9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has read the remarks of the Melbourne Argus this morning on the manner in which the Government is bringing forward ill-digested Bills and preventing proper discussion. Ifso, will he take steps to prevent any further business being dealt with in this way?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the unsatisfactory shipping facilities existing at Eyre’s Peninsula and Spencer’s Gulf ports, which are preventing the proper development of that country.”
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
– I would not have taken this extraordinary course except that the circumstances are such that private members have no other means to bring such business before the House. Earlier in the session I mentioned this matter to honorable members, but on that occasion there was no opportunity to debate the question as it should have been debated. On account of the inadequate shipping facilities of Eyre’s Peninsula the trade and development of that portion of the Commonwealth is being hampered. Eyre’s Peninsula has no railway connexion with the other parts of South Australia. It has an area of some hundreds of square miles, and the people who’ are developing it are compelled to rely solely upon shipping for the transport of their commodities. The peninsula is wholly devoted to primary production, and the people there are being unfairly exploited by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, whichis providing a shipping service. Some years ago that company bad competition from another firm, but eventually it compelled the smaller company to sell out. The position now is such that tbe people of the peninsula are holding indignation meetings and forming committees to endeavour to get some relief from the situation in which they find themselves. The following figures will show honorable members bow freight charges have increased in the last ten years; -
Honorable members will see that since 1913 the rates have increased from 5s. to 16s. a ton, and the minimum charge from 1s. to 3s. What would honorable members have said if the workers engaged in an industry had had their wages increased in the same proportion? The basic wage in South Australia in 1913 was either 9s. or 10s. 6d. - I am not sure which - and to-day it is 12s.11d. The increase in shipping rates cannot, therefore, be excused on the ground that the basic wage has increased so much, nor can it be said that the wages of the seamen have increased in anything like the same proportion as the freight charges. The basic wage increase is a fair indication of the increase in the wages of the seamen. The financial position of the Adelaide Steam-ship Companywas described in an article which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser on 23rd January, 1 920. That article showed that the shareholders in this company had had the immense accumulated profits made by the company’s operations, divided between them. The article reads-
Foryears the shareholders particularly, and investors generally, have been looking forward to a division of the reserves accumulated by the Adelaide Steamship Company, and at various times rumours have been current of a proposed substantial cash distribution, or the issue of bonus shares. The matter was referred to at the last twomeetings of the company, and the effect was a substantial appreciation in the market for the company’s shares. For instance, quotations rose 2s. in 1917; in 1918 there was a firming of 10s. l½d. ; in 1919 there was a further rise of 8s.; and on Thursday the market was Ss. 4$d. above the price at the end of 1919. This gives a cumulative advance of 23s. 6d. in the matter, of three years. The sharp appreciation in the market this month suggested the - finalization of the directors’ proposals, and this view was confirmed on Thursday, when circulars were issued embodying the proposals of the Board. The intention is to wind up the present company and to form a new company with the same name as at present, but with a nominal capital of. £3,000,000 in shares of £1 each, as against the authorized capital of £780,000 of the present company. The voluntary winding up is merely part of the ordinary machinery for effecting what is desired, and will not involve any disturbance of the business since the new or reconstructed company will at once step into the shoes of the existing company. Every member of the present company will be allotted three fully paid-up shares of £1 each in the new company. An extraordinary meeting will he held in Adelaide on 3rd February, when special resolutions will be submitted to give effect to the ‘proposals. It is proposed to appoint Messrs. T. E. Barr-Smith, J. Barker, and lj.. W. Bakewell (three of the directors) liquidators, and the directors, of the existing company will be the first directors of the new company. It is noteworthy1 that the Adelaide Steamship Company waa registered in Adelaide on 8th October, 1S75,, and was registered with enlarged powers on 13th Decem’ber, 1000. In 1900 there was a capitalization of reserves, and the capital of the company, which- had. been £507,175, in £5 shares, waa increased to £750,000, in £1 shares, but only £710.045 was issued. In January, 1915, the authorized capital of the company was increased to £780.000, and the following month of that year 65,000 fully paid-up shares were issued in part payment for the shares of the Gulf Steam-ships, Limited. About twelve months ago the company acquired the plant and fleet of the Adelaide Steam Tug Company. The accounts are made up to the end of June, and the reserve funds, at the latest balance, were shown as follows: - Insurance account, £240.000, and repairs and renewals account, £320.000. steamers and property appeared at £1,246.394, but it was well known that there had been a liberal writing down on the book value of the fleet. Recently several steamers have been sold at boom prices, but this tonnage has been, or wm be, replaced by vessels more suited to the company’s requirements, and it is generally believed that the value of the fleet is much higher to-day than in June. .
That article describes the financial position of this company, but I wish to take the matter a little further. I asb the attention of the members of the House, who say they are particularly concerned about the interests of the primary producer, to the remarks that I shall now make. All the residents on Eyre’s Peninsula are engaged in primary production.
In 1916 it cost £2 to land a .binder at Port Lincoln. The binder is an implement which has not increased in .size, but to-day the cost of landing such a machine at Port Lincoln is £4 5s., which is 5s. more than double the 1916 price. An increase similar to that has occurred in the cost of carrying all goods to and from Eyre’s Peninsula. Port Lincoln is the main port of the peninsula. The seven other ports only handle business for places quite near them. Eyre’s Peninsula has two railways, which run from Port Lincoln One. runs up to Murat Bay, and the other is a spur-line out to Kimba. Nearly the whole of the trade of Eyre’s Peninsula goes through Port Lincoln, and the grievances of which. I am speaking are not at all of recent origin. My pre- decessor in the representation of the division of Grey was interested in this matter in 1922, for I find that on the 12th April, 1922, he received the following letter from the Prime Minister’s Department :-
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th April, with regard to the representations made by Mr. William Hartley, of Port Lincoln, .together with a telegram received by you from Mr. P. L. Kelly,, in support of the request that one of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers might be made available for the trade between Port Adelaide, Port Lincoln, and the Gulf ports of South Australia. I am awaiting advice on this matter from the manager for Australia, of >the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, but hope to be in a position to definitely advise you in the course of a few days as to what can be done.
Following upon that the manager of the ‘ Commonwealth Line of steamers advised Mr. Poynton that the Line had no steamers suitable for the trade. This statement was not correct, because there is a vet> el, the Bulga, of suitable draught for that trade. I am advised that this steamer is being chartered by the very company that is exploiting the people of Eyre’s Peninsula. If this vessel could be placed on the run by the Commonwealth Line in the interests of the people some good purpose would be served. If the vessel is not available, the Government could purchase two other steamers of suitable draught, and trade in competition with the Adelaide Steam-ship Company. The people are very anxious indeed for relief, and they are prepared to give the whole of their trade to the
Commonwealth Line if vessels of suitable draught are placed on the ran. I have received the following letter from the Kyancutta Progress Association, under date 1st August, 1923:-
I am instructed to write to you to enter a protest against the action of the Adelaide Steam-ship Companyin increasing freights and fares to the West ‘Coast, the former having been increased from 5s. a ton Adelaide to Port Lincoln, in 1913. to 16s. in 1923, minimum 1s., 1913, 3s. 1923, and to request that the Commonwealth put a steamer on this route which we hereby . pledge ourselves to support.
I have other communications which I could, if necessary, place before the House. A Fair Freights Committee has come into existence on the West Coast. Members of that body are doing all that they can to remedy the present situation, but up to the present the Adelaide Steamship Company has done nothing. Unfortunately, the State Government have no steamers of their own, and therefore the people concerned turn to the Federal Government for assistance. The railway construction policy of the different States is designed especially for the development of rural areas. I submit that the people have just as much right to expect the Commonwealth Government to provide proper sea transport facilities.
– Can the honorable member state how many people are interested in this matter?
– I cannot state the exact population of Eyre’s Peninsula, but it contains four subdivisions of the Federal division of Grey, and comprises many thousands of square miles of grazing and arable country. The peninsula is opened up by railway lines running from Port Lincoln to Murat Bay, a distance of nearly 300 miles, and a branch line to Kimba, 230 miles from Port Lincoln. There is a considerable population on the peninsula, and a few days ago the Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell), in reply to a question as to where he intended to settle immigrants, stated that he looked to Eyre’s Peninsula and the River Murray districts to provide the land needed for the newcomers. Eyre’s Peninsula is an important wheat-growing centre. During the last harvesting season a farmer atMinippa informed me that he was reaping 20 bushels, to the acre with a. rainfall of only 7 inches. Not very many farming districts of Aus tralia can show better results than that. The people there, I submit, are entitled to every consideration at the hands of the Commonwealth Government. The vessels trading in Spencer’s Gulf call at Port Pirie, which, as honorable members know, is an important industrial centre, and at Port Augusta, then cross over to the ports on the western side of the gulf, and return to Port Adelaide. Although Port Pirie and Port Augusta are connected with Adelaide by rail, a considerable portion of the trade is carried by these vessels. During the last election campaign members of the Country party, which is now represented in the Ministry, declared that cheaper freights and improved transport facilities were essential in the interests of the primary producers. I appeal to them now to do something for the people on Eyre’s Peninsula. To them, cheap steamer freights are more important than advances for the purchase of wine netting. The development of the peninsula is being held up by high steamship freights. The producers are not encouraged to extend their operations. They are being shamelessly exploited by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company. In view of all the circumstances, I respecfully ask the Government to give this matter their serious attention. The provisions of the Navigation Act do not apply to this Intra-State trade, and therefore, it cannot he said that the Act is responsible for this strangle-hold on the primary producers of Eyre’s Peninsula. I trust that what I have said will convince honorable members of the urgent need for prompt measures to give relief to the settlers on the peninsula.
.- The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) is to be commended for having brought this matter before the House. What he has said indicates clearly that more time should be available to honorable members for the discussion of matters affecting the welfare of our primary producers. The honorable member has been compelled to move the adjournment of the House because its privileges have been so seriously curtailed by the action of the Government in limiting debate, in order to bring this Parliament to a close in the course of a few days. The matter which he mentions is of vital importance to a large number of people settled on Eyre’s Peninsula. Evidently there is a very substantial population in that portion of South Australia, since it comprises four subdivisions of the Federal division of Grey. We have also been told that the Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell) intends to settle quite a number of immigrants there. Therefore, no effort should be spared, if production is to be successful, to provide the people with reasonable transport facilities. It is almost incredible that the steamship charges on a binder should have increased from £2 to £4 5s. This, surely, is a matter that concerns members of the Country party, but I have not the slightest doubt that at least one member of that party would like to stifle this debate. I have heard the honorable member for Swan. (Mr. Gregory) assert that the Tariff has increased the cost of farming implements, and that we should import every thing from abroad in preference to supporting our own industries, but the honorable member could scarcely justify this shipping monoply increasing freights from £2 to £4 5s. per ton. If it is contended that the increase is due to war conditions, let me say that I have always admitted that we cannot expect to get anything to-day at pre-war rates. We could understand it if the increased charge were 50 or 60 per cent, in excess of the pre-war rate, but how can honorable members support an. increase in f relight from £2 to £A 5s. per ton, which is due to the fact that the shipping company has a monopoly.
Mr.Killen. - Is it a greater increase than that charged by other shipping lines ?
– It may not be. but on this motion wo have to confine ourselves to a specific matter. The freights charged by other lines probably are excessive, but, being quite liberal to this shipping company, their rates should not be anything like as high as they are. How can men settle on the land and make a success of their efforts if they are called upon to pay these exorbitant rates? The increase in freights is only typical of the increased prices charged for all the settlers’ requirements. It is evident that something is wrong. When Mr. Poynton represented Eyre’s Peninsula, he endeavoured to have this matter cleared up, but without success. The high freights continue, greatly to the detriment of the settlement of the Peninsula. It is quite time this Parliament took a hand in the matter. An excuse put forward in this case is that no boats are available; but
We are all aware that, because we cannot put them in commission, quite a number of Commonwealth boats will have to be sold in the near future. I ask honorable members why some Commonwealth boats cannot be employed in this trade, and also in. the trade with Tasmania. It is absurd to allow a shipping company having a monopoly to increase the charges upon people and prevent development whilst we have boats lying idle. It is the duty of the Government to make necessary shipping available. A strange feature of this case is that the shipping company which has been referred to is hiring a Commonwealth boat for the purpose of conducting the trade. This company is charging exorbitant freights for transport on a boat hired from the Commonwealth. Why should we not employ our own boats in this trade?
– I am afraid that would not improve the position.
– Why not?
– Because probably we could not carry on the trade at lower freights than are charged by the company.
– I am surprised to bear such an interjection in view of the profits of the company disclosed by the honorable member for Grey. Whatever the views . of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) may be as regards private and State enterprise, I do not know bow he could make such an interjection .
– The Commonwealth Line has kept up freights all along.
– If that is so it is the duty of the Government and of this Parliament to see that it does not continue to do so.
– The Commonwealth Line has kept freights down.
– These ships should be run, not to make exorbitant profits, but to assist the development of the country whilst at the same time being self-supporting. I think that the statement of the honorable member for Riverina is not in accordance with the facts, because, by many good authorities, we have been informed that the ships of the Commonwealth Line coming into competition with those of private companies have been the means, especially during war time, of keeping down freights.
– Still theCommonwealth Line charges 400 per cent, more than prewar rates.
– The honorable member should rememberthat the Inchcape Shipping Combine endeavoured to buy the ships of the Commonwealth Line at a time when there was a glut of shipping in the world, and vessels were tied up everywhere, and could be bought very cheaply. “What was the object of the Combine? It was not that they wanted ships, but that they desired to put a competitor out of business. That should be sufficient to prove that the Commonwealth Line prevented the overseas Shipping Combine charging Australian producers higher freights than they were charged.
– Still the Commonwealth Line charges 400 per cent, higher than pre-war rates.
– The honorable member displays great anxiety about the Commonwealth Shipping Line, the Navigation Act, and the Tariff, and can see nothing outside those things. He has succeeded in securing the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the effects of the Navigation Act, and I suppose thinks that this matter should not be discussed in this House. The honorable member’s only object is to repeal the legislation passed by the party on. this side. He has been endeavouring to do that ever since he came into this House. I understand that there is a desire now to remove some honorable members from the Select Committee, to which I have referred, and to have a Royal Commission appointed. This House deliberately appointed the Select Committee, and nothing should be done to interfere with it unless the House is consulted. I say this, because the honorable member has invited such a statement. I know quite well what is going on. . I am surprised that honorable members who represent country constituencies should try to cloud the issue. Injustice is being done to men on the land because the Common wealth Parliament is not doing its duty in making provision for reasonable transport between the different States for the benefit of settlers. There should be noopposition to this motion, and, as a matter of fact, it should be taken as an instruction to the Government to act. It is idle for us to say that we desire to give country residents facilities to get their products to market if we are going to continue to allow excessive charges for transport to be heaped upon them. I have never known a better case to be made out for a motion for the adjournment of the House than was made out by the honorable member for Grey. The matter submitted by the honorable member was honest, substantial, and right tothe point. He gave sufficient information to completely justify his complaint. He made it very clear that the people in the part of Australia to which he referred are suffering a great injustice. Though Eyre’s Peninsula is attached to South Australia, it occupies very much the same position as Tasmania, whose claims to special consideration we discussed yesterday. I said here yesterday that, because Tasmania is an impecunious State it has a claim to our assistance, and I supported the grant to that State. Eyre’s Peninsula is in practically the same position, but under the Constitution we cannot make a grant for. the assistance of the people there in the same way. We can do what is necessary in another way, and that is by seeing that facilities are provided for the transport of the produce of the settlers thereat the lowest possible rates. The peninsula covers a considerable area, and I understand from the honorable member for Grey that a good deal of the land is suitable for agriculture. As it is remote from markets, that land could no doubt be obtained at more reasonable prices than land can be obtained for in other parts of Australia. The peninsula is a place to which we might send immigrants, providing that proper facilities were given to settlers for the disposal of their produce. I think the honorable member for Riverina will, on reflection, admit that the settlers in Eyre’s Peninsula deserve his support Herepresents a country constituency, and I have no doubt he desires that country people shall be given a fair deal, not only in his own district, hut throughout Australia. I represent an electorate which is now chiefly industrial, though before the last redistribution it was largely a country electorate; but that does not affect my judgment. I say that we are here to take a national view of things, and we should take’ all steps necessary for the development of the Commonwealth. If we do that, we shall get population. If we provide proper facilities for the development of the country districts people will come here, and it will not he necessary to borrow £18,000,000 to encourage immigration.
– There is not only the question of giving facilities, but the cost of handling to be taken into account.
– I dealt with that in the honorable member’s absence. “We. must meet the situation in a sympathetic way and do what we can to assist the development, not only of Eyre’s Peninsula, but of every part of Australia. We cau do a great deal by increasing shipping facilities for the transport of produce overseas, and during the last few years we have been able to do fairly well in overseas markets.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - I can quite understand the honorable member for Grey raising this question, which is one of great concern to a part of his constituency and a number of his constituents, but I think he has taken the wrong view of the situation. If I may say so very respectfully, I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has done the same thing. The honorable member suggested that the Commonwealth is failing in its duty in this matter. I, in common with, I believe, a majority of honorable members on both sides, take a different view. It is quite true that we hold different opinions as to the desirability of the State conducting a shipping business. I venture to suggest, however, that in this case that question does not arise. Eyre’s Peninsula is a part of South Australia, although for purposes of communication it happens to be separated by water from the rest of the State. It is always recognised that it is the func tion of the State and not of the Commonwealth to provide the transport facilities needed within its borders. I do not suggest that any authority has failed in its duty ; but if such an accusation can be levelled, it must be against the State and not against the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members to view the matter in that light.
– Would the right honorable gentleman be prepared to allow the South Australian Government to have one of the ships of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers?
– If the South Australian Government desires to purchase one of those ships it is perfectly at liberty to make an offer. There is a very clear issue in this case. While the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) may be serving the interests of his constituents admirably by trying to make arrangements for transport facilities for them, it is for the State, not for the Commonwealth, to take action. I unhesitatingly say that the Commonwealth should not be asked to move in this matter. The subject of excess freights and excess costs generally was investigated by the Sea Carriage of Goods Committee, which was appointed by this House in 1920. Another Committee is now sitting, which, will cover the same ground. No doubt .the report of that Committee- “will give us a clear statement of the position relating to freights on the coast of Australia, and it is a little unfair to prejudice the inquiry at this stage by saying that freights are unduly high and that profiteering is being practised. The Sea Carriage of Goods Committee dissipated the charge that undue freights existed two years ‘ago. The whole matter is being investigated again by the Navigation Committee, and it is a little unfair to make such statements as have been made before that Committee has had an opportunity to function. In no circumstances can the case now being discussed have anything to do with the Commonwealth. That opinion is supported by the statement of the honorable member for Grey that Eyre’s Peninsula is regarded by the Premier of the State as probably the best place in South Australia on which to settle immigrants. When any Government’ proposes to settle migrants one of its first actions should be to provide the necessary transport facilities to enable the settlers to dispose of their products. I think the honorable member for Grey will, on reflection, agree that in this matter the Commonwealth should not* undertake any responsibility.
.- I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) should feel that I had any ulterior motive in seeking information by interjection from the mover of the motion (Mr. Lacey). I have the deepest sympathy with that honorable member in his complaints on behalf of the residents of Port Lincoln regarding the heavy freights and inconveniences with which they are burdened. Similar complaints are being received from all the coastal districts in Australia. The Tariff Board recommended that this House should examine into the difficulty that is being experienced in regard to both Intranstate and Inter-State freights, and a committee of honorable member’s was appointed to inquire into the matter. The honorable member foi- Grey (Mr. Lacey), as a member of that committee, will have the fullest opportunity to investigate the matter thoroughly.
.- The residents of Eyre’s Peninsula are subject to very serious and grave disability because of the inadequacy of the freight and passenger service to those parts. Theirs is a real and a genuine grievance. The shipping interests have profiteered and plundered those who desire to do the pioneering work of these localities. The inadequate nature of the service, the discomfort that is occasioned, the excessive costs that are charged for the services rendered, are nothing short of a scandal. I say advisedly that .the vessels which are trading to Eyre’s Peninsula are only just fulfilling the conditions insisted on for the safety of those who are required to travel.
– A tragedy is expected any day.
– As the honorable member has interjected, it would not cause surprise to those “who possess any knowledge of the maritime services of South Australia if a tragedy were occasioned ns the result of this unsatisfactory service. The shipping company utilizes an out-of-dato and unsuitable class of vessel.
– Does not the State Government do anything in the matter?
– Unfortunately, the State law does not afford adequate protection for safety and security in sea carriage. The Commonwealth Government also experience difficulty in controlling this service. It is desirable that this aspect of the matter should be taken into consideration by the Navigation Committee, and honorable members might reasonably expect that that Committee will recommend such an amendment of the Navigation Act as will place the matter on a proper footing. I assure honorable members that this is not an isolated part of South Australia, without population. I have here a summary of statistics dealing with South Australia. The Western Division, which embraces the area under review, contains a total population of 16,206 persons. They have a right to demand consideration from this Parliament. While the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) may in a light and airy way endeavour to belittle this matter, he v has not given an effective reply to the grievance brought forward by the honorable member for Grey. The right honorable gentleman attempted to persuade honorable members that this is a matter essentially for the State. I desire to impress upon the House the fact that the Commonwealth can render valuable assistance because of the existence of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. The State Government does not engage in shipping enterprise. A vessel belonging to the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers could be utilized to very great advantage in providing that service which the inhabitants of these distant parts of South Australia have a right to expect. Eyre’s Peninsula is as much a portion of the Commonwealth as any other locality. Honorable members on this side are not asking for any special favours to be bestowed on South Australia generally, or on Eyre’s Peninsula in particular, but we do ask that the Commonwealth shall fufil its duties towards those persons who are prepared to engage in pioneering work and in the development of the country. We have demonstrated that they are being exploited by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, which is . a unit in <the Shipping. Combine. I sincerely hope the motion will be carried, and the Government thus compelled to remedy the disabilities of these people. The Prime Minister regards it as unfair for honorable members on this side, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), to publicly and emphatically charge this shipping company with extracting undue profits, in view of the fact that the Sea Carriage Committee found that no such profits are made. I remind the right honorable gentleman that that Committee did not concern, itself with the question of freights, but merely with the export facilities for our primary produce. The Prime Minister does not do himself justice in thus endeavouring to seek shelter behind that Committee. Honorable members in the corner, notably the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), endeavoured to convey the impression that the Commonwealth Government Line has assisted in maintaining high freights. Such an impression is quite without foundation. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government Line has been the means of reducing freights to a figure which would never have been reached if the great shipping combination had been left with a free field for exploitation. It issimply because of the lack of Commonwealth competition at Eyre’s Peninsula that the Adelaide Steam-ship Company is able to enjoy a monopoly, with liberty bo provide a most inadequate service at exorbitant freights. The experience of Tasmania gives the lie direct, if I may use that word, to all such statements about the Commonwealth Government Line.
-I take it that the honorable member does not give the “lie direct” to anything said in the House?
– My desire is to prove that there is no ground for any such impression or suspicion, created either inside or outside the House.
– I am not concerned with what is said about outside people, bub the honorable member must not give the lie direct to any statement made in the House.
– I bow, sir, to your ruling, because I have a. very great respect for the office you hold, and greater respect for the powers you wield. I was about to say that Tasmania had received direct advantage from the operations of the Commonwealth Government Line. The Shipping Combine charged 5s. per case on apples for export, but the Commonwealth Shipping Line reduced its freight to 4s., whereupon the Combine came down to 4s. 6d. If the honorable member for Riverina regards such an action as indicating a desire on the part of the Commonwealth Line to keep up freights, then logical argument is unavailing in his case. I hope that the representations made this morning will result in substantial relief being afforded to those people who are opening up vast areas in that part of Australia. They are entitled to reduced freights and rates of passage money, more frequent services, and very much improved accommodation. If the Government place a vessel of the Commonwealth Line at their disposal, they will realize that a practical interest is being displayed in their welfare, and that they will be freed from danger of exploitation.
.- I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has so airily, and, indeed, almost contemptuously, brushed this matter aside. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) is to be complimented on the manner in which he presented his case, which certainly warrants more consideration than the Prime Minister seems prepared to give. The right honorable gentleman regards this as a State matter. It would appear that any subject the Commonwealth Government does not desire to touch, is a State matter, and that anything that will serve the interests of Government supporters, is a Commonwealth matter. We had a very clear indication the other night of this attitude on the part of the Government. It is peculiar that’ the Commonwealth Government, if it takes the view that it cannot interfere, should allow a Commonwealth steamer to be chartered by this shipping company. We hear no protest from honorable members opposite who allegedly represent country interests. The Prime Minister told us that the matter has been inquired into by a Committee, and the fact ascertained that no undue profits are made. Nevertheless in 1916, binders were carried at £2 freight, whereas in 1920, the charge was £4 5s. No doubt the Prime Minister, accustomed to an environment of big profits in Flinders Lane, regards an increase of 125 per cent, in four years, as quite small. Indeed, I have been told that in Flinders-lane no one will keep a pencil that will not write “ 200 per cent.” No self-respecting Government could refuse to act in the face of the clear proof that freights in this part of Australia have been enormously increased because of the shipping monopoly.
– There are bigger profits than those made by the shipping company.
– According to the honorable member’s own doleful tale, neither he nor his constituents can make profits of the kind. I wonder whether there is any “ gentlemen’s agreement,” or arrangement, between the Commonwealth Shipping Line and the various coastal companies not to enter into competition. This sort of thing was at one time termed “ piracy,” but now it has the prettier name of “ gentlemen’s agreement.” I can only hope that the Navigation Committee, of which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is Chairman, will inquire into this phase of the question. The contention that only legitimate business is being carried on by the shipping company is utterly upset by the records presented here this morning. In these records we have a tale of watered stock, of the voluntary winding up of a company, and its reflotation, of bonus shares and all the rest of the devices peculiar to organizations of the kind. These records would do credit to even some of the magnates of Flinders-lane. To say that this is a State matter, is merely to shirk responsibility. The honorable member for Forrest seems anxious to impress on us that the Navigation Committee will make every inquiry, and that there is no need to worry now. The Government is shelving its responsibilities by placing too much work in the hands of Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry. All the statements made by the honorable member for Grey can very easily be verified. When speaking on the Tasmania Grant Bill. I emphasized the fact that it is the policy of this Government in particular to sidetrack important issues, and disregard its responsibilities. Tt is not a question of whether Eyre’s Peninsula is separated from the main railway system of South Australia by water, or whether the district is represented by a Labour man, but whether adequate shipping facilities would add to the prosperity of that particular district, and benefit the Commonwealth as a whole. For the last five years the necessity of improving the position of primary producers has been frequently brought under the notice of this House, and in this instance, when the conditions of a large number could be materially improved, the representatives of the. Country party and the Prime Minister appear to take little interest in the matter. Apparently one Commonwealth vessel would be sufficient to relieve the situation.
– Does the honorable member know if the depth of water issufficient to enable a Commonwealth Government vessel to engage in the trade ?
– A Commonwealth vessel is at present under charter to one of the private profiteering companies. That proves that the depth of water is adequate. The honorable member for Grey knows more about the position than the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who apparently has no strong desire to assist the primary producers on Eyre’s Peninsula. It is regrettable that such an .important matter, and one which was brought before the House in such a clear and concise manner, should be brushed aside in a light and airy fashion by the Prime Minister, who, after making a very brief statement, and before he had heard the views of other honorable members, left the chamber.
– We are indebted to the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) for bringing this matter before the House. We all realize the important part which shipping plays in the development of any of our Territories. At present more than one-fourth of the Australian coast - that of the Northern Territory and the north-west of Australia - is devoid of shipping facilities, without which it is imposible to develop the country in those portions of Australia. For some time the Commonwealth Government have made spasmodic attempts to provide a shipping service for the Northern Territory, but, owing to the type of vessels engaged in the trade, the service, without exception, has proved disastrous. What has been said concerning the disabilities experienced by the settlers on Eyre’s Peninsula applies with equal, if not greater force, to those in the Northern Territory and in the north-western portion of Australia. A big company with a fair amount of capital behind it has endeavoured, for the last six or eight months, to develop a certain proposition in the Northern Territory; but owing to the lack of shipping facilities has been unable to ship machinery from Port Darwin to its destination. It is a reflection on the administration of not only the Northern Territory, but also the whole of the Commonwealth, that such a state of affairs should prevail: We all know what tbe development of the Northern Territory means to the Com- monwealth, and it should be the urgent desire of the Federal Government to render every possible assistance. Until quite recently the firm of Burns, Philp, and Company, which has a monopoly, was charging £4 per ton on all commodities shipped from any port north of Brisbane.
-I rise to a point of order. ls the honorable member in order in referring to shipping facilities in the Northern Territory when the motion before the Chair relates to shipping services on Eyre’s Peninsula?
– The honorable member is in order in making a passing allusion to the Northern Territory in order to illustrate his argument ; but I remind him that the question before the Chair is a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the shipping service of a particular portion of Australia that is not within the Territory.
– I was endeavouring to show that the question raised by the honorable member for Grey was one of vital importance, and was supporting his argument by showing that the position which exists on Eyre’s Peninsula is similar to that in other portions of Australia.
– The honorable member will recognise that such reference must be incidental to his argument, and not the major portion of it.
– Vessels of the Commonwealth Government Line which are lying idle could be effectively utilized in assisting the development of Eyre’s Peninsula, the north-western portion of Australia, and the Northern Territory. -
– Supposing a Commonwealth vessel could not enter those ports owing to shallow depths.
– That is not an insurmountable difficulty. It has been stated to-day that the South Australian Government contemplate extensive developments on Eyre’s Peninsula, and as there are a number of ports in’ South Australia where, owing to depth of water, goods have to be lightered, surely a similar practice could be adopted in this instanceif the occasion demanded it. At present settlers in the Northern Territory are paying from 100 to 200 per cent, more to get their commodities to Brisbane and other ports than is being charged for shipping goods’ from Melbourne to Europe or Asia. The question deserves the immediate consideration of Parliament, particularly if the producers on Eyre’s Peninsula and in the Northern Territory are to compete with those in other countries. It is the duty of the Government to consider this phase of the question, and to consider the position of those in isolated districts. It is difficult to understand why idle vessels under Government control are not utilized, and I trust that the motion submitted by the honorable member for Grey will lead to the Government affording that relief which is so urgently needed.
.- Eyre’s Peninsula comprises a very large area, and should not be defined as a mere peninsula. For many years the development of that portion of South Australia has been a big question with the State Government, and efforts have been made to ascertain the best manner in which it can be effectively settled. Eyre’s Peninsula is separated from the main railway system of South Australia by two gulfs, and although the settlers in that locality are taxed, in common with those in other parts of the State, they do not derive any benefit from that taxation. The local railway system has been extended for 200. or 300 miles inland, but as the railway service, does not provide the necessary facilities for the carriage of inward goods, supplies have to be obtained by a shipping service under the control of private companies. lt is well known that the Australian coastal shipping trade is in the hands of private companies, which are so combined that the freights are fixed just as the price of commodities are adjusted by the big “ rag “ warehouses and grocery combines.
– There is only one port there where a vessel drawing more than 9 feet can enter.
– The Paringa and the Morialta, which were engaged in the Gulf trade, were transferred to the Queensland coast, and I do not think that the draught of a vessel would affect the position to any extent. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said that this was really a State matter. Perhaps it is, but the State Government will not touch it. The South Australian. Labour party favours a line of Stateowned snips to serve the west coast; but, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) knows, there is as much hope of the present Government establishing a State line of ships’ as there is of a snowball surviving in hell.
– I believe that is so.
– If a Labour Government were in power in South Australia and suggested the establishment of a line, the shareholders of the Australian United Steam Navigation Company, the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, and. Mcllwraith, McEacharn and Company, who are strongly represented in the Legislative Council, would put in “ the boot “ as they did in connexion with a State coal mine.
– The honorable member has mentioned the wrong companies.
– The names do not count; all the companies are linked together, and their policy is the same, namely, to make as much money as possible out of the opportunities that ave presented to them.. The Premier of South Australia has stated that Eyre’s Peninsula is one of the districts in which migrants are to be settled. It is not fair to place new settlers from overseas, or from amongst our OWn people, in- a part that is practically isolated from the mainland, and where they will be penalized by the heavy freights. The honorable member for Wakefield men:tioned the difficulty of getting a boat of sufficiently shallow draught for the west coast. How is it that one of the shipping companies has been able to acquire from the Commonwealth a vessel for the west coast service.
– Has the Commonwealth a vessel of 9-feet draught, or less?
– The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) stated that a shipping company has chartered from the Commonwealth a steamer for the west coast service. If that is so, why cannot the Commonwealth at least make the inquiries which the honorable member has suggested, and, if necessary, establish a new service for the development of Eyre’s Peninsula?
– I am not opposed to the inquiry.
– The proposal would be more likely to gain the sympathy and support of the Prime Minister if the honorable member for Wakefield would support the’ request made by the honorable member for Grey. For many years the honorable member for Wakefield was Commissioner for Public Works in South Australia. I recollect that he came into conflict with the late Tom Price on the question of whether the latter had stolen the honorable member’s policy, or vice versa.
– He took mine.
– According to Tom Price, the only difference between the two policies was that he developed the west coast, while the honorable member for Wakefield merely talked about it.
– I was responsible for the building of the railway.
– I admit that; and the honorable member having led a number of people into the promised land should now. come to their assistance by impressing upon the Prime Minister the duty of the Commonwealth to step in where the State has failed in its duty.
– I do not believe in the Commonwealth doing the work that the State should dp.
– That shows a parochial spirit. The honorable member should be broader minded, and realize that those people on the west coast who pay taxation to the Commonwealth are entitled to a quid pro quo. If private enterprise will not develop the country, it is the duty of the Commonwealth to step in, and do what is necessary. There is more involved in this motion than the development of the west coast of Eyre’s
Peninsula. From all parts of the Commonwealth there are complaints about unsatisfactory shipping services. Recently a deputation of Adelaide timber merchants waited upon the South Australian Federal members, and urged that something should be done by the Commonwealth to enable them to get timber from Western Australia. The timber was on order, and could be supplied, but the business would not be profitable because back freight could not be provided. Tasmanian members and the honorable member for the Northern Territory also complain of shipping disabilities. I remind the House that the Rachael Cohen, which gives a service to Northern Territory ports, for which the Commonwealth is paying a subsidy of £5,000 per annum to Burns, Philp, and Company, was formerly trading on the west coast of Eyre’s Peninsula. On the whole of the Australian coast there is a, lack oi the shipping facilities that are necessary for the development of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth makes grants in connexion with meat exports, and advances for fruit, and for the purchase of wire-netting, and in many other ways uses its finance and influence to promote production and development. But as soon as a shipping subsidy is suggested for the same purpose opposition develops amongst Ministerial members, for what reason is not definitely stated. If the ‘ Commonwealth have not a ship suitable foa1 the Eyre’s Peninsula trade, what is wrong with swapping one of its idle vessels for another?’ Why cannot the Commonwealth acquire the , Rachael Cohen, which is on the Northern Territory coast, or the Paringa and the Morialto, that were engaged on the Queensland coast? Even if the suggested shipping service to Eyre’s Peninsula were conducted at a los3 it would not be the only loss incurred by the Commonwealth for the development of the country. Developmental shipping services are on all fours with developmental railways. If the Government is sincere in its professed desire to develop the country and make it self-supporting, and to insure its safety by settling more population on our vacant spaces, what better policy could it adopt than that of bringing the country as’ closely , as possible into contact with the cities-?
– A couple of steamers trading about the peninsula would be better than a warship.
– I agree with the honorable mem ber. I do not like suggesting that the Government’s refusal to act in this matter is due to a regard for certain commercial interests; but that appears to be the case. Honorable members opposite say that they do not believe in the Commowealth engaging in trade; they tell us that the duty of a Government is to govern and not to trade. But if the people who, are engaged in trading ‘are not doing what is necessary for the development of the country it is the duty of the Government to undertake that responsibility. The present Government will not do that, because a Commonwealth steam-ship service would be detrimental to the interests of its supporters.
– Why does not the South Australian Government fallow Western Australia’s example, and solve its own shipping difficulties?
– There are some things in regard to which South Australia might well copy Western Australia. For instance, the latter has established a sinking fund to liquidate the capital. cost of the gold-fields water scheme. When Australia as a whole begins to live ‘as an individual has to do, namely, meet his commitments in his own lifetime, and not leave them as a burden to be borne by the baby, it will have commenced to progress on sound lines. The people of Western Australia have adopted that policy. I should be pleased if we could, compel the State of South Australia, to establish a shipping service for Eyre’s Peninsula. But we are impotent when faced with the opposition of the Legislative Council, which throttles all progress.
– Did not a Labour Government establish a State shipping service on the Western Australian coast?
– I believe so. Its desire was to bring the producers of the norths west into closer communication with the markets in Perth. Yet every thing possible was done by vested interests to discredit the Labour Government for that policy. On Tuesday the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) told us a sorry tale of the bungling that had happened in connexion with the construction of War Service Homes. ‘ It is possible for the Government’ to conduct business enterprises satisfactorily, but the
Minister sought to discredit Government trading and the day labour principle. I hope that the Government will realize the necessity for considering the requirements of the settlers on Eyre’s Peninsula. They are entitled to some consideration from the Commonwealth, and justice cannot be done to the migrants who are to be settled on the west coast until an adequate shipping service is established.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Returned Soldiers Temporarily Employed
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The matter is under consideration.
Question of Privilege
– I desire to raise a question of privilege. A certain incident occurred yesterday while this House was in Committee, and, owing to certain rulings given by the Temporary Chairman of Committees, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), confusion was created in the minds of members of the Committee. That confusion resulted in disorder. That was not the first time that disorder had occurred owing to the decisions of the same Temporary Chairman of Committees. I informed the honorable member for Oxley a short while ago that I intended to bring this matter forward. When a motion was submitted to dissent from the ruling of the Temporary Chairman, I attempted to speak, and was ruled out of order. At a later stage another motion of dissent was submitted, and on that occasion the Temporary Chairman completely reversed his previous decision and allowed the question to be debated. The following is a report of what took place: -
– The honorable member for Darling knows quite well that when I read tbe standing order previously I read the word “ may.”
– And you ruled “ shall.”
– You ruled that I could not speak to the motion for dissent, and you had no right to do so. You have since reversed your ruling.
– Thehonorable member is out of order in speaking when the Chairman is on his feet. It has been the practice for the Chairman to decide after sufficient debate, in his opinion, had taken place upon the point of order, to put the question forthwith. When the first motion for dissent was moved I resolved, in the interests of the Committee, to allow it to be decided forthwith.
– In the best interests of the Government.
– On my own authority I refused the honorable member for Darling permission to speak. That is in accordance with past custom.
– Why was I singled out?
– The honorable member was not singled out; he nas on his feet when I gave my ruling. When the honorable member fur Dalley (Mr. Mahony) raised a point of order regarding the right or members to speak to a motion for dissent, 1 recognised that it was not the will of the Committee that thb question should be put forthwith.
– How did you interpret the will of the Committee ‘
– The fact that the honorable member for Dalley rose to a point of order on this question was proof conclusive that hp., at least, was desirous of discussing the motion to dissent that had been made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). 1, therefore, ruled that it would be in order for him to discuss the motion.
I attempted to discuss the motion cf dissent, but the Temporary Chairman ruled that I was not in order, and that, in his opinion, it was the desire of the Committee that the question should be decided forthwith. I have no desire to traverse the previous rulings of the honorable member in his capacity as Temporary Chairman of Committees, but thb mistakes which have been made by him in the past have created disorder and confusion in the minds of honorable members. It is with regret that I take the very extreme course of dealing with this matter on a question of privilege, but I do so because I believe that if that honorable gentleman continues to occupy the position of Temporary Chairman of Committees nothing but confusion and disorder will result.
– I cannot allow comments of that kindin connexion with a question of privilege.
– The action I am taking is in the interests of the good conduct of Committees of this House, and the rights of honorable members. If a Chairman unwittingly gives a wrong decision, the rights and privileges of members are thereby curtailed. The rights and privileges of honorable members on this side pf the House have been curtailed on many occasions when the honorable member for Oxley, as Temporary Chairman has given rulings which, in the opinion of some honorable members, have been quite wrong. Obviously, the first decision given by him yesterday was either right or wrong, and the second decision, which reversed the first, must also have been either right or wrong. The reversing of a decision within five minutes can only create confusion in the minds of honorable members. I do not claim that that was a factor which contributed to my suspension, but it may have been a factor. 1 do not seek to bring in that particular phase of the question. I contemplated the extreme action which I am now taking four or five weeks ago, when the honorable member for Oxley, in my opinion, gave totally wrong rulings, which were not conducive to the good order and conduct of the Committee.
– Will the honorable member cite some of the mistakes of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) as Temporary Chairman of Committees 1
– I could give a list of the mistakes of the Government Whip (Mr. Marr). I desire to move -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is not conducive to the good order and conduct of a Committee of the House that the honorable member for Oxley should continue further as Temporary Chairman of Committees.
-The honorable member, without notifying me, has seen fit to submit a motion regarding a Temporary Chairman of Committees, and has done so under the Standing Orders relating to the submission to the House of a question of privilege. Had the honorable member submitted a general motion with respect to a Chairman of Committees whose decisions might, or might not, have limited the rights of honorable members, I should have accepted it; but I cannot accept a motion reflecting upon a Temporary Chairman of Committees by name. I therefore will not accept it as a question of privilege. If the’’ honorable member at a later stage desires the question to be dealt with by this House, or by me, on general lines, and will sumbit it in that way, 1 shall be glad to deal with it.
– Mr. Speaker, I rise-
– Does the honorable member desire to raise a point of order?
– No, Mr. Speaker, I desire to speak, by. leave of the House.
– The honorable member cannot speak by leave at this stage. I regret that 1 cannot allow him to speak at this stage unless he rises to a point of order.
– I will rise to a point of order if you will allow me to state the point now and continue my remarks after lunch.
– If the honorable member is not prepared to raise a point of order now the House must proceed with questions on notice.
– My point is somewhat involved, and I admit that it will probably take me ten minutes to state it.
– If the honorable member assures me that he rises to a point of order he will have an opportunity to state it.
– I am sincere in saying that I rise to a point of order, because I wish to speak of an important matter that cannot be lightly brushed aside.
– Will the honorable member state in general terms, the purport of his point of order?
– The purport of it is whether the House has not some control over the actions of Temporary Chairmen of Committees, who, after all, are creatures of yourself? They are created by your warrant.
– I cannot, in view of my recent ruling, take as a question of order what is tantamount to a dissent from the ruling of the Chair. As the honorable member knows, there is, under the Standing Orders, a proper way of submitting and registering a dissent from a ruling of the Chair. I cannot allow the matter to be further dealt with at this stage.
– I apprehend, Mr. Speaker, that you have not quite realized the. point I wish to make. I was leading up to it. I did not intend in any way to reflect upon your actions or your powers in appointing Temporary Chairmen of Committees. I have no desire to do that. I merely pointedout that they were appointed by you, and I said that they were creatures of yourself. You, in fact, are the creature of the members of this House.
– That is an improper word to use.
– We are all “ creatures,” are we not?
– I am certain that some are.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I believe that this measure will receive support from all sides of the House. Its purpose is to facilitate the great work of water conservation in the River Murray and its tributaries. In 1914, the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia entered into an agreement, known as the River Murray Waters Agreement, which provides for the construction of nine weirs and locks on the River Murray, below Wentworth, seventeen weirs and locks above the junction of the Darling with the River Murray, nine weirs and locks on the Murrumbidgee River, and two storage reservoirs, one at Lake Victoria, and the other known as the Hume Reservoir. On the 23rd, 24th, and 25th May, 1923, the Ministers responsible for this workmet in conference to discuss matters relating to them, and to compare opinions with respect to future activities. At that conference certain resolutions were made for the varying of the original Agreement. The resolutions to which that conference unanimously agreed were afterwards submitted to the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and by it indorsed. This Bill is to give effect to the resolutions. The first matter of importance dealt with is the site of the weir and lock to be constructed in the vicinity of Wentworth. Having decided to construct the weirs and locks mentioned in the Agreement, it was necessary for the States to do a considerable amount of boring to ascertain where the best foundation for the various works was to bo found. The Agreement provides that the lock near Wentworth is to be constructed above the town, but a fine site was discovered just below it. It is therefore proposed to amend clause 21 of the Agreement to permit of that weir and lock being constructed below Wentworth instead of above it. The site will not be more than a mile from the town.
– Will it make any difference in the estimated cost?
– No. Provision is also made to insert the following clause after clause 24 of the Agreement : -
The construction of works provided for in this Agreement, which will provide for the needs of irrigation, shall have precedence over the construction of any such works which will be primarily for the requirements of navigation.
The object of that clause is to give precedence to works which will aid irrigation more than navigation. Honorable members should understand that all the locks and weirs originally agreed to must be constructed. The Commonwealth Government will adhere strictly to that arrangement. It has been agreed, however, that, as all the works cannot be constructed simultaneously, the locks which will serve principally the needs of irrigation shall be built before those which will mainly benefit navigation.
– Are honorable members to understand that it is only a question of priority in construction?
– Yes, that is all. Clause 42 of the original Agreement provided for the distribution of tolls between the contracting Governments. The proportions in which such tolls were to be distributed was set out in clause 32 of that Agreement. It was also provided that the tolls so collected should be used only for the maintenance of the works and for lock keeping. As those expenses will be met altogether by the State Governments this Bill provides for an amendment of the original Agreement to insure that the tolls shall be distributed among those three Governments, and that the Commonwealth Government shall not receive any proportion of the revenue. An amendment to clause 44 of the principal Agreement is proposed. The clause provides that the construction of the Hume Reservoir shall be completed within seven years from the 31st January, 1917, which means that the work must be completed by 31st January, 1924. On account of the difficulty of discovering a suitable site, but largely because of the high cost of materials caused by the war, and their scarcity - circumstances over which none of the contracting Governments had any control - it has been decided to amend the original Agreement, and this Bill provides that the Hume Reservoir work, shall be completed within, twelve years from 31st January, 1917.
It would be foolish for us to insist upon the completion of the work within seven years whenwe know that it cannot be done.
Mr.Fenton. - It is now proposed that the Hume Reservoir shall be completed by 31st January, 1929?
– That is so. I think that few honorable members realize how gigantic is the Hume Reservoir work. The Lake Victoria storage work is well in hand, and at the present rate of progress it will be completed within about eighteen months. The Bill seeks also to amend clause 58 of the original Agreement to provide that in case of the Commissioners being equally divided on any question to be determined under clause 44 of the Agreement a majority decision shall be accepted. Paragraph b of the proposed amendment to. clause 44 of the original Agreement relates to the determination in regard to the amount of water which shall be made available to South Australia.
– How will this amendment affect South Australia’s position under the original Agreement?
– South Australia’s rights are fully safeguarded. Sir John Bice, who attended the Conference on behalf of the South Australian Government agreed freely to this amendment. That State has no more doughty fighter than Sir John Bice, and South Australian members may rest assured that everything is all right when he agrees to it. The next amendment is an important one. When the original Agreement was drafted in 1914 the estimated cost of the whole of the Murray works was £4,663,000. Since that estimate was framed the cost of material has increased enormously, and the purchasing power of money has decreased. I am inclined to believe that the estimate of £4,663,000 was not very carefully framed. Under the Agreement the Commonwealth Government undertook to provide £1,000,000 towards the cost of the work, and the balance of the cost was to be borne equally by the other three contracting Governments, the share of each being £1,221,000. Owing to the increased cost of labour and materials it may be estimated that it will cost, approximately, £10,000,000 to complete the work. If the’ cost should reach £10,000,000. and the liability of the Commonwealth is rigidly maintained at £1,000,000, as fixed by the original agreement, that will mean that the three States concerned must provide £9,000,000, or £3,000,000 each for the work. Seeing that this is a national work to which the Commonwealth should give every assistance, the Commonwealth Government has entered into a new agreement under which the contribution of the Commonwealth to the work is increased from £1,000,000 to one-fourth of the total cost. Under this agreement, if the total cost is £8,000,000, the Commonwealth and the States concerned will contribute £2,000,000 each, and if it should cost, as I am inclined to think it will, not less than £10,000,000, the contribution of each of the parties to the agreement will be £2,500,000.
– One-fourth of the total cost is in excess of the proportion of the cost to which the Commonwealth was committed by the original agreement.
– That is so. The Government recognises that quite clearly, but as this is one of the big national projects which has had in the past, and, I believe, has to-day, the support of all sections of the community, and all parties in this House, it believes that tbe terms of the new agreement will meet with the approval of this Parliament.
I have stated briefly the purport of the Bill, and I now repeat that any subject which the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers discussed, and upon which they could not reach a unanimous decision, was ruled out. ‘ All the alterations of the existing agreement proposed by this Bill were approved at the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, having been agreed to by the Premiers’ Conference, and have since been subscribed by the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States concerned, and the legislation necessary ‘ to confirm the agreement, as amended, must be passed by the Parliaments of the contracting States. In introducing this Bill we are performing our part by submitting the amended agreement for ratification by this Parliament. As a resident of the Murray Valley, and one who knows the possibilities of the country along this magnificent water-way, I am satisfied that even if it does cost the outside estimate of £10,000,000 to complete this great work, no money ever spent in this country will give a better return, or its expenditure be more justified.
.- I think we are all agreed that the Bill deals with a national work, and one the completion of which should be expedited. I do not know whether it is due to any cause which could be avoided, but we are not getting on with the work as fast as was anticipated. This is the third time that the agreement has been before this House for amendment. The question was brought up first in 1914, and the original agreement was ratified in 1915. We amended the agreement in 1918. We made a further amendment in 1920, and we are being asked to make yet another amendment in 1923. I will not say that the amendments proposed are not necessary, but it appears that the work will cost considerably more than was anticipated at its commencement.
– That is inevitable.
– I was going to admit that it is inevitable, in view of the increase in the cost of labour and material, but there is a vast difference between the first estimate of £4,633,000 and an estimate of £8,000,000. When tbe subject was discussed in 1920, the work was estimated to cost £6,000,000. There has not since been so great an increase in prices as to account for the difference between £6,000,000 and £8,000,000. I am very much afraid that it will not be long before we shall have another amending Bill submitted with, perhaps, an estimate of a further increase in the expenditure necessary.
– We hope not.
– I hope not, because we all desire to see the work carried out. In 1920, when the River Murray Waters Bill was under consideration, Mr. Higgs asked the Minister for Works and Railways at the time (Mr. Groom), who moved the second reading
Of the Bill-
Will it cost more thnn £4,600,000?
– Double that amount.
So that the present Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) at that time believed that it would cost considerably more than the estimate. Mr. Groom said -
Th at was the original estimate, but while I do not intend to prophesy, 1 think that if the whole scheme is carried out at a cost of even £8,000,000, even then it will prove to be a cheap job for Australia. The experience obtained in carrying out the great work will be of infinite value to the rest of the Commonwealth.
With that we can all agree. I make the quotation to show that the estimate has now risen from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000, and the cost may be more. I wish to raise the question whether the delay in carrying out the work contributes to the increase of cost. I should say that it does.
– There is no doubt of it.
– I have visited the weir at Albury, and I know the magnitude of the work. It is a question whether, if the work were expedited, that would not considerably reduce the cost. Itwould certainly make land available for settlement at an earlier date. What honorable members desire is that the work shall be completed as quickly as possible in order that we may effect settlement along the Murray. In dealing with the subject, Mr. Groom, in 1920, referred to the conditions of the agreement. He mentioned that the Commonwealth under the original agreement was liable for £1,000,000, and when it came up for amendment in 1920, the Commonwealth liability stood at that amount, and each of the States agreed to a liability of £1,221,000. Now it is proposed that we shall increase the Commonwealth liability to one-fourth of the total cost. So that the States concerned will, under the new agreement, be relatively in a better position than the Commonwealth. If at the inceptionof the undertaking it was a fair proposal that the Commonwealth should be liable for £1,000,000, and the States concerned for £1,221,000 each, with an estimated total cost of £4,663,000 it does not seem, on the face of it, to be equally fair that, with an estimated total cost of £10,000,000, the Commonwealth should be asked to pay £2,500,000. I do not quarrel with the new proposal, but I think I have a right to ask why, if the proportion which the Commonwealth was called upon to pay under the original agreement was equitable, it should be altered. It seems strange that when the estimated total cost is double what it was originally, the Commonwealth should be asked to pay a greater proportion of the cost than it undertook to pay at the inception of the agreement.
– We agreed to do that in order to encourage the expedition of the work.
– It may be a very laudable thing to do, and the Minister’s explanation may be very satisfactory, but I anticipate that in all probability we shall have a further conference on the subject in perhaps a couple of years, and that another agreement will be drawn up.
– The Commonwealth’s contribution under the original agreement was not far from one-fourth of the original estimate of cost.
– It was about onefifth of the original estimate. Mr. Groom said, in 1920-
We are prepared to join with you as a fourth partner, and to bear our proportion of the increased cost of carrying out these works.
Evidently there was some dissatisfaction expressed at that time at the manner in which the work was being carried out, and whether that continues the Minister has not told us. Mr. Groom expressed the hope that there would be more expedition. He said -
The second resolution agreed to reads -
That wheTe the amount to he contributed by any State in any year exceeds the sum of £125,000, the Commonwealth to advance to the States by way of loan the amount of the excess.
In addition to its own’ quota of £125,000, the Commonwealth to contribute to the Commission a sum equal to that advanced to each individual State.
That is to say, the four contributing parties will supply for the purposes of the work £500,000 per annum; and if more is required the Commonwealth will lend the States whatever is necessary in excess of their quota in order that there shall be no holding up of the works We do not want the scheme to be delayed owing to any of the States being unable to find the necessary funds.
The Commonwealth has been magnanimous in this matter. Not only do we bear a proportion of the cost, but we find money for the States to enable them to carry out their part of the agreement. 1 take no exception to that. I understand that it is intended to deal with nothing but locks and storages. I have here the report of the Commission, which shows exactly what is to be expended over a given period, and it is most interesting reading. According to the report, there is to be expended on the Hume Reservoir this year, £400,000; in 1923-4, £300,000; in 1924-5, £300,000; in 1925-6, £200,000; in 1926-7, £200,000 : in 1927-8, £150,000; and in 1928-9, £50,000. Tt is expected that by that time the reservoir will be completed. I have visited the Hume Reservoir, and I know that a great amount of work has been done. I ask whether it could not be expedited. If it could be finished in a couple of years, the expenditure would then begin to give some return. It would be well, I think, if we could finish some particular work in order to get a return, rather than spread the completion of the whole work over a great number of years. I am expressing my own opinion only, but I think that more capital should be expended so as to expedite the work, and thus bring in a return at as early a date as possible.
– I agree with that. On behalf of the Government, I can say that there will be no lack of funds, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, to expedite the work.
– I am very pleased to hear that.
– More is required than that.
– The Commonwealth is only one party to the agreement, and I suggest that at one of the conferences the engineers should be asked to report whether they can spend money more quickly, and thus expedite the work.
– That has been done over and over again; the matter is considered at every meeting.
– Has it been . before Conferences of State and Commonwealth Ministers ?
– It has been before the Government when the question of increasing the votes has been considered.
– That is not quite what I am urging. At present the work, is being carried out according to schedules drawn up by the engineers, and I am urging that proper inspection-
– There are inspections every month or six weeks.
– There are inspections of every work carried out. What I am suggesting now is the expenditure of more money each year, so that the work may be completed, say, in 1925-26, thus saving three years. If the work were expedited in that way settlement would be expedited, and a quicker return made to the Governments responsible. Such a policy would also result in smaller charges to those on whom the levies are to be made.
– The honorable member means that the work ought to be completed in sections?
– Yes. The report I have in my hand shows the different amounts to be paid on the different lots, and the last is expected to be completed in 1933-34. That, of course, is a long way ahead, and, speaking roughly, the adoption of such a course might reduce the cost by £1,000,000 and encourage settlement all the sooner.
– The engineers say that there is a point beyond which they cannot go in expediting the work.
– The work must be consolidated as it goes on.
– The point the Leader of the Opposition is urging is having the consideration of the Government.
– I am glad the Minister agrees with me, although the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) is so emphatic in his views. At any rate, it is a point worth considering.
– I agree with tbe honorable member.
– It would prevent the overloading, not only of the nation, but of the people who have to contribute. We desire to make a success of this settlement, and give all concerned a chance. This is a similar point to that we discussed yesterday in connexion with War Service Homes, where the object was to keep the cost down and give the men their houses at a reasonable price. No doubt there is necessity for the alterations in the Agreement, but we alter the Agreement every two or three years.
– No previous amendments in the Agreement have been ratified. In the case of the last proposals, which had to be ratified by all the States, the Parliament of New South Wales, unfortunately, inserted an amendment of its own at the last minute, which prevented ratification.
– We are not in any way responsible for that. It will be unfortunate if we go on expending money under an Agreement that is not ratified. 1 can quite understand, however, that on the last occasion the State Parliaments might not have been sitting, and, therefore, there could be no ratification. I agree with what is being done now, and my only anxiety is that the work shall bo expedited. I am pleased to know that the Minister is in accord with my views, and I hope that in a few years sufficient progress will have been made to enable us to place some settlers in the vicinity of the weirs.
– I am thoroughly in accord with the amendments of the Agreement proposed by the Minister. In the case of the original Agreement there has been no alteration
On any vital point, and I hope there never will be. The amendments from time to time, which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) seems to think are too frequent, are simply those suggested by experience as the work progresses. An increase of cost from £4,000,000 to £8,000,000, and possibly to £10,000,000, may seem enormous, but the original estimate, as submitted by Colonel Johnson, the American expert, was only, approximate, and necessarily so. This is hot like an ordinary contract job. The River Murray, with its immense watercourse, has proved to be a very uncertain quantity.
– The honorable member says there has been no vital amendment, but I see, on comparing the original Act with the amendment now proposed, that the Commonwealth is called upon to pay £250,000 more.
– I shall explain how the increase has opcurred.
– I am speaking of the Commonwealth proportion originally proposed and the increased proportion now before us.
– It is utterly impossible in a work of this nature for any engineer to do anything (like accurate estimating.
– The original estimate was faulty.
– I am merely pointing out that the Commonwealth has now to pay £250,000 more than it was called upon to pay under the first Agreement.
– Precisely so. The Commonwealth Government, as the work proceeded, realized its magnitude and the enormous possibilities of future wealth it presented, and it was considered justifiable to increase the Commonwealth proportion. I am showing now how experience has proved the necessity for a much larger outlay, an outlay pretty well double that originally contemplated. That has been proved by every lock that has been constructed so far. Colonel Johnson had bores put down here and there; but in connexion with some of the smaller locks, there have been no fewer than twenty-five before a solid foundation could be secured. Until proper foundations have been discovered, there can be no reliability of construction. As engineering science has applied the usual tests for the necesary resistance, and so on, the Murray has proved one of the worst from the point of view of cheap construction for water conservation. There never was a finer force of engineering talent employed on a great work in Australia than is to be found representing the contracting States. Further, the River Murray Commission provides an eminent engineer from each State and the Commonwealth - the very best engineers in Australia - who inspect the work from time to time. Parliament is voting enormous sums every year for this work, and, as very few honora ble members have seen the Murray, so as to be able to realize its magnitude and possibilities, . I suggest that during recess the Minister should ask honorable members to pay a visit to the scene of operations. About a year or two ago a party of. twenty or thirty, mostly from the Senate, paid such a visit, and they have been “ talking “ River Murray ever since. Either the’ Gem or the Ruby would accommodate a party of forty, and could travel straight from the top works at Hume right down to Murray Bridge. Money would be well spent on such a visit, and I am sure that afterwards there would be no lack of interest, and no difficulty in securing the necessary votes for the completion of this great work.
.- I am in accord with the general provisions of the. Bill. I recognise that if irrigation and river settlement is to develop and flourish, there must be water - it. is the very life blood of development. It is marvellous to see the difference which the application of water has made on many of the apparently arid wastes along the Darling and the Murray, where there are beautiful orchards producing glorious fruit aud foodstuffs, and thousands of people living comfortable and free lives. Some of them, owing to lack of proper facilities for marketing their produce, are not doing so well as they should. But, granted more scientific distribution, those people are in probably the best possible industry. They have open-air work, and live the life they were ordained to live, instead of being shut up in stuffy mines, factories and workshops. My main grievance is that the Commission has “gone slow on the job.” Even now the programme which we have before us does not display any expedition.
– Oh yes, it does!
– Heaven knows the progress has been slow in the past, but the programme before us has, apparently, been intentionally “ slowed down “ in order that a plant may be taken from one job to another. I do not think that merely because a plant may be used for two or more jobs, a scheme of this kind should be “ slowed down.” The Minister says that the work is being expedited, but his knowledge of it must lead him to the conclusion that it has not been expedited in the way such a great national work should be. With a view to the location of a site for weir and lock No. 10 in the vicinity of Wentworth, the Commission, in company with the representatives of the constructing authorities, made an inspection of a site i about half-a-mile below the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers on 8th February, 1922. Some doubt had been raised whether the Commission could legally put a lock below the confluence of the Darling and the Murray, and from the 8th February last year until now the Commission has been deliberating upon the problem.
– Nearly the whole of the trouble has been due to the representatives of New South Wales not signing the agreement which had been subscribed to by the other two States.
– I am not in a position to apportion the blame for the very great delay that has taken place in regard to the locking of the Darling and Murray Rivers, but the report of the Commission shows that on the 8th February of last year it inspected a site for No. 10 lock near Wentworth. Apparently, the Commission decided that it had the power to proceed with the work. If so, why has it not done so*
– The Commission decided it had not the power.
– The report shows that steps were taken to ascertain whether the Commission has the power, and, so far as a layman can see, it has. The delay in proceeding with this work will place the orchardists along the Murray and Darling Rivers in a rather dangerous position next year if there should be an inadequate flow like that, pf last summer. At Curlawa, Pomona, Merbein, and Mildura orchardists were threatened with the extinction of their orchards owing to the scarcity of the water. If next year there is a repetition of that occurrence they may possibly lose thousands of their trees. That can be obviated by the Commission speedily advancing the scheme to that stage when it will be of assistance to those people who must have water with which to carry on their operations. I am not so much concerned regarding the amount that the Commonwealth will contribute towards . this scheme, because the one people will provide’ the money, whether it comes from the exchequer of the Commonwealth or of the States. The work is being carried on for a national purpose, and I am depending upon the present Minister for Works, who has practical knowledge and experience of land matters, to bring about more expedition in connexion with these works than has been shown hitherto. The Minister understands land conditions. His predecessors had not that qualification, and, although I have no doubt that they did all that was in their power, it was impossible for them to acquire that knowledge which is possessed by the man who has spent many years upon the land. I hope that the Minister will keep constantly before the States the necessity for pushing ahead with these works as rapidly as possible. The programme of construction is spread over too great a period. For instance, the Hume Reservoir is not to be completed till 1.928-9. The weir and lock at Torrumbarry are estimated to be finished during the current financial year, and No. 10 weir and lock at Wentworth is supposed to be completed in the following year. The dates set down for the completion of the other works are : weir and lock at Mildura, 11, 1926-27; weir and lock 12, 1927-28; weir and lock 13, 1929-30; weir and locks 14, 15, and 16, 1930-31; weir and lock 17, 1932-33; weir and locks 18 to 23 inclusive, 1933-34. The amount estimated to be expended by the Commission in 1922-23 was £800,000, but the expenditure will be less this year.
The Commission suggests expenditure of the following amounts this year and in subsequent years : - 1923-24, £720.000; 1924-25, £610,000; 1925-26, £520,000; 1926-27, £540,000; 1927-28, £490,000; 1928-29, £490,000; 1929-30, £420,000.; 1930-31, £410,000; 1931-32, £380,000; 1932-33, £420,000; and 1933-34, £410,000. I believe that the Commonwealth and the States could afford to at least maintain the annual expenditure at the same figure as that for last year, namely, £800,000, and so hurry the work along. The Commission’s report says -
During the period 1922-23 to 1927-28, the programme of construction, as far as New South Wales and Victoria are concerned, has been so arranged that only one weir and lock will be under construction by each constructing authority at one time. This has been done with a view to avoiding the necessity for the constructing authorities providing more than one set of plant each for lock construction during the progress of construction of the Hume Reservoir, upon which it is presumed efforts will be concentrated’ ‘during that period.
I do not agree with the policy of slowing down the programme in order to save the cost of plant, by enabling gear to be transferred from one lock to another. It is dangerous on such jobs to use gear for too long a period. Last year I had the privilege of inspecting the’ Lake Victoria works on the Murray River. Lake Victoria is a natural reservoir, the only work necessary being the provision of an inlet with the necessary locks and gates, and an outlet with locks, gates, and a number of embankments. This work has been done very cheaply, and will enable an enormous quantity of water to be impounded at very little cost. I saw there some gear which had been brought from jobs higher up the river. Gear on construction work is not attended to as carefully as it is on a mine or in a factory. Ropes are allowed to lie about in the rain and mud, and they become frayed and rotten, and dangerous to use. While I was on the job a rope carried away, and by the greatest good fortune four men who were using it for lifting spars were not killed. That old rope was used by the contractor in order to save money. I suggest that gear that has been used for any length of time on any of the locks should not be transferred to another job. If it is it will be dangerous to the men. and will not mean any real saving of expense. I ask the Minister to use his influence on the Commission to expedite the construction programme, and urge that, if necessary, additional sets of gear be provided. The completion of this scheme is urgently needed, and if the work is pushed ahead it will employ thousands of men. Should the Minister succeed in expediting construction he will confer a very great benefit, not only upon the orchardists and other settlers along the Darling and Murray Rivets, but also upon the nation.
– The only objection that can fee urged in connexion with the great River Murray Waters Scheme is the delay that is taking place in the construction of Works. Nobody will object to the extra amount of money that the Common wealth will be calledupon to contribute toward. the completion of the scheme. The area that is contemplated to be served by the project is 1,500,000 acres. Any one who has seen the Murray River and its tributaries will realize what a great boon this project, when completed, will be to Australia. I know of no other work that will have Such far-reaching effect. We find that the works, which were estimated to be completed in 1924, will now be delayed until 1929. Anyone who has been in close touch with these operations must gain the impression that a great deal of the delay is caused owing to the lack of unified control. I believe that the Bill which was previously framed provided for unified control.
– That is so.
– With the exception of New South Wale’s, the Statesagreed to the Bill, but I believe the Legislative Council of New South Wales was responsible for its rejection. That is one of the chief reasons for the delay in the construction of the Murray Works. The Hume reservoir is the biggest project on the Murray River, and on two occasions serious stoppages have occurred owing to anindustrial dispute. The men working on one side of the river were under a different award from that operating on the other. The men working on the Victorian bank were receiving lower wages than were the men in New South Wales. They were dissatisfied, and stopped work. Had there been one control instead of three or four, that would not have occurred. Under present control, I shall be very much surprised if the work is completed in 1929, as estimated. I should like to know from the. Minister whether there has been any suggestion for unified control by the appointment of a Commission to take charge of the whole of the operations, not only regarding wages and conditions, but to facilitate the work, and complete it in less time than is contemplated under this Bill. I do not know whether this subject was discussed at the recent Conference with the Premiers. If the legislation which was previously rejected by the New South Wales Legislative Council were passed, the control would be unified, and the construction accelerated.
– The honorable member’s own people would not agree to that.
– I do not know what the honorable member means.
– The honorable member represents a New South Wales constituency.
– I am referring to the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and I think there are more of the honorable member’s friends in that Chamber than there are of mine. When the Bill was considered by that Parliament, a Labour Government was in power, and, although the Lower House carried it, the Upper House, with an anti-Labour majority, rejected it.
– A Labour Government was in power, but it was not their fault that the Bill was rejected.
– My constituents, in common with those of the rest of Australia, are very anxious that this work should be expedited, as it means a good deal to them. Some of the local governing bodies of my electorate are anxious that . the capacity of the Hume Reservoir be increased by raising the wall 20 feet, to double its capacity. When discussing this with the Minister, he informed me that it is an engineering problem, but if it were done, cheap power would be provided in addition to the purposes for which the works are intended, and I urge the Minister to have careful consideration given to this matter. The Minister to-day stated that it was necessary to provide ample funds so as to complete the Murray works within a specified time, and that, so far as the Commonwealth was concerned, there would be no lack of funds. That shows the evil effects of divided control; for, judging by the attitude of the States, I doubt whether they will provide unlimited funds to accelerate the construction of this work. If the Commonwealth had complete control, ample funds would be available. The one important amendment in this Bill concerns navigationand irrigation. I take it that under the amendment, priority will be. given to works necessary for irrigation over those required for navigation. I understood the Minister to say that when the whole of the project is completed that provision will not operate.
– The irrigation lock is constructed for navigation purposes also.
– I take it that priority will cease when the works are constructed. Any one who is conversant with the Murray and its tributaries will know that for many years, at all events, those water-ways will provide the cheapest means of transit for the Murray Valley products. While the question of irrigation is important, yet that of navigation cannot, for the reason I have stated, be lightly tossed aside. The Minister has informed us that the Commonwealth Government will have to pay £2,500,000 as their share of the total cost.
– The Commonwealth have to bear one-quarter of the cost.
– I am prepared, to make every allowance for the delays caused during the war period.
– The work practically stopped.
– When the original Bill was before this House, nine out of every ten members believed that the cost was under-estimated. Still the difficulties were accentuated during the war, owing to the impossibility of obtaining such materials as cement, &c. No one would object to a reasonable increase in the cost, but £2,500,000, even allowing for war operations, is larger than was anticipated.
– It is because of the strength that experience has demonstrated will be necessary.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.Honorable members will be well advised to inspect the Murray River works.
– We cannot run the risk . of cheap construction.
– Very few honorable members have any conception of the magnitude of the work of the new reservoir.
– It is one of the biggest engineering works ever undertaken in the world.
– I ask the Minister to consider the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield to arrange for honorable members to make a personal inspection of these works. Much of the additional expense is due to the lack of unified control. Owing to industrial disputes, which were in no way due to the workmen, but to the evil of divided control, the work on the Hume Reservoir was held tip altogether for some months.
– The dispute also extended to South Australia.
– There were three State awards for men doing the same work.
– The work on the Murray should be expedited, but so long as it is controlled by four authorities, I fear that there will be trouble. Too many cooks spoil the broth. If the administration were centred in one body, I think that 1929 might see the work completed, but without unified control I am afraid that it will not be finished. This is a great work, and we would be wise to spend more money on it. We should apply to the completion of this work the £5,000,000 it is proposed to spend on immigration. Then we could settle our own people along the Murray, and establish a contented and prosperous settlement. Until that is done, it will be unwise to bring immigrants here. Let us settle our own people on the land, and then ‘we may fairly ‘ talk about immigration.
.- This debate has demonstrated the necessity for members of Parliament to become au fait with large public works under construction, and I appreciate the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), and supported by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that honorable members should visit the Murray valley, and acquaint themselves with what is being done. When honorable members have to deal with works of such magnitude as these, it is highly desirable that they should have first-hand information. This House ‘ seems to be very willing to ex pend on this work an amount considerably in excess of that at first agreed upon. The original estimate of the com.plete cost of the works on the Murray was £4,663,000. Now we are told that they may cost nearly £10,000,000. The amount the Commonwealth Government is to contribute under this Bill is greater in proportion to the complete cost of the work than it was under the original agreement.
– The money all comes out of the same pockets.
– I differ from the view of the Minister for Works and Railways. Several States will receive no direct benefit from this huge expenditure of public money. What direct advantage will Tasmania, Western Australia, and Queensland get from it? The House agreed yesterday to vote £85,000 to Tasmania. That amount is less than the sums previously voted in that way, but I remember . that several honorable members were not altogether willing to vote it, and the Government was strongly criticised by members of the Labour party for proposing it. They said that Tasmania should become more independent, and that there should be no necessity for it to come to the Common - wealth Treasurer for money. The money to be spent on the Murray works, will have to be provided by the people in all the States, and the Government should see that full value is. obtained for public money spent on such works. Wo should not expend huge sums like this willynilly. We would not be justified in pushing ahead with this work simply to provide employment for thousands of men in addition to those already engaged on the Murray. If’ we did so, we should find, when the work was completed, that the men would be turned on to the labour market suddenly, and the conditions that would follow would cause us great trouble. If the Government is satisfied that the work can be cheapened by hastening its completion, I will agree to increased activity. I will not cavil at the expenditure of public money so long as proper care is taken to insure that the country receives value for the money spent.
.- It gives me great pleasure to support this measure, which has for its object the development of our largest river system. The history of the human race shows that the life of a nation has always been along ils water-courses. Unfortunately, the River M uri ay, which is the greatest in this continent, has been neglected until comparatively recently. I am somewhat concerned about two matters dealt with in this Bill. The measure provides that until clauses 45 to 51 of the agreement become operative - and that will be when the work is completed - a three-fourths majority of the Commission of four members may determine the amount of water to be allowed to pass into South Australia. In that circumstance I wonder what will happen if Australia experiences a drought before the work is completed, which is expected to be in 1929. At present, I understand that no control is exercised over the flow of the water. The fruit-growing industry along the River Murray is developing at a great rate, andI am afraid that in dry seasons there will be such a scramble for water by the States concerned that the- South Australian fruitgrowers will .find their position to be anything but what they desire.
– The clause to which the honorable member has referred was inserted in the Bill at the instigation of Sir John Bice, on behalf of South Australia.
– I believe that to be so, but it does not remove my fears. I recognise that Sir John Bice has handled this business for many years, and is an authority on it; but I also realize that there is a strong agitation .in Victoria to conserve the interests of irrigation and neglect those, of navigation. Mr. Angus, an Honorary Minister of the Victorian Government, recently advocated the limitation of the project to irrigation purposes only. I realize that it is no use moving to amend the Bill, nor do I think that it would be wise to do so, because it has been drafted to give effect to the unanimous wishes of a Conference. Nevertheless, I cannot overcome my fear that trouble may occur if we have a dry year before 1929. In case of disagreement in- regard to the allocation of water, any one of the contracting authorities may ask for an arbitrator to be appointed. If at the end of two months no one has been agreed upon, a Supreme Court Judge of Tasmania shall make an appointment. The arbitrator will then have to make his inquiry and give his decision. All that will mean considerable delay, and honor able members know that the success of fruit-growing by irrigation depends upon the regular watering of the trees. Tho position may arise that South Australia may wish for arbitration, but may be unable to get an arbitrator appointed for at least two months. In the meantime great havoc may be occasioned to the orchards along the river in that State. If such a situation should arise, very strong comments will be made. I am caused some anxiety by the provision in the Bill in regard to the relative claims of navigation and irrigation. ‘ The Miniister for Works (Mr. Stewart) has resassured me somewhat by saying that the priority of consideration to distinctly irrigation works over navigation works is to continue only while the constructional activities are in progress. On account of the agitation going on in New South Wales and Victoria, I fear that there will be a tendency to continue giving undue consideration to irrigation claims even after the construction work is dome. As one who has lived on the river day and night for three years, as one who has piloted a motor launch drawing 2 ft. 6 in. over fences, on the flats along the river during flood time, as one who has stood up on the stern of the launch in the moonlight and seen the .mighty river flowing by, impressed with its magnificence and its grandeur, it seems to me that the day will never come when there will not be sufficient water in the Murray for both irrigation and navigation if, in periods of extensive rainfall and the melting of the snow, provision is made for its conservation. I can believe that the day will come when other schemes than this will be undertaken.
– We shall have to wait until there is a population of 500,000 along the river.
– Quite so, and I think I can see the day when there will be a population of more than 500,000 in the River Murray Valley. I can see the day coming when neither the vested interests of Adelaide, nor of Melbourne, nor Sydney, will have weight against the population in the Murray Valley. This may seem to be rather a bold statement to make, but no one who has been over the lands along the Murray, and has been in any way able to visualize what is possible in’ their development, will deny that, though it may not be in our day or generation, there will be votes there which will count. When that day comes those settled along the Murray will come into their rights There will be men there in tens of thousands who, while admitting the value of irrigation, will be impressed by the fact that the cheapest freight in the world is water-borne freight. They will agitate in season and out of season, and ultimately a deep-water port will be established near the mouth of the river, from which their produce will be exported to other parts of the world. One cannot find In the whole of the world another river that is navigable for over 2,000 miles, that has not a port at its mouth. Unfortunately, vested interests in and around Adelaide, and . Port Adelaide, have worked against the establishment of a port at the mouth of the Murray. But the day will surely come when the population of 500,000, referred to by the honorable member for Wakefield, will demand the establishment of a port at the mouth of the Murray, and in that day it will be established. In that day the idea that irrigation is everything, and navigation nothing, will be almost reversed. Navigation will then be considered equal in importance to irrigation, and will be the handmaid of irrigation in making the Murray Valley blossom as I am sure it will in the future I do not wish to take up time unduly in connexion with -this matter, but there is one aspect of it which I wish to brins under notice, and having done so at this stage it will be unnecessary for me to take up time on the Bill in Committee. I refer to the site of Lock 4. I have had correspondence with the Minister on this, and I am hoping for a decision from the! Commission the next time it meets. Originally, it was decided that the site of Lock 4 should be Packard’s Bend, which is below the town of Loxton. Tho more recent decision is that the lock shall be not at Packard’s Bend, but near Media Landing,- which is above the town. I hope that the vision of those in charge of this great work will be such that they will not consider merely the immediate present. Loxton is a growing town and is a railhead. I have gone up and down the Murray, and have noted the tendency to tap the river with railways. This will prove in the long run to be a wise policy. Although to-day these railways are taking freights which should be water-borne, I can see the .day when they will carry freights to the river. There are big wheat-growing districts behind Loxton, and when the Murray is properly locked, and a port is established at its mouth, railways that now carry freights from the river will carry freights to it to be water-borne to the port at its mouth. I hope that the policy of the Commission will not be a penny-wise and poundfoolish policy. If Lock 4 is placed above the town, it will mean that Loxton, the rail-head, will be at the tail end of the pool below. I have been to Loxton on many occasions with a boat, and there is a big sand bar right opposite the town. I am afraid that if the lock is placed above the town that sand bar will remain a great disadvantage to Loxton. At present during low water it is necessary to land goods nearly a mile below the town, though at high water they can be landed right at the town, as the volume of water permits the passage over the sand bar. When the river is locked there will be a definite wharf built somewhere, and if it is below the sand bar the road to it will, at high water, be flooded, and it cannot be reached from Loxton. But if the lock is placed below the town, it will be possible to build a wharf right at the town, and boats will be able to come up to that wharf. Another reason why it would be unwise to build this lock above the town is that in dry periods Loxton would have to obtain water from the tail end of the pool. It is well known ‘that many salt springs run into the river thereabouts, and to be obliged to obtain water from the tail end of the pool would place the town at a decided disadvantage. If the lock is placed below the town, Loxton will always have assured to it a good supply of water. The better effect, from a scenic stand-point, of building the lock below the town should also be taken into consideration. I have here the reason why the site originally suggested for this lock has been altered. It is contained in a letter I have received from the secretary to the Commissioner of Public Works in South Australia. Amongst other things he says -
I am directed by the honorable the Commissioner of Public Works to inform you that the site of No. 4 Lock above Loxton was selected by Colonel Johnston. Mr. Eaton, who was detailed to obtain information required bv Colonel Johnston- in connexion with sites for locks, states that the principal objection raised by Colonel Johnston to the site at Packard’s Bend was on account of the long length of bank, reaching in places to a height of 12 feet, and extending about 5 miles along the river, that would be required. to maintain the upper pool level. At the right abutment of this site there would also have to bo a continuous bank for about 3,000 feet, averaging from about 4 to 5 feet, which would have been liable to destruction at high floods. The maintenance of the pool level would also have been a constant source of expense. The approach from np-stream is better at the selected site, and the depths of foundations arc slightly in its favour.
I admit .that this communication supplies some evidence of probable extra expense should the lock be constructed at Packard’s Bend as originally suggested. But it should be rememberd that this lock is being constructed not for 1923 to 1930 or 1930 to 2000, but practically for all time. I do hope that the Commission in deciding upon, the site will put against any increased expenditure involved in the choice of the original site, the inconvenience of the centuries to follow. I trust it will vizualize the future, and will meet the desires of the residents of Loxton. I think I can claim the sympathy of the Minister for Works and Railways in this connexion. I believe the Commission has decided that the weir shall be below the town of Mildura; the Renmark people have secured their weir below the town of Renmark, and I appeal here on behalf of the people of Loxton to secure for them, if possible, the construction of their lock below, and not above the town.
.- I do not wish to take up much time on this subject. I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting the Murray River, and so I cannot speak from experience, but I have read a little on the subject and whilst I realize that an irrigation scheme is a very fine thing for any country, and that the Murray River scheme will be a wonderfully fine scheme for Australia, I still wish to remind honorable members that the first estimate of the cost of the construction of the River Murray work was £4,033,000. The Premier of Tasmania at the time agreed to that State hearing a proportion of the cost. But we now find that the estimated cost went up to £6,000,000, from that to £8,000,000, and is now up to £10,000,000. There is no guarantee that this undertaking will not cost £20,000,000.
– Tes there is, in the light of the experience we have had.
– We have had j’j-eat experience throughout Australia of the estimates of experts, and I have never known yet a work to be completed within the expert’s estimate. We do not know by how much the estimated cost of this work will be increased. Whilst the Premier of Tasmania at the time agreed to share in an estimated cost of £4,633,000, the authorities of that State have not agreed to share in an indefinite cost. If the Premier agreed to contribute an indefinite amount he had not the voice of the people of the State behind him. I desire to state the position as shortly and concisely as possible. As I have said, Tasmania is a .fruit-growing country; yet we of that State are asked to contribute an indefinite amount towards the cost of the Murray River scheme, so that people may be settled in the river valley to grow fruit in competition with us.
– Pardon me; that is not so.
– I understand that one of the principal productions on these Murray areas is to be fruit; if so, that fruit must come into competition with the fruit grown in Tasmania. If Tasmania has to contribute, it should bo in the form of a definite, sum, so that we may not be fleeced from year to year. I remind honorable members that in Tasmania to-day there is being carried out one of the greatest national undertakings in Australia j I refer to the hydroelectric works, on which £3,000,000 has been spent. Tasmania does not ask the other States to contribute to the cost of that national work; and why should Tasmania be asked to contribute an indefinite amount to this Murray scheme, and thu3 practically cut her own throat? If, unfortunately, Avar were again to break out, the Commonwealth would rush across the Strait and commandeer these hydroelectric works. Yet the Commonwealth has not contributed a penny-piece towards their cost. It is manifestly wrong that Tasmania should be asked to do as this Bill proposes. I suggest that the amount to be contributed by Tasmania be her proportion of the first estimated cost, £4,633,000, and not a proportion of £10,000,000. I hope the Government will look into the matter, and see that Tasmania is not burdened to any further extent.
– I highly appreciate the spirit in which this Bill has been received by all sections of the House. It is one which, by its very nature, must be passed in its entirety, inasmuch as any amendment would practically nullify the whole. It is quite true that the original estimate has been very largely exceeded, but the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) does not seem to recognise that in those days, before the work had actually started, it was most difficult to form anything like a correct idea of the cost. The original estimate was altogether too low. I mean that, even had conditions remained the same in regard to the cost of material and labour, the work could not have been completed for the sum then named. Now, having thu experience gained in completing several of the locks, and having considerably progressed towards the construction of the two storages, we are in a much better position to form a fairly reliable estimate. I think it will be found that the estimate laid before honorable members will not be exceeded, and on the other hand, may not be reached. The honorable member for Franklin has presented the case from Tasmania’s point of view, but he was scarcely on sound ground when he contended that Tasmania is asked to contribute to. the fostering and development of an industry which will compete with one of its main industries. It is true that the lands in the Murray Valley will be largely used for the production of fruit, but there is a difference between the class of fruit produced in Tasmania and the class that will be grown on the Murray when the new scheme is in working. For instance, Tasmania’s main product is the apple, and any one who has resided in the Murray Valley knows that it does not produce enough apples for local consumption, owing, of course, to the nature of the climate. On the other hand, Tasmania does not produce dried fruits.
-Yes, it does.
– Not to any extent, so that the argument of the honorable member will not bear critical analysis.
– The honorable gentleman knows that there is over-production of fruit in Australia at the present time.
– I am not at the moment referring to the production of fruit in Australia, but to the difference between Tasmania and the Murray Valley as fruit-producing centres. The observations of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) with regard to the site of Lock 4 will be taken note of. The honorable member also objected to the clause which deals with the allocation of water. As I interjected when he was speaking, that amendment was made at the instance of Sir John Bice. Under the agreement as it stands, there must be a unanimous decision, but the Bill provides that a three-fourths majority shall decide. At present, one Government can “hold up” the whole business; and the amendment will enable the work to go on. Several speakers have referred to what they have described as the lack of expedition in the carrying on; of the work. Perhaps the best reply would be to state the amounts spent during the last few years, and the estimated expenditure for this year. Up to the 30th June, 1919, in round figures, £193,000 had been spent; in 1919-20 the expenditure was £196,000 ; in 1920-21 it was £261,000; in 1921-22 it was £510,000; in 1922-23 it was £771,000; and the estimated expenditure for the year 1923-24 is £1,039,000. These figures show conclusively that there has been no “slowing down” so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, but that we have done everything possible to expedite the Avork.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 12 of 1923 - (Australian PostalLinemen’s Union.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Artarmon, New South. Wales - For Postal purposes.
Landsborough, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
In Committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation ofrevenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of a bounty on sulphur.
Standing Orders suspended. Resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Austin Chapman do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read & first time.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill was foreshadowed in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, and is complementary to another, which will be submitted to the House later, for the suspension of the present duty on sulphur. When. Parliament enacted- the present Tariff,, it imposed a duty on sulphur, but suspended its operation until March ot the following year, because an effort was being made to provide for the manufacture in Australia of sulphuric acid. Certain undertakings were given by various large companies that they would install and! erect the necessary machinery to enable that commodity to be obtained from Australian pyrites and other sulphide ores or concentrates. In due coursethe.duty was proclaimed. Considerable discussion arose as to whether the necessary plant had been established in the Commonwealth for the production of sulphuric acid sufficient for local requirements. An inquiry was held, and a finding arrived at that the necessary plant hadbeen erected. From that report there was. one dissentient. There certainly is a difference of opinion as to whether Australia is in a position to supply itself with sulphuric acid, or whether there is not, in fact, a shortage. Action is now being taken by the Government to insure that absolute justice will be done to all parties interested in sulphur and sulphuric acid. The Treasurer indicated in his Budget speechthat the Government would propose to re move the duty from sulphur, and substitute a bounty upon sulphur produced in Australia. A similar course was taken last year in regard to wire netting and tractors, Parliament agreeing to Bills for the payment of bounties, and the repealing of duties. The position of the Government is very definite. It desires to insure that supplies of sulphuric acid shall be available at the lowest possible price, ‘so that no burden may be imposed upon those people who require to use that article. That applies particularly to manufacturers of fertilizers, which are of paramount importance to Australia, because a great deal of its primary production is dependent upon an adequate and cheap supply of fertilizers being available. The Government, therefore, proposes to suspend the duty upon sulphur, but it is determined to do nothing that will prevent the expansion of the industry which is producing sulphuric acid. The experience of the Great War taught us that it is vitally necessary for every country to be able to produce its own requirements of sulphuric acid. It is the basic element of a great number of things, and any country that is not self-contained in this respect will be in grave danger during a period of crisis. This Bill provides for the payment of a bounty of £2 5s. per ton on sulphur produced in Australia, but deals with the problem in such a way as” to insure that the production of sulphuric acid will continue. Nothing in the action the. Government is asking the House to indorse will in any way interfere with that great industry which we are trying to establish in our midst. It will be safeguarded also by the other°Bill, which is to follow that now before the House, to provide that the duty upon sulphur shall not operate, so long as the bounty is being paid. A grave objection to bounties is that they may automatically expire after a statutory period without any action being taken by Parliament, but our proposals insure that if the bounty is removed at any time the duty on sulphur, which in the meantime has been suspended, will automatically become operative again, and it will then be necessary for Parliament to take action if it desires any variation of the duty.
– Will the Tariff Board reimpose the duty?
– No; the duty is imposed under the present Tariff. We are proposing to pay a bounty on the sulphur produced in Australia, but if at any time that bounty is removed the present duty will automatically commence to operate again. The duty is not being actually removed, but is being suspended or deferred for such time as the bounty may be paid.
– On what principle has the annual expenditure been limited to £100,000?
– That figure is based on the estimated possible production, with a liberal margin.
– If the local manufacturer does not produce any more sulphuric acid, the duty “will be immediately restored ?
– No; until Parliament discontinues the bounty the duty will be suspended, and sulphur will be admitted free;
– The duty will be merely in a state of suspended operation while the bounty operates.
– For how long will the bounty operate?
– It will continue during the will of Parliament, and the total amount of bounty that may be paid in any One year is not to exceed £100,000. These proposals are designed to secure that sulphuric acid shall be sold in Australia at the cheapest possible price, but nothing is being done that can possibly interfere with one of our great key industries, namely, the manufacture of sulphuric acid. The machinery clauses prescribe to whom the bounty shall be paid, and generally follow the lines of the Bounty Acts passed last year.
– The bounty merely continues the existing protection in another form.
– We are endeavouring by the payment of a bounty to give to the manufacturer of sulphuric acid the same protection as he has to-day under the Tariff.
– Will the Tariff Board have anything to do with the reimposition of the duty on sulphur?
– The Tariff Board will have nothing to do with it. There is an impression abroad that the Tariff Board have power to alter duties.
– They have done so.
– It is not so at all. Under the Tariff Board Act, no power is given to the Tariff Board to vary duties in any way. All that it can do is to advise the Minister; but. even he has no power to alter duties. Under items 174 and 404 of the Tariff Schedule, there, is power to. introduce into Australia certain machinery and other articles which are not manufactured here, if the Minister is satisfied, by recommendation made to him, that that is necessary. There is nothing in the Tariff Board Act that gives the Board any power to alter duties.
– There is a very wide interpretation of its provisions.
– I ask the honorable member to study those two items, and ascertain for himself the actual position. Under the Act, the Tariff Board is in the same position as was the Deputy Comptroller, of Customs, who advised the Minister on matters concerning those two items in the schedule.
– It is proposed under this Bill to grant bounties for the production of sulphur, yet at the same time there is a Tariff charge.
– To-day there is a duty on sulphur. It is proposed to suspend that duty altogether. It is possible to produce sulphuric acid from imported sulphur at a lower cost than that for which it can be produced from the pyrites of our ownores. To prevent this key industry of Australia from being harmed through taking off the duty on sulphur, we propose to pay a bounty to the manufacturers of sulphuric acid, so as to put them in the position that they were in when sulphur was subject to duty.
– Must the Treasurer automatically provide that amount every year ?
-Yes. The Bill provides that, every year, £100,000 shall be made available for payment of bounty. When in Committee, I shall give the figures upon which our calculation of the excess sulphur production of Australia were based.
– Clause 8 needs an explanation.
– If desired, I shall now deal with that matter, instead of in Committee.
Mr.O’Keefe. - What has induced the Government to make a change from a duty to a bounty?
– That is very obvious and clear. Sulphuric acid is required for the manufacture of fertilizers. There is a grave doubt whether we are producing sufficient sulphuric acid to supply the requirements of the fertilizer manufacturers. So that these manufacturers shall not pay more than is necessary for sulphuric acid, and to insure that fertilizers, which arc required in large quantities in Australia, shall be produced at the lowest possible rate, it is proposed to grant them a bounty. We arc taking every care not to hurt or destroy this important industry. After consultation with the large manufacturers of sulphuric acid, we decided on a bounty of £100,000, as provided in clause 8. This sum was based oh a production of sulphur of from 40,000 to 45,000 tons, which is estimated as the maximum quantity to be manufactured in Australia for the next two or three years. This appears to be a safe margin. For the present year, it is not anticipated that the amount will be required, but, under this Bill, any portion of the bounty which is unexpended will be added to the bounty for the succeeding year. There is no ground to fear that the position of the manufacturers of sulphuric acid will be prejudiced owing to an insufficient sum being voted to meet the bounty in succeeding years. They are safeguarded for the next two or three years. In any case, it is open to Parliament to increase the amount which is provided.
– Supposing the market is flooded with the foreign article when it is duty free?
– That gave me some concern. I was faced with the question whether the anti-dumping measure could apply to an article which was duty free, and I am glad to say that this is so. The prevention of the flooding of the market has always been a grave problem for the local industry, but whether it is protected by Tariff or bonus does not affect the situation one iota. The same protection is given, but, all the time, that menace to the local industry exists, otherwise there would have been no need for the Anti-dumping Act.
– Has the right honorable gentleman the figures of the consumption of sulphuric acid?
– We inquired whether we could meet our own requirements, but unfortunately this has never been made very clear. The major section of the Committee that inquired into this matter said that Australia had all the machinery required to produce sufficient sulphuric acid, but the minority section took the opposite view. The exact position has never been ascertained. If we have not sufficient sulphuric acid we are perfectly safe at present in allowing sulphur to enter duty free, provided that we protect the market for our own fertilizers. I am informed that the quantity of sulphur needed will be between 42,000 and 45,000 tons a year.
– Is that the production?
– That is the production upon which we based our calculations. We are taking into contemplation the expenditure of £100,000 for the erection of works at Port Pirie, of which £80,000 has actually been spent, and £250,000 for the erection of works at Risdon, in Tasmania. These works will be completed When sufficient supplies of sulphur are available. The Bill is an endeavour to make available an adequate quantity of fertilizers at low cost, and to protect and safeguard that great key industry which produces sulphuric acid.
– I am pleased that the Government intend to abolish the duty on sulphur. We have reached that stage in the history of agriculture when it is imperative that every agriculturist, to make the best use of his land, shall use a certain quantity of superphosphates. In Australia we have many millions of acres of second and third-class land, the production of which could be doubled by the use of fertilizers. The State of Victoria is the largest user of superphosphates in Australia. No scientific farmer puts in a crop without the liberal use of superphosphates. Dairymen have large areas of second and third-class land, and if the price of superphosphates is reasonable, they will be encouraged to put their land to its maximum use. They cannot afford to pay high prices for superphosphates in addition to high railway freights, and unless superphosphates are liberally used throughout Victoria, production will decrease rather than increase. I have no serious objection to the bounty. As a matter of fact, in the case of struggling industries in a young country like Australia, I think it a proper thing to provide a bounty until such industries are able to carry on profitably. I support the abolition of the duty on sulphur, and also the bounty for the time being. When the 1 companies ‘which will receive this bounty are established on a sound footing, it can be abolished. Honorable members will remember that the sugar-cane growers who employed white labour were given a bounty of £3 a ton for a considerable time, but now they are established on a sound basis.
– They do not admit it.
– We could assist the manufacturers of sulphur in the same way as the sugar-growers were assisted. I am sorry that one of the companies it is proposed to assist with this bounty dishonoured an agreement made with the last Commonwealth Parliament. In the early part of this year a large number of farmers’ representatives of all political parties waited on me in Horsham, and requested that some action be taken to ascertain the reason why the Electrolytic Zinc Company failed to carry out its agreement with the Phosphate Co-operative Company. I desired to move in this House that a Select Committee representing both sides of the House be appointed to investigate the whole position, but my motion was not reached on the days private members’business was dealt with. After that, the Prime Minister moved that Government business should take precedence of private members’ business for the remainder of the. session., so I had no opportunity to move it. 1 wish honorable members to realize that a definite agreement was made with the last Parliament by the Electrolytic Zinc Company, and it was dishonoured. Mr. Massy Greene stated in this House on 9th November, 1921, the facts which led to the making of the agreement. His remarks are recorded’ on page 12536 of Hansard for that session. I will read them because they include the pledge given by these companies. They are as follow: -
Honorable members will recollect, that on Friday last when the further consideration of this item was ‘postponed, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked whether the Phosphate Co-operative Company would be treated by the Electrolytic Zinc Company just the same as other companies were to be treated by i’, in the matter of supplies of zinc concentrates, and 1 undertook to get a written statement from the Electrolytic Zinc Company that they would do so. I have here a copy of a .letter forwarded by the Electrolytic Zinc Company to the Phosphate Co-operative Company lt is as follows :
Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited. 440 Little. Collins-street, Melbourne.
Aa arranged at the interview with your deputy chairman (Mr. Moreton), - and your general manager (Mr. Augustus Wolskel), this morning, we enclose herewith copy of a letter which we are sending to the Minister for Customs.
This is the letter forwarded to me as tha outcome of that interview : -
I am instructed to advise that zinc concentrates will be made available to the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited, of 440 Little Collins-street, Melbourne, on the same terms and conditions as are now offered, or mav be subsequently arranged, with other Victorian manufacturers of superphosphate. The terms now under discussion with the manufacturers of superphosphate at Yarraville provide that the Electrolytic Zinc Company shall erect the equipment and handling appliances required in connexion with the roasting of zinc concentrates or shall arrange that this work shall be done at their expense. Tho Electrolytic Zinc Company is willing to make the same arrangements with the Phosphate Cooperative Company. We are advised by tho Phosphate Co-operative Company, that their first requirements of zinc concentrates will be in about” eighteen months or two years time, and will then be at the rate of 20 tons daily (equivalent to approximately 5 tons of sulphur). These requirements may increase during several following years to an estimated maximum of 20 tons sulphur daily . should the Phosphate . Company’s initial efforts ou the business side prove successful. The Electrolytic Zinc Company is willing to allow this offer to remain, open J or two years from this date, by which time the Phosphate Co-operative Company should be in a position to determine its future policy.
The undertaking in that letter was given to the last Parliament by the Electrolytic Zinc Company. Let me read the remarks on this subject made on the 4th November, 1921, by Mr. Watt, now the Speaker of this House. I quote the following from page 12490 of Hansard: -
I think it would be well to study the situation. The Electrolytic Zinc Company has given an assurance that the Co-operative Phosphate Company will be accorded exactly the same treatment as any other firm.The answer of the Co-operative Phosphate Company is that they do not wish to use concentrates for the reason that they would he involved in an expenditure of £100,000 in respect of machinery and the like. It will, apparently be news to the honorable member for Echuca that the other manurial companies advanced the same argument, that the sulphur-producing concerns undertook to find the necessary money, and, moreover, that they will do precisely the same for the Cooperative Phosphate Company.
It is remarkable that although no overtures were made to any previous Government for a duty to be placed on imported sulphur, when the Government of that day was asked to impose a duty it did so to the extent of £2 10s. a ton. That was done after the Farmers’ Cooperative Company was formed, because that company proposed to import its sulphur from America with the object of providing cheaper superphosphates for the farmers. As soon as it took that step the Electrolytic Zinc Company came forward with this proposal for a duty.
– Capitalism versus cooperation.
– I shall quote now from the Tariff Board report of June, 1923, which sets out the situation in detail. The report reads: -
The reason for including in the Tariff a deferred duty on sulphur was given by the Honorable W. Massy Greene to the House as follows: -
Many of our ores, in conjunction with other metals, hold large quantitiesof sulphur. This sulphur is very often one of the greatest detriments to the recovery of the precious metals, hut at the same time if it can be used it becomes of itself valuable, and in - thisway an enormous assistance to mining is afforded.
In dealing further with this matter in the House of Representatives on 9th November. 1921, the Minister for Trade and Customs said- (Hansard, page 12537 (1920-1921 Session) -
The gentleman connected with the fertilizer industry saw me this morning in company with representatives of the mining industry, and told me that although they had been opposing the proposal for aduty on sulphur, they had now come to a definite basis of agreement with the Electrolytic Zinc Company, and were prepared to withdraw their opposition to it. (Page 12538) -
Under the arrangements which have bees entered into by the Electrolytic Zinc Company, and the fertilizer companies, the Electrolytic Zinc Company undertakes, no matter what may be the price of sulphur outside Australia, not to raise the price of the concentrates to the fertilizer companies above the actual cost of working. (Page 12539)-
When these gentlemen tell methat they have made an agreement on this basis, I accept their word, just as I think the honorable member would do if he were in my place. I am telling the Committee as rauch as I may of the terms of that agreement. This is a very important matter from the point of view of the farmers. Here is an agreement under which, if any untoward happening outside Australia leads, to a tremendous rise, such as occurred during the war, in the price of sulphur, we have a definite assurance that it shall not affect the price of sulphur here so far as it enters into the manufacture of superphosphates. That is a very valuable position from the farmers’ point of view.
The agreement referred to was made between certain fertilizer manufacturers and theElectrolytic Zinc Company. The Minister gaveno verbal undertaking either in regard to ihe agreement or otherwise. The fact, however, that the Minister availed himself of the existence of the agreement as a strong argument in favour of the duty would imply a certain responsibility in seeing that the Agreement was observed.
In order to investigate statements concerning disputes as to the interpretation and carrying out of the agreement referred to above, the former Minister of Customs (Mr. Rodgers) in’ April, 1922, called a conference of the interested parties to ascertain and report whether the agreement was being faithfully carried out.
The conference appointed the following representatives of the various interests concerned as a. committee to report to the Minister: -
Mr. T. J. McGalliard, President of the Chamber of Agriculture.
Mr. W. G. Gibson, M.P., representing agricultural interests.
Mr. W. A. Cuming, representing super phosphate manufacturers.
Mr. Burns Cuming, representing superphosphate manufacturers.
Mr. Colin Fraser, representing sulphur producers.
Mr. Thos. Haynes, representing sulphur producers.
Mr. Ambrose Pratt, Secretary.
I do not know that any of those gentlemen represented the agricultural interests, except Mr. Gibson, who is the present Postmaster-General. It is not surprising to learn that the findings of such a Committee were against the Super- phosphate Co-operative Company. The findings were -
Satisfactory arrangements are being made to remove the misunderstanding between the sulphur producers and a superphosphate company, which proposes to establish works in Melbourne.
I do not know what those arrangements are, and I do not think they exist.
– Does the honorable member know the company referred to?
– Yes; it is the Cooperative Superphosphate Company. The Committee further reported -
It was decided to inquire what the increased cost of superphosphates would be to the farmer as the result of the duty of £2 10s. per ton on sulphur.
It was agreed that on the basis of utilizing imported sulphur, this would be equal to 5s. per ton. Providing, however, that the arrangements now in progress for the supply of locallyproduced sulphur are completed satisfactorily the increased cost, while remaining at 5s. per ton in Western Australia, would be only from 2s. to 3s. per ton in the other States.
It is further agreed that a substantial reduction in the price of superphosphate would take place owing to the lower cost of phosphate rock, wages, &c.
– What was the actual finding of the Committee?
– That no dispute existed.
– What does the honorable member say was the breach of the agreement ?
– I have alreadyreferred to the undertaking given by the Electrolytic Zino Company that it would supply, or would provide money to erect buildings. It was on that undertaking that Parliament agreed to a duty of £2 10s. per ton on imported sulphur.
– And opposition on the part of the co-operative companywas withdrawn ?
– Undoubtedly. Had that assurance not been given the duty would not have been imposed.
– Or the opposition of the co-operative company would not have been withdrawn ?
– That is so.
– What I want to know is how the agreement was broken.
– The Electrolytic Zinc Company simply said that it could not carry out its promise, and referred the Co-operative Superphosphate Company to the Mount Lyell Company.It said, “ You can treat with Mount Lyell.’’
– And the Mount Lyell Company had given no undertaking?
– None whatever. The Co-operative Superphosphate Company was not treating with Mount Lyell, but with the othercompany that is going to participate in the bounty proposed by the Bill.
– Is the Co-operative , Superphosphate Company actually manufacturing any superphosphates?
– No, it is not.. It must be clearly understood that it proposed to establish works in Australia for the manufacture of superphosphate, because it believed that it could import sulphur free from America, where the purest sulphur in the. world is to be obtained.
– We are going to produce the purest sulphur in the world in Australia.
-I hope so; but there is so far no indication of that. I hope the honorable member’s optimism will be justified. I am just as good an Australian and just as good a Protectionist as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), but I am not going to impose harsh conditions upon a section of the community that has so far not been treated fairly. In my opinion the Minister- for Trade and Customs had no right to refer this matter to an independent Committee. It should have been dealt with by this House. What ought to be done under this Bill is to insure that no private company, such as the Cooperative Superphosphate Company, should be left at the mercy of the Electrolytic Zinc Company or other companies manufacturing sulphuric acid by embodying the assurance given by the Electrolytic Zinc Company in the Bill. The proposal of the Government to . abolish the duty on sulphur is a sound one, and the proposal to pay a bounty in the interests of a struggling industry is also sound. I say again that the Co-operative Superphosphate Company is composed wholly of land-holders in Victoria, and has not been treated fairly. This Parliament and the State Parliaments should do all they can to> encourage the men on the land- by giving them better facilities, and providing them with an adequate supply of superphosphate. Every encouragement should be given to our producers to make the best possible use of their land. If we cripple them with railway and shipping freights, and a high cost for superphosphate, we cannot expect them to progress. I have pleasure in supporting the second reading of the Bill.
.-I am one of those who would prefer that this matter should be left as it is, but as the Government have introduced this measure, and as I see indications of a desire for something other than the duty on sulphur, I must consider the proposal before me. It is not at .the request of companies in Australia that are manufacturing sulphuric acid, the equivalent of sulphur, that this” Bill has been introduced. They never asked for it, and never intended to ask for it. The agitation for the removal of the duty and the payment of a bounty has been brought about as a result of operations in America and Sicily to-day. If the matter is looked into it will be found that the average price of sulphur over, the last seven years has been somewhere in the vicinity of £6 per ton. To-day sulphur is the only raw material that is being sold in Australia at less than pre-war rates. It is a remarkable fact that the price of the American article for Australian consumption to-day is 63s. per ton f.o.b., whilst the price for American consumption at the same port is 80s. 9d. per ton. The freight to Australia is nothing more nor less than a dumping freight of 26s. per ton from the United States of America. The result is that the Australian farmer, were there no, duty upon sulphur, would be getting the article at something like £4 10s. per ton. I ask honorable members to consider whether that would last very long in view of the fact that American and Sicilian producers have come to an agreement under which they split the world into two markets, and the Australian market is left to America. Perhaps they will better appreciate the position when I tell them that the price in Australia of the J apanese product is £8 per ton c.i.f. i
– And good sulphur is worth 60s. per ton in London.
– Can the honorable member tell me why it is that we get sulphur from America at 17s. 9d. per ton less than it costs in the United States of America?
– I do not credit it.
– I can give the honorable member chapter and verse, if he so desires.
– Can the honorable member give us chapter and verse regarding the price of Japanese sulphur? I should like to have that.
– The price has be«n stated very definitely. If the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) can prove that what I have said is not correct he will have his opportunity to do so in speaking on this Bill. We have to put this industry on a stable basis, and the only way in which that can be done is to let the companies interested know where they will stand over a period of years. The proposal of the Government is to provide for the payment of a bounty, to be paid whilst Parliament is willing that it should continue. I am wondering whether this will put those interested in a better position than they would occupy if the duty were permitted to remain. I regret that the Bill was not circulated earlier, in order that we might have more definite information on that point. Whilst the consumption of sulphur in Australia today is 43,000 tons per annum, the use of superphosphates is increasing annually. If the farmer could be guaranteed an adequate supply of superphosphate at a reasonable price, there is no reason why the increased use of the article should not be even greater in the future than it has been in the past. We have to provide for a consumption of 45,000 tons this year, for nearly 50,000 tons next year, and so on, as consumption is increasing at the rate of about 10 per cent, per annum. It came as a great shock to me, and, unfortunately, as a greater shock to the companies concerned that have been signing contracts and spending something like £400,000 on the erection of new plant, that the Government should intimate in the Budget its intention to take the duty off sulphur. The companies, when this was made public, did not know where they were. The only pleasing feature of the business is that it is proposed to pay the bounty in such a -way as to give the companies some sort of security. It has been said that the camj_panies have not kept their agreement.
– They misled the House.
– I am not going to admit that. At the present time the Electrolytic Zinc Company, of Hobart, is consuming concentrates at the rate of 125,000 tons per annum which contain 31,000 tons of sulphur, recoverable as sulphuric acid. To show what the company intends to do, their proposals are briefly set out in the following statement : -
Bearing in mind the fact that the Commonwealth consumption of sulphur is at least 43,000 tons annually, it is interesting to note that equipment is now in operation, or in course of construction, which will bc utilized in recovering over 44,000 tons of domestic sulphur annually as sulphuric acid. Of this, 30,500 tons Will be recovered from zinc concentrates, the balance, 13,500 tons, from pyrites. The localities where concentrates and/or pyrites will bc roasted for manufacture of acid are indicated in the subjoined table: -
With regard to New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, the equipment required for the utilization of the respective tonnage is already in operation, or will be in operation within the next few months.
The roasting, acid-making, and superphosphate plant at Risdon is a recent development; but construction is being pushed on to the utmost in order to have the plant in operation as quickly as possible. This can be enlarged to recover 10,000 tons of “ concentrates “ sulphur as acid should the justification arise.
If the Electrolytic Zinc Company can find a market for sulphuric acid it can increase its output of zinc by 50 per cent. I understand that the annual production is something like 45,000 tons. Honorable members will see what this means to the
Commonwealth; what an easy marketthere will be with the world’s consumption of zinc in the neighbourhood of 1,000,000 tons per year. If the company in Hobart extends its operations it will produce something like 70,000 tons of zinc a year, for which there is a ready market, for their zinc is the purest in the world. In’ addition, a body of technical men will be trained’, who will be of great service in time of war, and particularly in time of peace. If we need anything it is technical men, able togo to the man on the land, and tell him what is necessary for the proper treatment of soil and the production of better crops. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) laughs.
– Give the man onthe land cheaper superphosphate!
– And the only way to get cheaper phosphate is to firmly establish this industry in Australia. Honorable members must know what has happened in regard to this industry. I heard the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) say that the farmers refuse io be left to the cold mercies of these companies. I am less prepared to leave the farmers to the cold mercies of the foreigner. We can, at any. rate, tax Australian companies.
– The Electrolytic Company broke its pledge, and increased the price of superphosphate.
– Let us see what truth there is in that allegation. I shall quote from a statement prepared by the Electrolytic Zinc Company Proprietary Limited -
The whole position is, briefly, as follows: -
It is alleged that a verbal undertaking, placed before Parliament by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the 0th November. 1921. has not been observed.
Shortly put, that undertaking was that the Electroyltic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and the combined Yarraville superphosphate manufacturers wore entering into an agreement for the treatment of zinc concentrates at Yarraville, which agreement wouldbe open on equal terms to the Phosphate Co-operative Company.
The Victorian superphosphate companies entered into an agreement, and it was on that document that the Minister was informed an agreement had been reached -
A formal agreement was about to be drawn, embodying the points as settled, when, as the result of a radical and sudden change in the metallurgical smelting practice of copper at Mount Lyell, that company had available about 1,000,000 tons of pyrites, and was so able to offer pyrites at a price which would afford the Victorian superphosphate companies a cheaper source of sulphur for acid manufacture than zinc concentrates. Large quantities of suitable pyrites were also available from Mount Bischoff.
Further on -
This naturally changed the whole complexion of the negotiations, and the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited was therefore not justified in seeking to hold the acid and superphosphate companies in Victoria to their agreement, as, owing to the geographical position of their works, they were able to obtain a raw material in pyrites easier to handle, and which would show them a cheaper result than zinc concentrates from Broken Hill.
This is the point in reply to the charge of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill)-
The Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited has not even yet commenced operations, nor, as far as the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited is aware, has it availed itself of the opportunity to consider the use of pyrites for the production of sulphuric acid.
The Electrolytic Zinc Company is still willing to make an agreement on the basis of the heads of the agreement I have referred to, and this entails a proposed expenditure by them of £25,000 to £30,009 at the proposed works of the Phosphate Co-operative Company.
– What is the honorable member reading? Is it a statement prepared by the company ?
– Yes, it is; and it is a statement that has been substantially approved by the Tariff Board. The honorable member has only to get the Board’s report to find out that everything stated by the company has been justified and approved.
– The position is that we are to give the company £100,000 of public money ?
– The question is whether the House is prepared to spend £100,000 to stabilize an industry that means something to the farmers, and, perhaps, more to the nation from a safety point of view, or whether we are prepared to leave the duty on. Personally, I am in favour of leaving the duty, but I accept the Bill as a compromise. I understand the Minister in charge thinks that the Government has sufficient support in the House to pass it. The real objective; however, of the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia
Limited isi revealed in the following paragraph in a letter to the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited from the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited, of 3rd July, 1922: -
In the meantime, as. you will bo aware from the public advertisements, we have not relaxed our efforts to obtain the rescission of the duties.
That, I think, puts the position so far as the phosphate company is concerned. I tell the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) that there has been no. breach of agreement, and that the com* pan’y is still able to make an agreement with the Electrolytic Zinc Company or the Mount Lyell Company for pyrites if required. I am speaking particularly on behalf of Tasmania. The construction of the works means large employment. The Mount Lyell Company, immediately it found this alteration in the process, employed 100 men in making the ore available and getting out the sulphuric acid. It is also payable to extract copper and tin. What is important to the farmer is that he will obtain superphosphate at a price of 25s. to 30s. less than at the present time.
– Tell us why Tasmania is paying more for superphosphates than is South Australia?
– Tasmania is paying £1 per ton more than is Victoria and South Australia. I do not know why; I am simply stating the fact.
– It is not manufactured in Tasmania.
– That is so.
– It should be.
– And it will be if honorable members will afford the opportunity. There has been talk of wiping out the duty, but, fortunately, a middle course has been found by the Government and the Country party to get the Government out of a difficulty.
– We all know that.
– Let me tell honorable members that, first and last, I am a Protectionist, and honorable members opposite know where I stand on the Tariff. As I said before, I would sooner have the duty, and I am accepting this Bill as a compromise, not because I approve of it.
– I shall be very brief, but I cannot allow this Bill to go without a- word or two. It is unfortunate that, when a second reading has been moved, the consideration of a Bill should be immediately proceeded with. However, this is only another instance in which insufficient time is being allowed for the consideration of proposals placed before honorable members. I admit there is not much in this Bill, which boils down to one proposal. It proposes that, in the place of a duty which is paid by those who purchase superphosphate, there shall be a bounty paid by the whole of the community. That is the beginning, and the end of the measure. As I have said on many previous occasions, I am always prepared to give a “ fair go “ to the people in the country. At the same time, honorable members ought to analyze the position, and ask themselves whether they are consistent. Whenever it is a question of State enterprise, every honorable member opposite, from the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) downward, is against the idea. But when there is a proposal to placate a section of the community which it is thought will support the Government, then honorable members opposite are in favour of it. That is beautiful consistency! I remind honorable members that recently we voted a beef subsidy, although we on this side are opposed to that sort of thing; and now we are asked to sanction a bounty on sulphur. This week we voted a large sum for the purchase of wire netting - pure State Socialism - and the proposal received the unanimous support of honorable members opposite. Then a remission of income taxation for one section of the community, to the extent of over £1,000,000, has been voted. If this sort of thing is done, why not do it all round ? Why make exceptions? Why should it apply to certain sections only ? The answer is that the only way to keep the Government in power, and to settle its differences, is to do such things. The honorable, member for Bass (Mr. Jack- son) was quite right in what he said. The position is too transparent to be misunderstood; and he consistently supports such proposals. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) has made out a very good case, because he knows how the farmers are affected. It means that they will get the £2 5s. per ton which is given as a bonus. This Bill is based on an output of 42,000 tons to 45,000 tons, and, according to the Minister, the consumption in Australia lies between those two figures; so the £100,000 is easily arrived at. It is all beautifully worked out! There is no trouble; it means that the general community pays the £2 5s. instead of the farmers.
-i said that that was the quantity we were hoping to get.
– Quite so. ‘We on this side support State Socialism, because we believe in assisting industries that are in need. Honorable members opposite, on the other hand, are opposed to State Socialism, yet, owing to certain circumstances, they support proposals for State Socialism every week. If the Labour party were in power, and introduced such measures, they would be held up to public ridicule.
– This bounty is for the benefit of private enterprise.
– The honorable member cannot camouflage the matter in that way. The honorable member for Bass holds a brief for the company. I may say that in my district there is one of the largest companies of the kind, but I do not support this proposal. The honorable member for Bass, however, has stated very clearly that he would prefer a duty, but that an understanding has been arrived at which he terms a “middle course.” As a matter of fact, it is well known that an understanding has been arrived at, and we have been told that the four companies concerned were consulted. The whole scheme was cut and dried outside the House to suit all the parties interested. I am not opposed to it; I believe in assisting the farmer as far as possible, but I want honorable members opposite to be a little consistent. The Prime Minister pointed out that the duty on sulphur will operate againas soon as the payment of the bounty ceases. That removes an objection, which has been voiced in this House on many occasions, to the payment of bounties. That form of assistance does not stabilize an industry, because investors will not put capital into an enterprise when its only protection is a bounty, which may be withdrawn at any time. A duty, however, is more or less permanent, and can only be varied by Parliament. This bounty is different from any other of which I have knowledge, inasmuch as the duty will be merely in abeyance during the operation of the bounty. Reference has been made to the possibility of imported sulphur glutting the market to the prejudice of the local manufacturer. That does not appear to be probable. If the figures quoted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) are correct, the Anti-Dumping Act will not be applicable to sulphur. Before that law can operate there must be proof that the price being charged in the Australian market for an imported article is lower than in the country of origin, but the information which the honorable member for Swan gave is that the prices in other countries are higher. The whole scheme can be summarized as the substitution of a bounty for a duty so that the additional cost of £2 5s. per ton of sulphur may be transferred from the shoulders of the farmer to the general community. I am prepared to give the farmers any assistance of which they are really in need, but measures of this kind are becoming very frequent. Once again the Government are acting in opposition to the report of a body specially appointed to inquire into a specific matter. It is useless for this. Parliament to appoint Commissions or Committees if their findings are to be regularly ignored. I asked some questions during the last Parliament regarding the agreement between the Electrolytic Zinc Company and the Yarraville manufacturers of superphosphates. The Minister for Trade and Customs concluded his reply with this statement : -
Notwithstanding the fact that all members of the Committee were unanimous , in approving the presentation of the foregoing report, two members of the Committee, Messrs. McGalliard and Gibson, presented a minority report to tho Minister, in which the opinion was expressed that the whole community, and not the. farmer, should bear the cost of establishing the industry of sulphur production. In this minority report, no reference whatever was made to the question of the agreement now under consideration.
The Committee to which he referred was appointed to inquire into and report upon that agreement, and it recommended that the community should bear the additional cost. One member of the Committee (Mr. Gibson) is a Minister to-day, and the influence of himself and his colleagues of the Country party has been sufficient to squeeze from the Nationalists a substantial concession to the farmers. The primary producers are entitled to consideration; but I want the House and the country to understand what is actually taking place.
.- I appreciate the action of the Government in introducing this Bill, which, if properly understood, should receive the approval of, not only the House, but the general taxpayer. I am by no means a strong Protectionist, but we must realize after our experience during the last few years that it is essential to establish certain key industries. A few years before the war I was an ardent Free Trader, but the lesson we learned during four dreadful years undermined my fiscal principles. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was quite correct in saying that this bounty will merely shift a burden from the shoulders of the farmers to those of the general taxpayers. Why not? Is the farmer the only one who will benefit by the establishment of a key industry? Does he receive one penny more for his wheat or other produce because of . the protection given to that industry? The taxpayers as a whole, will be advantaged by the establishment of the sulphuric acid industry, and it is fair that they, and not only one section of the community, should be asked to bear the burden of its development. There is no doubt that the Government were faced with a. difficulty in devising this bounty. The manufacturers of sulphuric acid were in a very precarious position, because had the bounty been proposed without the assurance that the duty will merely be suspended, those persons who have put their capita^ into this industry, and whom we desire to encourage, would feel very insecure. Security is essential to the investment of capital, and if the bounty alone had been imposed without the further guarantee of a suspended duty the manufacturers would have been faced with the danger that an impecunious Treasurer might find it convenient, at any time, to discontinue the bounty. Furthermore, I understand that if there were no duty on sulphur, the anti-dumping law could . not be brought into operation.
– I understand that it could.
– I am very glad to hear that. Any corporation starting a business with the assistance of a .protective ‘ duty knows that it can be removed only by Parliament, and not by the Treasurer or any other individual. This bounty will not, as some honorable members interjected, benefit the farmers to the amount of £2 5s. per ton . of superphosphates. Approximately 1 ton of sulphuric acid is used in the production of 10 tons of superphosphates; therefore, this bounty will assist the farmer to the extent of 4s. 6d. for every ton of superphosphates he uses. Honorable members opposite protest their desire to assist the man on the land, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) put forward an unbusiness-like proposal to advance the farmers a first instalment on the value of their wheat crop. But when a solid proposal that will assist the farmers is put forward, honorable members opposite accuse the Government of giving favours to the primary producer. The Leader of the Opposition characterized this proposal as State Socialism. If the payment of a bonus to assist private enterprise is State Socialism, I never understood the term before. If the Government at the expiration of this Parliament has no greater sin to answer for than the fact that it attempted, by this bounty, to assist the primary producer, it will not have much to fear from the electors.
– I favour the removal of the duty on sulphur, and I do not believe in the payment of bounties, but in all Parliaments there must be compromise. The Leader of the Opposition was correct in saying that the purpose of the Bill is to remove from the farming section of the community the obligation of sustaining the sulphur industry, and to place that responsibility upon the general community, of which, of course, the farmers form a part.
– Will the honorable member vote for the Bill ?
– I intend to support it. It is proposed to pay a bounty of £2 58. per ton on sulphur produced in Australia in order to protect the sulphuric acid industry, and I hope that the Government will not also operate the AntiDumping Bill in relation to importations of sulphur. The duty on sulphur is 85 per cent., the highest in the Tariff schedule. If honorable members will look at Messrs. Joseph Palmer and Son’; list for 21st June of this year, they will realize that the Electrolytic Zinc Company is not such a poverty-stricken concern as they appear to think. The concluding portion of the list reads -
Should, however, the sulphur duty remain as at present, it is expected that the Electrolytic Zinc Company will be able to increase its dividend to 12) per cent, on all shares, including the deferred.
That by no means implies that this company is poverty-stricken, and needs immediate assistance.
.- In the electorate which I represent half of the superphosphates for Australia are manufactured.
– And the whole of those manufacturers want the duty taken off sulphur.
– I do not suppose that they would agree to the duty being taken off superphosphates?
– They do not want a duty on superphosphates.
– The industries of Australia should be protected in their initial stages so as to enable them to compete with the world. If the sulphur industry had been given a greater measure of protection when first established, a greater benefit than the concession now proposed by the Government would have been derived by them. Even if the bounty is granted, I doubt whether the price of superphosphates in Australia will be reduced by 5s. and 6s. a. ton.
– That has been promised in writing.
– Evidently- the honorable member is referring to the cooperative company at Sale. Australia has a monopoly of the supply of one of the best ingredients of superphosphates, which is the phosphatic rock from Nauru and Ocean Islands. I note with pleasure that, within a short period, there have been three reductions in the price of this material. The latest reduction operated from the first of last month, and the price is now 49s. a ton. If it were desired to reduce the price of superphosphates by 5s. a ton, why did not the Government and the Phosphatic Rock
Commission reduce the price of phosphatic rock by that amount? They, as the suppliers of the raw material, could insist on the manufacturers of superphosphates reducing their prices. That is a practical suggestion. It yet remains to be seen whether this bounty will maintain the local industry. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) states that it will enable local manufacturers to carry on. According to the figures submitted this afternoon by the honorable member for’ Bass (Mr. Jackson), the sulphur production in Australia will be 42,000 tons per annum, which is 3,000 tons in excess of what is supposed to be the approximate requirement of Australia. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) said that before the war he was a pronounced Free Trader, but that during the war, owing to the development of certain industries tending to make Australia self-contained, he was absolutely convinced that Free Trade was a thing of the past.
– I did not say anything to that effect.
– The honorable member said that he was considerably shaken in his Free Trade beliefs. Sulphuric acid is largely used in the dairying industry. The dairymen will tell you that, during wartime, the local manufacturers of sulphuric acid came to their rescue and supplied their requirements. This afternoon one firm was mentioned whichhad received considerable assistance in this way.
– How is sulphuric acid used in the dairying industry?
– Does not the honorable member know how cream is tested in the dairy factories of Australia ?
– Yes, and I know that an insignificant quantity is used.
– The honorable member does not know his business.
– Honorable members are interjecting indiscriminately and ignoring altogether the rules of Parliament. I ask them to allow the honorable member for Maribyrnong to proceed without interruption.
– If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) had seen the vast quantities of sulphuric acid which are distributed to the dairying companies throughout Australia, he would not say that the supply was insignificant. The Minister is quite correct in saying that the sulphuric-acid industry is a key industry of Australia. Any man, whether in or out of Parliament, who sets out to destroy an industry of this kind, is an enemy to this country. Australia suffers from the lack of commercial chemists, and for our future benefit their numbers should be increased. I am not saying that I shall oppose this measure. 1 accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that everything possible will be done for this industry, but as far as local production is concerned, the bounty is not sufficiently large. The local industries should not be allowed to die out. When the Tariff was before the House, Mr. Hay, who was then honorable member for New England, convinced me that sulphur could be produced in Australia in sufficient quantities to satisfy local demands. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) then said that the imposition of this duty meant the presentation of £100,000 to the manufacturers of sulphur in Australia
– That amount was calculated at 40,000 tons at£2 10s. per ton.
– The present Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), dealing with the Tariff, and commenting upon the £100,000, said, “ I wonder how much of this amount will find its way into the fighting funds of the Nationalist party at the next election.” Who is to be presented with this £100,000 bounty? Is it another election sop ?
– The elections are too far distant.
– Taking my cue from the Minister for Works and Railways, I want to know how much of this £100,000 is to find its way into the fighting funds of the composite party at the next elections? I have visited the sulphuric acid works in my constituency. They include among them the great Mount Lyell Company, which has turned out hundreds of thousands of tons of superphosphates for years past. Cuming, Smith and Company also manufacture vast quantities every year, as do Wischer and Company, and one other.
– If there were ten times the present quantity of superphosphates Australia would be all the better off.
– I agree with the honorable member. Of whatever else honorable members of either side of the House may accuse me, I cannot be accused of intentionally harming the interests of those following rural pursuits. I am a user of phosphates. I am glad to know that, because of the bounty, there will be a considerable increase in the production of superphosphates. In granting a bounty for the maintenance of industries it is essential that no section of the community should be thereby hurt. On this side we hold different opinions on this Bill, and I cannot say whether the result will be as slated by my Leader. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) stated that if sulphur is admitted duty free, and a bonus is allowed to the manufacturers of sulphuric acid, the price of superphosphates will be reduced by 6s. perton. The price of artificial manures must be reduced by the manufacturers before the farmers can use them freely.
– We will not renew the bonus if the price of superphosphates is not reduced.
– The honorable member thinks that unless the companies reduce the price of superphosphates to the extent of the bonus we shall be able to discontinue the bonus, but the Prime Minister has said that if the bonus is discontinued the duty will be revived.
– That is correct.
– The solution of the problem is to leave the duty as it is, and allow this industry to develop, as have most of our secondary industries, under a protective Tariff. I do not wish to raise the general Tariff issue, but will content myself by saying that if any one thinks with an unbiased mind about the industries in Australia to-day, he will admit that the Tariff has been the greatest blessing Australia has had. It has enabled us to establish vigorous industries, which served us well during war time, and will ser ve us well in peace time. The Commonwealth Government should take a broad national view of the situation, and maintain the Tariff.
– I regret that the Government has thought it necessary to remit the duty on sulphur. Like the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), I am a true-blue Protectionist. I believe that we should encourage our Australian industries, by giving a sufficient protection, to enable them to develop. I was much surprised to hear the Treasurer announce in his Budget speech that the duty on sulphur was to be removed. It was understood in the Parliament that imposed this duty that it would continue for some years. On the strength of that understanding, a number of companies launched out into this industry in a big way. They would not have done so except for the Tariff. It must have been a great surprise to them to learn that the duty was to be remitted. Many mining industries in Tasmania are deeply concerned about the situation, because the ores which they treat contain a large percentage of sulphur. The Electrolytic Zinc Company has established a big industry adjacent to my electorate. It was encouraged to do so by the Government imposing a duty on sulphur. That company must have been shocked to learn that the Government intended to alter the policy. The company has expended a large amount of money in erecting an up-to-date plant to produce sulphuric acid, and, I think, in the circumstances, the Government should have retained the duty. Of course, half a loaf is better than no bread, and this company, in common with others engaged in the industry, will have the bounty in place of the Tariff. Tasmania has many extensive bodies of zinciferous refractory ore, which contain a large percentage of sulphur. Some of the lodes have not been worked to any extent for twentyfive years, owing to the difficulty of treatin;; the ore. If they could produce sulphur profitably they would be able to mine their low-grade ores. It means all the difference betweeu profit and loss to th ese companies to work under conditions which will enable them to market sulphur. If such conditions prevailed, two or three communities, as successful and as largo as that at the Mount Lyell, could be maintained in Tasmania, and. thousands of men would be able to earn reasonable wages and work under fair conditions.
– Thousands of tons of sulphur have been lost in the past.
– That is so. As a matter of fact, I believe that tens of thousands of tons of sulphur have gone into the air from the Mr Lyell works So large a percentage of sulphur has escaped in that locality, that, for a long time, not a vestige of vegetation could be seen for miles and miles round. Sulphur is very valuable to Australia, and the Government should do ite best to make the conditions such that it may be produced on a commercial basis, and made available to manufacturers of superphosphates and other fertilizers.
– Does the honorable member think that the farmer should have to bear the cost of producing it?
– The honorable mem ber for Forrest may rest assured thatI desire, to help the farmer in every possible way. I have always tried to study ihe interests of the primary producers. Many of my relatives in Tasmania’ are engaged in agricultural pursuits. T realize that all industries are interdependent. The farmer must depend upon the secondary industries, and the secondary industries must depend upon the farmer.
– The honorable member has misunderstood my question.
– The honorable member for Denison would not have answered it at all if the honorable member for Forrest had not asked it.
– I did not really catch the interjection of the honorable member. I understood him to say something concerning the primary producers.
– That is so.
– I wish to ask the honorable member for Forrest, and the honorable members who represent the Country party in this House to consider what a tremendous benefit it would be to the farmers if numerous secondary industries were established. The existence of flourishing secondary industries insures a much larger body of consumers.
– And the home market is the best market.
– That is a truism which every honorable member accepts. It is of vital importance to the farmers that the secondary industries of Australia shall be properly developed. I suppose the remission of -this duty is an evidence ofthe influence of the Country party on the Ministry, but the Party should realize that if the sulphur producing industry is placed on a substantial footing, thousands of wage earners can be engaged in it under good conditions, and that will mean that many more people will want the produce of the farmers. Enormous expenditure has been incurred already in this industry, and I regret that the Government has decided to remove the duty. Some measure of pro tection will still exist because a bounty is to be provided in lieu of the Tariff, aud we are told that if’ for any reason the bounty is withdrawn, the Tariff will immediately come into operation. That being so, the industry is reasonably safeguarded. I believe that we should give every encouragement to the Electrolytic Zinc Company and similar concerns, to engage in the sulphur producing industry in a large way.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The State which I have the honour to assist in representing, is, perhaps, affected by this proposal to a greater extent, in proportion to its population, than is any other State in Australia. There is more to be expected from the development of tbe mining industry in that State than in any other of the States. Probably one-third of its comparatively small area is still unexplored, and has been declared by the greatest mineralogical and geological experts we have been able to secure to report upon it, to contain all kinds of minerals. The exploration of small portions of this area has led to the discovery of a number of mines, which have assisted very materially in the progress of the country. The development of those mines has been kept back, to some extent, because of the refractory nature of the ores that are found in the West Coast districts of the State. There are there large bodies of ore, one of the chief constituents of which is sulphur. If the development of the sulphur industry in Australia will assist in making these mines payable, because of the value of the sulphur that can be extracted from the ores, added to the value of the other metals which they contain, it will mean a great deal to Tasmania. That is why I feel particularly interested in such a measure as we now have before us. I have said that I should have preferred the duty on sulphur to remain ; but the Government have a majority, and what it says inthis House goes. It has decided to remove the duty from sulphur, and to substitute for it the payment of a bounty on the production of sulphur. The Prime Minister laid particular stress upon the value, from the point of view of defence, of building up industries for the manufacture of sulphur and sulphuric acid in Australia. As sulphuric acid’ is an important constituent of munitions, it is necessary, for the safety of Australia, that we should have Australian industries for its manufacture. I have been reminded of the fact that when the !N aval Base is established at Singapore it will probably be the desire of the authorities to draw upon Australia, as a part of the Empire, for munitions for that base. This is an additional reason why we should do everything we can to build up here industries for the manufacture of sulphur and sulphuric acid. I am more interested in peace than in war, and from this point of view I hope that it will not be very long before the duty on sulphur is reimposed, because, in my view, that would give a greater guarantee to those orepared to spend large sums for the establishment of these industries, than will the method of assisting them by the payment of a bounty. Until this Parliament in ite wisdom decides to reimpose the duty on sulphur - that is to say until such time as the electors decide that there shall be another party occupying the Ministerial benches, as there certainly will be in the near future - I have to take the gifts which the gods in the persons in the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Minister for Y)sfence offer as an instalment of protection for Australian industries. One honorable member said that the Government proposal is State socialism, and that although he is opposed to that policy, if this is State socialism, he wants more of it. This is State socialism, and because I am a believer in that policy, I accept it, not because it is all that I desire, but all that I can hope to obtain from the present Government. I support the second reading of the Bill.
.- I must support the Government on this Bill, and for the same reasons as those advanced by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe). We -must, perforce, accept what the majority opposite is prepared to give us. I agree that the Bill has in it the germ of something which may bo of advantage to the primary producers of Australia. The supply of superphosphate affects Western Australia more than any other State in the Commonwealth, for the simple reason that there is in that State a greater area of agricultural land, in which the use of artificial manures is found to be necessary, than there is any other of the States.
That is, perhaps, a doubtful compliment to pay any State, but we must take the country as we find it. It is absolutely impossible to put a large area of our agricultural districts in Western Australia under wheat unless we can obtain an abundance of superphosphate at a cheap rate. Earlier in the debate I questioned the statement of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) that a larger quantity of superphosphate is used in Victoria than in any other State of the Commonwealth. I have found, on making inquiries, that the honorable member was correct in his statement, but the proportion of superphosphate to arable ‘land required in Western Australia is much higher than in any of the other States. In New South Wales, in 1920- 21, the percentage of arable land requiring superphosphates was 44.76; in Vic toria, it was 79; in Queensland, 3.13; in South’ Australia, 86; and in Western Australia, 94? In nearly the whole of the agricultural areas of Western Australia it is necessary to use superphosphates. So far as the total quantity of the article consumed in each State is concerned, I find that in 1920-21 New South Wales used 49,000 tons, and Western Australia 66,000 tons. In 1916-17, Western Australia had 2,000,000 acres under cultivation, and used 70,000 tons of superphosphate. New South Wales had 5,000,000 acres under cultivation, or about two and a half times the area cultivated iu Western Australia, and used only two-sevenths of the quantity of superphosphate used in the latter State. The fault I find with the Government proposal is that there is no definite agreement between the companies and the Government as to the price to be charged to the farmer. That is a weakness of the Bill. We have been told that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has a “ scrap of paper” in his pocket, on which it is stated that the superphosphate companies are prepared to reduce their price for superphosphate by 5s. per ton, of 18 per cent, phosphatic contents, if the duty on sulphur is removed. As the price of superphosphate is high to-day, and we may naturally Anticipate that it will be reduced in the near future, there is not a great deal in the assurance which has been given. Before the war the price of superphosphate in Western Australia was £A 7s. 6d. per ton. It is regarded, as a general rule, that the price in the Eastern States averages 15s. per ton lower than in Western Australia.
– The price was the same in Victoria as in Western Australia before the war, namely, £4 7s. 6d. per ton.
– If the price in the Eastern States is 15s. per ton less than the price in Western Australia, 1.h present price, with free sulphur in r.be Eastern States, should be £4 15s. per ton. which is 7s. 6d. more than it was before the war. That is a point to bear in mind. We are now getting a much larger quantity of phosphatic rock from Nauru Island, and the companies would be quite justified, without the aid of free sulphur, in bringing down superphosphates to the pre-war price of £4 7s. 6d. : The weak point in the Bill is that we may give this £100,000 to the companies, and the farmer will continue to be charged 7s. 6d. more than pre-war price, despite the fact that sulphur is free. Messrs. Cuming and Smith, manufacturers of superphosphates at Guildford, Western Australia, made an arrangement whereby pyritic rock from the Anaconda Copper Mine, Murrin, was carried over the State railways 40U miles, at one farthing per ton, per mile. It cost the Government Id. per mile to carry the ore, so that the firm got a gift of three-farthings per mile. Ona condition of the arrangement was that a percentage of the copper contents ot the pyritic rock had to go to the Government. The apologists for the Cuming Smith Company said that, while tnt freight might be low, it was quite understandable in view of the great refund the State Government would receive in this way. According to the inquiries I have made, I find that from 1st January, 1916, to 31st August, 1919, there were 12,675 tons of pyritic rock carried by the Government on behalf of the company. Returns were sent to the Government by the company, but they were never checked, with the result that the refund the Government received amounted to £15. This is “ all of a piece “ with the conduct of business by the Cuming Smith Company and the Mount Lyell Company in Western Australia. I am a farmer, and I am interested in this question, because I have bought large quantities of superphosphates. There is no doubt that during the war the quality of superphosphates was much reduced. Along the Great Southern line, in 1918, although nature had been bountiful so far- as rain was concerned, there were areas that did not ‘produce more than 5 or 6 bushels to the acre. There were whole furrows of cultivated land where the wheat scarcely appeared above the ground. It might be said that the drill had missed, or the superphosphate had not been running at the time. That, however, was not the case. lt was difficult to get phosphatic ore from Christmas Island, from which it was mainly obtained at that time. During the war our gallant Allies, the Japanese, found it more payable to take Japanese goods to Hong Kong, Singapore, and other British ports, and they did so with the result that they monopolized the trade, seven-eighths of which, prior to the’ war, had been carried in British bottoms. That trade the Japanese have largely retained ever since. However, the Japanese boats ceased to run to Christmas Island, so the socialistic Government of the State sent up a State boat, and was prepared to carry the phosphates at a rate onethird less than that paid to the Japanese. The understanding was that the superphosphates were to be reduced in price, but that was not done; on the contrary, the price was raised to £6 Der ton. There is no doubt about the poor quality of the superphosphates, and the inference ‘ is that a less quantity of phosphatic rock was used. At the rear of most superphosphate works - and I speak with knowledge of the Cuming Smith works - there is a great bank of material which is used in the process of manufacture. In Western Australia, however, at the works I have mentioned, the material has a different name from that applied to it in other parts of Australia. The bosses and the- employees at those works call the material by its geological name, that is to say, they call is silica. In common or garden language it is pure white sand, which is used to “water down” the superphosphates. “Watering down” is necessary, because only 18 per cent, of phosphatic contents is required in the superphosphates, though in some instances there is 22 per cent. Men were employed shovelling this sand into trucks and carrying it to the place where it could be used. In Western Australia, as in other States, Government inspectors go round to the factories, in order to insure that the proper percentage of sand or silica is used.
A gentleman, a friend of my own, was employed on this great bank of silica at Cuming Smith’s works. Ordinarily, the men engaged there were not allowed to straighten their backs; but one day the “ boss “ came to him, and said, “ Get off the job, go into the bush, and have a smoke for an hour or two, because the Government inspector is around.” When the inspector was around it was necessary to have plenty of “ cream on the milk “ ; when he was not around, it was “ watered.”
– Do you say it is not necessary to “ water down “. superphosphates!
– Not below 18 per cent, of phosphatic contents.
– It never is below that. The analysis is always taken in bulk.
– Quite recently 500 bags of superphosphates from Cuming Smith’s works were seized by the Government inspectors at Midland Junction, and sent back to the works because they did not contain the necessary’ percentage. My informant has, in a sworn declaration, borne out every word I have said to-night. I know that the Postmaster-General is 1 perturbed, although this matter does not affect his Department. It does not matter whether it be the Customs Department, the Postal Department, or any other Department, it is wonderful the anxiety of Ministers about protecting the interests of “ big business,” instead of doing their job in their own spheres. We have an example to-night, when the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) interests himself in the question of superphosphates. A portion of my district is absolutely starving for mail services, and I could give the honorable gentleman a large amount of correspondence on the subject to which he might apply himself ,
– That is not the question before the Chair.
– No; but it is important, in making this bargain, to insure that the country gets a fair return. As in the past, the Government have neglected to do the honest thing. I hoped to see this “ business “ Government make a “ business “ deal, and say to these phosphate companies, “ We are pTe- pared to make, you a .gift’ of £100,000 a.year in the way of free sulphur, but we . must have a signed .document to the. effect that the price will be that of pre-war days, namely, £4 7s. 6d.” We have before us now another proof that there is “no sentiment in business.” Farmers form a great proportion of my constituents, and they tell me that while the present member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), when he represented Dampier, was a very good member, the Labour man is “ doing the job “ just as well. It is my duty to look after their interests as well as the interests of the rest of the community, and to see that “ big business “ interests, when they are allied with honorable members opposite, do not fleece them.
I had not intended to speak on this Bill, but as one who represents a country district, I desire as much as any man in the House to see the farmer fairly dealt with. I feel sure that the farmers will get a fair deal under the bounty proposed by the Government. I agree with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) iri the remarks he made about the duty. I would much prefer to see the duty remain, but, like that honorable member, I have to accept the Government’s proposal. I should like to show honorable members the concessions that are given, in the way of railway freights on manures. Sulphur is a primary product just as coal is, and a table I have shows how much lower the freights are on manures than on coal, though a ton of superphosphates is twice the value of a ton of coal. It is the man on the land who receives these wonderful concessions.
– And so he should.
– Quite right. The following is the table: -
Those figures prove that the farmer gets a big concession even in respect of freights, and to that I have no objection, but there is a remarkable difference between the freights charged upon the products of two industries. I admit that’ the Railways Departments get a return from the cheap carriage of superphosphates in the resultant increased carriage of produce. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is mistaken in saying that the Electrolytic Zinc Company is a rich dividend-paying concern. It has had to give 350,000 preference shares, and 750,000 ordinary shares, for the Read-Roseberry Mines Limited, Tasmania, from which it has not yet received any return. It is intended to declare this year only a 4 per cent, dividend for the six months, and that will be the first that the company has paid to its shareholders during the whole time it has been in existence. An immense amount of money has been invested in the company, and no return has been received from it yet. ‘ Of course, we shall have to accept the proposed bounty. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie asked for a guarantee as to the price at which the farmer will get superphosphates. The Electrolytic Zinc Company will supply sulphur to the manufacturer of superphosphates at such a price that he may sell his product to the farmer at not more than £6 per ton. During the war sulphur was as high as £18 per ton, but the Electrolytic Zinc Company will give a standing guarantee which should assure to the farmer superphosphates at a maximum price of £6 per ton even if another war should break out.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
When sulphuric acid is produced in Australia from Australian pyrites or other sulphide ores or concentrates, sulphur shall, for the purposes of this Act, he deemed to have been produced to the quantity of the sulphur or brimstone of good commercial quality which it would be necessary to use in producing that sulphuric acid, which quantity shall be ascertained in the prescribed manner.
. -I assume that the desire of the Government is that the bounty shall be paid only upon sulphuric acid of commercial value. I am afraid that under this clause the bounty may be claimed for all sulphuric acid produced in Australia, no matter how crude or deficient it may be. I had thought of moving an amendment to insert the stipulation that the article shall be “of a quality suitable for the manufacture of fertilizers as prescribed,” but I shall be satisfied with an assurance from the Prime Minister that the regulations will insure that the bounty will be payable only for the production of sulphuric acid of commercial quality.
.- The clause is drafted to do the very thing which the honorable member has suggested. The Government has no intention of paying a bounty for the production of sulphuric acid of inferior quality; the product must be of good commercial quality.
– We know that sulphuric acid of good quality may be produced from pyrites, but I am not so certain about the product from zinc concentrates.
– I am advised that the clause provides the protection which the honorable member suggests, but if there is any doubt, it will be made clear by the regulations.
. -Sulphuric acid is used for many purposes, and it need not be of the same quality for each.
– I wish to prevent the placing upon the market of a crude sulphuric acid.
– Even the crude article” may be of commercial value. I assume that the regulations will prescribe for what purposes the sulphuric acid shall be suitable, but it need not be of uniform quality in order to be of commercial value.
– It must be suitable for commercial purposes.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 - (1.) The Minister may make application to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or to any Judge of a Federal or State Court or to any person or personswho compose aState Industrial Authority, for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of the goods. (3.) Every person who claims the bounty payable under the Act shall, in making his claim, certify to the Minister the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him in connexion with the production of sulphur, other than the labour of members of his family. (4.) If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment, or any of them- -
.- This provision is not much different from the sections in existing bounties Acts, and protects the employees to some extent; but I am not satisfied that it goes sufficiently far. Sub-clause 4 provides that if a manufacturer who is claiming the bounty is not conforming to the award of the Arbitration Court, the “ Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.” I think he should withhold the lot. A manufacturer who disobeys the orders of the Arbitration Court should not receive any bounty from the Commonwealth. The wages, hours, and conditions of employment prescribed by any tribunal should be observed in their entirety, and we have a right to insist upon complete compliance with them by persons to whom the Commonwealth is making a present of £100,000. Every employer knows the conditions of an award, he has to post it at his factory, and he should see that its requirements are observed. It is not fair to leave the Minister discretionary power to withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable. I am aware that under the Acts Interpretation Act, “ may “ means “ shall “.
– Ministerial discretion may be necessary to provide for a mere technical breach of the award.
– If only a technical error were involved I would not object to the manufacturer ^continuing to receive the bounty, but very often an employer wilfully disregards the awards of the Court, and endeavours to cut down wages or extend the hours of labour. We should not tolerate that. Sometimes after a bounty is obtained from this Parliament, the employers .endeavour to squeeze as much as possible out of the employees. The Parliament desires that the workers engaged in bounty-fed industries shall enjoy reasonable conditions of labour, and receive fair wages.
– They get them from the Electrolytic Zinc Company.
– I am not making an attack on the companies, as I have no complaint against them. One company in my own district engaged in the manufacture of superphosphates at Cockle Creek, recently employed 700 or 800 men, who were fairly treated. Before granting public money to these companies we should make sure that the awards given from time to time by the Arbitration Courts will be observed. .
– Does the honorable member want the award observed by both sides?
– What would the honorable member suggest if the employees failed to observe the award?
– If an award is broken, the employees are subject to the penalties set out in the Arbitration Act. It is very easy to point out little defects concerning the employees, but it is not so with the employers. That is one of the weaknesses of arbitration. As for strikes and lock-outs, the employers recognise strikes but never lock-outs. There is always some pretence to justify the action of the employer. He says, “ I do not lock the men out; they are permitted to work.” But he reduces the hours and the wages; the men stop work, and it is then called a strike. That has been the experience since the inception of arbitration. I am particularly anxious that this clause should be made as stringent as possible. We are dealing liberally with the manufacturers by providing £100,000 on the production of from 42,000 tons to 45,000 tons of sulphur. I ask the Government to make the clause more rigid than it is at present.
– I see the point the Leader of the Opposition has raised. This clause insures fair conditions to the employees in this industry. The clause, as drawn, meets the case mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. The words of. the clause are; “ The Minister may withhold the money.” We know the interpretation of the word “ may “ in the Acts Interpretation Act. There is some little elasticity in the term. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that some technical breach might be discovered iri regard to which the Minister might require the right to use ‘his discretion. If the clause were absolutely rigid a large sum of money might, because of a technical fault, be withheld from a company employing a large number of men, who would be thrown out of employment. The clause is identical with that contained in similar Bills, such as the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act, which was passed last year. The honorable member may rest assured that the interests of. the employees will be safeguarded.
– There is no objection to the clause, providing the employees are organized and working under an award. But in the great majority of cases the employees in this industry are not working under an award. In Tasmania there is no industrial organization; in fact, the employers will not allow the union organizer on the premises.
– I believe that they are working under an award.
– My information is that they have no award. If it is correct, then this clause providing that. the employees shall be paid the prescribed award rates is simply waste paper. A bounty was given to the firm of H. V. McKay, which are large manufacturers of harvesters. They refused to pay certain wages after receiving a bounty. They defied the Government. The case went before the High Court; the Government were told that they had no redress. The same thing may apply in this case. I do not say that the companies are dishonest, but the men should be protected. They are not organized, and have no award.
– I know that the employees at the Smelting Works in Wallaroo have an award.
– That award has been suspended.
– Is the honorable member referring to firms such as Cuming, Smith, and Company?
– I am referring to all employers in this industry. No doubt some of the employees, such as the engineers, are working under an award.
– The Electrolytic Zinc Company is working under an award.
– They will not allow the union organizer on the premises.
– Hobart has had a State award for two years.
– Unless steps are taken to allow the men to organize and obtain an award, they will have no protection. I know that some of the employers treat their men well, but others will take advantage of the bounty, and try to avoid their obligations.
.- I was a little concerned when the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) first spoke, but I remembered that one large section of the manufacturers of sulphur which willbe affected by the Bill is working directly under an award of the State Wages Board of Tasmania. There is a mutual arrangement between the employers and the employees.
– It has not the force of law.
– The employees themselves prefer to be under a State Wages Board award rather than a Federal award.
– Is it not a fact that the union organizers are warned off the premises ?
– I very much doubt that that is so. I hold no brief for the company. The last twenty years of my political life have been devoted to the interests of the workers of Australia. As far as I know, the employeesof the Electrolytic Zinc Company are working under a State Wages Board award, and they are satisfied with its protection.
– I am somewhat perturbed because of the statement of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). I favour at all times the encouragement of Australian industries, but the employees of any industry should receive fair treatment. There seems to be some doubt whether they are being fairly treated or not. Even the honorable member for Denison is confused.
– Since two months ago the employees in Tasmania have been working under a State Wages Board award.
– When Bills are introduced providing for bounties to encourage industries, the Minister in charge should have all the information necessary for honorable members. He should be able to tell us clearly and definitely whether these men are organized and working under an award.
– Does the honorable member know if the employees of this industry have complained ?
– I know of industries in which employees did not complain of their conditions because of economic pressure being brought to bear by the employers.
– That is not so in Australia,
– Even in the very industry with which the honorable member is connected it took us a long time to organize and obtain decent conditions for the employees.
– Which industry is that?
– The beef industry. The honorable member knows how we fought the big squatters of Australia to obtain fair and reasonable conditions for the employees in that industry. Men had to fight, and even to go to gaol, for the right to organize their trade unions. It is necessary for us to satisfy ourselves that the men engaged in the sulphur industry have proper working conditions and reasonable wages and hours. The Prime Minister should be able to tell us whether this is so or not. Until he does so I am not prepared to vote for the clause.
.- The employees of the Electrolytic Zinc Company are working under an award of the State Court which has one year and ten months to run. They are well satisfied. They are paying 6d. per week into an insurance fund, to which the company also contributes, which provides for the payment of £100 if death should occur whilst they are in the employment of the company. This is apart altogether from Workmen’s Compensation. In -addition to that the company has made £20,000 available at 4 per cent., and another £1,000 at. 6 per cent., to enable them to build homes for themselves at a cost of up to £750. The Electrolytic Zinc Company is a good employer, and treats its menwell.
– The honorable member for. Bass (Mr. Jackson) has failed to give us any information about the wages and hours of the men, and that is what we want. He says they are satisfied, but men may be very easily satisfied in Tasmania. No demand for labour exists there, and the men ‘are glad to take whatever is offered to them. We would like to know whether the wives of these men have to go out working to keep the home together. It should be easy to tell us what are the conditions of employment. The honorable member mentioned an insurance scheme, but he knows that all employers are compelled to protect themselves in this respect.
– What I mentioned was something extra.
– The position of the workmen in this industry is safeguarded irrespective of whether they are working under an industrial award or not. I direct the attention of honorable members to sub-clause 1, which states that if the Minister is not satisfied that the men are receiving fair treatment he may apply for a Court award to protect them. Sub-clause 4 is an additional safeguard.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs refuse to pay the bounty if the wages and conditions of the men are unsatisfactory ?
– Certainly. The Minister has the duty of ascertaining whether the wages paid in the industry are fair and reasonable. If they are not, the bounty will not be paid. The position of the employees is protected in every respect.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Way and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That, so long as a bounty is payable on sulphur under any law of the Commonwealth, the importation of sulphur, to which sub-Item (A) (1) of Item , 275 of the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1022 applies, shall be free of duty.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Austin Chapman do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
. I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is the complement of the Sulphur Bounties Bill’ which we have just passed. It provides for the suspension of the duty on sulphur so long as the bounty continues to be be paid. I think it needs no further explanation.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of Governor-General’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 amend the Shale Oil Bounty Act 1917-22.
Standing Orders suspended; 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.
This is a Bill which everybody understands. The Shale Oil Bounty Act 1917- 22 was passed on 1st September, 1917, and unless the operation of this legislation is extended it will expire on the 31st of the present month. The purpose of this Bill is to extend the payment of the bounty for a further three years. That will be the whole effect of the measure. No other alteration of the existing Act is proposed. It is essential that the bounty should be continued for three years. A shorter period would be use less, as the producer would not be given sufficient security to justify the expense necessary to continue operations. The rate of bounty is 3½d. per gallon on a yearly production of 3,500,000 gallons, with reduced rates for a greater output. The rate was decided upon after a thorough investigation by the Tariff Board. Two hundred and seventy thousand pounds was appropriated for the payment of the bounty, and of this amount £145,000 remains unexpended. That will be sufficient to cover the three years’ extension of the operation of the Act proposed by this Bill. Honorable members will recognise an old friend in this measure. This legislation was originally introduced for the purpose of encouraging the development of the oil industry in Australia. At present there are only a few men at work in the Wolgan Valley, but there are fine prospects in the Mersey Valley, in Tasmania, and in the electorate of Werriwa, at a place called Mittagong.
– What is the result of the legislation up to date?
– It has resulted in the employment of a considerable number of men, and the production of a good deal of oil. A railway has been built to a place called Newnes, and that provided a considerable amount of employment. In view of reports regarding the discovery of splendid shale in Tasmania it is desirable that we should give this further encouragement to those who are trying to develop this very important industry. It is not necessary that I should take up further time in commending the Bill to honorable members.
.- Honorable members on this side have no objection to this particular measure. My only regret is that we are not finding oil in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements of Australia. We should do everything that is possible to encourage those who are prepared to extract’ oil from shale. Unfortunately, there are very few men at present at work in the Wolgan Valley. Over £1,000,000 has been sunk in that enterprise, and so far nothing very tangible has resulted from the expenditure. I consider that we are in duty bound to extend the operation of the Act, in order to give encouragement to further prospecting for the production of oil. The Minister (Mr. Austin Chapman) has said that £145,000 of the amount appropriated for the payment of the bounty is still available. That sum is more than ample for the present year. I should not be surprised if we did not require this year more than £20,000 or £30,000 for the payment of the bounty, the way things are going. Every endeavour should be made by the Government to encourage the extraction of oil from shale, and also to aid in locating oil. We are expending money in the endeavour to discover oil in Papua, but so far without result. I believe that if prospecting were properly carried out we should find oil in some of the States, and that would be of great advantage to the Commonwealth. We are, on this side, in hearty accord with the object of this Bill. I should like to direct the attention of the Government to the marvellous way in which we get through business when the guillotine provisions are not applied. We will have passed three Bills to-day in a very short time, and this only shows that if honorable members opposite will give these on this side a fair “ spin “ legislation will be passed, andpassed in a proper manner.
.- There is one matter arising under the Bill to which I should like to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman). Under the existing Act no bounty is payable unless there is a production of not less than 250,000 gallons per annum. It would be well if the Minister would, by regulation, reduce the minimum production, bringing this legislation into operation to 50,000 gallons in the interests of small companies. In Tasmania, the Southern Cross Company and the Mersey Valley Company are established. At one of the works they are retorting from 40 to 60 gallons of oil from a ton of shale. New retorts are being built at the present time. There is another company in Tasmania, which is, first of all, a cement-producing company, but which undertakes to retort oil and use the residue for heating purposes for the production of cement, but this will depend on whether the Government are willing to reduce the minimum production, bringing the legislation into operation to a reasonable quantity of, say, 50,000 gallons yearly. I suggest that the Minister should give favorable consideration to this request.
– Whilst I do not wish to oppose this Bill, I cannot forget that it was stated when this legislation was. first introduced, that it would have the effect of starting large industries throughout the country, and would lead to the production of oil in such quantities as would keep the price down. The result has been that the companies have only been poking about producing enough oil to collect the bounty, and the industry has not been developed as it should have been. I have been over the works at Newnes, where money has been wasted on a railway. The works at Newnes were started by an English company, that came out here and went in for all sorts of fancy experiments, in which the money of the shareholders was wasted. A gentleman namedFell is carrying on the work there at present. There is no development going on there. The railway which has been referred to was built years ago, and the extension of the time for the payment of the bounty will not lead to the construction of other railways. We have enough shale in the country to produce nearly all the oil we require, but the industry is not being developed. When the companies produce a certain quantity of oil they collect the bounty, and when the bounty runs out they look for a renewal of the legislation, expecting that their industry will continue to be fed in this way. The bounty is paid on the oil produced, but the manufacturers have a by-product, which should pay for its production if the business were carried on in a scientific manner. I protest against the poor results which have followed from this legislation. If oil were produced in sufficient quantities here it would come into competition with imported oil and help to keep the price down. That has not, so far, been the result of this legislation. The bounty is only going to feed the Fell Company, and I could give honorable members some information concerning the way in which those engaged in this industry are paid for their work, and could show that they are paid for more than oil when their output is measured up.
– I am very glad that this Bill has been introduced and that the bounty is to be paid for a further term of three years. The Wolgan Valley is in my electorate, and contains the richest deposit of shale in the world. It carries a very high percentage . of oil. and sufficient oil could be obtained from shale in the Wolgan Valley to supply the requirements of Australia. Unfortunately, the uncertainty existing as to the continuance of the payment of the bounty has prevented companies from entering upon the production of oil from shale. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) is somewhat in error in saying that only a small quantity of oil is being produced, because, under the provisions of the existing Act, no bounty is payable until a production of 250,000 gallons a year has been reached. I agree with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) that a. reduction in the minimum production required would lead to greater development. One of the things which has mitigated against the production of oil in the Wolgan Valley has been the lack of proper facilities for transport. The honorable member for South Sydney has referred to the railway at Newnes, but :t is not one which would commend itself to honorable members if they had to travel on it. There are possibilities of great oil development in the Wolgan Valley, because its elevation is sufficient to enable the whole supply produced to be carried by gravitation to the sea-board. This would involve the expenditure of enormous capital, but I understand that there is a project on foot, at the present time, to induce capitalists to take up the enterprise.
– The greatest blunders have been - made in connexion with the management of that particular mine.
– I am not talking now about the Fell mine, which is a mere bagatelle compared to the new enterprise which is proposed. This Bill will give a necessary impetus to oil development in the Wolgan Valley.
.- Once more I have to support a measure introduced by the Government.
– It is a bad habit!
– I am afraid it may seem a habit, but since it has occurred twice in an evening, I take it that the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) was in ducing in some good Scotch humour, and show ing that his “ bark is worse than, his bite,” when he talked about Tasmania living on bounties.. The honorable member referred to this bounty as a waste of money, because of the fact that no oil has ever been produced. Well - no oil, no bounty ! I regard a measure of this kind as a splendid instalment of State Socialism. I never object when the Government adopts the programme that I have been preaching all my life. I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) when he suggests that the quantity of oil that must be produced before the bounty is paid should be reduced. For. some time past a company, with a shale-oil area within 7 miles of Devonport, Tasmania, has struggled along, spending all the money it can raise from a limited number of shareholders. Should shale oil be produced, it will be quite easy to run it down in pipes to the port. There has never been any attempt to boom this venture in any way. It has simply gone along honestly and quietly endeavouring to produce oil. It is sadly handicapped, however, for the want of capital to provide the necessary machinery. Other companies have been formed, and have failed from similar lack of means. One company I .know, which. was started a year or two ago, is confident, from the reports of experts, that it has. a good chance pf success. I am pleased that the Government have thought fit to introduce a measure extending the bounty for another three years.
.- Even in the troublous times in which we live, there appears to be no class of legislation that passes’ so smoothly, or with such commendable good feeling on all sides, as that which proposes to dip liberally into the public purse in order to benefit some kind of private enterprise. I ‘was gr eatly impressed with the eagerness with which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) rose to support this Bill, and with the reasons which moved him to render it his unqualified support. He told us that in his district there is one of the finest shale fields, or beds, or whatever they may be called, to be found in any part of Australia, and probably m any part of the world. I think he said that the field was capable of producing 250,000 gallons of oil; but whatever the facts were, he was perfectly satisfied that it was a flourishing producer of oil. In 1917, a Bill, very similar to this in charam ter and as to the amount of the bounty offered, was carried in this House for the purpose of giving a bounty for the production of shale oil.
– This is a repetition of that Bill.
– And it must be admitted that it means the payment qf- a very considerable sum of money. The previous Bill left it entirely to’ the discretion of the Parliament to say how long the payments were to be continued after the first allotted period. I have never yet known an industry of this character to receive a bounty for a specified time, which did not come along for a renewal of it. I never knew, a person who, having succeeded in borrowing halfacrown from a friend, did not within a reasonable time ask for 5s. on the same terms. Such a borrower does not always succeed on the second application; but, apparently, if an industry- comes here a second time for a bounty it gets it, because We are dipping, not into our own pockets, but into the general Treasury. If the Bill is not worthy of active opposition, at least it is worthy of a little public notice. We should register the fact that, at some time’ or other, there may be a limit to the period for which an industry of this class can be carried by the general public. It is very convenient to confuse an” issue of this kind with the general question of the protection of Australian industries, but we must not so confuse it; we must boldly recognise the fact that there may be, and, indeed, are, mushroom industries in the country with the maintenance of which it is not worth saddling the general public It is worth while to preserve the principle of protecting Australian industries, and encouraging their development, but it does not follow that every coterie of persons, which asks for a grant is entitled to it. There are many considerations involved - the quality of the commodity and the extent to which it is produced, the wages and conditions of the workers employed in its production, and many others; but it seems to me, from my experience, at all events, in this House, that on the question of bounties, which is altogether different from that of protection, the tendency is to repeat the dose of ‘bounty as often as asked for. I protest against this.
– I should not have risen but for the remarks of the ‘ honorable member for’ Macquarie (Mr. Manning). I am surprised that that honorable member did not give us some more information about this wonderful oil area within his electorate, and I can only account for his remissness by the fact that he is a “ new chum “ in Parliament. I think it is more than fifty years ago since shale was first found in the Hartley Valley. The geologists always expected to get a flow of oil there, but that has not come -to pass. Years ago a company was formed with English capital, and close on £1,000,000 was spent. Then the capital was reduced to £500,000. The venture continued unsuccessful, and a very eminent engineer from Home was brought out. This gentleman could do nothing with the shale, but he managed to make a great error in connexion with the railway he built at the place. It is .one of the most interesting railways I ever saw ; at any rate, it is the steepest. I have never been to the Alps, but I do not think that even there this quaint Australian line is eclipsed. It is worked with a “ shag “ engine, with cylinders on the side, and when you are going up, you wish to Heaven you .were at the top; and when you return to- the bottom, you thank God. - In my opinion, this bounty should be continued, because there is always the possibility that a flow of oil may be struck, as in America. The shale on the area to which I have referred is most remarkable, and the by-products, were certainly an “ eye-opener “ to me. Amongst those by-products from shale as black as coal, was the whitest and purest wax I ever saw. Every credit is due to the company now in charge, but the loss of money must have been enormous. The present manager is, unfortunately, a man who should never be placed in control of others. He is domineering, and I think that his character in this regard is a great -obstacle to progress. I hope that some change in the management will be made which will make it possible for the company to operate more effectively. If a good flow of oil should be discovered, it would- create a most valuable asset. In the hope that some development of that kind may take place, I shall support the Bill. The English company that first carried on these* operations lost £1,000,000, and I think £250,000 has been invested by the present company. I believe that the bounty will improve the prospects 61 locating oil in payable quantities. Certainly, the discovery of a big oil-field would be of tremendous advantage to the Commonwealth.
.- I shall support the Bill, but I cannot help contrasting the action of the Government to-night with the attitude they adopt when asked to employ the powers and finances of the Commonwealth for the benefit of other than vested interests. To-night we are asked to provide for the payment of a bounty on shale oil. Earlier, the House agreed to grant a bounty for the production of sulphur. A few days ago the House voted £250,000 to be advanced to settlers for the purchase of wire netting, and earlier in the session the Government succeeded in having enacted a Bill for the payment of a bounty on the export of meat. Honorable members on this side have no quarrel with the principle represented by these measures, because we believe that if it is extended the nation will ultimately control all these activities. But the Government is not consistent, and I cannot forget that when representatives of an industrial organization waited on the Prime Minister a few months ago, and asked him to use the finances and power of the Commonwealth to assist men, whose families were starving, to get a living, the right honorable gentleman replied, “ We cannot interfere with private enterprise; trade must flow in its natural channels.” In regard to these bounties, and other forms of assistance to big industries, the Government- are not content to allow trade to flow in its natural channels. If the Government were consistent, and adhered to the principles enunciated by the Prime Minister when dealing with the industrial section of the community, it would say that Australia must get oil in the cheapest market, and that no bounty to assist local industry should be paid. The Government would say to the vested interests, “ There can be no interference by Government with private enterprise, trade must flow in its natural channels.” That is the laissez faire policy of the Government when working men ask for assistance for themselves and their starving and half-clothed families. That is the principle enunciated when, because of the malnutrition of mothers, children are born weighing only 3 lbs. That is the callous policy of the Government when the interests of the working class are at stake; but when it is asked to bolster up vested interests that support the party now in power, £250,000 can be found for this, £300,000 for that, and £100,000 for something else. I rose to put on record the inconsistency of the Government in this matter, and to voice my protest against class legislation. The Labour party is always accused of advocating class legislation, but the charge may be more appropriately levelled against the Government. When Ministers are so willing and ready to come to the assistance of vested interests and private enterprise, whilst at the same time giving the cold shoulder to men who are struggling for bread for their wives and children, it is little wonder that the workers become restive.
– I suggest that the honorable ‘member should make his remarks as relevant to the Bill as possible.
– If I have transgressed I shall not do so again. I am not opposing the Bill, but it is enough to make one angry to know that hundreds of men are unemployed and homeless, and can get no assistance from the Government, while large amounts of the public money can be made available to wealthy interests. I am positive that the wages of the mine-owners in the shaleoil industry will not be increased 1 per cent, through the payment of this bounty. They will have to continue to work under the same, or worse, conditions. In all Bills for the payment of bounties there should be provision that those who work in spoon-fed industries should enjoy better conditions than if their employers were not receiving financial assistance from the Commonwealth Exchequer. It is time the Government recognised that others besides the wealthy organizations and vested interests are entitled to consideration.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) knows full well that this bounty goes to help to pay the workers, and that but for it there would be no shale-oil industry. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is aware of that.
– I also know that the Government refused to interfere when the coal-miners were on strike.
– If there were fewer strikes and less encouragement to strike, such as we have heard tonight, there would be fewer men in trouble, and less need to appeal for assistance for the unemployed.
– The present Government is responsible for more strikes than is any other body in the community.
– The honorable member has been responsible for more strikes than has the Government. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) included the shaleoil industry amongst what he termed “ mushroom industries.” I wonder why. I have heard him eloquently pleading for assistance for industries much smaller than this one, and they have done fairly well. Does he regard the shale-oil industry as a “ mushroom “ because it is in the bush! I cannot understand the honorable member’s contradictory attitude.
– If I used the words “ mushroom industry “ I withdraw them. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) said it was a nourishing industry.
– But for the bounties paid by the Commonwealth, there would be no shale-oil industry. Those who have invested their capital in it have lost £1,500,000, and they have not received £250,000 in bounties. However, I shall not waste the time of the House in replying to statements such as were made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). The proper place to reply to remarks of that kind is on the hustings, and we are prepared to do that. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson)’, and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) suggested that the regulations should prescribe the minimum quantity of oil to be produced before the bounty oan be claimed. That is a very good suggestion, and I propose to provide in the regulations that any Small company, such as may be operating in Tasmania, shall be entitled, on the production of 40,000 or 50,000 gallons of oil, to claim the bounty. I am told that- there is every prospect of a flourishing industry being established in the Mersey Valley. I should be quite prepared to do as the honorable members for Bass and Denison suggested in order to encourage small companies.
– You will be losing the value of the bounty.
– If a small company spends its capital, and produces 40,000 or 50,000 gallons of oil, it should be as much entitled to ‘the bounty as is the larger company operating on a bigger scale.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Bill received from the -Senate, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to attempt to cut - because it is impossible to unravel - the most serious and ridiculous legislative tangle this Parliament has ever created. The tangle has been increased by the attempts of the Department to administer the Act as it found it, and is strikingly exemplified by the fact that, although the Act has been on the statute-book for the last six years, it has been found impossible to collect any taxation under it. Moreover, the suspension of the tax had to be made at a time when, probably, the cattle market was as high as it has ever been; and when the cattle industry was at its most flourishing point. That industry is now in a parlous state, and the necessity for the repeal of the tax must be evident to all. The amendment simply restores the original provisions of the 1910 Act in regard to leases of Crown lands. The Land Tax Assessment Act of 1914 had amended the Land Tax Assessment Act of 1910 in this respect. The express purpose of this latter Act, as set forth by its authors, was to embody two principles, firstly, the prevention of the aggregation of big freehold estates in the hands of a single person and the enforcement of their subdivision, and, secondly, the securing that the unearned increment on the improvements provided by the community should, in some measure, revert to the State. However laudable was the application of these principles to the taxation of freehold, the fact was overlooked that they had no application to the great leaseholds which comprise an enormous part of the continent, because, first, the subdivision of these leases was a question of State policy on which the various State Governments had definite opinions, and, secondly, the bulk of the leaseholds were held in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, or Western Queensland, where practically no public facilities had been given to increase their value. If there were any unearned increment, periodical reappraisement secured it- to the States. In some cases these lands are hundreds, and even thousands, of miles from railways or seaports. Therefore, the imposition of this tax was apparently due to a lack of understanding of the principles involved, and to a neglect to take into consideration the fact- that taxation of Crown leaseholds must be considered wholly from the point of view of policy as between the Commonwealth and the States. I shall show that even if these principles were not established, the practical difficulties of assessment and collection are insuperable, and that, even if they were not insuperable, the policy pursued by the States of raising the rents to their maximum must, in consequence, affect the- Commonwealth legislation to such a degree as to render the tax to be collected negligible. The tax now in question was imposed in 1914. During that year and the succeeding year the holders were allowed to assess the value of their own leaseholds. But in the following year the Commonwealth Taxation Department began to assess values, and, unfortunately, instead of exhaustively considering and adopting a system that would be suitable to the vast leasehold areas of Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia, they were forced - by the brief “ amendment of the Act, which was the only direction they had - to apply to stupendous areas of precariously occupied country, certain provisions and tables of calculation which were devised to meet the case of private city leases and Crown leases with the right of purchase in our inner settlement districts. The results achieved showed such discrepancies with the owners’ valuations, and raised such a storm of protest, that the then Treasurer, the Right Honorable W. A. Watt, in March, 1918, suspended the collection “of the tax, and it has never since been collected. The results - and I shall almost immediately give a few typical examples of departmental assessments as rendered necessary by the law - would be comic if they were not tragic. An attempt was made to value the “ occupation interest “ of the great bulk of this continent by a system with a foundation of pure guesswork and superstructure of pure mechanical arithmetic. In order to determine the value of. the leasehold interest, the law required its administrators to first ascertain the fee-simple value of the land. This was obviously impossible in districts where not a single acre of land had been alienated, or where there had never been a market transaction in freehold land. It was not possible to determine the feesimple value of 1,000,000 acres of leasehold in the Northern Territory, which is rented at ls. or ls. 6d. per square mile; or, in the 6-in. rainfall belt in the northwest of Western Australia, rented at 5s. per 1,000 acres; or the vast stretches of dry country in the north-west of Queensland, rented at 5s. per square mile, because none had ever been sold. The rentals imposed by the States had been determined upon a basis that could be presumed to represent the maximum rent to be obtained if settlement were to ensue. They were subject to re-appraisement, but that was done by men specially qualified for the task, and the leasehold value expressed in terms of rent, was universally accepted as the one measure of value. The Commonwealth legislation sought to set up a new and hitherto unknown additional measure of value. The next step to be taken by the administrators after guessing the freehold value, was to calculate the value of the leasehold interest for the term of years provided in the lease, and this was done, by means of a set of tables designed under the principal Act for application to city leases and first class freehold lands, but which were now applied to probably the most precarious form of pastoral occupation on the Continent.
Actuarial tables based on 4£ per cent, returns -were employed to obtain the present value of the pastoral leases with so many years to run, notwithstanding the fact that one probably could not hope to sell any of these propositions unless a return of 15 to 20 per cent, in normal years was shown in order to provide for the periodic droughts in the backcountry. These leaseholds were being constantly abandoned, and practically every State that has these leaseholds has a special provision in its legislation to admit of the abandonment and cancellation of these leaseholds without continuing the rental. This shows that such a practice was fairly common.
Up to the present there has been assessed, roughly, £2,037,000 of tax, of which £690,000 has been collected. The balance outstanding is £1,300,000, and that that is largely mythical is seen from the following instances, which are typical : - In 1911, at Kyabra, Queensland, a sale was made of one-third interest in the property for £12,000, making the full value of tie property at that date, together with stock and improvements, £36,000. The stock on the property at that dat’e were 30,000 sheep, 400 horses, and 1,000 cattle. Taking the sheep at 10s., the horses at £5, and the cattle at £3, the total value of the stock would have been £20,000. It is claimed that the improvements on the run are worth fully £20,000. This means that the place was sold on the basis of the market value of the stock, plus the value of the improvements.- In other words, nothing was allowed in the transaction for any good-will value to the lease. The Department values the good-will of the lease at £61,619. Stated another way: Tho market value of the property at the date of the sale was £36,000. If the Department’s value of the good-will be correct, the property would have been worth £97,619, instead of £36,000, the price at which the sale was made. Thylundra was bought in 1907 for £10,000, being the estimated value of the stock on the run, nothing being allowed for either value of lease or improvements. Bulgroo was bought in 1912 for £53,000, the stock consisting of 40,000 sheep in the wool, together with horses and cattle, the stock in the aggregate being valued at £23,000. The improvements were estimated to be worth the balance of tho purchase money, nothing being allowed for the value of the lease. In the drought of 1914-15, 90,000 sheep were lost on these two properties and Kyabra. The Department has valued the good-will of these two leases at £109,893. In other words, if the Department’s valuation be correct, instead of the combined values of the properties being £63,000, the sum paid for them, they were really worth £172,893. In 1909, at Redford, Queensland, a property was purchased for £21,000, with 6,000 cattle. . The estimated value of the improvements is £23,500. Since then three transactions have taken place on the basis of a value of £20,000 for the property, unstocked. The Department’s value of the leasehold interest is £34,000. Adding to this the value of the improve- . ments, £23,500, the improved value of the property is shown to be £57,500, yet the “ owners would be pleased to accept £25,000 for that property. Yesterday, a case in the Western District of New South Wales came under my notice. The property is held under Crown lease granted in 1875, and £100,000 has been actually spent in improvements. It is now held simply in trust. Repeated attempts have been made to sell it. At present, it carries 50,000 sheep in the wool, 3,000 cattle, and 400 horses. When I last saw the lessee, he was rushing to Sydney to see a likely buyer for the lot at £90,000. The present price of sheep in the wool is 32s. to 35s. Yet that man was prepared to sell out for practically the value of the sheep. He told me tha, he did not want to miss the chance, because if he did, it might be five or six years before he had another opportunity to sell. I refer honorable members, also, to the position of the Gallipoli and Col.labara leases, of 327 square miles, in the Warrego district of Queensland. I understand that the owner of these leases, after having spent £400 on them, was prepared to accept £200 for them, and all the stock and plant. The Federal Taxation Department had gone to the expense of having the property valued, and the value was fixed at £6,316. The leases were really not worth 6,316 pence, because later on they were abandoned, the leases and everything on them. Despite that, the lessee was assessed at £225 a year Federal land tax in respect of them. He tried in vain to dispose of the properties. Cases such as that could be quoted ad nauseam. The facts prove that tbe £1, 300, 000 represented as arrears of taxation is largely an illusory sum. If tbe basis fixed in 1914 were applied right through, it would be found to be impossible to collect the tax. Any attempt to enforce the assessments would result in numerous appeals and litigation, and the results that would follow would be disastrous to the Commonwealth, and the amount that the Treasury ultimately received would be insignificant. In consequence of the protests against the absurd discrepancies between market and assessed value, a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the whole position. It met in 1917, 1918, and 1919. The Commissioners were Sir George Knibbs, Mr H. 0. Allen, of the Victorian Lands Department, and Mr. H. A. G. Curry, “UnderSecretary for Lands in New South Wales. He was chairman of the Western Lands division in that State for some time. Mr. Curry had been engaged in the land business all his life, and was’ a thoroughly practical man. The Commission presented a majority and a minority report. The majority report summed up its conclusions in twenty-two separate recommendations. The gist of the report is given in paragraph 22, which reads -
Subject to these changes, your Commissioners recommend that the taxation of Crown leaseholds should be continued, and we are of opinion that - as previously indicated - it will in general be not more intrinsicallyburdensome than the taxation of freehold lands, and sometimes it will be much less burdensome. That is to say, if the changes suggested in twenty-one preceding recommendations were adopted, these might becontinued.
The first paragraph of the recommendations and conclusions reads -
Having, as previously indicated, made exhaustive inquiry, as required by the terms of your Commission, your Commissioners find and report as follows: -
That, owing to physical and climatic differences, the effect as between State and State of the taxation on Crown leaseholds, and the effect in the same State as between different localities, is variable; and in consequence its incidence may lead to apparently unsatisfactory results: for example, in localities where the State policy of offering the inducements of low rentals, in order to secure occupation, has been followed.
After the various States have gone to the trouble of attempting to develop their inferior and outback land, and have given special consideration to the men who are prepared to go out and live on it, the Commonwealth Government interferes with the policy to such an extent that the efforts of the States are thwarted. Another recommendation of the Commission was -
That, in what may be called “ outback “ lands, the increase in taxation, through the application of the principle of aggregation, is deemed to be inimical to occupation; and for this reason methods are suggested by which necessary alleviation can - wherever desirable - be made by an appropriate scheme for the remission of taxation, either directly or by limiting the application of the principle of aggregation.
That recommendation speaks for itself. The Commissioners were undoubtedly of opinion that there should be a remission of taxation in some way. Their next recommendations reads -
That, in times of drought and when pests prevail, and when like conditons press severely on the occupants of Crown lands, partial or complete relief from taxation should be accorded, and this should be dealt with by a Board constituted differently to the existing Board, viz., in a way referred to hereafter.
They indicated that changes would have to be made in the existing practice if the Act were to be continued at all. Paragraph 18 of their report reads -
For determining the full economic rent the rate of 4½ per cent, may still be used. It is recommended, however, that the value of the “ interest in the leasehold “ should be ascertained by capitalizing the difference between the full economic rent and the rent reserved to the Crown on a basis of about 8 per cent, instead of 4½ per cent, as heretofore. The existing system is, in the opinion of your Commissioners, inequitable.
The meaning of that paragraph is that although a certain basis of taxation might be satisfactory for city land, which has a definite market value, the same basis cannot equitably be applied to leasehold lands out-back. Instead of a 4½ per cent, basis for calculating the capital value of the lessee’s estate, the Commissioners recommend that the basis should be 8 per cent., and the Federal Commissioner of Taxation has recommended the adoption of the 8 per cent. The effect of the application of that basis would be that the taxable margin between the value of the lessee’s estate would be considerably reduced; the rack-rent and the nominal rent reaches the vanishing point and disappears.
– Why does the Treasurer say that the 8 per cent, basis would result in a vanishing point?
– I will read the departmental minute on that recommendation presently. There is no particular reason why 8 per cent, should be stated. The figure might just as reasonably be 10 per cent., 15 per cent., or 25 per cent. The 4½ per cent, basis was fixed at the beginning of the system because it was the established custom in relation to other lands, but there is no basis on which the 8 per cent, calculation can be said to rest. A minority report was presented by Mr. Curry. He was the most practical man on the Commission.
– He was the representative of the pastoralists.
– He was a man of the highest probity and integrity, and was absolutely impartial.
– Do you say the other members of the Commission were not impartial ?
– I say Mr. Curry was the most practical man among them. He was chosen because of his long experience and great knowledge of the pastoral business. This is the first time I have ever heard his impartiality, probity, or integrity challenged.
– Who is challenging it?
– The honorable member for Yarra may well look at Mr. Speaker. He stated that Mr. Curry was the representative of the pastoralists. I say that he was the chosen representative of the Government.
– Of course, he was chosen by the Government.
– I could tell the honorable member all about it, but I dare not.
– Mr. Curry’s opinions may be depended upon, because he has been so long associated with land administration. As chairman of the Western Lands Division, in New South
Wales, he was responsible for the policy which practically reclaimed that land from the dingo, and brought it into settlement. In his minority report he says -
One of your Commissioners is of opinion . that there should be -no taxation of Crown leaseholds, and that the difficulties of assigning freehold values to leasehold lands, with a reasonable degree ofprecision, are very great.
He also said that the taxation of Crown leaseholds was undesirable, in view of its reaction upon the policy of the States in relation to the occupation of Crown lands. To impose a tax on these lands is ouiy to discourage improvements on the leases, increase the hardships of the pioneers - and, I remind honorable members, that those pioneers are occupying half the total acreage of Australia - and, as has actually happened, compel them to cancel their leases. The States leased their land at its market value. The following paragraph in the report states Mr. Curry’s view : -
He feels, however, constrained to indicate that while the vacant Crown lands in the State are not taxable, they, when leased, become subject to a tax through the medium of the tenant, who has been placed in occupation upon terms which the State Government deemed wise. Those terms unquestionably become affected by the operation of the tax, and the State’s limitations as to the amount of rent chargeable have to be set aside by new valuations made by different persons and upon a different basis. Whatever rent the State Government may have abstained from charging becomes absorbable by the taxing authorities, and it ought to be supposed that the State, in doing what it did, purposely refrained from seeking the highest rent, in order to facilitate and increase production, the benefits of which would be widely diffused, not only through the State, but through the entire Commonwealth. Whatever the effects of a tax may be in reducing the area of estates,’ it ought to be supposed that it was not introduced except for the purpose of revenue - the legitimate object of a tax. On this assumption an escape from any conflict with the land policy of a State would, it seems to him, be secured by a reversion to the state of the law before the Acf of 1910 was amended, and in the case of pastoralists who gamble with seasons and pests, and who have to risk a large capital and balance heavy losses against their gains, the income tax would, in his view, have an elasticity which would accommodate itself to the land occupier’s prosperity or adversity, as the case might be.
That paragraph suggests that even if there were any justification for the imposition of the tax in 1914, when the Government may have thought that some of these Crown lessees were receiving an undue advantage - the imposition of the income tax in 1915 would take toll from the profits of such lessees, and so do away with any possible reason for the im- position of the tax imposed in 1914. The Commission, of which Mr. Curry was a member, concluded its deliberations in 1919, and the Treasurer of that time (Mr. Poynton) stated in his Budget speech that year that he had carefully considered — report submitted by the Commission, and was satisfied that the original method of assessment was inequitable. He stated that the 8 per cent, basis was to be followed in the future.
– And that he would collect the tax. The Treasurer has omitted the most important point.
– I am putting the position in my own way. A second Royal Commission on taxation also dealt with this matter, but not as exhaustively as the Royal Commission specially appointed, which submitted a report of 300 pages, but dismissed the whole question df Crown leases in two and a-half pages. Although the Commissioners gave a qualifying assent to the principle of taxation on Crown leaseholds, they further stated -
We are, therefore, of opinion that the question of exempting lessees’ interests in Crown leaseholds from taxation must be considered wholly from the point of view of policy as between the Commonwealth and the States.
I have already shown the evil effect upon settlement the Commonwealth tax upon Crown leaseholds must have. The majority report in favour of taxation on leaseholds seems to be based chiefly upon the fact of the existence of the anomaly, that a certain area in New South Wales, comprising millions of acres, which, under existing conditions, only return 7d. per sheep area per year as against adjoining land of a somewhat similar quality, which returns at least 5s. per sheep area per year. The anomaly is somewhat insignificant when compared with the total area affected. There are 968,000,000 acres of Crown leaseholds in Australia, 1,000,000 acres of which are in this particularly favoured spot. It has frequently been admitted that this country should not have h«en included in the western division of New South Wales, and it was ‘ recognised by the New South Wales Parliament that the area should have been included in the central division, where the land is of a somewhat similar quality. The question is now receiving the attention of the New South Wales Government in connexion with its closer settlement proposals, so that this anomaly will practically cease to exist. In the two and a-half pages of the Royal Commission’s report devoted to the question of taxation on Crown leaseholds, it is interesting to note upon what the Commissioners base their conclusions. One finds some remarkable statements which largely support the contention I have submitted. On page 190 of their report, it is stated -
This contention appears to have arisen largely out of the practice followed in sales of pastoral leaseholds. Such sales are very commonly upon the “ walk-in-walk-out “ basis, the price being frequently expressed in a lump sum or in terms of the unit of sheep or cattle upon the holding, the improvements and the value of the lease being included in the lump sum or price per head. In these circumstances, the notion may have arisen in the minds of some pastoralists that these leases have no value capable of being stated in terms of freehold value. This is particularly the case with regard to cattle country, which is frequently held in immense areas on which the improvements effected are of small value, and in the event of a continued drought the owners often abandon the holdings.
Despite the fact that the land is frequently abandoned, it is contended that we should impose taxation on these areas as if leases would continue to be held for a further thirty or forty years. The report continues -
In some of the States, although the law does not specifically recognise any right to abandon with a consequent cessation of liability, there is a provision (for example, in New South Wales) under which the leases may be surrendered by giving twelve months’ notice, and it appears that in other States the practice is not to demand rent after a voluntary surrender.
The condition of affairs is so common that the whole matter requires legislative consideration and enactment. The report goes on - 667. Individual cases were cited in evidence in which it appeared that tax was being assessed upon Crown leaseholds which, for certain reasons, perhaps of a transitory character, had practically no taxable value. That there is, however, in the aggregate, a large margin between the Crown rents paid and the economic rent, seems sufficiently demonstrable from -
It seems remarkable that it should have been the policy of the Commonwealth to impose taxation, thereby deliberately thwarting the policy of the States -
The evidence seems to show that in many sales there was a loss and no advantage -
This amount, to a very great extent, would disappear if the 8 per cent. capitalization were adopted as announced by Mr. Poynton, or if the market value was used as a basis of calculation. . These seem rather inadequate grounds for the conclusion come to by the Commission ; in fact, their remaining arguments support my contention. Then in paragraph 668 of the report of the Royal Commission on Taxation, in discussing its effect on State policy, it says
One of the three members of the 1919 Commission expressed the opinion that Crown leaseholds should not be subject to taxation. This opinion was based on the general ground that taxation of such areas tends to react unfavorably upon the State policy of settling the remoter Crown lands in a permanent manner. The dissenting member, who was the president of the Land Appeal Court, New South Wales, probably had in mind the special circumstances of what is known as the Western Division of that State. A succession of droughts about twenty years ago had led to very heavy losses, and the abandonment of large areas in that portion of the State seemed imminent. Following the report of a Royal Commission, the State Government constituted a statutory body known as the Western Lands Board, which has since administered the Crown lands within the Western Division. The policy then instituted was, by low rentals, long terms of lease, and a liberalizing of conditions, to encourage the holding and restocking of that country.
That is to say, that the deliberate policy of the Commonwealth by this Act is to attempt to destroy the effect of the State policy of holding and restocking that country by low rentals, long terms of leases, and liberalizing conditions; or the Commonwealth is penalizing the man in exactly the opposite way to that in which the State Government assists him, and thereby deliberately thwarting the State policy. Then fresh evidence is supplied by the Commission itself as to the validity of the deduction that these leaseholds had no freehold value as a general rule. It says in paragraph 670 that, in some cases, lands come into the hands of the Crown either by resumption in accordance with the terms of the lease or by abandonment. It is worth noticing that it is frequently by abandonment. Then the remarkable statement is made that fresh leases are often obtainable without much delay, owing to the existence of improvements which the incoming lessee can secure at a cost much below the replacement cost. If this means anything, it must mean not merely that the Crown leasehold land has a negligible freehold value, but that it is even of no value at all, as less is paid than the actual value of the improvements. Such statements as these in the general body of their report rather makes one wonder that their ultimate conclusion is that there should be a continuation of the principle of taxation of Crown leaseholds, as the whole of the arguments they deduce is in favour of its abandonment. It is interesting to consider the question of taxing Crown leaseholds from the point of view of the States’ policy. The total area of land in Australia is, roughly, 1,903,710,840 acres, of which about 170,175,320 acres is freehold and land in process of alienation, while 1,733,535,520 is Crown lands either occupied or unoccupied, so that 91 per cent. of the total land in Australia is still held by the Crown. The freehold lands, of course, constitute the most fertile regions, and are situated in the more accessible regions, those possessing the best rainfall and transport facilities. Of the Crown lands in Australia, 968,000,000 acres are held under Crown leaseholds, as it is ‘the security of tenure at reasonable rents which provides financial security, and enables tens of millions of sheep and millions of cattle to be grazed in the interior of Australia.. Of this area over 700,000,000 acres are devoted to cattleraising, and 200,000,000 acres to sheep.
Of the 700,000,000 acres devoted to cattle-raising, the bulk is situated - in tropical Australia, and consists of Crown leases either leased or occupied, most of which is stocked with cattle. It is an inopportune time to impose prohibitive taxation upon pioneers who live in these remote and most tropical parts which we so anxious to populate. It would place such a burden upon them that they would be compelled to abandon their holdings.
– The main consideration should be the settlement of the land.
– Yes. The Crown lands held in the various States are -
– Do those figures apply only to Crown leases?
– They do not include perpetual or right of purchase leases. Honorable members will see from these figures that 841,000,000 acres of these lands are in the States of Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and in the Northern Territory; 40,000,000 acres are not occupied, and the imposition of a tax of this, kind will only add to that total of unoccupied country. The revenue which has been derived since the inception of the tax amounts to £183,000. Of this amount £87,000 was collected in the first year of collection by the Central Office, £13,000 in New South Wales, £460 in Victoria, £77,000 in Queensland, £4,938 in South Australia, and about £1,800 in Western Australia. In the first three years none of this taxation could be collected in Western Australia, and in the fourth year only £1,800 was collected. It is clear that the collection of the tax was not a very profitable business in that State. When I inquired why so little tax was collected in Western Australia, I was told that their valuer was one of the fairest valuers who could be found, and he probably could not discover any considerable taxable value in the leaseholds. Outside the Central Office collections-, Queensland pays fourfifths of the tax.
– Why exempt the Central Office?
– Because there is great difficulty in breaking up the figures, and even if they were broken up I think it would be shown that the Queensland collections would be increased. Because of the £87,000 collected by the Central Office, the proportion derived from the different States would be shown to be about the same as the proportion of collections in those States. If the honorable member will look at the map of Australia, he will see that the western Queensland leasehold areas are nearer to transport facilities than are the leaseholds in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and are, therefore, of higher value. If the collections were divided on a pro rata basis, it would be shown that more than half of the tax is collected in Queensland. In that State the position has been materially altered since the amendment of the law by what is generally known in Queensland as the “ Repudiation Act.”
– It is not so known in Queensland.
– It is. generally known by that term. In Queensland it is suggested that the rentals of Crown leases were raised as a result of the Taxation Commission’s report. That showed that a taxable ‘margin was still left in Crown leases which Mr. Ryan and Mr. Theodore considered belonged to the State. I believe they were perfectly right in .that contention, because if there is a taxable balance I do not think the Commonwealth has any right to superimpose a tax on a State tax deliberately fixed at a certain rate to encourage settlement. That, however, is no justification for their action towards their own tenants in raising past rents after a definite contract was entered into.
– Excepting the Queensland leaseholds, is it not’ a fact that the Taxation Department has spent more in collecting this tax than the revenue it has produced ?
– I will deal with that in a few moments. The action taken in Queensland to raise the rental value of leases so as to leave no margin for the imposition of the Commonwealth tax was made retrospective to the last re-appraisement in that State. We are now placed in the position that, even if we could find some reasonable and firm basis upon which to base a freehold value on the Crown lands of Australia, it would be most difficult now to collect any tax, because the whole of the assessments would need to be revised from 1916 onwards, and the taxable margin would be found to have greatly diminished. The instances I have given, and the general method of transacting business in leasehold station properties show that leaseholds are usually sold at so much per head for the stock on them and improvements, with the leasehold .thrown- in. That is the only fair way. If it were desired to continue this taxation, which, Heaven forbid, the only way to deal with the matter will be to deduct the market value of the stock and improvements, and the balance would be the market value of the lease. But this has been shown in many cases to be a negligible quantity, or even less than nothing. In the second place, in Queensland, where the bulk of the tax is paid, the conditions have been largely altered. There might have been some justification for a tax of this sort in the beginning, though I do not think there ever was, because I think the margin of value belonged to the State, and should have been left to the State. In Queensland the restriction which previously existed with regard to being able to increase the rental value by over 50 per cent, has been removed, and now in that State the rental value can be raised up to its full value, so that it is no longer a question as to whether leaseholders shall pay something or not, but whether they should pay, first of all, the full value of the leases to the State Government, and an additional unexpected tax to the Commonwealth after the State has received the whole of its dues. I find that in Queensland rentals have been increased by as much as 150 per cent, and 200 per cent., and as these increases were made retro spective in many cases1 leaseholders have been brought to the brink of ruin, and some have actually been ruined by these heavy retrospective impositions. I would point out that the Commonwealth does not collect a tax on goodwill on other forms of wealth. It is true that when the lease of an hotel is sold, that is taken into consideration, but we do not tax the goodwill of an hotel every year, as at present we tax the goodwill of a lease. There seems to be no morality in a proposition which for taxation singles out the goodwill of Crown leases from other forms of wealth. In any case, if there is a goodwill in a lease, it is really an asset of the State and not of the Commonwealth. This view of the matter has been taken by the Queensland Government, who, on the imposition of the leasehold taxation, saw the possibility of the Commonwealth Government collecting some revenue on their State interests. Seeing this, they increased their rentals to such an extent that anything in the shape of goodwill was greatly reduced. They collected £600,000 in the retrospective way I have referred to. In Western Australia’ and the Northern Territory any attempt to impose this tax will leave the country more nearly empty and unoccupied than it is at present. It will be a home for the dingo, the prickly pear, and other pests! In pioneering country suitable for sheep the leaseholder must let his stock increase from year to year. He must keep such increase to stock up his country while he makes provision for water and fencing improvements. On this increase, oil which he does not realize, he hae to pay income tax each year in cash, and to put a theoretical value on his holding. To tax the pioneer on that, in addition to his unrealized income, is an absurdity. To sum up, in the first place the morality of the present law in singling out one class of the community cannot be defended. In the second place, the present law does not carry out the principles that were presumed to underlie the Land Tax Act. It does not assist at all to prevent the aggregation of freehold estates in the hands of one person, nor can it secure any unearned increment of value, as this is already taken by the State . in reappraisements. In the third place, the tax is most difficult to assess. Almost every case is certain to be subject to appeal, and, consequently, to litigation, and at the present time it is costing a very considerable portion of the tax to collect it, without litigation. If the Act were altered in the direction suggested by the Commission, it would probably cost 50 per cent, or more to collect the tax. It is estimated that the tax would return, under the old basis, a sum of £200,000 to the Commonwealth. A departmental minute in 1919 was to the effect that if the8 per cent, basis were adopted, instead of the 4½ per cent, basis, the amount would be reduced by £100,000. The collection of the tax would tend to result in the evacuation of much of the very sparsely-settled lands of the continent, and we have a special interest in the cattle industry, which at the present time is passing through such a trough of depression that theCommonwealth Government has been forced to come to its aid by means of bonuses upon the export of beef. The retention of the Act, even though the collection of the tax is still suspended, produces a feeling of uncertainty in the minds of these holders, and prevents new capital and new men from going into the industry. The States, especially in the case of Queensland, have, since the passage of the amending Act, practically secured the whole of the revenue that the Commonwealth could secure ; and if any amendments such as have been suggested by the various Commissions that have sat, involving the raising of the percentage basis, were adopted, there would be practically no margin of tax to collect. In all these circumstances, the only reasonable and proper course seems to be to repeal the Act, and refund all payments made since the present tax was suspended by the Treasurer in 1918; to collect all payments that were due on the 30th June, 1917; and to dispense with the administrative staff that has been doing this useless and unprofitable work. Quite apart from the merits of the case, the great cost of collection, and the little return, in the absence of any other benefit that could be derived, warrant the repeal of the measure. Its presence on the statute-book, even though its operation is suspended, entails a large amount of administrative work for which there is no return, while it hangs like the sword of Damocles over the industry, to prevent the introduction of new cattle. It was found impossible to collect this tax when the price of cattle was at its highest. What chance is there of doing so now, when the industry is in a state which we all regret?
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill he now read a second time.
This is a very small Bill. The purpose of it is to extend the operations of section 7 of the War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1920-22. That section provides that the War Precautions Regulations governing the registration and activities of foreign companies operating within the Commonwealth shall continue until the end of the present year. This Bill will extend the operation of the present law until the 31st December, 1924. It is desired to continue the present control over companies in which the predominating interests are ex-enemy, and over companies which desire to register for the purpose of carrying on manufacturing, mining, and industrial operations outside the Commonwealth. It is desired, also, to continue control over foreign companies generally, including fire and marine insurance companies. Before permitting any non-British fire and marine insurance company to register, it has been the practice for some years past to require the company to lodge a deposit with the Treasury in order to afford protection for local policy holders and creditors. This requirement is on the lines of legislation in the United States of America and New Zealand, which obliges foreign-owned insurance companies to make deposits varying from £50,000 to £150,000.
.- The honorable the Minister has moved the second reading of this Bill in a very few words. He gave an address that was so hurried that I had no opportunity to follow it. I wish to make one criticism of the Bill so far as I understand it. It is submitted as a short Bill, and is said to be quite innocuous. The comment I have to make on it is that there is not one honorable member in this Chamber who knows fully what is contained in it. It is an excellent illustration of the very bad habit of attempting to legislate by reference to a number of complicated rules and regulations which are not before the House. An illustration of this is afforded by reference to the War Precautions Act Repeal Act of 1920, section 7 of which, referring to the subject matter of the Bill now before the House, says -
In this section, unless the contrary intention appears, “the War Precautions (Companies, Firms, and Businesses) Regulations” means the regulations comprised in Statutory Rules 1916, No. 49, as amended by Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 35, 289, and 328, by Statutory Rules 1910, No. 96, and by Statutory Rules 1920, No. 2.
From time to time these regulations have been re-enacted, or their operation has been extended, although we have passed an Act the general object of which is to repeal the War Precautions Act. This matter has been committed to my care by my leader (Mr. Charlton), and I have taken the trouble to refer to these various rules and regulations. In this way, I have gathered some little knowledge of what is in them. Without boasting that I possess any special knowledge of the subject, I venture to say that there is no other member who knows what is contained in these regulations. My leader has not had a moment in which to refer to them. It is scandalous to ask us to pass a Bill of this kind after 11 o’clock at night, when not a single honorable member knows what he is legislating on.
– This Bill is confined to foreign corporations.
– I believe that is true; but instead of continually extending the operation of the regulations, the matter should be dealt with in a comprehensive Bill, which honorable members could read, and thus know what was proposed. I am not objecting to the substance Of the Bill, but it is presented in a manner which prevents honorable members from fully appreciating its meaning. That is a very just criticism, and I propose to make no other. If the Bill is found to have defects, or to give rise to abuses, the responsibility is not fairly with its critics, but with its sponsors, for the way in which it is placed before us.
.- This is one of those “ small “ Bills that one does not understand, and the explanation of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) does not assist us iri any way. It is remarkable that we should have these amending Bills from time to time when we have practically repealed the War Precautions Act itself. We have to take it for granted that the Bill is necessary, but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that nothing ought to be taken for granted. However, at this hour I ask leave to continue my speech later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that, as the session is rapidly drawing to a close, honorable members will have very few opportunities of bringing the important matters mentioned in the motions on the noticepaper before Parliament. The motions of which notice has been given by private members are of momentous importance to the people. The first stands in the name of the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), and I am sure that he would not place a motion on the notice-paper if it were not in the public interest. It relates to the authorization of Hansard-
– An honorable member may not discuss the merits of any motion on the notice-paper.
– There is another important motion by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). This is a humanitarian matter.
– I cannot hear- the honorable member any more in that direction.
– Another motion, standing in the name of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), relates to a shipping service for Tasmania. Parliament has already been asked to make a special payment to that State out of the public treasury-
– Order ! The honorable member should be well aware that he is not in order in referring to the merits of a question on the notice-paper, and I cannot hear him if he proposes to do so further.
– My ignorance of parliamentary procedure has got me into this position. The Government should make up its mind and let honorable members know when the motions of which notice has been given will be considered by the House. There is another motion dealing with soldiers, who have not been treated as honorable members wish to see them dealt with. I know of one case in which a soldier was illegally discharged, and was forced to live at the expense of his friends. There is also a motion in the name of thehonorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). It is a railway matter-
-The honorable member is out of order, and I shall put the question.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to the subject of the property of German nationals. This matter has been held up for a long period, and the time is now ripe for the Government to take definite’ action to clear it up finally. The case I have in mind has already been brought to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), but I have failed to obtain satisfaction. If the matter is not satisfactorily dealt with during the recess, I hope that the Prime Minister will bring down the necessary measure early next session. There was a farmer in my district who was interned during the late war. He was sent to the Liverpool camp for three years, during which period his wife and children conducted his farm. Although he was not naturalized, he had been in Australia for thirty-five years, and had a family of eight children. Since his release from the internment camp, a fine of £500 has been placed upon his property, and only by the payment of that amount will the farm again be made free. If this farmer committed an offence against the laws of this country, surely his three years’ detention was sufficient punishment.He should not be penalized a second time by having to pay £500. This would penalize his wife, who is an Australian woman, and also his children.
– I call attention to the state of the House.
– That is very unkind of the honorable member.
– I am giving, the honorable member some of his own medicine. [Quorum formed.]
– I hope the Prime Minister will take this matter into consideration, and that in the next session something will be done to meet the needs of these people. It is time the business was finalized; these punishments should not be kept hanging over the heads of residents of German origin.
– The representations which the honorable member has made will receive the fullest consideration. .
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In view of the fact that I moved the adjournment of the House, and that the motion was negatived, I am sure honor- able members of the Opposition will now desire that the House adjourn, in order that the Ministry may look into their position.
.- I move -
That the right honorable the Prime Minister is deserving of censure for refusing to obey the decision of tbe House.
– The honorable member must request leave to submit the motion he has just submitted. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member be granted leave ?
– Then the honorable the Leader of the Opposition must give notice of the motion.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The Prime Minister, having moved a motion for the adjournment of the House, and that motion having been negatived, the Chair cannot, on the same day, accept a motion in the samel terms from any honorable member but a Minister of the Crown.
– I move-
– I move -
That the Prime Minister be no longer heard.
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to say-
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
– The question now is -
That this House do now adjourn.
For the information of honorable members I desire to state that after the division I propose to leave the Chair for a brief period.
– That is what we want you to do, Mr. Speaker.
– I propose to do that with, the concurrence of the House.
– We dp not want you to do that, Mr. Speaker. It is my intention to move that you leave the Chair..
– There is no occasion to submit a motion in those terms. If it is the desire of honorable members that the House should now adjourn, honorable members may call off the division; but I cannot take a motion for the adjournment of the House except from a Minister of the Crown.
– In order to facilitate business, may we call off the division, and then may I submit the motion that you leave the Chair?
– If the honorable member calls off the division the motion must pass in the affirmative, because it was so declared from the Chair. After the division I propose to vacate the chair for a brief period.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Imove -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair.
– If honorable members will allow me, I propose to do that on my own initiative.
– No; we object. I am not reflecting on you, Mr. Speaker, as you are entirely in the hands of the House. I move -
ThatMr. Speakerdo now leave thechair.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Mahony) agreed- to -
That the question be nowput.
– The honorable member for Dalley has moved, “That the question be now put.”
The House divided.
Majority . . 8
Several honorable members interjecting.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. SPEAKER left the chair at 11.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230816_reps_9_105/>.