 1893 is now wellimproved. Grazing country which then would not carry more than one sheep to five acres, now that it has been improved and netted and the rabbits destroyed, will carry one sheepto an acre.
– I thought this money was going to the squatters.
– The honorable member has so little knowledge of the country that he thinks that it is only the squatters who breed sheep. His opinions are typical of those expressed by the majority of honorable members opposite, who do not know anything concerning the actual position. It is interesting to note that in New South Wales there are only 1,470 flocks containing over 5,000 sheep each; the bulk are held by small owners. Consideration should be shown to the small holders, and it is essential that assistance should also be given to large holders. Settlers on holdings in the western division of New South Wales, which honorable members opposite are so worried over, who, they say, should not be relieved of taxation, are being forced from their holdings owing to the difficulty of financing purchases of wire netting. That is the position in the West Darling district. Settlement cannot be successful unless we do something more for those people. The whole district is going out of sheep, and the position in regard to cattle is becoming so desperate that there is not sufficient stock to show a sufficient return to keep the improvements in fair order. This is a very laudable proposal, but it does not go far enough. In New South Wales annual payments are made to cover the interest on instalment, and in the South Australian vermin districts, in which very large holdings are included, a twenty years’ term is allowed. In some cases land which had been grazing country, but of which the dingoes had taken possession, has been brought back under sheep. This is what will have to be done in the Northern Territory.Rabbits have gone right out into the centre of Australia, which is now a breeding ground for dingoes and half-bred dogs, which have multiplied in a way which was never imagined. There is little grass in that country, and when the herbage goes off, the rabbits die and the dogs are forced into the occupied country in search of food, where they prey upon the flocks. The manager of a South Australian station informed me that he had paid for 1,500 scalps last year, and it is probable that even a larger number of dogs were destroyed. We cannot be successful if we burke this question. We know what the difficulties are, and they ought to be faced. Reference has been madeto the class of netting to be supplied, but practical men know what will be most suitable for a particular district, and I do not think there need be any doubt in that regard. A stronger gauge is necessary where there are marsupials. The netting I am at present using is 42 inches x 1¼ inch x 18 gauge, and cost me £48 2s. 6d. a mile in Sydney. In New South Wales, applicants for netting are allowed to determine what gauge they require. Those requiring wire are men of experience, and it does not matter whether the wire is 17 or 18 gauge, so long as it will provide a good rabbitproof fence. I again congratulate the Government on introducing this Bill. We can safely leave it to Ministers to see that the money will be distributed in the best possible way.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
.- I do not intend to oppose this Bill. It is a laudable thing to assist the small landholders, and particularly returned soldiers, to obtain wire netting to keep the rabbits off their land. No instruction appears in this Bill, however, about where the wire netting is to bo purchased. I noticed in to-day’s press that action similar to this is to be taken by the Premier of New South Wales. It appears that he intends to obtain wire netting outside of the Commonwealth irrespective of whether it can be produced here. The wire netting that comes here from Britain is partially manufactured in Belgium and Germany; but is drawn in Britain and sent here under the British preference. I believe that wire netting produced in Australia should be purchased if the price be right. I have no doubt that if the Australian weavers of wire were to receive a large order they would be able to provide all that is needed at a reasonable price.
– Does this Government intend to import the wire netting?
– That is what we want to find out.
– All things being equal the Government will get it in Australia.
– We have no undertaking that that will be so. The Minister (Mr. Chapman) should give the House more information. If the quantity required can be obtained in Australia ata reasonable price we should not go outside for it. When public money is spent to assist the primary producers they should be willing to help the secondary industries. That is a fair thing.
– Australian wire netting is the best quality on the market.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) is a practical man, and we can accept his judgment. I think all honorable members will agree that the wire netting should be obtained in Australia if possible. The Government should not use public moneys to interfere with the declared policy of this Parliament.
– Has not the Government already declared for Free Trade in wire netting?
– It has already taken off the duty.
– Does the honorable member object to the Government policy on wire netting?
– I would rather have the Tariff than the bounty. I am opposed to bounties if the production of an article in the country is sufficient to warrant a Tariff.
– The trouble is that the local manufacturers cannot supply nearly enough wire netting for Australia’s present requirements.
– Perhaps the honorable member forgets that for twelve months the parent industry was closed down. During that period the wire netting manufacturers had two sets of machines ready to install.
– When I went through their works recently they had four new machines, and were prepared to greatly increase the rate of manufacture.
– That would give them three times the output they had prior to the closing down of the parent industry. The wire rods can be put through these machines at a terrific rate, and I believe that if the manufacturers knew that they could get a large order, they would so increase their output that they would be able to supply Australia’s needs. The primary producers surely would not object to helping this industry even if the price they had to pay was a little higher than would be the price for imported goods. If the Bill is passed it should include an instruction that all things being equal, Australian manufacturers should be given a preference.
– I think that may be taken for granted.
– That is not at all clear. It is evidently not the intention of the Premier of New South Wales. To put the matter beyond all doubt a small amendment should be made.I repeat that, in my opinion, the primary producers are patriotic enough to help our secondary industries.
– Some of them are.
– The object of this Bill is no doubt to assist the smaller landholders, and particularly the returned soldiers, who are having a great struggle on the blocks allotted to them. In most cases the returned soldiers have the worst blocks of land that could be obtained. I hope the Minister will agree to amend the measure as I have suggested.
.- The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) may rest assured that the Minister (Mr. Chapman) will give a preference to wire netting of Australian manufacture if it can be obtained at the same price as we would have to pay for wire netting manufactured abroad. No doubt all honorable members in this Chamber agree that it would be proper to give the Australian manufacturers the preference under those conditions. Possibly the action of the New South Wales Premier was taken because he believed that the local manufacturers could not supply all the requirements of Australia. I do not. think wc should bc justified in asking the people who need this wire netting to wait too long for it., I would not agree to the Government giving to the local manufacturers a contract spread over two or three years. It is essential that this netting should be available within a limited time. No doubt the Minister will bc inclined to give a little preference to the Australian, manufacturers.
– He may be inclined to, but he does not do it.
– At present the Government gives a bounty for the manufacture of wire netting. When such a bounty is given the- people have the right to expect u fair deal. The position in ibc fencing wire- industry prior to the Ruhr trouble was that Great Britain was selling fencing wire to Australia for £13 per ton, and the Australian manufacturers were also charging that price. When the Ruhr trouble occurred, Great Britain was not able to obtain supplies of raw material so easily, and the price of the English wire advanced to £22 per ton. It is peculiar that the price of the Australian wire advanced in the same way, although we have no Ruhr trouble here. That is a matter into which the Tariff Board should look. When, industries are being assisted by Government money they certainly should give a fair deal to the people. It would have been better had the Government given a definite promise that it would not put anti-dumping duties on wire netting which came into Australia from Great Britain, instead of bringing in a Bill of this sort, which I feel is in the nature of a sop to the farmer. I feel very strongly on this question. I am not so much concerned about wire netting manufactured in. foreign countries, but I am concerned when I find that a duty of 33 per cent, is put on wire netting which comes from England.
The general opinion of honorable members seems to be that this Bill should pass into law. If the Government called for tenders for £250,000 worth of wire netting, I think it should obtain quotations at less than the ruling rates to-day. In the interests of the returned soldier settlers this article should be cheap. Many’ of the soldier settlers are -having a hard time. They start with practically no money, and are not able to put even a fence around their holdings. They get a patch cleared, rake it over with a scarifier, and hope that they will get a decent yield -for the first year. Many of them have wretched little homes in which to live, and a very poor supply of water. These conditions mean great hardships. We should give them all the assistance that we can to keep rabbits and other vermin off their blocks. We all know how these pests eat down the crops. Wire netting is essential for the pioneering work of primary producers. I trust that, as a result of the passage of the Bill, we shall be able to obtain cheaper wire netting. I can foresee difficulty on the part of the Minister in administering this measure. He has not told us which Sub-Department . will control the expenditure, and how it is to be allotted. Honorable members would be wise to leave the allocation to the Minister. I, as representing a large State, would be quite content to do so, and I hope that by these advances for wire netting some little assistance will be given to the settlers to enable them to overcome their difficulties. Under clause 6, it is proposed that the Minister shall function this Bill. He will have none of the administrative resources at his disposal that are available .to the States. I had land in Western Australia fenced with .11 miles of rabbbit-proof wire netting. I was ‘ able to borrow money for the work from the Agricultural Bank, and that amount, together with other amounts borrowed from the bank, were a first mortgage on the property. The bank advances 75 per cent, of the total cost, and their inspectors see that the money is well expended. They see that there is justification for the advance, and the Government have a good asset when the work is completed. The Minister for Trade and .Customs will be unable -to properly deal with applications for wire netting from the north-west and south-west of Western Australia, from Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales. . One can imagine his difficulties. Firstly, he will need to ascertain/ whether any proposed advance is justified; secondly, to inspect the property to see whether the money has been expended as originally intended; and thirdly, to find out what is the security.
– In New South Wales it is a first charge on the land.
– The Commonwealth Government cannot make it a first charge on the land. Under State administration, all these difficulties are easily overcome. The States have the necessary machinery to carry out this work. The Commonwealth Minister could make an advance through the States conditionally, as suggested by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), that it should be in addition to any State advances for the provision of wire netting. I doubt very much whether the Minister could by regulation overcome his difficulties. We should get rid of red-tape legislation. Only the other day a Bill passed this Parliament voting certain sums to the States for main road purposes. New regulations have been issued by the .Works and Railways Department, and all particulars are to be forwarded to Melbourne. The State engineers are not to be allowed to decide questions appertaining to preparation of the plans, specifications, &c. Where public money is advanced, all State requirements are to be approved by this Department. I do not think that is necessary. Let us avoid the circumlocution of the regulations. The difficulty of administering this measure can easily be overcome by allowing the States to accept the debt, and to guarantee repayment of advances on terms, with interest added. Without some such arrangement, the Minister will be unable to administer the vote in its entirety to the satisfaction of this Parliament. We do not want a repetition of the maladministration of the War Service Homes Department. If the administration of this Bill is left to the States,’ the greater portion, if not the whole, of the money will be returned with interest. The other day I received a letter from a returned soldier. He and a great many others had been repatriated on small cattle stations in
Western Australia. He asked me whether it would be possible to get capital in Victoria so as to purchase wire netting to enclose these holdings. These blocks, owing to the low prices prevailing, are not profitable for the purpose of raising cattle. For the last four or five years, fifty of these men have worked on these stations, and not one of them has made £100 per year. It is as hard a life as any man could follow, and does not even pay wages. My informant told me that there was quite a boom in sheep country to the north of Kalgoorlie, and he asked me whether it would be possible to obtain capital in Victoria at interest so as to enable him to erect wireproof fences to keep out the dingoes. It is impossible to carry on sheep-farming in those parts without the provision of dog-proof fences. When administering this measure the Minister will need to ascertain whether the advance is for dog-proof or rabbitproof fencing. As the honorable member for Macquarie pointed out, in New South Wales in the nineties, as compared with to-day, an enormously greater number of sheep was carried. The decrease is due to the ravages of rabbits. I advise honorable members to read the evidence of Admiral Clarkson, pointing out the difficulty of settling the Northern Territory owing to the cost of transit and supplies. If we can better those conditions by supplying the settlers with netting for rabbit-proof fences, we shall go a long- way towards the development of that country. By this means we shall also prevent the rush of unsuccessful settlers to the cities. The allocation of this vote should be left entirely to the Minister, and if that were done, I believe the States would be very fairly treated. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) expressed the fear that preference would be shown; but I am convinced that if wire netting can be obtained on reasonable terms the settlers will be only too glad to take advantage of the advances provided for in the Bill.
.- It is a misnomer to class rabbits as vermin. They are a nutritious food, and in the Homeland are much valued as a food. If any one cares to read Gil Bias, which, although written in French, is a classic of Spain, he will find that when Gil Bias was in affluence he called always for what he considered to bethe best joint, and that was roast rabbit. A good stud rabbit of Belgium brings from £50 to £60, and honorable members must recognise that rabbits cannot be regarded as pests. Further, is it not a fact that rabbits, weight for weight, are of more value than sheep. The value of the pelt has to be considered. When wire netting was first manufactured in Melbourne, grave difficulty was experienced because the Shipping Combine could land wire netting from New York in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane cheaper than we could Bend it from Melbourne to Brisbane. The Combine from New York chartered whole bottoms, and certain prices were agreed upon. Under this Bill, £250,000 is to be allotted by the Government. It is not fair to ask the States to contribute their share? Even if they will not do that, surely they might meet the Minister by eliminating the cost of freight. . I investigated this question in Western Australia, and ascertained that the freights on machinery and fencing wire were very high. It is only fair that the States should contribute £1 for £1 with the Commonwealth. If the States will not give £1 for £1, they might help the Commonwealth by eliminating freights on State-owned railways. That would considerably assist the settlers.
– The wire netting should be carried at a cheap rate.
– In Victoria, wire netting sufficient for 6 miles of verminproof fencing is supplied, and the advance, which covers only the bare cost, is repayable by cash,or on terms over a period not exceeding ten years, with interest at 4 per cent. per annum. I do not suppose this Government could advance money at such a low rate now; but we could make it 5 per cent. While wire netting is admitted free, the Government pay a bonus on all netting manufactured in Australia. This is purely a Socialistic enterprise to assist settlers on the land, and, as such, I willingly support it. I suggest, also, that if its administration presents any difficulties the assistance of the States be obtained, and the money allocated in such a way as to insure larger sums being made available for the States of. Western Australia and Queensland, where the need is greater.
– A few moments ago the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) expressed a doubt whether the rabbit was correctly described as vermin. If the honorable member had dug out as many burrows as I have, he would have no doubt whatever upon that point. I commend the. Government for having introduced the Bill, and I hope that the netting will be purchased to the best possible advantage in order that the advances may go as far as possible. I agree with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) that, if possible, we should buy it in Australia, but I point out that the Australian industry has the benefit of natural protection in the way of freight, and, in addition, is encouraged by a bounty. Surely we are not so hopelessly inefficient as to be unable to compete on these terms with overseas competition. It has been suggested that this proposal to advance £250,000 for the purchase of wire netting is a large transaction. So far from this being so, I suggest that Australia might very easily spend £10,000,000 in the purchase of verminproof wire netting, and yet be unable to overtake the rabbit pest. We have been informed also that, of the amount to be advanced, £50,000 will be allocated to the Northern Territory, and it has been argued by one honorable member that it will be used for the assistance of large leaseholders there. At the present price for wire netting, £50,000 will not go very far ; because 17-gauge, 42-inch by l½-inch mesh netting costs £52 10s. per mile. Assuming that the Government could buy it at £50 per mile, the amount to be allocated to the Northern Territory would provide 1,000 miles of netting, but, as the netting there is for protection against dingoes, it must be used double depth, so the amount available for the Northern Territory will only provide enough netting to fence in a block of about 125 miles square. That area of land will not bulk very largely in a map. of the Northern Territory. I hope that nothing less than 17-gauge netting will be purchased, because the repayments will extend over a period of twenty years, and the Government will then have an asset at the end of the term. An 18- gauge wire is so much lighter that a small rabbit can press the hexagonal mesh into a circular shape, and cau thus squeeze through an 18-gauge l¼ inch mesh as easily as through a 17-gauge l½inch mesh, which is sufficiently stiff to retain its hexagonal shape. We should rememher also that, in the Northern Territory, the Government will bc assisting to improve their own property, and, therefore, the most useful description of netting should be purchased. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) described this as a Socialistic measure. I remind him that the Commonwealth Government did not hesitate, a few years ago, to take large profits from the sale of rabbit skins through the fixation of prices, and I suggest that it is not unreasonable now, for the Government to make advances to enable landholders to cope with the pest. If a national calamity such as cholera or small-pox made its appearance in Australia, the honorable member for Batman would not complain that Government measures to cope with the menace were Socialistic in character. I regard the rabbit pest as nothing short of a national calamity. I have been fighting rabbits for years, and suppose that during the last fifteen years, one-fifth of my time has been occupied in this way. Gippsland is essentially a dairying country, and in recent years quite a number of returned soldiers have become engaged in the industry. The managers of butter factories know that the gradual reduction in the size of the cream cheques going to some dairy farms means that the rabbit pest is steadily encroaching on our dairying areas in Gippsland. Many properties have become practically denuded of feed, and owing to the high price of netting our dairymen have not been able to cope with the vermin. On the plains country the rabbits, as a rule, do not burrow very deeply, but in the hills they are indeed a very serious menace. The honorable member for Batman also suggested that when we were speaking of miles of wire netting we were looking at this proposal from the big man’s point of view. As a matter of fact, a mile of wire netting would only net in a 40-acre block 20 chains each way, so in reality this is a small man’s proposition. Fifteen years ago the rabbit was almost unknown in Gippsland. It was then regarded there as a curiosity, just as the kangaroo is in some of the northern districts of this State, but, unfortunately for us, the rabbit has multiplied to such an extraordinary extent, that the hill districts are now infested, and it is essential that definite measures such as are outlined in the Bill now before the Blouse shall be taken to cope with the pest. I hope that the money will be expended to the best advantage, and that it will be supplied to districts where there is a prospect of getting the best return from the outlay. My first impression, when the Bill was presented, was that this House should lay down definite regulations dealing with allocations to the various States, but as we are within a fortnight of the end of the session, and as the preparation of the necessary data would take considerable time, I realize that this course cannot be adopted. I suggest, however, that the Minister (Mr. Chapman) should seek the advice of a Committee of practical men from both sides of the House to guide him in. framing the regulations. I hope, also, that the Minister will use the existing machinery of the States for the distribution of the netting. In the Northern Territory the allocation, I presume, will be made by the Home and Territories Department. In conclusion, I again commend the Government for making available this sum for the purpose mentioned.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has just stated that when he first read the Bill he came to the conclusion that there were a number of matters connected with it that ought to have been brought before this House. I thought the same. The honorable member went on to say, “But we have only a fortnight in which to sit,” and because of that fact he thinks that it would be batter for the Minister (Mr. Austin Chapman) to delegate to six members of the House the duty of drawing up regulations. I entirely disagree with him. There is no reason why Parliament should sit only another fortnight. If honorable members opposite are prepared to slum legislation because the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) desires to go to England in a fortnight’s time, I do not think they are acting rightly. I respectfully suggest that it is only their docility which permits the Government to bring down such a Bill as this, containing absolutely no details. Clause 7 says: - “The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act. . . .” It would require a good deal of ingenuity to enable one to make regulations that might be inconsistent with the Act. I think honorable members opposite are erring greatly if by their docility the Government is encouraged to bring down measures in any form, sure of the support of those honorable members in bludgeoning them through. The speeches of honorable members opposite have made me wonder whether this Bill has been submitted to a meeting of their caucuses. I am satisfied that it has not, because they have no more information regarding it than we have. Several thoughts enter one’s mind in regard to this Bill. The first is, whom is it proposed to benefit? The title says that it is “A Bill for an Act to provide for the supply of wire netting to settlers.” I admit that the title leads one to think that probably provision is not to be made for the more wealthy land-holders. Evidently that thought was in the mind of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) when he spoke, and no doubt he will support it for that reason. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) immediately pub in a plea for some of the large land-holders in Queensland, clearly showing that he held a different view from that of the honorable member for Barker. We have a right to know whom it is intended to benefit. The Minister has not told us. Is it intended to benefit both large and small land-holders, or exclusively the small land-holders? The second question that suggests itself is : Where is it proposed to use this wire netting? It could be used in two ways;- either on very large areas in one State, or in different parts of the various States. As £50,000 is to be devoted to the requirements of the Northern Territory, there will be only £200,000 for the various States. Such a small amount cannot do very much good if divided amongst the six States. I wonder whether there is a- political reason behind the introduction of this Bill. Is it merely a sop to the Country party? If it be so, I am glad that that party has managed to procure it. But if that party were out to make a name for itself and were attempting to obtain a quid, pro quo for the reduction in- postage rates, which will favour the big city merchants, it should demand, an advance of more than £250,000. The fourth question that one feels inclined to ask is - What is to be the basis of distribution? I should be prepared to have the distribution made on the basis of area. I can quite understand the opposition of Victorians to such a proposal. Honorable members representing country districts desire to obtain all they can for, the primary producers. While it is my natural inclination .. to vote for the Bill, bad as it is, in order to benefit the primary producers, I remember, that I have an obligation to the taxpayers, and that £250,000 is a fairly large sum of money. I should move that the Bill be withdrawn, and be reintroduced in a more acceptable form, but that I, know that my opponents would visit the ‘ rabbitinfested districts in my electorate, and tell the farmers that I was opposed to their being given this wire netting. Another question which comes to one’s mind is, On what terms is the wire netting to be allotted? I think the Minister said that no interest would be payable, but I did not hear him state what period would be fixed for repayment. In South Australia, as the honorable member for Barker rightly said, a period of twenty years is fixed for repayment, and interest is charged. Probably this is only one of many directions in which the Commonwealth is entering into competition with the States, the Commonwealth providing money’ for the purchase of wire netting, and charging no interest, while the States charge interest on the money which they advance. In what way is this grant to be made available? Looking through the Bill, I find that it says that the Minister may, out” of tie moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Account, purchase wire netting. I have heard it said that “may” sometimes means “shall.” I do not know whether in this case it does so. Several honorable members have said that they think the Commonwealth Government is going to make a grant of money to each of the different States, those States, distributing the assistance through their- existing. organizations. Surely I have the right to ask by what method this help is to be given ? Does the Minister intend to purchase in Australia or overseas this wire netting, and allot it in different quantities to each State, or does he intend to take a certain amount of money out of the Trust Fund and hand it over to the State Departments? I have heard honorable members refer at length to the rabbit pest. Evidently they think that in this way the Commonwealth Government is making an effort to cope with the pest. I say most definitely that it is not the policy of this Government to interfere with the rabbit pest. On 1st August last I asked the Prime Minister the following questions: -
The answers were -
On 3rd August last, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) asked the Prime Minister -
The answer was -
The matter will receive consideration.
There, within a period of three days, the head of the Government gave two entirely different answers to a similar question. I have brought this matter up for two reasons. The first is that I desire to show the Ministry’s unsettled state of mind on this very important matter. If it is right for the Ministry to have scientific investigation made into the question of the destruction of prickly-pear, it is equally right for the Ministry to have scientific investigation made - and to offer a bonus, if necessary - to bring about the destruction of rabbits. My second reason for bringing the matter up is to draw attention to the fact that a Labour member receives an entirely different answer from that received by a Ministerial supporter to a similar question. The replies given by the Prime Minister disclose the fact that the Government has not a settled policy. If the Government purchased £250,000 worth of wire netting all at once it might upset the Australian market. Great care, therefore, should be exercised. I am not such a rabid Protectionist that I would advocate the purchase of the material in Australia irrespective of the cost. By all means let us purchase it locally if it would be to the best advantage of the producers to do so; but, if there is any truth in the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) that the local mills are not meeting the Australian demand, I should commend the Government even if they purchased it from Germany, provided that it would mean a saving to the producers.
– I am glad that the Bill has at least one supporter among honorable members opposite; the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) admits that he is frightened to. vote against the measure. I believe that I am voicing the opinion of the outback settlers, whose runs are infested with rabbits and dingoes, in saying that the action of the Government is highly appreciated by them. This is not a case of handing out a dole to the producers; the money will be paid back with interest. If the proposal is a socialistic one, it is socialism of the right sort, and I should welcome the application of the principle in other directions. It is certainly a good business proposition, because the Government can purchase £250,000 worth of wire netting at a very much better price than that at which the average settlers can buy it in small lots. If the netting cannot be obtained in Australia it will be necessary to place the order abroad. The distribution of the netting, however, is a matter for the States. There are State instrumentalities that can do the work far more efficiently than the Commonwealth can. Victoria has in its municipalities an excellent distributing agency. The municipality in the district that I represent has undertaken very large orders on behalf of the people, and I am inclined to think that the Government will find it an economical plan to employ the State instrumentalities for distributing the material. It would be well for the Government to advance the money on terms similar to those on which the £500,000 granted for main roads development is being advanced. I agree with honorable members who have preceded me, that the Government is entitled to receive reasonable interest on the money, and the settlers are quite prepared to pay it. The Government should avoid the invidious distinction that would exist between State and Federal methods, if the Federal authorities advanced netting free of interest while the State organizations were charging interest for it.
.- The Bill furnishes another indication of the slip-shod methods by which the Government are bringing legislation before the House and expecting it to be passed hurriedly to enable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to proceed to the Imperial Conference. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has complained that the Bill is not sufficiently explanatory, but he is prepared to accept it as it stands because the session is to conclude in another fortnight. The House1 should refuse to act upon the dangerous principle of passing hurried legislation. All honorable members on this side agree with the principle of the measure. When the Government bring down a proposal to assist settlement in rural districts honorable members opposite are eager to support it. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) said that it was socialism, and he wanted more of it. He made that statement because the Bill suits the interests of the district he represents. When a proposal is made for the benefit of the industrialists, however, honorable members opposite fall back on the good old policy of laissez faire, promptly reminding, us that a Government should not interfere with private enterprize, and that the best Government is that which governs least. If the Ministry were consistent, and applied the principle it now propounds to all sections, we should be able to give it credit at least for being honest, and for having a policy and sticking to it. When asked to liberalize the Industrial Peace Act the Government declared that that could not be done, but it is ready to rush the present measure through in an ill-digested form. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) advised caution on the part of the Government in allotting the wire netting, and he pointed out that many of the soldier settlers had failed because they had been placed on land on which no one could possibly be successful. Ohe statement was made that 50 per cent, of these settlers were failing. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell)’ interjected that as long as the States took all the responsibility everything would be all right. I remind the Government that trouble has been met with on two or three occasions simply because the Commonwealth has been financing schemes for which the States have taken the responsibility. After all we have a duty to perform to the taxpayers, and where money is loaned to the States we should at least see that the investment is sound. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) told us that the Pastoralists’ Protection Board will be responsible for this money, but the Bill does not state whether the responsibility is to lie with that Board, the States, or the”. Commonwealth. The Bill does not lay it down that the Minister must buy wire netting. It is a measure for the appropriation of £250,000, which may be used by the Minister. 1 do not like to oppose the second reading of the Bill, but the Minister for Trade and Customs would be well advised to give the House more information. A clause in the Bill reads -
Any wire netting so purchased may be supplied to settlers in the Commonwealth- at such price, upon such conditions and security, and subject to such terms as to payment, aB are prescribed.
That seems to me to be a Blank cheque. I am quite prepared to admit ‘the honesty of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), but that is not the point. If we pass the Bill as it is, the money may be used for assisting settlers in any way. Though I have Some confidence in the Minister for Trade and Customs, I must admit that I have very little confidence in the Government generally, or in its administration. It would be wrong and vicious to vote £250,000 without any explanation of the way in which it is to be expended. We ought to have a full explanation. I am not opposed to the principle of this Bill. It is, in some respects, in accordance with the policy of the Labour party. The Minister, however, should take the House into his confidence.- I recommend the Government to apply this principle a little more generally, and especially in the interest of the under-dog. If it intends to abandon its policy of laissez faire, it might legitimately consider helping the unemployed.
– I regret that I am unable to support the principle of this Bill. Some of the criticism which has been directed against it is justifiable; but I disagree with the principle on the ground that in its present form it is opposed to the Constitution. This Parliament has its legislative powers limited by. the Constitution. Sections 51 and 52 of the Constitution set out in great detail the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. Those powers do not extend to the agricultural or pastoral industries as such, or to the general development of Australia. Those matters are left to the States. This Bill provides for the expenditure of money. It is an easy thing to vote money for any particular interest in the community, and, although I am a new member, I venture to warn the Government that if Bills of this character are passed by the Parliament, very evil consequences will come upon us. . Such a Bill as this is a stick which may be laid across the back of the Government -in the future. If this Parliament is to be at liberty to vote Commonwealth money for any object which seems to be desirable, the distinction between Federal and State functions will disappear. If the mere voting of money is to bring a matter within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, any matter may be dealt with in this Parliament. Take, for example, the subject of education. That is distinctly a matter for State action. It is obvious, however, that by a liberal grant of money, the Commonwealth Government could obtain control of the whole educational system of Australia. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has indicated what may happen if Bills of this character are presented to the Federal Parliament. Applications may be made to the Government for assistance for all kinds of desirable objects. I do not question the desirability of making wire netting available to settlers on convenient and liberal terms.What I question is, the way in which we propose to do it. The way indicated in this Bill, is dangerous. There is a way to do it which is in keeping with the Constitution : I refer honorable members to section ‘96 of the Constitution, which declares that until otherwise provided the Commonwealth may grant financial assistance to the States upon such terms and conditions as the Commonwealth Parliament thinks fit. If it were proposed that we should expend this £250,000 in the form of a grant to the States under conditions or terms determined by the Commonwealth, and agreed to by the States, that would be in accordance with the Constitution. The administration would then rest with the States, which would be responsible to their own people for the manner in which the loan was expended. The proposal in the Bill, however, involves the voting of Commonwealth money for supplying wire netting to settlers in the States. Incidentally, the Bill contains no definition of “ settlers.” “ Settlers “ is a term which has no recognised meaning. That, however, is a detail. The Bill contemplates relationships between the Commonwealth and the settlers, and not between the Commonwealth and the States. I contend that the Commonwealth Parliament is not entitled to legislate in this way. I ask the Government to consider seriously where the path leads upon which this step is being ‘taken. This is not such a measure as the Meat Export Bounty Bill, because that measure dealt with bounties upon exports,” a subject which is within the legislative competence of this Parliament. The buying of wire netting for settlers, however desirable it may be, does not come within our powers. The attitude which an honorable member may take on such a subject is likely to be misunderstood. It is very much easier to support a Bill of this character than to oppose it. The reasons for the opposition of honorable members to such a measure may easily be innocently misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented. .1 make it clear that I am not opposed to providing wire netting on liberal terms to the settlers. I am opposed to this Bill only because I believe it to be a fundamental error of policy for this Parliament to undertake the function. The way to deal with this matter is to make money available to the States for the purpose.
– Make a loan to the States and . saddle it with certain .conditions.
– The loan could be saddled with conditions acceptable alike to the Commonwealth and the States. Honorable members know that the States are already assisting settlers in the purchase of wire netting. The most recent example I have been able to find on the part of the States is recorded in the Brisbane Daily Mail of the 11th instant. According to a report which appears in that newspaper, certain resolutions were carried at a recent conference of the United Graziers’ Association. The report sets forth what those resolutions -were, and it continues -
Another resolution said that the Government should be approached with a view to obtaining rabbit and marsupial netting on terms extending over twenty-five years for the payment of interest and redemption for the purpose of fencing groups or individual holdings and that freeholders be extended the same privilege as leaseholders.
Mr. Gillies promised consideration of the request, and said that he would communicate with the Home Department regarding the resolution affecting the Local Authorities Act.
It appears from this that the Queensland Government is, at this very moment, considering a proposition to make advances to settlers for wire netting. An example of the trouble that may arise from overlapping and duplication between the Commonwealth and the States is provided in the fact that the Queensland Government proposes to make the wire netting available on the payment of interest and other terms, whereas the Commonwealth Government proposes to make it available without interest, and on perhaps easier terms. The Government are here introducing what appears to be a beneficial device, but it is really a very dangerous practice where there is the possibility, in fact, the actuality, of competition between the Commonwealth and the States. They are opening the. way to all sorts of demands for the expenditure of money by the Commonwealth Government, irrespective of the powers conferred on this Parliament by the Constitution. In principle, this Parliament, by introducing a Bill such as this, is beginning to accept some degree of responsibility for the developmental work of the Commonwealth. It is very important that that work should be done, but it is indeed a very serious matter that this Parliament should be the direct means of doing it. Although I recognise the desirability of the object sought to be achieved, I regret that I must oppose the Bill.
.- The. introduction of this Bill is yet another extraordinary phase of the slovenliness and apparent inability of this Government. In a Bill of only seven clauses the Government propose coolly to appropriate £250,000. I am in favour of the principle of the measure, but I am opposed to this extraordinary manner of doing Parliamentary business. The Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Groom) has had long experience of the introduction of Bills, and one wonders whether the extraordinary drafting of this measure has behind it any ulterior motive. I want to know what it means, and so far I have not that information. The Government have some responsibility to this Chamber. I am not prepared to sit in silence, as are the Government supporters, while an amount of £250,000 is appropriated for a certain purpose, arid no ex-‘ planation made, respecting the way in which it is to be expended. The Bill provides that a sum of £250,000 shall be appropriated and placed in a Trust Fund.
– It does not make any provision for the return of the money.
– That is so. We cannot do enough to help those who are endeavouring to cope with the dingo, fox, and rabbit pests. I know something of the out-back conditions of far western New South Wales. That country has been taken up by Sidney Kidman, and all he does is to breed cattle and’ vermin. He has erected no fences; as a matter of fact, he has pulled down wire netting and transferred it to other properties. When in Bourke, in 1914, 1915, and 1916. I saw camel teams loaded with iron from wool-sheds, huts, and buildings of all descriptions travelling from Wynarring to Sydney, where it was subsequently sold at £60 and £70 per ton. Sidney Kidman has an extraordinary hold of the western portion of New South Wales, and he absolutely refuses to wire net his property, clean out tanks, or sink bores. This gentleman is to be relieved of taxation by this very benevolent Government. 0 to the extent of £40,000. . I am anxious to know whether, for electioneering purposes, certain electorates in Australia are to be singled out to receive advances , for wire netting. If money is to be expended, a fair share of it shouldbe spent in the Darling electorate. I enter my protest, not against the principle of the Bill, but because of the lack of information. 1 want to know where the money is to be expended, and who is to distribute it. I speak on behalf of the settlers of the Darling electorate, and if they do not secure their fair share of the £250,000, I shall repeat to them the Minister’s statemeut when the Bill was before this. Chamber. I object to the extraordinary secrecy which has been shown by the Government in introducing the measure. How long is it since this Chamber first heard of it ?
– It was mentioned when the Budget was introduced.
– Very little information has been given as to the expenditure, and the farmers on the Government benches, if they were consulted, should at least have demanded a Bill on business lines. A Bill as vague and nebulous as this is has never before been brought down to this Chamber. It compares, in that respect, with the Prime Minister’s speech on the Imperial Conference. The Minister (Mr. Chapman) has yet time to withdraw the Bill, and to again bring it down with a provision showing the allocation and expenditure of the money. If that is done, the opposition to the Bill will be removed.
– The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) raised a constitutional issue, and he doubted very much whether it was competent for this Government to allocate moneys as proposed under the Bill. While I am not prepared to question his authority, I think that whatever the Constitution may provide regarding the States it certainly gives this Parliament full power to make a provision of this kind for the Northern Territory and other Commonwealth Territories.
– I admit that distinction.
– There is ample provision to enable the Commonwealth’ Government to take over territories and administer them. If there is any constitutional doubt whether the Government are able to apportion this money among the States, they would be wise to devote the whole of it to the Northern Territory. They would thus avoid the constitutional issue. After all, the £250,000 would not be a great amount to expend on wire netting for the Northern Territory.
– And for Canberra.
– It could be apportioned to the Federal territories. It has been pointed out that a mile of wire nettingwill fence in 80 acres. It is obvious that since the Northern Territory suffers from the dog pest, and not from the rabbit pest, any netting to be used there would need to be 6 feet high, and made of strong material. This means that the £50,000 allocated to the Northern Territory would not go anything like as far as would £25,000 in any of the States. However, it is not my purpose to decry the efforts of the Government to assist the settlers by introducing this Bill, because, if anything, it is a step in the right direction. The only thing I deplore is that, having realized that it was necessary to launch this proposal, the Government have not come down to this House with a bold policy and faced the issue as it should be faced. Instead of £250,000 the expenditure should be £1,000,000. This matter involves our national security. For the development of the land, ample provision must be made for wire netting. It is just as logical to expend a huge amount of money on advances for wire netting, as to expend money on railways and other means of development. It is all a means to an end. It matters little which way it is spent so long as it assists primary production. The State should pay their quota for the transportation of wire netting to the settler. It is essential that settlers should be given every facility both by the States and by the Commonwealth to. obtain wire netting as well as railway and other facilities. I think that in the administration of the fund consideration should be given to what may be termed the smaller men. It is obvious that if consideration is to be given to the larger men the quantity of wire netting that can be purchased for the sum to be allocated to the Northern Territory will not go very far in fencing in a 12,000 square miles leasehold. The spirit of the Bill, as I read it, is for the assistance of the small men, and I hope it will prove useful..
.- No honorable member desires to be in a position of opposition to this measure. Weall realize how essential it is that provision should be made for supplies of wire netting for the development of our outback country. I feel that the realization of its importance has prompted discussion, and that otherwise the Bill would have gone through very quickly. Although we feel the need for the measure, and realize the spirit that is behind the grant, there is, I think, need to safeguard the distribution of the money. I feel that the need is so pressing that I do not propose tooppose the Bill even in its present form. I hope, however, that the Minister (Mr. Austin Chapman) will give ample opportunity, in Committee, for honorable members to introduce some of the safeguards which have been suggested from both sides of the House, and which will improve the Bill. During the debate one important point has been mentioned, but I do not think it has been sufficiently stressed. As the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) pointed out, it is an important step for the Commonwealth to undertake responsibility for the development of the States. In a similar measure this session - I refer to the proposal to grant the States a sum of money for main roads development - every care was taken to insert provisions safeguarding the administration of the grant. I neednot remind honorable members how very carefully that was done. The same care should be observed in connexion with this measure. The very need of the grant rests presumably upon the inability of the States to do all that is required of them. This being so, the measure is an extension of State activities, and we should exercise the greatest care to insure that the generosity of the Commonwealth is not made grounds for a diminution of activities on the part of the States. This seems to me to be one of the most important points that require consideration. The Bill should have been drawn with a more exact definition as to how the money shall bespent, and the agency through which it is to be distributed. Personally, I think the proper course would be to use the machinery provided by the State Governments. Much has been said during the debate about the need for the Commonwealth to see that the money granted is spent wisely. I do not see how thisis tobe done, though it is easy to say it ought to be done, without a very serious duplication of departmental activities which we all desire to avoid. The only alternative is to grant the money to the States on their security and to hold them responsible for its return; also to make them responsible for its judicious allocation. I do not think it is any part of the responsibility of this House, because complaints are made about faults here and there with regard to land settlement, through the agency of the States, which undertake this work. The Commonwealth having done its best to provide the money, the responsibility for any inefficiency should be shifted to the State Governments. The necessary details to insure the adequate precautions I have mentioned can be inserted. I feel that the need for this help is so great that, although I do not quite approve of the Bill in its present form, I shall support it.
.- The Bill provides for the granting of a certain sum of money for the benefit particularly of the primary producers, and yet if a stranger came into the galleries to-night, and was looking upon the House as it is at present constituted, he would naturally come to the conclusion that we were discussing some industrial measure, designed to confer benefit on the workers only, for I see around me no less than nineteen Labour representatives, while in the corner there is only one solitary representative of the Country party, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
– We ought to wire net him in.
– In addition, I see six Nationalist members. If this bad been a conspiracy it could not have been better staged. I want to say, for the benefit of those members who have shown so much remissness in connexion with their duties, that in the whole of my experience I have never seen a Bill which contained less information. It is a measure of seven clauses, designed to distribute £250,000 of Commonwealth money amongst land settlers, but we are not told how the money is to be allocated. There is really no machinery in the Bill. All the machinery is to be provided by regulations. I do not know what the position is in this Chamber, but in the State Parliament with which I have been connected, regulations have to lie on the table for a certain number of days before they can have the effect of law. This is only a skeleton Bill. The real machinery has to be provided by regulations, and if these regulations have to lie on the table of the House for a certain number of days, there will be considerable delay in making the money available. Having read the policy of the Government, and having heard it explained on many occasions by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), I can only say that I am surprised at this Bill. I want to know the reason for its introduction. The Government have stated, in unequivocal terms, that they are against State interference of any kind, and that they have no time for State activities, as witness their disposal of the most’ successful of them all - the Commonwealth Woollen Mill, at Geelong. Yet, in this measure they intend to provide money for the purchase of wire netting, to be given to the farmers; without interest, and for an indefinite term of years. The term of the loan is like “Kathleen Mavourneen’s” good-bye - “It may be for years, and it may be for ever.” I see in this measure a dangerous precedent. It is something more than Socialism, and I cannot agree to go so far as this measure. I am not a Communist.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– For the information of those honorable members who were not present a few moments ago, I repeat that I regard this measure as a dangerous precedent. If the Labour party were in power, and if this were a proposal to assist the industrial section of the community, say, to build trades halls, or workers’ homes, without interest, or to lend money to industrial organizations for an indefinite period, and on the same terms as in this Bill, I can imagine the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) goingto-morrow night, or even to-night, to a meeting of those very excellent old ladies of nervous disposition, with whom he is politically associated, and preaching to them about the “ Perils of Communism.” I repeat that I do not stand for communistic schemes of this nature. This goes further than extreme Socialism, which stands for - “ From each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs.” This is a proposal to lend money without interest.
– I hope not.
– It is unthinkable. I have never heard of any Parliament of the world, not even in Bolshevik. Russia, giving such an example of the policy of “ to have and to hold “ as is implied in this Bill. It is a peculiar measure. It contains no machinery provisions of any kind. I defy any honorable member to say that it has been adequately drawn for its purpose. I do not think the Minister (Mr. Chapman) has drawn it; he is too “ heady.” He has had too much experience, I imagine,, to have been responsible for these omissions from the Bill. As a matter of fact, he probably reminded the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) that he had mentioned this matter in the Budget speech, and said to him, “ Did you forget it ? “ The reply probably was, “Yes, by jove, I did.” Coming to the House in his motor car the honorable gentleman no doubt wrote down one or two headings, and said, “ There you are, that will do; the boys will never kick when they are getting something for themselves.” We, on this side, are opposed to putting on the statute-book legislation that will place the Commonwealth in the position it occupies in regard to. War Service Homes. I am not a suspicious man, but I have been searching for a reason for the. introduction of this Bill. In China, when a boy goes to market for you, he receives the equivalent of 2d. out of every shilling’s worth of purchases. The Britishers in Hong Kong call it a “ squeeze.” By some uncanny method the Nationalist party is being squeezed by the Country party to be given something for nothing. In my electorate there are two State country constituencies. I am prepared to go amongst those electors and oppose this proposal to put them in the pauper position of receiving money without interest. Although I am pleased that the Government is establishing a precedent in embarking upon a Socialistic enterprise, I realize that this is not a business proposition. If the farming community is to be given wire netting free of interest, the mining industry should receive a bonus for the purchase of mining supplies. I did not expect to see this Government embark on “ Socialism in our time.” If it intends to adopt the principles of Socialism, let it apply them all round. I will bet ten to one that the Minister did not draft this Bill.
– Order! It is not in order to bet in the chamber.
– . The Minister declines to take me up. This matter should be placed on a business basis. I object to this distribution being made from Melbourne. The allocation of the money should be made by the State Governments, which already have the officers to deal with matters of this kind.
– It is more a State than a Common wealth matter.
– The proposal to help the farmers is a good one, but it should be done through the different State Governments. The allocation should be large in the case of Western Australia, because of its vast territory. Farmers should not have to come to the Government cap in hand. If they are to be assisted in that way, we on this side will raise a storm in order that other industries may be given an equal amount of protection.
.- I am not a representative of rabbits in this House; the only rabbits I see in my electorate are those that are wheeled about on a barrow. I am, however, interested in those who have to combat the rabbit pest. I lived in the country for many years, and represented a country constituency. I know the difficulties which the settlers have to face in combating the rabbit pest, or any other vermin which it is proposed to check by the use of this wire netting. I suggest to the Government that, whilst this provision may give immediate relief, the problem will be minimized to only a very slight extent, unless the matter is tackled in earnest by breaking up land monopoly and going in for closer settlement. I have seen the small selector spend his money and his life in killing the vermin. I should like the Government to take a bigger and a broader view of the matter. If the land monopoly were effectively smashed, all other things would be added unto them. This is merely a proposal to placate the members of the Country party and keep the Government together. It should open up a consideration of the whole question of land settlement. When I represented a country constituency in this House some years ago, portion of that constituency contained the southern forests of Victoria, to which men and women went and devoted their lives. There were hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile country without a tree, within fifty or sixty miles of the land on which they were asked to make a living in a dense forest, through which the sun’s rays scarcely penetrated. They worked from daylight to dark, and after having spent twenty years of their lives on those blocks they have been driven out, in some cases by the rabbits, and in other cases because of their inability to make a living. Yet there are tens of thousands of acres of open plains on which they could have decent homes, and make a comfortable living. This tinkering with the question will not solve it. State rights do not enter into this matter. It is about time that the Government came down with something bigger and more national in its outlook, and provided for closer settlement. The procuring of wire netting, the extermination of rabbits, and many other problems that are troubling the settlers to-day would then vanish. I support the views put forward by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). It is proposed to spend £250,000 without honorable members being given any indication as to where the wire netting is to be purchased. We are told that sufficient wire netting is not being made in Australia to provide for our needs. That is quite true. The reason is that sufficient encouragement has not been given to the establishment of that industry. No honorable member willsay that it is not possible to make, in Australia, a quantity sufficient to meet our needs. It would be a very fine impetus to the establishment of such an industry if it were laid down that the wire netting should be purchased in Australia, even if a little extra time were required to enable the industry to get going.
– There is a very big industry in Newcastle.
– There is a very big industry in Australia, which is capable of meeting the demand if it were assured of a continuous demand. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) says, “ Buy Australian goods if we can get them at a price equal to imported goods.” He is a wonderful Australian. He would actually give preference to an Australian article, if he could get it as cheaply as he could get the foreign article.
– It must’ also be as good.
– He would buy goods made cheaply in any foreign country under any labour condition one cares to name. That quality of patriotism will not build up this nation. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who comes from the same State - which is big enough to send to this Parliament men with bigger ideas - says, “ Buy in the cheapest market.” I think that some of the goods which are1 coming here, allegedly of British manufacture; have been made in Germany. Those goods are given preference. I do not object ‘to articles that are made in Germany, but I object to preference being given to articles made in any country under sweated’ labour conditions.
– The honorable member would sweat the man on the land.
– I would never be a party to sweating the man on the land. If the honorable member were as interested in the man on tho land as he pretends to be, he would exert his. influence against those who are bleeding the man. upon the land to-day. I refer to the rings, the combines, and the trusts which support the Government. If the honorable member inquires into the’ cost of production, he will find that one of the biggest problems facing tHe farmer is the price he has to pay for the land he purchases, and the rent he pays for that which he- does not purchase. Between tha- land monopolists and the combines that have the selling of manures, machinery, and so on, the man who is struggling on the land is hit very hard.Those are not the friends of the Labour party, they are the. friends of the honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Swan referred to- the manner in. which the price of wire netting increased, because of the trouble in the Ruhr. There was no “Ruhr” trouble in Australia, yet the price also went up here. These friends of the Government take advantage even of the Tariff to. increase their prices.. Even if there were no Tariff the importers’, would take that action. The “new” Protection will remove many o£ those evils. When1 we propose the principle of new Protection, honorable members opposite- meet it with te sneer. The new Protectionist policy has been placed before this country by more than one party, and it has met with the approval of the people. It was defeated only by misrepresentation at the time we sought an alteration of the Constitution. The old Protection is good, but it is not effective. I have never said it was. I am so strong on Protection that I want it to be made effective, so that criticism such as that levelled against it by the honorable member’ for Perth cannot be uttered. The honorable member for Forrest is great on Free Trade. He would .have- this country made a dumping-ground for cheap goods from the Old World, and he would then open our doors for crowds of immigrants, so that our wages conditions could be reduced. I agree with some of the criticism that has been levelled against this. Bill. It has been either slovenly or- cunningly drafted - I cannot make, up my mind which;. It seems to have been drafted to prevent honorable members from getting any information. The secondreading speech by the Minister was an admirable illustration of a speech which gives no information. It is about time that Ministers brought to this House properlydrafted Bills, and gave full information in regard to them.
– Second-reading speeches give us no enlightenment.
– They darken the issue. I was .twitted this afternoon because of my action in respect of the Land Tax Bill, and was told that. I should have waited for the secondreading speech, when I would have obtained full information. The secondreading speech on this Bill has been given, and now we know nothing, about the Bill. The first thing in the Bill that I object to is that it is to be retrospective. It is to be deemed to have commenced on 30th June, 1923. Another clause provides that the moneys to be appropriated shall be deemed to have been paid- on 30th June. Old Micawber used, to assume that a debt was satisfied by the giving of an I.O.TL, and, signing one, would say, “ Thank God, that’s settled.” That is the kind of thing this Government is. doing. Another clause in the Bill reads -
Any. wire netting so purchased may be- supplied to settlers in the Commonwealth at such price-, upon such conditions and security, and subject to such terms as to payment as are prescribed.
Will the Minister tell us the meaning of “ such “1 I do not mind which “ such “ he takes. There are plenty of them. Surely we are entitled to know. We are a responsible body, and the Government cannot expect us to spend £250,000 without having some information. We should be able to protect the revenues of the country. We need information in the interests of the man on the land. According to my reading of the Bill, it is not a question of whether interest shall be paid on this money’; it is a question of whether any money shall be paid at all. One clause of the Bill reads -
Any moneys received by way of payment for wire netting supplied under this Act shall be paid to the Trust Account.
According to that, moneys may be paid, or they may not be paid.
– The clause should be made to read “ moneys (if any).”
– That is a suggestion for the Minister. I do not desire to oppose the Bill, but honorable members are forced into such an attitude by lack of information. I have lived among people on the land, and knowhow they have to struggle. I sympathize with them, and am prepared to do all I can to help them. I am not concerned about the plea made by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and the honorable member for Perth. They took up the “ old State rights” question.
– It is not a question of State rights with me.
– I am not a bit concerned about the Government getting into what is called the arena of the States.
– You want it.
– I think the time is fast coming when the Federal Parliament will make even greater encroachments on what are called State rights.
– Let us do so constitutionally, then.
– I think we are. If the honorable member has any doubts about it. I suggest that he have the matter tested. If he does, he will lose his money. It is not sufficient for some honorable members opposite that we shall remain within the ambit of our powers; they wish to restrict our powers, just as they wish to restrict the powers of the Australian nation with respect to the Imperial connexions. They would restrict us more than would the Imperial Parliament, and more than would the State Parliaments. My pro test in respect of this Bill is on account of the meagre information we have. I think the assistance . it is proposed to render through the measure will be very welcome. I have a suspicion, however, that the bulk of the money will go to the holders of large estates and to certain people whom it is proposed to relieve of taxation. I am afraid the Country party in this House does not represent the interests of the man who toils on the land so much as it does the interests of the people who “ farm “ the farmers.I think their supporters in the country are principally the big pastoralists, the country auctioneers, and agents of various kinds. We had an example of that in the Daylesford by-election last week. The only farmer in the field was the Labour candidate. The representative of the Farmers Union was a sharebroker in Daylesford. The Government should amend this measure in the Committee stage along the lines which have been suggested in this debate.
– When I learned of the intention of the Treasurer to provide £250,000 for the purchase of wire netting, I naturally concluded that a Bill with a comprehensive scheme would be brought before us to give effect to the intention. Instead of such, we have a haphazard, badly-arranged Bill, which any one who conscientiously desires to help the man on the land to combat the rabbit pest, and at the same time do his duty to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, finds it hard to support. While I believe that we should assist the man on the land to the greatest possible extent, I also believe that we should safeguard the interests of the country. Unless we have some very definite assurance from the Minister that the interests of the country will be safeguarded, I do not see how we can do other than vote against this Bill. In the last Parliament I suggested that the Commonwealth should make money available to the States for the assistance of distressed land-holders. At that time the State Governments were going through a period of severe financial strain, and were complaining about their difficulties. I thought that the Federal Parliament, with its greater financial resources, could assist the States to aid distressed settlers. My suggestion was peremptorily rejected on the grounds that if the Government did as I wished it to do, it would be doing something which was entirely outside its jurisdiction. It was said that the States had control of the land, and that the land was the security for the money which would be lent, and that, as the Commonwealth Government had no control over the land, it could have no security for whatever money it advanced. Under my proposal, we could have looked to the States to see that any advances made were made a charge on the land. I was told that the Commonwealth Government could not make a charge on the land, because it did not control the land. I believe we should secure the Commonwealth as far as possible in any advances that are made. We have no information whether the Government will be secured if this Bill is passed: No Labour Minister would have brought forward a Bill like this. He would have had more respect for the House, and would have had the measure properly drafted. Neither the members of the National party nor the members of the Country party know what really is the intention of the Government. Clearly, the Government has not even discussed this matter with its followers, and there has been no consultation with them; otherwise, followers of the Government would not have asked for information in this House as they have done, and so exposed the shortcomings of their own Ministers. Honorable members on this side of the chamber were criticised because they objected to hurriedly pass the Estimates which involved an expenditure of over £60,000,000 of money. If the House had devoted to the Estimates the same time that it is devoting to this Bill in proportion to the amounts involved, honorable members would have taken up 240 sitting days in dealing with them. What a remarkable change for the followers of the Government to have undergone in forty-eight hours.
The Government have taken up a ridiculous position. They have two tails and no head.
– I might explain to the honorable member that the debate on this subject is ranging over a wide area, and that honorable members are occasionally expected to refer to the Bill.
-There is practically nothing in the Bill except the ap propriation of £250,000, to which I can refer. I believe that there was some Scottish blood in my ancestry, and I should like to know whether this money is to be returned. I would remind Ministers that this is a socialistic proposal, and coming from a supposedly private enterprise Government, it makes us all the more suspicious. We believe that the Government should assist the settlers to overcome the pest difficulty, but at the same time the public funds should be safeguarded. The Bill should be so drafted that every person who required an advance for wire netting would be able to obtain it. The advances should not be available for only wealthy monopolistic land-holders, who were primarily responsible for the growth of these pests. Many of these men refuse to fence their country, and occasionally are let down lightly by some of the rabbit inspectors of the Pastoralists’ Inspection Boards. There is no provision in the Bill to prevent wealthy land-holders obtaining the whole of the advance. If the Minister (Mr. Austin Chapman) will give an assurance that, when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, we shall be able to amend it so as to benefit the needy settler, a great deal of the opposition on this side will be withdrawn. The Bill, to be effective, should provide for the appropriation of a great deal more money. The apportionment of £250,000 on an equal basis to the different States would mean an advance of little more than £40,000 to each.
– This is at all events a start. .
– There is no provision for the voting of further sums. In any case, if advances are to be available to all settlers, there will be such a large number of applicants that the present advance will be of no consequence, and the Act will be useless. It is proposed that the Minister shall purchase the wire netting, but no doubt the Government will advance money to men who are prepared to make provision for the purchase through their own agents of the wire netting they require. Again, the conditions under which the advances are made might be of such a restrictive character as to prevent any applications for advances at all. We should then be told that although a scheme was provided, nobody wished to take advantage of it. If undue restrictions are imposed, the Bill will be futile . and useless. We should know whether the wire netting purchased abroad will be subject to the provisions of the Tariff. Will the land-holder purchasing the wire netting through the Government have to pay an amount equivalent to the Tariff charge operating on the wire netting imported by a private purchaser ?
-It is duty free.
– Not in all cases. The manufacturer here receives a certain bonus on his manufactured article, but if large purchases of wire netting are made from abroad he will be at a disadvantage.
– The bonus allows the local manufacturer to compete.
– But large purchases abroad may destroy the local market. If wire netting can be supplied by the Government at a cheaper rate than that charged by the local manufacturers, then the local market will be destroyed. It is not a matter of rule of thumb, but of anticipation of future prices. No man will buy wire netting at £60 a mile from a local manufacturer when there is a prospect of securing it cheaper through the Commonwealth Government.
– The honorable member himself mentioned that £250,000 would not affect the wire netting market.
– I saidit was not sufficient for all requirements. It is quite sufficient to destroy confidence in the market. Any man who buys from a local manufacturer at a standard price, when he anticipates a fall, is a lunatic. If the Commonwealth intends this Bill to have a beneficial effect it should appropriate a sufficient amount to supply the wants of Australia. The present appropriation will be just sufficient to break the market for the local manufacturer. We should encourage him to increase his product. Before any action is taken that might possibly dislocate the local industry, the Government should certainly consult local manufacturers of wire netting, and authoritative bodies as to the amount required. I complain of the meagre nature of the provisions of the Bill. The New South Wales Pastures Protection Act of 1912, in which year the Acts of the State were consolidated, is somewhat on the lines of this Bill. The State Treasurer advances money to the local Pastures Protection Boards, and they in turn advance the money to the settlers to enable them to wire net their holdings. Very elaborate machinery is provided, which adequately safeguards the interests of the Treasury. Sub-section 4 of section 30 provides -
The Board may, with the money so lent, purchase any such netting, material, machinery, plant and substances as aforesaid, and may sell or let the same, and any netting, material, machinery, plant, or substances allotted to the Board under sub-section 1a to owners of private land within its district on such terms as may be prescribed; provided that the cost of any such netting, machinery, materials, plant, and substances so sold, and all expenses in connexion with the same, shall be repaid by such owners to the Board in instalments in New South Wales spread over a period not exceeding that within which the cost of the netting, materials, machinery, plant, and substances, is to be, paid for by the Board to the Colonial Treasurer with interest on the amount due at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum.
It will be noticed, however, that under that Act the Board is adequately safeguarded. It is further provided - “ and such purchase money and interest shall be a charge on the holding of the owner within the district.” No similar provision is contained in this Bill. The New South Wales Act also provides - “ and such charge shall have priority over all mortgages or other charges thereon other than debts due to the Crown.” It likewise provides that any such netting shall be erected within twelve months after delivery thereof. There is no such provision in this Bill. As a land-holder I. could get netting under the authority of this measure and, if necessary, hold it for ten years before erecting it. Section 31 of the New South Wales Act also provides -
If any owner of a holding makes default in respect of the payment of any instalment payable to a Board in respect of wire netting or other material, machinery, plant or substances, interest shall be charged by the Board on such instalment at a rate not exceeding 10 per cent. per annum, from the date appointed for the payment thereof, until the same is paid, and such interest shall be added to and be deemed to form part of such instalment.
There is no such provision in this Bill. It may be said that it is proposed to do all this by regulation, but we have no guarantee that it will be done. Therefore, we, who feel that we ought to safeguard the interest of taxpayers and land-holders, contend that tho conditions ought to be inserted in the’ Bill itself. The Bill contains no provision dealing with part ownership and ‘ liability for dividing fences. The New South Wales Act contains elaborate provisions on this point. Thus we find ourselves in conflict with the Government in respect of this measure. We- agree with the principle of the Bill, but because of its defects, we are forced to protest in regard, to its present form. We cannot assent to the spending of public money without adequately providing for its return to the Treasury.
– We can amend the Bill in Committee.
– There is no guarantee that we shall not be “gagged” in Committee. Judging by recent experiences we have very little hope of being able to do anything, in Committee, especially in view of the fact that Parliament must rise within a fortnight in order that the Prime Minister may go away. We protest that like time of this Parliament, which is so valuable just now,, should be wasted iri pointing to the defects of this measure. The Bill should be withdrawn, and redrafted.
– Perhaps the honorable member does not want to see it again.
– Why does the honorable member say that ? Does he infer because we demand that a Bill be withdrawn and properly drafted that if that were done it could not be presented again ? I remind him that only about twelve months ago he made a demand for the withdrawal of the Budget. Because we protest against this Bill in its present form, he now infers that wo do not want to see it passed. Nothing is further from our thoughts. We say, and with justice, that the presentation of the Bill in its present form shows that the Government have very little respect for Parliament, and a certain amount of contempt for their followers, because the Bill is lacking in all the essential safeguards that should have been provided. If honorable members are interested in the subject; they should study, carefully the Pastures Protection Act of New South Wales, from which I have been quoting. The only difficulty in New South Wales is that the State cannot find sufficient money. The administration pf the Act. is quite satisfactory. I can say that in my own State - other honorable members must speak for their States - there is adequate machinery for the administration of the Bill now before the House. Members of the New South Wales Boards generally have adequate knowledge, of their districts and know die men who are in need of wire netting; but, as I have already pointed out, sufficient funds are not being made available under the New South Wales Act to meet all the applications that are continually being received in recent years, particularly since the. rabbit pest has assumed such serious dimensions. I repeat that members on this side of the House believe m the principle of the Bill, .but we fmd fault with the Government for having presented1 the measure in its present form. Apparently they are determined to bludgeon through, by sheer weight of numbers, any legislation they choose to introduce, irrespective of whether it contains the necessary safeguards demanded by a prudent regard for the interests of the people.
.- I am not very much interested in the subject of wire netting in so far as.it affects my electorate, but I am interested’ in the point of view, put by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). The Bill does not show how the money is to be allocated, or who is to receive it. This advance, perhaps, will be like the seed wheat advances in South Australia, iri respect of which interest payments were deferred from time to time, and eventually wiped out altogether. I am not opposed’ to any measure designed to help the man who is “down and out.”1 I realize it would be foolish not to render help when it was wanted, but it has’ not yet been shown that this assistance- is needed. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), in an interjection this evening, asked honorable members on this side who were opposing the Bill in its present form, if they intended to sweat the primary producers’. I do; not know what he meant; but I remember the ex-member for Richmond (Mr. Massy Greene) stating that speeches by members of the Country party were the worst advertisement that Australia had, and he quoted statistics to show that the primary producers of Australia were never better off than at the present time. I find, also, according to figures in the Budget, that for the past three years the total wheat production-
– Order ! I do not propose in the debate on this measure to allow an all-round discussion on primary production. I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the principles and provisions of the Bill.
– This is a measure to grant a sum of money for the benefit of primary producers, and I am endeavouring to show that it should be placed where it is wanted. The honorable member for Forrest suggests that if the primary producers do not get this wire netting they will be sweated’ by the rest of the community, and the only way in which I can meet his contention is by quoting figures relating to production during the last five or ten years. If you, sir, say that an argument along those lines will be outside the ambit of the Bill, I must bow to your ruling, but I tell the honorable member for Forrest that, if he examines the figures for the period mentioned, he will find that the primary producers of Australia have never been better off, from the point of view of production, whether of wheats sugar cane, butter, pigs, cattle, wool, or any other commodity. The system which the Government is adopting in introducing this Bill may have a lot to support it, but it should be made general. If a trade union made an application on similar lines it would be laughed out of Court.
– No vermin get in there.
– At times vermin get in, and when we expel them honorable members opposite are loudest in howling about the tyranny of the trade unions.
– Wire netting would not prevent their getting in.
– I do not know what would stop them. I recollect one man being likened to a toad in a cesspool. We got rid of him.
– Will the honorable member deal with the Bill ?
– I was replying to interjections, which are disorderly.
– The honorable member is disorderly in noticing interjections.
-I call your attention to them, Mr. Speaker, and ask you to reply for me; because I cannot allow interjections like thoseto go by.
– Order !
– I want to know where this money is going. Will the wire netting be used in the Northern Territory, and in the north-west of New South Wales? There is a proposal to forego £2,000,000 in connexion with the taxation of Crown leases. I have here an article which appeared in the Sydney Bulletin of 28th June last, which reads -
Leslie Wrigley writes from Thargomindah : -
During recent years the number of inhabitants per square mile in the far north-west of New South Wales and the south-west corner of Queensland has been decreasing steadily. From personal knowledge I attribute this largely if not wholly to what is known throughout these areas as Kidman blight. To many people this may be an unheard-ofcomplaint. Nevertheless it exists; and more white men have left the country through the stations they were working on becoming infected by this “ disease” than from causes more commonly known to city dwellers.
Recently I travelled overland from Mildura to Thargomindah. On arriving at Momba, outside Wilcannia, I found that since my last visit the station had suffered from a violent attack of the malady. Some few years back this was the largest sheep-station in Australia. Something like half-a-million sheep were shorn there. Seventy men at least were employed all the year round, besides manager, overseer, storekeeper, &c. Now, since Kidman and Company have bought the station, the “ staff “ consists of two black-boys, two gins, and an ex-policeman. The country was mostly subdivided into 5-mile paddocks. A dog-proof netting fence, erected at enormous cost by the late owners, ran the whole length of the boundary, some 500 miles. These fences have been allowed to fall, and the cattle trip merrily over the dog-proof netting, which in places is flat on the ground. As the adjoining Kidman stations are run in much the same way this does not worry the “ staff “ in the least. The homestead, one of the largest and best improved in New South Wales, is rapidly falling into disrepair. And this is only one instance of many in that locality.
As one travels up the Paroo it is easy to distinguish the stations Kidman is interested in. On each one, without a single exception, improvements which existed when he bought have been allowed to go to wrack and ruin. Fences are on the ground, wells fallen in, and tanks silted up. This state of affairs appears only natural when one reaches the homestead and sees, say, one black-boy and a caretaker to look after some hundreds of square miles of country. Stations on the Paroo, situated between Kidman’s holdings, form a striking contrast. In place of the black-boy and caretaker, three or four station hands, manager, overseer, and even an occasional jackaroo, are employed. The improvements are being maintained, and in some cases new ones effected.
In this district (Thargomindah) Kidman is interested in some thousands of square miles. No more striking example of what the blight has done for the “Corner “ could be found anywhere. Prior to the Kidman occupation, Thargomindah boasted a bank and a mail .service direct to the New South Wales border (Tibooburra), a distance of 200 miles. To-day, the bank has been removed to Cunnamulla (outside the “ affected “ zone), and the mail service discontinued. No serious effort has been made to maintain existing improvements on stations in this locality. Miles of wire lie rusting on the ground; tanks have silted up; wells allowed to fall in. Despite the low state of the cattle market, selectors in the district can and do improve their holdings and still make a living. Some of the cockies have holdings of no more than 50 square miles, whilst Kidman in one holding alone (Bulloo Downs) has 5,000 square miles.
Whether the Government or the individual is to blame for the present lamentable state of affairs is a matter of opinion. Personally, I consider the onus lies with the Government. Kidman is quite entitled by law to do what be is doing; and no doubt he believes that he can make most money this way. But it is not the best way for the country. Kidman is attending to his interests ;’ we have to look after, ours. A few sane legislative measures (strictly enforced) relative to the maintenance of existing improvements (dog-proof fences, wells, bores, &c.) would help matters enormously. This would do a vast amount more good than the importation, at great expense, of inexperienced people to a region where- the climate and conditions are totally unsuited for them. Furthermore, it would ‘be of assistance to the few remaining inhabitants of an area which is fast becoming deserted.
On 23rd July last the same journal stated, under the heading “ The Kidman Blight “-
Acres of manuscript have come in on the subject of Sid Kidman’s use or misuse of vast areas of Australian back country; and an attempt has been made to give the gist of it hereunder.
Letters are given from . individuals who, it can be seen, know their subject. There is evidence that the out-back part of Australia is being ruined because of the large holdings and the lack of supervision of those who. hold them. Sidney Kidman’s name rings loudly in Australia because, I believe, he came to the assistance of the Empire with money during the war. That is no reason why he or others should be allowed to hold that country in such a manner. What is the good of loaning money for the purchase of wire netting . for use in such country ? I do not op- pose that which is in the interests of the country; but we should have some knowledge of how and where this money is to be spent, and what is going to be the effect of the expenditure. Is the money going to be wasted in trying to combat conditions for which Sidney Kidman is responsible? I appreciate the desire of country members to do something for those whom they represent, but they have no right to do it at the expense of the rest of Australia. This is a big sum, and it might never be returned. The experience in regard to soldiers’ homes ought to have made us wary. Who is going to get the biggest pull in connexion with this wire netting ? Some years ago similar circumstances existed in South Australia. Wire netting could not be purchased. The “ thugs “ were “ putting the boot “ into the farmer, and were penalizing him. Tom Price threatened them that unless they allowed the farmer to have the wire netting at a fair ‘ and reasonable price he would import it. They came down from their perch, and the farmers were given a fair deal. Why cannot this Government act similarly ? Tom Price adopted a similar attitude in connexion with superphosphates. The poor old “ cocky “ was being sold sand instead of superphosphates. Price told the “ thugs “ who managed that business., that unless they gave the farmer tho article for which he was paying, the Government would import it. That had ;i good effect. Along sound and sane lines the Labour party is never backward in assisting the progress of the community. Honorable members howl about Socialistic ventures, which have to battle very hard in this capitalistic community. When those ventures prove successful they are sold. I am informed that when harness, which had been manufactured by the Commonwealth Harness Factory, was exhibited at some Victorian shows, farmers wanted to buy it, but the authorities would not sell it. The farmers knew its quality. The Commonwealth Harness Factory ought to have been extended, not closed. Tho farmers have been guaranteed 3s. per bushel for their wheat. Goodness knows whether the Commonwealth will obtain that 3s. We take all sorts of risks in assisting the primary producers. There is hardly a Budget which does not provide for some assistance to them. If, on the other hand, we succour a man who is out of work, and give him a. little to keep the wolf from the door, it is called a charity dole.
– The honorable member who made that proposal might have thought it was a fair thing. It would be all right to give a guarantee if we were allowed to take any profit that was disclosed after the guarantee had been satisfied. I recollect an occasion when the profits were distributed to the farmers. The farmer on that occasion was on a very good wicket. The Labour party has great sympathy with the primary producer. It realizes that we cannot live by taking in each other’s washing, or cutting each other’s hair. It is said that the farmers are the back-bone of the country. That is so ; but what is the good of the back-bone without marrow in it? A 15-bushel harvest is of no use to the farmer unless he has a railway to get it to the sea-board, and seamen to take it abroad to the markets of the world. He cannot tie his crop around his neck and swim the Channel with it. We must realize that we depend upon each other. The trouble is that the farmer does not realize this to the same degree as the working man. The farmer sides with the profiteer and then runs to the Government for succour after he has been bled. I recommend to honorable members the Georgian principle, that the man who digs out the worm has as much right to the fish as the man who catches the fish. There is a large amount of truth in that. I think we should try to realize that we are dependent upon each other. I hope the Government will withdraw the Bill and re-submit it in a more acceptable form.
– This is the most extraordinary second-reading debate that I have heard in my thirty-two years experience of political life. I thought it was generally understood in all Parliaments that we discussed principles in second-reading speeches and dealt with details in Committee. We have had no discussion of principles in this secondreading debate. It has been all a question of detail. We have had honorable members on the other side sneering at the Country party. They forget that some misguided people in the rural districts helped to elect some of their own members. This Bill was brought down for the purpose of helping the poor and needy on the land. Honorable members can go out into the back country any day in the week and see the difficulties the settlers are up against, and how necessary it is that they should be given all the help possible to enable them to keep the rabbits off their holdings. This Bill is intended to give them that help. The £250,000 which it is proposed to spend is to be taken out of surplus revenue, and because of that no interest is to be charged. It is not a gift; it is a loan. The Government intends to. appoint a Committee to arrange the terms under which the netting shall be distributed inthe different States. It is possible that the wire netting may be made available without any handling costs at all. The State Governments will be asked for all the help they can give, and possibly we may be able to get the netting carried over the State railways free. We propose to get the best quality available and to use the State machinery, and the shire councils and the Pastoralists Boards to reduce distributing expenses. For all this we get nothing but cheap sneers from the Opposition. They have criticised the Pastoralists Boards, and, in fact, every suggestion that has been made from this side. Honorable members opposite seem to think that to own a few head of cattle or a few dairy cows is a crime. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked whether this money was to go to Sir Sidney Kidman-
– I said the back country had been destroyed owing to Sir Sidney Kidman’s neglect.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable member. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) demanded to know what security the Government would get. This money is not to help the man who is able to give good security. It is to help the man who has no security to offer. I should like to compare the story told by honorable members opposite to-night with the one they told on the hustings. In this House they think it is all right to sneer at the man on the land, but when they are on the hustings in the country they tell a different story.
– Nobody on this side of the House to-night has sneered at the man on the land.
-I am amazed to think that some men on the land regard honorable members opposite as they do. I am also amazed to know that those honorable members have such a poor opinion of the people who are working so hard to develop this country. The debate to-night has been absurd and farcical. As far as possible the Government will use the machinery of the States in administering this measure. The method of procedure has not been indicated in the Bill because the States have different ways of doing the work. Some of the States demand the land as security; others are content with a mortgage. We have not set down a hard and fast procedure because we desire to administer the measure in the best possible way. It has been said that we propose to get this wire from Germany. It must have been thought that honorable members opposite were going to purchase it. The policy of this country is Protection. This Government represents the policy of Protection. We shall buy the wire netting in this country if we can secure it at a reasonable price. I think we shall be able to obtain most of it here. Speeches such as we have heard to-night front the Opposition can only be made to fool the people. I do not know how honorable members opposite can speak as they do, when they know that the only place outside Australia from which we, are likely to get the wire netting is Great Britain. They know that there is no duty on wire netting from Great Britain. I supplied data to one or two honorable members opposite, but evidently none are so blind as those who will not see. That has been shown by this most peculiar debate. These are the facts: The Government proposes to make available out of surplus revenue a sum of £250,000 without interest on long terms to help the poor and needy on the land. We want the people who need the netting to get it as cheaply as possible. For that reason a Committee is to be appointed which will be responsible to the Government. The Government will make what regulations are necessary. If it cannot make appropriate regulations it is not fit to be on the Treasury bench.
– We say that.
– The honorable member saysa lot of things that I do not agree with. He is Temporary Chairman, but we heard him the other night disputing rulings, and getting into trouble; through saying things that were not right. I remind the honorable member that I have been in opposition. I know something about the duties of an Opposition. According to the honorable member, the chief business of those who are in opposition is to be professional grumblers, who do npt stick too closely to the truth. That is my opinion. The honorable member can have it for what it is worth. It is easy to sneer at the men on the land, but such sneers as we have heard to-night will not carry any weight. One honorable member said the Bill should be withdrawn. I should like to see a Bill that would satisfy the Opposition. This Bill has been well drafted. It gives the Government power to see that this money is well spent. It also gives us power to see that it is properly distributed, and that the States do not use it to save their own money. We are not making the money a gift; it is a free loan to be distributed to the people who need it most. If honorable members wish to amend the Bill in Committee, and can show me that their amendments will be to the advantage of the class of people this measure is designed to assist I shall be glad to accept such amendments. I consider that honorable members opposite have made a good many statements to-night with their tongues in their cheeks. They have said, “ Withdraw the Bill.” If the Government had withdrawn the Bill they would have looked very foolish. This measure is intended to assist people in the country who need assistance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Meat Export Bounties Bill.
NationalDebt Sinking Fund Bill.
Beer Excise Bill.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, 1923-24.
Northern Territory Railway Extension Bill.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until half -past 2 o’clock p.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister his promise of last week to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the sugar transactions. It is very necessary that this Commission should be appointed as early as possible. One officer has already been suspended, and in justice to him the matter should be cleared up without delay. Is the Prime Minister in a position to say whether the Commission has been appointed.
– I did hope to be able to make an announcement to-night with regard to tha appointment of a Commission to inquire into the sugar transactions, Unfortunately, I am unable to doso, but I am quite sure that I shall be in a position to give honorable members some information when the House meets tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230813_reps_9_105/>.