9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Reported Discovery of Oil
– Has the Government had any advice concerning the reported discovery of oil in New Guinea’? If so, will the Prime Minister let the House know what is the information that has been received?
– Ihave seen the reports in the newspapers and I understand that some information hascome through to the Homeand Territories Department,but none has yet been received which itwould be of service to make available tothe
– In reference to the reported discovery of a flow of oil of 40 gallons a day and the dispatchof 50 gallons of oil from the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, will the Prime Minister make inquiries and report to the House just where the oil wasdiscovered, and whether the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s officials visited that particular locality?
Mr.BRUCE. - As soon as any definite information on the subject is received the fullest details will be given tothe House. The Government hopes very sincerely that oil has been found, but at the present moment we haveno informattion which would warrant any statement being made with regard to it.
Mutual Guar antee Treaty.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the draft treaty of mutual guarantee referred by the last Assembly to the states that are members of the League of Nations has yet been considered by the Government, and whetherthe House will be given an opportunity to discuss it before the next meeting of the Assembly.
– The Government has received from the Secretariat tothe League of Nations particulars of the treaty, and has considered it. It will be a matter for further consideration whether it should be “submitted to the House before the next conference of the Assembly takes place.
Issue to MEMBERS
– In view of the many executive acts of the Government that are ‘reported, and the gratuity lists to big private interests that from time to time are referred to . in the Commonwealth Gazette, and escape the notice of honorable members by reason of the fact that they do net receive that publication, will the Prime Minister have the publication issued to honorable members?
– I shall look into the matter, and see if there is any difficulty at. all in complying with the- honorable member’s request.
. Mr. GREGORY.- Will the Minister foe. .Trade and Customs submit a statement, to the House showing the various classes. of goods which have been brought under the- anti-dumping provisions of the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act, and, if possible, the reasons why those, provisions were applied to the goods ?
Ma-. PRATTEN.- I shall have the statement, prepared, and shall, lay the list on the table of the House. As the list is. rather a long one, it will take some little time to prepare it.
– Last week I asked the Treasurer certain, questions regarding loams borrowed by the Commonwealth and- the States. I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman is yet in possession of the information for which I asked?
– I regret that the information has not yet come to hand.
– A few weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister a question’ regarding the guarantee’ of a price for. next season’s wheat. I was informed that the. matter was under consideration. I should like to know it a decision has as been arrived at, and if so, what it is? “
– Proposals for guarantees have been received from- four states. These representations were- made to the Commonwealth Government, and- not to the State Governments. A conference has been ‘ called, I think for the 7th July, of representatives of the states and the Commonwealth, to consider the whole of the- representations ‘ made on behalf of the various wheat ‘ pools.
Grant in Aid.
– I ask the Treasurer what provision he proposes to make with- -a view to assisting Tasmania. Will the honorable gentleman deal with th& matter in his- budget speech, will he pay the grant out of his advance account; or willhe submit a special- bill to provide for the grants
– The financial proposals of the Government will be brought down in due course.
– I have received! an intimation from, the honorable member for Barton (Mr.. E. McDonald!) that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House, this afternoon for the purpose-, of discussing an urgent matter of definite public importance, namely, “ The acute distress due to unemployment at present prevailing in the Commonwealth, and particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, and the obligation upon the Government to assist in/the ‘ relief of the same”
Five: honorable- members having risen in their1 places,
.- In submitting my motion, I do not forget that unemployment is a very vexatious problem, which confronts most Governments from time to time, but I ask honorable members when discussing the problem to remember that, whiTe it’: is a serious matter for Governments-, it is a much more- serious’ matter for the workers who have so frequently to face-it. It is the skeleton1 in their cupboards, the lean time, periodically recurring, that succeeds very effectively in eating up ‘all they may have been fortunate enough to save in better times. I am sure that honorable members who have read the articles which have appeared in the press recently, and especially those which have appeared in the Sun, must have been struck with the acute distress in this city, due to unemployment. I shall, personally, have more to say about unemployment in New South Wales, because I am more conversant with its effects there. I do not propose to dilate in this House upon the particular cases of distress to which reference has been made in the newspapers. Honorable members, reading between the lines, must have been struck by the heroism of the fathers and mothers who are continually struggling against unemployment. Such heroism makes them worthy to be placed on the highest plane. We admire the deeds of courage performed in the heat of the moment, but the. sustained courage of these fathers and mothers - many of the latter being widows - in striving against adversity, and in endeavouring to fit their children to occupy creditable positions in the land, is worthy of even more admiration than those other deeds of heroism. During the past few months unemployment has become more acute than formerly. The figures which I shall give to the House, and which have been extracted from the New South Wales Industrial Gazette for March and April of this year, indicate that. I have not been able to obtain the figures for Victoria, and those for New South Wales are not quite up to date. They were, moreover, prepared at a time when there was nothing in the public press in relation to unemployment. The position was not then so acute, and public attention had not been drawn to it. But even the figures for those months are striking. In the iron trades, which embrace 13,380 members - I am referring to registered members of the union only - 26 per cent, of the members were unemployed during March. During the next month, there was an increase of 21/2 per cent, on those figures. In the leather trades 55 per cent, of the members of the union were unemployed. In the manufacturing sections of the dental and jewellery trades 18per cent, of the members were unemployed. Under the heading, “ General Labouring,” the percentage of unemployed for the month of
March was 26, increasing by 17 per cent, to 43 per cent, in April. That heading covers a total of 12, 000 workers. Honorable members know that the general labourers are affected by the fluctuations in unemployment in the skilled trades. During the past five or six weeks attention has been drawn by the press of all the States to the serious position which has arisen because of this unemployment, particularly in New South Wales. The Government will not question the accuracy of the figures I have quoted, nor will they deny that unemployment is a serious problem. They may, however, contend that unemployment is not a federal matter. If I were of that opinion, I should not have moved the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter. There are special features in connexion with the existing unemployment which make it particularly a Commonwealth matter, and it is for that reason that I have asked the Government to give attention to this problem. Unemployment is particularly bad in the manufacturing trades. That is largely due to the inaction of the Government in connexion with the exchange problem, which has dislocated our trade and commerce. Surely the Ministry will not say that that is not a matter for their attention. It was the duty of the Government to solve the exchange problem, but it failed to do so. As a result, intead of our secondary industries being in a flourishing condition, and giving employment to all connected with them, Australia has been flooded with an excess of imports. Our own people have been thrown out of employment, because we have been forced to take these imported goods. Consumers, generally, would have preferred articles manufactured in Australia, as that would have provided employment for Australian workmen. What has been a blessing to the Treasurer, by way of providing an enormous surplus, has proved a curse to the industrial workers of Australia. Because of the failure of the Government to solve this problem, an ethical obligation rests upon Ministers to do something to relieve the situation. I do not think that the Government can escape that obligation. Certainly they should make no attempt to do so, as their policy of laisser-faire respecting the exchange problem has contributed to the present unsatisfactory position. The difficulty has been accentuated by reason of the expenditure of Commonwealth money to bring immigrants to Australia. During the next twelve months further sums will be spent for that purpose. In the Age a few days ago it was stated that during the first six months of the present year over 13,000 Government-assisted immigrants had arrived in Australia. Of that number 5,000 remained inWestern Australia, 4,000 in Victoria, 2,700 in New South Wales, 600 in Queensland, 600 in South Australia, and 120 in Tasmania. It is only reasonable to suppose that a great number of our own people have been displaced by these immigrants. We all know that in the Old Country there are thousands of unemployed, and probably an attempt is being made to so transfer them that each country shall bear its proportion. It should be our first duty to see that none of our own people are displaced by these new arrivals. If the Government can devise means by which these people can settle here without creating unemployment, no member on this side of the House will object to immigrants being brought to Australia. But even the immigrants themselves have not been kindly treated in this matter, according to the statement of Mr. J. Doyle, of the United Labourers’ Union. Writing in the labour Daily of the 17th June last, he said -
There are quite a number of men calling every day at this office, all looking for work. The sad feature of it all is that they are strangers in a strange land, evidently the result of a vigorous immigration policy.
It has been no kindness to these people to bring them out here, because, while they remained in the Old Country and were unemployed, they were the recipients of the unemployment dole. When immigrants arrive in Australia, and find difficulty in obtaining work, they are told that the Government have undertaken no responsibility respecting employment for them, that it is not a federal matter. If they apply to the State Governments for assistance, particularly in New South Wales, they will be informed that it is not a matter for the State Governments, but one for private enterprise to deal with. Having contributed to the present state of affairs, a moral obligation to do something to relieve the position certainly rests upon the Commonwealth Government. Surely the Government will recognize that obligation. Holding the theory of the state that they do, it may not be easy for members of the Government to accept the moral obligation that is easily accepted by honorable members on this side, who hold quite a different theory of the. state. I remind them that rulers and governments have on many occasions come to grief because they have not accepted their responsibilities to their people. They have lost their crowns, and in some cases along with their crowns have gone the systems that they advocated. That has happened to autocratic rulers and to constitutional governments. A moral obligation rests upon the Government. The writer who is accepted as the greatest dramatist of our race’ has preached a fine sermon on this subject. Poor old King Lear, who had been a ruler, and knew not what suffering was, when misfortune came upon him, thought not of himself, but was filled with remorse that he had not in his time of power taken more notice of the condition of his people.
– Is the honorable member citing King Lear as one of the unemployed ?
– At the time of which I speak he was certainly without a job. He was shelterless on the heath - the domain, if you wish - and he expressed his thoughts in the following words: -
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are, That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, How shall your houseless heads, and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst take the superflux to them, And show the heavens more just.
There are many in Australia in such case to-day. The moral obligation is enjoined uponus even by divine command, and surely the Government will havesome regard for that, even if it seeks to escape from the ethical obligation. In addition to the general unemployed, there are many unemployed men in Australia to-day who are in a special category. I refer to returned soldiers, the ex-service men, who are in distress because they can not find employment. Although theirs is- a special case, I dare say that many of them would be prepared to have their cases treated in a general way, but there is a special obligation on the Government in respect of them that I think even the present Ministry will not attempt to escape. A promise was made to them by the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Hughes), it was reiterated by public speakers, and it had the nation’s assent. Recently in this House we heard much about the honouring of a promise given by the same Prime Minister. Members opposite clamoured for the honouring of that promise, and to-day we ask that the promise made to the returned men shall be honoured in the spirit as well as the letter. No legal interpretation of that promise is needed such as was asked for in the other case. The promise was not drawn up in legal form, but we all know in what spirit it was made. We know that in those days the key-note of the appeals made was that the individual should think only of service to his country. We accepted that view, and surely there is now a corresponding obligation upon the country to think of the individual when he is in distress. Some people may say that we have treated these men very well, that we have put certain acts on the statute-book by which they can be granted relief, and that we have paid them a gratuity. But we ought not to endeavour to calculate our obligations in terms of pounds, shillings, and pence. If we attempt to do it in that way, it will be very much like the haughty knight in the vision of Sir Launfal, who saw his needy brother, threw him a gold coin, and thought he was absolved from any further obligation. The Government is not absolved from its obligation because certain things have already been done for the returned soldiers. The acute distress due to unemployment among returned soldiers is, after all, only a reflection of the general conditions. It is only within the last few weeks that we have heard very much about distress among returned soldiers, and it was thought that up to that time they were doing very well. Their condition is only another indication of the very serious and general unemployment existing throughout . Australia.
– Has the honorable member any more figures ?
– When one is endeavouring to state a case in a limited period of time, one is apt to omit something important. I might have given, the figures showing the total amount of unemployment in New South Wales. In the New South Wales Industrial Gazette the total number of members of registered unions unemployed was given as 12,000 in March and 13,000 in April. Considering that there has been a very great increase in unemployment since, it is reasonable to suppose that the figures for the present month would be about 20,000. It is alsoreasonable to suppose, seeing that the figures represent only the unemployed members of registered unions, that today there are at least 25,000 persons unemployed in New South Wales. That figure would easily be reached if we included in it those who have lost their permanent employment, and are endeavouring to exist on one, two, or three days’ work a week. I have not the slightest doubt that figures for the whole of Australia would show that there are now 50,000 people unemployed. Thatrepresents a very great economic waste. In times of industrial strife we hear much of the great waste that is due tomen refusing to work. That is an argument which, perhaps, carries weight with certain people, but those who accept itshould admit the same conclusion in regard to unemployment. If the argument is applicable to men who are on strike, it is. equally applicable to men who are unemployed. Members of the Government will no doubt say to me, * What shall we do? What can we do ?” The first thing to do is to accept the problem as a national one for the Government to solve. To a certain extent the Government has accepted that view, for it has appointed a commission to inquire into national insurance. I have no fault to find with that action, but the chances are that nothing will be done in that direction for a long time. Instead of waiting until the patient bleeds to death, we ought to render first aid if we can. The Commonwealth Government can render first aid and it should do so promptly, because it is, to a certain extent, responsible for the conditions created. There are many things which it might do, and I shall mention a few of them. It could co-operatewiththe states whichare affected by this economic waste - and!
Mr. F. McDonald. that means all the states - to devise means by which the trouble could be eliminated. In New South Wales, concerning which I speak very definitely, the position appears to be more acute than elsewhere. It is so serious, indeed, that when the State Government was requested to push on with a public works programme to afford some measure of relief to the unemployed it said, “ We cannot do so, for we have no money ; and we have the greatest difficulty in getting any from the Old Country on account of the rate of exchange.” In. view of the fact that the Treasurer has a large surplus which he little expected, and that the coffers of the Treasury are overflowing; and, also seeing that New South Wales, according to a recent statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs, pays very nearly half the Customs duties which have created the surplus, I think it is a fair thing to ask the Commonwealth Government to make some money available for public works in order to relieve the position. The people of New South Wales have been taxed enormously to build up the surplus, and it would be sensible and equitable for the Commonwealth Government to loan some of it to the State Government at a nominal rate of interest to carry out public works. I cannot see any grounds on which the Commonwealth Government can object to this proposal. Certain people have suggested that, on account of the Government having such a large surplus, it should remit taxation ; but that course can hardly be considered when such serious unemployment as I have described prevails. Another method by which the Commonwealth Government might relieve the position is by making a large grant to the state authorities for the purpose of road-making, on which the unemployed could be engaged. Australia has seriously lagged behind many
Countries in road construction, and we need substantial concrete highways. An amount of money could be made available for this purpose, and when, the economic position improved so that the unemployed could go back to their ordinary occupations, road-making activities could be reduced. The programme could be expanded or contracted according to prevailing conditions. I think that, the Government could well afford to make available £500,000 for this purpose. The problem must be solved. One could well say of it, “ Solveme, or be-destroyed.”
It is a national matter which merits earnest consideration, and the Government should be closely concerned by the logic of its cause and consequence. A legal and moral obligation rests upon the Government, and, if I may say so, an economic obligation also. It cannot evade responsibility for the waste that is taking place. If it took effective action to remedy the situation, it would gain increased support in this House, and in the country generally. The matter calls for immediate attention. Some measure of relief could also be given by the Government making money available to certain organizations which are carrying out relief work. That course has been taken in previous unemployment crises, and could be taken again; for these stricken people must be relieved. I suggest that money could be provided for this purpose from Treasurer’s Advance, for this is a matter of urgency, and has arisen, from unforeseen circumstances, for which the Government is partly to blame. No honorable member would cavil at the . action of the Government if it expended a. certain amount from Treasurer’s Advance in this way. In any case, with the large surplus it will have this year, and the large accumulated surplus now in the care of the Treasurer, I can see no reason why it should say to these people: “ We cannot afford to help you,” and then “ pass by on the other side.” The people of Australia, in common with those of almost every country in the world, are eagerly looking for evidence of a little more of the humanitarian spirit in political economy, and here is an occasion on which we may give it.
.- I do not think any one doubts the sincerity of the honorable member for Barton, (Mr. F. McDonald) in this matter. He feels very deeply the position which he has described to us, and earnestly desires that something shall be done to assist a body of people who deserve nothing but the greatest sympathy. Unfortunately, as the honorable member has said, the problem of unemployment has existed in all countries throughout the world’s history. We should remember, however, that it is much less serious in Australia to-day than in other parts of the world. We should also bear in mind, when discussing it, that considerable publicity will naturally be entailed by its introduction in the national parliament. We ought not to employ in our debate phrases which may create the impression that in this great continent, which is certainly one of the most prosperous in the world at present, unemployment is rife, and that the aid, not merely of the State Governments, which are primarily concerned, but also of the Commonwealth Government, is necessary to remedy a desperate situation. I wish to state clearly our present position in respect of unemployment. The figures given by the honorable member for Barton deal with only a few isolated cases, and do not show the percentage of unemployment in Australia in comparison with that of previous years. The following figures, which should be much in our minds when discussing this matter, show a percentage comparison: -
The percentage of unemployment for the first quarter of .1921 was 11.4, and for the first quarter of 1924 only 7.6. We must clear from our minds the suggestion that the present position regarding unemployment is more serious in Australia than it has been in the past. The fact is that it is less serious. It cannot in any sense be maintained that there is a marked increase in the percentage of unemployment in Australia. The very reverse is the case. I regret to say that we are to-day in much the same position that we have always been in, and that there will probably always be a certain amount of unemployment in our midst. No one has yet devised means by which we can get rid of unemployment, although it has always been the Government’s desire to do so. In order to investigate this question, we have appointed a royal commission, which is at present inquiring into the possibilities of effecting a scheme of insurance against unemployment. I wish now to refer to a statement which was made by Mr. J. M. Dooley, who, I think, was quoted by the honorable mem- ber for Barton. The following is an extract from his remarks: -
There is no need to fear that the present winter will be a bad one, so far as unemploy-ment is concerned.
This welcome assurance was given by the officer in charge of the Government Labour Bureau (Mr. J. M. Dooley).
At the present time there were from 700 to 1,000 registered on the books, but it was doubtful whether 600 of these would be available, if called upon, as they were for the most part comprised of migratory single men who were testing the chances of employment while en route to some other place.
I have merely quoted that and given figures in order to remove the impression that there is a condition of unemployment in Australia of an acute and unprecedented character. The only unemployment at present existing is the ordinary and inevitable volume that, I regret to say, Ave must always have with us.
– I did not quote from the remarks of Mr. Dooley, but from those of Mr. J. Doyle.
– The honorable member stated that this matter should have the consideration of the Commonwealth Government. He admits and agrees that under the Constitution “the subject of unemployment is primarily one for the states, but he has given certain facts in support of his contention that the Commonwealth is responsible because of certain actions that it has taken or failed to take. The first point which he raised was the present exchange position, which, he said, had to a great extent caused the manufactories of Australia to close down, thus throwing a number of men out of employment. This, he contended, would not have happened had the Government taken some definite action to cope with the exchange situation. I do not propose to discuss with the honorable member the question whether the result which he hoped for would have come about if the exchange position had not been so acute, but I suggest that his breezy suggestion that the Government could have solved the exchange problem is a little - exaggerated, and beyond the power of any Government. Steps have been taken on the advice of experts and .in accordance with suggestions from other people, to.;:.try..j;o . solve..;, what is obviously a very great problem If .the honorable member is anxious to have the present difficulties of exchange removed, the most practical step that he can take will be to assist the Government in passing the Commonwealth Bank Bill, and so have this question thoroughly investigated when the new board comes into existence. I also remind the honorable member that the control of the notes issue of this country, to which he was quite obviously referring, was placed in the hands of an independent board with the full assent and concurrence of this Parliament. The only way in which the Government could alter the policy of the Notes Issue Board would be to take the drastic step of exercising the power which we have by transferring control of the notes issue back into the Treasury by proclamation. Nobody in this House and very few people outside, having a sufficient knowledge of this subject, would say that anything that the Notes Issue Board has done is so wrong as to warrant the Government superseding its control, and placing the notes issue back in the Treasury. This question will be more appropriately dealt with when we are considering the Bank Bill. I should advise all honorable members who have the interests of the workers at heart to be a little chary of suggesting what should be done with the note issue, and recommending as a solution of the problem the issue of further currency or the adoption of similar methods by which some of the existing difficulties might be overcome. The greatest danger that this country has to be guarded against is the inflation of the currency, as whenever this takes place the purchasing power of the daily wage is immediately reduced. The honorable member for Barton will agree with me that when the purchasing power of money is reduced, a delay occurs before wages can be adjusted to the new conditions. In these circumstances, the man earning a weekly wage is the one who suffers first and suffers most. The exchange problem involves the whole question of inflation, and a precipitate and unwise act might have the most hideous effect upon the whole of the wageearners of this country. The next reason that has been advanced why the Government should interfere with unemployment is that the present position has come about as the result of what was described by some gentleman, whose name I did not catch, as the energetic immigration policy of the Government. I should like to think that we had given signs of that energy, but I regret to say that the results which have been achieved do ‘ not quite bear out his words. We must analyse the facts to see if the unemployment position could have been brought about by our present immigration policy. There is immediately a negative reply in the figures I have quoted. In 1921, when apparently we were not pursuing this energetic policy which has been referred’ to, the proportion of unemployment in the March quarter was 11.4. We proceeded with our energetic policy of introducing migrants until in 1924 it has had the effect of reducing the percentage of unemployment from 11.4 to 7.6. That appears to be a rather conclusive answer to the suggestion of. the honorable member. I shall give the House figures showing the number of migrants that have come into Australia and the callings they follow. For the year 1923 the number of migrants to all the states, that is to say, assisted and selected migrants, was -
In the circumstances I do not think that immigration can be suggested as a reason for a wave of unemployment in this country. Up to the present the migration policy of every Government has been to assist people to get on to -the land. It has not been a policy of bringing them into the cities. At a later stage we shall have to discuss the whole question of migration, and the basis upon which it should be dealt with. When I was in Great Britain, and ever since I have been Prime Minister, I have made it Very clear that the principle with regard to migration for which I and the Government stand is that we have to increase, by wise expenditure, the absorption power of this country, and as we increase it, introduce migrants whose introduction will then be for the general benefit of those who are in Australia already. The honorable member who submitted the motion made a sentimental plea for the returned soldiers. We all recognize the circumstances of the returned soldier, and have the greatest sympathy for him. If time permitted I might set out what the Government has done towards finding employment for the returned soldier, and also the assistance it lias given in connexion with the em- ployment bureau of the Returned Soldiers’ League.
– The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- One must expect the position of the unemployed to be brought before the House, and I thank the honorable member for Barton (Mr. P. McDonald) for submitting his motion. I also thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) for what he did for the unemployed last year. The right honorable gentleman was prompt in action at a time when the Victorian Government was remarkably slow. Perhaps I should not speak too severely of the present Government of Victoria, because it is going to1 be . swept out of existence this very day. The meanness of Sir William McPherson when Treasurer of this state has been a cause of great unemployment. Honorable members will recognize his meanness immediately when they are told that in Victoria the state contributes only £64,552 for the upkeep of hospitals, whilst in Queensland the s tate’s contribution amounts to £246,967. Hospital authorities in Australia some- 1 linos give patients olive oil and cod liver oil as a food, but some hospitals are unable to provide these necessities when they are required. Last year the Prime Minister immediately found accommodation for 500 or 600 men who would otherwise have had to walk about the streets. The Reverend A. E. Yeates has made his calls, and the Sim newspaper has made provision for baskets in which clothing may be placed for those who are in need of it. If the Prime Minister came to his office by the railway instead of in his car, he would see the way in which kindly people are trying to help those in new! by putting bundles of clothing into the Sun’s baskets. Is it not a shir upon this twentieth century that. we cannot handle the unemployment question? If it were a question of war, we would handle it in one way or another. Here we are dealing with one of the most distressing things; in the world, and some people seem to have the idea that the unemployed must always be with us. The man who would say such a thing cannot believe in the Creator, who has endowed human beings with brains which should enable them to put an end to unemployment. The Englishman’s dread is poverty and starvation. I understood/ the Prime Minister to say that, in 1921, the percentage of unemployment was 11.4.
– That was for the first quarter of 1921.
– I had not noticed that the reference was only to the first quarter in which, as a rule, there is not so much unemployment as in later months of the year. I should like to know’ what the exchange question would have to do with this matter if we had a Government wise enough to properly look after the welfare of the people. There is no question of exchange in the nest of the ant, or the hive of the bee, although the life struggle of the ant is more severe than that of the human being. Has Australia refused to grow wheat, wool, or meat? Is the timber in this country .so small that it cannot be used for the erection of buildings in which our people may find shelter? Cannot this Government follow the splendid example of South Australia, where the State Government, though appointed only on the 6th April last, has already let tenders for 1,000 cottages, the like of which T wish we could build in Victoria for the same price. We know that, in some cases, families are crowded into single rooms. If one looks at the London Illustrated New.9 of 19th October, page 596, he will find a reference to a place in which eleven persons were sleeping in one room.
– Is not unemployment a matter for the state?
– The State. be damned !
– I . withdraw the word. Unemployment is a matter for every Parliament in Australia. What could be expected in a state managed by Sir William McPherson ? I wish the honorable member would go to the State Parliament and try to convert him. In Western Australia, no human being need be in actual want’. Even the wife/’of a criminal -: < ;1i zn < ! practice could be established here. The honor:ible member for Corio (Mr. Lister) would say that it should be done by the State Government, but I do not care who does it. so long as those who are in need are given help. In Victoria, at one time, wo had a good practice established by Sir Alexander Peacock, when he was a good Liberal, and not a half-and-halfer. as he is now. Under that practice any honest person, a physician, a clergyman, or a merchant might write to the UnderTreasurer informing him that a particular case was a deserving one, and ask for assistance. When that was done a .compassionate allowance of 10s. for each adult, and 5s. for each child, was made for a fortnight, until the Government had time to make inquiries into the case. Sir William McPherson, a wealthy, titled man, abolished that practice. Sir Alexander Peacock told me that he was angry with him for doing so, but a little later on he joined the Government of which Sir William McPherson was a member. I direct the attention of honorable members to a picture which appeared in the Sun newspaper of 19th June, under the heading, “ Save the Diggers. Surely their country should find them work.” The Commonwealth Government should deal with them. I do not say that the Prime Minister has no sympathy with them. I would not say that any honorable member wearing the soldier’s medal in this House is without sympathy for the returned soldier. But what is the good of sympathy alone ? It won’t fill a belly or clothe a body, or give shelter. Let us do something. Honorable members are aware that I have pointed the finger of criticism at the late Sir Denison Miller, Manager of the Commonwealth Bank, but I have something in this connexion to say that is to his honour. Mr. Scott, one of the greatest financial authorities we have in Australia, introduced a deputation of unemployed to him on one occasion. At first the unemployed were not to be received. Some big men full of sympathy thought that the proper way was to approach the state members. Sir Joseph Carruthers was one of these gentlemen. They urged the law of precedent just as the Prime Minister does, and raised the, question of exchange, but when Mr. Scott’ went with the deputation
– The honorable member will be sorry he spoke.
– No, I am not making the matter personal to the honorable member. I know that his heart is good, but he has adopted the flip-flap ideas of others. We should wipe out the state parliaments, and have but one parliament in Australia, and if we did that we should never again hear the excuse that a matter is one which should be dealt with by the state. The honorable member for Calare will agree with me when I say that we do not yet know what may be the final result of high explosives on the mentality of those affected by them. Years later, after a period of seemingly sound health, that mentality may be injured. Many who say that the soldiers are really not trying, do not know the disturbance of their mentality which has taken place. I congratulate the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) on the fight he put up on behalf of those who are sufficiently ill to be placed in hospital. I have in my possession a note, the pre-war value of which was £500,000,000, and the nominal value 10,000,000,000 marks. If wheat at 5s. a bushel were made the basis of our currency, the position which the gold backed currency has now reached in Germany could never obtain here. When we consider that the financial experts of Germany are paying their fellow citizens in that awful currency, we can entertain no kindly feelings towards them. It would not be good for those financiers if they were placed under my medical care. Three pounds of wheat will make 2 lbs. of flour, which, with the necessary water, will make 2 lb. 9 oz., of bread. The great financiers of the world do not know where they stand respecting the gold standard. Our notes have written across them a promise to pay in gold. That is a fiction - not to use a harsher word. I trust that, in relief of the distress caused through unemployment, the Prime Minister will act as quickly as he did last year. I speak with thirty-five years’ experience of the work performed in Melbourne by the Reverend Ainslie Yeates, and the Government will be guilty if, knowing the facts, it does not assist in that work.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) for having brought this matter before the House, but am surprised at the action of the Prime Minister in repudiating responsibility on the part of the Government for the unemployment which exists. The speech of the right honorable gentleman contained generalities only. He dealt in an academic way with the economic questions raised, but gave us no assurance that the Government will recognize its responsibility respecting this very important matter. The Prime Minister has adopted the role of a political Cain in this regard. In effect, he says, “ Am I my brother’s keeper ?” He suggested that the position respecting unemployment was more favorable to-day than formerly. The figures quoted by him were naturally those which were most favorable to his point of view. I desire to draw attention to the Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics, page 59, for the quarter ended March, 1924, which shows a great increase in unemployment during that period, according to the figures supplied by the various unions. For . the four quarters of 1922 there had been a gradual drop in unemployment to 8.6 per cent., the number of unemployed for the last quarter being given as 33,570. From that point there was a gradual fall for the first quarter of 1923, when the percentage reached 7.2 per cent. For the second quarter the figure was 7.1 per cent., rising to 7.4 per cent, in the third quarter. It then dropped to 6.2 per cent, in the fourth quarter of 1923, and in the last quarter ending March, 1924, there was a sudden rise to 7.6 - the highest point reached for fifteen months. So far no figures are available for the current quarter, but ii is reasonable to assume that there has been a marked increase in unemployment during that quarter. When the figures are available, they will probably prove to be the highest for any quarter since the second quarter of 1921, quoted by the Prime Minister, when unemployment reached its maximum, 12.5. I desire to emphasize the point referred to by the honorable member for Barton, that the Government is under an obligation to assist unemployed returned soldiers. A Sydney newspaper recently stated that, in Newcastle, 20 per cent, of a total of 500 unemployed were returned soldiers. I submit that the Government must acknowledge its responsibility to those men, and take some action to provide them with employment. Just after the war, the Government did take steps to relieve unemployment among returned soldiers, but nothing has been done recently. The present position is largely due to the failure of the Government to take steps to adequately protect .out secondary industries. There is a marked decline in the number of persons employed in the textile industry. Both employers and employees are loud in their protest against the failure of the Government to provide adequate tariff protection to enable that industry to develop along proper lines. There is also a relative decline in the production of textiles in Australia. The Government cannot disclaim responsibility for that. Many of our workshops are idle because of the unpatriotic policy of this Government, and of the various Nationalist Governments of the states in placing Government orders abroad. Only last year the South Australian Government placed a big order abroad, which action helped to accentuate the problem of unemployment in that state. Mr. Watkins. - The order sent abroad represented £1,500,000.
– I believe the amount represented by the order was, in fact, £1,750,000. That order was placed in America. In the Age of 14th June last, reference was made to a reply to a question asked by Mr. Pratten. in this House, concerning tenders for the construction of can-making plant by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Commonwealth Government holds a majority of the shares. The Prime Minister said that no tenders had been invited in Australa because of an oversight on the part of the Government ! Actions of that nature tend to retard the progress of our primary and secondary industries, which are inter-related, and to accentuate the unemployed problem. The honorable member . for Barton referred also to the influx of immigrants. We, on this side of the House, would not object to people being brought to Australia if they could be readily absorbed in the country. Unfortunately, from 85 to 90 per cent, of the immigrants are general labourers and unskilled workers, whose entry to Australia, adversely affects the labour market, and helps to swell the population of our overcrowded . cities. The Government has taken no measures to prevent the dumping of goods into Australia, nor has any attempt been made to restrict the flow of unskilled immigrants to this country. The policy of supporting our secondary industries by placing orders in Australia should be pursued. The situation would be relieved were tho Govern ment tq give Parliament an opportunity to review the tariff. Without begging the question, I submit that if a protectionist tariff cannot be devised which will foster our secondary industries, we shall have to resort to a policy of prohibition respecting certain lines, or a restriction of’ imports. I note with pleasure that it is proposed to make u further advance to the states for the construction of main roads, but more is needed. Work at Canberra could be proceeded with more rapidly than at present, and by the construction of vessels at the Cockatoo Dockyard and other shipyards encouragement to an Australian industry would be given, as well as relief to the pressing problem of unemployment. I ‘ have ascertained that a considerable portion of the equipment required for our telephone service is ordered from abroad, whereas we have in Australia capable mechanics who could produce it at reasonable cost. ~No matter from what direction we look at this question, we find that the Government has been inactive. The existence of unemployment affects the Federal Government more than the governments cf the states, because the Federal Treasury is overflowing, whereas the states are not in such a happy position. For the Prime Minister to say that there is nothing in the Constitution to. the effect that this Government has a responsibility respecting unemployment, is a purely Pharisaical declaration on his part. Seeing that the Government is deriving a large proportion of its revenue from the tariff, and that the extra cost is passed on to the consumers, there is a moral obligation on it to apply a portion of that revenue to the relief of the unemployment at present existing. The Prime Minister has already laid it down as a principle that a portion of the Customs revenue shall be devoted to stimulating primary production, seeing that the primary producer, according to statements by members of the Country party, has suffered by the tariff: To carry that argument to a logical conclusion, it would be fair to devote a portion of the revenue from the tariff to creating employment by pushing on with a vigorous policy of public works, and building more “ Bay “ liners. The Government has been very ready to act the part of Daddy Christmas in giving away 275,000 to the rich pastoralists, and wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds by sacrificing Government enterprises like the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. It is spending money wastefully in all directions. The maintenance of the Royal Naval and Military Colleges is a burden on the taxpayers. If one had the time to estimate the economic waste caused by the Government, one would find that it would run into millions of pounds. If the Government can afford to be so generous to its friends - the big pastoralists, the boodleiers, the rich merchants, and the Crown leaseholders - it should be prepared to recognize its obligations to starving women and children. I enter an emphatic protest against the pious attitude of indifference of members of the Government, and I recall to mind the words of Hood -
O God, that bread should be so dear, And flesh and blood so cheap !
When one hears the declarations made by members on the other side, and sees the cynical smile of honorable members who are smug and self-satisfied in positions of affluence, it is not to be wondered at that a policy of indifference has been followed, and that hundreds of thousands of pounds have been wasted upon policies of destruction, and used for the support of big, boodling interests. But when relief is sought for the workers, members of. the Government laugh, and with the cynical indifference that characterizes their attitude to the workers generally, put the matter aside.
.- The spectre of unemployment faces a large number of people in every capital city, of Australia, and probably in many inland cities also. A few days ago a deputation representing a number of trades and callings waited on Ministers of the Tasmanian Government, and directed their attention to the problem of unemployment. Mr. Stafford, the president of the Hobart Trades Hall Council, brought under notice the fact that there was a large amount of unemployment in Hobart and its surrounding districts. Mr. Gerald Mahoney, organizer for the Electrolytic Zinc Works, said there were from 600 to 700 unemployed in and around the. city, of Hobart, and that there were likely to be more shortly owing to certain construc tion works being completed. He said that from 300 to 400 men had been put off in the last few months. Mr. Lathey, representing the building trades, said his trade was also very quiet, and in a bad way, and that 30 to 40 men whom the industry could ill afford to lose had migrated to other states recently. Mr. Hargreaves, secretary of the Engineers’ Union, said that from 70 to 80 of the members of his union would bo out of work within a few weeks, and that about 20 per cent, of the workers in the engineering trade throughout Australia were unemployed. That was a very startling statement. Mr. Corby, representing the timber workers, drew attention to the large amount of unemployment in his trade, and said that a large number of timber mills were closing down, and that there was a tendency for others to close down also. Notwithstanding that thousands of men in the timber trade cannot earn enough for their wives and families, we see ships coming into our ports every day laden with foreign timber. All the timber we need could be supplied from within Australia if we had legislation to reserve the business for the Australian timber getters. The Premier of Tasmania, in reply to the deputation, made a statement which, I think, might be borne in mind by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). The Premier and the Minister of Mines did not adopt towards the deputation merely an attitude of mute sympathy they promised to do everything they could to relieve the prevailing distress. The Premier said the Government had been doing everything it could, and would promptly investigate the statements made by members of the deputation. He recognized that one of the great problems confronting Tasmania to-day was that it was gradually losing those members of its population that it could ill afford to lose. While there are a number of contributing causes to the steady stream of emigration from Tasmania to the mainland, the chief cause is that young men, when they arrive at the age of greatest value tothe state, cannot find employment on terms equal to those that they think areoffering in the other states. When a small state is adjacent, to a larger one it suffers in having less scope for employment.The Prime Minister might take a leaf out of the book of the Premier of Tasmania, who said, “ If the community was prepared to bring immigrants here they should be prepared to see that the workers already “here were not out of employment.”
– He is a statesman.
– Of course he is, and he is in sympathy with the mass of the people of Australia. I doubt whether the Prime Minister i3 in sympathy with the mass of the people of Australia.
– No doubt the Premier of Tasmania will make all necessary arrangements, to provide for the unemployed in that state.
– He made it quite clear that he was not opposed to immigration so long as Australians were properly provided for, but that he would do all he could to abolish unemployment in his own state before assenting to bringing immigrants to Tasmania. The Attorney -General for Tasmania said that one cause of the present distress was that the Commonwealth loan of £25,000,000 had absorbed most of the money available, and the banks had asked business people not to increase their overdrafts. There is no doubt that the borrowing of money within the last year or two has caused a tightness in the money market, and has restricted the operations of those employers who cannot get overdrafts. We shall always have the problem of unemployment with us in a greater or less degree while we continue the policy of importing from abroad millions of pounds worth of goods that could be manufactured or produced in Australia. We import manufactured articles for which we supply the raw material, which has to be sent to the other side of the world to be worked up. There are examples of this suicidal policy in the timber trade, the woollen trade, and the metal-working trades. We import valuable motor cars and motor car parts that ought to be manufactured in Australia, and until we have in power a Government that will face this problem as it ought to be faced, we shall always be confronted with the spectre of unemployment. Some of us advocate prohibition of importation of many of the things that can be manufactured in Australia. I am not afraid to say that I would prohibit the importation of many articles which, although they could be manufactured in Australia, are being imported to the value of millions of pounds.
– The honorable member is looking ahead.
– I am, and during the 23 years since the creation of the Commonwealth Parliament I have always voted in the same way. I have always wanted to have every pound’s worth of goods used in this country manufactured here. The budget statements show that the value of our imports is increasing every year. The budget that we shall have in the next few weeks will show a great increase in the imports of this year over those of last year, and last year there was an increase over the preceding year. In the last few days I have been talking to a man who has thought deeply on this subject for many years. He is a big business man- in the city, and ‘ he suggested that the Government should select one industry for the application of the prohibition principle. By gradually adding other industries to the list, we would compel the production in Australia of millions of pounds’ worth of goods that we now import. The Government is kept in power by members in the corner, who never lose an opportunity of speaking in support of a policy that would intensify unemployment. I am not sure that the Government wants their support ; perhaps it would like to be rid of them. While we have men in the national parliament who preach the doctrines that we have heard during the last few days, unemployment will be an annually _ recurring trouble. This is the time of the year when men and women least of all desire to be unemployed. At this season their sufferings are the most intense. Imagine a. family in this weather unable to buy enough fuel to ‘make a decent. fire in the home ! Imagine a family not able to buy warm clothing ! The position is appalling, and there is no necessity for it in a country like Australia. It would not continue if the Government in power would tackle the problem in a scientific way.
.- I compliment -the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) on the very moderate language he used in introducing this motion. The debate will be productive of good, because subsequent speakers have opened up a fruitful avenue of discussion. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) quoted certain statistics, and, for so doing, was taken to task by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). It is fair to say that those figures took into account particular quarters of various years. It would have been manifestly unfair had the Prime Minister quoted the figures for the last quarter, and had then looked around for returns for some preceding quarter to suit his argument. He did the correct thing in taking the figures for the March quarter of this year, and comparing them with the corresponding quarter of previous years. While the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was speaking, he “ bit my head of,” metaphorically speaking, in consequence of an interjection I made with reference to the construction of homes. Honorable members know that the South Australian Labour Government has introduced a new policy in that connexion. It decided upon the erection of 1,000 homes, and then called for tenders for the work. I have nothing whatever to say against it embarking upon the project, except that in so doing it violated one of the most cherished principles of the Labour party, namely, day labour, for it gave the work to a contractor. Honorable members opposite have attempted to make some capital out of the fact that that Government has taken steps to alleviate the distress caused by the shortage of houses, but they have said nothing whatever about its disregard for one of the main principles of their movement.
– Houses cannot be built without labour.
– And they cannot be built on air. If houses are to be built, land must be provided on which to build them. The Commonwealth Government does not acquire land for the construction of houses except for soldiers. The positions of the Commonwealth and the State Governments in this matter are not analogous. The solution of the unemployment problem rests, in a large degree, with the people themselves. I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) concerning the unsatisfactory condition of some of our secondary industries. They both referred to the declining activity of the textile mills in Australia. I do not know that their remarks in that connexion have a general application, but they certainly do not apply to the conditions which prevail in my electorate. I represent, as honorable members know, what is termed “ the
Bradford of Australia.” I know, however, that some Australian woollen mills are in a desperate condition. In com.pany with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), I visited one in this city last Friday, in which the conditions are anything but good. We saw many idle machines in the mill, and the fact that they were idle must naturally increase the overhead charges of the establishment. To meet those additional costs, the manufacturer is obliged to sell his product at a higher price than would be necessary if he were working his establishment at its full capacity. _ That kind of thing means very often that Australian goods must be sold at a higher price than is asked for imported goods. In that factory only 200 out of 350 machines were working. The public, generally, are to blame to a considerable extent for this state of affairs, for it is consequent upon their failure to support Australian industries. It is of little use for honorable members to seek to> build a high tariff wall around our industries if the general public will not buy their products.
– What would they do if they -could not get imported goods?
– A policy of absolute prohibition is necessary.
– I do not think that it is. The position would be relieved considerably if honorable members would preach, day in and day out, the necessity for supporting Australian industries. I have conversed with some honorable members of this House who have sickened me by continually harping upon the necessity for assisting Australian industries, but who do nothing themselves’ to give such assistance. Last February I visited 22 secondary industries in New South Wales and Queensland, and spent a considerable time in collecting information. I purpose later on to begin a campaign in my own electorate to acquaint people there of the need for supporting Australian industries. I went through one establishment in which between 500 and 600 persons were employed, and all the while I was there the head of the firm drummed into my ears the urgent need for the Government to give increased protection, and for the Parliament to insist as far as possible upon restricting the importation of the commodity which he was manufacturing.
– Does not the honorable member believe in that policy ?
– I do, but I pointed out to that gentleman, after he had taken me from his engine-room to his packinghouse, and explained everything to me - and the visit was a revelation - that he was not doing what he might to give effect to his own declared policy. He asked me at the conclusion of our inspection whether I could suggest any improvement of methods. I said to him, “ You are a practical man, and have spent your lifetime’ in this industry. I have only been here an hour and a half. In the circumstances, I would not presume to dictate to you how you should conduct your business. But I must say that you are not doing all that you might do to assist Australian industries. The very suit of clothes you are wearing is made of imported material, and yet you tell me that we should encourage local industries.” He said, “ Well, to tell you the truth, I have never looked at the matter in that way. I go to my tailor, and ask him for a suit. He shows me a number of materials, and I pick the one which appeals to me most, and never inquire whether it is of Australian or oversea manufacture. I never know where it comes from. I am thankful for the lesson you have taught me, and in future I shall endeavour to live up to my profession in regard to supporting local industries.” I have heard honorable members in this House vigorously advocate that we should support Australian industries, and while they are doing so they are wearing imported clothes.
– The honorable member is wide of the motion now.
– I am endeavouring to point out, Mr. Speaker, that it is possible for every honorable member of this chamber, and for every person in the community, to do something to alleviate tinemployment by supporting local industries. If we were more loyal to our manufacturing interests, there would not be so much unemployment as there is. As a result of this debate, I hope that every honorable member will do all in his power, in the way I have suggested, to banish unemployment from Australia.
– A thing that always strikes me in debates of this kind is the attempt that is invariably made to suggest that the un employed are unemployable. Any man who has hoed the hard row of life knows that that is not the position. In numerous cases pure adversity has put the unemployed in the position in which they find themselves. I have been endeavouring for some time to get the Government to proceed with works which Parliament sanctioned many months ago, namely, the construction of railways in the Northern Territory, and this work, if properly tackled, would find employment for many of the unemployed in this country. The construction of railways, roads, and other developmental and incidental works would tend to permanently settle the Northern Territory, and eventually build up a state worthy of Australia. .Many months ago the House agreed to the extension of the railway beyond Emungalan, and I have endeavoured to have that work commenced. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has supplied me with the following information: -
The honorable member- for the Northern Territory asked me whether the Government would proceed with the earthworks on the extension of the railway beyond Emungalan by day labour so as to provide work for the unemployed in the Northern Territory. I am advised that the earthworks are light, and that it would not be economical to carry them out much in advance of the laying of the rails. The laying of the rails could not be undertaken uni.il the permanent bridge over the Katherine is nearly completed, or a temporary bridge built. ‘die development of. the Northern Territory is very important. If it were a question of constructing railways in any other part of the world, particularly in America, a delay for twelve or eighteen months until a bridge was completed over a practically dry river would be unthinkable. Elsewhere it has invariably been the practice to deviate rivers to facilitate the work of construction. In this case, the work has been hung up for twelve or eighteen months. If the ordinary procedure has been followed, and the railway constructed forthwith, a number of unemployed would have been absorbed on the work. In the Northern Territory, although the population is very small, there are 300 unemployed persons, many of whom since 1919 have not worked more than one day in every week. When the Government decided to construct the railway beyond Emungalan these people, instead of leaving the Northern Territory and living in the congested centres of
Australia, settled on small blocks of land in the hope that the railway would improve their position and enable them to earn sufficient to tide them over the pioneering stages. We now find that, in addition to the delay of twelve or eighteen months it will probably be another twelve months before that work is commenced. Unemployment is a national question with parliaments all over the world. By the construction of railways in the Northern Territory, and the incidental development, there is a unique opportunity for the absorption of unemployed in Australia.
.- I urge the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to consider the question of expediting the construction of the Brisbane, to Kyogle railway, as, if commenced, this work would give employment to a considerable number of men, as well as to provide an important link of the main trunk uniform railway gauge.
– It is a national work.
– I agree with the honorable member. We are indebted to the honorable member for Barton for introduring this debate, and I hope that his arguments will impress upon the Government the need to do something to relieve unemployment. The construction of the Brisbane to Kyogle railway is estimated to cost £3,500,000, and if proceeded with that work would give employment to over 1,000 men for probably five or six years. Indirectly, some 4,000 or 5,000 people would be benefited, in addition to the work being a national one. This line has . been under consideration for some time, and there is no good reason why its ‘ construction should be further delayed. The Government has stated that the question of unemployment is not one for the Commonwealth, but I submit that it does affect this Parliament. Every honorable member feels that he ought to play some part in ameliorating the distress suffered by thousands of unfortunate unemployed persons. According to the latest Year-Book, in 1922 there were 19,496 unemployed in New South Wales, 7,082 in Victoria, and 3,320 in Queensland. That is about the proportion of unemployed in the three states mentioned. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) quoted figures for the first quarter of this year. It was not a sound comparison, as, owing to the seasonal nature of many occupations in Queensland, more men are unemployed in the early part of the year than in April, May, or June. Unfortunately, under the present’ system of Government, we cannot get rid of unemployment. We can only use palliatives to mitigate its influences. It should, however, be the object of Parliaments, whether Commonwealth or state, to alleviate the sufferings of the unemployed. I suggest as a solution of the unemployment problem that further encouragement be given to primary and -secondary industries, by adequate protection of both; that a Commonwealth national insurance scheme be established ; that a Commonwealth dairy produce and marketing scheme for the primary producers of Australia be established, because, unfortunately, a number of settlers on the land fail to make a living, and swell the ranks of the unemployed; that preference be given to Australian-made machinery, equipment, and material in all Government works and railways; that an efficient national bureau of science be established and provided with adequate funds to carry out experiments and research work in both primary and secondary industries; and,; furthermore, that additional subsidies be granted to the states, on a £1 for £1 basis, for the building of national roads, and particularly roads to act as feeders to railways for the use of farmers living from 10 to 20 miles from railways.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
Payment for Overtime
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Were there any fire-fighting appliances on the wharf at the time; if not, why not?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Condition ov Vessels - Oath of . SECRECY
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Examination of Returned Soldiers - Transferred Officers. ;’: -Mr. SCULLIN asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that on 24th August, 1923, he . promised the House that returned soldiers temporarily employed in the Taxation Depart ment would he given an opportunity to sit for examination ?
Did he state on 2nd April, 1924, that it was proposed to ask Parliament to amend the Income Tax Collection Act in order that the examination might be held, and that in the meantime no returned soldiers temporarily employed would suffer any hardship, as none bad been discharged as a result of the amalgamation of the Federal and State Taxation Offices?
Is it a fact that eight returned soldiers temporarily employed in the Taxation Department have received notice of dismissal as from 30th June, 1924?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as -follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has he any reply to make to the representations made by the deputation that waited on him on behalf of transferred officers of the Taxation Department?
– The matters placed before me have been the subject of discussion between the Federal Commissioner of Taxation and the Victorian State Commissioner of Taxes. I am expecting a report in a few days’ time.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Payment for Overtime
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– -Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
If sworn and positive evidence is produced to the board that there has been restraint of trade, will the Minister .suspend the antidumping penalties on such goods as are thereby affected ?
– Information is being obtained, and will be supplied to the honorable member later.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Tins the Government sold, or does it intend to sell, to tho Victorian State Government, that portion of the Bundoora Park estate now occupied by mentally afflicted soldiers?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No.”
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mas the Federal Government yet taken any action to have research work carried out, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Bureau of Science and Industry, in regard to the blow-fly pest which is to-day ravaging the sheep in the pastoral areas of Queensland?
– The Institute of Science and Industry has carried out certain experimental work on a restricted scale oh the sheep-fly problem. The results of these experiments have been published in the Farmers’ Bulletin, Series No. 5, issued by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, 1922; in the Queensland Agricultural Journal, July, 1922; and in the Second Annual Report of the Director of the Institute. 1924:.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follow: - 1 and 2. The total amount payable to the postmaster for the conduct of the department’s business at Avenel is £109 6s. per annum, which includes an amount for the cleaning and lighting of the office. The department provides the accommodation for the conduct of the office, and also comfortable quarters for the postmaster and his family, for which an amount of only £10 per annum is deducted from the allowance.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - ‘ 1 . It was found impracticable to give effect tQ.the proposals as submitted ‘by the Interstate Dairy Conference, and this fact was recognized by representatives of the industry, with whom several consultations have recently taken place. Negotiations are still proceeding with a view to arriving at some practical arrangement which will help the industry.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Rights of Transferred Officers
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, . 2, and 3. Yes.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– This matter has recently been reconsidered, but the Government is unable to alter its previous decision that the request is one which comes within the province of the state to deal with. The reason for that decision is that in all matters pertaining to the grant of financial assistance for land settlement, the invariable policy of the Commonwealth Government is to deal direct with the state Government, which is responsible for the settlement of individuals on the land.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointment of E. L. Sayce, Department of Defence.
Treaties of Peace (Austria and Bulgaria) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory
Rules 1924, Nos. 79, 80.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 78.
Treaty of Peace (Hungary) Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1924, No. 81.
In Committee (Consideration of the Governor-General’s Deputy’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to main roads development.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Stewart andSir Littleton Groom do prepare and bring in a bill to carry outthe foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Stewart) read a first time.
– I move -
T hat the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will remember that last year the Government introduced a bill relating to main roads development providing for the advance of an amount of £500,000 to the states on a basis of £1 for £1 for the construction of roads of certain classes and on certain conditions set out in the measure. This bill proposes to provide for the advance of a similar amount this year under similar conditions. Under the measure passed last year the quota of the advance for each state was arrived at, not on a basis of population, but partly on that basis and partly on a basis of area. The advances to the various states were : - New South Wales, £138,000; Victoria, £90,000; Queensland, £94,000; South Australia, £57,000; Western Australia, £96,000; and Tasmania, £25,000; making a total of £500,000. During the year Mr. Hill, the Chief Engineer for Works and Railways, was detailed to visit each, state and explain to the various roads authorities the Commonwealth. Government’s proposal, the type of road the Government had in mind, the class of country to be developed, and the character of the work - which was to be of a permanent nature - to be carried out with the advance. Mr. Hill waited on the Victorian Government, and got into touch with the Victorian Country Roads Board, and the expenditure of the advance to Victoria was arranged for without reference to shire authorities. We found in administering the act that in Victoria a definite roads policy had been adopted and a definite body appointed to carry it out. In the circumstances it was comparatively easy to make the necessary arrangements with that state, and there was little if any friction. Unfortunately in New South Wales a good deal of friction arose. We experienced considerable difficulty in connexion with the
New South Wales quota. In every other state we found it possible to deal with definite roads authorities without consultation with shire authorities. But in New South Wales there seems to be no body such as the Country Roads Board of Victoria, and the shire authorities were asked to submit applications under the grant to the State Government, which, in turn, submitted them to the Commonwealth Government. I am not in a position to say the number of applications by shire authorities in New South Wales that were rejected by the New South Wales Government; but, in all, some 260 applications in respect of separate roads were submitted, involving a total expenditure of £504,492, or more than would have absorbed the whole of the grant provided for. It was obviously impossible to agree to all those applications. I draw attention to the matter now because representatives of New South Wales sent along a good deal of correspondence to me in connexion with it, and I take this opportunity, without reflecting upon the administration in New South Wales, to make clear the difficulties confronting the Commonwealth Government in dealing with New South Wales applications under the act. I might quote a few specific instances to show the type of roads in respect of which applications were made for participation in the grant. The Ballina Council, for instance, sent along applications in respect of certain roads that obviously were not intended to be covered by the act -
Yass to Gundaroo-road, 20 chains gravel construction, costing £130; the road from Jindera to Tabletop, £100; Illabo to Nangu, £300; Wagga to Coolamon, £40; some chains of metalling in Byron-lane and on the Taralgalagganroad, £199.
I mention those roads to show that it is clear that they do not come within the provisions of the act, and that the money was not advanced for the purpose of patching up old roads. That work is, obviously, the duty of the shire councils concerned. Those proposals we rejected, but complaints were made immediately concerning our action. The complaint has also been made that applications have been granted in the case of roads within certain electorates. In one case it was claimed that the honorable the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) had “ collared “ nearly all of the New South Wales quota. Another complaint was that that quota had been chiefly expended in the district represented by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). I want to make it clear to honorable members that the question of the electorate in which the money was to be expended was never considered. Such an action would have been highly improper. In certain parts the country is less developed than in others. Those less developed areas were in greatest need of assistance, and it was in them that the greater portion of the money was expended. When we rejected applications for the patching of roads almost within the boundaries of towns, bitter complaints were made, but, on the whole, there has been very little friction in connexion with the working of the act. In all the states excepting New South Wales there has been the smoothest of working, and very few complaints have been received. In fact, the benefits arising from the passing of the measure of last year have been such that the Government has been requested repeatedly to increase the amount from £500,000 to a much higher sum.
– It should be £1,000,000.
– Ministers realize the absolute necessity for the Commonwealth Government doing all that is possible to open up the back country by providing suitable roads, but we need to be careful that, in accepting our share of this burden, we do not cause a slackening of the sense of responsibility on the part of the shires concerned. We must guard against that. After the act of last year came into force it was some time before the necessary machinery to give effect to it could be put into operation. It was found necessary to send an officer to each of the states. In New South Wales the amount appropriated was £138,000, and the amount authorized to be expended was £137,707. The anticipated expenditure to the 30th June instant is £14,500. The bill had been law for some months before any applications were received from New South Wales, and when they were received they required very careful consideration. The act stipulated that the roads’ to be constructed were to be of a permanent character. It was, therefore, necessary, before any money was advanced, to ascertain whether substantial roads were contemplated. Certain rules had then to be drafted and submitted to New South Wales for acceptance, after which tenders for the work had to be invited. Honorable members can, therefore, see that a considerable time necessarily elapsed before it was possible to expend any of the money. In Victoria the amount appropriated was £90,000, the expenditure authorized £87,500, whilst the anticipated expenditure to the 30th June is £37,000. The larger expenditure in Victoria is due to the fact that the necessary machinery was available in the Country Roads Board of that state. Without entering into correspondence with the various shires, the Country Roads Board outlined various parts of the state where roads were required. As their proposals complied with the conditions prescribed in the act, approval was given, and the work was commenced forthwith.
– Yet they have only expended £37,000.
– Honorable members must recollect that assent to the act was given only about (this time last year, and that some time necessarily elapsed before work could be started. That position will be overcome from now on.
– Let us hope so.
– I think we can be sure of that. If the House passes this bill, some applications which have already been received, but which could not be met from last year’s grant, can be approved, and the work proceeded with.
– Has the whole of the amount provided by the act been allocated ?
– Yes; but the whole amount has not yet been expended. I have already given the figures for New South Wales and Victoria. I shall now give those for the other states. In Queensland” £94,000 was appropriated and £88,750 authorized. It is expected that £19,000 will be expended before the 30th June next. In South Australia £57,000 was appropriated and a similar amount authorized. The estimated expenditure to the end of this financial year is £15,000. The amount appropriated for Western Australia wa3 £96,000, which also was the amount authorized. The expenditure to the 30th instant is estimated at £35,000. In Tasmania the amount appropriated and” authorized was £25,000 in each case. No figures are yet available respecting the anticipated expenditure for this year. The total appropriation is £500,000, of which £481,957 has been authorized. The anticipated expenditure to the 30th June, 1924, is £125,000.
– It is no wonder that people are unemployed.
– Honorable members will see that, in addition to the £500,000 which will be made available under this bill, there is a balance of £375,000 available from the amount appropriated last year. Throughout Australia, there is an appreciation of the action of the Commonwealth Government, as it is realized that when the roads constructed with the money provided for the purpose are made available for traffic, they will prove to be a great benefit to the settlers in the outlying districts. Although the intention of the New South Wales Government is not known, I think I am safe in assuming that any little friction which has taken place during the past year will not recur.
– Why not deal, direct with the shires of New South Wales?
– That would be utterly impossible. I should not like to be the Minister who would have to deal with them, as life would not be worth living under those conditions.
– The shire councils in my district will resent that.
– There are three outstanding points in connexion with the bill passed last year and that now before us. Firstly, the action of the Commonwealth Government in giving assistance of this kind has enabled £1,000,000 to be spent on roads which would not have been constructed otherwise. Secondly, if this bill is passed, it will render available for the same purpose a further £1,000,000. Thirdly, that the full requirements of the out-back country would necessitate an expenditure in excess of that provided in the bill. Honorable members will see that the effect of passing a similar amount this year will be that a largely increased sum will be spent, for the machinery will be ready for the purpose. The amount includes the unexpended portion from this year. I submit the bill to the House with confidence, believing that it will meet with the ready acceptance of all honorable members. It will be a means of opening up a considerable amount of country that would not otherwise be opened up. It is not presented as a bill for relieving unemployment, but as part of a definite roads policy. It will have the effect, nevertheless, of relieving unemployment at the most pressing time of the- year.
.- The bill will meet with the approval of all honorable members. It is gratifying to know that we have sufficient money to enable us to make advances for constructing, roads and opening up country districts ; but what surprises me is the dilatory way in which the states have handled the business. It. is surprising that only the small amount mentioned by the Minister has been, spent. In the state of New South Wales only £14,500 has been spent since the money was voted by this House, and the other states, in proportion, have not done any better. We have to make allowance for the fact that they had to get the work in train, but prior to the last vote £250,000 was granted, and that should have enabled the state departments to provide’ the necessary machinery
– It would if the conditions had been the same, but they are not.
– I admit that the conditions are different, but the grant should have assisted to some extent, so that when the bill was passed the states would have been able to get into line sooner than they did. Some conditions should be laid down by the Government, seeing that the Commonwealth finds half the money, and that contributions must be made by the states, which finally pass the burden on to the shires.
– In some cases that has been done. The Commonwealth Government should stipulate that roads already commenced should be completed. The Minister has spoken of New South Wales sending in hundreds of requests, amounting to £500,000, for that state alone. That is a progressive state, where everybody is anxious for road improvements, and one can imagine how requests are sent in to the state department and forwarded to the Commonwealth department. A lot of time is lost in that procedure. If the states were compelled to carry out works already commenced, and to undertake new works that are necessary for the purpose of opening up country, many of the difficulties now encountered would disappear. I have interviewed the Minister on- different occasions on behalf of a shire in my electorate, and much correspondence has been sent, quite unnecessarily, to his department. In that shire there is a road that runs through Cessnock, which is one of the most important centres outside the capital cities of Australia, to lake Macquarie. It opens up a lot of land suitable for settlement. The construction of the road was approved. Much of the grant of £250,000 was expended on it, and the shire spent a number of thousands, too. To my surprise, for I anticipated that the work would be completed, not a farthing was spent on it out of the last vote. When the matter was brought under my notice, I found that- the work had never been recommended to the department. While the construction of other roads was recommended, not a shilling was granted for this road, which was in an unfinished state. When the matter was investigated a report favorable to continuing the work was received, but that was after the money had been allocated. I mention that road to illustrate my contention that the Commonwealth Government should exercise control over money voted for road-making purposes, and that it should insist, at least, upon the completion of roads already commenced. It is useless to spend £8,000 or £10,000 on a road and then to leave it in an unfinished state. There are many roads requiring to be constructed in the interests of settlers, and I appreciate the action of the Government in making the money available. If the amount could be increased to £1,000,000, it would do much more work. The states should be made to realize that they must get to work quickly. It is no use spending a few thousands in a year when we have the money and the unemployed labour available.
– The last grant was not made until July, and after that regulations had to be framed.
– If the state departments had got to work promptly, much more of it could have been spent.
– The honorable member should remember that for every £1 provided by the Commonwealth, £1 has to be provided by the states.
– That, fact often plays an important part in delaying the work- perhaps a more important part than we realize. A state’s financial position may be such that it cannot make the money available for road-construction purposes. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) has referred to that aspect of the matter.
– A state may have made all its financial arrangements before being required to find this money.
– In the new financial year the same circumstances may recur. The. Government should point out the necessity for spending the money in the next financial year, so that some benefit will be derived from. it.
– The sums already authorized are substantial.
-I know that, but the amounts expended out of them are very small. By the end of the next financial year the states ought to be able to spend all this money except £100,000.
– I think the honorable member will find that they will.
– I hope that they will, and I hope the Minister will make representations to them to do so. It is idle for us to vote money if the states do nothing with it. If it lies in the Treasury, it isno use toany one and will certainly not help the man on the land who needs a road.
– A contract cannot be let if tenders are not obtainable. That has been the case on some occasions.
– In the state of New South Wales there has been no difficulty in getting tenders. There are many persons who make this class of work their occupation, and. if the shires invite tenders they receive a large number of them. Take the Port Stephen-road in the electorate of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner). When that district was in my own electorate I endeavoured to get that road constructed because of the advantage it would be to the naval base. I considered it to be essential from the defence point of view, to say nothing about the land that it would make available for settlement. Even after tenders had been invited and received for the work it was delayed greatly. I believe that it is now under way.
– Hear, hear!
– I hope that the
Minister will see that it is completed.
– I know of cases in nearly all the states in which tenders have been invited for road-making, and none have been received,or else those received have been unsatisfactory. We have had to re-advertise tenders on two or three occasions, in some cases, and still have obtained no satisfactory response.
– Does that apply to New South Wales?
– I cannot say whether it applies to New South Wales, but it applies to Victoria.
-What I am urging on the Minister is that he shall appeal to the state authorities to carry out their road construction work as expeditiously as possible. There is no reason why tenders should not be invited now for the expenditure of this money, and then, in three or four months’ time, when it is allotted, the work could be proceeded with immediately. Unless that is done we shall find, at the end of next year, that the Treasurer has as much as £700,000 unexpended out of the £l,000,000 voted. We could understand a certain amount being unexpended, but something is seriously wrong when the great bulk of the vote is left in the Treasurer’s hands. Good roads are wanting in nearly all our country districts, and the Government is doing good work in advancing this money. I trust that it will do its best to see that it is expended.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Good roads are feeders for our railways.
– That is so, and they are necessary in view of the rapid development of motor traffic in the country. I consider that the settlers in some of our remote areas would not be so insistent in asking for railway facilities if they had reasonably good roads on which to carry their produce to market. I trust that the Minister will be able to tell the House at this time next year that nearly all the money that has been voted for road construction has been expended.
– I appreciate the work the Government is doing in connexion with road construction, but I think we are treading on somewhat dangerous ground. I suggest that we should be acting far more wisely if, instead of making this money a gift to the municipalities an J shires, we lent it to them without interest on the condition that they should repay it at the rate of 5 per cent, per year. If that were clone the Government would always have money to advance to local governing bodies which desired to construct good roads. This policy would also ensure that the money would be well spent. The spending of it could well be left to the local governing bodies, for they know better than the Government the necessities of their districts. If we adopt the practice of making a free gift to the municipalities and shires year after year we shall find that they will expect it and regard it as a right; but if the money is advanced on the terms I have suggested they will not ask for more than they can repay, and we shall be certain that the money will be well spent.
– The honorable member may rest assured that the Government is taking care that the money shall be well spent.
– I do not doubt that, but I hope that it will give consideration to my proposal. Good roads are essential to the development of the country. I cannot understand why the authorities in New South Wales have given the Minister so much trouble in regard to the matter. I think the responsibility for spending the money should be placed upon the New South Wales Government’s local governing department. A Minister for Local Government controls its activities, and the present Minister (Mr. Fitzpatrick) is very energetic. He could be trusted with tho full responsibility for the spending of the money, and he should be asked to accept it.
– Hear, hear!
– If that were done, there would be no trouble ‘ about the allocation.
– The difficulty is that the Commonwealth Government stipulates that a certain class of road shall be made. Plans and specifications have io be submitted to it before the money is advanced.
– I think the state authorities could accept full responsibility. The municipalities should be given an opportunity to show their grit. They would not ask for more money than they could repay, and the system would result in much better roads throughout the country. The growing popularity of motor traffic necessitates good roads, and failure to provide them will hinder progress. I submit my proposal confidently, and hope that it will receive careful consideration.
.- I also appreciate the action of the Government in making money available for road construction. The advent of motor vehicles has revolutionized Australian traffic conditions. A few year’s ago, it was considered that railways were necessary to develop the country, but now there is room for considerable doubt in many instances as to whether we should construct railways or motor roads. One great drawback to constructing roads faces the people in the country. When a railway is built, the Government bears the expense, but when roads are made the people themselves, through the local governing bodies, are expected to pay for them, If our main roads were constructed out -of state funds we should not have nearly so many requests for railway facilities. I am sure that the local governing bodies in New South Wales will appreciate the additional assistance which the Government proposes to afford them. Many roads in that state are in a bad condition. The New South Wales Government proposes to introduce legislation next session to provide for the appointment of a main roads board. Such a body would, I feel sure, remove many of the difficulties that were experienced this year in allocating the money provided by the Commonwealth Government, and I believe it would simplify the administration generally. Many councils were disappointed last year because no money was allocated to them.
– My district did not get a penny, so far as I know.
– Some shires in my electorate were in the same position. One shire clerk told me that his council had applied for more than the total sum available, .in the hope that it would receive, at least, a substantial allocation. As a matter of fact, it received nothing. Yet its circumstances were such that it had a right to expect help. It has been doing a wonderful work in road development. Honorable members can imagine what a burden it would be for that council to have to finance all its road-making projects. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) as to the wisdom of completing the roads that have been commenced, and I feel sure that the Government, will consider that aspect of the question when the money is being allocated. At the same time the claims of shires which received none of this year’s vote should be giver careful attention. I am also in accord with the Leader of the Opposition in respect to the necessity for spending all the money voted, but I think it is rather a waste of time for us to discuss the point, for every council is anxious to spend the money allocated to it. It is unsatisfactory to find that, out of £500,000 voted this year, only £120,500 has been spent. We are very near the end of the financial year, and we may take the figure quoted by the Minister for Works and Railways as being fairly accurate. The Minister has a number of applications in hand which have been approved by the State Government, and I trust that allocations will be made in these cases as early as possible, so that the work may be proceeded with. The vote was not made this year until nearly the end of the winter, and winter is a bad time for road-making. We shall expect better things this year. It is extraordinary that tenders are frequently invited for work of this description without eliciting a single reply, notwithstanding that the local governing bodies are anxious to have the work done, and that the price offered is a fair one.
– Perhaps the call for tenders is not given sufficient publicity.
– I do not think that is so. This state of affairs is prevalent in regard to private as well as public work. I have been trying for years to get some work done on my farm. I have not been able to get it completed. I have offered a price about which there has been no argument, yet I cannot get it done.
– Docs the honorable member suggest that that applies to the municipalities and shires in New South Wales?
– I cannot say that it applies to municipalities, for in most cases the work they require to be done is adjacent to centres of population; but I know that it applies to many shires.
– One reason why no tenders are received is that road con tractors have cut their prices to such a degree that some of them have become bankrupt.
– That can hardly be the case, for tenderers please themselves about the price they submit, and, in many instances, they have no competition. It is quite open for them to allow for a fair margin of profit. My experience has been that, although contractors may cut their price very fine once or twice, they do not maintain the practice. They soon discover that they must protect themselves by allowing a fair margin for profit. I suggest to the Minister for Works that, with a view to relieving the unemployment which exists,- he should give immediate consideration to the applications already made for money for road-making in order that, as soon as the money is voted, it may be made available to the successful applicants. There is great necessity in New South Wales, as well as in other States, for the construction of what are known as main arterial roads. We must have them if we are to develop our out-back areas satisfactorily. I hope that the policy which the Government has announced will be carried out, and that we shall be in a position at this period of next year to congratulate ourselves that the bulk of the money voted has been expended. I should like the Minister, during the coming year, to consider whether it is not advisable to obtain full particulars of the main arterial roads that should be constructed - possibly of concrete - and to see if a portion of the grant cannot be allocated in order to provide good roads leading to centres of population.
– The regulations provide for that.
– I have not a copy of the regulations with me. I ask the Minister, when making further grants, to provide adequately for main arterial roads.,
– I think it can be said that a good deal of disappointment exists, particularly in New South Wales, about the unexpended portion of the moneys provided for roads by this Government last year. I hope that the Minister will give effect to the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition’ by getting in touch with the responsible body in Sydney, and avoiding the existing circumlocution which is responsible, to a large extent, for the unexpended portion of the grant.
– We are anxious to cooperate with that body in every possible way.
– I think that that co-operation was at its disposal last year. I understood the Minister to say that out of the amount voted only £14,000 had been expended.
– That is the actual expenditure to date, but there are commitments for nearly the whole amount under contracts that have not yet been completed.
– Some three weeks ago I placed on the noticepaper a question respecting a request for assistance from the main road grant. A great number of these requests have been turned down, not because they did not come within the meaning of the act, or within the scope of the Government’s proposals, but because, so it was said, the applications were made too late. I had the matter thrashed out, and in some of the cases it was shown conclusively that that was not so. These re quests will, no doubt, be renewed, and I want the Minister, when dealing with them, to give some priority to those applications that have previously been refused.
– Is not the honorable member’s electorate fairly well developed?
– Judging by the number of applications for expenditure on roads, I should say that most of this money could be well spent on roads in my electorate alone. No doubt, in the honorable member’s electorate, there are very many roads that require attention. One application, which was stated to have been put in too late, concerned the Tumut district. There was also some fault, so it was alleged, in the method of application. The whole of the delay was caused by the Sydney local government body, as I proved conclusively. I ask the Minister to give some assurance that requests that have previously come before him, and which are deserving, shall receive some priority, and that he will make some such representations tothe local governing body in Sydney.
– Questions of location, and priority are essentially questions which the state authorities should decide. If the state authorities send me applications in respect of a dozen roads even in one electorate, so long as the applications are within the provisions of the act I have no alternative but to agree to them.
– I quite see that those are matters principally for the state authorities: but I am sure the Minister will admit the reasonableness of giving priority of consideration to roads for which applications have already been made. I think that an unfortunate title has been chosen for the grant, because, in most cases, main roads are those which run parallel to the railway lines, and instead of being feeders for the railways they are serious competitors with them. I want to put in a plea for cross roads, which are . really developmental roads. I have in mind the position of. settlers in the back country who have to get their produce to the railways, and, although according to my reading of the bill these cross roads should come under its provisions, yet many applications relating to such roads have been turned down because it is stated they do not come within the act.
– Such roads as those to which the honorable member refers would come under the bill.
– I am very glad to hear that that class of roads comes under the bill. Will the Minister confirm that statement?
– I am glad to have that interpretation from the Minister so that the people in the country and the local government body may thoroughly understand it. They may believe that when a reference is made to main roads the intention is to deal with what are commonly referred to as main roads, and which very often run parallel with the railways. I have known applications to be turned down because it was held that the roads to which they related did not come within the meaning of the term “main roads,” but having tra velled over them I could see no reason why they should not be considered as main roads within the meaning of the act : I refer to roads leading from big railway centres to the back country away from the railways. If the grant is to be applied only to main roads which, in many cases, run parallel with railway lines, it will not bring about very much development. I hope it will be laid down definitely that the act covers cross roads used by the men who are struggling outback.
– That is the intention.
– When that is definitely known the Minister will find that there will not be so much of the grant unexpended in future. What I look upon as developmental roads are those which run out from the railways and enable the settlers to bring their produce to the nearest railway station. The Minister wondered that there should have been so many applications from New South Wales, but in view of the enormous area of that state, I do not wonder at it at all.
– I did not wonder at the number of applications; but I said that some of them shouldnot have been sent on tome.
– I understood the Minister to say ‘that applications were sent in from New South Wales which would have involved an expenditure of over £500,000.
– That is so.
– Then there must be something wrong if only £14,000 of the grant has been spent.No wonder that there has been a good deal of grumbling inconnexion with the matter.
– I understood the Minister to say that the commitments cover nearly the whole of the grant.
– Yes. They amount to £481,000.
– I am sure that every honorable member interested in the country districts mustbe pleased at the introduction of the bill. I contend, with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), that the amount of the grant should be twice as much as it is. I am satisfied that if in some way the Minister can get into more direct touch with the bodies that have to deal with roads in the different states, a great deal more of the grant will be expended in the future, and a great deal of the delay and red tape will be avoided. There is much disappointment with the distribution of the previous grant in New South Wales, and I strongly urge that, by co-operation with the controlling authorities in that state, the Minister will endeavour to bring about a more speedy consideration of applications.
.- I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to renew this small offer of assistance for the development of roads. I consider the amount of the grant proposed altogether too small for so important a work. We might very profitably devote at least £2,000,000 a year to” this purpose. We are all the time talking about opening up and developing the country, and it is always recognized that roads acting as feeders are of the greatest advantage in bringing traffic to railways that are at present not paying. I agree with what the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has said in connexion with the importance of these roads. It is absolutely useless to ask a man to go out into the wilderness if the roads are in such a condition that he can barely bring his wife and family to the nearest railway station in a jinker during the winter months, letalone convey his produce there. I might refer to many roads in Victoria that are in this condition. If that can be said of a closely-settled state like Victoria, the difficulties must be intensified in the” larger states. What we need is some co-ordination of work. There is something to be said for the arguments which have been used against immigration under the existing system in view of the fact that after unloading immigrants here We merely say to them, “ There is the country ; go and do the best you can with it.” We do little more than that under the existing system, but if we want immigrants, or even our own people, to go into the country, and put up with the many disadvantages which’ have to be faced there, we must encourage them by providing them with good roads. We have had a promise from the British Government of £3,000,000 a year in connexion with migration. The year before last there was £1,500,000 of this money available, and last year £3,000.000 was avail- able. Out of the whole about £380,000 has been spent up to date. Under this loan proposal, I understand that the Imperial Government undertakes to pay onethird, the State Government using the money pays one-third, and the Commonwealth Government pays the remaining one-third. From this money £1 for £1 might be added to the proposed grant, and we should formulate a thoroughly good road development scheme. T have been a member of a shire council for 25 years, and I have some knowledge, not only of actual road construction, but of the expenditure of money judiciously in that kind of work. I am able to inform honorable members that during the last few years it has been very difficult for local authorities to secure tenders for large jobs. We have invited tenders as often as three times for one work, and with very poor results. This, perhaps, is not to be wondered at in view of the advantages which workers in the cities enjoy. I understood the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) to suggest that road contractors underpay their employees, but I may state for his information that the wages of their employees are fixed. All tenders for these works are based upon a fixed scale of wages, so that there can be no cutting down of wages or cheese-paring in that way by contractors.
– The honorable member misunderstood me. What I meant to convey was that contractors have adopted cut-throat methods in tendering that have had the effect practically of bringing them to bankruptcy. I did not suggest that they underpaid their employees.
– I can assure the honorable member that there is no cut-throat business in connexion with tenders. The contractors get together and have a few words, and they fix things up just as nicely as union workers do. Good men may be easily secured for work about the cities, but it is a difficult matter to get men suitable for road construction. This difficulty must be greater in the other states than it is in Victoria. I consider that £2,000,000 u year ‘ is the lowest amount that the Government should advance on the principles “ on which this bill is based. It is only playing with the matter to give the states for this purpose a little dole like that which is now proposed. I believe that the Government should get into touch with the heads of the State Governments and formulate a continuous developmental roads policy. We know the lamentable things which have occurred in.t> connexion) with the work of the Vietorian Main Roads Board. The board spent millions of pounds in the construction of roads which it was considered would be good for upwards of 30 years, and yet in the course of four or five years, owing to the excessive traffic upon them, they have been torn to pieces. These roads cost in some cases thousands of pounds per mile, and they are now little better than roads which did not cost as many hundreds per mile to make. The main road is only second in importance to the railway, if it does not really take first place, and that is why I consider there should be consultation with the heads of the State Governments to decide upon a definite plan of road development, and an agreement should be made by the Commonwealth to give £2,000,000 a year for the purpose of carrying it out. The state authorities are in a better position to look after the expenditure of the money than are the federal authorities. The Commonwealth Government’ should, of course, be* safeguarded in r’e’spect to the proper expenditure of the money advanced, but it should have as little as possible to do with the administration of .the plan. In 1916. the United States Government passed its First Federal Road Aid Act, under which it entered into a partnership with the states in the work of road building on a basis of cost sharing, and it laid down a five-years’ programme. That programme was continuous, and enabled those in control to know the exact position respecting the expenditure. In Australia, the work is done in patches, and there is no continuity of construction. This position will exist while there is a lack of coordination. In the United States of America the assistance of the Federal Government was largely based upon giving aid to what were known as “ rural post roads,” that is to say, the improvement of roads used for carrying mail matter. Additions were made to the amount of the vote, and finally, in 1921, the term of the act expired. With the advantage of the five years’ experience, the Federal Government of the United States of America passed in 1921 a new act, which altered the basis of contribution, and proposed a much wider participation in road building. In an official report published in 1922, it was stated that up to the end of 1921 the Federal Government had spent £70,000,000 for federal aid roads, and £7,000,000 for forest roads. During 1922, that Government had $125,000,000, or £25,000,000, available for expenditure on roads. I hope honorable members will assist the Commonwealth Government in coming to some solution that will provide for a continuous policy of road construction, as this is the very best means at our disposal for opening up land, developing our latent resources, and relieving to a great extent the congestion in the capital cities.
.- It is sometimes said that it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose all measures introduced by the Government, without due regard to the benefits that are likely to accrue by their passage, but the attitude adopted this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition shows that the Labour party is always prepared to welcome any measure that will benefit a deserving section of the community. It is regrettable that the states did not avail themselves of the full amount at their disposal, but probably i satisfactory explanation of this can be given.
– The states have availed themselves of the full amount, but have not spent all of it.
– In view of the numbers of unemployed in each of the states, it is a pity that the full amount provided was not expended on the development of main roads. The sum of £361,457 remains unexpended at the end of the present financial year. No more important work could be undertaken by any Government than the construction of roads, and probably it would have been better had the name of the bill been the “Developmental Roads Bill.” In some instances in Australia roads are built adjacent to or running parallel with railway lines, and are used only as tracks for motorists. If, in their place, roads had been constructed to act as feeders to railway lines, a very useful purpose would have been served. There are numerous small country settlements situated 30 or 12 miles from a railway station, and in the event of a heavy downpour of rain the farmers are isolated for days, and sometimes weeks, the state of the thoroughfares preventing them from driving to the nearest railway station or township to obtain their mails and supplies. Roads to tap country centres of that description should be given preference in the allocation of the expenditure on road construction. The railway systems of Australia would be much better paying propositions if money had been spent on the construction of roads to act as feeders, thereby encouraging people to settle on the land, and adding greatly to the revenue of the railways.
– The honorable member should realize that it is the duty of the” State Governments who own the railways to attend to that aspect of the question.
– In Queensland the Government is working towards that end. For many years the construction of main roads was carried out haphazardly by the local shires and Councils. A few years ago the Queensland Government established what is known as the Main Roads Board, and that body has adopted a scientific method of constructing main roads, which will last probably 30 or 40 years. During the year ending the 30th June, 1923, the Queensland Main Roads Board ^developed 1,3,35 miles of main roads, which, with4 a mileage of 1,210 for the previous year, brings the total to 2,545 miles. At that date the board had completed over 62 miles of permanent roads, and 162 miles were under construction. The total expenditure on permanent roads amounted to £206,594. Loans to the various local authorities, amounting to £102,816, are repayable to the Treasurer in equal instalments over a period of 30 years. The work of the Main Roads Board in Queensland has largely resulted in roads being built to act as feeders to the railway lines and to benefit the settlers living away from the railway. The spending powers of the states are limited, but the national Parliament, having a wider scope for taxation and resultant greater revenue, owes a duty to the states. I look forward to the day when the financing of all road construction will be controlled by one central national government; but, pending that time, the Commonwealth Government should assist the states in the work which they are now doing. Some of them are doing good work, but indifferent work is being done by others. I agree with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that preference should be given to those applicants who were unsuccessful last year. I know of one road in central Queensland - that known as Razorback, “between Mount Morgan and Rockhampton and on the nearest route to the great Dawson Valley area. - concerning which the council made an application which was received too late. An application of that nature should get preference when applications are being considered this year. It would not be wise for the Commonwealth to deal direct with the local governing bodies in the states, as in some instances the state governments may shirk . their responsibilities. It would be very easy for a large percentage of the Commonwealth revenue to be spent on roads which should be constructed by the state authorities. It is far better to give grants to the states and insist that it should be spent on work additional to their usual main roads policy. Any conditions which this Government d<* sired could be made applicable to the grant. We must be careful that the state authorities do not slacken respecting the work of road construction because of any grant received from the Commonwealth. In saying this I am referring to the whole of ‘Australia, and not only to Queensland. In that state there is a very progressive main roads policy, the fulfilment of which is hastened by the grants from the Commonwealth. I regret that the sum provided in this bill is not £2,000,000. Those honorable members who have travelled over bad roads, through >the country districts of Australia, and who know the disabilities under which people living 20 miles from a railway labour, will agree that good roads are necessary for the proper development of Australia. America is spending £24,000,000 per annum on road construction. In England, £35,000,000 has been set aside this year for that purpose, as compared with £17,000,000 in 1914-15. Every man woman, and child in England and Wales contributes on an average £1 per annum towards the making and upkeep of the roads. Recently the Rum of £2,000,000 was set aside for a main highway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and an expenditure of £3,000,000 was approved for a new main road from Liverpool to Manchester. During recent years, Australia has made great strides in main road construction, but visitors are struck by the bad roads in th’e country.!!’ It is the duty of this Par- liament to assist the states in their endeavour to build decent roads, so as to make it possible for people living in remote parts, and doing pioneering work, to remain on the land. One of the difficulties operating against successful settlement away from railway lines is that of transportation. Producers get little enough for their produce in any case, but if they are obliged to meet heavy costs for repairs to vehicles and harness, and have to employ additional horses because of the bad roads, their lot is indeed a hard one. This Parliament should be generous in the provision of funds for the construction of developmental roads, because they are absolutely essential to the proper development of Australia.
.- This bill is essentially one to assist the shires which are situated at considerable distances from railway communication. I have listened with pleasure to the various speeches which have been delivered, and wish to give my meed of praise to the Minister for having brought down this proposal. This afternoon we had a discussion on the necessity for work being provided for the unemployed in our midst. I then interjected that there was one measure on the notice-paper which, if carried, would to some extent alleviate the distress caused through unemployment. I welcome the bill because I recognize the necessity for good roads in the back country. . My constituency is somewhat peculiarly placed in this connexion, it being practically a buffer area. Much of the motor and railway traffic leading from the metropolis to the country districts of Victoria passes through it at some point or other. Clause 4 reads -
Each of the following roads shall be deemed to be a main road for the purposes of the act : -
A main road which opens up and de velops new country for agricultural, pastoral or mining purposes, and which is necessary : -
to convey the products of that country to the nearest railway ; or
to give access from the railway to that country for the supply of plant, merchandise, food, fodder, or other goods;
a main trunk road between important towns, either within a state or between states where no railway communications exist, and which is necessary in assisting in the interchange of “products and in increasing the range of markets; and
an existing arterial road which is rc-‘ quired for the transport of products to any railway, river, or port, and in respect of which the cost of construction is, owing to the nature of the country, and the lack of local material suitable for road making, beyond the ordinary resources of the district through which the road passes.
My interpretation of that clause is that practically every shire council in my electorate will be debarred from participating in this grant. Four or five railway lines run diagonally through the district, with main roads running almost parallel to them in most cases. Those roads are carrying increased traffic every year, and the shires responsible for their upkeep do not know which way to turn to obtain the necessary revenue to maintain them in a proper condition.
– There, is a fine road leading to Geelong.
– It was it fine road when first constructed - one ‘of the finest in Australia- but, owing to ‘the very heavy motor ‘traffic which passes over it, the surface of the road has begun to crumble in many place3, especially at the sides. I have been informed by no less an authority than the president of the Shire of Werribee - who should know something about it - that about one-third of the rates of that shire must be paid to the Country Roads Board for the upkeep of the Geelong-road. A little while ago a census was taken of persons using that road, and it was found that’ 94 per cent, of the traffic which passed over it in two days was non-revenue-producing so far as that shire- was concerned. It was practically all through traffic. Yet the few residents in that shire have to bear the tremendous burden of the upkeep of the road. That is not fair. Not only is that shire handicapped in the direction indicated, but it contains manythousands of acres of the finest agricultural land in the district, held by the State Government and the Metropolitan Board of Works, from which practically no rates are received. The sum of £200 received in respect of- those properties last year was totally inadequate, and did not bear favorable comparison with the rates charged to residents within the shire. The Federal Government also has a large tract of country there; yet last year I had to make application for special consideration regarding the road from Laverton to Point Cook, which is used chiefly for the purposes of the Defence Department. It was hard work to get anything out of them. The Borough of Queenscliff is similarly affected. Those honorable members who have been there have seen the road that leads from the garrison to Swan Island, both of which are Government property. Over 90 per cent, of the heavy traffic that passes over that road is military traffic,, and all I could squeeze out of the Government for the upkeep of the road last year was from. £70 to £80. The shire council was not unreasonable in its request, for when the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) visited Queenscliff and walked over the road with the shire councillors, he saw the damage done by the heavy military vehicular traffic. It is shires controlling such roads that should receive consideration in such a bill as that which we have before us. They are not getting consideration now, because they do not come under the provisions of the bill. In view of the peculiar circumstances in which many of the shires in my electorate ire placed, they ought to receive assistance. . The bulk of the traffic which leaves Melbourne for any part of Victoria goes through all the shires in that electorate.
– That matter is within the province of the state, rather than the shires. It is certainly not within the province of the Commonwealth Government.
– A third of the revenue of these shires is spent in maintaining, the main roads, and 90 per cent, of the traffic comes from outside the shire boundaries.
– Most of it is motor traffic, and motorists pay their taxes to the state.
– A special grant should be made to these shires. Wherever one goes one hears complaints of the way in which heavy motor traffic is destroying the roads. It ought to be within the province of this Parliament to relieve, these shires of some of the heavy financial burden they now carry. There are roads from Melbourne to Colac, from Geelong to Ballarat, from Melbourne to Bendigo, from Melbourne to Ballarat, and from Melbourne to Sydney, that pass through my electorate, and all the shires through which they pass are hard pressed by .the heavy cost of road maint.enanco.iTor. The shires consequently cannot do their duty to those ratepayers who ought to be given reasonable facilities to get to the main roads. Some of the by-roads adjacent to the main roads are a disgrace.
– Does not the Country Roads Board attend to the main roads?
– Yes ; but the Country Roads Board has to be paid. In the Werribee Shire about one-third of the total revenue from rates is handed over to the Country Roads Board for the maintenance of a road used by only 4 or 5 per cent, of the residents of the shire. The bulk of those who use the roads are motorists.
– Motorists pay taxes, all of which are used for the building and maintenance of developmental roads.
– But these shires are not getting their quota out of those taxes.
– The honorable member is discussing details of the bill, which could more properly be considered in committee.
– I hope the Minister will note my point and endeavour to do something to meet the difficulties to which I have referred.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
.- This bill is one of the few non-contentious measures that will come before honorable members, and I am sure that the only comment they will desire, to make upon it will be in the nature of helpful criticism. We broke new ground when we voted money to local government bodies for road making, and it is gratifying to know that that policy is to be continued. I am strongly in favour of making the financial resources of the Commonwealth available to our people to assist them in meeting the various problems which they have to face from time to time. The State Governments are somewhat hampered in providing money for public works, in consequence of their limited financial resources, and it is only reasonable that the Commonwealth Government should render them what assistance it can. I have always advocated that policy. Honorable members know that I was the first to advocate it here in connexion with the purchase of wire netting. I have no doubt that the principle will have to be applied to other matters also. In connexion with this proposal, it is remarkable that only £14,500 has been spent of the £138,000 made available to New South Wales this year for road making. Thatindicates either that the people do not want the money, or that there is something wrong with the method by which it is made available. The Minister for Works and Railways has assured us that the local governing authorities in New South Wales desire the money, and therefore we must conclude that the failure to spend it is due to the unsatisfactory manner in which it is paid out.
– Do the shires receive their allocations in a lump sum, or as they do the work?
– Speaking of New South Wales, the method by which the money is paid is as follows: - The shires submit their road-making proposals, together with plans and specifications and an estimate of the cost, to thestate local government department, and they are then submitted, through the State Government, to the Minister for Works and Railways. If he is satisfied, the money is made available. The fact that only £14,500 has been spent in New South Wales shows that, so far as that state is concerned, the method is not satisfactory. It requires too much circumlocution and red-tape. I can see no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not deal directly with municipalities and shires. Our local governing bodies are composed of responsible men, and they know better than any one else the needs of their districts. The administration would be much more satisfactory if the Minister for Works and Railways dealt directly with them. Numerous complaints have been made in New South Wales about the hampering effect of the Local Government Department on local governing bodies. The act under which the department was constituted is a weighty and ponderous measure, which effectively ties the hands of the bodies responsible for administering it. No matter how efficient or sympathetic they may be, they cannot do as they would like to do. In that circumstance, the Minister for Works and Railways would be well within his rights if he sought to deal directly with the municipalities and shires to which money is granted. The Minister shakes his head and probably imagines that it cannot be done, but’ I think machinery could easily be set up that would work smoothly. Certainly the present arrangement is unsatisfactory to New South Wales.
– The machinery works satisfactorily in Victoria and the other
– Then they must have a different method of working. I am confident that more beneficial results would follow if a new system were adopted for dealing with New. South Wales.
– I do not dispute that.
– Then I hope that the Minister will endeavour to evolve an improved method. Road making is of vital importance to Australia. Our vast distances and heavy construction and maintenance costs for railways render it essential that we should .construct good roads. It is also important, from a defence point of view, that the country should be intersected by good roads. If the intention of the Government is carried out a sum of, approximately, ?6,000,000 will be spent in the construction of two cruisers for the defence of Australia. I do not say that that sum is too much to expend in that way, nor shall I comment upon the matter ab all at present, for we shall not know definitely what the Government proposes until its plans are submitted to us. but I suggest, for the serious consideration of the Cabinet, that instead of spending so much money on cruisers, it should allocate a portion of the ?6,000,000 for the construction of defence roads. It would be impossible to move troops from one part of Australia to another on our present roads. The Government should request the military officers to prepare a definite plan for defence roads, and allocate a certain portion of the defence vote year by year for their construction and maintenance.
– I am in favour of military roads, so long as they are not used for military purposes.
– All honorable members hope that they will never be used ‘ for military purposes, but if they are built, they will be available for the use of the civil population. The cruisers, on the other hand,, will be of no such value. We shall be practically burying the money we spend on them, for in five or ten years they will become obsolete, and will be scrapped or sunk. The Government would be well advised to adopt a policy of constructing defence roads in addition to building cruisers. A comprehensive scheme of strategic roads should be formulated without delay, and the necessary constructional work should be proceeded- with. Dissatisfaction exists among New South’ Wales motor owners, on account of the unsatisfactory disposition of the state motor taxes. Motor owners in the country districts are required to pay their taxes into the central traffic office, in Sydney. The shires and other municipal bodies have contended for years, but so far without success, that the taxes should be paid to them for the construction of roads, instead of being .paid into the revenue and voted back to the shires. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) pointed out in his speech that many hundreds of motor cars were registered in his district.
– But they are only a small percentage of the number that use the to elds
– That may be so, but if the taxes paid on motors registered in the district were spent on constructing and maintaining roads in the district there would not be so much room for complaint as there is now. The Commonwealth Government should make representations to the State Governments on this matter.
– lb would get a warm reception if it did.
– I do not think that it would. In view of the fact that it is granting money to the states for road construction, I think it has good grounds for suggesting that there’ should be a more equitable disposition of the taxes on motor vehicles in order that a proportion of the money, ab any rate, should be spent on the roads in the districts where the motor owners live. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) pointed out that difficulty was experienced in obtaining tenders for the construction of roads. That is, to some extent, the result of the cut-throat . policy that was adopted for a number of years by road’ contractors, and which ended in many of them being driven out of business. It has also been, the policy of some shires for a number of years, in bad seasons and drought periods, to do their, road work by day labour.’ ‘ The in.troduction of up-to-date machinery and the use’ of steam tractors and; mechanical metal breakers have also made it impossible for the old type of road contractor to tender for road work. In connexion with the practice of the shires to do their road work under the day-labour system, I call attention to the serious effect that must, follow the operation of Regulation No. 9, under which the money voted by this bill will be made available. Clause 2 of that regulation lays it down that such roads must be constructed by contract, but in special cases the Minister may approve of the execution of the work by departmental labour, provided that it is carried out according to approved methods of construction, and that modern plant is utilized to the fullest extent. The effect of that regulation is practically to prevent shires from giving effect to their settled practice of making roads by day labour ; at any rate it is necessary for them to obtain the permission of the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Works and Railways before they can do so”. In the northern districts of New South Wales the old type of road contractor, is almost a back number, and has practically died out. There is no necessity for him. Why should this Government lay it down that these works shall be carried out by contract unless permission is obtained from the Minister to do it otherwise? Is the Government so opposed to day labour that it will not even allow State Governments or the shires to do this work except by contract? The regulations provide that the construction of every road approved under the provisions of the act shall be supervised by the state construcing authority, and upon completion of the work a certificate by that authority to that effect shall be forwarded to the Minister stating the cost of the work. This is a hampering provision. No one would suggest for a moment that the shire councils are incapable of constructing their own roads and keeping them in proper order. The ratepayers, at least, will see that the roads are kept in a reasonable state of repair.
– That provision will make the construction of roads uniform.
– It is impossible to construct uniform roads throughout Australia. In my electorate, on the black-soil plains, it would cost a fortune to construct a road of a kind that-“ could, be built cheaply in a mountainous country, where metal is plentiful. For hundreds of miles in my electorate it is impossible to find one stone, much less sufficient metal to build a road. Good roads will be of the utmost importance if this country is invaded by an enemy. We should classify our roads to ascertain which are the most needed. There should be co-operation between the states and the defence authorities’ to decide which roads will require to be durable, and possibly built of concrete, owing to the heavy nature of the traffic. Other roads may be constructed of macadam. Roads are essential in the settlement of Australia. In my electorate there is a big stretch of country whose main traffic artery runs through black-soil plains. A railway serves that area, but motor transport is a competitor with the railway. From Sydney to Mudgee it is cheaper to send goods by motor than by rail. In addition to the railway freight there is cartage from the warehouse to the railway, loading charges, handling charges, and transport to place of consignment. These charges render the cost of railway transport higher than that of motor transport. Thus a very serious problem faces the Railways Commissioners. We should be foolish to blind ourselves to the possibilities of motor transport. It will not be long before the people realize the futility of supporting a Government that does not rise to the occasion and provide modern methods of transport. Any Government that fails to provide for motor transport will be swept out of existence. The Minister mentioned that special safeguards were necessary to prevent the shires from slackening on their work because of this money being made available to them by the Commonwealth Government. He did not enlarge upon that statement, and I am at a loss to understand what he meant. Does he intend to introduce legislation to provide these safeguards ? A great many wealthy men hold land within shires, and if they are members of the shire councils there is the danger that they will reduce the rates when money is made available for main roads construction. In that case we shall receive no benefit from the expenditure of this money.
– Does the honorable member know of One instance where that has occurred?
– No. The money has not been available to shires for as much as twelve months, and, only £14,500 has been spent. We know what to expect by the attitude adopted by some wealthy graziers respecting other matters, even in this House. It will not. be long before there-, is a proposal before the shire councils to reduce the rates pro rata to the amount of money granted by the Commonwealth. As time goes on the vote of £500,000 will be exceeded. Some supporters of the Government have suggested that the vote should be £2,000,000. This legislation bids fair to provide a channel through which a considerable amount of Commonwealth money will flow in future years. It may not be long before members of shires will move for a reduction in the rates.
– If that happens the grant should be withheld.
– It would be a considerable time before we realized that any attempt to . reduce rates on this account was being made. Numerous excuses would be made that drought had intervened, and consequently the heavy taxes had to be reduced. I shall be pleased to hear from the Minister what he meant by the statement that he intended to provide safeguards to prevent the shires from slackening in their work of road construction. The building of cross-country roads is a matter for investigation. We are neglecting the provision of defence roads for Australia, and it will be far better, instead of expending so much money as is proposed on naval construction, to develop our roads so that they may be afterwards used for defence purposes if necessary. There is very little possibility for many years to come of Australia being menaced by enemies, and by that time the two cruisers which this Government proposes to have constructed will be obsolete and ready for scrapping. If we are able to find £6,000,000 to expend on naval vessels, surely we can provide at least £3,000,000 for ‘the construction of roads capable of being used for defence purposes. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) mentioned the road to Port Stephens naval base. That road should be immediately constructed of the best possible material, as in the event’ of war it would need to carry very heavy traffic. There is a “good deal to bb said about the advantages of motor transport which may be used in r’e’spect of our defence proposals. Good roads for motor transport can be built with grades heavier than are possible in railway construction. In a few years’, it will, be proved to the people of Aus;-‘ tralia that if good roads are constructed motor vehicles will be capable of overcome ing the greater portion of our transport difficulties in the back country. The number of. motor vehicles will increase considerably within the next few years ; With the discovery of new and cheap methods of providing fuel for internal combustion engines, one of the main over1 head charges will be reduced considerablyand we should take time by the forelock and provide money for the construction of good and efficient roads where that can be., done. When we have done that w,£’ shall be hearer than ever before to solving one of the greatest problems with which Australia is faced. ‘
.- In . view of the remarks made by some honorable members, it is necessary to mention the experience of Queensland’. The provision of £500,000 for road construction has been of great assistance to. that state. Owing to the Minister supt. plying figures for expenditure only: up- to a certain date, honorable members have a mistaken idea of. the position there. A portion of the money has already been spent, but the . remaining expenditure has been delayed owing to works under contract not being completed. After this bill has been, passed it will be some time before arrangements can be made with the different shire councils for the allotment of moneys to be expended on roads. I- know, that considerable delays have previously, taken place, but they will not occur once the scheme is operating satisfactorily.I regret that the bill does not provide any specified time over the two years, one of which has already passed. I have had some twenty years’ experience of shire councils, and I speak with some little knowledge. If the council knows some years beforehand what money will be available for road construction, the work can be carried out economically and satisfactorily. Previously work has been done piecemeal owing to lack of funds. In Canada an expenditure of £1,000,000 for. each of five consecutive years is pro- vided for, and the authorities there know what length of road can be constructed for a certain amount of money. The expenditure of £1,000,000 in two years is too small in a large continent like Australia, needing numerous roads. The aim and object of the Government is to attract a large population to this country, and this can be done only by providing proper working facilities for the men on the land. If the grant were £1,000,000 a year for five years, those concerned in road development would know where they stood, Honorable members may ask why so much as £1,000,000 a year for five years should be asked for, but 1 remind them that the making of good roads is followed by an increase in the number of motors and motor lorries used for transport. The Government collects very high duties in connexion with the importation of these vehicles. I find that last year, on motor cycles, motor bodies, chassis, chassis parts, tubes, rubber tyres, and petrol, the Trade and Customs Department collected a revenue of no less than £2,121,004. If we improve the condition of our roads, our motor traffic will expand, and that willlead in its turn to an expansion of the revenue derived from Customs duties. We cannot now propose an increase in the grant provided for in this bill, but the Government might let the community generally know that at least this amount, and probably an increased amount, will be available each year for several years. There was a conference of representatives of shire councils in the different states of the Commonwealth to-day in Melbourne, and it came unanimously to the conclusion that a grant of at least £1,000,000 a year should be made for this purpose. The conference set out the reasons which, in its view, justified that conclusion. I feel sure that its members will learn with regret that the grant proposed this year is again only £500,000. In Queensland, where we have the enormous area of over 621,000,000 acres; everything possible is being done to settle more people on the land. If this policy is to be successful, every convenience possible must be afforded to settlers. A substantial grant for main roads development would be the means of providing settlers with the most necessary facilities, and it might be made, as I have shown, without actual loss to the Commonwealth, because the amount of the grant would probably be more than met by the expansion of the revenue from Customs through the increased importation of motor vehicles, &c, which would follow the improvement of our roadways. I have already said that in Canada the course I have suggested has been followed for some time past. The bill will be found to work very well once its provisions are properly understood. More applications for money under last year’s grant were not made because the State Governments were not readily able to finance operations under the act. I feel sure that within the next twelve months the Government will find that not only will there be required the balance of last year’s grant and the grant proposed in this bill, but a number of applications will still remain to be met. I should like the Minister, in reply, to say whether consideration will be given to an increase in the grant proposed, and its continuance over a period of, at least, five years.
– Last year and this year again the Government is following the example of the United States of America : in making grants for road construction. Many of us have not had the privilege of travelling over American roads, but from what we hear and read the Americans would appear to be far ahead of us in road construction. Although I represent a city constituency, I am with my Leader and other honorable members on this side in hearty accord with the bill. I agree, also, with the views expressed by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), because I believe that if the best use is to be made of a grant of this description, it will be necessary to guarantee to the State Governments a certain payment every year. They will then be in a position to map out a programme of road construction and development over a series of years. I am glad that the Minister has introduced the bill sufficiently early in the year to enable the State Treasurers to frame their budgets in such a way as to make use of their quota of the proposed grant. One of the reasons for the partial failure in the expenditure of the last grant was that the State Governments were taken to some extent by surprise, and did not make provision for its expenditure. I bad occasion to approach the state authorities of Victoria in connexion with road construction when the redemption loan was on the market. I understand that the Federal Treasurer entered into some solemn agreement with the Treasurers of the states that they should keep off the money market until the redemption loan was successfully launched. When I approached the Victorian authorities to go on with road construction, I was met with the statement that the federal authorities were to blame for the delay, as the State Government was told to hold its hands. It could sell bonds or debentures over the counter, but could not raise funds by borrowing in the ordinary, way to carry out road construction work. Such a difficulty is not likely to occur every year, and the early introduction of this bill should enable the State Government, knowing that this money will be available, to frame their works proposals accordingly. “Unless the State Governments make financial provision for carrying out road construction promptly, half the year will be over before anything will be done in this direction. In many parts of Victoria, this winter, work is being held up because of the wet weather. I have endeavoured to impress this aspect of the question upon the Victorian Treasurer and Minister of Works. I have pointed out that the state budget is introduced in August and we get well on to December before tenders are called for these works, and before contracts can be let the winter approaches, when, owing to bad weather, it is difficult or impossible to carry out work of this kind. I hope that by this time next year Australia will have at least 300 miles more of good roads than we have to-day. I should like to be assured that by the combined efforts of the Federal and State Parliaments an additional 1,000 miles of good roadways will be constructed under this principle over and above the mileage that would be constructed under ordinary conditions. This can only be effected by a careful mapping out of a satisfactory scheme. A good deal was said some time ago about the work involved in the undergrounding of telephone lines. That huge work was carried out successfully because there was continuity of work and no stoppage at the end of each financial year. There was no dismantling of plant or dismissal of employees. We are at present following the same practice in connexion with telephone and postal work. We have mapped out a three or four years’ programme, and we ought to do the same in connexion with road construction. With co-operation between the Federal and State Governments we might have hundreds of miles of good roads that cannot possibly be constructed if the. work is undertaken in a piecemeal fashion. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) is to be congratulated upon giving a lead to the State Governments by introducing this bill in time to enable them to make arrangements for carrying out road construction under it during the best season of the year. I had made a note of the objection which has been raised by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) in connexion with the regulations providing for the carrying out by contract of most of the work to be done under the bill. The Commonwealth Government some time ago made a grant available to the State Governments for the purpose particularly of employing returned soldiers and some others, who were unemployed. Under that grant many miles of good roadways “were made in the district in which I live, and the work was carried out by returned soldiers on something like the butty-gang system under expert supervision. I presume that where it could be shown that that course would be followed, the Minister would not insist upon the work being carried out by contract. The regulations provide that the method of execution shall be by contract, but in special cases the Minister may approve of execution by departmental labour.
– The Bill is elastic enough to meet every case which may arise.
– As stated by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), the day of the contractor has gone.
– Not in South Arts, tralia.
– If tenders were invited for certain road works, the probabilities are that none would be received. The municipalities themselves have adopted the day-labour system under the supervision of their own officers. The work would be delayed if the contract system were insisted on. I am not averse to this money being spent in the country but the day is not far distant when some of the suburban municipal corporations will be asking for assistance. . Honorable -members will bear me out when I say that within 10 miles of Melbourne there are some roads which are .worse than any roads 50 miles away. Some ;of these suburban municipalities are in very straitened circumstances financially. If, later,- some members representing metropolitan constituencies should ask for a grant to enable their roads to be kept in proper repair, I hope that a sympathetic .ear will be lent to their requests. I should like to see a much larger amount provided, but in any case I urge that an arrangement be at once entered into bebetween the Federal and the State Governments that the work shall be carried on for a series of years, and that a certain amount shall be set aside for the purpose. Only by that means will greater progress be made in road construction in Australia than has been the case hitherto. I hope that the request of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has not fallen on deaf ears, but that it will receive sympathetic consideration.
.- Tasmania has set an example for the other states of the Commonwealth to fol’low. Owing to the climatic condit ions and the heavy nature of the soil there, it was found necessary to borrow £6,000,000 to construct roads, on which interest_ is now being paid. Honorable members know very little of the conditions experienced by the pioneers who tackled the impenetrable jungle, the home of the bush rat and the wallaby, and converted it into smiling homesteads, and verdant pastures, where flocks of sheep and herds of cattle browse. All honour to those men. Cereals and root crops are now growing there in abundance because of the bull-dog pluck of these pioneers. This Bill is not applicable to them. They have mortgaged themselves to the extent of £6,000,000 to provide roads which are not now in a condition to carry the heavy traffic which passes over them, and some of this money is wanted to strengthen them. The people of Tasmania are desirous of improving their roads to meet pressing and difficult conditions. Roads which originally cost from £1,200 to £1,500 per mile are being worn out, and to replace them would now cost twice that amount. Some assistance is necessary, and I trust that the Minister will give sympathetic treatment to Tasmania.
.- I recognize that in this matter the Commonwealth Government has taken upon itself something in the nature of a truly national work, but, with other honorable members, I consider that the amount is not large enough for the big undertaking before us. It is to be hoped that, so far as the main roads of the larger states are concerned, it will not be long before they are taken over entirely by the Commonwealth Government. I am satisfied that the back country of South Australia and Western Australia cannot be developed by State Governments such as that in Western Australia to-day. There is in Western Australia one person to every 3 square miles of country, whereas in Victoria twenty people are settled to every square mile. The Government is asking one person in Western Australia to develop the same area as 60 people have the opportunity’ to do in Victoria. They have to provide £1 for £1. Western Australia is absolutely languishing under its present relationship with the Commonwealth.
– Under this Bill Western Australia is receiving more money than Victoria, which has a far greater population. The amounts are, respectively, £96,000 and £90,000.
– I should say so. The remarks of the Minister buttress up my argument. Victoria, with its small area of 87,000 square miles, is to get within £6,000 of the amount to be advanced to the handful of people in Western Australia who are expected to develop 360,000 square miles, or one-third of the whole of Australia. The Minister is taking a wrong view of the matter. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) has pointed out the difficulty under which the shires in his electorate are labouring. He stated that motorists use the roads, but pay nothing for their upkeep. He has a just complaint, but let me remind him that his electorate is practically gridironed with railways. Let us compare that district with the district around Meekatharra, in central Western Australia, which is 600 miles by rail from Perth, at the terminus of the railway. It is situated in latitude 26 degrees 30 minutes, which is the same as that of Gympie, in Queensland. Honorable members from the northern state can imagine the position if they will picture Queensland with no railway or road north of Gympie. That is the position in Western Australia, as north of Meekatharra there is not a mile of railway, except a very short line between Port Hedland and Marble Bar. That country should be developed. Although it is not as valuable, acre for acre, as the land surrounding Bacchus Marsh, it has an economic value, which is proved by the fact that squatters from South Australia arc arriving there in considerable numbers. They are expending scores of thousands of pounds in the Murchison country, which was thought previously to be worthless. All that portion of Western Australia was shown as desert on the old English-made ‘maps which used to adorn the walls of the 3tate schools in Victoria. Those maps are probably there still, because I have found that in this state the people have very little knowledge of Western Australia. Settlers are now taking up land right to the border of South Australia. Water is obtainable at a depth of from 20 to 40 feet over an area of approximately 200,000 square miles. In that vast tract of country there are no roads. It is true that the best land there will not carry more than one sheep to 20 acres, but even that carrying capacity is of great value with the present price of wool and the vast area for pastoral settlement. While commending the Minister for introducing this Bill, I consider that this question will not be settled properly until the Commonwealth Government recognizes the necessity of opening up the vast areas which the states are unable to develop. So far as that portion of Western Australia to which I have referred is concerned, I would be prepared to .allow the Commonwealth Government to take it over were it not that I am afraid that it would make the same mess of it as it has done with the Northern Territory. In order to obtain good government, local control is necessary. The people on the spot should be given control of their own affairs.
– New states are required.
– Ultimately, something of that nature may be necessary, but, meanwhile, I want to be sure that our last state would not be worse than the first. It would have been better if the money spent in the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth Government had been allocated to the residents there, because they would have spent it more wisely than it has been spent.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the subject under consideration.
– I was endeavouring to point out that in order to develop the northern part of Western Australia it is absolutely necessary to have main roads. I was also endeavouring to show that this proposal is totally inadequate for the purpose. In order to open up that State, where one man has as much territory to develop as 60 people have in Victoria, the Commonwealth Government will have to be liberal in its grants. I realize that the Minister is anxious to see the northern part of Western Australia, which at present is largely undeveloped, make similar progress to that of Victoria. The only way that can be brought about is for Ministers to visit the district and see lor themselves the difficulties which beset the pioneers there. An- example oi the difficulty of constructing and maintaining main roads is furnished in what was previously the gold.mining centre of Westonia. I have had urgent telegrams sent to me asking me to draw the attention of the Ministry to the fact that a road from Westonia to tha main line was not provided for ir. the Commonwealth grant. Westonia has gone out of business as a gold-producing centre, but it is becoming a rich wheatproducing .area, although it was previously thought that wheat would not grow there. As it is 12 miles from a railway, motor traffic is heavy, and the road to the railway should come under the provisions of the bill. I recognize that the Minister should not concern himself with the question of what roads should be constructed; that is the business of the state authorities. I am glad that the bill has been introduced, and I hope with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), that the grant will be repeated each year. Out of the increased amount to be made available, I trust that Westonia will get its due; I commend the Government for introducing the bill, and trust that, as greater wisdom comes upon, it, it will take a wider view, so that in future years an even greater amount will he set aside to open up the hinterland of this Commonwealth.
.- With other honorable members who have spoken, I wish to express my appreciation of the action of the Government in proposing to grant another £500,000 for the construction of developmental roads. I agree. with some honorable members that the words “ main road “ should be eliminated from the bill. “ Main roads,” as scheduled in some of the states, is a term having a somewhat different meaning from that in the bill. It is intended that the grant should be for the construction of developmental roads in newly-settled portions of the states. The best way to ensure a satisfied and contented rural population is to provide good roads. Any honorable member who, like the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), has settled in the outback portions of the Commonwealth, is alive to the necessity for good roads. I am heartily in accord with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) when he says that there should be a continuity of policy. A district council that I have in mind was very anxious that a road, which would cost about £10,000, should be constructed. It was offered a grant of about £2,000, but, not knowing whether the Commonwealth grant would be continuous, was unable to proceed with the work, which has consequently been postponed. In South Australia the money is placed in the hands of the Local Government Department, and is allocated by the chief engineer, in consultation with the board of inspectors. I would like the allocation of the money to be left in the hands of the state officers. They worked very amicably with the Commonwealth officer last year, but the regulations debarred some of the councils from receiving any of the money because the towns interested in a road proposal were linked up by a railway. The local inspectors understand the needs of each district, and the local governing bodies have every confidence in them. During the last decade or so the cost of the construction and maintenance of roads has increased by at least 100 per cent., and district councils are finding it very diffi cult to raise money even to keep existing roads in repair, quite apart from the construction of new roads. For that reason the Commonwealth grant is highly appreciated, particularly in the newlysettled areas, which deserve the greatest consideration. The completion of the Prince’s Highway is a matter that should receive the sympathetic consideration of the Minister. The object in the construction of” that highway was to link up the capital cities of Australia by a good road. Between Adelaide and Melbourne a stretch of that highway, for 90 to 100 miles,, runs through a portion of country known as the Cooroug. It is very sparsely populated, third-rate country, and it would be quite impossible for the local governing bodies there to do anything like what is required to put the road in good condition. I feel I am justified in suggesting to the Minister that, if the matter is placed before him, he should treat sympathetically any request that may be made to him in respect of this road. It is essential in these days, when motor traffic is the accepted means of transit in the country, that the roads should be in a state that will allow people to travel over them comfortably. On road-maps, portions of the Prince’s Highway between the capitals are marked “very bad,” and a person seeing: such descriptions would have some doubt about the wisdom of making an interstate trip by road. If the roads are in good ‘condition, and people can travel on them with pleasure, they will do so, and will in that way educate themselves regarding the country in which they live.. With the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) I would like to see the grant very much larger than it is, and, considering that as the Customs duties from motor cars and motor accessories amount to over £2,000,000, no fault can be found with the bill. However, I would like the Government to bring down a proposal to provide for continuity in the grant.
.- I have been surprised to discover that a large number of country members are advocating this grant, and, not merely advocating it, but seeking to double it. I propose to explode a bombshell among them by telling them that the wet-nursing policy of which the bill is evidence cannot be continued. We . ought to have a quorum, at least. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the- state of the House. [Quorum formed,.’] When I called for a quorum I thought this was a bill which was worthy of the attention of honorable members. It proposes to add £500,000 to the unexpended balance of the amount voted last year. It appears that the desire to make roads was so great that the money voted then was not expended ! That almost indicates that there is no necessity for the bill, for such indifference on the part of the people does not warrant the Government in repeating the grant. I could understand the Government paying out the money if there was a general election ahead. Why did not the Government finance the making of roads in the same way as the British Government did it? The British Government put a tax of 6d. per gallon on petrol .and power-alcohol, and the result is that the roads of Great Britain are a credit to that country. After putting their roads in order, in 1922, they found themselves with £80,000 still in hand. Several honorable members have asked the Minister for Works and Railways to double the vote for roadmaking next year, and I suppose if he is still Minister after next year, and they are still here, they will ask him to treble it. We cannot continue to do this kind of thing. Sops have been given to th, apple-growers, the grape-growers, and I do not know how many other classes of people, but we must draw a line somewhere. It seems to me to be ridiculous to ask the Government to vote another £500,000 when more than half of what is already voted is unexpended. And what is it all for? It is simply to gratify greedy motorists, who think they own the earth. The position is serious, and it is time that some one protested against the Federal Government wet-nursing the State Governments in this way. A local government act was passed by the New South Wales Parliament, which gave the shire councils power to levy taxes for the construction and maintenance of roads, but that power has not been exercised in many cases. I know of one shire council which has not imposed a sufficiently heavy tax to pay the salary of the one clerk and rate collector which it employs. It had to borrow money to pay ‘him. It is no wonder that such bodies-do not take advantage of this offer of the Federal
Government. If they earnestly wished to make good roads, they would soon comply with the conditions. Honorable members know that the hospitals in New South Wales are partly supported by the Government, which provides a subsidy of £1 for every £1 raised by the local authorities. Those authorities lose no time in raising the money they need, so that they may wait on the Government’s doorstep to collect the subsidy. The local governing bodies would do the same thing if they wanted good roads. I advise the Government to discontinue ‘ the practice of dipping into the public purse for such purposes as this. A much better method would be to put a tax of 6d. ‘ a gallon on petrol, power alcohol, or whatever fuel is used for the mechanically driven vehicles that use the roads. Appeals to the Federal Government of America, such as are made to this Government, would not be tolerated for a moment. Honorable members seem to think that they are justified in voting money like this because the revenue is buoyant. The revenue is only buoyant on account of the unexpectedly heavy returns from Customs and excise duties. The conditions which made those returns possible will not recur. The Commonwealth Government borrowed £29,000,000 on the London money market’ in the first nine months of this year, but the money has to remain in London until manufactured materials of an equal value are imported into Australia. We heard speeches this afternoon on the unemployment problem, in which honorable members urged that Australians should support Australian industries. One of the greatest industries in Australia at present is borrowing money. An unfortunate feature about our buoyant Customs and excise revenue is that it is provided chiefly by the people in our community who are living on a basic wage. The man who draws a salary of £5,000 a. year, or who is fortunate enough to be appointed chairman of one of the many Government boards at a salary of £2,000 a year, does not worry very much about the Customs and excise duties, but people on the bread line, such as wharf labourers, builders’ labourers, and so on, are deeply .concerned. These duties are levied on the ordinary necessities of life, and, the poor man is compelled to pay just as much as the rich man through this channel of taxation. If I were to inform my constituents in Sydney of the kind of thing that this Parliament has done of late, they would wonder whether I and other honorable members had any financial ability. There is neither rhyme nor reason in this proposal. It is bad business from every point of view. It is unfortunate that we have a buoyant revenue from Customs, for I am afraid that it will lead the people of Australia astray. I am reminded of the gentleman who found a bottle of whisky and said to himself, “ I had better drink all of this, or somebody may take it from me.” Australia expects her members of Parliament to be leaders, and so we ought to be. I do not think we ought to degenerate into council aldermen or state legislators. I remember once being asked what an alderman was, and I said that he was a man who studied the menu card and ordered the best that was on it. Statesmen, however, should be leaders.
– We ought to take a broad national view.
– That is so. That is a good sentence, and it should be recorded in Hansard. My object in speaking tonight is to try to arouse in honorable members some sense of responsibility for the financial stability of the Commonwealth.. I cannot understand honorable members urging the Minister for Works and Railways to double the vote for road making. It is said that it would not be safe to return to this House a majority of the members of the party to which I belong, because an extravagant administration would result. I can hardly imagine a more extravagant Administration than the present one. The honorable members who represent the Country party were returned to this House because they advocated economy. They are really misfits. There is no room here for a third party.
– That remark, on a suitable occasion, would not be objectionable, but it has nothing to do with the Bill.
– Those honorable members are anxious to squeeze as much as they can out of the Government for the benefit of people outside the metropolitan area who will not pay adequate rates and taxes to maintain their roads. Residents in the various cities in Australia pay heavy rates and taxes so that they may have good roads. They have constructed their roads with a view to durability, and will not be entitled to any advance under the provisions of this measure. Knowing the taxation that the people of Australia will ultimately have to bear, it is only right that somebody should draw the attention of the House to the seriousness of the position. We should refuse to allow any body of persons to be wet nursed by the Government. I can quite under, stand how an asphalt road in the outback country would be appreciated by an individual who drives a one-horse cart along it perhaps once a week. But this country cannot stand that kind of expenditure. I can see no reason why the Government have introduced this measure, as there is no election impending. Great Britain, with a buoyant revenue, and under the leadership of Baldwin, Lloyd George and Ramsay MacDonald has wiped out a portion of her war debt bearing interest at 5 and 51/2 per cent. This Government would be well advised to follow her example.
– Is the honorable member not in favour ofdeveloping Australia ?
– This Bill when passed will be no aid to development. . The only . result will be heavier taxation. We should construct good roads out of money obtained by taxing motor vehicles. Then there would be no necessity for the Federal Government or any other Government to make large grants for road development.
Bill read a second time and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of the Governor-General’s Deputy’s message) :
Motion (By Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Sir Littleton Groom do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. This bill slightly amends the National Debt Sinking Fund Act that was passed last year. The amendment is to enable an additional 1 per cent, to be placed annually in that sinking fund for post office works built out of loan. It will be remembered that in connexion with the financial proposals for the current year, the Sinking Fund Bill that was last year brought clown for the extinction of the national debt, provided over a period of 50 years for a contribution of 10s. per cent, per annum to be made from revenue on the irrecoverable debt existing at 30th June, 1923, amounting to £1,250,000. A further contribution at the same rate will be made on all additions to the national debt after that date which are not recoverable. In addition, one half of the profits of the Commonwealth Bank other than those from the Note Issue Department will be paid to the Sinking Fund, and all repayments in respect of recoverable debt will also be paid to that fund. The sinking fund is vested in commissioners consisting of the Treasurer, the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the Secretary to the Treasury, and the Solicitor-General, who are charged with” the duty of investing the fund or applying it in the redemption of the national debt. By this means the fund is placed beyond the control of the Treasurer, who, otherwise, in difficult times might be tempted to take back into revenue the accumulations of previous years. Last year, in my budget speech, I mentioned that wo intended to make additional contributions regarding loan moneys that were spent on telephone and post office works, and to ensure the greater safety of those contributions they are now being paid into the sinking fund as originally intended. The bulk of the commitments of the sinking fund provided last year was for war purposes. The war debt was £219,000,000, the other debt being about £31,000,000. It is generally conceded that the present generation should not be called upon to bear the whole cost of the war, as it is beyond its power to do so; yet it is quite reasonable that the present generation should bear the sinking fund provisions that are necessary to wipe out debts incurred for building and other works that will not last the whole of our lifetime. Posterity will benefit equally with the citizens of the present day by the victory gained by the allies, and the decision to extend the repayment of war loans over a period of 50 years has therefore been accepted as an equitable distribution of the burden of the war. Many of the assets created by the expenditure of loans moneys represented by the “ other debt “ have a life of fifteen years or more, but those assets in the Postmaster-General’s Department have a comparatively short life, and for that reason this Bill is brought down providing for £1 per cent, to be contributed in addition to the ordinary contribution of 10s. per cent. This makes the annual contribution 1-J per cent., which, in 30 years, at 5 per cent., will extinguish the debt.
– Is that because of the deterioration of postal material, such as posts and poles?
– That is so. The contribution at the rate of 10s. per cent, will be continued for a further period of 20 years. What really will be paid on postal loans is 1 j per cent, for 30 years, and £ per cent, for an additional 20 years. The first paragraph of the amending section makes provision for the payment of £91,000 per annum over a period of thirty years beginning with the current financial year. Under the principal act the contribution at the rate of 10s. per cent, per annum on the public debt, other than war debt, existing at 30th June, 1923, totals £158,000. Of this amount, £45,500 is applicable to the debt which is represented by the expenditure out of loan fund on post office works, and by the value of post office properties transferred from the states when federation was consummated. The amount of £91,000 is double the amount of the original contribution provided for at the rate of 10s. per cent, per annum.
The second paragraph provides for a further contribution for a period of 30 years of 1 per cent, on the expenditure of the Postmaster-General’s Department out of the loan fund from the 1st July, 1923, to the end of the financial year in which the contribution is made.
The contributions provided for in the first two paragraphs cover the first period of 30 years during which the 1 per cent, contribution is to be made. This will carry us up to the 30th June, 1954. Honorable members may remember that the original act covers a period of 50 years, or up to 1974, so that there remains a period of 20 years to be provided for. That is provided for in the third paragraph, which requires a contribution of 1 per cent, on the expenditure of the Postmaster-General’s Department out of loan for that year and the 29 years immediately preceding that year. Thus the additional contribution of 1 per cent, per annum on the Post Office assets is provided for over the whole period of 50 years covered by the original National Debt Sinking Fund Act. At the expiration of that period it will remain for Parliament, if it so desires, to continue the contribution now contemplated just as it was an obligation of the Parliament to continue the contribution under the original act.
.- This is a very small measure, but it is one of great importance. It increases the contribution to the sinking fund for the extinction of the public debt to be paid by the Post and Telegraph Department. We all desire that a sinking fund should be provided for the purpose of liquidating the national debt, but I doubt very much whether the Treasurer is proposing a fair way of dealing with this matter. . We are now going to charge the PostmasterGeneral’s Department with 1 per cent, more on the money it borrows than is paid on other money borrowed. That is to say, to-day we provide for a general payment of A per cent., and we are going to make the payment to the sinking fund 1£ per cent, on money borrowed for the extension of postal, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities in this country. The reason why I say that this appears to me to be lather unfair is that the Post Office should be considered a business concern, and if it is making profits they should be used for the purpose of extending-, th© facilities of the service. In place of that, under the Government proposal we are borrowing money for the extension of those facilities, and after doing so we are going to charge the department, in addition to interest on the borrowed money, per cent, for thirty years, and subsequently for another twenty years for the purpose of paying off the debt it has incurred. I submit that if the Post and Telegraph Department is making profits over and above its working expenses and other charges the money should be utilized for the extension of its business, instead of being taken into the general revenue. Last year, the profit derived from the operations of the Post and Telegraph Department amounted to a very considerable sum. That is taken into the general revenue for ordinary governmental purposes. Whilst we do that we borrow a huge sum of money for the purpose of extending the operations of the department. We make a charge on that borrowed money at 5 per cent, or 5A per cent, for interest, and on top of that the Treasurer proposes that the department shall contribute 1£ per cent, towards the national debt sinking fund. So that, in effect, we are levying a charge of 7 per cent, against the Post and Telegraph Department. We cannot expect to run the department satisfactorily in that way. That is not a fair position in which to place it.
– It should be allowed to keep its profits.
– I say that whatever money it makes over and above its expenses should be used for the purpose of extending its facilities. If money in excess of its revenue is required for. extending its facilities, I quite approve of the department being charged interest, and a contribution to a sinking fund towards the liquidation of its debt. But I say that under the Treasurer’s proposal we shall be putting an unnecessary and unfair burden upon the department, and will probably be giving it a load which it will be unable to carry.
– The profits of the department last year amounted to £318,000.
– Why should not that amount be utilized for the purpose of extending post and telegraph works, and borrowing for the post office be resorted to only for the money in excess of that amount required to extend its facilities? At present, the Government takes that profit and puts it into the general revenue, and then charges the department with interest and contributions to the sinking fund on’ the money borrowed to replace it. That is not doing the depart-, ment justice. We have arranged for a loan of some millions of pounds to be spent in three years, in the extension of facilities, by the Post and Telegraph Department. If, in the meantime, the department makes a profit of £300,000 or £400,000 a-year, should not that money, instead of borrowed money, be used in carrying out the works contemplated. To this extent 1 am against the Bill. ~I agree that we must provide for a sinking fund, but I contend that the Post and Telegraph Department should be put on a business footing, and its revenue credited to it. The profits it makes should not be taken for the general revenue while it is charged for interest and sinking fund on the money borrowed for it.
– Is not the position about as broad as it is long ?
– No. Under the Treasurer’s proposal, the Post and Telegraph Department has to carry a load which I think should not be placed upon it. If it is to be run as a business concern, and the Treasurer takes the money it makes, for ordinary governmental purposes, that is unfair to the department.
– The department had £3,000,000 of borrowed money for the year, and made a profit of only £318,000, and it is not unreasonable that it should pay a contribution to the sinking fund.
– But the Treasurer has not given the department credit for the £318,000 it made last year. If the department made a clear profit of £1,000,000, it would still, under the Treasurer’s proposal, be charged 5 or 6 per cent, on all the money borrowed for it, and, in addition, would be asked to make a contribution of per cent, to the sinking fund. If that course is continued, and by and by the returns for the department are not considered satisfactory, complaints will be made about it in this House.
– Over a period of 24 years £6,000,000 has gone into the Post and Telegraph Department in excess of the- revenue that has been derived from’ it.
– That may or may not be so ; I say that it is’ unfair to take profits made by the department into the general revenue and make upon it these charges for borrowed money at the same time. That course might be adopted if it were decided that the Post and Telegraph Department is not to be considered as a business concern, and must be run in conjunction with every other department of the state.
– Does the honorable member consider a contribution of 1½ per cent, to the sinking fund excessive in the case of money borrowed for perishable works. *
– No, I do not. I do not consider that an excessive contribution for the Post and Telegraph Department on money borrowed for works which have only a limited life, but I am contending that if the profits made by the department are credited to it, it will be necessary to borrow so much less for its works, with the result that after a number of years we may be able to reduce the charge for postage or telegrams to the public. Another matter to which the Treasurer referred was the amount coming from the Commonwealth Bank for the sinking fund. I am not against that. I think that the profits of the Commonwealth Bank might very well be used to reduce the national debt. But here again, if we borrow £6,000,000 for the Commonwealth Bank the bank should liquidate that debt first of all. It should pay up to the Treasurer before it is asked to put something into the sinking fund to meet the national debt. If after it has liquidated the loan of £6,000;j000 it earns profits, they should go towards the reduction of the national debt. Will it be contended that it is fair to the managers of the Commonwealth Bank to let them have £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 at 5£ per Cent., charge the bank interest on that, and then take £400,000 or £500,000 each year from the profits of the bank into the sinking fund to liquidate the national debt?
– The honorable gentleman made use of that argument for the Post and Telegraph Department.
– I used the same argument in dealing with the Post and Telegraph Department.’ I say that it should rest on its own bottom ‘ and get credit for the profits it makes.,.
– The Post and Telegraph Department, at present . has an. overdraft of £6,000,000., ‘
– I am speaking of the business of the Post and Telegraph Department as it is now. If we go into the consideration of the value of the properties of the department taken over from the states we can pile up millions of debt against it. I am speaking of the money which this House has decided to borrow for extending post and telegraph works, and I say that in that connexion profits made by the department should be expended on the department, and only money needed over and above that amount should .be borrowed. I take up exactly the same position in dealing with the Commonwealth Bank. I think that that institution should be run on business lines. Whatever money the Treasurer advances to it should be a charge against it, and whatever profits it makes should lie used in the extension of its business. The Commonwealth Bank was established, amongst other things, for the purpose of reducing the national debt, but T do not think it is fair to fake money made by the bank and put it into the sinking fund, and at the same time lend the bank money on which it is charged interest and a percentage to reduce the debts it incurs. I am in favour of a sinking fund, and I do not want to do anything to obstruct the bill, but I am putting on record my view of the way in which the Treasurer is managing these institutions at the present juncture.
– I am very pleased that the Treasurer has brought down this measure. On a previous occasion I pointed out that the postal department should not be regarded as a taxation machine. It has been found necessary in the past to borrow money in order to provide up-to-date facilities while ‘ surpluses have been taken into general revenue. I have, no objection whatever to the provision of a sinking fund commensurate with the asset which is created. The Treasurer has not told us what will be done with any surplus. I hope there will be no surplus. In connexion with the budget, I hope that the Government’s intention will be explained to the House, because, hitherto, the post office has been nothing but a taxing machine.
.-There should be no attempt, excepting at theend of a session, to put bills through in one sitting. Especially should that be the case in connexion with financial measures.. Honorable members should have an opportunity to consider their contents. I am saying nothing for or against this bill, but when measures are rushed through in this manner, honorable members have no opportunity to ascertain what they really mean. It behoves us to be cautious, and not to place upon the statute-book any ill-considered measure. If this were a case of urgency, and it was necessary for the bill to be passed before the end of the financial year-
– That is the position in this case.
– I would have objected to this course had the position been otherwise.
– I did not know that was the reason for the haste in connexion with this bill. As a general rule, honorable members should have ample opportunity to fully consider the contents of a bill before it becomes law. In the circumstances explained by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), I can understand the procedure adopted in this case.
.- I consider that the post office should be carried on with money paid from revenue, and I have always objected to loan money being used for the purpose. Much of the material used by the post office is of a perishable nature; and some has a very short life. To ask this House to approve of loans with a. currency of ten or twenty years, in such circumstances, is not dealing with the finances of the country in a proper manner. In the early days of federation, it was decided that there should be no borrowing in connexion with the expenditure of “the Federal Government. When a Labour Government was returned to power in 1910, it took over a very heavy responsibility in connexion with the post office, as during the first ten years of federation (he post office was starved almost out of existence. At that time, the Government made provision for a sum of £3,000,000 to be set aside from revenue.’ and for £1,000,000 to be spent annually. Subsequent Treasurers borrowed money for the conduct of the ‘post office. That action may have been due to the war. but I am sorry/, it was taken. I believe I am correct in saying ‘that in every coun- try where there is constitutional government the requirements of the post office are met from its revenue. I am not so well acquainted with post office matters during recent years, and admit that of late I have not studied the annual reports of the post office in Great Britain. Prior to the war, I studied the annual balance-sheets, and at that time the business in Great Britain was conducted without loan money. All expenses were paid from revenue. I suggest that the Government should cease borrowing.
– The Government has paid £5,000,000 off the national debt.
– If there had been honest administration, a greater sum than that would have been paid off. From time to time I have protested against this continual borrowing. Sir Joseph Cook, who was at one time the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, has never forgiven me for pointing out that the wooden boxes which were placed outside the Sydney post office, and which were provided from loan money, would not last more than three or four years. In Sir George Reid’s time even the wooden spoons used at Government House were paid for out of loan money. If a Treasurer is allowed to borrow money without responsibility, we might as well get a blackfellow from the South Sea Islands, and appoint him Treasurer. He could administer the affairs of the country so long as there was plenty of money available. In such circumstances a financial genius is not required as Treasurer. The great need is for some one who will pay attention to the true financial position of the country. The time may come when our wool will not command the high prices now ruling, and the same may be true of our wheat. There is to-day no proper organization of our meat industry, which is one of the worst organized industries in the Commonwealth.
– Order! I hope that the honorable member will not discuss the meat industry.
– I have referred to the meat industry because the same maladministration has occurred in connexion with the post office as in connexion with that important industry. The revenue of Australia will not always be as buoyant as it has been of recent years, and we should be careful. In connexion with the perishable material used in the post office, proper provision should be made for depreciation. I hope that I shall yet see the day when the post office will no longer rely on borrowed money to extend its operations, and when all its expenses will be met from revenue.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that any profit accruing from the post office should be applied to post office purposes, instead of being paid into general revenue, and so reduce the amount to be borrowed. This year, the profits from the post office total £300,000, and it is proposed to spend £3,000,000. Instead of borrowing that amount, wo should borrow £2,700,000 only, and thus save the interest on the £300,000. 1 do not agree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr! West) that we should not borrow money to provide postalfacilities. Although we have a, surplus of £300,000 this year from the post office, that sum would not go far towards providing those facilities, for which £3,000,000 will be required.
-That £3,000,000 will not be spent in one year.
– The £9,000,000 borrowed money is to cover a period of three years.No young country can extend its postal facilities to meet the requirements of the people solely out of revenue. If we arc to develop this country and provide facilities for the people, we must borrow. If we confine our expenses to the limits of our revenue, no progress will be made. Each year there is an increasing demand for postal, telephonic, and telegraphic services. To provide such facilities from revenue would mean an increase in the rates charged. The people are to-day paying quite sufficient for the services rendered. The policy of the Labour party is to borrow money for reproductive works, so long as interest is paid on the borrowed money. I do not think that a rate of 1£ per cent, to provide a sinking fund for the post office is sufficiently high, because some of the material used depreciates considerably. The bill has my support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a: second time and reported; without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Government the following telegram that has been received by representatives of South Australia, which my colleagues desire me to present:-
South Australia indignant secret policy Government regarding broadcasting. Full information required text of proposed regulations. General public resent increased fee. Dealers hard hit if monopoly granted. ‘ Will you please ask questions in the House.
Paroso Limited, Adelaide Radio Company, South Australia Radio Company, Newton McLaren Limited.
From recent communications I have received I am confident that this telegram is supported by those who are associated with the amateur or experimental side of wireless. They feel that the regulations are a distinct hardship, and they complain that in the recent conference held to consider the regulations, amateurs were not properly represented. It seems that those who are interested in wireless are being placed in the hands of a monopoly represented by the Amalgamated Wireless Company, which is a branch of the great Marconi Trust.
– That is not so.
– Then I leave the Prime Minister to explain the circumstances. Wireless experimenters have that impression, and it is my honest impression. The Amalgamated Wireless Company is able to impose on those interested in wireless any conditions it chooses. I shall be glad if the Prime Minister will give me an assurance that the irksome penalties and conditions imposed will be removed.
– The wording of the telegram read by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) leaves much to be desired. There has been no secret policy relating to broadcasting. As every one knows, a conference of representatives of all interests concerned in broadcasting was held about twelve months ago, and the unanimous decision was reached that the most satisfactory basis for broadcasting would be to have sealed receiving sets. It was arranged that the broadcasting stations should have wave lengths allotted to them, and that they should broadcast to people with scaled sets tuned to those wave lengths. That decision was reached by representatives of all the interests concerned. The Government gave effect to it, but it has been proved beyond question that it was not a good decision. It soon became apparent that some other basis for broadcasting should be established. A further conference of those interested was held, and certain recommendations were made: Those recommendations have been examined very carefully by the PostmasterGeneral and post office officials, who have come to the conclusion that they also would not work satisfactorily. For the . past few weeks every effort has been made to discover some other means of providing a satisfactory broadcasting system in Australia, so as to promote interest in wireless and the expansion of it throughout Australia.
– Will all interests be consulted?
– In seeking the best basis for a broadcasting system, an endeavour has been made to secure the assistance and advice of every one interested. There has been no secrecy. The Government has been trying to reach a decision that will give the best results, and we hope that we are now very near the time when we shall be able to announce the policy that the Government thinks will be most effective in promoting broadcasting. As soon as possible the policy will be announced to the House and the public, and the regulations, which will be issued as soon afterwards as possible, will be given the widest possible publicity, for every one will have to obey them. Possibly the firm that sent the telegram to the honorable member hastaken it for granted that every statement made from time to time has been officially authorized, and conveys the policy of the Government. No statement has been made by the Government, and if the honorable member will wait and see “ what the proposals of the Government are, there will be time enough for him to criticize them. . -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 June 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240626_reps_9_107/>.