9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-In view of the ad verse vote on the question of Imperial preference recently given in the House of Commons, and the very far-reaching and injurious effect the decision must have on soldier and other settlement on our irrigation areas, will the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) consult with the Leader of the Opposition to ascertain whether, even at this belated hour, the Opposition will see fit to abandon its attitude of indifference on this vital matter, in order that a united appeal may be made to the Labour Government of Great Britain, in the hope that the decision may yet be reversed.
– I think the honorable member’s question would more appropriately have been addressed to the Leader of the Opposition. I have appealed to him and to; all the members of the Opposition to support the Government in its efforts to obtain preference for the industries of Australia., but my efforts in that direction have not been successful. I do not think there is much prospect of achieving what the honorable member desires.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Labour party has made it publicly known that it was in favour of preference, and would have voted for it had that matter been placed before the House separately? Further, is he aware that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) was one of a number in this House who prevented the Labour party from expressing its views on this question?
– It is difficult to answer the honorable member without appearing to try to score a political advantage.. I remind the honorable gentleman that he had every opportunity to assist the Government ‘in its efforts to influence the British Government towards granting preference: Those opportunities were all scorned by the honorable gentlemen opposite, and the assistance, which, under existing political circumstances in Great Britain, would have been of the greatest value, was not forthcoming. For that I express my regret.
– It was due to the manner in. which the Government presented the matter to the House.
– In view of the fact that Canada, with an unlimited market for raisins and currants, has made an offer of special preference to Australia, will the Prime Minister inform the House why the papers connected therewith have not been laid on the table?
– As the honorable memr ber is no doubt aware, negotiations have taken place between this Government and I the Government of Canada regarding a reciprocal trade arrangement. Senator Wilson proceeded to Canada during the, 1 period he was abroad, and consulted with r the Canadian Government. He returned 3 to Australia only a fewdays ago, and there has not been an opportunity since then to discuss the matter with him. As - soon as a decision has been arrived at, r the intention of the Governmentwill be o made clear to the House.
Mil-. FENTON- In a Bill which passed through this Chamber last night provision is made for the payment of £125,000 to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which sum it is proposed to raise by- way of loan. Seeing that the Treasurer next month is expected to announce a surplus of £10,000,000, does the Prime Minister not think that a better course would be to pay that money from the surplus, instead of borrowing it at 6 per cent. ?
– I am afraid that, in reply to questions without notice, I cannot express my opinion on every matter which may be raised by honorable members. Every opportunity was given last night, while the Bill was under discussion, for the point raised by the honorable member to be discussed. Later, when financial measures are before the House, further opportunity for discussion will be given.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for Works and Railways whether he would consider the advisability of commencing the earthworks ou the railway from Eumungalan to Mataranka, in the Northern Territory, with a view to absorbing a number of unemployed. That section of the lino has been permanently surveyed. The Minister then said he would give the matter consideration. I now ask him whether that has been done, and, if so, what decision was arrived at!
– I very much regret that the honorable member has not been furnished with a reply. I shall again look into the matter, and shall let the honorable member know as soon as possible.
– Has the Government yet arrived at any decision in the skin wool case?
– Certain representations were made to the Government by those persons who put into the Wool Pool skin wool, which was subsequently purchased by Great Britain. After those representations were made, counter representations were made by other interests concerned in that wool. The Government has considered the views expressed by both sides, and further consideration will be given them during the early part of next week: I hope to be in a position to make an announcement of the Government’s decision on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The reply to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The following Conventions have been received : -
Draft Convention limiting the hours of work in industrial undertakings to eight in the day and 48 in the week.
Draft Convention concerning unemployment.
Draft Convention concerning the employment of women before and after childbirth.
Draft Convention concerning the employment of women during the night.
Draft Convention giving the minimum age’ for admission of children to industrial employment.
Draft Convention concerning the night work, of young persons employed in industry.
Draft Convention giving the minimum age for admission of children to employment at sea.
Draft Convention concerning unemployment indemnity in case of loss or foundering of ship.
Draft Convention for establishing facilities for finding employment for seamen.
Draft Convention concerning the age for admission of children to employment in agriculture.
Draft Convention concerning the rights of association and combination of agricultural workers.
Draft Convention concerning workmen’s compensation in agriculture.
Draft Convention concerning the use of white lead in painting.
Draft Convention concerning the application of the weekly rest in industrial undertakings.
Draft Convention giving the minimum age for the admission of young persons to employment as trimmers and stokers.
Draft Convention concerning the compulsory medical examination of children and young persons employed at sea.
The following recommendations have been received: - (.1) Recommend a-t ion concerning unemployment.
Recommendation concerning reciprocity of treatment of foreign workers.
Recommendation concerning the prevention of anthrax.
Recommendation concerning the protection of women and children against lead poisoning.
Recommendation concerning the establishment of government health services.
Recommendation concerning the application of the Berne Convention of 1906 on the prohibition of the use of white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches.
Recommendation concerning the limitation of hours of work in the fishing industry.
Recommendation concerning the limitation of hours of work in inland navigation.
Recommendation concerning the establishment of national seamen’s codes.
Recommendation concerning unemployment insurance for seamen.
Recommendation concerning the prevention of unemployment in agriculture.
Recommendation concerning the protection before and after child-birth of women wage-earners in agriculture.
Recommendation concerning night work of women in agriculture.
Recommendation concerning night work of children and young persons in agriculture.
Recommendation concerning the development of technical agricultural education.
Recommendation concerning living-in conditions of agricultural workers.
Recommendation concerning social insurance in agriculture.
Recommendation concerning the application of the weekly rest in commercial establishments.
Recommendation concerning communication to the International Labour Office of statistics and other information regarding emigration, immigration, and the repatriation and transit of emigrants.
Recommendation concerning the general principles for the organization of system of in spection to secure the enforcement of the laws and regulations for the protection of ‘the workers’.
Recommendations do not call for ratification.
Conventions may be ratified within the direction of members of the League; but the Treaty provides that in the case of a Federal State the power of which to enter into conventions on labour matters is subject to limitations, it is in the discretion of that Government to treat a Convention as a recommendation only, and the provisions with respect to recommendations shall apply in such case.
Most of the Conventions relate to matters falling wholly within State jurisdiction; those which do not are within both the Commonwealth and State jurisdiction, and are as follow : -
Draft Convention giving the minimum age for admission of children to employment at sea.
Draft Convention concerning unemployment indemnity in case of loss or foundering of ship.
Draft Convention for establishing facilities for finding employment for seamen.
Draft Convention giving the minimum age for1 the admission of young persons to employment as trimmers and stokers.
Draft Convention concerning the compulsory medical examination of children and young persons employed at sea.
No Conventions have yet been ratified.
No. The Conventions which relate to matters falling within the competence of the State authorities have been referred to the State Governments as recommendations only, and ratification is not necessary. All recommendations: which fall within State jurisdiction have been duly referred.
Shortage of Funds
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Government attaches great importance to the question of the application of science to industry, and considers there is great necessity in Australia for continuous and well organized scientific investigation. Difficulty has been experienced in the past in connexion with this matter by reason of the existence in the various States of Departments carrying on work of this character, which has led to a certain measure of duplication. Subject to this duplication being done away with, the Government is prepared to take active steps to expand the work of the Institute of Science and Industry. The provision of funds for the next financial year is now receiving the attention of the Government. The matters referred to by the honorable member will receive careful consideration .
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Recently representatives of the butter industry submitted proposals to the Government which included export control, interstate control, and fixing of prices within Australia for butter. These proposals have been carefully and fully considered by the Government, and several consultations have taken place with representatives of the industry. In the form in which the proposals were submitted it was impracticable to give effect to them, and this fact is recognized by the representatives referred to. Negotiations are still proceeding with a view to arriving at some practical arrangement which will help the industry.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Promotion’ of Officers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. These promotions have been held in abeyance pending investigation in connexion with the classification.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’3 questions are as follow : -
Administration of War Pensions
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - -
Select Committee, Royal Commission, or other authority to conduct an investigation into this matter ?
– The Government already has this important subject under consideration.
Oaths of SECRECY and Allegiance. Mr. FORDE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether every official ‘ of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea is asked to sign an oath of secrecy, as well as un oath of allegiance ?
Is every missionary in the Mandated Territory asked to sign an oath of secrecy, and also an oath of allegiance?
Will the Minister make available with his replies copies of the oaths in question?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice^-
In view of the increasing heavy rate of exchange on the export of products and, the necessity for a reduction in the rate, will’ he favorably consider the advisability of providing for -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. I have no information, and I am afraid it is impossible to answer these questions.
Notice of motion No. 2 (by Mr. FORDE) relating to Administration of New Guinea, by leave, withdrawn.
Debate resumed from 13th June (vide page 1292), on motion by Dr. EARLE Page -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in moving the second reading of this Bill, gave a history of the central banking systems in many countries. That information will no doubt be of considerable assistance to members in debating the Bill. The Commonwealth Bank was established by a Labour Government, and, under the guidance of the late Sir Denison Miller, made progress which, although substantial, has not been so rapid as those who created the Bank desired. “We expected that it would become a national bank, truly a people’s bank. To do that it would have to come into competition with the existing banks, but it has not come into keen competition with them. There are many large towns in Australia where a branch of the bank i3 desired, but where one does not exist. I mention these facts to indicate that it has not functioned up. to the expectations of the party that created it. If we had continued in power, we should certainly have taken steps to make it a truly national bank, operating in the interests of the people of Australia. In view of the great difficulties that the management of the Bank had to face, one can understand perhaps why it did not make such great strides as we desired. When the original Bill was before this House members of the then Government were warned to be careful about the legislation that they were endeavouring to pass. They were told that it was “ill-digested,” and that if it was put into operation it would injure the country. To illustrate the attitude of opponents of the Bill, I shall quote a few extracts from the speeches of honorable members who then sat on this, but afterwards moved to the other side. The Bill was introduced by Mr.1 Andrew “fisher, who moved that it be read a second time. Sir Joseph Cook, now High Commissioner in London, interjected that it was to give “ sovereigns for every one,” meaning, of course, that the Government was giving away the people’s money. The ex-member for Angas (Mr. Glynn) did not think that there was any urgent necessity for the Bill, even if there was any necessity for it at all. The ex-member for Richmond, who is now Senator Massy Greene, was very anxious that the Bank should not be established. He said -
I should like to say at the outset that the deeper we go into it, and the more we read about it, the more doubtful we shall be. . .’
I do almost beg of the Government, before they finally commit themselves arid the ‘House to (this particular scheme, to’ have a thorough inquiry made. . . . We cannot tell whether this may be found to be. the worst possible proposal which Australia could have adopted.
That protest came from an honorable member who was regarded as a financial expert. The then member for- East Sydney, Mr. Kelly-
– Not East Sydney !
– I have apparently done an injustice to the honorable member for East Sydney. I forgot that he succeeded a much larger figure in politicsthan Mr. Kelly, who represented the constituency of Wentworth. He said -
The financing is clumsy, and difficult, and bound to lead to muddle of a serious nature.
The following objections were also taken to the measure : Mr. Fairbairn said -
If the people desire such a hank, they must have it, though those who are clamouring for it will be disappointed in it when they get it. . . .
If we arc to have a national bank, let it be. conducted on proper lines, and not by a mere hole-and-corner institution.
These were the views of the late Lord
It has not been proved that “the measure is urgently needed, or that there is a gapwhich it will fill. . . .
As there is no urgency for the measure, I should like the Government to postpone it. To establish a bank on unsafe lines will do. no good, and may do a great deal of harm.
The late Mr. Deakin said -
So novel an institution - one so unknown and unprecedented - requires novel and unprecedented conditions for the security of the people whose money is at stake.
Sir Robert Best said ;
I say that no substantial benefits or advantages are going to be achieved by a transfer such as is now proposed by this Bill.
Sir John Quick said ;
My fundamental objection to the scheme in the Bill is that it lias no substantial precedent in the history of the world’s finance and banking.
Sir Joseph Cook said ;
So far as the great struggling masses outside are concerned, this is another piece of Dead Sea fruit that the Government are offering them. . . .
The House ought to pause before plunging into this enterprise, which must be fraught with serious consequences to the future of Australia.
Among those who voted against’ the third reading of the Bill were two members of the., present Government, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) and the
Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Atkinson). From these facts it will be seen that the management of the Bank had to be very careful. It -had to take cognizance of a strong political party that was opposed to a national bank in any shape or form. In addition, people outside of Parliament with strong influence in financial circles opposed the Bill, and everything possible was done, I have no doubt, to prevent the Bank from coming into competition with private banks. The Treasurer has told us that absence of competition has made his task very much easier to-day in converting the Bank into a central bank. There can be no doubt of the necessity for the Commonwealth Bank. Records show that the banking institutions of thi3 country are on a very sound basis. In the Official Year-Book for 1923 there is a table dealing with the cheque-paying banks and their resources. I have no desire to quote the figures, except to say that the dividends of the private banks range from 7 per cent, up to 20 per cent. While the subscribed capital is £50,122,469, the amount placed to reserve, after paying dividends from time to time is £32,928,568. It is a good thing for the country that these private institutions are financially sound, but the figures show the necessity for the Commonwealth taking control of banking in order to regulate it in the interests of the people. Finance in the Commonwealth should be our Rock of Gibraltar, for it controls everything. Many of our present day difficulties have their origin in finance. It is claimed that the Bill is introduced to extend the powers of the Bank. The powers which the Bill claims to confer, however, are already in the Act; they were put there by the Labour party. If honorable members will refer to section 7 of the Act they will see that this is so; they will find that the powers of the Bank remain intact in the amending Bill, which confers no additional powers. We have to look, therefore, for some other reason for proposing to amend the Act. When speaking on this aspect of the matter, the Treasurer said -
When the question of a Commonwealth Bank was first mooted, it was generally expected that a truly national bank would be established - a bank of deposit, issue, discount, exchange, and reserve. When the Bill was introduced, however, expectations were not realized, and when the Bank began to function it became perfectly clear that a national bank had not been established, but merely a governmental institution in competition with the private banks. The Bill the Government now brings forward is designed to carry out the original expectation.
Why is it that the Treasurer so scathingly condemns the limitation of the Bank’s powers? Is not the Commonwealth Bank a. bank of deposit? Every one knows it is. There is provision to that effect in section 7 of the Act, and there is nothing in the Bill to amend it. Is it not a bank of issue ? Again, there is not one word in the Bill that alters the provision in the Act, which remains in the form in which it passed this House. Is it not a bank of exchange 1 Not one word in the Bill makes it more a bank of exchange than it is, for the Bill will give no additional power. The power is in the Act, and if the Bank has not reached out far enough in these directions, it was only necessary to make it do so. It is idle for the Treasurer to claim that the Bill confers additional powers when it does not do so. Is not the Commonwealth Bank already a bank of reserve ? There is nothing in the Bill to make it such. The Bank remains as it was originally, yet we hear much about it being given wider powers. What, then, is the motive behind the Bill, for T have shown clearly that it will netgive additional powers to the Bank ? It provides, among other things, for an increase of capital. Here again the Go’vernment proposes to do something that is unnecessary, for the Fisher Government made provision for . a. capital of £10,000,000. Fortunately the Bank was able to carry on without raising so much money, and it has actually made a profit of £4,000,000. The Treasurer now proposes that half .that profit shall go into the Treasury, and that the Bank shall .borrow £6,000,000 from him at the current rate of interest. The amount of capital which the Bank may raise under this measure is the same as under the original Act. The Treasurer proposes that half the Bank’s profits shall De paid into the Sinking Fund Redemption Fund. I have no objection to using the profits of the Bank in this way, but I think that the Bank’s first duty is to liquidate any debts it incur3 by borrowing. Then the profits could well be used to reduce the national debt. But the Bank will be placed in a. most unfair -position if it is compelled to apply part of its profits to reduce the national debt before ifc has liquidated its liabilities. As a matter of fact, the real object of the Government in introducing the Bill is to place the management of the Bank tinder the control of a board of directors. It is provided that there shall be eight directors. Two of these shall be appointed from within the Public Service, one of whom shall be the Secretary to the Treasury and the other the Governor of the Bank. The remaining six directors shall be appointed to represent various big interests. Two are to be financial experts, two are to represent the pastoral interests and two the manufacturing interests of the country. The big pastoral interests have played a very important part in the government of Australia during the last two years - altogether too large a part, in fact. The Board of Directors is to control all the affairs of the Bank, including the ‘Note Issue Department, which is to be entirely handed over to them. The Bill is nothing less than an attempt to kill the Bank. How can the institution be made more of a national Bank than it is when it is proposed to appoint as directors persons who, generally speaking, are entirely opposed to the nationalization of banking, or of anything else? The board of directors, with the exception of the two public servants, and possibly the two special currency officers, will, if the Bill is passed, be composed of men who, are altogether out of sympathy with the objects of a real national bank operating in competition with the existing private banks. The Treasurer may say in reply to this contention that no managers or officers of private banks will be eligible for appointment to the Board of Directors. That is so, but there is nothing in the Bill to say that men who hold large interests in private banks shall not be appointed. In fact, it may happen that a very heavy shareholder in a private bank will be appointed to the Board. It is hardly in accord with human nature to expect such a, man to operate the Bank in the interests of the general public. His first concern will be the preservation of the interests of the private banking enterprises with which he is connected.
– That is the scheme.
– I believe that it is. Why should we appoint men from outside the Commonwealth Service to guide the affairs of the Bank 1 “ Th’e Treasurer stated in his speech that the practice the Government proposes <“o adopt has been followed by other national banks, which he mentioned, but I shall show, chiefly from information supplied by the Treasurer himself, that there are fundamental differences between his proposal ‘ and the conditions which govern the banks to which he referred. The Board of Directors is to control the note issue and issue new notes from time to time, but the Bill provides no method by which its activities in this respect may be supervised. It will be quite possible for it to protect the interests of private banks which desire to discount their bills by issuing such a number of notes that they will accumulate in the private banks, and no reserve will be available in the Commonwealth Bank to meet them. That position cannot be avoided. Another objectionable feature of the proposed Board is the considerable expense it will involve. Of the eight directors five are to receive £600, and the chairman £1,000 per annum. The other two will be public servants. It is provided that the Board shall sit at least once a month. In practice that is what will happen, and the members of the Board will thus receive £50 per sitting. The Board will cost £4,000 per annum, apart from the salaries of the two public servants. It is provided, in addition, that there shall be advisory boards- in the principal cities. I sUppose that means one board in each State. These are to consist of three members, each of whom will receive £200 per annum. Therefore the advisory boards will cost an additional £3,600. The management of a bank is thus to involve an expenditure of £7,600 per annum. The Bill provides that, as far as possible, the members of the Central Board shall also be members of the subsidiary boards, but nothing is said about whether they are to receive two salaries. It is quite like], that the men who occupy these dual positions will receive £600 per annum by reason of their membership of the Central Board, and another £200 per annum by reason of their membership of the local Board. Altogether too many boards have been appointed in Australia lately. The Government is controlled by boards. We have the Tariff Board, the Public Service Board, the Note Issue Board, the Commonwealth Line Board, the .Canberra Board, the Fruit Board, the-‘ Meat Board, the Expropriation
Board, the Film Censor Board, the Repatriation Board, the War Service Homes Board, the War Service Homes Advisory. Board. the War Service Homes Disposals Board, the Murray River Board, the Military Board, the Naval Board, and the Air Board. A dare say that if I had had more time I could have added quite a number of others to the list. It Ls sufficiently long, however, to indicate clearly that the administration of the country in the last two or three years has been handed over to boards, and that the members of the Government, have been passing on their responsibilities to other people The time has come when Ministers .should retain ‘ full responsibility for the administration of affairs. We should get back to responsible government, and the work involved in acceptance of Cabinet portfolios should be done by the Ministers, who should be directly answerable to Parliament. In the present circumstances, when complaints are made about loose administrative methods, Ministers never fail to blame the various boards. They will not accept responsibility which rightly is theirs. If Parliament agrees to the appointment of a Board of Directors for the Commonwealth Bank, and it is found, subsequently, that the affairs cf that institution are not being conducted satisfactorily - that, in short, the Bank is becoming a bankers’ bank instead of a national bank - the Government will doubtless say “ The Board is to blame.” It will shelter itself behind this Board as it has behind many others. I strongly object to the long term for which appointees to the Board will hold office. One member is to be appointed for seven years, and others for six, five, four, three, and two years, respectively. Why should they be appointed for such long periods? There is only one reason. Itis that the Government anticipates that another party will shortly occupy the Treasury bench, and it wishes to tie the hands of the new Ministers. That is the plain explanation of this aspect of the proposal. No one can justify appointing a member of such a. Board as this for seven years. Who can say whether the appointee will do his work satisfactorily ? The Government may feci confident when it makes its selection that the appointee is fully qualified, but it may find after he has occupied the position for a little while, (hat he is incom- petent. In such a case it will be very difficult to discharge him. No man “in ordinary business life would appoint an officer to an important position such as this will be for such a long term unless he had the fullest possible confidence in the man’s ability. I could understand the Government proposing that, the members of the Board should hold office for, say, two years. By that time it would be possible to ascertain whether they were competent, and if they were they could easily be re-appointed. To suggest appointing them for seven, six, five, four, or even three years, is ridiculous. The Bill proposes that the Bank shall have power to rediscount bills of exchange for other banks. In that connexion the Treasurer said -
One of the most important functions of a central bank is that of re-discounting, by means of which, under all ordinary circumstances, each other bank is able to convert its bills of exchange into legal tender money.
He also observed -
Whenever a slight monetary stringency manifests itself there is a tendency for bankers tomake every effort towards increase of ‘cash reserves. Thus the stringency is aggravated .
The Treasurer proposes to cure financial stringency by inflation. That could bedone easily, of course, by issuing additional notes, and I remind honorable members that the Government will have » no power to limit the issue of notes by the Board. Those who control the Bank will control the notes. . Therefore it will be a simple thing for them to cure monetary stringency by inflating the currency. One evil is to be checked by developing another. May I remind the House that in all othercountries the central banks require the member banks to pay reserves into the central institution. This Bill makes noprovision for a reserve to be controlled by the Commonwealth Bank. Any private . bank is to be allowed to present its bill for discount without offering any security. The Treasurer said that the Government did not propose to make it compulsory for private banks to pay in. reserves; he thought it would be better to leave that optional, but lie hoped that the blinks would put some reserves intothe Commonwealth Bank. How any intelligent man can propose to ‘leave it optional with the private banks to deposit reserves in the central bank which, is. to- discount the bills of private banks is beyond my comprehension. The Treasurer gave a summary of the banking practice in other countries, and it showed that in every instance the depositing of reserves in the central bank is obligatory.
– In other countries where the central bank keeps the reserves the private banks find the capital.
– Exactly ; and one of the weaknesses of this Bill is that it will compel the Commonwealth to provide the capital. The Treasurer stated -
The Government believes that it is proposing all that can be done by legislation towards bringing about a true system of central banking.
But he admits that the system he has proposed is not in operation in other countries.
– It is in operation in England.
– That is the one exception. I may be pardoned if I have a suspicion that the bank managers have been in close contact with the Treasurer or his officials in connexion with the drafting of this Bill. A rumour is current that -the first draft was withdrawn or considerably amended at the instance of private bankers.
– That is quite untrue.
– I am glad to have the Treasurer’s assurance. It is certain, however, that the private bankers are very well satisfied with the proposals that the Government has made. The Treasurer further stated -
The policy of the management up to the present has been not to enter into active rivalry with the trading banks, and in pursuance of this policy the interest payable on Commonwealth Saving Bank deposits is and has always been lower than the interest paid by the State institutions. It is fortunate that the policy is such as has beeen described, because by reason of that policy the conversion of the Commonwealth Bank into a central bank has been rendered easier.
I have always contended that the Commonwealth Bank has not been developed to the extent that was intended by the Labour party when the Bank was founded, and if that restriction of development facilitates the conversion of the bank into a central bank governed by such loose conditions as the Treasurer has indicated, it is very much to be regretted. I invite the attention of honorable members to some features of the practice of central banks in other countries. The capital of the United States central banks must be subscribed by the private banks in proportion to the assets of teach bank. This Bill makes no such proposal. In the United States each bank must keep a balance in the central bank, equal to 7 per cent, of demand deposits and 3 per cent, of time deposits. This Bill does not provide for that. The whole of the Commonwealth credit is to be made available to be drawn upon by the private banks, and they are not to be required to place one penny of reserves into the Commonwealth Bank as security for the bills that they get discounted.
– Is the American Central Bank a trading bank?
– How can it be if it is a central bank? It demands that the trading banks shall make deposits, but the Commonwealth Bank is to re-discount the bills of the trading banks without asking for any security.
– Does the honorable member think that the central bank will re-discount the bills of the trading banks if they do not offer security ?
– This Bill provides no safeguard in that regard, and if representatives of private institutions are to be allowed to sit on the Board we cannot say what will happen.
– If this Bill contained a similar provision to that operating in the United States the trading banks of Australia would have to pay £14,000,000 into the central bank as a reserve.
– That is so. The Federal Reserve Board in the United States has power to examine the books and affairs of each member bank. The only provision in this Bill is that the member bank shall present a quarterly report; there is no power of examination. The Federal Reserve Board of the United States can compel the writing off of doubtful assets of the Federal Reserve Banks. The Commonwealth Bank will not be able to do that. The Federal Reserve Board in the United States practically ‘ controls banking practice in America. The Commonwealth Central Bank will have no such control. The Federal Reserve Board has power to impose a levy upon each member to make up any deficiency in the value of reserves within the Central Bank. This Bill does not confer that power.
– The American Central Bank is owned by the constituent banks.
– Yes ; and because it is dealing with private capital it takes these precautions.. The Commonwealth Central Bank is to deal with public capital, and no safeguards are provided. The American Government issues guarantee notes to the Central Bank against deposited values. It exercises through the medium of the Reserve Board supervisory power over the banking system of the country; but it does not contribute one penny of the capital or accept one cent.’s worth of responsibility. The Commonwealth Bank is to take all responsibility under this Bill, thus quite reversing the position that obtains in America. There the private banks provide the capital of the Central Bank; in Australia it will be provided by the Government. That is a most important difference. The people of Australia are to be asked to provide capital to be drawn upon by private institutions without requiring any security or other safeguards.
– The private banks could buy out the Commonwealth Bank to-morrow.
– That is immaterial. Our duty is to protect the public interests, and this Bill is so drawn that while it requires the public to provide the capital it does not safeguard the public. In the United States private capital is controlled by the Government; but, according to this Bill, Government property is to be controlled by private capitalists. Again the practice in other countries is to be reversed here. Private banks are to utilize Government money, and the Commonwealth is to have no proper control over them. In South Africa, under the Act of 1920, the private hanks are compelled to subscribe funds to the Central Reserve Bank in proportion to their reserve funds, and they must keep a balance in the Central Bank equal to 10 per cent, of current deposits and 3 per cent, of time deposits. This Bill does not require the private banks to deposit one penny in the Central Bank. Are we justified in passing a measure which does . not protect the Commonwealth in any way ?. It is a remarkable fact that although the Trea- surer gave the House a summary of banking systems in other countries in order to support his recommendation of this Bill, an analysis of those systems shows that the practice is the reverse of what he proposes. In the British central system there is a one-way clearance. Private banks” having drafts on the Bank of England must pay them to their creditin the Bank of England. The Bank of England, with its drafts on other banks,, can draw legal tender, and it thus prevents one bank amassing legal tender at the expense of other banks. In this Bill there is nothing to prevent that amassing of legal tender by one bank. Th Central Bank may indiscriminately dis count the bills of private banks, with th result that one bank may acquire the bulk of the notes while other banks art short of notes. Practically the whole of the gold in England is in the vaults of the Bank of England. Even note reserves are kept in the Bank of England, the private banks keeping only sufficient notes to meet their daily needs. Neither of those two features of the Bank of England are to be found in this Bill.
– And they are not found in any Act in England - they are merely the actual banking practice.
– And the Treasurer is discarding actual banking practice. I have here a letter to the honorable member for Bourke from the Bank of England, which substantiates the statements I have just made. It is clear that the Central Banks in other countries are on a footing quite different from that of the Central Bank which is to be established in the Commonwealth. Each Central Bank abroad requires private capital to be brought to it. This Bill provides that the Central Bank shall be financed by public capital. In other countries the private banks must give security to the Central Bank for the advances they get.
– Does the honorable member urge that there should be private capital in the Commonwealth Bank?
– I do not; but I do urge that the bank should be administered by men who are in sympathy with it, and are prepared to develop it upon proper lines, instead of hamstringing it. In Great Britain recently, a Royal Commission was appointed to deal’ with- the question of “currency and foreign exchanges. Some of the “members of that
Commission were - Lord CunlifFe, Governor of the Bank of England; Sir John Bradbury, Secretary to the Treasurer ; W. H. N. Goschen, Chairman Clearing Bankers’ Committee; Lord Inchcape, Peninsular and Oriental Company; R. W. Jeans, Bank of Australasia; Sir Charles Addis, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. I have extracted the following passages from their recommendations : -
It is …… that Government borrowing should cease at the earliest possible moment . . . This credit expansion (necessarily accompanied by an ever-growing foreign indebtedness) can not continue without seriously threatening our national solvency.
A primary condition of the restoration of a
Round credit position is the repayment of a large portion of the enormous amount of Government securities now held by the banks. . . . ,e . State should begin to reduce its indebtedness. The device of making money cheap by the increase of the note issue c:in only lead in the end to the collapse of the whole commercial fabric of the country. It is not necessary, nor do wc think it desirable, Hint there should be an early resumption of the internal circulation of gold” coin. Gold should be held in a central reserve as a backing for notes in circulation. All banks should transfer any gold now held by them to the Bank of England.
Our conclusions are unanimous. The application of the main principles on which they are based is of vital necessity to the financial ……… and well-being of the country.
The Commission’s recommendations bear on the question of exchange, and the Bill before us to-day is intended to give some relief in that direction, but it is very doubtful whether it will do so. Experts are constantly telling us that, it is impossible to get any relief in this matter when the amount which is sent away from. Australia to meet interest payments is in excess of the value of our imports. Although the Bill will enable the Commonwealth Bank to extend its banking operations in Loudon and is an endeavour to overcome, as far as possible, the exchange difficulty, the Treasurer holds out very little hope of success. He has drawn our attention to the decision of the recent Economic Conference that the holding of Australian securities in London might ameliorate the position somewhat, but it is quite evident that the Conference did not regard this as a cure, and in all the circumstances the relief which this Bill will afford will be very small indeed. That, however, is no reason why we should not extend the functions of the Commonwealth bank to London and endeavour, in every possible way, to reduce the rate of exchange which, as it now stands, is a great handicap to the industries of Australia and to people who have financial dealings abroad. The present high rate of £3 per £100 is due, so wc are told, to the fact that the Commonwealth and the State Governments have to pay £30,000,000 a year in interest on loans raised in Great Britain. The Treasurer contends that as a young country, we must continue our borrowing abroad, but I claim that we should be careful in doing so,- and that we should reduce our borrowing as much as possible, and so help to stabilize the rate of exchange. No doubt it will be difficult to cease borrowing, but as little as possible should be borrowed outside the necessary arrangements for renewals. During the last twelve months the Commonwealth Government has borrowed +:i 3.000,000 abroad, despite the fact that it ii.is an overflowing Treasury. Prior to the war, when a Labour ( Government was in power, all big Commonwealth public works were constructed out of revenue. Has not the time arrived when the Commonwealth should get back to the first principles of government as carried out by that Labour Government, and thus avoid constant visits to the London money markets? I can understand the necessity for borrowing to meet war commitments, but during the last few years, we seem to have got into a. borrowing groove and to be unable to realize where we are drifting. If public works could be built out of revenue prior to the war, why cannot that policy be pursued to-day after making every allowance for the payment of interest on the war indebtedness? I recognize that a high rate of exchange is a big handicap to people engaged in the commercial world, and that to a large extent it nullifies our protective tariff, because, when we have to accept goods in lieu of money from abroad, it is detrimental to industry in Australia. When the Treasurer was speaking upon the note issue, he drew attention to what he termed a very doubtful matter. The note issue was the creation of the Labour party, and we were careful to keep the issue in the hands of the Treasurer, but since another party, has been in power, the control of the issue
Tims been entrusted to a Board, and it is now proposed to transfer that control to a
Board which will be created under the provisions of the Bill now before us, so that the Government will have no power over the issue of notes.
– The Government will always have power, by proclamation, to bring it back to their control.
– If the Labour party gets into power, it will face the position as it finds it,’ and do what it thinks in the best interests of the country, whether it is done by proclamation or not. Speaking of the right of the banks to get notes, the Treasurer said -
At this early stage of war finance, a step was taken which never has been explained fully. I refer to the fact that the Government gave to the banks the right to get £3 in notes for every sovereign presented by the banks at the Treasury. Two out of every £3 of notes so issued were treated as a loan to the banks, which were required to pay interest at the rate of 4 per cent, per annum and to repay the principal not later than twelve months after the end of the war. . . . This three to one arrangement was more doubtful in character than any other act of war finance.
Of course, it was very doubtful, but the inference one could draw from the Treasurer’s remarks was that the transaction had been carried out by a Labour Government.
– I made no such suggestion.
– The transaction took place between the 4th August and the 5th September, 1914, when a Liberal Government was in power, so that if there was anything shady or doubtful about it honorable members on this side are free from blame.
– The transaction was finally carried into effect in November, when a Labour Government was in office.
– The Treasurer told the House that this arrangement which he condemned was converted into one which actually gave the banks more millions at a lower rate of interest. He pointed out that £28,000,000 worth of notes were issued for 10,000,000 sovereigns placed in the Treasury by the banks, which meant that the banks had nearly £3,000,000 on which to base credits for every 1,000,000 sovereigns they placed in the Treasury. I do not know that this arrangement was a great improvement on that which the Treasurer has condemned. If the previous arrangement which gave the banks £3 to £1 was of a doubtful character, what can be said of one that gave the banks £28,000,000 for 10,000,000 sovereigns? The private banks must have’ reaped a considerable benefit. In regard to war gratuities the Treasurer has in- formed us that the banks agreed to lend £6,000,000 at 5$ per cent., and were; given the right to get notes at the same ‘ time. In other words the Government” supplied the banks with the legal tender upon which the vast superstructure of bank credit is erected. The £6,000,000 in notes was a basis for a credit which could be multiplied, some say, five times, and others three times ; but the £6,000,000 was not paid out immediately in cash. The banks could go to the Treasury at their’ free will and get notes to the extent of £6,000,000- whether they took them all at once 1 do not know, but as they could do so they probably did - but they, were not compelled to pay them out immediately. To June, 1920, only £675,878 had been paid out by them in war gratuities, while they” held the unexpended, balance of £5,426,000 on which to work their credits. It would have been far better if the Commonwealth Government had cashed their own war gratuity, bonds rather than depend on the banks. On the 14th December, 1920, when the control of the note issue was entrusted to a- Board, the bank’s account was £5,073,000. In the first three weeks of the Board’s existence, it gave to the banks on “ the-come-and-get-it principle” an additional £3,700,000, making a total of £8,773,000 notes in their possession under the note issue. To my mind, it is not in the best interests of the country that the Government should lose control of the issue of notes. There has been an agitation of late for a further issue.
– The matters about which the honorable member is complain1 ing occurred when the Commonwealth Treasurer had control of the issue.
– The additional issue occurred after the control had been taken over by the Board.
– But the control had not been taken away from the Treasurer.
– A Board had been appointed to control the issue. The Bill will give no further power to the Com.monwealth Bank. Not one of the amendments relates to the powers now given by the Commonwealth Bank Act. Therefore there can be no reason for urging that the Bill should be passed in order to give the bank additional powers, and the only grounds for urging that it should be agreed to are that it contains provisions for appointing a Board and creating a discount bank. On this Board men will be appointed who are outside the Commonwealth service, men who possibly do not believe in having a national banking system, or men whose business is wrapped up in private banks, or in commercial undertakings connected with those institutions. Are we to expect that a Board so chosen will act in the best interests of the country? I am afraid not. Now let me take the question of discounting. No provision is made for reserves against the money issued. The banks can come along with their bills, and have them discounted. There is nothing in the Bill to limit the amount that will be given to any bank, and if the Commonwealth Bank Board has on it representatives from outside who are sympathetic with the private banks, notes can be issued to the private banks without restriction to enable them to trade on them, mortgage them or deal with them in any other way. Private banks will be permitted to come to the Commonwealth Bank with their bills of exchange, and get their money, but there will be no safeguard to the Commonwealth. What a most excellent arrangement it will be for the private institutions ! It is not surprising that they are not complaining about the introduction of this Bill, or about the creation of a socalled central bank which means the strangling of the Commonwealth Bank. If the Commonwealth Bank 13 to discount all bills presented by private banks, I ask honorable members to think for a moment what will be the position of people who wish to borrow from the Commonwealth Bank in the ordinary way of banking business. What will become of the general banking business of the Commonwealth Bank ?
– It will be strangled.
– It will be strangled. There will be no hope for it, if the provisions of this Bill, as presented, are carried out. Whether that is intended ‘.or .not I do not know, I can only speak of the Bill as I find it, and it makes no provision to prevent, what I have said. The representatives of the private banks can come into the Commonwealth Bank with their bills and they must be discounted. There is no provision for reserves, and if there should ever again be a financial crisis in this country, such as there was some years ago, who will have to bear the burden? Will it be the private banks? No, the burden will fall on the Commonwealth Bank, which we desire should be regarded as the National Bank of this country. There will be no reserves and no assets of any kind against the moneys advanced to the private banks. Surely they never dreamed of such an opportunity for the expansion of their banking business as this Bill presents. The measure is illconceived and ill-digested. I do not know why such measures should be brought before the House from time to time. The first consideration of honorable members in dealing with the Bill should be to safeguard the public interests. They should see that the public are protected, and then whatever may happen the public willhave nothing to lose. This Bill deliberately provides that- instead of the private banks having to find their own money for the central bank, as is done in the countries to which I have referred, and to which the Treasurer also alluded, the Commonwealth is to provide another £6,000,000 on top of the £4,000,000 profit the bank already has, and we are to say to the private banks, “ Having raised this money we will discount your bills and you take no responsibility at all.” It will probably be contended by the Treasurer later, on that safeguards will be provided to meet the objections I have urged, but again I say I have to speak on the Bill as it has been presented. I ask honorable members to peruse it and say whether there are any safeguards provided. I venture to say they will find that every word T have said is correct. I have gone very carefully into this measure, and I say that it provides no protection for the public funds at all. We are left at the mercy of the private banks. So far as honorable members on this side of the House are concerned they will be no parties to a measure of this .kind. We stand for the development of the National Bank of the Commonwealth. We want it to . be the people’s bank. This Bill provides for a banker’s bank. It is in the interests of the private banks and no one else. To test the opinion of the House on the measure, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “in order to preserve the Commonwealth Bank as a national institution, and to extend its operations for tho purpose of controlling credit and exchange, it is desirable that financial experts to be fully employed in the service of the Bank should be appointed to its management, the proposal of the Government to appoint persons representing squatting and commercial interests, who are diametrically opposed to national banking, being designed more in the interests of private financial institutions than of the people’s Bank.
– 1 second the motion formally. Have I the right to the adjournment of the debate?
– The adjournment rests with the House, but the honorable member will have the right to speak later if he does not speak now.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Manning) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th June, vide page 1477) :
Clause 58 -
The Minister shall, on the request of a lessee of a lease granted under this Division in exchange for a lease existing at the commencement of this Ordinance made at least two years before any date of resumption, in lieu of resuming any lands held under a lease, permit the lessee to subdivide, for closer pastoral settlement purpose -
an area included in the lease approved ‘by the Board as being equivalent to that which the Minister would be entitled to resume; and
any further area.
The lessee may transfer the subdivisions to persons approved by the Minister for the remainder of the term, and subject to the terms and conditions (other than resumption) of the original lease.
The Minister shall issue leases in respect of the subdivisions transferred and thereupon the area included in the original lease shall be reduced accordingly and the lessee shall no longer be liable to the Minister for the payment of rentals in respect of the subdivisions transferred.
The rentals payable for the subdivided lands shall be the same as those which would have been payable if the land had not been subdivided.
On which Mr. Nelson had moved, by ‘way of amendment - ‘!-; ‘ : That -sub-clauses. (1) and (2) be omitted, and that in sub-clause (3) all the words after the word “ shall “ .be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in regard to expiring leases, make the land available in living areas, subject to a ballot of applicants.”
– In speaking to this clause last night, ‘I dealt with the very grave necessity of providing proper safeguards to prevent the aggregation of large estates, to prevent dummying, to secure that the right type of settler shall be encouraged, ‘and to preserve the rights of the people to the land. The more consideration I give to -the ‘matter, the more I am convinced that honorable members are not fully seised of the enormous responsibility resting upon them to see that adequate provision is made to secure that lands shall be available for settlement in the Northern Territory in view of the tremendous public expenditure which may .take place there in the future. We may incur the expenditure of millions in the construction of the North-South Railway. There is a tentative proposal by the Queensland Government to link up farther the Queensland railway systems with those of New South Wales. It is suggested that, starting in the vicinity of Bourke, a line should be taken to the border of New South Wales, and should connect with the whole of the Queensland railway systems, terminating at a point on the border of the Northern Territory near Camooweal. Honorable members who have had any experience of pastoral areas will recognize that it is most desirable that this railway construction should take place if the fullest use is to be made of the railways that have already been constructed. Should the railway systems of New South Wales and Queensland be connected in the .way proposed, no doubt the Commonwealth will be called upon to spend a large sum of money in connecting them again with Wyndham or Port Darwin by a crosscountry line intersecting the North-South railway. We may be sure such a proposal will meet with great hostility in this Chamber if provision is not made under our land legislation to enable closer settlement to take place on lands which would be served by the railway. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr”. Nelson) proposes that the big lessees shall not be given the right to subdivide their holdings, and to nominate their dummies for the subdivisions in order to hold the land against the people. He proposes that if subdivision is considered necessary the Minister shall do the subdividing, and shall make the land available, not to favoured individuals, but that all eligible to hold land in the Territory shall be given an equal chance at a ballot to secure it. That is the only fair system to adopt. When there are hundreds of desirable applicants looking for land, it is entirely wrong to allow a Land Board to pick and choose amongst them. The method under which the Western Land Board in New South Wales selects those to whom land is to be leased has given rise to great contention in that State. There have been cases there in which, to say the least of it, very grave suspicion has been aroused in connexion with the allotment of lands. I do not go so far as to say that the members of the Western Lands Board have shown partiality for particular persons, but disappointed applicants have very naturally felt that there has been something underhand in the allotment of lands open for selection. No such feeling can arise if the ballot is used. Where a great many persons are seeking land they may be saved considerable expense by the adoption of the ballot system. If there are 1,000 applicants for three blocks, 997 ofthem must be disappointed. Some of them might have to travel 1,000 miles to attend before the Board. Unless we provide for the ballot system, that is what will occur. In New South Wales the applicant fills in a form setting out his financial position, and if he possesses the necessary qualifications to fit him to become a land-holder, his name is submitted to the ballot. Only those successful in the ballot are called upon to appear before the Board to show reasons why they should be permitted to hold the land. By that course enormous expense to the applicants is saved. I have been applying for land for years past, but so far have not; been successful. If I had been required to attend before a Board on each occasion, I could not have afforded it. We on this side stand solidly for the system of balloting, and for making the expenses of the land-seeker as light as possible. At one time in the history of land settlement in. New South
Wales it was necessary for an applicant to deposit with his application a sum equal to the first year’s rent. Later, the Government considered that to be a hardship, and the deposit was not asked for. To-day, in that State a ballot costs only the price of a postage stamp. If a man is successful in the ballot, he then appears before the Board, which inquires into his financial position and his genera] fitness to hold the land. He is rejected as a settler only if he is undesirable. The same conditions should apply in connexion with the Northern Territory land. At present we are in . the unfortunate position of having more land available there than is required by the few who desire it. But such might not be the case if the railways I have mentioned were constructed. The Minister for Works and Railways, writing in the Farmers’ Advocate of the 30th May last, bears out what I have said respecting the quality of the land -
We pushed on to Ryan’s Well, 82 miles from Alice Springs, and came to the Nickers’ homestead. They owned 700 sheep, and said sheep would fatten where goats would die, and expressed the opinion that it was the finest sheep country in the world. We went over, and had a look at the sheep. They were in good condition, although shut up every night, and only let out to graze in the day time. Mr. Nicker, in reply to questions from me, said if he could get fencing and means of sinking dams on 20,000 acres, he would gladly surrender the remainder of his lease of 300,000 acres, and’ would be far better off financially.
That shows that if improvements, such as railways, are provided, what is to-day a living area for one man only will support ten or twelve families. I hope that the Minister will see fit to include in the Bill a clause requiring personal residence on the part of the land-holders. The two greatest curses of every country have been the absentee landlord and the land monopolist. Residential conditions are imposedupon the agriculturist, but in his case there is no necessity for them. The agriculturist cannot afford to be absent from his property, but the grazier is in an entirely different position. It is, however, in dealing with the grazier that the evils of absenteeism are to be perpetuated. If the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), one can only say that the policy of the Government respecting the Northern Territory is in opposition to the idea of a living area, and that the Ministry stands for the land monopolist. It is regrettable that Ministers have not the capacity to realize the great possibilities of the Northern Territory. It may be said that no one wants this land, but that might have been said of all the land in Australia in the early days of this country. One hundred years ago no one wanted the great areas of valuable land which are now eagerly sought after. Had some such provision as that now desired by the honorable member for the Northern Territory been made in the earlier land laws of Australia, instead of our State railways being run at a loss, and taking a heavy toll from the pockets of the taxpayers, they would be realizing what was the intention when they were constructed, namely, that they would open up the country adjacent to the line and assist in the development of the country. We have built in Australia railways sufficient to settle 100,000,000 people, if the land adjacent to those railways were made available for settlement. Unfortunately, that land has been locked up. .This Bill proposes to lock up the land in the Northern Territory from those who are most desirable as settlers, and who will be seeking it once the railways are constructed.. The construction of railways in . the Northern Territory is nearer realization than many imagine. The further we get away from the war period, the greater will become the financial resources of the Commonwealth, and so it will be possible to provide money to carry out these works. For that reason I ask the Minister to favorably consider this proposal. It is based upon the experience and the failures of past Land Acts in the various States. We cannot possibly provide for the efficient settlement of any areas of land unless the principle of a living area is accepted. That is fundamental to successful settlement, and it is hypocrisy and humbug to talk of land settlement without it. It is the keystone of successful land settlement. Side by side with that is the necessity for personal residence on the part of the landholders. I do not mean that a man and his family should be forced to live 70 or 80 miles away from a settlement, and remain on the land during the whole of the year. The lessee should be required to erect a residence on the land, and to reside there for at least one half of each year. His wife and children could be domiciled in an adjacent township. A few years ago 100 miles was a great distance, but to-day it is less than half a day’s journey by motor car. We, on this side, are not hide-bound in regard to residence conditions, and do not want to impose, undue hardships on women and children, but it is ridiculous to talk about land settlement if the land-holders are permitted to hold land without any restrictions whatever being placed on them.
– The whole of the leases affected include only 3,000 square miles. Senator Pearce, the Minister controlling the Northern Territory, told me that this morning.
– With all due deference to the Minister in another place, I would prefer to hear what the Minister in this Chamber has to .say regarding that matter. I suggest to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that he should seek further information respecting this matter from the Minister. I hope that the Minister will accept the proposal of the honorable member for the Northern Territory. It is put forward because we on this side realize that it is futile to attempt land settlement if a living area is not provided, as well as adequate safeguards against absenteeism.
– I have no desire to delay the passage of this Bill, and realize that there are men in this Chamber who have been brought more closely into touch with the possibilities and difficulties of the Northern Territory than I have. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) should know what he is talking about in connexion with this matter, and I listened with interest to his remarks. From the speakers on both sides of the House I have gained valuable information concerning the Northern Territory. Unless we alter the clause we may create very grave dangers in the future by perpetuating a condition of land monopoly that has retarded the progress of every State of Australia. I give credit to honorable members - on whichever side of the House they sit - for not wishing to perpetuate_ those evils. We ought to be very careful in considering the Bill, and, if we can do anything to prevent land monopoly, we should do it. It may seem strange to those who come from large States ,that, in the compara’tively small State of Tasmania, we have not recovered from the effect of the land “ monopolies created when settlement : ‘began. ‘ Land monopoly, which has hindered the ‘ progress of Tasmania, had ‘ its genesis in legislation such as we are now passing. ‘ Tn the early history of - that State vast areas were given to people who were resident in England in return for benefits that they were supposed to “ have conferred on the colony by bringing blood stock to it. The actions of these people did not confer any future benefit on Tasmania, but the richest agricultural land in it was locked up with the Van Dieman Land Company. In recent years legislation has partly remedied the evil. The Federal land tax imposed by the .Labour party was particularly beneficial. It was only when the effect of that tax began to be felt that the land monopolistswho owned an enormous portion of the rich north-east area - were prepared to listen to reason. They then began to cut up their- land and lease or sell it in reasonable areas to people who wanted it for closer settlement. Those who were responsible for the land legislation of that time have much to answer for. I am speaking of the time when Tasmania was a Crown colony, shortly before it became a State. Those who presented immense areas - immense in a small State like Tasmania - to a handful of favoured individuals in return for supposed benefits, did not realize what might happen in 40 or 50 years’ time, and it is because the Government of the day did not impose proper safeguards that the agricultural progress and development of that portion of the State has been retarded. The disappearance of some of. the evils to which I refer is due to the fact that the Federal land tax forced the owners either to use the areas or to allow other people to purchase or rent them on reasonable terms. An example of the evil effects of land monopoly is furnished by the town of Burnie, which is one of two important seaports on the north-west coast, and is handicapped to-day because the Van Dieman Land Company, which was given an enormous grant of land for almost nothing, has refused to sell land for residential purposes except in alternate blocks. Owing . to the expenditure of money by the taxpayers of Tasmania the company ,is able to sell single blocks at inflated prices.- Even to-day it is im- possible to buy a block of land in that ‘. growing and important seaport town at ^anything like a reasonable price. The town would have grown much more .rapidly but for the policy of the company. It is extremely difficult to get land, for this evil- octopus still holds large areas. That land was locked up under regulations or laws passed 50 or 60 years ago, which put the monopolistic Van Dieman Land Company in possession. Outside the towns the company still holds large areas of very rich land which, although improved to some extent, are not sold or rented on anything like fair conditions. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member .for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) because I do not wish to provide any opportunity for the locking up of land.
– The clause makes provision for subdividing.
– We have heard that statement over and over again. The clause provides that the Minister “ shall, on the request of a lessee, made at least two years before any date of resumption, in lieu of resuming any lands held under a lease, permit the lessee to subdivide.”
– That is not monopolistic, at least.
– Does the Minister not see that in “ permitting “ the lessees to subdivide, he will be faced with the same dangers as have arisen in the past? ‘The lessee may use one of half a dozen means of “ dummying “ the land. He “ may “ subdivide “ an area included in the lease approved by the Board,’” and “any further area.” That opens the door to dummying.
– I direct attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– This clause appears to me to perpetuate the dangers that . have attended land legislation . in ,the past. Sub-clause 3 says -
The Minister shall issue leases in respect of the subdivisions transferred and thereupon the area included in the original lease shall be reduced accordingly and the lessee shall no longer be liable to the Minister for the payment of rentals in respect of the subdivisions transferred.
That is to .say, the lessee may employ half a dozen, of his relatives and friends to,” dummy-“ the land, or he may form’ a company.
– But only if the Minister agrees.
– Those among -whom he would subdivide the land would not have to carry out the improvements stipulated in his case, for he only holds the . land subject to the fulfilment of certain improvement conditions. It is not clear that if he subdivides the land among half a dozen of his friends they would have to observe the same conditions. The amendment deserves more consideration than it “ has received from those who sit on the Government side, and who assert, and almost believe, that they are doing everything possible in this Bill to prevent land “ dummying.”
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee , [Quorum formed.’].
. - I trust that the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will be rejected. I have had no experience of land settlement in the Northern Territory, but I will give place to no honorable member of this House when it comes to experience of land settlement generally. We have settled, and are still settling, large areas of Crown lands in New South Wales, and the ballot system, more than anything else, has hindered successful settlement. A number of blocks in my district will be made available for settlement next month. They comprise first-class wheat land, which will be practically given away. There will be probably 2,000 or 3,000 applicants for the fifteen or- twenty blocks available. The men who obtain them will be as fortunate as men who win Tattersall’s sweeps. They will practically receive a present of £2,000 or £3,000. The great objection to the ballot system is that under it the Government has no assurance that the land will go to men who have reasonably good qualifications for occupying it. The ballot system has resulted in quite 80 per cent, of the land that has been made available for settlement in New South Wales falling into the wrong hands. Many men who have secured land in this way have not. even kept down the rabbits on it. Thirty-nine blocks were made available_in my district some years ago, and of .the 2,700 applicants for them not more than 200 or 300 had any prospect of becoming successful settlers. Any man who owns a bicycle or a sulky may apply for such land. . If he is successful he effects whatever improve- . ments ,are obligatory, occupies the land for about five years with the assistance of the local storekeeper, and then sells out at a tremendous; profit to a man who is able to use it as it ought to be used. The unfortunate thing is that the men who buy from the original lessee and are well qualified to work the land, have to pay the full market price for it, whereas the original lessee obtained it at practically a gift.
– Are not the inefficient men weeded out before the ballot takes ‘place ?
– There is provision for that, but, unfortunately, it is “not operative to any extent. In the western division of New South Wales a Land Board is responsible for granting leases. When land becomes available the Board invites applications for it, considers the merits of the applicants, and gives it to those most qualified to occupy it. If several men have reasonably’ good chances of making successful settlers, lots are drawn to see who shall be given leases, but the applications of men of outstanding merit always succeed. That system has proved much more satisfactory than the ballot method. Under the unrestricted ballot system there is as much chance of obtaining good settlers as there would be of obtaining a Shakespeare play by putting the letters of the alphabet into a box and shaking them. out. I am not always looking for ulterior motives in proposed legislation, but I am sorry to notice that some honorable members opposite see boodling, ulterior motives, or corruption in every Bill presented to Parliament. I do riot know whether that is because they would be guilty of these things if they had the opportunity. I should be very sorry to think so.. The fact remains, however, that they are always suspicious. Surely the Government may be trusted to administer our land legislation honestly. I believe that we shall do irreparable injury to the Northern Territory if we accept the amendment. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) took objection to the provisions of paragraphs a and & of sub-clause 1 of this clause. He said that they might lead to dummying. As a matter of fact they only ‘provide that a lessee may subdivide for closer settlement land which he already holds. Why in the name of conscience should a man “ dummy “ land which he already holds? Such a content-ion is absolutely absurd: I am glad that lessees are to be given the right to subdivide their holdings. Much of the most successful land settlement in New South Wales has been accomplished by lessees who have subdivided their holdings. They may be trusted to see that the land is given to well-qualified applicants, and not to men of straw.
.- I have had considerable experience of land settlement in the last twenty or thirty years, and I say, without hesitation, that the unrestricted ballot method of allotting land has been tried in the balance and found wanting. The system affords no opportunity of discarding undesirable applicants.
– Provision could be made for that.
– It would be far better to appoint a Board and give it power to allot the land to the most qualified applicants. If a man of outstanding merit applies he should be selected. If there are three or four men of practically equal merit lots could be drawn to ascertain who should be given the land. That is the system which has been most satisfactory in South Australia. It has been suggested that the auction system is a good one, but it has been tried frequently in the last thirty or forty years, and has also proved to be undesirable. It results every time in the man with the most money getting the land.
– And the man with the most money is not necessarily the best settler.
– That is so. Very often under that system the land goes to men who have no qualification other than the possession of wealth. The poor man has no chance.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has given us no information at all. I do not know how he can interpret the clause as he does. Possibly he used the same method that he applied to interpret paragraph d of clause 55 with respect to “ the principal watering place.” It was only after the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) supported my contention that the honorable member for Wakefield admitted that he was wrong.
– I agreed with the honorable member for Kooyong all the time.
– The honorable member flatly contradicted my contention before the honorable member for Kooyong delivered his speech. I can quite understand the enthusiasm of the honorable member for Wakefield for this Bill. He was a member of the South Australian Parliament at the time the Northern Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth Government, and he then did everything in his power to protect the interests of the big pastoralists, and to prevent the Commonwealth Government from resuming any of their Northern Territory leases. He is adopting a similar attitude now. I ask the Committee not to regard these leases as they would leases in the southern States, which rarely exceed in area 100 square miles. In the Northern Territory the leases comprise 10,000 and 12,000 square miles. Instead of allowing the lessee to nominate his successor to those portions of the leases which he will relinquish by subdivision, all persons desirous of settling on the land should have an equal opportunity of getting blocks. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning)’ dealt exhaustively with the ballot system, and mentioned that for one piece of land in New South Wales there were as many as 3,000 and 4,000 applicants. That is all the greater reason why we should make available the huge tracts of land in the Northern Territory, and so relieve the congestion of applications in the southern States. I am convinced that once the productive possibilities of the Northern Territory were demonstrated there would not be 3,000 and 4,000 people scrambling for one piece of land in a southern State. The honorable member’s only objection, to the ballot system is that a lot of undesirable applicants are included. There is nothing to prevent the Government ensuring’ by regulation that only bona fide settlers shall be eligible for the ballot, and thus exclude persons applying merely for purposes of speculation. The Minister asked the Leader of the Opposition to tell him what clause 58 means.
– I asked him to tell me what the honorable member’s amendment means.
– Clause 58 means that two years before 1935, when the first resumption will become due, the holders of big areas of 20,000 and ‘30,000 square miles will be able to nominate their successors, and the Board will have no say in the matter, the clause being definite that the Minister “ shall,” upon application by the lessee, in lieu of resuming any land held under a lease, permit the lessee to subdivide. The only authority the Board will have will be to approve of the area to be subdivided after the Minister lias given his authority to the lessee. In 1945, again, the lessee will be able to nominate his successor to a quarter of his total holding, which means that after that year the original holder and his “dummy “ will be holding 12,000 square miles of country.
– The whole of the leases that will come under this clause will not exceed 3,000 square miles.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. If 3,000 square miles were the maximum area it would not represent one station in the Northern Territory. Something like 48,000 square miles will be due for subdivision upon the first resumption.
– Twenty-four thousand square miles, I think.
– Then how is 24,000 square miles to be taken out of 3,000 square miles?
– The lessees say that the honorable member knows nothing about the subject.
– I guess that the lessees to whom the honorable member ref erE are Kidman and Company. The honorable member did not ask the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) what the lessees told him, and he interviewed every one he met in the course of a journey extending over hundreds of miles.
– He did not travel over hundreds of miles.
– The Minister travelled 90 miles north of Alice Springs. As the champion of the interests of Kidman and Company the honorable member should hg.ve taken steps to understand the ramifications of the Bill. But I am satisfied that no matter what arguments are adduced against the Bill it will be passed, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent. Many members who are supporting the Bill have not even read it, and they are prepared to hand over a great inheritance to about half-a-dozen big squatters. ‘The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) followed the same policy on a previous occasion. Just prior to the passing of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act he was a member of the Government which amended the land laws of the Territory to eliminate all provisions relating to resumption. Thus part of the bargain of acceptance was that the Commonwealth should have no power to resume the leases held under the old Statute. Throughout this debate not one logical argument has been adduced by the Government or its supporters in favour of the Bill. It is quite evident that honorable members, including the Minister in charge, do not understand the measure. That is a most outrageous state of affairs. One naturally expects that a Minister who is piloting a Bill through the House shall be able to discuss its details, but the Minister in charge of this Bill had to call to his aid the Treasurer, who, in reply to my statements, simply read a bundle of notes. Ministers adopt the desperate expedient of ridiculing their opponents. It is very clear that the “ big interests “ have decided that the Bill must go through in its present form. If it were amended as I have suggested, the funds of the parties to which honorable members opposite belong would suffer.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member, in order in imputing motives by suggesting that honorable members on this side are in the pay of certain persons outside?
– I did not understand the honorable member for. the Northern Territory to impute motives.
– The Minister has fired another “ dud.” My amendment offers a means by which those people who would make the best settlers would have an opportunity of getting on the land, but under the clause as drafted they will have no chance of doing so before 1965, and even then, in accordance with clause 42, the existing holders will have a prior claim. That fact bears out my contention during the debate on the second reading, that the whole of this land will be effectively locked up for the next century. Surely that is a reflection upon the statesmanship of this Parliament. The silence of Government supporters on the matter of land settlement in the Northern Territory has been significant. They aire frightened to put into Hansard what they think necessary to be said, but I have not been afraid to record my protest so that I may always be in a position to answer for the stand I have taken on the Bill. I can assure the Minister that if my amendment is negatived he can have the rest of the Bill.
Question - That sub-clause 1 be omitted (Mr. Nelson’s amendment) - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority .. … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
, - I move -
That after the word “ resume,” sub-clause 1, paragraph (a), the words “ on that date of resumption “ be inserted.
The paragraph specifies the area the Minister may allow to be subdivided, which area on a particular date he would be entitled to resume. The addition of these words will make the intention of the paragraph clear.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That sub-clause 2 be omitted and the following sub-clauses inserted in lieu thereof : -
The lessee shall, within two years after the date on which the Minister granted him permission to sub-divide, or within such further time (not exceeding twelve months) after that date, as the Minister thinks fit -
sub-divide, to the satisfaction of the
Minister, the area in’ respect of which permission is granted under the last preceding sub-section; and
Minister, for the remainder of the term, and subject to the terms and conditions (other than resumption), of the original lease -
The object of this amendment is to ensure that the concession to subdivide lands given under this clause is exercised, and that the aim of effecting closer pastoral settlement which would, but for the concession, have been attained by resumption, will be carried out. Sub-clause 2 provides that all subdivisions must be made to the satisfaction of the Minister, and definitely requires the lessee to transfer the subdivisions to persons approved by the Minister for the remainder of the term, and’ subject to the terms and conditions - other than resumption - of the original lease. Sub-clause 3 provides that if the lessee fails to transfer within two years, or such further time, not exceeding twelve months, subdivisions of an area equivalent to that which the Minister would be entitled to resume under paragraph (a) of clause 53, the Minister may take a sufficient area to satisfy the resumption conditions under clause 53.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to. Clause 59 agreed to.
Upon the resumption of any land under section fifty-three of this Ordinance, the Minister shall pay to the lessee out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose, compensation in respect of the improvements on the land resumed at the date on which he ceases to occupy the land, and any improvements on the remainder of the land included in the lease the value of which is lessened by reason of the resumption :
– I move -
That the words “ any improvements on the remainder of the land included in the lease the value of which is lessened by reason of the resumption “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ where the value of any improvements on the remainder of the land included in the lease is depreciated by reason of the resumption compensation, to the extent of the depreciation, in respect of those improvements.”
The Government wish to confine the payment of compensation to the extent of the depreciation caused by the resumption.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 61 to 77 agreed to.
Clause 78- (2.) Ti,e Minister shall lay before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days lifter the Proclamation, if the Parliament is then sitting, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament, a statement setting forth the reasons for any resumption under this section.
Mr. ATKINSON (Wilmot- VicePresident of the Executive Council) f 8.1] . - . I move -
That in sub-clause 2 the words ‘”’ this section’” be omitted, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ paragraph (d) of the preceding section.”
The reasons for the amendment are that sub-clause 1 of the clause enumerates the various public and other purposes for -which resumptions may be made, and it is therefore unnecessary to place further reasons for resumptions “covered by those purposes before Parliament. But when .it is desired to resume lands which have teen reserved and set aside for the public .use it becomes essential that, the reasons actuating any such resumption should be placed before Parliament.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Where the land to be resumed is required for cultivation purposes -
in the case of pastoral leases the land resumed shall not include the head station or any of the leased land within five miles thereof, or the principal watering place on the land. . Mr. GABB (Angas) [3.3]. - I move-
That ‘the words “ or the principal watering place on the land” be left out.
Honorable members are aware that I moved a similar amendment on a previous clause. In my opinion the phrase “ principal watering place” is altogether too vague. It may be held to cover a river running through the whole of a lease. I do not intend to speak at length on this amendment. I am quite satisfied that this Ordinance was passed before it was brought into this House, and it has been galling to me to sit here and have to think so. The Minister has his instructions not to give way because the supreme court Of Scott’s Hotel has already decided what the provisions of the Ordinance shall be. I’ submit my amendment, knowing that it will be defeated, in order to be consistent with the attitude which I adopted when a previous clause was under consideration.
.-I. should like to point out, as I did in connexion with a previous clause, that the words to which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has taken exception will leave to the lessees the right to hold the whole of the waters on big areas of 10,000 or 12,000 square miles.
– I thought the honorable member was satisfied with the promise to recommit clause 55.
– I was satisfied that that clause should bo recommitted, but the amendment of it which the Minister proposes is not on all fours with that drafted by the* Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) last night. The amendment which is to be proposed will not protect the water rights for intending settlers. Under this Ordinance, as the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) pointed out, the whole of the areas, bar the water on them, can be resumed. That shows the absurdity of the Ordinance. It has to, be borne in mind that a number of leases: comprising a, large holding are issued in the names of different persons,
And in the administration of the Ordinance each lease will be treated separately. In the circumstances it will be impossible for the Government to resume any water on any land.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause (Mr. Gabb’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 80 to88 agreed to.
Clause 89 -
Notwithstanding the repeal of the Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 of the State of South Australia, the Fences Act 1892 and the Fences Act Amendment Act 1903 of the State of South Australia shall continue to apply to all freehold lands, and all lands held under agreement or lease from the Crown, in the Northern Territory, and in the application of those Acts the word “ fence “ or the words- “ dividing fence “ wherever used therein shall be deemed to mean any fence ordinarily sufficient or capable of resisting the trespass of cattle or sheep.
– This is the clause providing for theapplication of the South Australian Fencing Act, and it is further evidence that in this Ordinance the interests of the big men arc consulted in every possible way. It might be contended that the application of a fencing Act is very desirable and that such Acts have operated with great advantage in every State of the Commonwealth.I admit that that ordinarily is so. Under this Ordinance, no improvement conditions are provided for, and this provision for the application of the Fencing Act is included designedly for the benefit of the big men. Honorable members will note the significance of this clause when they realize that if a small man secured a block of land alongside the area held by one of these big squatters, under this clause the big squatter would have the right to erect a fence along his boundary and could then demand a cash payment for half its cost from the small settler alongside. In this way he could financially embarrass the small man. All the benefits that might have accrued to the small settler from a scientific revision of our land law are absolutely denied to him under this Ordinance, and everything possible is done to; protect the interests of the big man.
– This clause applies only to freeholds, and how many freeholds are there in the Northern Territory?
– The honorable gentle,man is again demonstrating his ignorance ‘ of the matters under discussion. The clause applies to all land in the Northern Territory, whether held under a Crown lease or otherwise.
– It applies to freehold land only.
– This clause not only gives the big man the right to erect a fence on the boundary of his run, but also the right to call in a surveyor, and to debit half the cost of his services to the small adjoining occupier. It is obvious that, if any small land-holder takes up land, the machinery is available to have him removed. The Minister might as well have been honest, and have placed at the head of the Bill, “No small man need apply.”
– I am sorry that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has indulged in such exaggerated statements. He said that the Government desired to benefit the large man at the expense of the small land-holder. The honorable member knows perfectly well what this clause means. He raised the same point before, and was then told that this clause had nothing to do with the Crown.
– Ihave read the Bill since then.
– The honorable member should have read the Ordinance. Any one who takes the trouble to compare the remarks of the honorable member with the clauses of the Bill concerning which they are made will realize how little he knows about the matter. The honorable member, notwithstanding the latitude allowed him, was unkind enough to say that I put the Treasurer up to speak. He has been long enough in this House to know that, had I spoken instead of the Treasurer, the debate would have been closed, as I had opened it. It is a pity that the honorable member cannot accept his defeat in a better spirit. Clause 89 continues certain Fences Acts of South Australia, which apply to boundary fences between the holdings of adjoining owners. Every State has a similar Act, enabling a land-holder to call upon his neighbour to erect a portion of the fence on their common boundary. The clause has nothing to do with the Crown and its lessees.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 90 to 105 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, and recommitted for reconsideration of clause 50.
Clause 50 - (1.) The holder of any lands in the Northern Territory, tinder a pastoral lease from the Crown in existence at the commencement of this Ordinance may, at any time within three years after the commencement of this Ordinance, surrender his lease in exchange for a pastoral lease of the lands or part thereof under this Ordinance. (2.) A lease granted under this section may include adjacent lands in two or more surrendered leases, whether in actual contact or not. (3.) On the surrender of any existing leasein exchange for a lease granted under this Ordinance, all improvements on the existing lease shall be deemed to be the property of the lessee.
– I move -
That after sub-clause 2 the following new sub-clausfcs be inserted : - (2a) Where two or more leases of contiguous lands granted under the laws of South Australia are surrendered under this section by the same lessee, one lease only shall be granted in exchange therefor in respect ofthe whole of the land included in the surrendered leases. (2b) Where two or more leases of contiguous lands granted under the Crown Lands Ordinance 1912-1918 are surrendered under this section by the same lessee, one lease only shallbe granted in exchange therefor ‘in respect of the whole of the land included in the surrendered leases.
These new sub-clauses are introduced in accordance with the promise given that a lessee shall be confined to one principal watering place on the whole of the land he possesses.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment.
The following papers were presented: -
New Guinea Act -
Ordinances of 1924-
No. 19 - Native Labour.
No. 20 - LandsRegistration (No. 2).
No. 21 - Birds and Animals Protection.
No. 22 - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
New Guinea- Report on Expropriated Pro perties and Businesses, by Yarwood, Vane and Co., with G. Mason Allard; together with comments thereon by Walter H. Lucas, Chairman of the Expropriation Board, and comments by F. R. Jolley, Deputy Chairman of the Expropriation Board, accompanied bya copy of a Report by S. W. Simmonds, Acting Government Entomologist for Fiji.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the- following works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, for its investigation and report thereon, viz… Establishment of automatic telephoneex– changesat Unley and Norwood, South Australia.
It is proposed to extend the existing telephone exchange buildings, situated at the corner of Northgate-street and Bellevue.avenue. Unley, and at the corner of Queen-street and East-parade, Norwood, South Australia, to provide for the establishment of automatic telephone exchanges. Automatic switching systems, having an immediate equipment of 5,500 subscribers’ lines at Unley, and 5,700 at Norwood, with ultimate capacities of 9,400 and 8,900 lines respectively, are to be installed. These will afford sufficient accommodation to meet anticipated developments in Unley and Norwood. In addition, it is intended to provide heating, ventilating, vacuum cleaning, dehumidifying, air-washing, and compressedair cleaning plant at each of the exchanges. The proposed building extensions will be of brick, harmonizing in design with the existing structures. These exchanges are urgently required, for the reason that the existing apparatus cannot cope with the development in the respective areas, and it is imperative that a full automatic system be established in each case to satisfy the demands of prospective subscribers. The annual revenue, based on the actual or estimated number of line connexions on the undermentioned dates, is as follows: -
The estimated cost of the respective schemes, excluding cost of premise* existing at present, is as under : -
Honorable members will observe that the provision of the telephone plant itself represents the ‘greater portion of the estimated expenditure. I lay on the table the plans and specifications required by the Act.
.- The facilities covered by this motion are long overdue. In South Australia, considerable inconvenience has been caused to business people .and others because of their inability to secure the necessary telephonic conveniences. While the works covered by the motion are certainly very urgent, I regret that provision is not to be made for an automatic telephonic exchange for the western suburban district of Adelaide. I have repeatedly brought under the notice of the Government the necessity for such an exchange. At pre-‘ sent, there is serious congestion in connexion with the telephonic services in that district. Not only are persons desirous of obtaining telephonic connexions being put to considerable inconvenience, but subscribers are being penalized because of the excessive rental they are called upon to pay by reason of their premises being so far from the Central Exchange. People living in districts 4 miles from the Central Exchange have to pay higher rents for telephones than those living in more distant places provided with local exchanges. The works proposed at Norwood and Unley are very necessary, and should be regarded as urgent.. I am glad that at this late hour the Government is prepared to submit the question to the Public Works Committee, and I hope that the Committee will not unduly delay the presentation of its report. -While T approve of this work, I trust the Government will not neglect its duty to other districts near Adelaide, and to the more distant parts of the State. The same consideration should be given to the claims of South Australia as has been generously bestowed on other States. The services provided in the State have been very inadequate, and the public has been subjected to great inconvenience. The unsatisfactory service is in no sense attributable to the responsible officers in that State, who are among the best procurable. The State of South Australia is very fortunate in having the services of Mr. Kitto and Mr. Monfries. If the Government would only take heed of their reports many of the services which are now so neglected and inadequate would be extended. I am glad to think that even now we- are to receive some consideration, and I hope the Government ‘ will realize that this is only a small instalment of what i3 necessary, so that in future, instead of having cause to complain, we shall applaud the Government for endeavouring to provide a satisfactory and adequate service.
– As the districts mentioned in the motion happen to be in my electorate, I should like to express my appreciation of the Government’s action in submitting the motion to the House. I know, probably as well as does the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), the difficulties that have been experienced for some years past in connexion with telephone communication in that district. I have received many complaints and requests for an improved system, and I know that the extensions proposed will be heartily welcomed. I would like to pay a tribute to the postal authorities in my State. The telephone system in that State has always seemed to me to be extraordinarily good. I have personally had experience of the telephone systems in all the States of Australia, and while I do not say it for the sake of making an invidious comparison, I have not found any system in which the telephone attendants render a better service than they give in my State. That, to some extent, must be due to the control exercised over the employees by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral. While thanking the Government for what it has done - the concession is somewhat belated - and expressing my gratitude for it, I would like to endorse what the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said regarding other parts of Adelaide. I know something about those parts, because I happen to reside in the district represented by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). I have no doubt that he often expresses the official views of that district, although .he may not always express my views. I hope that the difficulties which have existed in my district in the past will be greatly removed by the motion now submitted, and that improvements in other parts of Adelaide will follow. I am glad that the Government has submitted the motion, and I hope that the House will pass it readily.
– I do not oppose the motion, but I remind the Government that there are other parts of Australia needing attention. The State from which I come supplies nearly half the revenue of the Commonwealth, and yet we cannot obtain facilities equal to those given to a little place like Boothby. Tasmania, no doubt, will . shortly come along with grievances, and will want additional exchanges. It is very nice of the South Australians to form a “ Mutual Admiration Society “ and tap the Minister on the back. I would like to have ah opportunity of doing it, too. I hope the Government will honour the promise made to me in this House some time ago that a post office would be erected at South Kensington, near Maroubra Bay, and that the construction of an exchange at Randwick would be expedited. A congested population exists in those districts, but while we have received promises from the Minister, and nice letters from the Department, nothing has been done. I hope there will be no more of this pandering to South Australia, and withholding of justice from the State that supplies most of the revenue. South Australia should not be too greedy.
Honorable members interjecting.
– If honorable members do not attend to the call of the Chair for order,, the Chair will have to take its own course, and for whatever ensues honorable members will be responsible.
– I hope the Minister will look into the proposals I have mentioned. For the South Kensington post office land has been secured, but nothing has been done. At Randwick hundreds of people have been trying to obtain telephones, but replies from the PostmasterGeneral say that the switchboard is full, and until the new exchange is built the requests cannot be granted. Members of this House, irrespective of party, do not object to money being spent on extending telephone services and building post-offices. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has been fortunate in getting a large exchange for his district. It was mainly owing to his efforts that the exchange was sanctioned. I hope the Minister will assist me in getting a post office at South Kensington and a telephone exchange at Randwick
.- I am pleased that the Minister has submitted this motion. It is necessary that every facility should be provided for telephonic and telegraphic services, not only in South Australia-, but also in every other State. Money was voted for those purposes when the last Estimates were before the House. I do not know whether it has been expended. We are very close to the end of the financial year, and the need for increased telegraphic and telephonic facilities is urgent, I do not know why the motion is submitted so late in the financial year. I suppose the work will be carried out in the next financial year.
– We cannot do anything until we have received the report of the Public Works Committee.
– The Government is evidently taking time by the forelock in submitting the proposal now to the Public Works Committee. I hope the Committee will give consideration to it at an early date, so that this and other works approved by Parliament from time to time may be promptly carried out. I do not know how far the works proposed when we were dealing with the Estimates last year have been carried out. Some of them have been submitted to the Public Works Committee, but I do not know whether all of them have been. In view of the fact that large sums of money have been set aside for postal purposes, particularly for extending telephone services in country districts, the work should be put in hand and expedited as much as possible.
– The Government is spending more money this year than in any previous year on the class of works referred to by. the honorable member.
– I am pleased to hear it. I am not criticizing the Minister, but am supporting his proposal. It is evidence of his desire to get something done when he brings forward a proposal of this kind so late in the day and at the end of the week. It shows that he is willing to do everything possible to expedite work under his control. He should not forget that there are other works needing attention. A certain sum of money was set aside to be spent in three years, and unless we push along with works of this character we shall not be able to spend it. One year has nearly gone. I want to see the money expended as quickly as possible, because it will bring an increased return to the Treasury. If it be spent in small amounts the return from it will be greatly delayed. The money has been put aside to be expended, the works are necessary, and, therefore, we should do everything possible to carrythem out, particularly at a time when there are many men out of employment in different parts of Australia. It is more necessary that work should be provided during the winter months than at any other season of the year, for in every State in the Commonwealth more men are unemployed in the winter than at other seasons. I congratulate the Minister on having submitted the motion. It shows his earnest desire to improve the facilities of the Postmaster-General’s Departments. If we expect this Department to be revenue-producing we must provide adequate facilities. I hope that the Public
Works Committee will investigate the matter promptly, and present a favorable report inthe near future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Littleton Groom) proposed -
That Orders of the Day Nos. 6 and 7 be postponed until after the consideration of Order of the Day No. 8.
.- I am very loath to object to this alteration in the order of business, but I think that honorable members have done very good work to-day, and it is not a fair thing to ask them to give consideration to a new matter at this stage.
– The object of the motion is to permit the moving of the second reading of the Service and Execution of Process Bill, which will not take more than four or five minutes.
– It seems to me that the Government is endeavouring- to take advantage of honorable members, several of whom may wish to speak on the motion for the adjournment. I hope the Minister will not press the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Message recommending appropriation reported
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. -I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the manner in which representations made to the Government by the corporation of Thebarton, South Australia, for assistance by way of a road grant were received. The matter affects every metropolitan local governing body. The corporation of Thebarton represented to the Home and Territories Department that although the Commonwealth Government owned property in the municipality, and made good use of the corporation roads and other facilities, it contributed nothing towards the maintenance of roads, and paid notaxes. Honorable members know that motor and other vehicles of the Postmaster-General’s Department use the public highways in every municipality, and, so far as the corporation of Thebarton is concerned, the roadways are also used to a large extent in the conveyance of material required for the construction of War Service Homes. The State Bank of South Australia is the constructing authority for War Service Homes, but it operates as the agent of the Commonwealth Government. In consequence of the amount of traffic that goes over the roads of the municipality they have in a number- of cases fallen into a state of disrepair. The Commonwealth Government is responsible for this in no inconsiderable degree, and the corporation requested some assistance from it to effect necessary repairs. The reply received can only be regarded as an evasion. The Government stated that the War Service Homes were being built by the State Bank, and that the Government was not responsible for any road troubles that had occurred in consequence of that work. It provides the money for building the homes, however, and it must accept its share of responsibility. I trust that the Prime Minister will give me an assurance that the Government will seriously consider rendering some assistance to the corporation of Thebarton, and to all corporations in a similar position, to enable them to maintain their roads in a proper way. The Government contributes towards the upkeep of country roads, and it is only reasonable to expect it to contribute towards the maintenance of the roads which it uses so largely in the metropolitan area. Motor traffic has greatly ‘ increased the difficulties of road maintenance, and much of the Government transport is accomplished by means of motors. In these circumstances I hope the Government will favorably consider my request.
– I shall discuss the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh with the Minister for Home and Territories, and it will receive consideration by the Government. The amount involved in the specific case which he raises would not be very great, but the general question raises a very big issue which will need serious consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bouse adjourned at 3.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 June 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240620_reps_9_107/>.