9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2 30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister been advised of the wireless plans of the imperial Government? Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government has abandonedthe intention to erect highpower stations, and to experiment with thebeamsystem?
– I hope, in a very fewminutes, with the consent of the House to make a full statement regarding the intentions of. the Government on this subject. Later.
– With the permission of theHouse, I desire to make a statement with respect to long distance wireless.
– May I, by leave, make a brief statement in connexion with the Prime Minister’s request. I have no wish to discuss it.
– The indulgence of the House grants leave in these cases , but I do not see how one leave can be superimposed on another -at this stage. Later, the honorable member for Bourke may obtain the permission of the House to make a statement.
– As leave has been refused to the Leader of this party, why should it be granted to the Prime Minister?
– I am not in a position to answer that question.
– So far as I am concerned, I refuse leave to the Prime Minister.
– So do I.
Mr. SPEAKER. As honorable members object, leave to make a statement is refused.
Mr.SCULLIN.- Now that the two heads of the composite family have withdrawn divorce proceedings against each other, can the Prime Minister find time to give me an answer to the question I asked last week about placing on the table of the House the cablegrams relating to wool prices?
– I have no knowledge of the divorce proceedings to which the honorable member refers. I shall endeavour to give a reply to his question within the next day or two.
– Will the Prime Minister permit the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) to make a statement to this House with reference to certain criticism made through the Premier of Queensland of his investigation into the Spahlinger treatment for tuberculosis ? I may say that I have personally approached the honorable member, and he is prepared, subject to the permission of the Prime Minister, to make a statement at a convenient time.
– The permission of the House, and not of the Prime Minister; is necessary to enable an honorable member to make a statement.
– Does the honorable member for Calare desire to make a statement?
– I propose, with the consent of the House, to make a statement to-morrow.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Effect on Western Australian Industries.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - .
Has the Government considered and arrived at a decision regarding a request made some three months ago by the honorable member for Swan, that an expert commission should be appointed to inquire into and report to- -Parliament on the effect ofthe tariff on Western Australian industries, and the relief, financial or otherwise, that should be provided, and. which is so strongly recommended in the recently presented report of the Tariff Board?
– The suggestion of the honorable member is being considered in conjunction with the report of the Tariff-. Board which has recently been received.
Price in Adelaide. -
asked the Minister “ for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Where, and from whom, does the Custom’s Department in South Australia secure ‘information as to the local price of flour?
– The reports show that the price is now being obtainedfrom, the secretary of the South Australian Millowners’ Association, and that until recently it was obtained from the chairman’ of the corn trade section of the Chamber of Commerce in Adelaide.
Case of A. Hanks
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Willhe lay on the table of the Library the papers dealing with the military pension of A. Hanks, of East Cannington, from its inception to the present?
– It is not deemed desirable to lay files of papers of this description on the Library table unprotected, but the papers will be made available for the honorable member’s inspection at the House at any time convenient to him.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Quarters in Western Australia.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Plans of the proposed new structures had previously beenprepared, and the necessary funds had been provided on the Estimates for 1923- 24. It was then mutually decided to push ahead with the erection of the buildings without delay. However, the new Government in Western Australia has held the matter up for the time being, but it is hoped that finality will be reached at an early date. The necessary money has been included in the Estimates for this financial year.
I may add that when addressing the present Premier- on the 16th June, 1924 - in this connexion, the Prime Minister informed him by letter that the Commonwealth desired “ to push ahead with the works at West Subiaco with all possible expedition,” and a further letter stressing the urgency of the matter and requesting immediate action on the part of the state Government has been forwarded.
– On the 9th July, in reply to a request by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) that the Commonwealth Government should provide funds for the ballasting of the transcontinental railway line, and thus provide employment for a large number of men thrown out of work by the closing down of the Ivanhoe mine, I promised to discuss the matter with the Treasurer and the Minister for Works and Railways, with a view to meeting his wishes if possible. I now desire to inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner states that it is not economical or desirable to carry out ballasting work at this season, and that it was necessary recently to discharge about. 100 men employed in a quarry in the eastern section of the railway. Moreover, as the next ballasting will be in this section, any suitable employment for unemployed miners would necessarily be very limited, especially as the men accustomed to the work will expect to receive first consideration. . In vew of the above report it is regretted that there does not appear to be any hope of such work being made available at present.
– I have just been apprised of the fact that four distinguished members of the Parliament of the Dominion of New Zealand are within the precincts of the House. They are,” Sir John Luke, M.P., the Hon. A. F. Hawk, M.L.C.,
Mr. James Horn, M.P., and Mr. E. J. Howard, M.P. These gentlemen are en route to South Africa as the New Zealand delegation visiting the Union. With the concurrence of the House I shall provide them, as distinguished visitors, with seats beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
The members of the delegation thereupon entered the chamber, and were seated accordingly.
Motion (by Mr. Lister) agreed to: -
That the consideration of order of the day No. 1, relating to the financial position of Tasmania, be postponed.
Motion (by Mr. Mahony) agreed to: -
That the consideration of order of the day No. 2, relating to the encouragement of Australian architects, be postponed.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 1860), on motion by Mr. Manning-
Upon which Mr. Mahony had moved, by way of amendment -
That paragraph (2) be omitted.
.- I am aware that some honorable members will give me no credit for looking at this matter impartially. At the outset, I want to make it clear that I cannot give the proposal to construct a railway from Yass to Canberra .my support. Justification for that attitude is provided by the report of the Public- Works Committee on this matter. In its report the committee stated -
Throughout the course of its inquiry the Committee found it was somewhat hampered by the paucity of information made available. Tn addition to the details specified in the Commonwealth Railways Act, and mentioned above, which were not furnished, no steps appear, to have been taken to approach the State of New South Wales with a view to suggesting an arrangement under which all sections of this railway should be constructed, or even a basis of agreement for working the railway when completed. Further, no particulars were available to the Committee as to the class or style of station buildings proposed; no separate estimate could be furnished of the various bridges proposed to be constructed, nor could any plan or particulars be furnished, of the design of the important bridges over the Jerrabomberra Creek and Molonglo River. Apparently no thought had been given, either by the officials of the Railway Department or by the members of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, as to the width of land which it would be advisable to set aside for railway purposes along the route.
– The honorable member will remember that it is an antiCanberra committee.
– That report is sufficient justification for the refusal of this House to allow this work to be carried out. Only last night honorable members opposite objected to certain works being undertaken without the fullest inquiry first being held. I take it that what is right in one case is right in another also. Here we have a report from a body of men who were appointed specially to inquire into the merits of the case. That report is entirely against the construction of this railway. The evidence shows that there is no necessity for the construction of the line at the present time. Representatives of both the Commonwealth and the State railways departments informed the committee that, in their opinion, the huge expenditure which would be involved was not warranted. Evidence from such sources should be given serious consideration by honorable members before committing the country to an expenditure’ of approximately £750,000. It may be said by some that the responsibility of this Government in this matter does not amount to that sum, but I remind honorable members that in a letter which waa sent to the Commonwealth authorities from the -Public Works Department of New South Wales on the 27th -February last, the Under-Secretary, Mr. T. B. Cooper, wrote as follows : -
Following upon my letter of 25th instant, I am directed to inform you that the subjectmatter of your letter of 23rd idem was considered by cabinet to-day.
Ministers recognize their obligations under “the Seat of Government Surrender Act, and are prepared to meet them, but, as the question of finance is at present a very serious one so far .as .the Government of New South Wales is concerned cabinet cannot see its way clear to give .a’ definite promise that an immediate start will be made on the work.
Respecting the financial aspect of the question, J might point out that recently the Honorable Austin Chapman, when at Yass, stated that, while the Federal Government had no .intention of meeting the cost of the railway from Yass to the Federal boundary, he would endeavour, if necessary, to persuade his Government to lend Mr. Ball the money. hi this connexion I have to state’ that, if the Federal Government is agreeable to assist the New South Wales Government in the direction indicated, this state will be prepared to proceed with the construction at once.
Iii view of the fact that the Government .of New South Wales are not in a position “to bear the cost of building their section of the railway without coming, cap in hand, to the Federal Government for the money, we are not justified in proceeding any further with the project at the present juncture. It is estimated that the portion of the line, 16 miles 48 chains long, within federal territory, would cost .£433,000, an average of £26,084 a mile ; and that the portion of the line passing through the state territory, a distance of 27 miles 54 chains, would cost £310,725, -an average of approximately £11,000 a mile.
Mi”. GREGORY - And it would not earn a penny in revenue. .. Mr. LISTER. - Most honorable members have passed over the country that would be traversed by this line, and they know the barrenness of the section between the federal boundary and Yass. I doubt whether the state portion of the lino would earn sufficient to pay for axle grease. At any rate, very little revenue would be earned by it for many years to come. Mi. Hobler, the Chief Engineer for Works and Railways in the Commonwealth Railways Department, has estimated that the state portion of the line would cost £9,000 a mile, which is £2,000 lower than the estimate submitted by others. The Public Works Committee, which has gone over the route, and taken evidence on the spot and in other- parts of the Commonwealth, has submitted a report which is opposed to the construction of this railway. In the face of that report, I should not be justified in voting tor its construction. We all recognize -.that reasonable convenience should be afforded to people who desire to reach Canberra from the southern- part of the continent, but we also recognize that there is no justification for the expenditure of a huge sum of money on a railway connexion when all that is needed can be provided by the construction of a good motor road. ‘ Motors will play a big part in the future transport of people and goods. Even if the proposed railway were built, we should also be obliged to construct almost immediately a road suitable for motor traffic. This, again, is an argument for deferring the construction of a railway which is not likely to earn revenue, and is not likely to be availed of to any great extent. People generally prefer to travel by motor car.
– Canberra is already provided with a railway. .
– That is so. People who wish to reach Canberra from the south will be quite willing to travel by motors from Yass,’ or remain in the train for an additional hour or two to be taken to Canberra without change of conveyance. They would, probably be more comfortable in doing that than they would be if they changed trains at Yass at 5 o’clock on a winter morning. If people prefer to travel by motors, we . should certainly avoid saddling, the country with the annual interest charge on the huge expenditure that would be involved in building this railway. In any case, as the railway would be built solely to meet the convenience of a few individuals, particularly members of Parliament representing southern- states, I think those members’ would be quite agreeable to make the journey from Yass to Canberra by motors, instead of having a railway that could only be provided for them at a huge cost. If I were to consent to such
Wasteful expenditure, I’ should fail in my duty to the people I represent, to the people of the State of Victoria, and to the people of. the Commonwealth as a whole. I am not criticizing at this stage the waste that has already taken place in other directions at Canberra. I have already expressed my opinion upon that. But, as the present proposal more particulary affects honorable members who represent southern- constituencies, I, as a member representing one of those constituencies, am entitled to express my opinion upon it, and that is that on the grounds of economy it is not justified.
– I accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony).
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the motion, as amended, be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 1861), on motion by Sir Elliot Johnson -
That, inthe opinion of this. House, with a view to removing the uncertainty which exists at the present time as to the authority for the publication of the parliamentary Hansard, section 3 of the Parliamentary Papers Act should be amended to include Hansard among the documents authorized by Parliament to be printed and published.
.- I do not wish to delay the House by “debating the motion at any length. The subject has been well ventilated, and all I wish to say is that I favour the motion, and hope the House will agree to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 1861), on motion by Mr. Jackson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should immediately commence the construction of that section of railway line Oodnadatta-Alice Springs, as part of theNorthSouth railway, and as recommended by the Public Works Committee.
-I direct the attention of honorable members to the map that, with your kind permission, Mr. Speaker, I have displayed for the purpose of illustrating my remarks, and I thank the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), to whom I am indebted for the use of it. In passing, I wish to commend the work the honorable member has done in assisting the Australian inland mission stations marked on the map. His efforts in that direction are highly creditable to him. The mission should receive the sympathetic assistance of the Federal Government, the State Governments, and every man in the community; it is a deserving institution, and should meet with the approbation of every one. ‘ I direct particular attention to the hatched portion of the map, which represents a part of Australia where there is absolutely no settlement, and which has an area of 400,000 square miles. That unoccupied area extends at one part almost to the extreme north of the continent. At the present time there is a fortnightly train from Marree to Oodnadatta.,
The railway if extended as the motion proposes, will get no more traffic than it has to-day. Professor Gregory who travelled through central Australia about twenty years ago described ‘the country surrounding Lake Eyre as “ the dead heart of Australia.” Obviously, there is no possibility of getting very much goods or passenger traffic from such country. To the south-west of Alice Springs there are two stations west of the proposed line, namely: - Warrina, an area of 27,400 square miles, carrying 17,091 horses and cattle; Alberga, 27,800 square miles; carrying 29,830 cattle and horses and 3,240 sheep ; and near Alice Springs, Hermansberg, 154,843 square miles, carrying 72,469 cattle and horses and 5,462 sheep. To the east of Alice Springs is Arltunga which has an area of 41,450 square miles, and carries 25,085 cattle and horses. The total area comprised in these stations is 251,493 square miles on which are depastured 134,475 cattle and horses and 8,702 sheep. Those figures are taken from sworn evidence given before the Public Works Committee. Presumably it is from the area in which those stations are situated that the traffic of the proposed railway would be drawn, but it i3 clear that even with ai railway to Alice Springs there would be no more traffic from the north of Oodnadatta than there is to-day, when, because of the nature of the country traversed, one train a fortnight is sufficient. The length of the proposed line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would be 297£ miles. The subcommittee of the Public Works Committee which travelled overland from Adelaide to Port Darwin left Oodnadatta on the 21st June, and reached Alice Springs on the 3rd July. It is obvious from those dates that the committee kept to the beaten track and made no excursions to the east or west in order to get firsthand information as to the nature of the country. The explorer, Stuart, described the country west of Lake Eyre as composed of desert sandstone, and if that description is correct, that area does not offer capabilities to any extent of cultivation or stock carrying. Meridian 132 E. longitude, marks the western limit of the artesian basin. Outside of that basin there is no possibility of getting water by boring. At Lake Philip, jUSt beyond the western limit of the artesian basin, a bore was sunk to a depth of 3,100 feet without tapping water.
As there is no likelihood of a railway to Alice Springs getting additional traffic from pastoral or agricultural holdings, one of the objects of the line must be the development of mining. For many years, mining has. been carried on about Arltunga without much success. The total output from that district has been very small. Statistics given by a witness before the Public Works Committee, show that the total value of minerals produced in the Northern Territory from’ 1894 to 1920 was £1>884,915. The output of gold for the 50 years prior to 1911 was- Port Darwin, £2,197,560; Macdonnell ranges, Tanami and Davenport ranges, £203,209; making a grand total of £2,400,589. A friend of mine took part in the rush to Arltunga about sixteen or eighteen years ago, and on his return he told me that there was in that area no gold worth mentioning. The lodes, he said, are mere “ buck “ quartz and carry no mineral veins. I have some extracts from the journals of exploration in central Australia, by Allan Davidson, explorer and mineralogist. His trip was taken in 1898-1900. He said -
We proved many low-grade” shows to exist, and these could doubtless be improved by development; and when greater facilities exist for the development of these discoveries, by a railway across from Adelaide to Port Darwin, I have no doubt payable gold reefs will be opened up. The future of this country depends entirely on the development of its mineral wealth, a large central mining population being the only means by which central Australia can be transformed from a desolate waste to a prosperous country. I have very grave doubts as to the occurrence of rich deposits of gold in the interior. . . ‘. Failing the discovery of rich reefs, the next best thing to open up a country is the discovery of good alluvial deposits. I think now the country is explored and the gold areas located, that an expedition whose main object was alluvial gold would meet with fair success.
– That .area has never been explored.
– In January, 1903, the Government Geologist, Mr. H. Y. L. Brown, also reported on this area, evidently following the direction taken by Mr. Davidson. He said: -
I” had no opportunity of seeing the deep workings, as the shafts were in bad order, but from tests made of quartz and other vein stone which had been raised from them, I infer that no permanent and continuous body of stone, containing sufficient gold to warrant the outlay of capital, had been found at any of the localities I had visited.
The honorable member for Barker has interjected that no exploration of that area had been made. The South Aus;tralian Government, desiring to develop this country, erected gold batteries at Arltunga and Winneckes Depot, but the result was very disappointing.
– Those batteries have never had an opportunity to work properly.
– We have before us the experience of the gold discoveries in Alaska, South Africa, and other places. Prospectors are not sent out to auriferous areas by the Government or by any particular organization, but go at their own expense and risk to prospect for gold. If this gold existed in any quantity in the Northern Territory, it would have been discovered long ago, and the mines developed. Speaking of the two batteries placed by the South Australian Government at Arltunga, and Winneckes Depot, Thomas Gordon Oliver, Director of Mines in the Northern Territory, when giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, stated that the loss on the Arltunga battery in the years 1911-12-13 was £3,776 4s. lid., and on the battery at Winneckes Dêpôt in the same years, £690 12s. 5d. Both of these batteries have ceased operations, no stone being ‘ crushed because of the absence of minerals.
Another factor mentioned by the honorable member for . Bass, warranting the construction of a railway to Alice Springs, was irrigation. He said that at Alice Springs there was ample opportunity to impound water by making dams from which to irrigate the country. The photographs exhibited by that honorable member in the Queen’s Hall and elsewhere, show definitely that there are places there where water could be successfully impounded. But we want further information on that subject, and in that direction I intend later to move an amendment which I trust will meet with the approval of the House. We want to know whence the water is to come, and after it is impounded what will be the area capable of cultivation, whether the supply of water will be sufficient to irrigate that country, and to provide an ade- quate surplus after evaporation. That is a big factor in water supply. The Diamantina River and Cooper’s Creek both flow into Lake Eyre, which has an area of 3,200 square miles, being 80 miles long and 40 miles broad. These rivers, in certain seasons j both carry a large quantity of water into Lake Eyre. “ According to Professor Gregory, nobody has seen Lake Eyre filled or even half filled. As there is no outlet from the lake, where does the water go? It is lo3t by evaporation.
– The honorable member is wrong, as the water goes underground.
– Professor Gregory said that there was no evidence of an underground outlet for water. It was at one time a theory that the water disappeared by. flowing through subterranean channels into the ocean, and if such channels existed would they riot carry away the artesian water?
– Sir Edgeworth David is my authority for saying that there is evidence of underground channels.
– The Diamantina River and Cooper’s Creek flow into Lake Eyre from the north-east, the Macumba River from the north-west, and other rivers from the south. Notwithstanding the great body of water that flows into Lake Eyre from these rivers, all of it evaporates. Therefore, the question of evaporation should be deeply studied before any proposition is advanced to impound water there for the purpose of irrigating the adjacent country. We want to know where the arable land is situated, how far it extends from the sites for the dams, and what length of channel will be required to carry the water from the dams to the point of irrigation. It has been stated that some parts near the creeks are wonderfully fertile and can be successfully cultivated. That can be easily conceded,, because the water coming down from the hills for centuries past has carried detritus and deposited it on the banks of the creeks. But how far from the creeks does that fertile land extend? That should be explained to us before this House agrees to construct a line which, according to the estimate of the Commonwealth engineer, will cost £1,490,000. It is suggested to convert the 3 ft. 6 in. .gauge from Marree to Oodnadatta to 4 ft. 8^ in., and then to construct a railway from Kingoonya . on the east-west line to Oodnadatta. It is, of course, questionable whether that proposal would add to the cost of the north-south line; in my opinion it would certainly have that effect. The stock route across the totally uninhabited portion of the continent to which I have referred is usually closed except in very favorable seasons. The interior area north-west of South Australia has a normal rainfall of 9.9 inches, but in some parts the rainfall is less than 6 inches.
– That is where the line ends now.
– It would be impossible to obtain traffic from that country.
– Not at the Macdonnell ranges.
– It is impossible to obtain railway traffic from a district in which there arc no inhabitants.
– If railway facilities are provided, there will soon be inhabitants there.
– To secure the settlement of the district it is not a railway, but an adequate rainfall that is required. This district is outside the artesian belt, and it is not possible to obtain water there underground. I am giving expression not only to my own views of the country, but to views which have been expressed by Professor Gregory in his book, The Dead Heart of Australia, which honorable members can consult in the Library, but which are also the opinions of explorers, Eyre and Stuart, who describe the country west of the proposed line as desert sandstone. At the present moment, a party of which Dr. Stefannson is a member is visiting this district, and I understand that the party reports the country as being admirable. It may be so described as a health resort, but if it is intended to be considered in that light, honorable members who support the proposed railway should drop all other claims for it. I have no doubt that as the country is elevated and the climate good, the “ dead heart of Australia “ is a very healthful place in which to live, but it would not pay to construct a railway through the district merely to make a health resort of it. I move -
That the words “ immediately commence the construction of “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ construct.”
If my amendment is carried the motion will read : -
That in the opinion of this House the Go vernment should construct that section of railway line Oodnadatta-Alice Springs as part of the north-south railway, and as recommended by the Public Works Committee.
I think it would be a mistake for the House to sanction the immediate’ construction of this section of the north-south railway. We require more information with regard to the water supply, the irrigable land, and the cost of supplying water in the district. Even in some settled districts, the cost of providing water is so high that men have abandoned their holdings. Only a little time ago I read that in Victoria a man wasbeing taxed not upon his area, but upon the annual value of his land. He held a comparatively small block, and yet the charge imposed upon him for water amounted to £8 per annum. The cost of digging channels for reticulation purposes is very high, and a settler in the district traversed by the sec tion referred to in the motion, after paying freight upon, say, 1,000. miles of railway, would have to compete with men settled round about Port Augusta, and between that town and Adelaide on fertile land possessing the advantage of being well watered naturally. We require a great deal more information about this proposal, and I submit my amendment trusting that the House will approve of it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahony) adjourned.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the consideration of Order of the
Day No. 6, relating’ to the contract system for Government work, be postponed.
.- I moveThat this bill be now read a second time.
I feel that my task is an easy one, not only because of the kind consideration which I know honorable members will extend to me in my unusual role, but also because I believe that the bill will find a favorable reception already prepared for it in their minds. Some word of commendation is due to the honorable senator who was responsible for the introduction of the measure in another place. The bill is intended to give actual effect to a desire frequently expressed, not only in parliamentary circles, but amongst many thoughtful people outside. It proposes what is admittedly an experiment, but one which I think has more reason to commend it, both on practical and theoretical grounds, than many experiments which areproposed. It should not be necessary to say very much to secure for the bill the approval of honorable members, but I think I should put on record the reasons for its introduction, so that in future there may not be any question as to the motives behind this action. First of all, we claim to be a democracy. The word “ democracy “ denotes that form of government in which the ruling power of the state is legally vested, not in any class or classes, but in the members of the community as a whole. This means, in a community that acta by voting, that the right to rule belongs to a majority of those qualified to vote. Unfortunately, never since federation was established has this been the case in the Commonwealth. The statistics showing the proportion of qualified voters in Australia who have exercised the franchise’ are rather staggering. Ever since federation was established, of all- those who have been returned to the Senate during the last 24 years, on only four occasions has an individual senator been returned by more than 50 per cent, of the voters enrolled. The “highest percentage of total votes recorded in an election was 84.85, and the percentage has been as low as 28.35. In the last Senate election 1,254,178 voters did not exercise their franchise. . In. the case of the House of” Representatives, as a result of the last election, the most representative member sitting in thi3 chamber is one who was returned by the votes of only 48.78 of those enrolled for his district. The highest percentage of total ‘ votes recorded at any election was 89.02, and the lowest as low as 30.41. In other words, honorable members are frequently returned^ not by a majority of the electors ‘of the Commonwealth, but by a majority of one-half; or less,- of the electors, and yet by these honorable members laws are enacted which control the whole community. If the principles .of domocracy are to be properly applied, it is evident that some attempt should bo made to ensure that those who govern at least represent the majority of the governed. . This bill is an attempt to bring that about. Of those who may object to the’ method which it suggests, I would ask what other method can they suggest. The people should be jealous of their democratic privileges; and we have the right’ to ‘ask -of them that they should regard those privileges, not only as something which they ought to prize, but as involving a duty which they should perform, and the performance of which the state has a right to demand of them. As a rule, those who are least zealous in exercising the franchise are most ready to criticize the .acts of Parliament. People need to be taught that they will be good democrats, not by being armchair or street-corner critics, but by becoming in reality responsible for public acts. There is some justification for. hoping that this bill, if passed, will bring about what is desired. Queensland is :the only state of which I know in which compulsory voting is the law. The act was introduced in that state in 1915 by the Government of the day. Although it is not a federal act, and does not operate in the federal sphere, there can be little doubt that a great many of the people of Queensland do not distinguish definitely between a state and a Commonwealth measure, and therefore when federal elections take place they are under the impression that they will be subject to the penalty imposed by the state act if they do not record their -votes. The result is that the electors of Queensland have set a wonderful example to the rest of Australia by the way in which they vote at federal elections. At the last elections’ 82.66 of the electors enrolled in Queensland recorded their votes; whilst the state showing the next highest percentage of votes recorded gave a vote of only 52.6 of those enrolled. This measure is a natural corollary of compulsory enrolment, which is already’ provided ‘ for on our statute-book. Honorable members may say that we can take a horse to the water but we cannot make him drink. But by compelling people to vote, we are likely to arouse in them an intelligent interest, and to give them a political knowledge that . they, do not at present possess. A man recently expressed to me the opinion that there was not much real political sense in Australia. He considered that there was probably a greater sporting sense, which permeated the whole community, and led the people to attach themselves to whatever cause might attract them, or to follow some personality who seized their imagination. The principles of this bill are not new, as an, act was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1915, providing for compulsory voting in connexion with a certain referendum which, however, was eventually not submitted to the people. This bill is framed on similar lines to that measure. It is very simple, consisting of three clauses only, the principal one of which is clause 2. The bill provides that it shall be the duty of every elector to record his vote, and that after each election a list of those who did not vote shall be prepared by the returning officer. Notification shall then be sent to each delinquent, calling upon him to show reason why he failed to exercise his franchise. Within two months the divisional returning officer must return to the Chief Electoral Officer the list of the persons who failed to vote, together with their reasons for neglecting, to do so, and his own opinion of the truthfulness and sufficiency of their excuses, Every elector who fails to vote, or to fill up the required form, or states false reasons for not voting, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £2. Proceedings can be taken only by the Chief Electoral Officer, or an officer authorized by him in writing. The bill also provides for the making of regulations. Two chief objections have been advanced against this measure, both of which are thoughtful and conscientious. It is well, therefore, that I should endeavour to meet them. First, it is contended that the bill is an interference with the liberty of the subject. There are various kinds of liberty, only two of which are likely to interfere with each other, namely, political and individual liberty. Bryce, in his Modern Democracy, has said -
A.b individual liberty consists in exemption from legal control, so political liberty consists in participation in legal control.
Individual liberty is less likely to be invaded when the legal control is that exercised by a real majority of the people. In other words, it may be said epigram.matically that a limit is to be set on personal liberty only when it is used to take a liberty with one’s fellow citizens. A man who possesses the right to vote, but fails to exercise that right, is taking a liberty wit1*! other members of the community. The second objection to the bill is that compulsory voting will increase the power of the press. That is, however, an objection not to be feared. It implies something with which I do not agree, namely, that the power of the press is exercised more for harm than for good. I do not think that many thoughtful men to-day consider that to be so. To again quote Bryce -
It is the newspaper press that has made democracy possible in large countries. Without it there could be no democracy in areas larger than were the city communities of the ancient world. The newspaper enables statesmen to reach the whole people by their words, and keeps legislature and executive officials under the eyes of the people. Itself irresponsible, it enforces responsibility upon all who bear a part in public works.
I do not think that any increase in the power of the press which might be brought about by the passing of this measure could have harmful effects greater than the good which would be done by the community taking an increased interest in the exercise of its franchise rights.
– I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for
Perth (Mr. Mann), but must confess that I was somewhat surprised that he did not have more to tell us concerning this measure. Such a radical alteration of the electoral machinery of Australia is sufficiently important to justify the fullest details being laid before honorable members. I regret the haste with which this bill has been introduced. .It was both introduced and passed in the Senate during the last week, and, apparently, a similar course is to be followed in this chamber. I intend to oppose the measure, and propose now to give some reasons for doing so. The bill deals with the exercise of the franchise by the citizens of Australia. What does the word “franchise” mean? It ie the same word as the old French word franchise, meaning “freedom, frankness.” Honorable members will find that definition if they will refer to Sir James Murray’s Oxford Dictionary. What freedom can there possibly be in a franchise the exercise of which is compulsory? That is a contradiction in terms. A franchise which gives an individual the right to decide whether he shall vote or not ceases to be freedom when made compulsory. I shall give some of the reasons for my opposition to this bill. . First, compulsory voting was not advocated by me when contesting the last election. I am aware that there are honorable members in this House - the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), for instance-r-who stated on the hustings that they were in favour of compulsory voting; but not only did I not say that, but at no time during the election campaign was the subject of compulsory voting mentioned by me. With other honorable members I deplore the apathy of the electors, but, as I did not inform my constituents that if I were returned to represent them in this House I should assist to bring iii a bill to force them to vote, whether they desired it” or not, I do not feel entitled now to support a measure which has compulsory voting as its object. I realize that there are occasions when honorable members must decide for themselves the course of action they shall take,’ without first referring to their constituents. In matters of urgency honorable members must be prepared to take the responsibility of acting on their own initiative. This measure, however,. is not one of urgency. There is no necessity for a vote to be taken on it until honorable members have had an opportunity to ascertain the views of their constituents concerning it. I should not hesitate to exercise my liberty, and to come to a decision on the merits of compulsory voting, if it were necessary in the interests of Australia, but, in my opinion, that condition does not apply. I admit that the figures showing the number of persons who voted at each of the elections held in recent years show a considerable falling off in the numbers. The Commonwealth Year-Booh gives the following figures: - At the Senate election of 1913 the persons who voted represented 73 per cent, of the electors; the following year the percentage was 72 per cent.; in 1917, it was 77 per cent; in 1919, 71 per cent.; and, in 1922, nearly 58 per cent. That shows a falling off of 13 per cent, in 1922 as compared with 1919. The figures for the House of Representatives are a little different. In both 1913 and 19.14, 73 per cent, of the electors exercised their right to vote; 78 per cent, of them voted in 1917 ; 71 per cent, in 1919 ; and, in 1922, 59 per cent. There may be good reasons for the reduction in the number of persons who voted, but that falling off does not, of itself, justify this House in making such a radical alteration of the electoral laws of the Commonwealth as this bill proposes. Except in a case of emergency, I do not consider that I am entitled, without consulting my constituents, to assist in passing legislation which would require them necessarily to vote. At no time did I ever suggest to them that there was any likelihood of a measure of this nature being passed by this Parliament. I have a duty, not only to those who actually voted for me, but also to the other residents of my district.
– Does the honorable member consider that he owes a duty to those who did not vote ?
– Yes. I represent, not only those electors who voted for me, but the whole of the people in my district. At declarations of the poll, successful candidates frequently state that they regard themselves as having been elected to represent the whole district. A member’s duty is to repre sent, so far as he is able, the whole of the people in his electorate.
Honorable members interjecting,
– It is difficult for me to answer every interjection. I refrained from interjecting when the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) was speaking, and I think honorable members also should refrain from interjecting while I am stating views which are evidently contrary to theirs.
I also oppose the bill because compulsory voting is practically a new development. The honorable member who introduced the measure with so few words admitted that he knew of no place where compulsory voting is in operation except Queensland. In other words1, he hardly thinks it necessary to justify the most radical change he is proposing. The attitude of Queensland will not prevail with me against the attitude of the rest of the world.
– A Liberal Government introduced the bill in Queensland.
– I am not saying anything about the Government that brought in the bill in Queensland.. I oppose this bill because it is, as the honorable member for Perth suggested, an unjustifiable interference with the liberty of the subject.
– I did not suggest that.
– At any 1 rate, the honorable member went out of his way to meet the point in advance. Evidently thinking that there might be something in the contention, he did not wait for it to be made. However, I take all the responsibility for saying that this measure, if agreed to, will constitute an unjustifiable interference with the liberty of the subject. The proposal is altogether contrary to my idea of preserving the rights of individuals. If honorable members wish to make a commencement, with compulsory voting they can do so nearer home than at the polling booths. I have heard it said that members of parliaments have been absent when a division was taking place upon a matter upon which they did not wish to express an opinion publicly. As far as I know there is no compulsory voting in any parliament. It is certainly not obligatory upon honorable members to vote upon; any question brought forward in this House. If honorabe members are in favour of compulsory voting, the proper place to make a start is this House. As the Roman poet asked many centuries ago, “ Who shall guard the guardians ?” Who are the people who do not exercise the franchise? Some persons-do not vote because their religious views do not permit them to take any share in the government of the land. I quite admit that their number is very few, but would honorable members suggest that these people should be dragooned into voting whether they care to do so or not ?
–If people in Queensland can furnish a reasonable excuse for not voting they are not penalized.
– There is not a great deal of time for this debate. If the honorable member for Capricornia wishes to address the House when I have finished, he may ‘ do so. Meanwhile, I shall go ahead -with what I intend to say.
– But we want to get the bill through. ‘
– I am not speaking to kill time. In addition to those who do not vote on account of their religious views, there are’ others who pair with friend’s: It is quite a common practice, I belieye, in the country ‘districts for a farmer to arrange a pair with one of his -employees, and neither goes to the poll. Under the proposed bill both would need to go to the poll, or, at any rate, to vote. A great number of people do not vote through indifference.
– Would the honorable member like an extension of time?
– The honorable member may interject as much as he likes, but I shall continue my speech. Many people do not vote because they consider ‘ that their knowledge of politics is not’ sufficient to justify them in doing so. In other words, they prefer to stand aside. Many women say they do not know anything about politics. Others declare that they do not want to interfere in politics. Many will not vote because they do not think that they understand politics, and they prefer to leave the choice of members of Parliament to others who think that they do. Does the honorable member for Perth anticipate that such people would, under compulsion, develop an interest in elections? It is said that a man cannot be made moral by act of Parliament. It is certain that a man cannot be compelled to take an interest in political affairs if he does not want to do so. If electors have to vote, whether they like it or not, on a subject in regard to which they are indifferent, or on a subject which’ they say . they do not understand, they will depend upon the opinions of others, so that their, votes, in the main, will not represent their own definite views. Further, people who do not want to vote cannot be prevented from registering informal votes. I wish to be quite honest with the House. I do not think that a great many of those who are” compelled to go to the poll will register informal votes. Some may do so, but I think the greater proportion of their would vote formally, or, at any rate, try to do so. Of course, it is possible to vote informally, unintentionally as well as intentionally; and I should imagine that the already high percentage of informal votes will be increased if this bill becomes law. Some persons do not attach themselves to any political party. Possibly, they may not appreciate the advantages of voting for the candidate of any party. Is it -fair if they do not wish to vote, or if they do not approve of any of the candidates, that they must go to the poll and vote? Considering the struggles, of rival political parties and their wide advertisement in the press, I think it can be safely said that any elector who does not choose to vote must, on the whole, be satisfied with the Government in . power and with the general conditions under which he is living. Otherwise, it is perfectly obvious he would make an ‘effort to turn out the Government, and bring about a change of conditions. The honorable member for Perth has not referred to some other points which relate to this bill. For instance, he has made no reference, to the extra cost which will be involved in administering the electoral law ‘if it is passed. It stands to reason that even if an 80 per cent, or .90 per cent, poll is secured, the cost of administering the electoral law will be enormously increased. In 1922 there were 2,982,424 voters enrolled for the Senate, and 2,774,274 for the House of Representatives. With ah 80 per cent, poll the electoral officers would be required to communicate with the 20 per cent, of the electors who had not voted. After an election for the Senate, communications would have to be sent to, and replies received from, 596,484 persons who had not voted. After a gene; ral election for the House of Representatives, 554,854 communications would have to be sent out and replies received. In Queensland the number of people who vote is generally between 80 ‘per cent, and 90 per cent, of those on the roll. Taking a 90 per cent, vote for the Commonwealth, it would” be necessary, after a Senate election, to communicate with 298,242 electors, whose explanations for not voting would have to be furnished and dealt with by the electoral officers. In the case of a general election for the House of Representatives, 277,427 persons would have to be communicated with in the same way, and would have to furnish replies to the electoral officers. I am surprised that the honorable member for Perth did not draw attention to the fact that this bill would involve the Electoral Department in considerable extra expenditure. The cost of the extra staff necessary would alone be a considerable item. It is certainly a point to be considered by this House before a bill of this kind is passed. It is argued that compulsory voting is a necessary corollary to compulsory registration. I should like to know at what stage it becomes such a corollary. Is there any fixed term in which compulsory voting should logically follow upon the adoption of compulsory registration ? To my mind, there is no connexion between the two things. For various purposes it may suit a government to have a statistical record of persons . who are qualified to vote. To compel the electors to register theirnames, so that there may be a record of the number of electors, is undoubtedly the prerogative of government ; but to say that the elector shall vote, whether he wishes or not, does not seem to me to follow logically from that procedure. Further, it was not my privilege to be a member of this House when the bill to provide for compulsory enrolment was passed, and I deal with this matter on its merits and do not in the least feel bound by the decision of the Parliament of that time.’ The bill provides that the decision whether a proper excuse has been given and an. adequate reason furnished for not voting shall rest with the divisional returning officer. That is a very unfair position in which to place that officer. Sub-clause 8 of clause 2 of the bill says -
Upon receipt of a form referred to in either of the last two preceding sub-sections, the DivisionalReturning Officer shall indorse on both copies of the list prepared in accordance with sub-section (2) of this section, opposite the name of the elector, his opinion whether or not the reason contained in the form is a valid and sufficient reason for the failure of the elector to vote.
That is not fair to the elector nor to the divisional returning officer. It will, no doubt,; be said that my attitude is undemocratic, and, therefore, like the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), I shall meet the accusation in advance.
– The honorable member has never been known to be democratic in any of his utterances. He is the most conservative man in Australia.
– We are all entitled to our opinions, and there is no accounting for either tastes or opinions. While 1 am here I shall endeavour to do my duty, as it appears to me, to my constituents, and not as it may appeal* to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who has his own constituents to consider.My attitude is not undemocratic. I do not suggest the limiting of the rights of any elector. The full franchise exists, but what I advocate is much more in accordance with the principles of Liberalism than are the provisions of the bill. One might say that under those principles a man is free to follow his individual trend so long as he does not detrimentally affect his neighbour and provided he carries out certain duties to the common society. I do not believe that compulsory voting, and particularly compulsory voting for a candidate that the elector does not desire to see elected, is among the duties an individual owes to the common society. What, then, is the cure for the present apathy of the electors; for it is no use criticizing unless one can suggest a cure? I have not the slightest doubt that if sufficiently drastic and important steps are taken by any government the electors will wake up soon enough. The remedy lies not in compulsion, which, after all, is essentially undemocratic, whatever the honorable member for Darling may say to the contrary. My attitude is truly democratic, while those who wish to force their views upon the unfortunate elector are undemocratic. The factor that will undoubtedly cause the electors to realize more fully, not only their privileges, but also their duties, is the gradual spread of education. In education our hope lies. The youth of this nation ought certainly to be made to understand more of their rights, as well as more of their responsibilities and duties to the nation. Anotherthing that would increase the number of voters would be for this Parliament to increase in stature and favour with the people. Even honorable members who disagree with the views I have expressed to-day will at least admit that I have not spoken with any intention or desire, or even with the effect, of wasting time, but for the purpose of expressing views that I honestly hold. I hold those views so strongly that 1 intend to oppose the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– This is not a bill that- should be passed hurriedly, and I take this opportunity, in the few minutes at my disposal, to express my views about it. It is necessary, of course, that we should have compulsory enrolment, but I do not admit that compulsory voting is its natural corollary. We have heard a lot about the alleged success of compulsory voting in Queensland, but the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) has shown that the percentage of electors who vote in many of the states is as high as 73 and 76, and that the average in Queensland since the introduction of compulsory voting has been 82 per cent. At one election, under this system, 79 per cent, of the electors voted. I have yet to be convinced that there is any advantage in compelling people to vote. If the bill is administered as certain honorable members desire, it will involve the issue of half a million summonses whenever we have an election, apart from the cost of postage and the work involved in the postal department. Instead of passing this hurried legislation, I suggest that members should take time to think a little more calmly over it. Compulsory voting was introduced in New Zealand, and, after it had been tried, the old system was reverted to. I am sorry that I have not the full details of that attempt to enforce compulsory voting, but the bill was sprung on me this afternoon, and I had no knowledge of it until I saw it on the noticepaper. Had I known of it yesterday, I would have had an opportunity to look up the particulars. In the circumstances, and until I have an opportunity to obtain full information, I shall oppose the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Provision for New States
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should, at the earliest opportunity, introduce a bill providing for a referendum of the electors of Australia at the next general election upon a proposal to amend Chapter VI. (New States) of the Commonwealth Constitution, so as to empower the Federal Parliament to create new states within the existing states, with or without the consent of the State Parliaments; such power only to be used on the petition of a fixed number of electors in any area, and only after .the State Parliament has failed to take action.
I realize that the motion is somewhat comprehensive, and at first blush it is likely to be viewed with a considerable amount of alarm, .if not actual hostility, by those honorable members who, perhaps to their regret, have not given very much attention of late to the ever-pressing question” of the amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution. Bu.t I venture to say that before many years have passed this will be a burning question from one end of Australia to the other. Just as federation, twenty-five years ago, tore Australia, metaphorically speaking, from end to end, so this question, which is really the consummation of federation, will, before long - perhaps in a year or two - be the dominant political issue. I wish to draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that this question of amending the Constitution in the direction indicated in the motion has not previously come before the House in this specific form, although there have been many occasions - one can hardly number them now - when the House has considered amendments of the Constitution. Sometimes the result has been a referendum of the people, and it is significant that although four attempts have been made, to secure the approval of the people to amendments of the Constitution, only one such attempt has been successful, and it is surprising that, in that instance, Parliament ‘has not thought fit to exercise the power given to it; I refer to the amendment of the Constitution to provide for taking over the debts of the states. About fourteen or fifteen years ago a very comprehensive series of amendments setting out certain industrial and commercial powers that it was desired should be under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament, was placed before the electors by the then Labour government. The result of that appeal was a great shock to those ardent patriots who believed that the proposal to confer greater powers upon the Federal Parliament had only to be presented to the people to be adopted by an overwhelming majority. A little later a similar series of questions was put before the electors, and though they had had in the intervening period an opportunity to further consider those momentous issues, they once again turned down the proposals to enlarge the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. Those two appeals showed that it was difficult to secure an amendment of the Constitution unless the people really wanted it, and although it was widely stated at the time that the proposals were rejected mainly because of the people’3 ignorance of them, I believe that the real reason for the refusal to sanction the amendments, although the electors supported the party which placed them before the country, was that they did not see any necessity, for the enlargement of the federal power at the expense of the states. The referendums proved that the federal ideal is deep-rooted in the hearts of the people, and effectually disposed of the contention of a large number of public men that the majority of Australians desire some unification of it. The unsuccessful appeals for an increase of federal powers show that the people desire to adhere to the federal compact in its essence, and largely in its letter, and will not consent to a variation of the Constitution unless some stronger reason can be shown than hitherto has been placed before them. That brings me to the consideration of whether it is advisable to ask the people once more to amend the Constitution. If we think the time opportune for another reference to the electors we must consider whether we have a reasonable chance of success. It would be useless to adopt . a proposal for a referendum if we were likely to repeat the failures of the past. In asking the House to agree to this motion, I feel confident that, as a result of the war, which completely changed the current of political thought and broadened the outlook of the . whole nation, a proposal now to give the Federal Parliament greater power in order to ensure the more rapid development of Australia would receive a very sympathetic hearing, and be agreed to by a large majority of the electors. After the discussion which this motion is bound to evoke, the majority of honorable ‘ members will, I believe, realize that the time has come for seriously tackling this problem. Early in 1920, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman) submitted a motion providing for the holding of a convention to consider an amendment of section 51 of the Constitution for the purpose of further enlarging Commonwealth powers. The only result of that motion was a very interesting debate. In 1921, the National Government, led by Mr. Hughes, introduced a bill to provide for the .holding of an elective convention to consider the amendment of chapter VI. of the Constitution with a view to the creation of new states, and a comprehensive overhaul of the Constitution, for the purpose of so enlarging the functions of the Commonwealth as to avoid, duplication of the efforts of state and Commonwealth, to give the Federal Parliament control of trade and commerce and all industrial affairs, and generally to make the Commonwealth authority supreme in all national concerns. The reception of the bill was so hostile that the Government did not persevere with it, and I think it was eventually thrown under the table. The discussion proved conclusively that there was not in this House a majority of members favor: able to the holding of an elective convention. Members of the Labour party, who previously had been responsible for submitting constitutional amendments by referendums to the people with a view to an enlargement of Commonwealth powers, held the view that a convention was unnecessary, inasmuch as this Parliament was really a convention of representatives of the people, and had authority to propose amendments of the Constitution, and place them before the electors. It was made clear by the hostility to that bill that it was hopeless to expect the House in its then frame of mind to adopt a proposal for the holding of an elective convention. Since that time, .proposals, for alterations of the Constitution have remained more or less in abeyance, except that in the interval there has grown up throughout the Common-, wealth a very large and organized body of public opinion in favour of an amendment of chapter VI. of the Constitution, and, incidentally, of enlarging the general powers of the Commonwealth. It is significant that when _ the previous referendums were decided upon by this House, there was no organized body of public opinion, outside the Labour party, which was really favorable to an amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, the fact that to-day there is such an organized body of public opinion which knows what it wants, and is steadily increasing its strength, is an indication that the. time has arrived when this House should again approach the question of amending the Constitution for the purpose of increasing the powers of this Parliament, in order to bring about a more rapid development throughout Australia. The first definite move in this Parliament was made by me, as the honorary general secretary of . the new states movement. In July .last I had the privilege of leading a deputation, representing the Country and National parties - unfortunately,” the members of the Labour party did not care to; join with us - :which asked the Prime Minister to bring before the House a definite proposal to amend chapter -VI. of the Constitution.
– The Labour party had its own proposals.
– I am aware, of that. The Prime Minister, in reply to representations made by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), myself, and others, said -
He gave them an assurance that the Government realized that it had to investigate the matter very closely indeed, with a view to coining to some determination as to whether action was to be taken. The time when they would’ have to come to the point of giving expression to their opinions would be next year. It would almost certainly be next year when the question of constitutional alterations would be considered by the Federal Parliament if the present Government was still in office. When that time came “their suggestions would receive the very fullest consideration.
The Government has not taken any steps to translate that fairly, definite promise into action. I do not blame the Govern ment, because, with the large amount of work it has in hand, it can hardly be expected to initiate a big movement like this unless it has been given a definite lead by this House. Therefore, as a representative of the new states movement outside Parliament, I consider it my duty to bring before honorable members without further delay the real importance of our movement, and to make a definite request that this House shall give an instruction to the Government to introduce a .bill for the holding of a referendum. If the bill is agreed to, the various political parties may be left to place the issue fairly and squarely, before the people. I do not propose to enter into a long controversial debate at this stage, but I desire to give to the House some reason why this Parliament should now consider the creation of new states. Hitherto, the matter has been dealt with only tentatively in this House, and the principal result of the debate initiated by the honorable member for EdenMonaro in 1920 was to bring to light the written proposals of the’ Labour party for unification. That was a definite step forward. It enabled us to study the views of the Labour party. Aa newstaters, representing a very definite movement which is in many respects strongly antagonistic to some of the essential features of unification, ‘ we nevertheless have the greatest respect for the opinions of the -Labour party, and we hope that before the matter is allowed to become a definite issue between us, some efforts will be made to reconcile ‘ our divergent opinions. We believe that the Labour party, in proposing unification, is honestly desirous of advancing the welfare of Australia. But the industrial element in that party, which was largely responsible for placing the unification plank in its platform, was not -aware of the really vital issues at stake in rural . Australia. We believe that if the rural men in the Labour party had had a bigger say in framing its proposals, the unification plank would have been considerably modified. For that reason, and in the hope that men in the Labour party who know what the problems of Australia’s broad spaces are will use their influence to secure a modification of the unification plank, we new-staters make an offer to the Labour party which we hope later will be translated into action.
We hope that they will meet our executive, which is a fairly large and influential ,’body, and discuss with it the whole question, so that we may go to the country on the issue as one body, and not as two warring factions, which would probably defeat each other. It is a big thing to ask this Parliament to sanction the holding of .a referendum at the next federal election. The great war has been over for five years, but no effort lias been -made by the states or the Commonwealth to bring about the new era of development, progress, and decentralization which we. all flattered ourselves would be the outcome of the world upheaval, and some compensation for the enormous expenditure Australia has had to, make. We are all waiting, like Micawber, for something to turn . up, but it will not turn up unless we take the initiative. On behalf of the new states movement of Australia, I invite honorable members of this House to give earnest consideration to our platform and literature, to study, as well, the unification proposals of the Labour party, and to take such action as they think best in the interests of Australia.
– Why call them unification proposals?
– I do so because they are the definite unification proposals of the Labour patty.
– That is not so.
– As some of the state legislatures are actually carrying resolutions inviting this Parliament to take action in the creation of new states, it is .our duty to give immediate heed to their requests. Sir George Fuller, Premier of New South Wales, during his campaign at the last state elections, was reported as follows: -
Sir George Fuller, speaking at Wollongong, sa.id the new state movement was a striking expression of discontent with the state of affairs created by the overgrowth of the city and the strangling influence which centralizes too much in the Capital, thereby arresting the proper development of the country. There are good grounds for discontent, and some remedy is called for which will give scope to the desire of country districts for extensive powers of self-government and self-development. Without going to the extent of saying that “ new states,” as proposed, are the remedy, I ain in favour of recasting the’ machinery of .govern ment in Australia, with a view to agreeing upon proposals that will effect the purposesaimed at. The area of Australia is larger than that of the. United States of America, where there are 48 states and two territories. It is certain that the continent of Australia will not continue for all time with only six states. Alterations must come, and furtherdivision he made. The matter is one for federal: as well as for state action, and I shall be willing to expedite and assist in an early and adequate consideration of the question.
That is a definite offer from a man who has since become Premier of the principal state of the Commonwealth. Subsequently, in the New South Wales Parliament, Lieutenant-Colonel Bruxner moved a resolution, which was amended by Captain Chaffey, to read as follows : -
That the -large area of the state of New South Whiles makes it desirable that the creation of a separate state in northern New South Wales , should be taken into early consideration! by a Federal convention summoned for the purpose, and to. consider the boundaries of thestates and distribution of legislative powers between the states and Commonwealth.
That this resolution be conveyed to -the Federal Government and Governments of thestates with a view to securing their concurrence.
The amendment was agreed to on the voices. The resolution was conveyed to the Federal Government, and last year u letter, was received from the Prime Minister -(Mr. Bruce) drawing attention “to the provisions of the Federal Constitution, and inviting the Government of New South Wales, to indicate what areas it desired to have formed into new states. As a result of that letter, the New South Wales Parliament appointed a royal commission, which is now making investigations throughout New South Wales. In that state there are three definite subdivision proposals, one for northern New South Wales, embracing an area of 110,000 square miles, with a population of 359,000, which is greater than that of Western Australia; another for -the Riverina, an area of about 80,000 square miles, with a population of 150,000 people; and the other a small area in the Monaro district, of 25,000 square miles, with a population of between 30,000 and 40,000. That royal commission is collecting evidence, but up to the present has visited only northern New South Wales, where the movement is best organized. The proportion of witnesses in favour of new states has been ten to one. What the proportion will he when the commission takes evidence in the Riverina and Monaro, I cannot say. It is questionable what will -be the outcome of the investigations of the commission. If that body recommends that New South Wales be divided into three separate states, it will then remain for the New South Wales Parliament to decide what action it shall take. New South Wales has taken a definite step forward, as no legalized tribunal !has ever before been appointed in Australia to investigate the question of new states. Prior to federation, the subdivision of Queensland, with its immense area of 670,000 square miles, into three self-governing states was one of the most burning questions before the people. Iii fact, one of the speakers at the Federal Convention said, with rather an air of contempt, that, in his opinion, the Queensland people wanted the subdivision of that state into three separate states more than they wanted federation. Prior to the Federal Convention, the Secretary of State for the Colonies had suggested that, in order to make it practicable for Queensland to be divided into three states, it should enter the federation. The idea was held at that time that federation would facilitate the subdivision of Queensland. Sir Samuel Griffith, in 1892, introduced a bill into the Queensland Parliament providing for the ^division of Queensland into three locally administered areas. Certain powers were to be given to the provinces, and they in turn were to be controlled by a central parliament sitting in Brisbane. Each of the three divisions was to be in extent about 200,000 square miles. Although that scheme would not appeal to the people of Australia to-day, yet if it had been carried into effect prior to federation, Queensland would have .been a much better and more productive country than it is to-day.
– That proposed subdivision was only for revenue allocation, and not for self-government.
– The honorable member is mistaken. I shall be only too glad to let him see the authority for my statement. If the people of Western Australia had not been so crassly stupid as to refuse the offer of the British colonial authorities to divide that state into three separate states, Western Australia would have been in a much better position than it is to-day. Instead of having half its population in the city of Perth, and the other half scattered over an area comprising one-third of this continent, Western Australia might have been divided into three fairly evenly balanced states’ of considerably more value to the Commonwealth than the state is at present. If the pre-federal generation had made use of its opportunity to establish three states in Queensland and three in Western Australia, Australia would not be bearing a burden of two huge territories, which, in spite of their enormous possibilities and the local patriotism of their representatives in both the federal and state spheres, are not nearly -so advanced as they should be. The movement for the subdivision of Australia-, .a country 900 square miles larger than the United States of America, was foreseen by the late Sir Henry Parkes when he said -
As a matter of reason and logical forecast, it cannot be doubted that, if the union were inaugurated with double the number of the present colonies, the growth and prosperity of all would be more absolutely assured. It would add immeasurably to the national importance of the new Commonwealth, and would he of’ immense advantage to Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland themselves if four or five new colonies were cut out of their vast and unmanageable territories.
He went on to point, out that if the partners to the federal union were equal in wealth, population, resources, or territory, the chances of a stable national equilibrium and a successful political union would be immeasurably increased. What Sir Henry Parkes foresaw in those days is being foreseen by the present generation. The political and economic consequence of the late war is the root motive of the discontent existing to-day in rural New South Wales. The new states movement is very difficult for the city people to understand. Unfortunately, in Australia we have the greatest centralization evil in the world. We are living to a large extent in a -fool’s paradise, and do not know where we are drifting. A large number of us do not seem to care, but that casual spirit cannot continue in a country occupied by 5,500,000 people, with a population density of 1.87 to the square mile. Australia is the most sparsely peopled civilized country in the world, and that fact is not often enough impressed upon our pleasure- loving people. If the taking of a referendum at the next elections will convey to the people the nature of the issues with which they will be faced in the near future, then, even if turned down, the referendum will have more than justified itself. I shall quote figures to show the serious extent to which centralization has grown in this country. On the 31st December, 1921, the population of New South Wales was 2,127,271, Victoria 1,550,952, Queensland 770,016, South Australia 502,603, Western Australia 335,173, Tasmania 218,413, a total of population of 5,510,239. The density of population was 1.87 per square mile. In the city of Sydney and suburbs the population was 926,400, and the percentage to the total population of the state 43.55; Melbourne, population 795,100, percentage 51.27; Brisbane, populatou 217,714, percentage 28.27; Adelaide, population 260,542, percentage 51.27; Perth, population 155,572, percentage 46.42 ; and Hobart, population 53,803, percentage 24.63. The total population of the six capital cities was 2,409,151, or 43.77 per cent, of the total population of the Commonwealth. Half of the population of Australia is in its capital cities. That is a condition of affairs not to be found anywhere else in the world. It is said that this tendency of the rural population to drift to the cities is universal, but Australia is the only country in the world which exhibits a spectacle so unique. Its big capital cities are monopolizing all the trade and wealth of the country, and steadily attracting the rural population to them. If we look at the position in other countries, we shall better realize the plight that Australia is in. In New Zealand the percentage of the population in the capital city is 8.82. The percentage of the population of Denmark in Copenhagen is 25.25 ; in England the percentage of the population in London, not including greater London, is 11.83; in Dresden, the capital of Saxony,, the percentage of the population is 12.58 ;. in Christiania, the capital of Norway, the percentage of the population is 9.60. So. the figures run until we find that in Borne the percentage of the population to that of Italy is only 1.64. The highest percentage of population in a capital city in Europe is 30.3 per cent, in Vienna. We can realize what centralization is in Australia when we remember that the figures given for other countries represent the percentages of population in the capital cities of countries in which the capital is only one of many large cities. ‘ The urban population of Australia, and by that is meant the capital city aid country town population, is today 61.99 per cent, of the total population of the country. In New South Wales the urban population is 67.81 of the total population of the state, and in Victoria it is 62.29 of the total population of the state. The figures of the urban population are steadily increasing, and there is not the slightest doubt that the increase will place us in a very difficult position before very long. Australians do not give much consideration to the question of where we are drifting. We have already the greatest centralization of population in the world. I made it my business to secure from the Commonwealth Statistician some figures based upon the present trend of population and development in Australia. I should like to place them before honorable members, because they show clearly that unless something is done we shall in this country, before long, meet with an economic disaster, if not a worse. One of the questions which I asked the Commonwealth Statistician was : If the rate of increase of population during the past 50 years continues for the next 50 years, what will the population of the capital cities of Australia be in 1931, 1941, 1951, 1961, and 1971?
If the same rate of increase that has taken place in the past 50 years continues for the next . 50 years, these figures show that the population of the six capitals will, in 1971, amount to 14,735,000. The percentages to total populations of the states would then work out as follows : -
So that in 1971 out of every 100 persons in New South Wales, 70 will be living in Sydney, and out of every 100 persons in Victoria, 90 will be living in Melbourne. The table also shows that in 1971, if the present rate of centralization continues, 64 persons out of every 100 in Australia will be living in the six capital cities. The position in regard to primary production is sufficiently alarming. . I submit the figures so that ‘honorable members may see where we are drifting. The question I put to the Statistician was: What was the percentageof population engaged in primary production, exclusive ofmining, in -each of the six existing states in 1870, 1891, 1901, and 1921? The following table was supplied in answer to this question: -
The figures show a steady decline in the population engaged in our primary industries from 1901 to 1921, and that is still going on. Iasked the -question: If the same rate continues what will be the percentageengaged in primary production in each of the six existing states in 1931, 1941, 1951, 1961, 1971? In answer to that question the following table was supplied : -
From these figures we should appear to have no hope of an increase in our population engaged in primary production. I also obtained some figures to show what will be the financial position in Australia if the present tendency continues for any length of time. These figures are not so illuminating as those I have already given, but they may still be of great interest to some honorable members. The figures supplied in answer to my question show that in New South Wales the public debt in 1901 was £67,000,000, and, assuming debt and population continue to increase as during the last 50 years, in 1951 it will be £850,000,000. In Victoria the public debt was £50,000,000 in 1901, and in 1951 it will be £341,000,000. In Queensland the figure for 1901 was £38,000,000, and in 1951 it will be £514,000,000. In South Australia the figures given are: for 1901, £26,000,000; for 1951,, £313,000,000. In Western Australia the figures are: 1901, £12,000,000; for 1951, £371,000,000. For Tasmania the figures are: 1901, £8,000,000; for 1951, £92,000,000. In reply to another question regarding the direct taxation per head, I have been informed by the Commonwealth Statistician that in New South Wales in 1901 it amounted to 16s. Id., and if it continued at the present rate would amount in 1971’ to £99 2s. For Victoria the figures given are: 1901, 12s. 4d. per head; 1971, £60 16s. For Queensland the figures are: 1901, 10s. lid. per head;’1971, £613 16s. per head of the population. For South Australia the figures are: 1901, 14s. 8d. per head; 1971, £135. “ For Western Australia the figures given are: 1901, 17s. lid. ; 19.71, £32 Is. For Tasmania the figures are : 1901, 13s. ; 1971, £88 6s. Of course, the figures regarding debt and taxation per head are not likely to be realized, because long before that stage was reached most of the population would have dropped dead from heart failure, or there would have been a revolution, and political existence in these states would be impossible. I do not think that the figures I have obtained have been presented before, but they show conclusively that the present tendency to centralization- in the big capital cities, if not- severely checked, will result before another 50 years in Australia being faced with a more serious economic crisis than has confronted any country in the world. I quote the figures in order to get them on record as indicating clearly to those who wish to study the matter that as we are drifting at present there is little hope that we can <Io very much to check the centralization that is going on in Australia. We are living in the hope that things will change for the better. Yet, on the figures which are available, we are forced to the conclusion that unless some definite attempt is made, not only by the federal legislature, but also by the legislatures of the states-, the time, must arrive when the task will be beyond our powers, and it will take a revolution to do what we, as a Parliament, have signally failed, to do.. My object in bringing this issue forward is to sound a note of warning. There is a tendency on the part of honorable members to treat casually matters which, do not vitally affect the immediate political issues. In their hearts they know that the problem is getting beyond us, but they have that Australian optimism which leads them to think that some day an- inspired leader will arise, who will show us the way to escape, or that the people themselves will do what the politicians have failed to do. This subject, however, is essentially one for the politicians of Australia, who are the leaders of the people. It is unfortunate that many of them, soon after entering the legislative halls, cease to take any great interest in those issues which led to their election. One of the issues responsible for my presence in this House was that of decentralization. As honorary general secretary of the new states movement, I consider it to be my duty to place this matter before the Parliament of the Commonwealth ; and I am hopeful that, as a result of my remarks, important political developments will follow. I can assure honorable member that the new staters, both inside and outside of Parliament, will not let this matter rest. It is a big issue, upon which it is very difficult to get public attention focussed. It i3 difficult even to obtain the attention of politicians to it. Legislators largely reflect public opinion. If there is no popular excitement, they do not themselves feel excited. All the big issues of the past were raised by a few men. Federation itself, which revolutionized the political life of Australia, was the result of the persistent efforts of a few men-, who had first to contend against public apathy, then against public hostility, and, later, against direct political antagonism, which very nearly brought about the defeat of their- objective. The same thing is likely to occur in this connexion. Notwithstanding the’ contention of the members of- the Labour party, who say that they have a scheme which is a heaven-sent inspiration for the salvation of rural Australia, my experience is that their actions do not accord with their theories. If they consider it to be their duty to save Australia from the tremendous economic disaster that is slowly, but surely, overtaking it,, they are not true to their trust in acting as they do; and they show themselves to be but unreliable leaders of the people.
– Why blame the Labour party? The Government which the honorable member supports has a majority in this chamber, and he should appeal in that quarter.
– The Labour party says that it has a scheme which will revolutionize Australia. If that is so, why do members of the party make no attempt to bring it before the people of Australia ? The new staters are prepared to examine the merits of the Labour party’s proposal. Similarly, we expect them to examine our proposals on their merits. Our proposals have received more attention from the people than have those of the Labour party, and although we may not be on the right track, we feel confident that in comparison with the much vaunted unification scheme of the Labour party, our proposals are more worthy of the consideration of the people of Australia. I desire to bring before honorable members opposite the results which has attended a trial of unification in South Africa, and I ask them to seriously consider whether, in view of the experience there, they are wise in persisting with their proposal in Australia. I shall, therefore, quote from the Round Table magazine for September, 1923, where, under the heading “The Provincial Experiment,” the following appears : -
The British Commonwealth, having members in every one of the five continents, each facing its own problems in its own peculiar circumstances, each feeling more and more its responsibility for its own destiny, yet all alike animated by the spirit of free government, and all conscious of a unity of outlook which is even more deeply felt than widely talked about, affords unique opportunities for carrying out political and social experiments.
But there is one experiment that will probably not t« repeated in any part of the Commonwealth, and that is the experiment in provincial government which has been made in South Africa since union. An adverse conclusion must be drawn from the experience of thirteen years, even though it must be admitted that the experiment was not made under those conditions of free choice and mastery of the operative forces which are present in the case of a really scientific test.
The South Africa Act of 1009 therefore embodied a unitary constitution. It contained many federal features, but those who drew it up left no room for doubt that the Union Parliament and Executive’ were to be supreme over the provincial authorities. Some delega tion of powers by the central Government was’ necessary if union was to be effected and to prove workable when achieved. But the provincial system actually adopted was admittedly an experiment and was not intended to be permanent. “ It was hoped,” wrote Sir Edgar Walton, “ that by eventually splitting up the provinces into smaller areas we should arrive at some general system as the model adopted by the Cape,” that is, Divisional Councils.
Union, then, was, as it were, snatched and held by a community which, for two generations past, bad looked for nothing more than a loose federation. It was held at the price of the provincial experiment. The experiment has failed politically and financially, and, though the two aspects are intimately related, they can be discussed separately.
The political failure can be summed up in a sentence. The system has given us all the evils of party government with none of its advantages.
The Provincial Councils are elected for three years and expire by effluxion of time. . The constituencies are, except in the two smaller provinces, the same as those for the Union lower House; hence the party organization which manages the one also manages the other, and the same general aims and ideas are operative in both cases. Membership of a Provincial Council is more and more regarded as an apprenticeship for the wider sphere of Parliament. Moreover, the fact that senators are elected at a joint sitting of Provincial Councillors and Members of Parliament for the Province tends to .strengthen the identity of party interests in the two bodies. The Councils’ powers of legislation and taxation are strictly limited. Of the duties entrusted to their care “ education other than higher “ is far and away the most important. Were that taken away, the work remaining would not be sufficient to warrant their continued existence. None the less, the Councils have, from the first, conducted their business on parliamentary lines, though party cleavages have been more marked amid the diversities of the Cape and the Transvaal than in the comparative homogeneity of Natal and the Free State. The procedure of legislation is much the same as in Parliament, and there is the usual apparatus of caucus, party whips, speeches and manoeuvres. The main difference is that the Executive does not retire after an adverse vote, but usually patches up an arrangement by private negotiation, often, indeed, invoking the aid of the Union Government, which, to do it justice, does not willingly intervene in the parochial squabbles of the provinces. . But just as wo have the forms and vices of party government with none of its advantages, so we have some of the forms and some of the vices of local government with few, if any of its advantages. For the provincial system does not supply real local government.
The financial weaknesses of the present system are discussed below, but here it may be noted that, on the political side, the central feature of parliamentary government is lacking, namely, the responsibility of the executive for meeting the expenses of government by taxes levied through the legislature. Throughout their history, provincial administrations have derived more of their funds from the Union exchequer than from their own provincial resources.Recent years of depression have proved that the ultimate liquidator of provincial deficits is not the provincial taxpayer as such, but the Union Government.
The financial failure of the system has been amply demonstrated by the Report of the Commission. The Commission was appointed in September, 1922, as the result of a breakdown in provincial finance which had occurred earlier in the year. Parliament discussed the situation and agreed to a temporary loan of £200,000 each to the Transvaal and the Cape, leaving it to the projected Commission to inquire fully into the financial requirements and resources of the provinces with a view to necessary re-adjustments.
Whatever may be the fate of the main recommendations of the report, and whatever may be the prospects of its adoption as a whole, Parliament will be compelled next session to take action on at least two of the vital financial issues which are raised: -
It must lay down a revised basis for the payment of Union subsidies.
It must define much more precisely the sources of taxation which may bo utilized by Provincial Councils. The Commission itself proposes to allow them as taxes in regard to which they may use their own taxing powers: - Liquor licences; dog, fish and game licences; motor and wheel taxes; entertainments tax; taxes on racing; immovable property tax; education fees for other than compulsory education, and hospital fees.
The main immediate results up to date of the appearance of a report which is, in many respects, a model State document, thorough, lucid, and logical, are: -
That political institutions which are so constructed as to leave financial responsibility in a medium of uncertainty and cross-purposes cannot possibly last, hut may work infinite mischief before they finally collapse.
That local government is impossible when a locality (a real “locality”) is not prepared to assume a large enough share of the financial burden to guarantee stability and a steady check upon extravagance. The growing centralization of South African State finance is a danger which is not by any means appreciated as it should be. Demoralization of a very serious kind is possible unless a scheme of local government is devised upon a stable basis in local finance. Already the signs of such demoralization are beginning to appear.
I have quoted from the Bound Table to show to those who desire to introduce unification into Australia, the effects of that system in South Africa. Before members opposite commit themselves to a scheme about which they appear to know very little, they should take the trouble to look into it carefully. They may then be prepared to adopt a better scheme in Australia. I remind honorable members of what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said some years ago concerning the Australian Labour party’s policy of unification. The policy may contain features which appeal to some honorable members, but I do not consider that it is likely to be adopted by the people of Australia. First, unification creates a big centralized political system, and does not give the provinces that real self-government which is a requirement of rural Australia.
– It does give power to the local authorities.
– I hope that if the honorable member addresses the House on this subject, he will endeavour to make that point clear. At present, the country people of Australia, who are interested in the new states movement, do not understand that it is so. They think that if the scheme is adopted, it will create a glorified legislature in Melbourne or in Canberra, that the central legislature will have control of all the main details of provincial life, and that the provincial councils will merely be glorified shire councils, with the privilege of controlling local administration but not local development.
– Why does not the honorable member quote some of the articles I wrote for the New State Magazine?
– I shall oblige the honorable member by quoting portion of an article written by him for the New State Magazine. It appeared in the October, 1921, number, and is as follows : -
It is impossible for us to alter our Constitution, but South Africa, profiting by the errors made by America and’ Australia, was able to avoid the disabilities under which we suffer. Its constitution is flexible. When the elected representatives of. the people find that they are hampered by its limitations, when they deem it does not give them the power to do what they consider is necessary in the development of the country, they can alter it. In my opinion, the Australian Federal Parliament should have the same power.
The honorable member clearly pinned himself down to the South African provincial system, which, as I have already shown, has proved to be a hopeless failure. Before honorable members of the Labour party adopt the -slogan of unification on the South African system, they should thoroughly investigate it; and if they do, I feel sure they will alter their proposal, and probably bring it into conformity with the platform of the new states movement. That platform is quite as important as the unification platform of the Labour party, and I, therefore, propose to bring it particularly under the attention of honorable members’. It was adopted at a convention held at the town hall, Armidale, in June, 1923, at which new states associations in Queensland, New South. Wales, and other portions of Australia were represented. After three days’ discussion, the convention adopted the following platform : -
No. 1. The Federal Constitution to be amended to eliminate the State Parliaments as necessary consenting authorities for the creation of new states, such authority to be exercised by the Commonwealth Parliament, which may take a referendum, either in a defined area or in the whole of the state concerned.
No. 2. It shall be mandatory for the Commonwealth Parliament to take action under clause 1, within six months after the presentation of a petition signed by 20 per cent. of the electors on the Commonwealth roll, for any area not less in extent than the then smallest existing state.
No. 3. The boundaries of the new state to be defined on the basis of community of interest and geographical convenience.
No. 4. Each new state to bo established on the basis of a separate constitution drawn up by an elected convention, consisting of representatives chosen by the Commonwealth electors of the area embraced by the boundaries defined by a commission appointed by the Commonwealth Parliament, such constitution to be ratifiedby that Parliament.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have been interested in the speech delivered by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and I am glad that he has introduced the subject of the formation of new states. I am prepared to support any motion that will facilitate the subdivision of Australia. I am, however, quite confident that the submission of the honorable member’s motion will not lead to a subdivision of Australia. I would rather have the matter tackled by the Government, and not handed over to a private member.
– Order ! I omitted to ask for a seconder to. the motion.
– I second the motion. In fact, I rose to doso,and it was my intention to follow on with a speech.
– I am sorry that I have been remiss. However, the honorable member will reserve his right to speak later.
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for New England, but I am sorry that the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), who is deputy chief of the Government, has not brought forward a measure that would lead to something definite being done. A motion submitted by a private member cannot lead to anything effective being done in the direction of that remodelling of the Constitution of the Commonwealth which- the electors were led to believe would come about if the Treasurer became a member of a Federal Ministry. The Treasurer made very definite promises in this respect. His platform was as follows: -
Federal convention and formation of new States to secure practical decentralization -
To advocate the early holding of a Federal convention to consider the revising of the Constitution, such convention to be elected on the Federal rolls and each State to be divided into five electorates returning: three delegates for each electorate by the system of proportional representation. To aim at securing new and definite apportionments of the powers and duties of the Federal and State authorities.
In order to bring about economical and efficient State Government and administration and to. avoid costly duplication of State and Federal activities, it is necessary to subdivide the present unwieldly States into manageable areas with community of interests under their own constitution, thereby bringing about a simpler form of State government, leaving all national functions to the Federal Parliament.
In districts where people were interested in the new states movement, it was understood that the Leader of the Country party would formulate a definite policy upon the question. I should not have touched upon this phase of the question but for the fact that the honorable member for New England thought fit to charge honorable members of the Labour party with not acting up to their job on this very important subject. I think his exact words were that we had not acted up to our job, and were not true to the trust reposed in us. After the next election, if we are in a majority in this House, we shall take .definite steps upon this question. It will not .be .shelved by referring it to a royal commission, or by .asking a private- member to submit a motion in the House, which has no business in it and will not get the new staters anywhere. It is only when a party has a majority in Parliament that it can do anything. We are at present in a minority, and we have not the power to bring down bills and have .them passed into law-
– Will the honorable member .support a- federal -convention ?
– Of course the honorable -member finds himself in -a very difficult .position, and proposes to put a lot of questions to me. I ask him to listen .to what I have to say on the matter. In any case, why .did lie not bring down a bill for a convention, or a bill dealing with the whole question of the reconstruction of the Commonwealth Constitution, so that honorable members might have an opportunity of considering it? Was ho entitled to assume that Parliament would . turn down such measures?
– The honorable member’s party turned down the last bill for :a convention with a very dull thud.
– If the Treasurer wants to know how honor-able members -will vote on :such a proposal, he should bring forward a bill. At least it would be a<n attempt to do something definite towards the subdivision of Australia into -smaller states. Evidently he has been prevented .from doing so by -his leader or by those who -are behind the National- party, but his honest course was to submit a proposal to the House in conformity with the. plank in the Country party’s platform. I .make no .attack upon the honorable member for New England personally, because he has taken a sincere and earnest interest in the question he lias brought forward to-day. No doubt he has -been hoodwinked by Cabinet, or brought to heel at a caucus meeting, and told that the Government cannot proceed with the measure he seeks to have introduced. He is submitting his motion in all sincerity, but, even if it is adopted by the House, it will not be binding on the Government. The action taken to-day is on a par with that taken by the Progressive party in the New South Wales Parliament. Holding the balance of power in that Parliament, the Progressives could have -turned the Fuller Government out of office if it had refused to adopt the policy of supporters of the new states movement, but instead of doing so they accepted the appointment of a royal commission, which was a very handy “way of shelving the matter. The commission is now sitting at great cost to the people of New South Wales.
– It is gathering some very valuable evidence.
– I hope that it will gather sufficient evidence to lead to a general subdivision of Australia, which ‘will bring governments and the governed closer together. Instead of the Labour party1 being censurable for not being true to its trust, Warne rests upon members of the country party in New South Wales who call themselves Progressives, and upon members of the Country party in this House, whose sole object in coming into the federal legislative sphere, we arc -told, was to bring about the subdivision of Australia. So far they have not acted up to their word. Eighteen months have now elapsed, and nothing has been done.
– It is the first plank in their platform to have new states.
Mi-. SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable member for .Capricornia does not need .assistance.
– Sir, I have some very loyal friends.
– Loyal, but disorderly.
– They have plenty of kick in them when it is necessary. It ‘is unfortunate that an effort -is being made to create political capital out of this subject, and to utilize the opportunity to criticize honorable members of the Opposition. If we were- in a majority, and were as afraid to act as apparently tho Treasurer is., we should be worthy of censure. The Treasurer has made some very good speeches in the country and at new states conventions in favour of the subdivision of Australia.
– 1 have also made some good speeches in this House on the subject.
– I was not in this -House when the honorable member was in the habit of making fighting speeches against the National Government of the day. Since I have been here I have heard him apologizing for and supporting the National Government. Therefore, I have not heard the honorable member at his best.’ As I was saying, it is unfortunate that an attempt should- be made to criticize honorable members of the Labour party for not doing their part to bring about the subdivision of Australia. It is the duty of the Government to formulate the necessary legislation, and not to leave it to a private member to move a motion on private members’ day, which will lead the House nowhere. The honorable member for New England has no right to say that the House would not agree to a federal convention, because his Government have not put the matter to the test. Although he says that past proposals to alter the Constitution have been turned down by the people at various referendums, he wants to submit his proposed reform to a referendum of the people. If he really thinks the people would vote against amendments, why not induce the Government to bring down a bill of a comprehensive character? He also, by way of apology for the inaction of the Ministry, said that it was very busy.
– The Ministry is very busy, for there have been long negotiations.
– No doubt the fate of the Treasurer is in the balance, but the Ministry was not too busy to pass legislation to hand £1,300,000 to the big pastoral companies.
– Does the honorable member object to the taxation of Crown leaseholds being remitted?
– That subject is not before the House.
– I am glad of your protection, Mr. Speaker-
– The honorable member himself introduced the irrelevant matter.
– I was dealing with the statement of the honorable member for New England that the Ministry had no time, and I wanted to show that it had time to pass legislation to refund £1,300,000 to the big pastoral companies, and to introduce a number of other measures designed expressly to bolster up wealthy commercial interests. I would like to point out, too, that the National party, if it wore true to the platform recently promulgated by the National Federation conference!, would not require any prodding to make it come forward with such a measure as I desire. The party, recognizing that the subdivision of Australia was popular, placed it as a plank in its platform. Surely it would not be difficult for one with the energy and persistency of the Treasurer to induce the Government to submit a bill. X have dealt with that phase of the subject because the honorable member for New England, wrongly, I think, criticized members on this side of the House. As soon as we have an opportunity to form a Government - and that will be before very long - a definite scheme will be placed before Parliament. The Labour party ‘may come into power even before the next Federal election, if the Federal Country party acts similarly to the Victorian Country party. I shall not touch on that aspect of the question, seeing that you, Mr. Speaker, have been mentioned as a possible successor of one of the Ministers, further than to say that, if the alleged representatives of the Country party here had the same fighting spirit as the members of the Victorian Country party, they would insist upon the introduction of measures for the amendment of the Constitution. They could make a definite request to the Government, and obtain what they want. The statement that honorable members on this side have not been true to their trust could be applied with more justice to honorable members opposite. Australia is too large to be subdivided into only six states. The Constitution should be remodelled to provide for a greater number of self-governing states. Unlimited powers should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament, with a devolution of adequate local-governing powers to subordinate legislatures. An effort has been made by the honorable member for New England to convey the impression that the Labour party favours one parliament for the whole of Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) believes in one parliament for Australia, and some other members of the National party support that view. I believe that the Townsville branch of the National Federation included the proposal in its platform.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s admission. On that subject the platform of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party answers the statement that members on this side stand for one parliament for the whole of Australia. It would be a good thing if the state parliaments, as they are constituted to-day, were abolished, and a larger number of simple provincial governments, or state governments, whatever they might be called, shorn of the expense of the paraphernalia of governors and upper houses, and with adequate powers for all local developmental purposes. It is a subject for argument what powers should be given to the local governing authorities. The Labour party’s platform reads as follows : -
Complete Australian self-government as a British community. No Imperial federation. Administration on advice of Australian Ministers only, subject to the control of the Commonwealth Parliament. All legislation, except such as appears inconsistent with Imperial treaty obligations, to be assented to on the advice of Australian Ministers only. No further Imperial honours to be granted in any circumstances to Australian citizens. The Commonwealth Constitution to be amended to provide -
That is what the honorable member for New England is asking for, and he admits that the Labour party has given him a lead.
– What about the speech in this House of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) 1
– I do not know what the honorable member for Dalley said, but I have quoted the platform of the Labour party; it was adopted at the federal conference of the Labour party in Brisbane, in 1921, in the terms of an amendment moved, by Mr. Theodore, the Premier of Queensland.
– The honorable member for Dalley knows what is in the platform.
– Yes, and no member of this House is better fitted to state this party’s policy. It is unfair of honorable members opposite to say that the Labour party wants to govern Australia from Melbourne in all domestic matters, but it: believes that the national or central Parliament should control all national affairs, and that domestic business should be handled by subordinate legislatures.
– Does the proposal include control of the railways?
– I am prepared to hear argument on that. That would have to be decided. When one is about to build a house one does not decide before commencing every detail of the furnishings for every corner of the house. The foundation of the scheme for remodelling the Commonwealth Constitution can be laid, and the details left for settlement later. We should not split our forces on details at this stage. If we attempt now to determine all the details we shall get nowhere, because it is impossible to secure unanimity, and those opposed to new states will use every excuse to oppose subdivision. The Government should make a move, and the future Labour Government will certainly do so, to remodel the Constitution. I know that the control of the railways is a very vexed question. People in some centres say that the trunk lines should be controlled by the Commonwealth, and the local lines by boards. Mr. Theodore was told in Queensland, when a deputation from central Queensland asked him to introduce a bill into the State Parliament, that the Federal Labour party stood for unification. That was just before his trip to England. Mr. Theodore’s statement on the subject was reported in the Brisbane .Daily Mail of the 12th July, 1922. He interpreted the Labour partes platform very well when he said-
Reconstruction is one of the objectives of the Federal Labour party. It involves loss centralization than unification. Under reconstruction there would be a greater number of state or provincial governments than now. Each -of these would be concerned with purely local matters, such as land settlement, police, local authorities, health, education, [the administration of justice, and other matters of the kind. It stands to reason that with a greater number of such governments than at present there Would be less centralization.
Unification implies that most of these functions would be administered by a central government for all Australia. It means a centering of practically all the functions now administered by both Commonwealth and state. Thus the evil of centralization - and it is an evil - would he continued and emphasized under ‘ unification.
The basis of reconstruction would be the referring to the Commonwealth of the extended powers, and the reference to the states of powers decided upon from time to time .by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– But what, has Mr. Theodore said since he- came back fromEngland 1
– I do not know what the honorable’ member has in mind.
– He said he was in favour of unification.
– That is not true. Since he came back from England, he has said that the Commonwealth Constitution requires amending, and that it should be. remodelled to give greater powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. I think we are all agreed on that, so why should we quarrel at this stage about the limits of the state constitutions? No matter what party we support, we must recognize that the concentration of governing, financial, and industrial power in one corner of a state the area of an empire - as in Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales - especially in a country where government has an exceptional influence upon progress, it must mean financial barrenness and stagnation. The broad general principle of self-government for northern and central Queensland or northern New South Wales, by means of provincial or state parliaments having adequate powers for all local developmental purposes, must meet with the approval of all honorable members. The “establishment of new states is essential to Australian advancement and power, and possibly to the maintenance of our race, and our national life, because it is necessary to develop this country and make it ready to maintain in happiness millions more men and women. Public men, irrespective of party, recognize that need, though they may differ as to the methods to be adopted. It is indisputable that the present system of governing Australia is grotesquely elaborate, grossly extravagant, and very inefficient. There is constant overlapping of state and federal activities, and quarrels between the two authorities as to their respective powers. The best policy would be to deal with this problem as a big national question by submitting to this parliament proposals for -the remodelling of the Constitution. The matter should not be dealt with piecemeal; we must take a broad Australian view. There is a diversity of opinion as to whether the states nave now power to alter their own boundaries, and as to whether the initial move to- give selfgovernment to an area like northern New South Wales should be made by the State Parliament or the Federal Parliament. The two relevant sections of the Constitution read - 123. The Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of titer Parliament of a state, and the approval of the majority of the electors of the state voting upon the question, increase, diminish, or otherwise alter the- limits of the state, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed on, and may, with the like consent, make provision respecting the effect and operation of any increase, or diminution, or alteration of territory in relation to- any state affected. 124. A new state may be formed by separation of territory from a state, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new state may be formed by the union of two or more states or parts of states, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the- states affected.
The Premier of Queensland when asked, prior to his first trip to England, to introduce a measure into the State Parliament to subdivide Queensland into three states, submitted the matter to the SolicitorGeneral of Queensland,, and received from him the following opinion: -
Sections 121 and 123 of the Common wealth Constitution provide that the Commonwealth Parliament, with the consent of the State Parliament, shall have power to create new states. This would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to create a new state within the boundaries of an existing state. The State Parliament has no power to create new states or to subdivide its territory for that purpose’. The Commonwealth Parliament must initiate the necessary legal action in the matter. This would be done by passing a bill establishing the new state by defining its boundaries and its constitution. The bill would provide that the establishment of the new state would be subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the Comir.-onwealth Parliament, including the extent of its representation, in the Commonwealth Parliament, and to the consent of the Parliament of the State. According- to Quick and. Garran, the creation of a new state is not required to he approved by a majority of electors at a poll. They say that section 123 does not affect section 124.
It is interesting to note that the opinion given by the Queensland SolicitorGeneral is borne out by Professor Harrison Moore. Lieutenant-Colonel Bruxner, in a speech delivered in the New South Wales Parliament on the. 22nd August, 1922, said-
Professor Harrison Moore said that section 124 stood by itself. By this provision,, new. states may be formed out of existing states by the division of a state, by the union of states, or by the separation of parts of states and their union. Apparently the authority which forms such new states is the Commonwealth Parliament, but the consent of the Parliament of the state or states affected is required. The more probable view is that action under this section does not require the approval of the electors under section 123.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bruxner is one of the leaders of the new states movement in New South Wales, and has, no doubt, made a full study of the constitutional aspect. He went on to say -
The actual formation of the state is a Commonwealth matter. The power of .saying whether the states shall be formed or not is a state matter. The Commonwealth may wish to make 50 new states, but without the consent of the Parliament of the state or states concerned, it cannot move.
Those opinions indicate that the initiative rests with the Commonwealth Parliament. The acquiescence of the states concerned is a subsequent stage. Therefore, Mr. Theodore held that it was not necessary for the State Parliament to pass a bill until the initiative had been taken by this Parliament, and he declared that if the Commonwealth Parliament could be induced to pass the necessary legislation, he would see that the matter was considered without delay by the Queensland Parliament. Accordingly, representations were made to the Commonwealth Government, but, despite the fact that the Treasurer and Deputy Leader of that Government is the leader of the new states movement, nothing has been done. The states say that the matter is one for the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth refers it back to the states. So the game goes on. Finally, there is a reference to a royal commission, some members of which draw, in fees, about 30 guineas a day.
– Did the Queensland people indicate to the Commonwealth Government the boundaries that they proposed ?
– It is difficult to lay down arbitrary boundaries, but the subdivision of Queensland would be simplified by the fact that, in 1879, the state was divided into three districts for financial purposes. Their boundaries would suffice tentatively. It would be easy to make that portion of Queensland lying north of Mackay one state, between Mackay and Bundaberg another state, and the portion south of Bundaberg a third state. However, subdivisional details could be decided later.
– -But were the suggested boundaries mentioned to the Federal Government?
– I understand that they were, . and that the matter was referred back to the State Government. There it has rested, but I hope that the Federal Parliament will take the initiative.
– The determination of the boundaries of new states should not be affected by existing state boundaries. Community of interests must be considered.
Mri FORDE. - That is so. Wallangarra, which is on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, might, for instance, be in the centre of a new province, and people on both sides of the Murray river might be included in one new state or province. The people in the sugar districts of Bundaberg and Childers might, because of community of interests, be included in one state. And so on.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that the Federal Government refused to take action when requested so to do by the Queensland Government?
– The matter was referred to the Federal Government, and I understand that the Queensland Government was told that the matter was one for action by the State Parliament. On the eve of the last general election, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a definite promise to introduce into this Parliament a bill for the holding of a constitutional convention. A bill for that purpose was presented to the House, but it was dropped. The right honorable gentleman is reported, on page 14260 of Hansard of the 9th December, 1921, as having said -
The present position is well known to honorable members. There is no prospect of the bill being passed into law. I desire further to announce that the Government, at the earliest possible moment next session, will bring down such proposed amendments of the Constitution as it thinks desirable …. The Government will exercise its own right to determine which, if any, of such amendments shall receive its support when they are submitted to the people.
As Prime Minister and Leader of the National party, the honorable member went before the electors, and he was returned at the head of the strongest party in this House. Mainly through the action of the Leader of the Country party, the present Treasurer (Dr. Earl*
Page), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was deposed from the leadership of the Government, arid had no chance of carrying out his definite pledge. . Nevertheless, a responsibility rested upon the National party, and its new Leader (Mr. Bruce) should have carried out the undertaking of his predecessor to submit to the House definite proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, and he should have been aided by his Treasurer, the Leader of the Country party; but the Government has not attempted to do what the preceding Prime Minister promised to do. Surely the five Country party members could have forced the Government to act up to the election pledges. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) is an eminent barrister and K.C., and he holds the view that a convention for the amendment of the Constitution would have only recommendatory powers, and its ‘decisions would not bind this Parliament. From the Government we have heard no expression of opinion, and no explanation has been offered as to why action in respect of this matter has been delayed, or why some other proposal has not been submitted. The electors were promised by the Country party that definite steps would be taken to create new states, but nothing of the kind has been done. In my opinion, the Federal Parliament should grapple with this question immediately. Why should we hand our task over to any outside body ? Had I, like the Treasurer, suddenly found myself in the position of Acting Prime Minister, I would have called to my aid such men as the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth (Sir Robert Garran), Professor Peden of Sydney University, and Professor Harrison Moore of the Melbourne University ; I would have conveyed to them my ideas, and asked them to frame a bill for submission to Parliament so that honorable members .might have something definite upon which to express their opinions. We are paid a handsome yearly allowance, and it is not wise to hand over our jobs to numerous commissions and conventions such as have been appointed from time to time to do the work that is rightly the responsibility of this Parliament. The people of any area should be given the right to say whether or not they want local selfgovernment, and they should not be tricked as they have been in the past by the refusal of the State and Federal Governments to take action. The new states movement is no novelty in Queensland; it was initiated in 1864, and Rockhampton, the centre of my present electorate, and also of the electorate I represented in the Queensland Parliament, was its birthplace. It started seven years after Queensland became a separate colony. The movement was pressed in 1867, 1872, 1876, 1877, 1879, 1886, 1890, 1893, and at intervals right up to the present time, but the efforts to obtain self-government for central Queensland were always thwarted. In 1890, when this question was definitely placed before the Secretary of State for the Colonies, through Sir Henry Wylie Norman, the Governor of Queensland made the following memorandum on a petition that was sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies asking that self-government be given to central Queensland : -
I have not as yet been convinced that a majority of the people in central Queensland desire separation.
Subsequently Sir Samuel Griffith, who was then Premier of Queensland, and had been opposed to the subdivision of the colony, was induced, as a result of his tour through central and northern Queensland, to introduce in the Queensland Parliament on the 23rd June, 1892, a bill to subdivide Queensland into three provinces. Mr. A. H. Barlow moved an amendment to eliminate central Queensland, and this was carried. As a result, the bill was withdrawn. Another bill was introduced, entitled “ Constitution Bill No. 2,” which provided for two provinces, southern and northern Queensland, each to be self -governed. That bill was carried in the Assembly by 32 votes to 8, but was defeated in the Legislative Council. Some time later - in 1893 - Mr G. R. Burns, member for Townsville, moved a motion in favour of territorial separation for the northern portion of Queensland, but it was defeated. In 1896 the late Mr. Kidston moved a motion to take a referendum to obtain a direct expression of opinion from the electors of northern and central Queensland as to the desirability of their respective districts being constituted separate colonies. That motion was also defeated. In 1910 Mr. T. J. Ryan, afterwards premier of Queensland, and still later Deputy Leader of the Labour party in - this chamber, moved, on the 28th July, that Queensland should be divided into three states, and that central and northern Queensland should each be granted a separate constitution. That motion was carried, but with no result. As time went on, different members of the Queensland Parliament took up the matter, but achieved nothing. The new states movement is a Commonwealth matter, and action should be initiated in this Parliament. The state parliaments . have no wish to curtail their own powers in any way, or to lose their prestige. The time is ripe for the Commonwealth to grapple with this question. According to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, parliamentary government in Australia is costing £500,000 per annum. The total cost of Parliaments, electoral offices, and royal commissions amounts to approximately £1,000,000. There are 686 members of parliament. The cost of conducting the Commonwealth electoral office is about £100,000 per annum, and that of the upkeep of the six state electoral offices is almost £50,000 per annum. There is a good deal of overlapping of federal and state activities, and the Commonwealth Government should not shirk its responsibilities by allowing a private member to move a motion which, if carried, will get the new states movement nowhere.
– Would not the existence of more states increase the cost of administration t
– No, as, instead of having 72 members in the Queensland Parliament, there could be 12, 15, or 20 members in each of the three new state parliaments. State parliaments could - be simplified, and should aim at economy and efficiency of government. The members of a number of smaller state parliaments should be better able to judge what legislation was necessary for all local developmental purposes than the members of the present parliaments sitting in Brisbane, Sydney, or Perth.
– Does the honorable member propose to give the new state parliaments the same powers as are enjoyed by the present state parliaments ?
– No. I stand for unlimited legislative powers being given to the Commonwealth Parliament, with a devolution of adequate self-governing powers ‘ to a number of states, each having an area of about 50,000 square miles; the Federal Parliament to deal with all matters affecting Australia as a whole. The state premiers, when attending the premiers’ conferences, have acknowledged that a good deal of overlapping exists in state and federal affairs, and yet the Commonwealth Government refuses to take action. This overlapping will continue so long as the Commonwealth Constitution remains unaltered. The conferences of premiers lead us nowhere, and have proved to be both expensive and abortive. The Commonwealth Constitution should be altered to place beyond question unlimited powers with the Federal Parliament and to give this Parliament the power to create new states. There must be a simplified form of state government, and the bicameral system should be abolished. The Upper House of Queensland was abolished some years ago, resulting in a considerable saving to the people of that state.’ I do not advocate the creation of twenty new states with twenty upper houses, each costing £10,000 per annum, and With twenty governors, each costing £8,00.0 per annum. These two reforms would make a difference of £360,000, and provide a more efficient form of government for Australia. The upper! houses of the states should be wiped out. If new sovereign states are formed, having the status of our present states, much extravagance will ensue, and the duplication, overlapping, and friction between the states and the Commonwealth will be greatly accentuated. The tendency to challenge the right of the Federal Government to deal with certain questions will be increased. All I ask is the establishment of a simplified form of selfgovernment for districts with community of interests, to work out their own destinies. Why should we be content merely to put patches on the Commonwealth Constitution ? We must deal with the new state movement from a national point of view. If northern Queensland is granted selfgovernment without any alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution, it will be only a temporary palliative, and the members of the Federal Parliament will be remiss in their duty in refusing to tackle this question from an Australian standpoint. A great authority, Mr. B. R.
Wise, in his book entitled The Making of the Australian Commonwealth; said -
The remedy for the defects of the Constitution is to be found rather in the extension of federal powers, with an extension of local government by subdivisions of the larger states. Only by this means will be secured that enlargement of the powers of selfgovernment of the people of Australia which was the desired object of the Constitution.
Professor Harrison Moore, in dealing with this matter, expressed a similar opinion. He said -
Apparently the authority which “ forms “ such new States is the Commonwealth Parliament, butthe consent of the Parliament of the State or States affected is required. The more probable view is that action under this section does not require the approval of the electors.
It has been proved in America that prosperity follows territorial subdivision. The United States of America, with an area 900,000 square miles smaller than that of Australia, has 48 state and territory governments, while Australia has only five state governments on the mainland. The progress of America, where, after the declaration of independence, there were at first only thirteen states and 3,000,000 people,has been remarkable. Her territory is subdivided into states and territories having areas of from 50,000 to 60,000 square miles. I shall give a few instances of the rapid growth of several of the states after the attainment of selfgovernment. Iowa has an area of 56,000 square miles. In 1840, it had a population of 43,000, which, ten years later, had increased to 192,000, and in 1910 the population was 2,224,000. Kansas, with an area of 82,000 square miles, had in 1860 a population of 107,000, and in ten years it increased to 364,000. In 1910 she had a population of 1,600,000. Kentucky, with an area of 40,000 square miles, and a population of 73,000 in 1840, the year in which it was created a state, increased its population to 220,000 in ten years. I could give other similar instances if I had the time at my disposal. Now, let us all, irrespective of party, bend our energies towards helping in bringing about a general subdivision of Australia. The Federal Labour party has a definite platform on this subject. The Commonwealth Constitution should be remodelled to give the Federal Parliament power to create new states, and to dele gate powers to the subordinate legislatures, and any action which has that in view will have my support. We stand for a simplified form of government in a number of provinces; not the multiplication of states with sovereign powers, but the multiplication of self-governing areas with the power necessary to carry out local developmental works, retaining for the Federal Parliament the powers necessary to deal with all national works.
Debate (on motion by Mr. R. Green) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from . 6.30 to8 p.m.
Tariff Administration - Mining Industry - Northern Territory : Unemployment: Administration of Justice: Darwin Hospital, Nurses - Distribution of Wire Netting
Question - That the Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I desire to say a few words about a matter which transpired yesterday, relating to dumping duties imposed under the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act. I, yesterday, addressed certain questions to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) concerning these dumping duties. I asked the honorable gentleman -
To these questions the Minister made the following replies : -
X’ asked the honorable gentleman three questions, and to the first, as to whether “Australian selling price” was used a3 the standard for’ determining “ fair market value,”’ the honorable, gentleman said “‘No.” I take it that the Minister supplied the answers given to my questions at the instigation of his department, where they were prepared for him’. Ha says, in his reply, that ha is responsible, and not the board. It is perfectly true that he is responsible to this House, but he knows as well as I that, under the act, he makes decisions only on questions reported on by the board. So that, although he is technically responsible to this House, the Tariff Board is also responsible under the act. Questions of this kind cannot, therefore, be set aside by saying that, not the board,, but the Minister is responsible^ I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the statement that the Australian selling price is not being used as the standard of “ fair market value” is not correct. The Australian Belling price is being so used’. This is causing grave dissatisfaction amongst merchants throughout Australia. Complaint after complaint is being made, and I shall presently cite a specific case to show that what I say is correct. In his reply to my first question, the Minister ;goes on to say -
The question apparently refers to the fact that certain gazettals impose the dumping duty only when the landed duty-paid cost of the imported article is less than the fair Australian price for similar goods.
There is no provision in the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act which says that the fair Australian price is to be taken as the standard of the fair market value. If that is the method followed in fixing the fair market value of imported goods, I submit, with deference, that the board, the department, or the Minister is doing something for which there is no legal authority, and ie laying the Government open to very grave charges, and probably to legal action. In my second and third questions I asked -
The Minister did not answer either of these questions. My questions were fair, straightforward, and honest. They were put in order to ascertain definitely the procedure which the department is following. They have not been answered in a satisfactory manner, or as an honorable member has a right to expect thatsuch questions will be answered. I can only s’ay, with very great regret, that theMinister’s replies appear to me to be, at the very least, disingenuous. The Australia^ price of goods is mentioned only once in the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act, and that is in section 6. That section provides that -
The amount of the dumping consignment duty in each case shall be the sum which represents the difference between the wholesale selling* price in Australia and a reasonable selling price. In this section “a reasonable selling price “ means the price as ascertained upon the following basis-, namely: - To the fair market, value of the goods there shall be added the freight, insurance, landing, and other charges, together with the amount of duty payable under the Customs tariff, together with 5 per cent, on the aggregate value of all the items mentioned.
– By an amendment of the act that 5 per cent has been increased to 20 per cent.
– That may be; but it does not affect my argument. The fair market value is defined in this way in the definition section - “ The fair market value “ of goods means the fair market value of the goods, or of goods: of the same class or kind, sold in the country of export in relation to which the expression is used, for home consumption in the usual and ordinary course of trade, plus free on board charges in that country.
The fair market value of the goods is their value in the country from which they are brought to Australia. Then the reasonable selling price is said to be this fair market value plus certain charges which are specified in the act, but the act does not say that the fair selling price is the selling price of similar Australian goods. To show how the practice of the department works out, I draw the attention of honorable members to a specific case of a piano-player and a piano. I take first the case of the piano, which was imported into Fremantle. The cost of the piano, plus packing, oversea freight, inland carriage, and insurance came to £48. The duty amounted to £18 15s.” lid., and. with charges for cartage and freight thetotal cost came to £68 9s. lid.
– What was the country of origin?
– I believe it was Germany.
– These are the patriots !
– I am endeavouring to see that the law is properly administered. Where goods may come from has nothing whatever to do with the matter. The total landed value of the piano is shown to be £68 9s. lid. Added to this is 12£ per cent, according to the Customs regulations, making the total value of the piano £77 Is. 2d. The Customs Department said, “ There is an Australian piano selling at £78.” I want honorable members to note that the difference between the two prices is only 18s. lOd. The department then said, “There will be some dumping duty payable on this,” so it took the value of the Australian piano at £78, added to that figure 5 per cent., and made a further addition of £4 for freight, presumably to cover the freight to Fremantle from the place at which the Australian piano is made in one of the eastern states, bringing the total selling price of the Australian piano on this basis up to £85 18s. Then the department says, “ Here is an Australian piano valued at £85 18s.” I want to point out that under the act the department has no right to add the 5 per cent, or the freight to the wholesale selling price of £78 for the Australian piano. When it makes these additions it is doing something which is not warranted by the act, and which I submit is totally illegal. The department then says, “ The value of the Australian piano is £85 18s.” The landed value of the imported piano is £77 Is. 2d. To this it adds a dumping duty of £8 16s. 10d., and in addition adds a charge of 45 per cent., the tariff rate, on the amount of the dumping duty, £8 16s. 10d., or £3 19s. 6d., bringing the total dumping duty up to £12 16s. id. Nowhere in the act is there any authority to superimpose upon the dumping duty the tariff rate of 45 per cent. This appears to me to be an extraordinary proceeding. One charge is piled upon another, apparently deliberately to prevent the sale here of any but Australian pianos.
– It is done to protect an Australian industry.
– Nothing of the kind. »
Mr.- Jackson. - Does the honorable member think it is meant for a joke?
– It would be a joke if it were not so tragic. On this piano landed here at a cost of only 18s. less than the Australian piano a dumping duty of £12 16s. 4d. is charged, rendering the sale of such a piano in Australia absolutely impossible.
– And a good thing, too.
– Because it is protecting an Australian industry.
– Several fallacies are being suggested. All pianos are not the same. That the price of an imported piano approaches that of a piano made in Australia is no justification for assuming that one is equal to the other. What right has the department or any honorable member to say that an . imported piano valued at £77 Is. 2d. is the same in kind as an Australian piano valued at £78 1 I have been informed that the firm whose piano is here taken as the standard of value made another piano which was sold for about £20 less. If that piano were now upon the market, according to the department we should be justified in claiming that the £77 piano should be compared with the cheaper one. But the firm have withdrawn that cheaper instrument from the market. Honorable members can form their own conclusions as to the reasons for their action. It pays them better to obtain exorbitant prices for their other instruments through the imposition of dumping duties on imported instruments. This is a most improper use of the act. It means a heavy burden upon the people, who should have the right to choose whatever piano they desire. There is no standard of comparison between instruments. Who is to say that the instrument which is imported must be compared with any particular local instrument?
– Would the honorable member prefer to have German pianos sold in Australia?
– I want to make it possible for the best piano obtainable to be sold here. We should not be asked to accept inferior instruments. Under the act fostering industries in this country, encouragement is being given to inefficiency and to the production of second- ‘ rate articles. We should not foster an industry to encourage inefficiency, bad workmanship, and poor quality.
– It is true. The people who pay for the piano know what it means. Honorable members opposite do not want any pianos to come in. That attitude may be right, or it may be wrong. At the moment I am not concerned with it. But Parliament has laid down with meticulous care the manner in which these dumping duties are to be estimated, and neither the Tariff Board nor the Minister has a right to go beyond the act. If, in ‘his opinion, the act does not meet the case,, the Minister should ask for an amendment of it; but he has no right to take upon himself powers not conferred toy the act. This practice of using l5ie Australian selling-price is one with which I am fairly well acquainted. It is nothing new, but it has not previously been in force here. It has been introduced since the visit of the Comptroller-General of Customs to America and the Old World. He ascertained, while in America, that this was one of the methods adopted by the authorities there.
– If it is good enough for them, it will do us.
– It is not good enough for the Americans, and it should not be good enough for us. A great deal of trouble is being caused in America today by the same filing. If, as the honorable member seems to consider, it is good enough for us that these things should be done without legislative authority, this Parliament might as well be swept out of existence. There is no reason why things should be done in an improper way. No department should be permitted to take upon itself powers not given to it in an act of Parliament. To do so is flouting Parliament, and making undue use of the powers which the Minister possesses. It should not be countenanced by this House. When I asked plain questions, seeking information on this matter, I had reason to feel somewhat hurt at the nature of the replies given to me.- I recognize that the present Minister of Customs is new to office. He assures me that he only desires to do what is right. For that I give him credit, but he should not allow the department to throw dust in his eyes. There are many cases of this kind, and the last has not yet been heard about them. If this kind of thing goes on, the Minister will bring trouble upon his head which he will greatly regret. I enter an emphatic protest against actions of this kind. I am not greatly concerned about the personal nature of the replies given to me, but I am concerned about the act being flouted, and the department acting as if it were a law unto itself.
– I am surprised at these continual outbursts from the Corner about the tariff. Throughout Australia the people have expressed themselves as being in favour of a tariff- to protect Australian industries. Not since the late Sir George Reid was in this House have we heard sentiments such as have been expressed here recently. Sir George Reid had reasonable ground for some of his protests. The volume of our imports, and the great surplus which has accrued from year to year because of the customs duties, are conclusive evidence that the tariff has not been nearly high enough. There would be more industries in Australia if there were sufficient protection. Honorable members in the Corner are calling out for immigrants and for an increase in our population; and at the same time they want to break down the tariff wall and thus throw all our secondary industries into the melting pot. In the Old Country, certain politicians are termed “ Little Englanders.” In this Parliament we have some who are “ Big Englanders “ and very “ Small Australians,” contending that anything but what is Australian will do. The Ministry nearly made the huge’ mistake of sending a’ contract for railway locomotives out of Australia. We have in Australia engineering shops capable of doing this work as well as the manufacturing establishments in any other country.
– The present administration of the tariff is an insult to this Parliament.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Perth were an insult to the people of Australia.
– Men who stand for such things as he complained of are not fit to be here.
– I cannot understand the honorable member, with all his experience, speaking like that.
– The honorable mem, ber for Maribyrnong helped to frame the tariff.
– Let me give one or two illustrations-. Take the firm- of Nestles, whose products at one time came to Australia from Switzerland. Parliament, in its wisdom, placed a. duty upon the articles which it produced. The result is seen in two. fine factories which have been established by that firm, one near Warrnambool and the other in Queensland, giving employment to hundreds of people, and assisting the primary producers of this country.
– That has nothing to do with the point I raised.
– The honorable member for Perth has already spoken.
– By protection the primary producer has been benefited. Ask the primary producers in. the Warrnambool district if they are favorable to the abolition of the protective duties which established that industry in their midst, and they will answer with an em: phatic” No.”
– What about duties on onions?
– Whenever there is any competition withthe primary producers, the honorable members in the Corner are in the same position as was the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) when he said; “ So far as oats are concerned, I would not only have a high protective duty, but I would have prohibition.”
– He was right.
– Yet in regard to. another tariff item, the same honorable member voted almost in favour of freetrade. With our selfishness we should include some common sense. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) can testify to the good results which have followed the imposition of duties on other articles. To-day, near Hobart, Messrs. Cadbury, Fry, and Pascall have established a great industry, which is the direct result of the duties which were imposed. The honorable member for Swan, (Mr. Gregory) may contend that such an industry is not necessary in Australia, that the people already eat too many sweets, but I remind him that that firm does a large business with the dairymen of this country. Honorable members in the Corner do not know the mere
A, B,. C, of what is for the benefit of the primary producers of Australia. I move about among the producers a. good deal, and. I know that there is a great deal of common sense to be found in them. They realize that not only are agricultural employments and their own immediate personal interests concerned, but the interests of their families also. Ask a farmer with half a dozen sons, whether they will all follow the same avocation as their father, and he will say that some of them are not adapted to farming. But if we wipe out all the secondary industries of this country, what employment can be found for, those boys who do not go on the land?
– Who suggested wiping them out?
– If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr Prowse), and some others in this House, had their way, our secondary industries would be wiped out. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) is desirous of obtaining free entry into Australia of German pianos.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member complained that Australian-made pianos, were being protected in order to keep out German instruments. The honorable member, in reply to an interjection from the Minister for Customs asking the country of origin, said” Germany.” He detailed the prices of German pianos, and compared them with the prices of Australian-made instruments, and complained that the Minister, or the Tariff Board, or some one else, acting in accordance with an act of Parliament, had done something to protect an Australian industry.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member saidthat I made a statement complaining of an action of the Government taken in accordance with an act of Parliament. My complaint was that the action was. not in accordance with an act of Parliament.
– That an honorable member regards the statement of another honorable member as incorrect does not constitute a point of order. The honorable member must avail himselfof other opportunities, within the Standing Orders, to correct the erroneous impression which he thinks has been made.
– I made the statement because I could not conceive of a Minister for Trade and Customs or a Tariff Board coming to a decision absolutely at variance with an act of Parliament. Almost the last clause of every bill passed by this Parliament authorizes the Government to draw up regulations in con-( formity with the provisions of the bill, and if the Minister for. Trade and Customs and the Tariff Board have been acting under regulations drawn up in conformity with the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act, they are certainly not acting contrary to an act of Parliament, as the honorable member contends they are doing. At any rate, they are acting in accordance with the spirit of the people of Australia, and in accordance-, with the intention of this Parliament. Our first duty is to .be good Australians, and our next duty is to protect Australian industries. I am surprised that at this lain period in the history of Australia an honorable member should attempt to decry Australian industry. I am not permitted to refer to the matter which is the subject of the debate that is now proceeding on the Defence Equipment Bill, but the same cry has been raised in regard to the] cruisers which the Government propose to have built. Some honorable members. v would have them built outside Australia. It is a marvel to me that those honorable/ members who are always so anxious to get their goods in the cheapest possible market do not charter a special line of/ steamers and run them to China to get goods in the cheapest possible market.
– Does the honorable mem- ; ber call £1,500,000 a little matter ?
– I do, in some respects. A very respected former member of this House once asked, “ What is a million ? “ If a couple of million pounds are put into the pockets of the people of Australia, ‘ the Commonwealth will benefit, because the money will circulate in the country. I .think I am safe in saying that Australia’s secondary industries support 1,500,000 workers and their dependants. The workers are earning good wages and working decent hours. What would the producers do if their local consumers were wiped out ? Yet that would be the result if their policy were carried out. Their best customers to-day are the workers who support big families in industrial areas. I am by no means in favour of concentrating population in the capitals. Although I :am a city member, I am as strongly in favour of the policy of decentralization as any other honorable member in this House, and I shall give my vote for any measure that will .bring about decentralization. It would be a most excellent thing to dot the rural areas with big factories. But I sometimes wonder whether honorable members are really in .earnest when they say they are anxious to have big. industries throughout the rural areas. If we could establish in the Echuca electorate two or three big industries employing 3,000 or 4,000 men, the Echuca seat might not be too safe for its Country party representative. I object to-night, not so much to the topic upon which the honorable member for Perth spoke, but to his attitude towards it. The honorable member, and also the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and some of his fellow members of the Country party, seem to think that by continually browbeating the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Tariff Board they will get what they want, namely, a lower tariff.
– We are trying to educate the public as to what is being done.
– I am always out for fair treatment all round, and if injustice is being done to any section of the community I am out to have it removed, but honorable members, in pursuing their policy of browbeating the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Composite Ministry by continuous talk, seem to be like the importunate widow whose tongue wore down the .unjust judge, and compelled him at last to grant her request.
– I like the honorable member’s reference to the unjust judge.
– I am referring particularly to the persistency with which the widow pushed her request. It is comparable with the persistency with which honorable members push their claim in the hope that they will bring about a change..
– ‘They have not a hope of doing so with the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten).
– I do not believe that they have; nor did they have any hope with, his predecessor (Sir Austin Chapman). I do not wish to flatter the present Minister, but I think he has hackbone, and I am sure that he has the interests of Australia sufficiently at heart to stand up against the severest pressure that can be brought to bear upon him,
– But not to the extent of breaking the law.
– That is only a matter of interpretation. I suppose that the honorable member, like all others, comes here with a brief supplied to him by interested parties, and he has to give their version of the facts. But if he can conceive of the Minister and his officials, and the Tariff Board, actually conspiring to break through an act of Parliament, and doing something distinctly wrong, I cannot. If the honorable member for Perth thinks that the Minister has been involved in a conspiracy to break through an act of Parliament, he should have moved a motion of want of confidence, and ousted the Government from office. Any Minister guilty of ‘violating an act would not be worthy of a seat on the treasury bench. If the law has been flouted, an action for damages will lie against the Customs Department. Looking at the matter from a charitable point of view, I think the honorable member for Perth has been misinformed or has overstated his case. I shall listen with interest to the reply of the Minister for Trade and Customs. As one who loves his country, and believes in letting every section flourish, I think the time has arrived when the Parliament should be united in its determination to protect Australian industries. If we would only love our country as people in other parts of the world love their countries, it would lead to progress and prosperity. In any case, the great wage-earning section of the community employed in factories could not be wiped out without doing great injury, not only to the workers themselves, but also to the primary producers, whose produce they purchase in such large quantities.
– I do not think that the workers or the manufacturers of Australia have a worse enemy than the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who, if he had his way, would destroy all possibility of rivalry or competition with the local manufacturers. The honorable member’s reference to the unjustjudge, when he was speaking of the continued opposition from this corner of the chamber to certain tariff duties, and particularly to the administration of the anti-dumping act, was very apt. Honorable members are sent here to represent the people of Australia, and yet they hand over to others what should be their responsibility alone, namely, the power to fix the tariff upon goods coming into Australia. Under the provisions of the Tariff Act and the Australian Industries Preservation Act they give most extraordinary powers to the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Tariff Board. They are disloyal to the interests of the people they represent when in this way they surrender the privileges of members of Parliament and deprive themselves of the powers which they, as members of Parliament, should insist upon exercising. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has approved of the action of the Government in giving to an Australian firm a contract for the building of certain locomotives. Parliament declared that a certain duty should be imposed for the protection of a particular Australian industry; but, when tenders were called for the building of locomotives, the Government accepted a tender from an Australian firm at a price which was £30,000 more than the price of the British tender plus the amount of duty to be collected under the tariff. Would they have done this if they were spending their own money, instead of that of the people ? Article after article appeared in certain newspapers in Melbourne, bringing political pressure to bear on the Government to induce them to give the contract to an Australian firm. The protectionist organizations threatened that they would support Labour if the Government did not accede to their wishes.
– Those organizations do not support Labour. .Mr. GREGORY.- I think that some of them have helped Labour financially, but the honorable member could give that information better than I can. Notwithstanding the revelations as to the enormous fortunes many Australian manufacturers are making, honorable members like the honorable member for Maribyrnong are always to be found voting in favour of greedy monopolies.
– “ Better the devil you know than the devil you do not know.”
Mr. -GREGORY.- That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but I have a large number of constituents who are battling against all sorts of difficulties. I have to consider them, and not the Newcastle Steel Works or large agricultural implement making firms. A few days ago it was shown by a deputation to the Tariff Board that a small agricultural implement making firm, with a capital of £40,000, had made a profit of £89,000 in two years. Yet honorable members want to impose not only the ordinary duties contained in the tariff, but al30 dumping duties.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that was the only working capital the firm had ?
– That was the capital of the firm as supplied to me.
– They may have had a big overdraft at the bank.
– An overdraft! Not with profits such as I have mentioned. They may have been giving away a lot of money to political organizations.
– That is done on the other side.
– I do not care on which side it is done.
– I ask the honorable member for Swan to address the Chair, and not to take notice of interjections.
– I hope that, in the near future, the power given to the Minister for Trade and Customs to alter duties imposed by this Parliament will be taken from him. I have with me an extraordinary list of goods in reference to which the Tariff Board has been asked to recommend to the Minister for Trade and Customs a remission or a reduction of duties. Is it a good thing that certain persons by making representations should be able to get articles in free while other people have to pay duties on them? Should this Parliament control the protection of industries, or should the power to do so be delegated to an outside body?
– Will the honorable member state, in fairness to the Tariff Board, whether there are any cases in which the board has recommended a reduction of duties?
– The honorable member can find an answer to his question by consulting the extraordinary statements contained in the report of the Tariff Board on the applications made to it. Eleven years ago 105,000 people were employed in the mining industry in Australia, but the cost of production has increased so much that the number of men employed two years ago was less than 66,000. Only the other day the Ivanhoe mine, one of the great mines of Kal.goorlie, closed down. There are miners on the Kalgoorlie gold-fields who receive in wages considerably less than men who drive butchers’ or bakers’ carts in Melbourne, and we make their living conditions worse by our legislation. Conditions in the mining industry are going from bad to worse. That industry is being destroyed, because the cost of production is too high. I do not complain about the rates of wages paid to the men. If the cost of living is artificially raised, wages must be high in proportion. But if we add every day and every week enormous sums to the cost of running an industry, we must eventually close it down. Here is what the Tariff Board says in reply to a request for a remission of duty on two electrically-driven air compressors -
The Western Australian mines are in a very bad way owing to low grade ores and increased cost of wages, equipment, stores, and plant- which is wholly due to the tariff. The Tariff Board did not say that, but I say it- and the Tariff Board would be glad to recommend anything possible that would help the industry. In view, however, of the fact that local engineers can supply the plant in question, the Board has no other option than to recommend that the application be refused.
That is one of many instances in which applications have been made for permission to import special machinery, and the board has refused the requests on the ground that the machinery can be made in Australia. N/o inquiry is made about the price of the locally-made article, but, because some person is making it in Australia, every request for a concession is refused. Honorable members opposite are enthusiastic advocates of high duties, but, having imposed high duties in the 1920 tariff, and having observed that our industries have not progressed satisfactorily since, they should, make an effort to ascertain what is wrong; How is it that a few years ago we were able to export a considerable quantity of agricultural machinery, -while to-day we export next to nothing ? There is hardly an industry, except the production of foodstuffs, that can compete with similar industries in other countries. If we continue to move round in this vicious circle we shall increase the amount of unemployment, and have millionaires side by side with paupers. I can remember when the Lithgow steel works a few years ago exported pig iron.’ They did so, notonly during the war, but previously. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company said it would not start its industry unless it was prepared to compete with the world, and it declared that it wanted neither tariff, bonus, nor bounty. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has fought strenuously for the wire-netting and wire manufacturers. There is not the slightest doubt that the manufacturers of wire netting and wire have formed a combination, and will not supply goods except to certain people. The Minister for Customs, in reply to a question by me the other day, quoted an advertisement from a newspaper, and conveyed the idea that a certain firm in Queensland had advertised that it was not dealing in Australian wire netting because it was inferior to English netting. The advertisement related to barbed wire, and not to wire netting, although my questions referred to wire netting.
– “Was not the same principle involved?
– The principle had nothing to do with it. The impression was created that the advertisement referred to wire netting. The firm wrote to tell me that it had locally-made barbed wire with the barbs over 1 foot apart, and that it objected to selling it, and advertised accordingly. Surely we are not going to make the Minister for Trade and Customs, or the Tariff Board, a censor of the trading advertisements of this country. Is it right for the Minister to insist upon certain conditions merely because an advertisement is offensive ? People who go out into the back country have to battle against the elements, and should receive first consideration. I believe it is within the knowledge of the Tariff Board that a combine has been created, particularly in Queensland, by those who manufacture wire, netting, and nails.
– Cannot those firms be dealt with under the provisions relating to restraint of trade ?
– If so, the Tariff Board should take action; but what I desire is that dumping duties shall not be imposed. When we are subsidizing the manufacture of these goods we should insist that they shall be supplied to any recognized cash trader. I have received the following letter from a firm in Dalby, Queensland: -
I would respectfully point out that the position is not as stated by Mr. McDougall. His statement is partly correct, which makes it more dangerous than an absolute untruth.
I will state the case in as few words as possible.
We ask, as a matter of right, if protection is to be given to Rylands Brothers’ product, that such product be sold direct to us at manufacturer’s price, payment to be cash against documents, or such other method as required by the vendors, provided always that no over-riding commission or concession is granted to the so-called vend in Brisbane. His (Mr. McDougall’s) statement that the policy of his company was to get the wire to the consumer at the lowest possible price, is absolutely false. Why did they refuse to sell to us direct for cash? Let them answer that question. They (Bylands) told us they could not supply because they had an arrangement with a coterie of. Brisbane wholesalers by which they agreed not to sell to the country storekeeper - it does not matter what quantity he was prepared to buy, even for cash.
I have a list of the members of the coterie in Brisbane, and I hold in my hand correspondence from the Queensland Pastoral Supplies Limited on the subject. That firm was originally a member of the vend. I have a list of the firms in Brisbane that are supplied by the combine, and a statement of the conditions under which they are supplied. A letter from Lysaght Brothers and Company Limited, dated the 5th July, 1923, stated that they would send a consignment of netting to the Queensland Pastoral Company, but when that firm withdrew from the combine, Lysaghts refused to supply the netting either direct or through agents. Statements are made by two responsible firms in Queensland showing that the combine exists. The Tariff Board file shows that Mr. McDougall obtained from England information regarding a combine there, and having given that information to the Tariff Board, he adopted a similar policy in Australia. He, nevertheless, expects that Parliament will vote money to help him to build up a monopoly. We are doing wrong to tolerate such a thing.
– He will sell the whole concern to the honorable member for half the amount of money that has been put into it.
– We have made the conditions so unfavorable, that it is almost impossible for primary industries to. be carried on satisfactorily.. The difficulties are becoming very acute. I am not reflecting upon, the Minister, for he has to administer the act. ‘ The act, however, is an abomination. I could not complain if Praliament said that the duties should be increased a hundredfold, because that would be the will of Parliament. Surely the honorable member believes that Parliament should be supreme, and should not allow &n outside body to fix duties. We should not leave importers in any uncertainty. A. letter written by the firm of Alston and Sons, of Melbourne, was published recently in the Melbourne Argus. The firm stated that it imported £500 worth of bolts and nuts for the manufacture of agricultural machinery, and that most of them were not being made in Australia. Duty amounting to £200 was paid, but the Tariff Board subsequently sent in a demand for the payment of over £700 dumping duty. This, firm ought to be able to. build, agricultural machinery, but such enormous duties make real progress impossible. I hope Parliament will rescind this objectionable legislation, and impose the duties itself. That would make the life of the Minister much .easier, and the administration of his department simpler. If the system is allowed to continue, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that we shall have in Australia’ worse corruption than any we have heard of from America.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) did not give me notice of his intention to raise this matter to-night. I understand that it is customary to extend that courtesy to a Minister, particularly one new to office. However, I hope to be able, even at such short notice, to meet the allegations which the honorable member has made. The honorable member made two complaints - (1) that the reply which I gave to the question he asked yesterday was discourteous; and (2) that the administration of the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act, particularly in relation to the importation of. German pianos, is not. satisfactory. With regard to. the first complaint, the honorable member asked me if it were a fact that the Tariff Board, in administering the Customs- tariff, did so and, so, and I answered “ No.” I did so designedly, because the responsibility for administering the. fiscal enactments: of this Parliament .lies, not with the Tariff Board, or any other irresponsible, body, but with the Minister. The honorable member objected to the administration of the. Industries Preservation Act so far as dumping duties generally are1 concerned, and particularly dumping duties, on German pianos.
– That is hardly fair.
– I think I am correctly quoting the honorable member, because I purposely interjected, “ What was the country of origin?” and the honorable member replied, “ Germany.” The tariff legislation of this Parliament consists- of three enactments, for the- administration of which I am responsible to this House, viz., the- Customs Tariff Act, which imposes import duties and also gives certain discretionary powers to the department in regard to the classification of items in accordance with departmental by-laws sanctioned by the Minister; the Customs Tariff. Industries Preservation Act; and the Tariff Board Act, ‘ The last-named measure provides that the Minister cannot, on his own initiative,’ do anything without first seeking, the advice, cooperation, and report of the Tariff Board. He is not bound,, however, to follow the recommendations of the board, but for whatever recommendations he approves he is responsible to this Parliament. I do not intend to shelter myself behind the Tariff Board in connexion, with any act of fiscal administration of which I see fit to approve. The honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Swan; (Mr. Gregory) have rightly said that the Industries Preservation Act is a” most difficult statute to administer. I admit that, and I assure the House that I am trying to administer it fairly in the way I think Parliament intended, and, in accordance with my Own conviction, that, so far as I possibly can, I should retain all work and wages in Australia at the expense of the foreigner. What does the
Industries Preservation Act provide? What did this, Parliament by that act order the Minister to do upon report by the Tariff Board! Section 4 of the act provides that dumping duties may be imposed if the Minister is satisfied that goods exported to Australia, which are of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia, have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry. That is ‘ a simple clause, which says, in effect, that if goods are being sold to Australia at a lower price than that at which they are being sold in the home consumption market, that is a clear proof of dumping, and if such dumping is detrimental to an Australian industry a duty may be imposed, and, while I am Minister, shall be imposed. Section 5 says that a dumping duty shall be imposed if goods are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price in the country of export, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry. That is to say, if goods are being sent to Australia that are being produced at a loss, or without profit, and they come into competition with an Australian industry in a way that is detrimental to that industry, a dumping duty may be imposed. Section 6 provides that if goods on consignment are sold at less than a reasonable price, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry, again a dumping duty may be imposed, and, in my opinion, rightly so, because goods on consignment are very often sold at a heavy loss, and that means unfair competition with local industry. Section 7 enacts that if goods are carried in subsidized ships at low freight rates, or at ballast rates of freight, or freight free, a dumping duty may be imposed. Section 8 provides for such a duty if, by reason of the depreciation of the exchange value of the currency of the country of origin or export, goods are being sold at prices which would be detrimental to an Australian industry. And I think this House would almost unanimously affirm the propriety of protecting our own industries against such competition. Sec- tion 9 imposes a dumping duty if, by reason of the depreciated exchange value of the currency of the country of. origin, foreign goods of a class or kind produced in the United Kingdom are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of goods of like value or quality made in the United Kingdom, when .sold for home consumption, plus the freeonboard charges. Section 10 imposes a dumping duty upon goods which have been manufactured wholly or in part of material supplied from any country whose currency has depreciated, and are being sold to an importer in Australia at a price below the price at which the same goods could have been made in the country of manufacture if made from material of such country. The last condition on which a dumping duty may be imposed is provided by section 11, which says that if the duty payable under the last two preceding sections is likely to be evaded by the consignment of goods to Australia for sale, a special duty may be imposed. Of the eleven sections for the imposition of dumping duties, nine are for the protection of Australian industries, and two of them are designed specifically to protect British industries. Yesterday I laid upon the table of the House a list of the dumping duties chat have been imposed by the Minister, upon the advice of the Tariff Board, and they show that under section 4, which relates to simple dumping, duties have been imposed upon 30 different items, of which half were of foreign manufacture; under section 5, duties have b.een imposed on fifteen items, half of which were of foreign origin; under section 6, two dumping duties have been imposed, and under section 7, three. But under section 8, which relates to the depreciated exchange value of the currency of the country of export, duties have been imposed upon 100 items, every one of which came from Europe, nineteentwentieths of them from Germany. So that nearly all of the 100 dumping duties gazetted under section 8 aPply to goods sent to . Australia from Germany to the detriment of our own industries. Section 9 is designed only to protect British industries. The imposition of duties under that section has no effect one way or another upon
Australian industries, but the section is operated to protect British goods coming into the Australian market against unfair competition by goods from the continent of Europe. There have been 85 gazettals under that section, and the vast majority of them have related to German goods. This Parliament, by its legislation, has protected British goods coming into Australia from unfair competition with foreign goods which do not, in any way, affect our own industries. So far as reasonable and preferential trade is concerned, and the advantage that Britain is getting from Australia through our fiscal system, section 9 has been operating entirely in the interests of the British manufacturer. I admit that the McKenna duties in England are likely to go by the board on the 1st of next month.Those duties are similar in effect to our section 9. If the British Government does not protect the English manufacturers from the unfair competition of continental goods manufactured at low cost owing to depreciated currency, it will be a matter for consideration by this Parliament whether we should continue to enforce the dumping duties under section 9. I have put the position as I see it. I am sorry that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has thought fit to suggest that I have in any shape or form .been discourteous in replying to his question. I have explained the reason for the reply that I gave, and I assure him that in administering the Customs Department I shall carry out the laws that have been placed on the statute-book of this Parliament without fear or favour, believing every time in the encouragement of our own industries. I am grieved at times to hear the captains of our fine secondary industries, cr some of them at all events, described as grasping monopolists. I have had a long manufacturing experience, and I say that it is all to the credit of those men who have arrived now, perhaps, at mature life into a position of ease after early days of fighting, when it took a very long period to establish industries. All honour to Australians who can attain such a position. If the honorable member has any sworn evidence of his suggestion concerning monopolists or trade combines of any sort, I shall place it before the proper tribunal for report, and give no quarter to any one guilty of practices to the . detri ment of our home industries. I do not want to refer further to the subject of wire, except to say that the reply I gave was strictly accurate. Every ” i” was dotted and every “ t “ was crossed. I admit that the advertisement refers to barbed wire, but its general tone that “ we sell imported and not colonial wire, and we recommend the imported- and not the locally-made article,” or something to that effect, is repugnant to me as a good Australian. I am not surprised at sellers of any commodity refusing to do business with by selling direct to persons who depreciate Australian goods.
– The Minister has no right to be a censor of that sort of thing.
– I have no right to exercise censorship of any sort. The matter arose in this way. My honorable friend complained that certain manufacturers refused to sell certain goods to a certain firm. I had inquiries made, and gave my reply to him. I entirely concur in the action taken by the manufacturers. It will be generally conceded that the policy of this Parliament and of this country is protection. I would remind my honorable friend who talks so often about the troubles of the primary producer, that the latter is benefiting by the policy of protection adopted by this Parliament. The dried fruitgrowers alone are selling from 10,000 to 12,000 tons of dried fruits in their home market, and getting almost the full benefit of the 3d. a lb. duty that this Parliament has imposed. We all desire to administer the law fairly. No honorable member, not even the honorable member for Swan, desires me to do anything but administer the law as fairly as I can, and as I find it. If he has any quarrel with the law, and disagrees with the Australian Industries Preservation Act-
– I do, most decidedly.
– Parliament must accept the responsibility for that act ; but while it remains on the statute-book I shall carry it out to the letter, and in the spirit in which Parliament placed it there.
– I complained that that was not done.
– I have tried as far as I can to meet the objections raised in this House to-night; I have tried to be logical and to point out to the House the .real position as I see it. The law compels me to .act as I have done. I cannot deal with previous decisions of other . Ministers. I assure honorable .members that in administering the Australian Industries Preservation Act, and the Tariff Act, particularly the classification, I shall always carry out the. law as laid down, and where .1 .have any discretionary administrative powers, I say frankly and freely that while thelaw will he administered properly, I shall do all I -can to protect the work and wages of out fellow citizens. The proper policy to follow in administering the will of Parliament is to permit machines that cannot be made here, but which, if imported, will improve and accelerate the production and output of Australian factories, to come in free as far as the tariff will allow. I believe that to be in accord with the spirit and will of this Parliament. I hope that after what I have said there will be no further misunderstanding concerning the Industries Preservation Act. ‘It is a most difficult act to administer. Thank goodness that we have it on the statute-book so that we may deal adequately with continental trade. I intend to carry out the Industries Preservation Act to the letter and in the spirit in which it was framed.
.- After the dismal hidebound f freetrade speeches that we had heard from the honorable member for .Perth (Mr. Mann) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the reply of the Minister for Trade and Customs .(Mr. Pratten) came as a refreshing breeze in t’his chamber. If more Ministers of his calibre were in the Government we might have succeeded in persuading it to construct a cruiser in Australia, instead of spending £2,000,000 on the other side of the world. In two states of the Commonwealth enormous sums of money have been spent within the last few yea.rs. Victoria has carried out the Morwell br.ow-n co-al scheme, and Tasmania the hydro-electric power scheme. These schemes have -cost the taxpayers of those states some millions of pounds. I speak feelingly after hearing the speeches made to-night tending to destroy Australian industries. It is regrettable that during my experience of this Parliament the only plea raised on behalf -of Australian industries has come from this .side of the chamber. I know that there are many good protectionists and good, Australians sitting behind the Government, but when any legislation is proposed or discussed in this House concerning protection or freetrade, they are forced to remain silent. But honorable members sitting in the corner, supporting a Protectionist Government, endeavour at every opportunity to break down Australian industries. The honorable member for Perth uses the old -cry of cheapness. It is time that the Australian people sent to this Parliament men truly representing their opinions rather than members such as those for Swan and Perth, who cannot rid themselves of the fetish of cheapness. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) made a very tuneful speech on German pianos, and almost cried because he considered that the action of the Tariff Board had caused the purchaser of a ^German piano to pay a few pounds more for it. I am pleased that I am associated with a body of men, every one of whom wishes to foster Australian industries. We want pianos, and I should like to see one in every worker’s home. I am convinced that every Australian would prefer to give a’ few pounds more for an Australian-made piano than take .advantage of the lower cost of foreign pianos made under cheap-la”bour conditions. In Tasmania, under the hydro-electric power scheme, the waters falling on the roof of that country have been harnessed. The Labour party, in fostering this scheme, more than justified its existence. Three million pounds were spent .on that project, and the Tasmanian .taxpayers to-day are staggering under the burden. One very beneficial result has been that sales of power at a cheap rate have induced those engaged in .some of the big industries in the Old Country to come to Tasmania and .take .advantage of that scheme. There is still power awaiting sale to manufacturers whom we desire to induce to come to this country from the other side of the world. If the manufacturers on the other side of the world who speak here through, the honorable members for Swan and Perth feel that they are being handicapped because of our high tariff, let them come to Australia and establish their factories here. I am not concerned with them, but with the men who are out of work, and the families that are going hungry to-day in Australia. The honorable member for Perth, and also the honorable member for Swan, referred to the fact that large numbers of miners are out of employment in “Western Australia, and they try to blame the tariff for that. I have met many miners in Western Australia and the other states, and if I have any knowledge of them and of real Aus.tralian producers they would pay a little more for what they require to preserve Australian industries rather than favour cheapness and freetrade. In Victoria a large sum of money has been expended in providing cheap electric power, and what is to be done with it if manufacturers are not induced to take advantage of it ? I try to be a good Australian:, and last year, when the budget was under discussion, I considered the enormous increases in revenue that were disclosed by that and several preceding budgets. I took out eight or nine articles upon which enormous increases in revenue were- shown, and, strange to say, nearly every one of them could be manufactured in Australia. Yet we continue the foolish policy of importing these things from countries in which wages and conditions are not up to the standard that we insist upon in Australia. We have a professing Protectionist Government, and one which ‘I think would be really protectionist if some of the ministers were more like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). There are some who are continually fighting against Australian industries in order to secure something a little cheaper for the people they represent. I do not think they represent true Australians. They are always saying that the high tariff is ruining the man on the land. It has been well said by the honorable member for Mari.byrnong (Mr. Fenton) and other honorable members that the best market for the man on the land is not the overseas market,, but that which would be. provided by a large population of industrialists established near to where he is producing. If we continue to support a policy under’ which ship after ship comes to Australia from the other side of the world, bringing goods that, could be manufactured here, w& shall not solve our problem of unemployment. We are told that skilled as well as unskilled workers are out of employment in Australia. It is said that this is due to the exchange rates, but it is chiefly due to the fact that we are importing to the value of millions of pounds goods which should be manufactured here. Echoes of the old freetrade songs which were sung here in. the first years of this Parliament last a long time, and hide-bound freetraders, like those to whom we have listened to-night, die very hard indeed. Some time ago, a great deal was said in .this chamber and on platforms throughout the country about German gold. There were mysterious whispers of German gold which some one was supposed to be receiving. These rumours were very common when the great conscription issue was being fought in this Parliament and outside of it. One section of politicians in Australia was frequently charged with receiving German gold. None of it came my way; but if there is any German gold circulating at the present time, we might return the compliment to some honorable members on the other side, and ask who is getting it now. We heard an eloquent speech to-night in favour of German-made pianos. It is time that this Australian Parliament became truly. Australian, and that the Government got rid of its freetrade Ministers and supporters, and showed a little more backbone than it has shown recently. We have heard a good deal about a .pact in the last .few days. I do not know whether it is going to be patched up or not,, but there are rumours abroad that the patch applied is not so effective as it was thought to be yesterday. It will be a good thing for Australia when the days of the pact come to an end, and the people have an opportunity to say whether this shall be a real Australian Parliament,, preserving its industries, and upholding the rights of the people, or whether a Government supported by men who are always in favour of the man on the other side of the world as- against the true Australian shall continue in power.
.- It is not often that I grieve, but I was expecting that the Minister for Trade, and Customs (Mr. Pratten) would answer the questions asked by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann)’. The honorable member found that under the Customs
Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act the Customs Department is imposing dumping duty on the basis of the wholesale selling price in Australia, plus the regulation charges, whereas the act lays it down clearly that the basis shall be the usual selling price in the country of origin, plus those charges. I have a little grievance, and it is the oftrepeated remark that protection is the “ accepted policy of Australia,” and that therefore any reference to tariffs must be taboo, and any one who says anything to the contrary is a little Australian or an an ti- Australian.
– If the ‘honorable member has anything better to say we shall be glad to listen to it.
– Now that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has interjected, I may say that I have a vivid recollection of some very pointed remarks which he made when the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act was under consideration in this House.
– The- honorable member made a most logical speech.
– I thank the honorable member for his remark; it was a most logical speech. The honorable member for Batman said that the House had taken nine months over the tariff schedule, and that doubtless for many months previously all the officials of the Trade and Customs Department had been at work to see that no item should be omitted from the schedule. He said that it was the highest tariff ever imposed in this country, and that its chief object appeared to be that no Australian should get anything cheaply.
– Why not quote the speech; it is in Hansard ?
– The honorable member went on to say that, lest the officials of the Customs Department and the Minister should have missed some item which would prevent the Australian people from getting something cheaply, this threeply plaster, the Anti-Dumping Bill, was brought down to make it doubly sure. Wc are told that no one should say anything against the accepted policy of Australia. Should any one ‘say anything against the policy of the British Government, which is diametrically opposite to that which is said to be the accepted policy of this House 1
– It is possible that they may be wrong.
– Just so, but apparently it is not possible for the honorable member to be wrong. I find that, according to honorable members opposite, there are some very “ Small Australians “ in this chamber, and also in another place. There is, for instance, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) in another place, who manifestly is a “ little - Australian,” because he takes the same view of the tariff as I do. The honorable senator is credited with having made the following remarks : -
The fact that on the 5th April, 1921, there were 195,000 persons who registered themselves as unemployed should make any person favorable to a high tariff pause to think. At the same time, they should realize that there- is a deliberate attempt on the part of one section of the community to secure a monopoly and deny to others the right to be loyal to the rest of the Empire by preventing trade between Australia and Great Britain. For my own part I would trade just as freely with America and any other foreign country, because I can see that if the money we are dragging from the pockets of the workers to indirectly employ them were used to find employment for them, we should not only employ every Australian out of work to-day, but also provide work for 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 more people. The job only needs tackling. But how do these intelligent persons say they would tackle it? They say to a woollen manufacturer, “If you will only start making woollen goods, wo shall shut out foreign woollens by imposing a tax of £40 per £100 on any person who attempts to bring them into Australia.” They say to the boot manufacturer - “ We shall put a penalty of £35 per £100 on those who import boots.’.1 By that means they seek to encourage the bootmakers of Australia to establish a boot manufacturing industry, and when they have developed that industry they keep up a barrier which makes a difference of at least 8s. in the price of a pair of boots bought by any individual in Australia. I would not mind this if each boot were branded, “ Price of manufacture, so much. Penalty paid to keep outside boots from competing, so much.” . If that were done public opinion would be very speedily aroused.
That is the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in another place. He has made many equally logical remarks. The honorable senator was the only member of his party who was returned at the previous Senate elections for the largest state in the Commonwealth. I feel certain that the people of Canada are desirous of being “ Big Canadians.” The Canadian Parliament has not allowed itself to be “ bulldozed “ by the shibboleth of the “ accepted policy “ cry. The honorable member who just resumed his seat spoke of the number of people out of employment. Yet Australia has had protection for two decades.
– There are 1,000,000 people out of work in Great Britain, where there is freetrade.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is guilty of tedious repetition, in that we have heard these arguments dozens of times before. I appeal to you, sir, as a good protectionist, to uphold my point of order.
– It is probably true that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has voiced, on previous occasions in this House, sentiments similar to those which he is now expressing. From one point of view that may be repetition, but from the stand-point of the .Chair, bound to interpret the Standing Orders, it is not tedious.
– I was referring to the attitude of the Canadian people, and was saying that they were not hidebound in these matters. I have here a report saying that the Canadian Minister of Finance, Mr. James A. Robb, has succeeded in carrying his budget proposals by a majority of 112 on a vote of 233. The report proceeds -
It is thus clear that the Government lias triumphantly succeeded in achieving the purpose which it had in mind - that is to say, the capture of the low tariff Progressives, or Western Farmer members, by means of reductions in the Customs schedules. In concluding the debate, just before the final vote, the Prime Minister not only justified the cutting down of the tariff on agricultural implements and other articles, but he went so far as to pledge his Administration to a continued policy of tariff reduction on the necessaries of life. He added that the Government proposed shortly to add to the Finance department a body of experts which might bo termed a. tariff board to advise Ministers in respect of tariff changes.
I presume that that will be a Tariff Board unlike ours. Our Tariff Board seems to think that the preservation of industries applies only to secondary industries. The report continues -
He further indicated that the appointment of an expert board to advise the Government on general taxation was under consideration by the Cabinet, but he made it clear that the appointment of neither board of experts would relieve the Government or Parliament of full responsibility for the tariff and taxation in general. It remains to be seen what effect the Government’s attitude and its promise of further tariff reductions will have upon public opinion in the next general election.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) spoke sneeringly about people wanting things cheaply. If it is a disgrace to “wish to get things “ cheap,” I remind honorable members that, in the Melbourne press lately, there have been headlines in connexion with protests by various organizations against an increase in the price of bread. The greatest organization involved in the movement for cheapness in a commodity made and grown in Australia is the Trades Hall of Melbourne. We find in the newspapers such headings as the following: - .”Dear Bread. Labour’s Protest. Boycott Advocated.” We also have the statement of Mr. Holloway that there was no legitimate reason for the increase, because the 1924 wheat crop was far in excess of the crop for 1922-23. Because the farmer has a good crop, the people of Melbourne must get cheap bread. But will honorable members say that, because there is plenty of labour, we should employ it cheaply ? Let us consider this question of the big wheat yield. Do honorable members realize that they buy bread made from wheat sold at Is. a bushel less than the Britisher pays for the same wheat?
– We pay more for the bread.
– We pay less for our wheat, yet some honorable members seem to be afraid of the competition of goods made by the people in England. They would boycott manufacturers and oust parliaments’ because they cannot get bread cheaply. But they want plenty * of employment for those engaged in manufacturing goods to be sold to the man on . the land. They say that it does not matter how much he pays, or whether £58,000 more is paid for railway locomotives made in Australia to draw trains in the backblocks than if they were obtained overseas. They are satisfied so long as a little coterie is paid big money for the time being. 2Tor do they care about defence, so long as the vessels are manufactured in Australia. In effect they say, “ What does £1,000,000 matter?” But the farmer, who pays all those costs, is not protected, and those who advocate decentralization will mass all their political forces to keep him down. This is not a “big,” but a “little Australian” attitude. What has been the result? I am a representative of the people of this country, and, like Senator Gardiner, I am anxious that people shall be- employed here. If “we were placed on a more competitive basis, there would be unlimited labour, and no reduction in the purchasing power of that which the labourer receives. But he is placing himself in a noose from which he will be unable to extricate himself. What has been the result of this policy? Since 1910, agriculture in Australia has not increased. Recently, the Statistician informed us that for the year ended 30th June last the total acreage of crop under cultivation was 6,975,711, as against 7,049,429 acres for the previous year. That shows a falling off of 75,000 acres. Over 90 per cent, of the exports of this country are derived from the soil. Prom those exports we expect to establish, and maintain the credit of this country, and only by them cam we have any factories at all. We are “ sponging “ too much on the man doing the job. We should be all-round in our views. The Trades Hall will probably say that their agitation is not against the farmer, but against the middleman.
– We were referring to the bakers.
– The argument was that because we had so much wheat we should be able to buy it cheaply. The increased price has been due to the cost of processing’. First, the wheat is made into flour, and then the flour into bread. For these costly processes the worker, in common with others, must expect to pay. It is in this matter that honorable members opposite are inconsistent, and very “ Small Australians.”
– How long does the honorable member propose to talk?
– I do not propose to speak at any greater length if honorable members are anxious to get away. The honorable member for Maribyrnong asked what the producers would do without the factories. I think the honorable member ought to ask what the factories would da without the producers. This Parliament should no longer be prepared to accept the- shibboleth of protection as the “accepted policy of Australia”; it should be prepared to listen to sound arguments and to see how different policies work out. I hope, also, that the people of Australia will not be afraid to face the problems when they are made manifest to them.
. ; The honorable (member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has a very weak argument when he claims that the decrease in the number of miners employed in Australia from 105,000 a few years ago to 65,000 at the present time is due to the operation of the tariff. He knows that in every state in the Commonwealth the principal mines have petered out, and that it is this fact alone that is responsible for the decrease in mining operations. He knows, also, that the- Australian miner can produce as cheaply as can the blacks on the Rand, and his remarks upon the cost of production here are really a reflection on Australia.
However, this is grievance day, and, as usual, I have a bundle of grievances to bring forward. Talk of mining brings me to the question of’ unemployment in the Territory. It is within a month or two of 100 years since settlement was first attempted in the northern portion of the Northern Territory. What progress has been made there ? It cannot be claimed that the potentialities of the Territory are not good. It contains some of the greatest mining possibilities in Australia, but they are mostly inaccessible. If the mining industry is to be developed it is the duty of the Government to- play a conspicuous part by assisting prospectors in the north, thus considerably relieving the unemployed in the constituency I represent. Under present conditions if a bona fide prospector goes to the Mines Department he is told- that there is no money available to help him, and he is referred to the- primary producers. The latter may “ stake “ him for a period, but with no guarantee for any fixed term. Consequently these pioneers of the mining industry are obliged to operate close to the railway line, with the result that other portions of the Territory where there is mineral wealth have-not yet been more than scratched. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) is interested in a big proposition which would be employing thousands of hands if it were in another part of Australia, but, owing to its remoteness, it is a question whether the value of the yield would cover working costs. In view of the fact that there are -hundreds of men unemployed in the Northern Territory, it is the duty of the Government to push on with the construction of railways there, and thus make the great mineral belts accessible, or at least help to reduce the cost of mining operations. For the last few years rations have been doled out to the .unemployed in the Territory. It is one of the most degrading systems ever introduced in a British community. Putting able-bodied men on a paltry ration of 10s. or 15s. a week is a policy that will not help to build up any portion of the Empire. Why is the problem not tackled in a statesmanlike manner by placing money on the Estimates to enable men to do something useful in the matter of primary production? The issuing of rations is used by officialdom in the Northern Territory as a sledgehammer. Officials are acting as a recruiting bureau for coloured labour to the detriment of white labour. There is a mixed population in the Territory. Many of the people are Malays, a very fine type, who have been residing there for 30 or 40 years, and are capable of doing the average work performed by Australians; but as they are starving, the Government officials, who are doling out the rations, are offering them work with various employers at a rate which is considerably below the standard paid to white men. If these Malays refuse -to accept work at the wages offered, their rations are cut off. It is a bad look-out for the white standard of Australia if the cruellest of all weapons, the threat of starvation, is to be used to compel unfortunate coloured people to compete against white men at .reduced rates of pay. These facts were placed before Mr. Justice Powers when he was recently -in the Northern Territory.
I have already ventilated several grievances in this House. A few days ago, I mentioned the fact that responsible ‘Government heads . have been trying to pack the bench of justices, and yet no cognizance is taken of it by the Government. As a matter of fact, it seems to be condoned. In the Territory, if you are not in the inner circle of the Administration, you are more or less condemned. I recently heard -of a case in which, with the knowledge of the Home and Territories Department, a leper who happened to be in the inner circle was allowed to come south and get .away to America. Anything can be done in the Northern Territory, and the Home and Territories Department aja.d the Administration close their eyes.
I make a final appeal on behalf of the -nurses in the hospital at Darwin. One nurse ‘was accused of most dastardly conduct, and because she asked for .an enquiry, the Minister very conveniently took the line of least resistance by sacking both accuser and accused. In every possible way the Government are shirking their duty, not only in regard to the development of the Territory, but also in regard to the conditions under which the people live there. They are making it very difficult for .any one who is not prepared to cringe and crawl to the Administration. It is an intolerable state of affairs, and it is as well that the people of Australia should know what is happening. If any one who has been .prominent in asking for reform in the Territory happens to contract leprosy, I guarantee he will be isolated on the island where lepers are kept. These are matters - particularly the interference with the judiciary - that should receive the immediate attention of the Government. The action of the head of the Government departments in packing the “bench of justices was one of the most damnable things any government could condone. No step is taken to support the judge of the Supreme Court, who has had on two occasions to rebuke the Government Secretary. I bring these matters forward now, because I have no other .opportunity to do so, and because I want the Northern Territory to be administered so that justice will not depend on friendship, -but will be administered purely according to the merits of the case. If the Minister for Home and. Territories would investigate matters for himself instead of taking the advice of the Administrator, or friends of the Administration, and if he would support the judge in the Northern Territory it would create a better feeling there. When the judiciary of a country is tampered with the door is opened to all sorts of corruption. That is why I bring these matters forward, and I am most of all anxious to bring under the notice of the Minister the unemployment that now exists in the Territory.
– The policy of protection is too firmly implanted in the hearts of the Australian public to be injured by the petty attacks of three honorable members in this House. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has frequently asked questions about wire netting, but only in reference to the imposition of dumping duties. Every farmer in the honorable member’s constituency has been anxiously waiting to enjoy the great grant of money which the Commonwealth Parliament made to assist the man upon the land to buy wire netting. I have asked questions with a view to expediting the distribution of netting, and I have received no help except from the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). The representatives of Swan and Forrest have never raised even their little fingers to help the farmers in Western Australia. The wire-netting grant was one of the most generous actions standing to the credit of any Parliament within my recollection. An amount of £43,340 was made available for the farmers of Western Australia who wanted to purchase wire netting for protection against rabbits, and the advance is to be without interest, and repayable over a long term of years. The money was first made available by the Commonwealth Government on the 19th July of last year ; but, while the honorable members for Swan and Forrest have been attacking the dumping duties on wire netting, I alone have kept before the Government the necessity for speeding up the delivery of netting to the settlers. I realize that the Mitchell Government in Western Australia was wholly to blame for the delay that has occurred, and I am glad to say that it was recently swept out of office. The State Government departments were actually preventing the farmers from getting the wire netting. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), whose assistance I appreciate, and I repeatedly rang up the Government offices in Perth when I was there in January last, but I received no help from the honorable members for Swan and Forrest. I am tired of their continual complaints about dumping duties, when they know that the Minister, who is a good protectionist, is merely carrying out the fiscal policy laid down by this Parliament. Why do not the honorable members submit their case to a vote in this House, and so bring it to finality? I am prepared to debate with them their attitude on the wirenetting grant before an audience in any centre of the Western Australian wheat belt, and with a quotation from Hansard I will confound both of them. According to the last information I received from the Minister for Trade and Customs, 55 applications from Western Australia, representing an amount of only £11,000, had been approved. A further batch of 44 applications was due, and the Minister promised to endeavour to expedite, by telegraph, their consideration. The farmers were anxious that wire netting should be available before their seed came above the ground. At that stage of the crop it is very hard on the farmers if the rabbits are uncontrolled. The State Government was warned of the urgency of this matter in January and February, and also in March, when the seed was coming up. I pressed strongly the claims of a number of farmers at Kondinning, but I received no assistance from the honorable member for Swan.
– I am attending to the demands in my own electorate.
– I am willing to debate the matter with the honorable member in any centre of the wheat belt in Western Australia.
– I am not pleased with the conditions, and certainly not with the actions of the State Government.
– But the honorable member did not help me when I was in Perth in January and February.
– I was in Perth at Christmas, but not in February.
– The honorable member did not help me at all, although I saw him in Perth.
– I was a member of a royal commission, and was too busy to attend to other than commission work.
– The honorable member could very easily have telephoned to the state public offices, especially when he knew that the farmers urgently required the netting. I do not think the majority of them will support his freetrade policy of helping the, foreigner and trying to beat down Australian wages. What happens to? the. unfortunate men, who have to go into the country, to. work:?. One young, blacksmith who earned £3) 10s. a week, working nine hours a day in England was being paid only 25s. per. week at Kondinning,. and was working longer hours.
– The exactions by city interests make impossible the payment of. good wages in the country.
– Any- excuse is better than none-.. The honorable member would object to niggers having good food.. Another man received only 15s. per week. These instances do not occur only in Western Australia. I was in the “Kelly” country of Victoriaonly a few weeks ago, and met two young motor mechanics of so fine a type that L would have been proud” to call either of them my son. One had been earning £4 5s. a week in England, and the other £315s. a week.. They were sent to jobs in the district outside Benalla. Although they had not enough money to pay. for a meal they were well clothed and had good luggage, which was evidence that they had known more prosperous times. Those men were paid 15s. per week.
– They would receive higher wages if they were working at Sunshine. I am glad of the help the honorable member is giving me.
– God give the honorable member sense, as I am trying to do. I am opposed to the reduction of wages. The honorable member for Forrest would be glad to have- his wheatfields worked by men receiving 10s. per week if he could compel the acceptance of such a wage. He and the honorable member for Swan have not done their duty in connexion with the wirenetting grant.
Me. Prowse. - He is a wise man. who attends to his own business.
– Have I no right to speak on behalf of the farmers? Let the honorable member: meet me at Kondinning, and hear what the farmers will say to him . It was at their request that I took the matter up, and I have been assured by them that they are very proud of the action which I took. They certainly are not proud of the attitude of the honorable member for Forrest Longago. I stated that protection, to the manufacturer without protection to the employee- in this matter I follow the direction given by the late Judge Higin botham, who eliminated the words “ master “ and “‘servant “’ and substituted in their stead’ “ employer “ and “employee” - anda list price for the citizen purchasing’ the product, was little better than a farce. Protection for the employee means that he must be ensured’ a living wage. The wheat farmer, I admit, does not always get whathe is entitled to expect. I know that on some occasions wheat has been sold as low as 2s. 3d. per bushel, butI have it on the authority of a wellknown wheat farmer that wheat at 4’s. 6d. a bushel at railway stations should be profitable to any farmer who carrieson his business properly. Any man who cannot make wheat-growing pay at 4s. ought to get out of the business.
– Would, not a. great deal depend upon the yield and the seasons?-
– The honorablemember must know, surely, that, although there may be a drought in one part, the same conditions do not prevail’ over the whole of Australia. Someyears ago,when, the Minister for Works and-“ Railways (Mr. Stewart) was nearly “ blanked out “ by an awful drought in the Wimmera, conditions in other parts of. Australia were fairly satisfactory. An average of 4s. per bushel should be, in my opinion, a. fair return to the wheat farmer. The miller should be allowed a fair price for gristing, and he should not be permitted to withhold flour from any baker, as was done in the case of. an Elsternwick. baker who: was selling bread at a fair price. Every miller should be licensed., and if he refuses, without good reason, to supply flour to a baker, his licence should be cancelled. The baker, for his part, - should be prepared to supply bread at bed-rock prices, allowing, of course-, for a reasonable profit, over the counter, and charge what his customers care to give for delivery, which, as all honorable members Know, represents a substantial proportion of his overhead expenses. Honorable members will no doubt be interested to know that bakers force tin loaves on their customers for the reason that, compared with a French or cottage loaf, they mean a saving of 2. oz. of’ dough per 4-lb. loaf. In other words, a baker can produce a 4-lb. tin: loaf out of 4 lb. 2 oz. of dough as compared with 4 lb. 4 oz. of dough required for the production of a French or cottage loaf. In closing, I suggest that honorable members should study the volume which I hold in my hand - Kelly’s Customs Tariffs of the World. I only wish that Australia was advanced enough to have a tariff equal to that of the United States of America or of the Empire of Japan.
Question resolved in the negative.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn, I should like to set out for the information of honorable members the present position with regard to long-distance wireless, and the possibility of establishing direct wireless communication between Australia and Great Britain. Honorable gentlemen will remember that the necessity for an empire wireless system was discussed fully at the Imperial Conference in 1921, and as a result, the report of the Norman committee of experts was adopted by the members of the conference, excepting the representatives of Australia. The Norman committee reported that long-distance wireless over a distance exceeding 2,000 miles was not a practical or commercial proposition. Australia dissented from that view, and stated that she would mako her own arrangements for long-distance wireless. In December, 1921, there was submitted to this House an agreement under which the Commonwealth Government was to acquire a majority of the shares in the Amalgamated Wireless Company (Australasia). The company undertook to erect a long-distance wireless station in Australia capable of communicating with Great Britain, and also to make arrangements for reciprocal long-distance stations in both Great Britain and Canada. That agreement was referred by the House to a special committee. After it had been considered by the committee and substantially altered, it was adopted in March, 1922. The amended agreement provided that certain services were to be guaranteed by the Amalgamated Wireless Company. The station to be erected was to be capable of maintaining communication throughout 300 days of every year on a basis of 20 words per minute each way for twelve hours a day. The agreement also provided guarantees of such a nature and of such amounts as were approved by the Commonwealth representative on the board. After the agreement had been made, tenders were invited -for the erection of the station, and in September, 1923, that of the Marconi Company was accepted. The price asked for was approximately £480,000; and the tenderer undertook to erect a long-distance wireless station in Australia, with a guarantee as to the number of words per hour and the number of working days. He also undertook the obligation of providing reciprocal stations in Great Britain and Canada. The obligation to provide a reciprocal station in Great Britain, of course, presupposed the possibility of getting a licence for a private company to erect such a station. Mr. Bonar Law, who was at that time Prime Minister of Great Britain, in March, 1923, made the statement in the House of Commons that licences would be issued to private individuals for the erection of a long-distance wireless station. Negotiations were opened up with the British Government, but difficulties supervened, and ultimately it was found impossible to obtain such a licence. When in Britain last year, I had long negotiations with the then Postmaster-General, with the late British Government, and with the present British Government, but, unfortunately, no finality was reached. The position was thought to be so difficult that, early in the present year, a committee was appointed, known as the Donald committee, to report on what action the British Government should take in regard to the provision of a long-distance wireless station . in Great Britain. The committee’s report was to the effect that the Government itself should retain control of all such stations, and that no licence for their erection should be issued to any private firm or company. That recommendation was adopted by the British Government. The position then arose that the undertaking of the Marconi Company with the Amalgamated Wireless Company for the erection of a station in Great Britain could not be given effect, as it was not possible for any one to obtain a licence to erect a station there. The Government was thus faced with the position that it had entered into an arrangement for the erection of a station in Australia and a reciprocal station in Britain. As, however, the latter part of the undertaking was not practical, we considered whether we should allow the Amalgamated Wireless Company to proceed with, the erection of the station in Australia, and relieve it of its obligation to erect a station in Great Britain. The Government concluded that it could safely do that, because the British Government had indicated that it proposed to proceed with the erection of a long-distance station, which would be capable of giving reciprocal service to Australia. The only disadvantage of that arrangement, as far as Australia was concerned, was that under the agreement’ that the Amalgamated Wireless Company had entered into with the Marconi Company, guarantees for the service of the British station were given similar to those, for the service of (the Australian station; also, there were traffic arrangements embodied in the original agreement which were satisfactory from the Australian point of view. Before the Government had finally decided to bring the question before the House, a complete revolution took place in the whole situation. The beam system, as it is known, was suddenly discovered to be practical for long-distance wireless communication That system operates on a wave length of about 100 metres, whereas the long-distance station that we proposed to erect operates upon a wave length of 20,000 metres. Consequently the Government had again to address itself to this question. We communicated very fully with the British Government, and received all the information we could obtain from them concerning the beam system. The opinion, of the British Government experts was that the beam system was unquestionably capable of communicating over the distance between Australia and Great Britain, but that the number of hours in the day during which communication could be made was probably limited to seven out of the twentyfour. The British Government said that it was prepared to erect a reciprocal station if Australia should decide to proceed with a beam station.
We had then to decide whether we should proceed with the high-powered station as originally contemplated, or with a beam station, or whether we should construct the two stations concurrently. After fully considering the matter, the Government decided that the most advisable course was to proceed with the erection of the beam station. The British Government advised us to proceed with the erection of both, for the reason that the beam station would be capable of communication only for a limited number of hours in the day, and we could unquestionably obtain more continuous communication with a highpowered station. The British Government’s other reason for asking that we should erect both stations was that from the beam system directional and not broadcasting wireless is obtained. For defence purposes - for example, communicating over a wide stretch of sea with a fleet whose position was unknown - the beam station would be practically valueless, but the broadcasting system would be capable of such communication. After fully considering the matter, the Government concluded that these reasons were not sufficient to justify the erection of a broadcasting station, which would cost very nearly £500,000.
– Was the British Government prepared to erect a reciprocal high-powered station?
– It is doing that in any case, and such a station has been in course of erection for a considerable time. The Government was inclined to think that the view taken by the British Government experts on this question was likely to be lacking in breadth of vision, because, in 1921, the opinion of the Norman committee was that ‘long-distance .wireless was not suitable for practical and commercial purposes beyond 2,000 miles. Within two years of that definite opinion being given, it was demonstrated beyond question that long-distance wireless communication could be carried out with absolute certainty over a distance such as that between Australia and Great Britain. The Government, in the light of the recent and amazing developments in wireless, feels that a station costing £480,000, taking at least two years to construct, might, before its completion, he obsolete. As it is possible to obtain a service through the beam system to meat, que requirements, the Government believes, that it will be better to proceed at this- stage- with, a- beam station than with the- larger project of. a high-powered . wireless’ station’. Owing to. the short wave- length employed, in- the beam system, in the seven hoursof the day during which, it is. able to> operate we shall obtain a service giving, at least one and a half times the number of. words that are included in the guarantee for the long-distance station-. The, actual word, capacity of a beam station,, even with limited hours of. working,, will be one-half as great again, as- the. word, capacity, anticipated from a highpower station. Another factor, which has weighed’ very much with the Government is that the cost of a beam, station, will not. be one-fourth of the cost of a high.-power station, but probably less. A beam station, could’ be erected in from six to nine months, whilst a high-power station would take at least two years to construct. The Government feel that a beam station will, give as good a service, in fact. even, better, than we anticipated’ receiving, at onefourth of file coat. No one can forecast wireless development within the next few years. If. it should! be anything approaching, that of . the last, few years, there will unquestionably be further improvements in the beam- system-. A beam station will probably do all the wor£ which- a high-power station is capable of doing- to-day. This matter1 will, of course, be Brought before Parliament in a measure- which will be shortly introduced. The present position in regard.’ to a beam station is- somewhat similar to- that which existed when we entered into the- original agreement in regard to a high-power station, although them is considerably more certainty now. In the- arrangement into- which the- Government con-template entering; we propose following, the- course adopted, kit connexion with the high-power station,, and; shall require a minimum! guaranteed,- capacity forth©, station;, and- shall secure the- necessary guarantees, to- safeguard ourselves if. the - station,, when, completed-,, does not, give- the- service- anticipated’. The British. Government has. indicated that it will- provide- a. reciprocal station in Great Britain if we decide, to proceed, with, a beam station- in Australia. “We have. ‘ indicated to die- British Government. that. we. propose to do so/ and. 1 understand that the; British. Prime Minister is making: a- statement to that effect in the* House, of Commons to-day.
– Is- it- to be controlled by the Government?
– The British- Governments station’ will, be- erected by the- Marconi Company as- contractors) but it will he- under the control of” the British Government. The only other matter1 we have to1 adjust with the British authorities regards the traffic- rates to- Be charged’. In- Australia we shall- adhere to- the basis- laid down in the original agreement; but in that we stated the rate to be charged1 for messages, because we were to have control at both ends. Under the proposed new arrangement, the British Government will have’ control in Great Britain and the Commonwealth Government in Australia, consequently- the actual cost of messages will’ depend upon what the British Government charge. The only chargewhich the- Amalgamated Wireless Company will make, for messages sent from Australia, will’ be based upon the original charges, embodied* in the first agreement, under which, we- were to- have- control at both ends. We shall endeavour to obtain1 from the British Government terms equally favorable to those which we’ would have, had under the- original agreement. The original’ traffic arrangements were favorable to Australia, as they were’ baaed: upon a division of the1 profits of the whole system, but that, is not the. usual method of working.. They are generally computed) upon, the1 businesssupplied; at either end. I am; hopeful; that we shalL be able- to obtain: from tho. British. Government an- agreement, asfavorable as. we- had under the original arrangement’.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) if he will comply with a request I made some time ago; - he promised to make a. statement to the House - and’ state what action the Government propose to take in regard to the amount of £92,000, 000. owing by the Commonwealth, to Great Britain. I am desirous of hav-ing the information, so that ‘the matter’ can be discussed when the budget is under consideration. :
Question, resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned, at 10.51. p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240724_reps_9_107/>.