9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I noticed in the Gazette I received to-day certain classifications by the Public Service Board. I ask the Prime Minister whether honorable members will be given an opportunity, on the Public Service Bill, which, I understand, will be received from another place, of discussing the merits of the classifications that have taken place.
– The bill, which has been considered in another place, will be submitted to this House. The Government has included in that measure a provision dealing with the question of classification.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if he will make immediate inquiry regarding the dumping of Austrian-made chairs in Australia. The inf ormation I have is that if this dumping continues the Australian industry must go, and a great number of members of a union and others working in the industry will be out on the streets looking for a job. Will the Minister use his best endeavour to stop the dumping of Austrianmade chairs if it is found that it is taking place?
– This particular matter was brought under my notice when I was last in Sydney. I promised that if the trade would make representations I should have the matter promptly and fully inquired into. I shall do so if what I ask is done.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whetherhe would supply the following information : -
Number of personswho subscribed to the Superannuation Fund instituted by the Superannuation Act 1922 during the financial year ended 30th June, 1924?
Total amount paid into the fund by subscribers during the financial year ended 30th June, 1924?
Number of persona (subscribers) who received pensions from this fund during year ended 30th June, 1924?
Total amount paid out in pensions during year ended 30th June, 1924?
Total amount subscribedby the Commonwealth Government to this fund during year ended 30th June, 1924?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr.FENTON (for Mr. Scullin) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total amount of land tax owing to the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1924?
What amount of this was due onCrown leasehold’s?
What amount was due on freehold land?
– The information is being obtained.
Exports to Java
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Nothing is known of this matter ; but inquiries will be made,
Mr.GABB asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the amount of excise duty collected on spirit manufactured from 1 ton of Doradilla grapes, according to departmental estimate?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Acting Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House the file of correspondence and documents relative to the purchase of ex-enemy ships?
– Action is being taken to lay on the table of the Library the papers referred to by the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the statement recently made by him that Dr. Cumpston, the Director-General of Health, is visiting America and Europe, will the Minister instruct him. to make inquiries, and report on M. Spahlinger’s claims in connexion with the treatment and cure of tuberculosis ?
– During the sittings of the Imperial Economic Conference, the British Government appointed a committee representative of all parts of the
Empire to act as soon as M. Spahlinger was prepared to place before it details of his reported cure for tuberculosis. Australia is a party to that arrangement. Dr. Cumpston has been instructed to get in touch with the British authorities on this subject when in London.
Agreement for Construction
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Resignation of Office-keeper.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When will the proposed amendment of the Superannuation Act be introduced to extend the benefits of superannuation to certain Commonwealth officers taken over from a State Service, but who were not ten years in the Commonwealth Public Service at death or retirement?
– The proposed amendment is being considered, together with other suggested amendments of the Superannuation Act, and it is hoped that it will be possible to introduce the necessary legislation at an early date.
Relations with AmalgamatedWireless Limited.
– On the 17th July, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) asked a. number of questions dealing with the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the connexion between that company and the Australectric Limited. I do not propose to answer the honorable member’s rather lengthy list of questions seriatim, but the various points raised by him are covered in the following statement: -
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is a joint stock trading company in which the Commonwealth Government is a shareholder to the extent of half the shares, while there are individual shareholders of an equal holding - except for a bare majority to the Government - who have subscribed money for their shares on the understanding that the company is engaged in commercial dealings carried out upon commercial lines. The directors of the company are as follows: -
Sir William Vicars.
Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes.
Managing Director: E. T. Fisk, Esq.
Amalgamated Wireless Limited, before the
Commonwealth joined as a shareholder, had invested approximately £30,000 in the Australectric branch of the business. And here it may be definitely repeated that Australectric Limited is owned by Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and it is, and always has been, no more and no less than a branch or department of the parent company. The statements submitted to the Parliamentary Wireless Committee showed that, at the 30th June, 1021, Amalgamated Wireless had advanced £17,000 to Australectric Limited. At December, 1021, three months before the Government undertook to take shares, the total sum guaranteed by Amalgamated Wireless, including bank overdraft, was £28,600; while the balance-sheet for the 30th June, 1022, showed the amount due then to Amalgamated Wireless . tohave been £30,000. After the board was reconstituted it was decided that the Amalgamated Wireless Company should hold shares to represent the sums advanced to Australectric Limited, and, in. order to meet this, 30,000 shares were issued. Australectric Limited is entirely controlled by the parent company, as indicated in the replies to previous questions asked by the honorable member, under the direction of the board and the managing director of Amalgamated Wire- less Limited. Neither the managing director nor any of the other directors receive any remuneration whatever from Australectric Limited. This department has not been wholly profitable, due in the main to sharp depreciation in market values and a general slump in business, though now it indicates improvement, and the business isbeing continued along the same lines as when it was inaugurated. With reference to the seven odd shares - that is, £7 out of a total of £30,007- these are held by nominees in order to comply with the Companies Act. In the ordinary conduct of a company’s business no shareholder would be furnished with details concerning the operations of the company, particularly in regard to such that might convey to competitors information which might be used to the detriment of the company’s business. Nor would such information be given if asked for at an ordinary general meeting of the shareholders. Means are provided under the Companies Act for special inquiry, but such are but rarely used, and only in extreme cases of dissatisfaction among the shareholders as to the general conduct of the company’s affairs. I am advised by the chairman, Amalgamated Wireless Limited, that, while the board:has always been willing to endeavour to make clear the general position of the company’s business for the information of Parliament, particularly in view of the public nature of the services the company seeks to render, they consider that, in fairness to the interests of all the shareholders, they should not be called upon to answer questions - irregular under company procedure - in respect of matters of details of the company’s transactions and affairs.
– On the 9th July, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the following question : -
What has been the total cost to the Government of installing the automatic telephone system in Australia?
The following is the reply: -
The total cost of the automatic exchange switching equipment installed in the Commonwealth up to date is £935,000.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 113.
In committee (Consideration resumed , from 6th August, vide page 2879), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under division 1 - the Parliament - namely “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- I compliment the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) upon the expedition with which he has introduced the budget this year, thus giving Parliament the opportunity to consider the state of the finances at an, early date, when some practical purpose may be served thereby. Generally speaking, the budget is a creditable one, but there are aspects of the financial position which do not leave room for congratulation upon the progress that is being made in Australia to-day. I feel satisfied that I fairly interpret the opinion of the Australian people when I say that in the middle and in the later years of the war the general belief was that if victory rested with our arms, . even though we had to subsist upon bread and dripping, we should be fortunate. The war ended victoriously for the Allies, and the greatest surprise to the people of Australia has been that they have been able to live upon something much more substantial than bread and dripping. We have been living in comparative affluence since the termination of the war, and that has given rise to the belief in some quarters that the aftermath of the war has been a good thing for us. It behoves us to- seek the reason for this affluence. In my opinion it is to be found in the fact that we have received from many sources morney that cannot be regarded as the natural income of Australia. In the first place there was the back pay which was received by the soldiers and circulated throughout Australia. Then the Commonwealth Parliament decided to make a gratuity to the returned men, the total sum involved being approximately £25,000,000. The next decision of the Government was to construct war service homes for the returned soldiers, and that resulted in the circulation of an additional £18,000,000. The wheat and wool pools provided another source of income. The price of wool soared far beyond the most sanguine expectations., But if it had not been for the recent rise in- the price of wheat, wool would now provide practically the only source of income upon which we could rely. Therefore, it must be manifest that since the war Australia has been enjoying an evanescent prosperity, and we must seriously consider the manner in which future events are likely to shape themselves. It must not be forgotten that our loans have been floated at a fairly low rate of interest. The dead weight obligation to which Australia is committed at present by way of interest amounts to approximately £50,000,000 per annum. An examination of the true trading of Australia discloses the fact that during last year our imports exceeded our exports by £21,000,000. The Treasurer has brought forward an accumulated surplus of approximately £10,000,000. That, however, does not in any way indicate prosperity. An eminent physician on one occasion said, “ When I was at the front I had occasion to treat men who, from wounds, had lost a large amount of blood. To save their lives a transfusion of blood from healthy persons was necessary.” But one may liken Australia to an anaemic, almost bloodless, person transferring blood from his right hand to his left, and losing a portion of it in the process. The question for us to consider is whether Australia is, from a business stand-point, making reasonable headway. We hear the complaint from a section in this chamber that thousands of men are out of employment. We hear another section saying, “We mUSt cease importing.” The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), before he assumed office, made an outcry about our unsatisfactory financial position. He said that we were not balancing our ledger, that the rate of exchange was against us, and that the volume of OU] imports was too large. Still another section says, “ We must impose a higher tariff.” For the last three or four years the highest tariff that Australia has ever had has been operative. It is possibly the highest average tariff in the world. Protection has been the policy of the country for many years. I invite honorable members to say candidly why, in their opinion, it has not worked as well as they thought it would. We are importing many millions of pounds worth of goods every year, and, notwithstanding that we have afforded our own manufacturers high protection, men are unemployed in every state in the Commonwealth. If our tariff wall is of benefit to us, why have not our manufacturing industries made greater progress? The fact of the matter is that because of our restrictive legislation the natural development of the country has been hindered, and the burden of our protective policy has fallen so heavily upon those who produce for export that they can no longer meet competition abroad. The higher the tariff we impose, the lower will become the exporting capacity of our people, and the time will come when their ability to export will be completely paralysed. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) said yesterday that he did not like the price fixation policy, but thought that the law of supply and demand should prevail. I thoroughly agree with him. What is more to the point, I claim to be consistent in my attitude, but in view of the position that the honorable member has taken in regard to our industrial and commercial activities, I cannot say that he is consistent. A few days ago the subject of the stabilization of the butter industry was debated in this chamber, and a proposal was made to fix the price of butter. The honorable member for Bass objected to that. If he believes in the operation of the law of supply and demand in respect to the sale of primary products, he should be willing to allow it to fix the price of labour. When labour is plentiful, it should be cheap, and when it is scarce it should be dear. He should also permit the law of supply and demand to govern the price of farming machinery. If he is unwilling to fix the price of the products pf the farm, he should not set out, by means of a high tariff, to fix the price of the farmers’ machinery. The tariff is unquestionably placing our people in the hands of combines. The law of supply and demand is not recognized, except in so far as it affects our primary products. In no sense does it apply to the workers or the manufacturers of Australia. If our primary producers were given the same measure of protection as we grant to our secondary producers, Australia’s position would become worse still. But if we are to persist in the policy of protection, it will be only fair to apply it to our primary producers as well as to other sections of the community. I submit that the protectionist policy is not in the interests of Australian development. It will never increase our population to an appreciable extent. Until we reverse it, we shall never be able to employ many more people in Australia, or prevent unemployment. The effect of the policy is well illustrated by the condition of the boot-making industry. It is now impossible to employ another man- in the bootmaking trade for the simple- reason that the internal requirements of Australia are being met, and the cost of production makes it impossible for our boot manufacturers to build up an export trade. The industry is at a stand-still, for it has been built up by hot-house methods, and is in no sense established on a competitive basis.
In the next two years, Australia will be obliged to renew loans of approximately £70,000,000. It will be impossible to renew them at the rate of interest now being paid. We shall be obliged to pay at least per cent, more per annum, and to that extent will increase our dead-weight recurring obligations. It must be obvious to honorable members that, in order to meet this obligation, we shall have to produce more, and we shall never be able to do so by taking in one another’s washing. My views on fiscal matters are not those of the majority of honorable members, but I should be lacking in my public duty if I failed candidly to express them. I disagree with the fiscal policy of the country, but I trust that that will cause no offence to honorable members generally, for I entertain no feeling of ill will towards those who disagree with me. I am firmly convinced that if Australia is to develop she must make a genuine attempt to enter the world’s markets on a competitive basis. That she is not doing so is demonstrated clearly by the sugar industry. Our Protectionist policy has so encouraged the sugar-growers that they, are now growing more than sufficient sugar for Australia’s needs. According to a recent press statement, the surplus this year will be, approximately, 50,000 tons. It is estimated that that quantity will have to be sold for export at, approximately, £500,000 less than the Australian . price. We have thus reached the stage when, to produce more sugar will not only seriously handicap our people, but will also oblige our producers to sell it to foreigners at less than the local price. That is putting a hair shirt on ourselves. Some days ago, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) moved a motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss the position of the marble industry. He desired the Government to prohibit the importation of white marble, for, he said, white marble of excellent quality was procurable from Australian, and particularly Queensland, quarries. The reference was not to coloured marble. There could be no reference to that, because very little of it is imported, and what is imported is very much dearer than the local coloured marble, which is of excellent quality. I did not know much technically about the marble business, but I saw the drift of the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia, and others who believe in protecting everything, no matter how much the cost of living may be increased thereby to the people of Australia. It would be informative . to honorable members if I read a communication I have received from some one whom I do not personally know, but who, .according to the heading of the letter, is an expert in the marble industry. After referring to the debate in the House, and complimenting me on my attitude, he says -
The fact of the matter is that we have not yet discovered good white marble on this continent. There is very little white marble in the whole world outside of Italy. In the past we have had some from America, and, while we occasionally got good pieces, the material as a whole was inferior, and not at all to be compared with the Italian. Had we good, or even fair white marble here, you can depend upon it we would use no other - granted, of course, we could get it at a reasonable price. The question of price is important, because the price governs the purchasing power of the people. At the present time we can buy the Queensland article at about 15s. per foot, while the cheapest Italian is listed at 27s. This should, I think, convince the most bigoted protectionist that the local article is not what it is said to be.
The writer spent a lot of time and money trying to find the local article, but, unfortunately, failed. My effort was made at Cow Flat, in the Bathurst district. I lost £700 for my company, and disposed of the bulk of the material for lime burning, for which it was eminently suitable. Another party headed by Mr. Wim. Partridge, builder, of this city, lost over ten thousand pounds in the same way. I emphatically declare that, so far, we have not yet found a commercial white marble.
A lot was said during the debate about the Australian marble used in buildings here and in Melbourne. This statement is quite correct so far as it goes, but it should have been explained that it is coloured marble. We have lots of coloured stuff, and some of it is very good - so good, that it has put all imported coloured marbles out of the market, and it was coloured, not white, marble, that was used in Australia House, London. If the marble is correct, there is no need for a tariff to protect it. If it is inferior, no tariff will compel people to use it. By shutting foreign white marble out of the market we will never compel people to use the local article, and any attempt will have the effect of throwing a great body of marble workers out of employment.
In an average quarry a real good price for quarrying is 2s. 6d. per cubic foot at the quarry. At the present time -the . price of Italian marble is from 12s. to 30s. per cubic foot, according to quality, at Carrara Quarries. I am quite prepared to take a contract to quarry the Queensland stone at 2s. 6d. per cubic foot. Provided I have the use of the quarry, I am prepared to pay for the use of the plant on the ground. Wages to-day are higher than they were during the war. When the Ulam (Queensland) people found that we could not get Italian supplies , (except at fabulous prices, they jumped their stuff up to something like 30s. per foot. Those- were the days when we were paying as high as £15 per ton freight from Italy, and the patriots who are now shrieking took full advantage of the situation. It was not a case of what the material cost them, it was how much could they make us pay - their -troubles if they threw hundreds of men out of work. Now when that tune won’t be heard they try another.
Most of the imported white marble is used for gravestones. For that purpose Ulam is quite unsuitable; no better evidence of this can be shown than the fact that the gentle man (Mr. Forde) who had so much to say in its favour recently erected a monument to the memory of a relative in Brisbane Cemetery. I have seen the work. It is a very good job, executed by A. L. Petrie and Son, in Italian marble - evidently Ulam is good enough for the other fellow.
The cry of “more protection” is too often heard in this Chamber. I hope the statement I have read is incorrect, because if it is correct it discloses one of the most flagrant piece of hyprocrisy ever known here. Tombstones are not easily removed, so the statement should be capable of proof or disproof. It is not made on hearsay, for the writer of the letter states that, he has inspected the work of which he writes. The letter proceeds as follows : -
The tariff has destroyed our mining industry; tens of thousands of men have been thrown out of employment, and are kept out of profitable employment. Our agriculturists are in a bad way, so bad that if Russia again became a factor in the world’s wheat market we here in Australia would have to confine our wheat-growing to provide for local consumption only. Under the present tariff we cannot hope to -grow or manufacture for export. Fortunately, our wool is bringing a great price in the markets of the world - long may it continue to do so - for were a slump in wool to take place we would have to face serious consequences.’ The theory that we should send all our goods away and accept nothing in return is, perhaps, the most stupid thing ever discussed.
I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) will have the subject thoroughly inquired into, with a view to preventing another unprofitable business battening on the people of Australia, and hindering genuine progress.
– Much depends on the definition of “ unprofitable business.”
– In my judgment, a business that cannot stand on its feet, but has to get on the backs of the Australian producers and drag them down, must be styled an “ unprofitable business.” Some honorable members, and notably the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), seem to think that the employment of labour is the only consideration. They do not consider the competitive needs of an industry. I ask the honorable member for Maribyrnong to enter into a debate on this subject with the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Senator Gardiner), for if he and his party would give more attention to the doctrines of that honorable senator, unemployment in Australia would be decreased, our exports would be doubled, if not trebled, and we shouldhave a better chance of manufacturing all the things we require. Protectionists are making such haste in putting the cart before the horse that there is no real progress. Sir George Knibbs said the other day that this country must choose between living frugally with a big population, or stylishly with a small one. We refer to the Australian standard as “high,” and some honorable members harp continually on that theme. When the standard is examined, however, it is seen to be low. A standard that prevents us from com- peting with other nations is certainly low. The labouring man is not better off than, he was. fie has more of the kind of money that is turned out by the printing machine, but he has to spend 36s. now to buy what 20s. wouldbuy in 1914. What is important to him is not so much the amount of the money he gets, but the purchasing power of the medium of exchange. Viewed from the stand-point of the things we can purchase for our money, we are on a low and continually declining standard. If instead of buying and selling by means of a gold and silver currency we employed a system of exchanging commodities directly, I should require to give about fifteen bags of wheat for a suit of clothes, which I used to be able to obtain for six bags. We must take into consideration the purchasing power of what we receive for our labour or our goods. The result of our vaunted high standard of wages and living is that we cannot produce anything at a price at which it can be sold abroad. Fortunately, the sheep do not go on strike, and so long as they are fed the wool will grow. No credit is due to the Australian people for the fact that the price of wool in the world’s markets has risen, and we are fortunate in enjoying that advantage; but the position of the other products by which Australia lives and by which its purchasing power is regulated is different. Take wheat, for instance. Last year we sowed 100,000 acres less than in the previous year. The cost of wheat-farming has become so great that it is an unattractive business; there is no interest in the development of wheat-growing, and, accordingly, the in dustry drops back. To-day Australia’s credit from overseas is due almost solely to wool. I, in common with other honorable members, would like to see the secondary industries developed, but they cannot live without prosperous primary industries, and if by our present policy we kill the primary industries we shall eventually kill the secondary industries also. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was told in the House a few days ago that there are in Australia three factories manufacturing shovels, and they employ fifteen men. The shovel is an implement of production, and Australia is an agricultural continent. Yet for the protection of three factories, employing fifteen men, a 40 per cent. duty is imposed. If this Parliament is afraid of injuring those fifteen men it would be more profitable to the country to pay each of them£ 1,000 a year to wear out the seat of his pants sitting in idleness, and let the producer ‘have cheaper shovels for the development of the continent. The argument that applies to shovels applies also to other implements and machinery. The only reason why we have unemployment in Australia is thatour present restrictive fiscal policy preventsthe employment of more labour. Senator Gardiner said in another place recently that if Australia would get down to a competitive basis it might employ 5,000,000 or 10,000,000 more people, and give more comfort of body and soul to every person in the community. Operating on our present restricted basis, such a development is impossible.
– That is absolute bunkum, and the honorable member knows it.
– I certainly do not know it, and I amsorry the honorable member thinks it. The Treasurer’s budget speech promised certain amendments of the income tax laws, including an increase of the exemption, which, possibly, is wise, and a reduction in the rate of taxation on the higher incomes. When the consolidating and amending income Tax Assessment Bill was before the last Parliament I endeavoured to have the averaging system placed on am equitable basis. In accordance withthe legislation then enacted people are now taxed on the averaging system, and I wish to show the committee the effect of that system upon the income of one person over the three years affected by it since. That individual has a big income, but honorable members will agree that every taxpayer, whether little or big, should have justice, and the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) pointed out some years ago that l-25th of the taxpayers paid 24-25ths of the income taxation. I shall deal with the case of a person whose income in the first year was £5,000. Under the averaging system, that year’s income was taxed at the rate applicable to £5,000: His income next year was £6,000, and taking the average of the two years, the taxable income was £5,500. In the second year on an income of ,£6,000 he paid income tax on the rate, applicable to £5,500. . The third year he received £800, this being, in effect, a. loss, to such a .man. The ordinary tax on £800 is £30 14s., but under the averaging system applied by the amendment that waa passed in this House the tax imposed was £90. Taking bis income over, three years - £5,000, £6,000, and £800, totalling £11,800- the average was £3;933. Therefore, in the third year the income of £800 was taxed at the rate applicable to £3,9’33, by which three times the ordinary tax was imposed. Instead of paying £30 this person paid £90 in the year when he was almost down and out. The system is inequitable, unwise, and clumsy. In the year when this person had a large income and could afford to pay the tax, he got off lightly, but -in the year when he was down and out he paid three ‘times the rate that should have been applicable to his income. I shall now reverse the position. Another person received in the three years £800, £6,000, and £5,000, his total income being £11,800. In the first year on the income of £800 his- tax was £30 14s. ‘ The next year his income was £6,000, on which he was taxed on an average income of £3,400, and thus in that year he was relieved of one-third ‘of the tax on £6,000. In the third year his income was £5,000, the average being £3,933 for the three years. On that £5,000 he was charged at the rate applicable to £3,933. Thus, while the first of these two persons, who had the same income in three years, paid £1,69-2 in taxes for the three years, the second paid only £1,203. A person receiving a regular income of £3>933 for the three years would have paid £1^339. The first person to whom’ I have referred paid £363 in taxes more than the man with the average income, while the second person paid £4S9 less than the first. These three persons each received a total income over three years of £11,800. i have worked out the following figures on the averaging of income- system, which I (proposed in -this House as. an amendment to the present system. The tax on a regular income in each of three years of £3,933, totalling £11,800, amounts .to £1,339. No one with that income should pay more or less than that tax. Any scheme that, can be devised to put all taxpayers with equal taxable capacity over a number of years on the same basis as persons who derive in the same period the same income in a regular way is desirable. Under the averaging system I propose, the tax on an income of £5,000, £6,000), and £800 over three years would be £1,339 8s., the same as that on the regular income. Reversing the incomes over the three years - £800, £6,000, and £5,000 - again the tax works oust at £1,339 8s. Using a ready reckoner, 1 can work out any income in that way as quickly as the taxation officials, although I do not profess to be a mathematician. There is a manifest injustice being done to the taxpayers under tie law as it stands. I have previously placed .the position before the House, as a reference to Hansard will show. The system has and always will work , out exactly as I have shown. The existing system of averaging incomes is poor . and clumsy. I hope ‘an opportunity will be given to introduce an amendment to place the averaging system on a genuinely equitable basis.
.- I shall confine my remarks exclusively to health matters. I wish to place on record my regret that dyrring the past five years the position, so far as health administration is concerned, has gradually become worse. With the exception of a few officers of the Health Department, no one seems to take much interest in or pay much attention to public health. The Estimates for 1922-3 provided for an expenditure of £122,915, and in the year 1923-4 £116,196 was expended. For the year 1924-5 the amount on the Estimates is £124,480, or an increase over last year of £8,284. In the face of those figures, it would appear as’ if the Government had awakened to the serious position confronting it, but an investigation of the expenditure during the past five years shows that instead of taking an active part in the prevention of disease, the Government has actually decreased the expenditure on health research. If we take out several new items - such as for the investigation of cancer, £5,000; for the tropical institute, £5,000; for the hookworm campaign, £6,200 - it will be seen that the general expenditure in the Department of Health is gradually decreasing. It is not a real department; it is a- sham put up by people who claim that they are attending to the public health, when as a matter of fact they are doing no such thing. We have a vote on the Estimates of £5,000 for cancer research.. ‘ I shall deal with the incidence of the disease later on, but for the moment I say that for the Commonwealth of Australia to make available the paltry sum of £5,000 for cancer research, when the happiness of so many people is at stake, is merely fiddling with the question. Thousands of people are suffering; there is an extremely high mortality and the position cries aloud for attention, but the Government continues quite indifferent to the suffering and to the awful mortality from this disease, most of which is preventable. I had hoped that when the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) became a member of the Government we should have a progressive health policy and a sufficient sum would be spent on investigation, research, and general health administration as to give the Department of Public Health a real standing. We have the nucleus of a very fine department of public health, but apart from the fact that trifling votes “are placed on the Estimates to deal with hook worm, cancer, and other diseases, nothing is being done by the Commonwealth Government in connection with the public health except so far as regards quarantine.
– We have tried to induce the state governments to give us a chance to help them.
– If the honorable gentleman is looking for excuses I have no doubt he will find many. The total vote proposed for the Department of Public Health this year is £124,820, and approximately £100,000 of this amount is to be spent exclusively in connexion with quarantine. When one considers the small amount proposed to be spent by the Commonwealth Govern ment in connexion with the public health, and the lack of co-ordination with the states, which permits such a grave state of affairs to continue, one cannot but conclude that the present and the last Commonwealth Governments never intended to grapple in any but a small way with questions of public health. I have on several previous occasions placed on record statistical matter and certain facts, from, so far as I know, reliable sources, in an endeavour to induce the Government to do something for the preservation, of the public health. I have said that the Health Department is a. sham, because, while it professes to look after the public health, it does no such thing. In order further to impose upon the people, a Ministry of Public Health has been created, and ‘ has been made subordinate to the Trade and Customs Department, which in itself is a man-sized job. To establish a Ministry of Public Health and give the work to the Minister for Trade and Customs, discloses an absolute lack of sincerity in the matter. I propose to submit a few figures in regard to infantile mortality. I do not claim that the whole of the infantile mortality of the Commonwealth is preventable, but I say that at the very least 80 per cent, of it is preventable. During the period 1918-1922, 41,462 children died under the age of one year. In the year 1922, 52.74 per 1,000 children died under the age of one year. . For the period 1918-1922 the mortality amongst children between one year and five years of age was 15,658. Taking the two groups into consideration, the Commonwealth lost in four years 57,120 children. It would be possible to preach a long sermon on this loss of 57,000 potential citizens. We are spending thousands of pounds in advertising and other ways trying to induce people to come from the Old World to Australia, but the amount which the Commonwealth spends to prevent the very great infantile mortality in our midst does not reach even ls. per head. Not’ only is there great suffering from rheumatism, cancer, tuberculosis, and venereal disease, but there is also great economic loss to society from these diseases. In connexion with claims to the invalid pension, Dr. Cumpston investigated very closely the different causes for which invalid pensions are being paid. He states in his analysis that 6,519. persons between the ages of sixteen and forty years are receiving the invalid pension. This represents 28.36 per cent, of the total invalid pensions that are being paid. More than one-fourth of the total invalid pensions paid are given to persons under 40 years of age. Twentyeight per cent, of the cases in the rheumatic group are under 50 years of age. Almost, if not the whole, of the group of 50 years and below tEa’t’ age would, under proper treatment, have been delayed until at least the 60 to 70 years period. One can very easily visualize the economic loss and, more important still, the pain, suffering, and degradation caused in Australia by rheumatism alone. Whilst the whole of it is not preventible, it is delayable for 10, 20, 30, and even up to 40 years with proper treatment. I come now to deal with cancer. There is on the Estimates a vote of £5,000 for cancer research. Australia is in an unenviable position, inasmuch as it is completely lacking in responsibility with regard to this disease, which is one of the three great diseases that take chief toll from society. It is by no means the greatest of the three. Taking them in order, syphilis is a far greater menace to society than either cancer or tuberculosis. Our mortality in Australia each year from venereal diseases is over 7,000. Some years ago a royal commission was appointed, over which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. , Mathews) presided as chairman, and its” report is available to-day. The commission made an estimate of the deaths that occurred from syphilis in Australia. It drew up a schedule based upon sound grounds, and adopted in other countries. If this schedule were applied to the mortality in the Commonwealth in 1914, the statement would read as follows: -
Our statistics do not provide us with a means for ascertaining the mortality that is due to venereal disease. We can only take any known disease and, guided by responsible authorities, determine the relation that exists between it and venereal disease. Investigations that have been carried out exhaustively and rapidly of late years, however, now enable us to estimate the extent to which venereal disease is responsible for other diseases. If this estimate is applied to the figures for 1914, the deaths in the Commonwealth due to venereal disease will be found to total 7,189 persons. The next great fatal disease is cancer, from which last year our loss was 5,052 persons. In 1922, the last year for which the figures are available, our loss from tubercular disease was 3,397 persons. Those are the three main fatal diseases of society. Although the death rate traceable to those diseases is so high, the Commonwealth Government remains quite unmoved, and the Health Department is not attempting to devise means for their prevention. The death of 15,000 persons per annum could be pre- vented, yet the Commonwealth Govern- ‘ ment proposes to grant to the states only £15,000 for the treatment of venereal diseases, £5,000 for the treatment of cancer, and smaller amounts for certain other purposes. It has done little or nothing to assist research with the idea of preventing disease. Probably the only cancer research at present in Australia is that ‘which is being carried on by Dr. Marion Wanliss, who is the holder of the Sir John Grice cancer research scholarship. Dr. Everett Field. of the New York Radium Institute, has for a considerable number of years been working on a formula for cancer, based on the theory that cancer is a germ disease, and he has now produced a serum. He does not claim that this serum is by any means the last word in cancer treatment, nor even that it will provide a cure for the disease, but he does regard it - as do others - with high hope. Then there is the Glover serum, which also is based on the theory that cancer is a germ disease. Dr. Field claims that that serum also is worth watching. Dr. Kellway, director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, says with regard to cancer research in Australia
The future of cancer research in Australia is almost entirely dependent on adequate financial support. Nothing much can be hoped for until the problem is attacked on a fairly large scale, with highly paid and efficient workers.
We are losing over 5,000 of our people each year from cancer,” yet, with the exception of the experiments of one lady - who is working under a scholarship - nothing is being done to investigate that disease. The municipality of New York has gone far ahead of the Commonwealth in cancer research. As recently as M’ay of this year the first municipal council research laboratory in the world was opened. It has a clinic equipped with the latest improvements, with operating rooms, research laboratories, and therapy machines capable of working up to 200,000 volts. In opening this institute, Dr. Stewart, president of the New York Academy of Medicine, urged all doctors to send along patients who had malignant growths. He mentioned that cancer killed 100,000 persons per annum in the United States of America, and that the death rate from this scourge was .infinitely greater than that from T.B. In .1923., he said, in the American cities cancer sufferers exceeded 15,000, of whom 6,000 died. His speech was optimistic regarding the discovery of a. possible cure, as he expressed confidence that a cure would be found within a few years. Recently the Senate of the Sydney University inaugurated a cancer research campaign. It is seeking to raise a. .fund of £10,000 for the commencement of -a publicity and ‘educational campaign regarding the cause and prevention of malignant growths; for the provision of equipment for cancer research; for the establishment <of special cancer research in conjunction with the Sydney Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the St.. Vincent’s Hospital,; for the formation of special .cancer library nuclei; and for the formation .of .a .cancer bureau at Sydney University to centralize and make records of all work at laboratories and hospitals. The research work will be commenced under the. guidance of five professors. A laboratory has already been set aside, and some apparatus has been made available.
– Is that £10,000 to be privately subscribed ?
– A start has been made to provide a fund of £10,000, of which amount the Commonwealth Government will contribute £5,000.
– The’ remainder of the fund will be raised by private subscription.
– Yes . It is necessary for every country to shoulder; its own responsibility for research. No nation, least of all Australia, should lag behind, and leave the whole of the work to other nations. The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) who has made a study of tuberculosis, has stated -
Tuberculosis is responsible at the present time for 10 per cent, of all deaths. . . . Statistics show that in the United Kingdom in 1922 it was responsible for 50,000 deaths. … In Australia there were over 3,000 deaths from it in 1922. . . . For every death there are five cases under medical treatment. . . . This means that in the United Kingdom there were 250,000 eases of tuberculosis in one year. . . . Statistics show that from 35 to 40 per cent, of children examined at school gave evidence of disease which could have been remedied at infancy.
When one has evidence of such a character, which must be accepted because of the honorable member’s experience and knowledge, one must come to the conclusion that the Commonwealth is not doing sufficient in the prevention of disease. I have dealt briefly with cancer and tuberculosis. I now intend to deal, also more or less briefly, with venereal disease and its incidence upon society. As I have already stated, although cancer and tuberculosis exact a heavy toll yearly from society, those diseases are not, as fatal diseases, in the same category as is venereal disease. It would be impossible to estimate the cost to society represented by the loss of ‘human life and the economic loss ; but ..Sir James .Barrett, who has done very valuable work in his advocacy of the prevention and proper treatment of venereal disease by the education of the people, said on one occasion that the loss to Australia has amounted to over £50,00.0,000. Dr. Cumpston, in his analysis of invalidity, has dealt extensively with syphilis and its effect upon invalidity ‘pensions. He ‘has taken certain classes or groups. In regard to the imbecility group he has said -
The total number of cases of congenital imbecility was 1,136, or 4.94 per cent. This figure is not, perhaps, large, but it is sad enough. The causes of congenital imbecility have frequently been discussed- by authorities. It is obvious that the cause must be some defect or disease in one of the parents.
Sir George Newman, who analysed carefully the question of infant mortality, summarizes the position as follows: - “But though declining there is still abundant evidence that syphilis is one .of the most active of all maternal infections in the production of congenital weakness and degeneracy in the off-spring.” Other authorities are in accord with that statement.
Congenital malformation was also dealt with by Dr. Cumpston.What has been said about syphilis and congenital imbecility may also be said to apply, although probably to a considerably less extent, to congenital malformation. The investigation showed that 378 pensions, or 1.64 per cent. of the total, were paid in respect of it. Epilepsy was responsible, at the time the report was made, for the payment of 947 pensions, or 4.12 per cent. of the total. The report states in this connexion -
It is difficult to arrive at any exact estimate of the essential causes of epilepsy, and still more difficult obviously to assess the relative importance of each of such causes.
Two references may, however, assist towards the elucidation of this subject.
Dr. Carl Browning, the Director of Pathological Laboratories, Glasgow University, recently carried out observations upon 3,000 cases. Amongst 321 unselected cases of children attending hospital as out-door patients, syphilis was present in the proportion of 14 per cent. Out of 204 cases of mental deficiency and epilepsy in young children, syphilis was present in 95 cases, i.e., 14 per cent.
Dr. Kate Frazer and Dr. H. Ferguson Watson examined 204 cases of mentally deficient children under eight years of age. Of these, the presence of syphilis was detected, by the Wassermann test, in no fewer than60 per cent.
It would appear to he legitimate to say that a considerable part of this group of congenital imbecility, congenital malformations, and epilepsy is syphilitic in origin.
Degeneracy ofthe spinal cord is also dealt with. The report states that pensions are paid to 797 persons who suffer from this disease, and the percentage to the total pensions paid is 2.46. I quote the following on this aspect of the subject : -
The significance of these conditions is that they are almost certainly largely syphilitic in origin. Nothing further need too said to indicate their importance from the point of view of the practical application of the results of an inquiry such as the present one.
I quote the following conclusions which Dr. Cumpston reached : -
The outcome of this inquiry has been to bring into prominence two main points.
That pensions are being paid to large numbers of people who are entitled to such pensions by reason of certain ailments which are susceptible to treatment in their early stages. Could any system be devised whereby large numbers of the community could have ready access to early medical treatment, a large proportion of future pensioners (estimating on the present basis) could be saved many years of suffering. In my opinion a comprehensive scheme of national insurance offers such a means of alleviation of distress as has been indicated.
That many pensions are being paid on account of diseases which are, with proper measures, preventable - notably, tuberculosis and syphilis - and the results obtained indicate the advisability of more effectively attacking these diseases. Here it may be permissible to repeat that a comprehensive scheme of national insurance offers the most promise in this direction also.
Finally, the investigation has indicated that a properly controlled and co-ordinated system of scientific research into the causes of disease, and the conditions which favour the development of disease, might effect a considerable economy both in public money and in human
Although that report was made four years ago, nothing practical has been done by the Government to give effect to it. Dr. James Barrett, of Melbourne, has been lecturing in Sydney recently on venereal diseases. On the public platforms there, and throughout the country, he has done a great work in enlightening the public on the ravages of this disease. In the course of one speech on the subject he said -
Thirty-two per cent. of the population of Melbourne over the age of sixteen are, or have been, affected at some time by venereal disease.
He also stated that 10 per cent. of the expectant mothers at the Melbourne Hospital at a certain period were affected by it, and that 30 per cent. of the deaths at one public hospital were definitely due to it. In his opinion, venereal disease is a far greater menace to the public welfare than tuberculosis. Dr. Barrington, of Sydney, addressing the Medical Congress at Brisbane, said -
It is no exaggeration to say that one- third of the women attending one of our hospitals as gynaecocological patients are suffering from venereal disease infection or the legacy it leaves.
The Commonwealth Statistician observed in one report that one out of every 100 deaths in childbirth was due to venereal disease. Thousands of women’s lives are wasted, a fearful child mortality is caused, and the lives of many mothers are made unbearable because we lack a definite policy for the prevention of the disease. It is estimated that from 15.8 per cent. to 25.5 per cent. of the inmates of our mental asylums are there because of venereal disease. Twelve per cent. of the adults - one authority says 14 per cent. - and S per cent, of the children in Australia suffer from the effects of the disease. In spite of this serious state of affairs, the Commonwealth Government proposes to make available a paltry £15,000 to grapple with the problem.
Not only has the Government failed to make adequate provision for fighting cancer, tuberculosis, and venereal disease, but it has also failed to do anything effective to provide for research into the cause of industrial diseases. From time to time I have urged the Government to adopt a progressive policy, and, at least, investigate the causes of these diseases. If it cannot secure the co-ordination of the states in such an effort, it should accept the full responsibility itself. I recently approached the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) with a request that a Commonwealth laboratory for investigating the causes of industrial diseases should be established at Broken Hill. One has already been established at Bendigo, and another in Queensland. The mortality, suffering, and economic loss in Broken Hill on account of industrial diseases is very great ; and I pointed out to the Treasurer the advisableness, and, indeed, the necessity, of establishing a research laboratory there. He said that so far as he was concerned he was willing to do so. I naturally anticipated that an amount for that purpose would be made available on the Estimates, and I was surprised to find that there was no such provision. When I asked for the reason the Treasurer said that no provision would be made in that direction until a royal commission had been appointed and had reported upon the respective responsibilities of the states and the Commonwealth on public health matters. I regret exceedingly .that the matter has been side-tracked in such a way. There is no necessity whatever to wait for a royal commission to recommend that an inquiry should be made into the causes of industrial diseases and the other diseases that I have mentioned.
– But there must be coordination between the states and the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that there is any necessity for a royal commission to ascertain what measure of co-ordination is possible between the health departments of the various states and the Commonwealth Department of Health. In the Director of Quarantine, Dr. Cumpston, we have an officer who is quite capable of taking effective action. There is absolutely no need to wait eighteen months or two years for a royal commission to submit a report on the obvious. Effective investigations could be made at Broken Hill into the reasons for the prevalence of miner’s phthisis, pneumokoniosis, and fibrosis. The analysis of the invalid pension payments to which I have already referred, showed that 11.01 per cent, of the total pensions then granted were in respect of cases of phthisis. That is an alarming figure. Of the 2,532 cases of that disease for which pensions were paid, 42 per cent, went to men who were under 40- years of age, and 21.1 per cent., or more than onefifth, went to men who were less than 30 years of age. Too large a proportion of the young male adult population in Broken Hill is suffering from this disease. I have lived and worked in Broken Hill, and when I have had occasion to examine a list of the names of men I knew there ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, I have been appalled at the number who were either dead - “gone west,” they say in Broken Hill, for the cemetery lies to the west of the city - or were receiving invalid pensions chiefly on account of industrial diseases.
– It is nothing less than a tragedy.
– That is so, and the establishment of a laboratory to assist in the prevention and treatment of these diseases would mean much to ‘the sufferers and the people of this country; but the Government refuses to do anything. The appointment of a royal commission would only postpone the necessity for taking action for a’ year or two.
Another subject upon which I wish to touch is the extraordinary latitude given to quacks and charlatans in this community. I have a number of advertisements by Chinamen, Indians, and white people, all of whom make extraordinary claims about their ability to treat differentdiseases. A firm in England treats deafness, and sells an ointment, which is “ an absolute cure,” for 4s. 6d. People who have been informed by qualified medical men that there is no hope of curing their deafness, send their money away to such firms in the hope of being cured.
A lady advertises that she can cure goitre, and another lady, who calls herself “ The College of the Science of Good Health,” makes extravagant claims and produces a mass of documentary evidence of marvellous cures said to have been effected by her. A Chinese herbalist claims to cure cancer and “ long standing complaints.” A case of cancer in an unfortunate man at Adelaide came under my notice recently. He had a growth on his lip, and wa3 told by a competent medical practitioner that it was cancer. He was advised to have it treated immediately, but for some reason he pinned his faith to a Chinaman, and, after two years’ treatment by that quack, was in a hopeless condition. While there might have been some chance of a cure if the disease had been treated early, there was absolutely none when the Chinaman had finished with him. He paid £70, which was all the: money he had, to that unqualified, ignorant quack. Yet our benevolent laws allow these quacks to treat people, and to take money on a promise to cure diseases that they cannot possibly cure. I express my sincere regret that the Treasurer, especially in view of the expert medical knowledge which he has, and which many of us do not possess, has not come forward with some proposals on the lines I have indicated. He understands better than any other honorable member, except, perhaps, the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), the facts relating to the health of the people. One would expect more in these directions from a medical man than from a layman, but unhappily we have not received from our medical Treasurer as much as we have received from former Treasurers, from whom we expected less. I have dealt with three diseases, which take a heavy toll of the people of this country. You, Sir Neville Howse, since you entered Parliament, have done much to educate not only the people, but the Government, and I am sorry to say that your efforts, up to the present, have been largely in vain. Until the Government acquires some sense of responsibility, until the Department of Health is made a live department, and until the Treasurer realizes some of his responsibilities, we shall continue to muddle along and must pray to God that everything will turn out right in tb.9 end.
– I desire to make a few remarks on the budget, mainly for the reason that
I consider that the Treasurer has not been given, by honorable members opposite, the credit that is due to him. It is quite palpable that all budgets under our party system must be dealt with from a party viewpoint, and it seems to be accepted that no matter how good a budget may be, the Opposition must declare that it is essentially bad. I am not aware of a cas© on record in which the Opposition has found any substantial merits in a budget. That is probably only in the natural order of things, and it is quite likely that if honorable members opposite eventually reach the haven pf refuge on this side, which seems to be the main reason for their political existence to-day, they will produce a budget that will not b6> satisfactory to the Opposition of that day. If we make certain allowances for the cynicism that undoubtedly arises from the party viewpoint, and admit that there may be some value in the criticism of members opposite, there is still a great amount of merit in the budget itself. Apart from the financial proposals in the budget, there is one outstanding merit in the regime of the present Treasurer. Since he has occupied that high and honorable position, honorable members have had the advantage of getting the budget in their hands before the money to which it relates has been spent. The Treasurer deserves a great amount of credit for the manner in which he has worked to produce budgets in record time. He has redeemed his promise, made at the last election, that if he had the opportunity he would show that budgets could be presented earlier. It must be patent to all honorable members that whether the Treasurer is able to please every one or not, the fact that he Has produced his budget in record time, and has given honorable members an opportunity -to consider his proposals before the money is spent, is a feather in his cap. The budgets of to-day are vastly more complicated than those of yesterday. Those honorable members who have followed the course of federal finance during the last ten or fifteen years recognize “that the Treasurer of to-day has a very different task from that of previous Treasurers. It is a further tribute to him that he has handled his gigantic task in such a distinctly capable manner, as well. as in such creditable time. From that point of view he deserves the congratulation of honorable members >on both sides, irrespective of party.
There is some room for criticism of the details of the budget. I ‘listened with great interest, yesterday, to the remarks of the Acting Leader of the -Opposition (Mr. Anstey), and I have heard few speeches that interested me more. I realize that he has made a <close study of finance, which is undoubtedly the most important -question to which members of this committee can .-give consideration. The average honorable member cannot deal with it comprehensively, which is, perhaps, no disadvantage,, for we are not all potential treasurers. The .treasurership is. am .honour reserved for few. men, and generally for those who. have a mind of a particular analytical .type that can deal, not only with -figures,, but with the economic- factors, in the life of the community. But although the majority of honorable members, do not pride .themselves upon their ability -to analyse such a complicated subject, they are quite capable of forming: an intelligent and valuable opinion upon the budget. Men who are not students of finance cannot be expected, at a few days’ notice, to critically examine a set of figures and pronounce upon them in a manner that will be satisfactory to themselves or the public. But if we are satisfied that certain members who make a study of these matters are quite competent to handle them from the viewpoints of their respective parties, we of the rank and file are doing our duty to the public when we pick out for discussion certain subjects which appeal to us as worthy of our atattention.
The Treasurer has set a good example in proposing to reduce income taxation by the large sum of £2,000,000. Already a strong agitation has started to induce the Treasurer of New South Wales to reduce the enormous income taxation of that state, which, I think, is higher than that of any other state, with the exception of Queensland. I have no doubt that the good ‘example set by the Federal Treasurer will be followed by the Treasurer of New- .South Wales before long, and thus welcome relief will be given to the taxpayers, who, since the war, have had too big a burden to bear. The New South Wales income taxation is actually higher than that of the Commonwealth, and the -two together -constitute a very heavy burden for men of moderate incomes. The only abjection I see to the scheme of- reduction proposed by the Federal Treasurer is that too much relief is being given bo the- earners of small incomes. It is .not -altogether wise to relieve the small wage earner o£ the responsibility of contributing a little towards “the cost of governing his country,. I feel satisfied that when the- income taxation was .applied light down the scale to the lowest wage ‘earners, a more ‘healthy interest in the system of government was displayed by the man in the street. It does not. hurt .a man to pay, say, £1 per annum towards, the Cost, of- government - and, indeed, many would feel a certain amount of satisfaction in so doing, for they would feel greater pride in their citizenship and a keener appreciation’, of their responsibility for the , good government of the country. However, the Treasurer has seen fit to propose a reduction in. the number of those responsible for the payment of .income taxation to the Commonwealth. I hope that the experiment will prove ‘a success,; but I think it would “have been better to leave a little financial responsibility on the “earners of small incomes and give more relief to the earners of large incomes,, especially business enterprises, such as companies which to-day are ‘carrying a heavy load .of taxation. I am not advocating , a lightening of the taxation of capitalists <or mother wealthy people. I have no sympathy with people who have sufficient wealth to pay a large share of the taxation of their country in return for the -benefits they receive, .and yet begrudge doing so.; tot I have- personal knowledge that the excessive taxation imposed by the Commonwealth and the various states is having- .a very restrictive effect upon certain forms of enterprise. That acts detrimentally upon, employment, because if business is discouraged by ‘excessive taxation there is a tendency to restrict employment by confining investments to only the most profitable channels. This trouble may adjust itself in time, but I sound a note of warning. From the remarks made by the Acting Leader of .the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), and -from one’s own reasoning, it is quite apparent that if any sudden change should take place in the exchange rates and the economic conditions of the Old World, the financial position of Australia would immediately become much more difficult than it is to-day. I quite agree with the honorable member that it is not a healthy state of affairs when such an enormous portion of our revenue is derived from the taxation of imports. But the financial fabric of the federation is based upon those excessive imports, and if they slumped greatly such a budget as the Treasurer has produced -would be impossible. I do not know how in such circumstances he would be able to undertake the enormous commitments that are his responsibility to-day. The demands made upon him from all sides for extra expenditure upon social amelioration and enterprises of one kind and another, some of them of a socialistic nature, would have to be. materially curtailed, or the Commonwealth would be bankrupt. X. do not pretend to have any deep knowledge of finance, but it is apparent that if something happened, in the Old World to pro>- duG@ a slump in Australia’s imports., the financial position of the Commonwealth would be parlous in the extreme, and much of the money that Parliament is Being asked to vote away would not exist even on paper.. Last year we thought there was little possibility of the then excessive rate of imports continuing, hut during the twelve months the volume of inward trade has increased until a record has been reached, and still there is no sign of a diminution in the flow. But with the happy-go-lucky characteristic of Australians, we are letting the morrow take care of itself.
I was much interested, in, and amused by, the criticism directed by the Acting Leader of the Opposition against the Treasurer. It was certainly entertaining to. be reminded by him that when the Treasurer occupied another position he found certain faults in the budgets presented by his predecessors, and expressed certain ideas, when he could have no notion that within a very short time he would be called upon to give effect to them. The Acting Leader, of the Opposition made mercy* at the expense of the Treasurer, and. sought to convey the impression that, if he. had ene opportunity of presenting a budget - which he .anticipated he would have before long- he would certainly be able to 4o better. .But I think that if the honorable member for Bourke were on this side of the chamber, .and. were charged with the responsibility of presenting a budget in the present state of
Australian finance, he would be able to do very little differently from the present Treasurer. Unless he precipitated a financial crisis, I do not see how he could impose the enormous amount of taxation which he seemed to consider necessary for the carrying out of a sound financial policy. I do not suggest that if the honorable member had the responsibility he would not make an honest endeavour to act in accordance with Ms convictions as to what was best for Australia, but I felt, when listening to him, that it was perhaps fortunate for him that he had not the opportunity he appears to desire to present a budget which would be so vastly different from that now before us. I- do not see how he could add to direct taxation, and at the same time reduce the revenue from Customs duties, without causing financial panic and an economic crisis. He did not give us the slightest indication of how he would regulate the finances; if he had let us know what was at the back of his mind perhaps we might have been more impressed by his criticism. After all,, his criticism, was mainly destructive, and, although entertaining, it did not carry us very far. I think it will be a fairly long time before the honorable member’s ambition to present a budget is realized, but the time may come in the dim and distant future when that responsibility will be placed upon him , and some of us may be fortunate enough te be able to sit back and criticize his handling of a j&b which,, hesays, the present Treasurer has not managed very well.
The matter of old-age pensions has exercised my mind ever since it was debated at great length in this chamber last year. I find that, since the pensionwas advanced from 15s. to 17s. 6d. per week, the increase in the number of pensioners has been comparatively slight in proportion to the expenditure. It is interesting to look back to 1910, when the number of pensioners was -only 65 ,.49.2, and there were mo invalid pensioners. This year there are 113.,,054 .old-!age pensioners and 42,6117 invalid pensioners., or a total of 1-55,-671 . In the last financial year the .amount paid in old-age pensions was £.6,426,752, and, in addition, theCommonwealth paid £97,129 for the upkeep of inmates of benevolent asylums..
It seems to me that the Commonwealth might easily increase the pension rate to £1 per week.
– How did the honorable member vote last year?
– I shall deal with that in a moment. When presenting his next budget, the Treasurer might seriously consider whether or not the finances will permit him to increase the pension to £1, and the amount which the pensioner may earn to 15s., or even £1, per week. I attach a great deal of importance to an increase in the amount of earnings permitted. The present ridiculous restriction is one of the weaknesses of the law. If that limitation were removed, many of the . old people would not be so keen on getting an extra 2s. 6d. per week in pension, because they would be in a position to earn more. It is not altogether unreasonable for the old people to claim that they should be able to get a maximum income of £2 per week, including pension and earnings. In regard to my vote last year, I had made no statement in the House previously as to what my attitude would be, but when I heard the Prime Minister say that the Government was not’ prepared at that stage to find an extra £600,000 or £700,000 in order to increase the pension to £1-
– But the Government was in a position to remit the taxation of wealthy interests.
– The position last year was that, if a division had been carried against the Government, the old-age pensioners would not have received the increase of 2s. 6d. which the Government proposed, and the other important concessions which the bill conferred upon them.
Mr.- Makin. - If a Labour government had been in power, the pensioners would now be receiving £1 per week.
– I daresay, and I hope that, before a Labour government does get into power, the pensioners will be receiving £1 per week. If such an increase is proposed by the Government, it will receive my enthusiastic support. Honorable members opposite are not altogether reasonable. Last year, in their desire to increase the oldage pension from 15s. to £1, they severely criticized the Government because, at that moment, on account of its heavy commitments, it could do no more than grant an extra 2s. 6d. From my recent experience among the old-age pensioners, I find that they greatly appreciate the extra pension. If honorable members opposite, to thwart the Government, had stupidly refused to give the pensioners the extra 2s. 6d., it would have ‘ been a serious matter for them politically. I hope that next year the Government will increase the old-age pension to £1 per week, and also the income that they can otherwise earn. I shall certainly support such a proposal.
There is not the slightest doubt that the defence of Australia is the greatest issue confronting this Parliament. I agree to a large extent with the remark made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), that the affairs of the. nations are still in the melting pot. No nation knows what form of armament will be of the greatest utility in future warfare. Methods of defence have changed materially since the war, and it is almost impossible for any country to decide on the most effective means of offensive and defensive warfare. Even the great nations do not know whether their vast expenditure on armaments will be justified in the hour of trial. The great naval powers are still constructing . battleships, but Australia cannot attempt to compete with them. When tlie Australia was built we could well afford the cost of a battleship, but to-day the expenditure of £10,000,000 on a warship would be entirely unjustified, especially in view of its probable ineffectiveness in the hour of need. Recent tests by the United States Navy have shown that aircraft can sink almost any battleship afloat. Two battleships of 15,000 tons and over were used as targets. In a few minutes the air bombers made direct hits, and the warships sank almost immediately.
– They were stationary targets.
– Yes. The inference to be drawn is that unless effective counter measures are practicable, battleships in future wars will be at the mercy of air bombers. Great Britain is build- . ing fewer battleships, and concentrating her energies on smaller armaments. Japan and the United States are entering into feverish competition in battleship construction, but as neither of. them took such an effective part in the war as Great Britain and Germany, they consequently are not in the same position to judge the relative merits of -warships. It is doubtful whether in any future war Japan or the United States will receive full value for their vast expenditure on battleships. Most nations are building smaller armaments, such as submarines, destroyers, and particularly aeroplane carriers’. One of the most significant developments of the war is the extensive building of aeroplane carriers. It i3 very unlikely that battleships will engage in action while menaced by squadrons of air bombers. Naval defence is being completely metamorphosed. Nevertheless all naval experts disagree on this subject. Great Britain is proceeding along the conservative lines that she has followed for many years, at the same time taking notice of the lessons of the war. Even the Acting Leader of the Opposition admits that Australia may be faced with war ten years hence. If she is to play an effective part in any future .war we should at least have weapons similar to those of the enemy. By that time, any cruisers that we have built will be more or less obsolete. We are neglecting the aerial phase of naval warfare. We must either provide no defence at all, or have effective armaments. To that end we should continue training our naval personnel, and to form nucleus establishments, so that we may, when desired, extend our naval activities. If war is possible in ten years’ time, we must be prepared for it. There has lately been a change in the international situation. The subject of Australia’s naval defence was recently discussed in this House in the belief that Great Britain, as a moral gesture of peace to other nations, had definitely abandoned the construction of the Singapore naval base. Since then, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty in the British Labour Government has announced that the Singapore naval base is being used as a means for bargaining, and that if other nations are not prepared to agree to further disarmament, Great Britain will be regretfully compelled to construct the Singapore base. That is a very important departure from the previous policy of that Government, and it should be a warning to honorable members opposite, when discussing naval defence, not to take too much for -granted. They seemed to think that the original decision of the British Cabinet was final, and as they stood four square with the British
Labour party in everything except its fiscal policy, what was good enough for that party was good enough for them. Now the British Labour Government is changing its attitude.
– That is not true.
– If the honorable member has information which has not been made available to the press of Australia he should make it known to this committee. There has been a welcome change in the attitude adopted towards defence by the British Labour. Government, and honorable members opposite should reconsider their decision on naval defence, and’ find out from that Government what action it proposes to take. The members oFthe Australian Labour party bear a heavy responsibility. It rests largely with them to influence the minds of the masses of the people. By assuming that the British Labour Government’s attitude towards defence is justified, they are shirking their responsibilities to the general public. We have in the statement of the Parliamen.tally Secretary to the Admiralty, one instance of the danger of taking for granted the actions of the British Labour Government. It is still possible that that Government will eventually adopt the fiscal policy so ardently advocated by the Australian Labour party. I do not say that that will happen, but it is a possibility. In the case of the British Labour party we have a direct climb down and change of policy. This attitude of that party is an indication to Australia that this country is being used as a pawn in the international game. I consider that the attitude of the British Labour party towards Australia is not a fair one. The view-point of Australia has been ignored. A people like this, with immense obligations and a determination to keep its territory for the white races, should not be regarded as a pawn by a political party in any other country. Is Australia to be dangled before the eyes of other nations as a prize or a bait ? The British Government says to other nations, “ If you agree to disarmament we shall not take any measures to protect Australia, but if you do not we shall construct a base to enable us to step in should Australia be threatened.”
– The honorable member should put the case fairly.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to put it fairly if he does not think I am doing so. I am merely drawing what I consider a logical deduction from the changed attitude of the British Labour party. It should inspire honorable members with a certain amount of apprehension for the future. I have no doubt that the fate of this country depends upon the action taken in regard to the establishment of a base at Singapore. If Australia is being used merely as a means of making some moral gesture which the British Labour party thinks it worth while to make in acknowledgment of the fetish of pacifism, it is the duty of members of this committee, irrespective of party, to assert that this Parliament will not consent to that sort of thing. Australia is a definite obligation of the British Empire. It is the duty of the British Labour party to see that the future defence of this country is assured. If that party will not take our position seriously, and will not regard the security of Australia as anything more than a matter for bargaining, all parties in this House should combine to extract from the party controlling the government of Great Britain to-day some definite pronouncement as to what is really in its mind regarding the future of Australia. The people of this country have occupied it under the protection of the British flag. All the progress made in Australia has been made on the assumption that we are protected by Great Britain and that our obligations are also the obligations of Great Britain. Our credit is based on the supposed security we enjoy through the British navy. The attitude taken up by the British Labour party to-day makes that security merely a paper one. If it is merely something with which the party in control in Great Britain can bargain it may not be worth anything at all to us. The British Labour party has shown two minds on this question. At one moment it says that Australia shall be used to make a moral gesture. We asked that a naval base should be constructed at a convenient point in the Pacific so that if the calamity . which we hope will not occur does occur, it will be possible for Great Britain to afford us immediate protection. The British Labour party says, “ We do not consider it worth our while to take such a step in view of the grave international consequences which may occur so far as Japan is concerned. Japan would immediately regard that as provocative, and might consider that Great Britain had a definite design to attack her.” We are to stand aside and allow Australia to be used as a kind of pawn in the international game. We have to wait to see how this policy will be tested. If after a lapse of ten years Japan is not satisfied that a handful of people should occupy this immense territory we shall be in the position that the Labour party of Great Britain will have practically sacrificed this country for the sake of its moral gesture. It is quite evident now that the British Labour party has two minds on this subject, and I hope that, before the close of this session or early next session, steps will be taken to get, if possible, tho unanimous opinion of this Parliament” on the subject of the construction of a naval base at Singapore. I have studied the question fairly closely ; I have considered the views expressed by experts, and “I am quite satisfied that the weight of informed and reliable opinion is in favour of the construction of the Singapore base. I have looked at the matter from a viewpoint from which I think experts in the Old World do not consider it as closely as we do, and that is the view-point of Australians living, in Australia. We are an isolated people, and a naval base at Singapore would stand between us and some possible danger in the future. The British Government says that it is prepared to risk our safety, although all our development is based on the assumption that no risk exists. It did not even consult us to see whether we were agreeable to be a party to its moral gesture. Now a member Of the British Government has announced in the House of Commons that its attitude may be altered, that there is a new policy, that Great Britain is going to hawk the Singapore base around, and to say to other nations, “ If you do not agree to our policy of disarmament, we are going ahead with the construction of the Singapore base.” Logically, that means that the British Government really thinks that the base should be constructed. I think that is an absolute declaration of the real mind of the British Labour party on “this vital question. In view of this recent declaration,
I hope that honorable members will review the remarks they have made upon the whole of this issue, and see whether it is not possible to get some decision from this House to show whether this Parliament wants Great Britain to construct the Singapore base or not. I think that a mistake was made a little while ago when the Prime Minister returned from the Imperial Conference in not definitely testing the opinion of the House on this issue. I feel sure that, if it had been tested, there -would have been an overwhelming vote in favour of the construction of the Singapore base, which might have greatly influenced the House of Commons. If such a vote is taken, it is possible, in view of the changed attitude of the British Labour party, that it may turn the scale in favour of the construction of this important strategical base. The idea that the matter should be left in abeyance for another ten years, when the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) believes Australia will be able to play some effective part in defence, seems to me to be pure insanity. If it is to take ten years to build the Singapore base, and we are to wait ten years to see what will happen, it is quite obvious ‘that in ten years’ time, the base will not have been constructed, and we shall be the victims of the consequences.
I wish now to touch upon a matter which interests me particularly, because I have had a good deal to do with it in my brief parliamentary career; I refer to the postal administration. I believe it is the experience of honorable members generally that the Tost and Telegraph Department, although more efficiently run to-day than ever before, owing to a great increase in expenditure upon it, is still far from perfect. .It must be the experience of every honorable member that far too much of our time is spent in chasing departmental heads, and in bringing small matters under the attention of - the Minister. I was hoping that under the new regime that system would be altered, but it has not been ‘altered. I give the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) every credit’ for desiring to do the fair thing by the country districts. But, after eighteen months’ experience, he appears to be up against the difficulties which faced most of his predecessors. Those difficulties can be easily obviated. Honorable members know my opinion about centralization in this country. I have spoken of it frequently in this chamber, and, hope to deal with it frequently again. I regard the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department as a monumental instance of the centralization madness from which we suffer in Australia. We have here a gigantic department that affects almost every detail of the lives of the people of Australia, and yet it is the most highly centralized department in the country. In 1914, a valuable report was compiled, by Sir Robert Anderson. It has been referred to in this House before, but I think it should be referred to again. The report shows how slowly the idea of effective decentralization progresses in Australia. In his report, under the heading of “ State Boundaries,” Sir Robert Anderson says -
It seems curious that the Post Office should have been brought from the states to Commonwealth control fourteen years ago, and that the odd geographical boundaries, impossible to work in a practical way, are still adhered to. Adjustments [ have been made in small ways. For instance, it was found impossible to supply Broken Hill with stores from Sydney, therefore it gets them from Adelaide.” Similarly, Tweed Heads in New South Wales gets its supplies from Brisbane, and Melbourne supplies Riverina. But Sydney still supervises Tweed Heads, Broken Hill, or the Riverina district, which could be so much more expeditiously, economically, and efficiently done from Brisbane, Adelaide, or Melbourne respectively. Recently a board of inquiry on a disciplinary case went all the way from Sydney, through Melbourne and Mildura, to Wentworth (New South Wales), and the offence was trivial. Similarly, a board would have to travel from Sydney, through Melbourne and Adelaide, to Broken Hill to investigate.
A little further on he says’ -
The present states cannot be satisfactorily worked and should be divided into districts suitably defined geographically. “ Deputy Postmaster-General “ is a misleading title, and causes confusion in the public mind. It should be altered to district manager, as he controls more than postal matters.
Changing his title is not suggested tq reduce his status and importance; on the contrary, these should be largely increased, and, anyhow, under present cramping conditions tlie title is an empty one. Professional officers would be under the manager for disciplinary purposes (there must be a head), but should be in close and direct touch with their professional or technical chief by correspondence or otherwise for professional direction and assistance.
Much greater powers and responsibilities should be given district managers; the need for decentralization is imperative.
Central office should he reduced to most modest dimensions - about one-third the present number - and should consist of only experts and their stenographers. The great work of the department should be in the districts where services are in operation.
After careful thought and patient investigation, I recommend, as the best means towards a solution of your difficulties that a general manager be appointed in charge of the whole department, one Who will instil business methods, encourage the officers to co-operate and exchange .ideas, and who will patiently and sympathetically tackle the matter as an evolutionist rather than a revolutionist. It is better, if possible, to appoint some one in the Service - you have some excellent men - for there is always a risk in importations.
Since that time the recommendation regarding the appointment of a general manager has been carried out, as last year Mr. Brown was appointed virtually general manager. I have nothing to say against Mr. Brown. I think he is a most capable gentleman, who thoroughly understands his business. But I have formed the opinion - it may be a wrong one - that he has been given too much power. To-day the Postmaster-General is merely the nominal head of the department. I do not contend that that may not be a good thing in some respects, but I believe that it is necessary to have some sort of political control over such an institution as the post office. The experience of every honorable member is that only through the Postmaster-General can improvements be effected. We have all had the heartbreaking- experience of flogging a small matter which various officials or deputy Postmaster-Generals, who do not possess sufficient power, cannot handle. These matters have to be carried to the ministerial head before satisfaction is obtained. Until some scheme can be devised whereby Mr. Brown will be made amenable to the wishes of members of Parliament, who have a big responsibility to the people in postal matters, his appointment will not give complete satisfaction. The PostmasterGeneral should not be responsible for a lot of the detail work of the department. The appointment of a general manager would be excellent, if he were not given too much power. I do not think that he should practically supersede the PostmasterGeneral in matters of policy; he should be merely a public servant under the control of the Minister. I have a large number of complaints to make against the post office.
– The honorable member has got for his electorate about half the number of the telephones granted last year.
– If I did get about half the telephone works, it was because New England needed them, and it rather indicates that my electorate was, in that respect, previously neglected. The curse of centralizing everything in Melbourne is daily becoming worse. Last year, with other members, I played a part in securing drought relief for mail contractors. Hundreds of letters dealing with that matter passed between my constituents and me, and between me ;and the department. Even a matter like that, affecting one or two districts in different states, had to be referred to the officials in Melbourne, who did not possess the local knowledge necessary to enable them to deal properly with it. Every honorable member representing country districts has had experience cf the conflicts that occur between inspectors and groups of local residents. In many cases the opinion of the inspector is opposed by hundreds of people, yet he will not budge from the attitude he has adopted. Inspectors come and go, but they religiously follow the same ideas, with the result that the member for the district is burdened with an enormous amount of unnecessary work. He has to take those matters past the inspector to the deputy Postmaster-General, who, in turn, sends them back to the inspector for report. The negotiations continue in a vicious circle until, in sheer desperation, the member interviews the PostmasterGeneral. Even then success does not always attend his efforts, because the PostmasterGeneral is, unfortunately, the victim of his officials. A number of daily newspapers established in the country are beginning to use the long-distance telephone. The department has encouraged them to do so. Many of them have installed costly apparatus, but the department has not altered its regulations to meet the new conditions, with the result that those newspapers are placed in a most disadvantageous position. Their conversations are limited to from three to five minutes, when they are cut off until the whole of the private busi- ness on ‘ hand has been disposed of. I submitted the proposal that the regulations should be altered in such a way that those newspapers would be placed on the same footing as ordinary citizens ; their calls would occupy the same length of time, and they would then take their place in the order of the list of those who were waiting. I engaged in correspondence over a period of several . months, had interviews with the telephone managers in Sydney and in Melbourne, brought the matter before the Minister, and finally was led to believe that a simple alteration of the regulations would achieve the object in view. I was virtually promised that that simple alteration, should be made. Suddenly some genius in the department discovered that it could not be made, and no action has so far been taken, notwithstanding that the Minister informed me that he had power to alter the regulations. I believe that every Postmaster-General gets into the clutches of the officials, and is afraid to break away. The proper course would be to establish postal districts. The various states should be divided into administrative areas, with a manager in charge of each. He should be given a decent salary, and should be held solely responsible for the administration of his district, matters of policy only being dealt with by the general manager or the Postmaster-General. We shall not escape from this abominable system of centralized administration until we adopt such a method, which seems to me to be quite practicable. The natural divisions of each state could be adopted. In northern ‘New South Wales there is a population as large as that of Western Australia. It would be a simple matter to establish a sub-department to deal with that area. Similar action could be taken in respect to southern and western New South Wales, and the Sydney area could be made a separate administrative territory. Other states could be divided up in the same way. The Postal Department under such a system would operate much more satisfactorily than it does to-day. A little extra expense may be involved, but that would be. far outweighed by the advantages that would accrue to the people.
I desire now to refer to the salaries that are paid to the Deputy Postmasters-
General. I notice that the Estimates provide for a salary of £950 per annum for the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales and Victoria, £850 in Queensland, £750 in South Australia and Western Australia, and £650 in Tasmania. I have frequently had to approach the Deputy Postmaster-General for New South Wales, and I consider that he is greatly overworked. No matter how able a man may be, he cannot cope with the large amount of detail work that is placed upon his shoulders. When one goes to see him he calls in another official, who comes bearing in his arms a huge bundle of papers. These have to be gone through before the Deputy PostmasterGeneral can deal with the matter complained of, and give a decision. In the majority of cases such matters have to be referred to Melbourne. These officers should be paid a salary commensurate with the importance of the office they hold. I am sorry that their salaries are not proportionately as great as that of the general manager, who is receiving £2,500 a year. I admit that he is worth it, but I also contend that in their particular areas the Deputy Postmasters-General are doing just as important work, and probably a greater amount of it. It is almost an insult to offer £950 to the Deputy Postmasters-General for New South Wales and Victoria. It appears to me that the department cannot rid itself of the bad old habit of underpaying its chief executive officers. The rank and file are much better off than they were previously, and the improved conditions are inducing a better class of man to offer his services. I hope that the present Treasurer will be responsible for the presentation of the next budget, and that he will provide for an increase in the salaries of the Deputy Postmasters-General. . I am intensely dissatisfied with the administration of the department. The officials are always courteous and obliging, but for some inscrutable reason they cannot meet one’s wishes. It nearly drives a man mad to be compelled to write dozens of letters concerning a paltry mail matter, or an alteration to country post offices, and then have to visit Sydney and Melbourne to interview the departmental heads, without securing any redress. I can give a typical instance of the dead weight of ineptitude that exists in the department. For twelve, months I carried on an agitation for alterations to two little post offices in country districts, which were rather out of date, and did not meet requirements. Officials were sent up to report on the matter. They found that the local agitation was well founded, and they recommended that alterations be carried out, to cost, in each instance, £2,300. Those recommendations were marked ‘urgent,” and forwarded to Melbourne. I was informed that if loan money were made available the work would be carried out. It now appears that it has been shelved. It is hardly a fair thing that honorable members, who are required to deal with such a large number of matters, should have to go to an immense amount of unnecessary, trouble to procure for a district improvements that should be effected on the initiative of the officers in the areas concerned. Although many districts still have outofdate postal facilities, nothing is done to remedy the position until the Federal member takes up the matter. After he gets to work at .head-quarters some attention is paid to the local people, but frequently the requests are even then refused. I do not suppose that I am the only member . of this Parliament who has tried unsuccessfully to remedy the complaints made by his constituents, but if my experience is general it is time the policy was changed. If many honorable members feel as sore as I do over certain happenings, it will not be long before they will compel the Government to change its policy. Honorable members should not be obliged to waste their time in doing things which should be done voluntarily by the Administration. If a scheme such as that outlined by Sir Robert Anderson were adopted the public would soon notice the beneficial results.
As the representative of a wheatgrowing district, I urge the Government to announce without delay its intentions in regard to a guarantee for the next wheat crop, in order that the anxiety of our wheat-growers may be relieved. Seeing that the agitation for the provision of a wheat guarantee by the Commonwealth Government occurs annually, a definite policy should be adopted. The Labour party favours the provision of a wheat guarantee, and if it were in power I have no doubt .that it would provide for one.
– Does the New South Wales Government favour a government guaranteed
– It does not favour a compulsory pool, but I am positive that the sentiments of the wheatgrowers in New South Wales in that connexion are changing rapidly, and that the time is not far off when they will demand a compulsory pool. They are beginning to realize that it is necessary for their protection. The Government should immediately indicate whether it will provide a guarantee.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) made some remarks which are open to justifiable criticism. He said that it was the natural thing for the Opposition to oppose practically everything that emanated from, the Government side of the House. Although he has not been very long in this chamber his experience should have prevented him from making such a. remark. On quite a number of occasions honorable members of the Opposition have unanimously supported Government measures. Only last night the Treasurer introduced a loan bill which was agreed to without a division in a comparatively short time. I take the honorable member to task also for his peculiar views on certain public questions. He and other honorable members who support the Government have complained frequently of late because the MacDonald Government in Great Britain has not proceeded with the construction of the Singapore Naval Base. If those honorable members would take the. trouble to study British politics they would learn that prior to the last general election there the Labour, Liberal, and Unionist parties submitted certain policies to the electors. Both the Labour party and the Liberal party intimated that they were opposed to the construction of the Singapore Naval Base, and also to the granting of certain trade preferences to Australia, and the electors, by 8,000,000 votes to 5,000,000, accepted their policy. In the circumstances, it seems to me to be impertinent for Honorable members in this Parliament persistently to nag the
British Government for not doing something which the electors said should not be done. We can well imagine what the honorable member would say if the Government that he supports proceeded with a certain policy in defiance of the declared will of the people. He should think seriously before he advocates that any government should oppose tEe verdict of the people. If he disregards the will of the people he will not retain his seat in this chamber very long. The honorable member referred to a brief cablegram from England to the effect that the Parliamentary Secretary to £ne Admiralty, in replying to a question in the House of Commons, stated that the Government’s decision not to proceed with the construction of the Singapore Base was in the nature of a peace gesture, and that, if other countries did not respond with similar gestures, the Government would proceed with the work at Singapore. He assumed from that report that the British Government did not know its own mind. I am somewhat sceptical about press cablegrams and reports generally. It should be remembered that frequently a cablegram published on a certain day, conveying, let us say, certain government decisions, is contradicted a day or so later in every particular. Let me give a case in point. A cablegram was published in the Melbourne press the other day to the effect that so serious a rupture had occurred in the negotiations between the Russian Soviet Government and the MacDonald Government in Great Britain that they were broken off. In this evening’s press, however, that report is contradicted, and we are informed that a document has been signed which will result in the resumption of trade relationships between Russia and Great Britain. Cablegrams such as that referred to by the honorable member for New England are more than likely the briefest possible resume of a statement which may have taken five minutes to make. The honorable member, in discussing that message, said something to the effect that the British Government was speaking with two voices, and that he did not know which voice to accept as authoritative. We have an illustration in this chamber of a man who speaks with two voices. The present Treasurer when leading the Country party from the Corner a couple of years ago, vehemently denounced the then Treasurer for adopting certain finan cial methods. To-day he is adopting precisely similar methods. I remind the honorable member for New England that both charity and reform should begin at home. If he desires to set out on a reform campaign, I advise him to begin with the leader of his own party. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) last night gently chided the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) for debating a certain matter from the party stand-point. The honorable member for New England has been guilty of the same thing this afternoon. He has adopted the party standpoint absolutely. In spite of his uncertainty about the attitude of the British Government on the Singapore naval base project, I assert that neither the people of England nor those of Australia are left in any doubt about the matter. I shall require much more definite evidence than the three-line cablegram to which the honorable member has referred before I conclude that the British Government has changed its mind.
Last evening the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) fairly riddled some of the budget propositions of the Treasurer. He pointed out many defects, and I think that some honorable members on the Ministerial side of the committee agree with his criticism. He specially objected to the amount which the Treasurer proposed to spend out of loan moneys lor the construction of nonproductive works. I took the opportunity to look up the 1910 and 1911 budget proposals in this direction, and found that, in 1910, the Government of the day proposed to spend £2,324,000 on “ new works, buildings, &c,” and £850,000 on naval construction; and, in 1911, the expenditure proposed on ‘ ‘ new works, buildings, &c,” was £4,306,000, and on naval construction work £1,515,000. It is significant that every penny of that money was to come out of revenue. Although I speak subject to correction, I feel confident in saying that the Australia, the Sydney, and the Melbourne were constructed out of revenue, and not out of loan moneys. That was how the Labour Government administered the affairs of this country in those days. I admit that circumstances have changed since. Another big work, the undergrounding of the telephone wires, by which this country has saved many thousands of pounds, was also done, out of revenue, and not out of loan moneys. Those facts indicate the great difference that exists between the policies of the Labour party and the composite Government.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that work can be carried out to-day?
– I do not object to spending £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 to extend postal facilities, because money spent in that way is reproductive. There is a great difference between spending loan money on reproductive works and spending it on works from which there is not a farthing of revenue. The finances of this country are booming, the Treasury is overflowing, and there is a great surplus; but the Treasurer proposes to spend out of revenue, on additions, new works, and buildings, a sum of only £403,000, while from loan moneys he proposes to spend £8,282,000.
– What amount of interest on loans has been paid during the last two years?
– According to the. budget, the amount to be paid thi3 year is nearly £20,000,000.
– That is out of revenue.
– Yes, and it is a big drag. I am very much concerned about the interest bill of this country. Most of the £8,282,000 to be spent out of loan moneys on additions, new works, and buildings, will not be spent on reproductive works; a large part of it will be spent on defence, from which no revenue will be derived. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) approved of the budget, and said it showed that ‘ the Treasurer had lightened the load of many taxpayers. Although taxation is lessened, the interest bill is increased. The total interest bill of Commonwealth and State Governments amounts to> £8 10s. a year for every man, woman, and child in this community. For a family of five it amounts to £42 10s. Who, for the most part, have families of five? The working people, of course. Our debt amounts, in round figures, to £1,000,000,000. Our interest bill is not confined to Federal and State Government borrowings, for interest has to be paid on money borrowed for public and private institutions, and all . of it comes out of the pockets of the people.
– Have we any assets to show for the £1,000,000,000?
– Yes. We have railways., waterworks, and the post office. They are reproductive undertakings, and my complaint is not so much against spending loan money on them, as against spending it on works from which there is no return.
– The Commonwealth railways are not reproductive. They do not pay for more than interest.
– That is so at present, but we must look to the future. As the country develops, the revenue earned by the railways will increase. In New South Wales and Victoria the state railways are a better proposition to-‘day than they
Were a few years ago. Deficits were the rule in Victoria a few years ago, but now there is nearly always, at the end of the year, a substantial surplus, which not infrequently gets the Treasurer out of a great difficulty. I do not object to spending a reasonable amount of loan money on reproductive works. Upon the amount of £1,000,000,000 we shall have in a few years an interest bill of £50,000,000 per annum.. This Parliament placed itself in a most ignoble position last year when it endorsed, the proposal of the Treasurer to remit £1,300,00 of taxation owed by wealthy leaseholders. I then put this supposititious case : “ Suppose a taxpayer has £10,000 worth of leasehold and £20,000 worth of freehold land. If the Treasurer relieved him of taxation on the £10,000 worth of leasehold land, how would it affect his tax?” I was informed, from official sources, that the tax upon the £30,000 worth of freehold and leasehold land combined would be about 5d. in the £, but- that if the £10,000 worth of leasehold land was exempted, the owner would have to pay only 3d. in the £ on the remaining £20,000 worth of freehold land. Not only was the tax on leasehold land removed, but the rate of tax on the remaining freehold land was. reduced. That was one of the great blessings conferred on the wealthy landowners of Australia by the composite Government.
– Does the honorable member know where those wealthy landowners are ?
– I am in sympathy, generally, with the small land-owner. He and the working man should go hand in hand in everything, particularly in politics. They are coining that way. They have this important fact in common, that they cannot pass on their taxation. The wealthy merchant can always pass on taxation, but the workers and 3mall land-owners have to pay it themselves. It was a long time before Parliament would accept that truth, but it was admitted by Sir Joseph Cook when he was Treasurer, and by Mr. Speaker (Et. Hon. W. A. “Watt) when he spoke from the corner as the member for Balaclava. Income taxation was being imposed for war purposes, and Mr. Speaker then said -
Who, as a rale, pays this tax? It is well known to those who have studied systems of taxation in every country that a filtration process goes on. The tax filters down until it comes to bedrock. What is the bedrock? It is the working people of the community.
It is true that the Treasurer has raised the exemption from £200 to £300, and has granted a 10 per cent, reduction all round. This will have the effect of reducing taxation for many people, and of placing others outside the area of income taxation. We are thankful for that relief, but even those who are now exempted from income tax will still be within the taXpaying area, because, in the inflated prices they pay for the goods they purchase, they will pay the taxes passed on to them by the richer members of the community. A small redemption fund has been created. The Treasurer spent about half of his time last year in supporting the new states movement, and gasconading up and down the country on the subject of the redemption fund. ‘ Between 1910 and 1913 the Labour Government created two institutions that are the stand-by of the Treasurer to-day. The earnings of the Notes Issue Board last year were £1,200,000, and half the profits of the Commonwealth Bank for half the year amounted to £61,000,000, and in round figures £1,300,000 came into the Treasury from those two institutions. That is a big contribution to the Treasurer’s redemption fund. Facts such as these show that the Labour party, when it created those institutions, knew something of finance, and looked to the future. I rejoiced at an incident that occurred when Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer. A loan of £7,500,000 fell due, and he did not know how to meet it. The Treasury officials, however, reassured him. They said. “ It is all right.” He replied, “ How do you make that out? I have to find £7,500,000 to redeem this loan.” In effect they said to him, “ You will remember that the Labour Government took charge of the note issue a few years ago, and there is an accumulation of profits in the Notes Issue Trust Fund of £7,800,000.” Thus the debt was wiped out. That is what I call “ high finance,” but Sir Joseph Cook was able to do it only because the Labour party, in the teeth of bitter opposition, pushed its proposal through. I atm not here to blow the trumpet all the time, but when people stand up’ and say that “ these Labour fellows know nothing of finance,” I am tempted to produce examples of what the Labour party did in the way of safe, sound and good financing. We may be able to reduce our public debt to some extent, but within the next twenty years we shall have paid upon federal and state debts nearly £1,000,000,000 in interest.
– Is the honorable member allowing for the sinking funds?
– They will help us to some extent, but in a few years between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000 will have to be redeemed, and we shall not be able to borrow the money for redemption at Si per cent., at which the original loan was floated; we shall have to pay 5 per cent, or 6 per cent. Even after making allowance for whatever amounts may be standing to the credit of the sinking funds, the interest payments in the next twenty years will be over £1,000,000,000. The burden of interest is becoming so heavy that, unless we take a strong grip of our finances, chaos will result. Borrowed money is being expended in nonreproductive channels.
– How would the honorable member take a strong grip of our finances ?
– It is about time all the states were brought into line, and when fresh loans are required for redemption purposes there should be concerted action, in . order to obtain the money at lower rates of interest.
– That is being done now.
– To only a very small extent. A strong man will be required to grapple with the position, in order to relieve the people of the enormous interest burden they are now called upon to bear.
– The principle of having one borrower for Australiahas been accepted.
– That is so. There are some able financiers who regard the advantages of sinking funds as mythical, and, indeed, they have often been so in the past. In nearly every state at some time, sinking funds have been established with a great flourish of trumpets, but later an impecunious treasurer has laid his hands upon those reserves. I understand that the Western Australian sinking fund is so safeguarded that not even the most impecunious treasurer can divert the money from its proper purpose, but with the exception of that fund there has been little or no effort on the part of the states to establish a permanent and inviolable reserve for the redemption of the public debt. I view the future with very grave concern. If this Parliament continues to vote loan money for works from which no return can be expected it will be heading the Commonwealth for disaster. I am by no means a pessimist ; I am one of the most optimistic men of this House, but I know that no matter from whom the Commonwealth collects the tax, the landholder, the salaried man, and the wage-earner have to pay the whole of it. The price paid for every article purchased in Flinders-lane includes a repayment to the merchant of the taxation he has to bear, and the charge is passed on and on until it reaches the workers and the men upon the land in the remote outback. The taxation of the wealthy sections of the community, with the exception of the landholders, is a myth. The interest bill and all the other burdens of government are borne by the poor man who is rearing a big family to keep Australia white, who fights Australia’s battles, and does Australia’s work. The men upon the land, in the workshops, and behind the counters pay the whole of the taxation. From that truth there is no escape.
– How would the honorable member alter that state of affairs?
– We shall have to put a curb upon the traders who are fleecing the people. Five years hence there will not be a member in this House who will be blind to the necessity for such a restriction.
Why should the wage-earners and the land-holders pay the rich man’s taxes? It is economically unsound, and inhumane.
Men who are prepared to allow the poor people to continue to bear the big burden they are carrying to-day are cruel in the extreme; by comparison with them a slave-driver of olden times was a Christian gentleman. For immigration, this Parliament voted £200,000 of loan money last year, and a further £250,000 is on the Estimates for this year. Last year the Commonwealth loaned to the states for immigration purposes, £872,000. In other words, during the last two years the Commonwealth has made available, out of loan funds, £1,322,000 for immigration. And with what result? We are always told that the immigrants are being placed upon the land. During the last few years about 26,000 returned soldiers and others have been settled upon Victorian lands, at a cost of millions of pounds.
– Some of them are, indeed, “settled.”
– Unfortunately. Notwithstanding that expenditure, the landholders in Victoria have increased by only 1,000.
– They are leaving the land and coming to Melbourne.
– That is the cruel feature of the immigration policy. Members of the National and Country parties say on the public platforms, “ We are not bringing immigrants into Australia to swell the population in the already congested areas; they are to be sent into the wide spaces of Australia, where they will settle, rear families, and add to the production of the country.” But that is not what happens. Even before the war, men were brought from Britain and settled in the irrigation areas of Victoria. On one such area in the Wimmera district I, at one time, knew dozens of settlers ; but, if I were to visit the district to-day, I should probably not find one of them remaining. Some of them came to Melbourne years ago, and said to the government officials, “We were brought from Manchester and Liverpool to be settled on the land. We were without experience; we admit that we have failed, but if you do not get us employment in the city we shall write to our homes and tell the people of Britain what a terrible country Australia is.” So some of them were given employment in the city, and others returned to their native country. Every state has had similar experiences. Men are not remaining in the rural areas, but are drifting to the cities. The Government is spending an enormous amount of loan money to bring people to Australia, and they ultimately find their way to the already congested cities.
– The new states movement will remedy that trouble.
– Not the movement outlined by the honorable member. A new states movement that meant the redivision of Australia as a whole would receive my support, but the honorable member’s piecemeal policy is mere humbug. If new states are to be created, existing state boundaries must be ignored. The honorable member has said that he thought that when the Commonwealth took control of the postal services state boundaries would not be recognized, yet he proposes the creation of further boundaries, and the placing of postal managers in charge of small provinces. That policy will do no good. Geographically, Riverina may belong to New South Wales, but economically and because of community of interests, it belongs to “Victoria.
– The Riverina will want to be a state in itself.
– In a properly conceived new states movement, districts having community of interests will be joined, and enjoy local self-government. From such a policy great benefit will result to all parts of Australia. On one occasion when the Prime Minister of the day said that certain things could not constitutionally be done, the late Mr. T. J. Ryan said, “I am prepared to draft a bill, and if this Parliament will enact it I shall be prepared to champion its provisions through all the courts to the Privy Council, and I have not the slightest doubt regarding the final decision.” And I believe that without any amendment of the Constitution this Parliament could legislate upon many subjects which years ago were said to be beyond its province. At present the Commonwealth Parliament is cribbed, cabined, and confined. The honorable member for
Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) threatened recently that Tasmania would secede from the Commonwealth. I believe the honorable member is too good an Australian to be earnest in that threat.
– That will be Tasmania’s policy unless it gets justice.
– People have often to wait a long time for justice, but if they are deserving it comes to them eventually.
– What extra powers does the honorable member say the Commonwealth should have?
– The necessary amendments of the Constitution are very few, and they are indicated by a statement made to a newspaper reporter some years ago by General Smuts, when he was asked to explain the difference between the South African and Australian constitutions. He said, “ They differ- materially. We have avoided the mistakes made in the Australian Constitution. The Federal Parliament of South Africa has complete power over finance and railways, and has delegated certain powers to the provincial parliaments.” In order to make the Commonwealth Parliament truly national, and inaugurate a proper system of local self-government throughout Australia, it is necessary that our Constitution shall be enlarged, and the Federal authority given the same supremacy as it enjoys in South Africa.
– The South African provincial parliaments have been a failure.
– The making of provincial parliaments subsidiary to a national parliament has certainly never been a failure. Some of the details of the constitution of South Africa may not have worked out quite in accord with the ideas of its founders, but the superiority of the National Parliament there is unquestioned. The boot is on the other foot so far as Australia is concerned. Those who formulated our Constitution, judging them man by man, whatever their political beliefs, were some of the finest statesmen that Australia has had, or is likely to have. But they acted wrongly in allowing the state element to intrude unnecessarily in the Constitution.
– Without that federation could not have been brought about.
– I know that concessions were necessary to overcome the prejudice of certain state representatives, who wished to keep the State Parliaments sovereign and supreme, and to delegate certain powers from the states to the Commonwealth. The constitution of South Africa was framed differently. Canada, when formulating its constitution, did not follow the example of Australia, which copied, to a great extent, the United States constitution, then 110 years old.
– We omitted essential portions of the United States constitution.
– I admit that. Canada, bordering the United States and seeing the operation of its constitution, hide-bound as it is with almost unalterable provisions, formulated its own constitution.
– Compare the development of the two nations.
– It is futile to compare the development of one of our overseas Dominions with that of a nation like the United States of America, which, since the war of Independence, has gone ahead by leaps and bounds.
– Canada has developed rapidly.
– That is so. The Federal Parliament of Canada is the supreme power, to which the provincial parliaments are subsidiary. Although I do not say that we should adopt the constitution of either Canada or South Africa, yet we should certainly formulate one more in conformity with the views of the Australian people.
– The Constitution was all right twenty years ago, but we are now 23 years ahead of it.
– We have grown even under the disadvantage of the Constitution.
– Doe3 the honorable member suggest that after 23 years the Constitution should be scrapped?
– I desire it to be, not scrapped, but amended. .1 voted for the amendment of the Constitution at the time when the referendum was unsuccessfully put before the people; but I venture to say that, if a similar referendum were now taken, it would be accepted by them. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) waxed wrathful, if not eloquent, concerning the manner in which this country was ham pered because of its fiscal difficulties. Honorable members of the Country party are always advocating cheap goods.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and Senator Gardiner, of the Labour party, hold similar views.
– Those members subscribe to the plank of our platform providing for new protection. They would not be accepted as Labour candidates in any part of Australia if they did not subscribe to that policy. Honorable members of the Country party talk about obtaining goods from the cheapest market. Our wheat sacks are obtained from India, where the cheapest class of labour is employed in making them. I have by deputation and agitation tried repeatedly to have cornsacks sold in Australia at a cheaper rate. These sacks, although made by black labour under the worst possible conditions, are sold to the farmers at excessive prices.
– Who gets the profits - the importers?
– Quite likely. If the farmers of this country were left to the tender mercies of the importers and freetraders, not only their wheat sacks, but also every other commodity they require, would be sold to them at exorbitant prices. I represent a manufacturing constituency. Footscray is one of the biggest manufacturing suburbs of Melbourne, and I tell every one of the manufacturers and workmen there that I stand for new protection. I am prepared to admit that some of the manufacturers of Australia have charged exorbitant prices for their goods.
– What is the purpose of new protection?
– It is to protect the manufacturer at the ports, the worker in the shop, and the consumer who buys the commodities.
– It cannot be done under the Constitution.
– If the Labour party is returned to power at the next election - and this seems inevitables - among the first measures to be introduced will be one providing for new protection.
– Would not that be discrimination?
– No, because the law would apply to all the states. The- next Labour Government intends to pass a special act of Parliament -which no decision of the High Court will upset. Under the Constitution as now framed, the interpretation of the High Court has to be obtained on almost every measure passed by this Parliament. The new measure, when passed, will prevent firms like H. V. McKay and others from escaping, as in the past, from conditions imposed by the Parliament. If freetrade existed in Australia, within twelve months every farmer would be an out-and-out protectionist.
– Most farmers are protectionists.
– I believe so. Most of my friends of the farming class are strong protectionists. The members of the Country party with freetrade ideas claim that they represent the farmers. I deny that.
– On the question of protection they misrepresent the farmer?
– Absolutely. Most protectionist farmers vote for Country party candidates, whether freetraders or otherwise, because they know perfectly well that the great bulk of the members of the Federal Parliament are protectionists, and that their safety lies in the protection afforded by this House - whether the Government be Labour, or Nationalist, or Composite. Members in the corner who are freetraders do not represent the true opinion of the farmers.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
– I have a few words to say , about immigration and its cost, much of which is paid out of loan money. Instead of settling people on the land the results so far have been rather to increase the congestion of our big cities. If the information I have received is correct, the Government proposes to spend still more money wastefully on immigration. I am informed on very good authority that an ex-member of the Victorian Parliament has been appointed an immigration agent, and is to be paid about £60 a week to induce immigrants to come to Australia. This, if true, amounts to a scandal. If the Government is responsible for such an arrangement even its own supporters will turn against it. I am not mentioning names, and- 1 say only that I hope the Government will not be induced by this plausible individual to appoint him as an immigration agent to go to the Old Country and have a good time there. If we do require the services of any one to give people in the Old Country a practical idea of Australia, the man whose name has been mentioned to me is not a person suitable for the job.
– Did the honorable member say that he was to be paid over £3,000 a year?
– I am informed that he is likely to be paid £60 a week and his expenses to and from the Old Country. During the last three years, through loans to the State Governments and through direct Commonwealth expenditure, £1,200,000 has been spent on immigration, and it is time this wasteful expenditure of money ceased. I hope that the Prime Minister will inquire about the alleged appointment to which I have referred. If he is a party to it, I say that the man who would send such a person to the other side of the world to secure immigrants for Australia, is not fit to occupy the position of Prime Minister.
I want to say a word or two more to the members of the Country party. I have been struck by the way in which some of them refer to the well-grounded system of protection that we have in Australia. The protection we afford our industries needs to be increased rather than diminished. Only to-day, at the commencement of the sitting, I directed the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to a matter which confirms my opinion. .1 asked the Minister to investigate a statement that Australia is now being flooded with cheap Austrian imports. The complaint on the subject comes from the furniture trade. It is said that Austrian chairs are now being dumped into Australia, and if this is allowed to continue, those engaged in the furniture industry in this country will before long be walking the streets looking for work. We should spend our money with our own people, and should not continue the policy of sending overseas for the goods we require. To do so is inimical to our best interests. If I had my way everything that can be manufactured in Australia, and particularly from raw materials produced here, should be manufactured here, and a prohibitive embargo should be placed on the importation of similar goods from Great Britain or from any other part of the world. By the establishment of manufactures in this country a wage fund of many millions has been created in connexion with our protected industries. Our statisticians tell us that the expenditure on food of a working man and his family amounts to about 38 per cent, of his weekly earnings. The rent amounts to 23 per cent., clothing 22 per cent., and miscellaneous expenditure makes up the remaining 17 per cent. Expenditure on food and clothing accounts for 60 per cent, of the expenditure of a working man’s family. Practically every item of food and clothing is derived ultimately from the soil. We may say that 60 per cent, of the working man’s expenditure is spent on the finished product of raw materials supplied by the primary producers. Where would the farmers of the country be were it not for the wage fund distributed by the workers in our factories? That wage fund represents a total annually of £260,000,000, and that does not cover all wage-earners. If we take 60 per cent, of that amount as expended on food and clothing, either the finished article or the raw product, it is shown that £156,000,000 finds its way in some form or another into the pockets of our primary producers. In these circumstances the man who will say that protection is not a good policy for this country, and particularly for the primary producers, should be medically examined to discover whether he is really sane. When the question, “ Are farmers protectionists?” is asked, I say that with the exception of a few who may be misguidedthey are. It would not be possible for a man to enter this Parliament as a farmers’ representative, if on the platform he favoured absolute freetrade, unless the farmers relied on the fact that most members of this House are protectionists. Even the squatter should vote for labour, because working men and women and their families consume most of the wool, beef, and mutton he produces. Were our people properly instructed there would not be a man left in this country who would not vote for Labour. It may be that the squatter will be the last to be brought into the fold. I have given the conclusions of our statistician and a reasonable deduction from them as to the proportion of the Australian wage fund that finds its way to our primary producers, or would do so if they conducted their business on co-operative lines instead of allowing middlemen to ride them as they have done in ,the past.
I believe that every member of the committee approves of the Government spending annually £500,000 in aid of the construction and maintenance of main roads. If the Government proposed that the grant in aid of road construction should be £1,000,000 per annum, that would meet with practically unanimous support in this chamber. There are other ways in which, especially with an overflowing treasury, we might assist the people. Great schemes are on foot in Australia. Among them there is the scheme of the Victorian Electricity Commission, which will in time supply power and light, not only to country towns and cities, but throughout our’ rural districts also. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has on various occasions and in different parts of Australia expressed his belief in the advantage of bringing together industrial experts, who could organize the power available in this country, whether under hydro-electric schemes or by the production of electricity from brown coal. If the Government would assist in providing electric power and light throughout the country districts so that the residentsof those districts might have some of the privileges that are enjoyed by those who live in our more congested centres, the result would be to make country life a great’ deal more attractive. We should give assistance to provide good roads, railway communication, water supply, and electric power and light. All these things are done in America. When we ask why the United States of America have progressed by leaps and bounds, as they have done, from an insignificant population about 100 years ago to a population to-day, including coloured people, of 125,000,000, the answer is that it is due primarily to the fact that their people set about the protection of their own industries. Although the citizens of the United States of America have been drawn from nearly every nation in Europe, in a few years newcomers so merge into the ordinary population of the country that every man and woman of them becomes a good American.
Wherever they go they make the boast that the grandest, the finest, the best country in the world is the United States of America. They love their country, and they believe hi sticking to it. The wife of one of our Governors-General, Lady Northcote, I believe, was an American citizen before she married into an English family. Whilst in Australia, as the companion of Lord Northcote, although she was an American by birth, she set our Australian women- a splendid example by purchasing dress materials and other wearing apparel manufactured by the Australian mills. She also advised Australian women to follow her example. A little organizing work among our sisters, our wives, and our mothers in Australia would make of them strong advocates for the use of Australian goods. Why should we go into an Australian shop and purchase an Italian hat in preference to a good Denton ? Why should we ask for a Woodrow instead of one that has been manufactured locally? Our women-folk, if they were educated to the advantages of purchasing Australian-made articles, would not be found seeking industriously for materials that have been manufactured in other countries. Let every man and woman in Australia, but particularly the members of this House, take some pride in this, the finest country underGod’s sun. If we were to do that, Australia would go ahead by leaps and bounds, and no other country would be able to compare with it. One reason why the Americans have forged ahead is that they love their country, and purchase its products. We ‘ are laughed at by the Yankee when he finds that our imports cost, us millions of pounds. This is the greatest wool-producing country in the world. Before very long it will be one of the greatest cotton-producing countries. We have all the raw materials from which can be turned out first-class manufactures of practically everything that is needed, yet some of us are foolish enough to purchase goods that were manufactured 12,000 miles away. I say to my friends in the corner opposite that, if they appreciated what our manufacturers are doing for Australia, they would not so readily advocate importation.
I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), and support the effort that is being made by the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) to induce the Government to pay more attention to the health of our Australian people. According to the mortality figures and other statistics from which the health of the people may be judged, with the exception of New Zealanders, Australians are as healthy as any people in* the world. I am not content with that. We possess great privileges, we live in a country with a wonderful climate, and we should .be the healthiest people in the world.- I believe that that end can be attained. I shall strongly support any move that is made to improve the health of the people. The programme forecasted in the budget is an anaemic one. It is proposed to refer the matter of health to a royal commission. It has been well said that if you want to postpone action in any direction, if you want to procrastinate, appoint a royal commission. A commission will ramble all over the globe, and in the sweet by-and-bye will send in a re- port which, like other similar documents, will be pigeon-holed. We do not require the information that can be acquired by a royal commission. The honorable member for Calare, I believe, in a day or two will inform this House that already we have sufficient data; we have the institutions, we have the medical skill, necessary to inaugurate health reforms, and it is not necessary to await the report of a royal commission before taking action. The Government says that it has decided to appoint a royal commission upon which the Commonwealth and the states will be represented, to consider the present system of health legislation and administration, to make a recommendation designed to secure the most economical and efficient results, including the elaboration of a national policy which can be followed by all the authorities. There are in the states of Australia at present five Labour governments, and I believe that I can safely assert that not one of those governments would be represented upon any royal commission, the appointment of which would have the effect of postponing action to improve the health of the people. The Minister for Health in the Victorian Government (Hon. J. P. Jones) is admirably adapted to and excellently qualified for that position. Speaking to me the other day, he. scoffed at the idea of appointing a royal commission to deal with this matter. He has investigated health matters on this side and on the other side of the world. He said, “ We in Victoria are already in a state of preparedness to go straight ahead.” …
– None of the states will co-operate.
– They are putting the “ acid test “ on the Commonwealth Government. What is the use of talking about appointing a royal commission? Can much more be learned about tuberculosis? Do we not know sufficient about the red plague? Have we not staring us in the face to-day the appalling fact that 95 per cent, of the children of Australia are suffering from defective teeth? Is a royal commission necessary to ascertain facts that are already known?
– It is necessary to coordinate the. operations of the different authorities.
Mi-. FENTON.- We have heard about co-ordination and co-operation- until we are heartily sick, of those terms.
– We have not the constitutional power to do what the honorable member desires us to, do.
– The Minister speaks as.; a; lawyer. It is late in the day to say that we have not the constitutional power to do- this. Does, the Minister contend that; ‘‘the Government would be acting un constitutionally- if< it brought down a bill providing for- the expenditure of £500^000 to improve the teeth of the children of Australia ?’
– All we can d’o is to hand the money over to the states ; it is their job-.
– Do that, then.
– - That, would not solve, our public, health difficulties.
– One paragraph of the budget, speech states that, it is proposed to appoint a royal’ commission. A’ little lower down the speech says - file, Director-General of. Health is- visiting the United States of America, where he> is to .be, the guest- of lie Rockefeller Institute. He will” also, visit- most of- the European- countries’, Ira order- that he may glean as much information as possible, as. to, modern, practice in, health.’ matters..
W.here is. the. necessity, to appoint a- royal commission when an., expert is, collecting* any additional, information that- may* he> required.?; Hundreds, of people- will die while the Government is procrastinating, and while this royal commission is jaunting round Australia and other countries ascertaining the means to be adopted to prevent disease. It is true that America has a population of millions compared, with our thousands, but that country is doing relatively much greater work. The health of its people is not, perhaps, quite so good as the’ health of Australians, yet despite the advantage we possess in that respect, conditions exist in our midst which, as reasonable, sensible, sane people we should not tolerate for an hour. There is the matter of defective teeth. I firmly believe that if we could put the teeth of our people in a proper condition we should become the most effective people in the world. From that one source proceeds quite a number of the troubles and diseases to which we ase subject. What are we doing? The testimony of dental surgeons is that 95 per cent, of our children are suffering; from defective teeth. It is well known that the children and women of the poorer classes suffer agonies from that complaint alone,, and’ a stop should’ at once be put to it. The expenditure of even £3,000,000 per annum would not be too great; it would be the means of doing splendid work. What progress has been made in America?’ Tate the matter of industrial hygiene. Roosevelt realized that among the 42,000,000’ wage-earners, in the United States of America in his day there was a great amount of sicknessthat was preventible. He ordered an inquiry to be made. The matter has been organized’ from that, day, and although tn Roosevelt’s, time the 42,000,000 wageearners, were losing^ on- an average thirteen days’ work per annum, two yearsago the loss had been reduced’ to eight days.. It Roosevelt’s time5”46’,000:,000 days were lost annually by the workers. That number has been. cut down by 210,000,000. working days per annum. In what way ?’ By the adoption of’ hygienic methods, by making available medical and nursing attention,, by improved’ factory hygiene in the. matter of ventilation, light, and so on.
– Has- the- adoption, of prohibition had anything to- do. with the improvement shown ?’
– These- figures– deal with the period before prohibition- would, havemuch effect. If prohibition’ makes of.”
America the most effective, the most efficient country in the world, it is quite likely that a number of other countries will have to follow its example. That, however, is another matter. At present I am referring to public health. Medical men in Australia and in other parts of the world tell us that a big proportion of sickness and accident is preventible. Dr. Robertson, of Victoria, the other day made the announcement that the workmen of Australia lost, on an average, 6,000,000 working days per annum. Averaging that loss at 10s. per day per individual, it represents a total of £3,000,000 per annum. I am certain that 10s. would not cover the average wage paid. I am not, however, dealing with this matter from the money aspect. There is an immense loss in that and’ in productive value, but what about the advantage to be gained by winning the people from a weak to a strong state of health? That would be magnificent work. Australians cannot be better engaged, nor Australian money better employed, than in improving the health of the people. I hope that before this session concludes a motion will be carried compelling the Government to take action immediately, and not wait for the report of a royal commission. The financial position of Australia deserves the closest consideration of every honorable member. Last year the Government guillotined the debate on the Estimates, and Parliament was hurriedly prorogued. That was a cruel and iniquitous act, for matters of paramount importance demanded attention. I trust, therefore, that every honorable member will make a contribution to this debate. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) spoke approvingly of the Government’s proposal to relieve the workers- and the middle classes of a small amount of taxation. While we accept that little relief with thankfulness it is, after all, of very small consideration when compared with the crushing burden of interest that rests upon every member of the community. The interest bill is a special tax upon the workers, and the time is not far distant when they will say, “ We have had enough of this. We have carried the burden for long enough, and we shall carry it no- longer. We have paid the wealthy man’s tax and out own as well. We have helped to make this country what it is. But we refuse absolutely to bear the burden any longer.” The financial responsibilities of the country do not rest upon the Commonwealth Treasurer, or on the states Treasurers, nor even upon the honorable members of this Parliament, except as individuals; they rest upon the community at large. I assert that in less than five years methods of affording the people relief will be discussed in this chamber which would not now be considered for a moment. Sufficient business is associated with the budget and the measures which will emanate from it to occupy honorable members of this chamber for three months, and I trust that when the Government’s proposals have been dealt with by us they will receive adequate consideration in another place. No attempt should be made to restrict our review of the financial situation. I shall support every measure that the Government introduces that I believe will be in the interests of the people; but I shall strenuously resist all proposals that I think are -inimical to the best interests of the community.
.. - The honorable member for Maribyrnong. (Mr. Fenton), in the early part of his speech, referred to the constitutional difficulties under which the Commonwealth Parliament labours, and expressed the hope that, in the near future its powers would be broadened. He said that our Constitution was framed on that of ‘the United States of America, specific powers, being conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament and all others being left with the states. He later on remarked that the Canadian constitution, on which that of the Union of South Africa was modelled, would have been rauch better for the Commonwealth, for under it certain powers were given to the provincial governments and all others were conferred upon the federal government. The honorable member showed that he had a good knowledge of the Australian Constitution, and he therefore surprised me greatly by bis attack upon the Government’s public health policy. He knows that one of the specific matters reserved to the State Governments was. the administration of public health. The Commonwealth Government has made efforts from time to time to assist the states in their public health administration, but it has discovered that they are very jealous of their power, and are unwilling to do anything that will tend to deprive them of the slightest authority. The Commonwealth Government possesses certain quarantine powers, but outside of these it has very little jurisdiction over public health. Having granted money to the states for expenditure in the prevention of venereal diseases, it has endeavoured to ascertain the exact manner in which the states are working to that end. I should like to know, for instance, whether the work being done in the Sydney laboratory is duplicated in the Perth laboratory, and whether a satisfactory return is being secured for the money expended. As evidence of its desire to assist the states to prevent the spread of disease, I may say that a request made recently on behalf of the Sydney’ University for a monetary grant for cancer research was immediately acceded to by the Government. It is possible that cancer research is being carried on in other Australian universities, and similar applications may be made on their behalf. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth grant is not specifically limited to one institution, but it is only reasonable, in the circumstances, that the Government should desire to know whether the work in the different universities is being duplicated. When the Premiers’ conference met last year, a, discussion occurred on public health administration generally, and the Commonwealth representatives- suggested that a commission should be appointed to inquire into the best method of harmonizing’ the activities in the various states. The proposal was bitterly opposed by the representatives of almost every state. They assumed the attitude that their health administration was in the best interests of their people, that they knew exactly what was wanted, and that they did not desire any interruption or interference by the Commonwealth Government. Eventually it was arranged that the principal officers of the Health Departments of the various states should meet the Commonwealth public health officers in conference to discuss administrative ‘‘methods and practices. All efforts by the Commonwealth Government to arrange for that conference to be held have completely failed, on account of the State Governments refusing to make possible the attendance of their officials; and the Commonwealth Government now feels that it should not any longer delay the appointment of a commission to consider how best to correlate the work of the states and the
Commonwealth with a view to making the Commonwealth Public Health Department of more service to the state administrations. The commission will not inquire into the health of the community generally, or the growth of cancer, or whether tuberculosis is increasing, or whether the teeth of school children need’ attention-. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said, an abundance of information is already available on those matters. The Government wishes to ascertain how itcan correlate the public health activities of the states, and the commission is to do nothing more than give it a lead as to how it can use to the best advantage the money available for public health purposes, and exercise the limited powers the Commonwealth Government possesses.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) last night delivered a characteristically eloquent and fervid address on the budget proposals. We all listened with interest to him. Unfortunately his brilliant speech, like many other such efforts, did not reveal the trend of his thoughts or indicate the measures which he would adopt to remedy the disorders of which he complained. His speech was a maze of generalities, and though, from some points of view, a fine deliverance, it was so full of illogical propositions and contradictions that one almost despairs of obtaining from it even an inkling of the honorable member’s opinions. That applies particularly to his remarks on the defence of Australia. In one breath he spoke of economic preparedness and of the necessity for paying off our liabilities before incurring new ones; but in the next we found him admitting that if his own party was in power it would probably be spending as much, if not more, money, though in a different direction. He charged this Government with neglecting to provide for the defence of the country by spending unlimited amounts in the directions he indicated; and then he told us that we must ask ourselves what money we would make available for the purpose of defence. In one breath he said that there was no immediate danger, and_ that we had to prepare for five, six, or ten years hence, and then he criticized theGovernment because all that he considered requisite had not been done at once. He is not satisfied with proposals that will gradually achieve the end at which he is aiming, namely, effective defence within the period of time he has laid down. Instead of looking at the proposals of the Government in a fair and reasonable way, he did all that he could, not only to belittle them, but to throw dust in the eyes of honorable members and the people of Australia by obscuring their real nature. He had something to say about the administration of the ‘ Defence Department. Although the total expenditure in that department has been kept down to the level of last year, he pointed to certain items as an indication that the more highly-placed officers were being benefited at the expense of the poorly paid ones. The fact is that the great proportion of the £6,000 increase in the cost of the central administration is due entirely to increases of salaries following upon awards by the Public Service Arbitrator, and to automatic increments. He referred to a £10,000 increase in the cost of the naval administration, and made facetious remarks about members of the Naval Board strutting about in cocked hats and gold lace, as if they benefited by the increased expenditure. The facts are that the increase is only £3,400 ; that the payment to the Naval Board has decreased by £500; and that the increases, as in the central administration, are almost entirely due to the Public Service Arbitrator’s awards and certain automatic increments. The honorable member drew a wild picture of a factory which, he said, was filled with machinery imported from Great Britain, and was managed by a gentleman brought from England at great expense. The imported machinery, he said, had to be scrapped and new machinery installed in its place. I am quite unable to connect the honorable gentleman’s criticism with any factory in my department. If he referred to the detonator factory at Maribyrnong, he had been misinformed in several particulars.
– How does the Minister know that I referred to that factory?
– I do not know, for I have said that I cannot trace the factory referred to, because the honorable gentleman’s statement does not apply to any factory in my department. I shall be glad to know whether he did refer to the detonator factory. Does he know to which factory he did refer? I name the detonator factory because he said something about dust-proof windows and the dust-proofing of machinery, and the principal place where we dust-proof anything is the detonator factory. In the first place, the machinery .in that factory was not brought from England; in the second place, the responsible officer who manages it, with other sections of the explosives works, is an Australian, not an Englishman; and, lastly, the factory is going to start operations as soon as modifications of the Australian-mad( plant, which are necessary- to conform to modern practice, are completed. If the honorable member does know of a factory to which his description applies, he should name it. So far as one can gather anything from his speech, he favours submarine expansion, and he is definitely opposed to the construction of the 10,000-ton cruisers. He told us that although the British Navy had ruled the seas for 200 or 300 years, he could not see why that supremacy should be maintained. It is here that the Government finds itself definitely at issue with him and his party. We believe that it is of vital importance to Australia, and to the British Empire, that the supremacy of that fleet should be maintained. We recognize that in the past we have been under the protection of the British Navy, and every one of us knows that if that Navy had not been supreme, Australia would not now be one great continent for one great people. The Government feels that not only was this true up to 1914, but that it is true to-day. For the protection of Australian interests and. the Australian people the supremacy of the Empire fleet is the paramount consideration. That is an issue clear, plain, and broad, upon which we can fight. It will separate us one from the other. The honorable member said that whatever mighthave been the case in 1914, conditions had altered since, and that -what was true in 1914 was not true to-day. He said something about cheap coastal defences and cheap emplacements. In the first place, I do not know much about cheap emplacements. Under modern conditions of warfare very little can be done except by the expenditure of a great deal of money. Honorable members have sometimes criticized the Government for sinking certain big guns with the Australia, but before those guns were sent to the bottom of the sea I made every possible inquiry to find out whether they could be used for coastal defence. I found that it was estimated that it would cost about £120,000 to put a pair of them at Sydney Heads, even if they could be got there.- I made inquiries from the Army Council, in England, and found that during the war the British Government erected two pairs of those 12- in. guns at a cost of about £250,000, and that they were not entirely satisfactory after they had been erected. Naval guns are built, and all their attachments are made, differently from land armaments, and, therefore, naval guns cannot be used with any great measure of success for coastal defence. When I found that it would cost so much to make the emplacements for the guns, and the guns- themselves were obsolete, ammunition suitable for them not being obtainable without getting it specially made, I thought that we should put the most modern type of guns on our emplacements. The question of coastal defence is not an easy one to settle. The Army Council has appointed a committee to inquire into the question, and we have sent a liason officer to keep in touch with that council. There is a difference of opinion whether 8-in. or 14-in. guns are the most suitable for coastal defence, and the Government is waiting for the report and decision of that council and the War Council before making definite arrangements for the fortification of the main ports of Australia. The honorable member, also suggested that instead of cruisers ive should have aeroplanes. I remind, honorable members that all the fortifications in the world, and all the aeroplanes in the world, if they had been stationed in Australia, could not have sunk the’ Emden and protected Australian trade routes, and the Australian coast, from the depredations of .that raider. It took the Australian Navy, with the Australia and the cruisers, to do that. If honorable members admit that the preservation of the trade of Australia is necessary in time of war, if they recognize that we must keep our trade routes open in order to hold the commercial fabric of this con- tinent together, then they must concede that it is absolutely necessary that we should have the proposed two cruisers.
– Does the Minister suggest that if there were three raiders of the Emden type, three navies would be needed to cope with them ?
– It took only one ship, the Sydney,, to settle the Emden. The Australian trade routes are so long that we cannot hope, without help from other parts of the Empire, to protect them, but it is necessary that we should do what we can in that direction in our own areas!
– Is Canada or South Africa doing anything in that direction 1
– Canada, I am afraid, is relying more or less upon her proximity to America, and is putting her trust in that country and the Monroe doctrine.’ South Africa is still relying upon the British Navy, a squadron of which is stationed at Capetown.
– Is New Zealand doing anything similar to the proposals of the Commonwealth Government?
– Yes. New Zealand is determined to have a cruiser of its own as soon as possible. At the present time she is maintaining the cruiser Dunedin, which has been lent by the British Government. New Zealand has, also, certain other vessels for her squadron. The Dominion is doing all it can to assist in Empire naval defence. It is useless to say that a few guns scattered about the Australian coast would be as effective as the proposed cruisers. There is no doubt that it was the Navy, and not the coastal defences, that protected us during the last war. If that Navy had not been in existence the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and the port of Newcastle particularly, would probably have heard the crash of German shells, and would have had first-hand experience of the horrors of war. The Washington Treaty provides that none of the great powers shall build further battleships during the next ten years. Australians had an opportunity recently of seeing two of the capital ships of the British Navy, the Hood and the Repulse, and I think we may be grateful that the Washington treaty precludes us from having such vessels, because we could not afford to spend the £10,000,000 necessary to construct one, and even if we could, the cost of upkeep would be too great. We can, however, afford two 10,000-ton cruisers. It is the opinion of the advisers of the Government that, if war were declared, the major fleets of the belligerents would be kept intact until they met in battle. No power would weaken its main battle fleet in order to send capital ships on raiding expeditions. It is so necessary that a battle fleet shall be ready at any moment to strike an effective blow against the enemy grand fleet, that no raiding would be done except by swift cruisers of the type of the 10,000- ton vessels, which the Washington treaty allows to be built. The Government is of opinion, therefore, that if the enemy vessels that may be expected to raid our shores will be of the 10,000-ton cruiser type, we- should have cruisers of equal weight, having equal steaming capacity, and carrying guns of equal power, in order that our men may meet the enemy on even terms. We need not fear the outcome, of a conflict upon those conditions.
– What proof has the Minister that the enemy will not send ships larger than our 1’0,000-ton cruisers ?
– Of course we have no proof, but we are guided by the opinions of the strategists of the British Admiralty and of other nations. The vital part of a navy is its battle fleet, and no nation would reduce* the striking power of that fleet in order to send out raiders, before it had had a decisive meeting with the enemy fleet. Of course, if the British battle fleet were defeated, anything might happen, but so- long as it remained intact, no enemy nation would dare to deplete its battle fleet in order to raid distant seas. Therefore, the Government proposes to build two 10,000-ton cruisers. We know that our sailors are at least as good as those of any other nation, and we believe that if they are given an opportunity to meet the enemy on equal terms they will prove their quality. But to send out against modern 10,000-ton cruiser vessels like the Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and. Melbourne, would be to send men to their death. The old cruisers must be replaced by modern vessels with more powerful guns and capable of holding their own against the 10,000-ton cruisers, which will be the largest vessels that will be likely to attack us.
– Does Britain propose to establish another fleet in the Pacific?
– We cannot say what are the intentions of the British Admiralty, but we do know that the Admiralty experts considered that the Singapore Naval Base Was an essential link in the chain of Empire defence. I remind the committee that the Government’s proposals foi- naval defence are not confined to the acquisition of two modern cruisers. We propose to acquire two cruiser submarines of the latest type, and they will be held in reserve at the old submarine base at Geelong. The larger cruisers and new submarines will require additional personnel, and the Government, is desirous that, by the time those vessels are available, there will also be ready the requisite number of trained Australian ratings to man them. So the Government proposes to increase from year to year the number of ratings, commencing this year with an additional 750, and adding more each year, until the present shortage is made up and there are ample trained men in the Commonwealth to man both the old and new vessels of the fleet. That Mall- involve, of course, increased accommodation for the men when they are ashore. Accordingly, additional barrack accommodation is to be provided at Flinders for the use of the men when they are going through their training courses. Honorable members on both sides of the committee have insisted upon the necessity for providing a reserve of oil fuel, and’ the Government is not unmindful of the fact that such a reserve” is not only desirable, but absolutely necessary. However, the quantity of oil that we shall require to keep in reserve cannot be stored immediately.
– I draw attention to the fact that only six Ministerial supporters are in the chamber, and I ask for a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The provision of containers for oil reserves .will extend over the whole of the five-year term. We propose to erect each year one 8,000-ton tank, which shall be filled in the year following its erection, so that at the end of five years we shall have five tanks capable of holding 40,000 tons of oil.
– Will any of the tanks be on the north coast ?
– The sites are not yet decided upon, hut it is our intention to put the greater number of these tanks on the north coast, probably between Darwin and Broome. Investigations are being conducted in order to locate the most suitable sites. In regard to military defence, also, the Government has. mapped out a five years’ programme. The Government has found it necessary, in order to do justice to the existing forces, especially to warrant and non-commissioned officers and men, to make substantial increases in their pay. These amount in all to £70,000, including a few corresponding ranks in the Naval Auxiliary Forces Under the five years’ programme referred to we shall have sufficient munitions to supply three divisions, if they are required to take the field. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) commented strongly upon the inefficiency, of the defence forces, and from extracts he quoted he asked the committee to deduce that the Government had contributed nothing towards Australia’s defence. That is far from the fact. A great deal has been done, although not so much as the Government desire. In Australia to-day are all the . small arms and ammunition ‘and the clothing and equipment needed for our divisions. The shortage lies principally in large artillery and in ammunition for field guns and large artillery. We have enough field guns to equip three divisions, and are hoping to manufacture many more. The Government do not propose to buy additional field guns, because its policy is to make them at Footscray. A factory is now being erected there for the Dur.pose. Although we are greatly in need of large artillery and field guns, and the ammunition for them, it must not be taken for granted that no effort has been made to obtain them. During the past year the sum of £250,000 was spent on orders for ‘munitions.
– Are the guns at the mobilization stores up to date?
– Tes. They are 18-pounder field guns of the latest type, and are very satisfactory weapons. It is not anticipated that they will be required for war purposes immediately, and by the time they are so required ammunition for them and for guns up to 6-inch calibre will be manufactured here.
It is also proposed to drop the first year of the senior cadet training, and instead to train a third-year quota of the Citizen Forces. This alteration will not be given effect until after the 30th June next. The balance of the £440,000 which has been allotted to the army as its share of the £1,000,000 expenditure for this year will be expended in purchasing munitions, including artillery, artillery ammunition, bombs, and anti-gas equipment. The anti-gas equipment is urgently required, and will be purchased immediately. At the end of five years the Government will have in hand sufficient munitions to put into the field three divisions completely equipped. The need to increase the air force has been apparent to the Government and every member of the committee for some time past. Soon after coming into power the Government took steps to provide a depot at Laverton. The proposal was referred to the Public Works Committee, and reported upon. The House has sanctioned the erection of the depot, and the work will be commenced forthwith. It is anticipated that the depot will be finished within three years. It will be built in separate units and sections, and each unit, when completed, will be brought into occupation and use. The need for a seaplane squadron, to co-operate with the Navy, is advised as the first step in any advanced programme of air defence. The Government is making arrangements for the establishment in Sydney of a seaplane unit for naval co-operation. These planes are part of the equipment at Spotswood, and are to be reconditioned for immediate service. The necessary hangar accommodation will be erected in Sydney. It is hoped to use this unit in various civil services. Some of the seaplanes will be used in the survey of the Great Barrier Reef, which work, having been approved by Parliament, is to be undertaken this year. The Government desires, as soon as possible, to establish an aviation centre near each of the capital cities, and steps will be taken to place one such unit at Richmond, New South Wales, during the coming year. The Government has purchased from the New South Wales Government the Richmond aerodrome, which is reputed to be one of the finest of its kind in the world. The additional accommodation necessary will be provided this year. This policy will be continued throughout the succeeding years. A flying boat squadron and another air force unit will be established. The unit at Richmond will be available “for the trainees under the citizens training scheme. A flying-boat unit will be stationed, probably at Port Adelaide, and another air force unit in one of the capital cities. In five years we shall have four additional units, including the flying-boat unit.
– What is the strength of a unit?
– Up to twelve plane3, sometimes eight; but not more than six are in the air at one time. The seaplane unit will be about five planes. The flying boats will be purchased; the other planes we have. We are at present testing a flying boat of Australian design by SquadronLeader Wackett, one of our’ own men at Point Cook. .We are hopeful that his special design for an Australian boat and Australian floats will be more satisfactory than the planes among the gift equipment from England. Wing-Commander Goble, in his flight round the Australian coast, experienced a great deal of difficulty with his floats because of the changes of climate. Special floats are being designed to meet the severe requirements of the Australian climate. We have, in SquadronLeader Wackett, one of the finest designers in aeroplane work in the world. For civil aviation an additional amount of £57,000 has been appropriated this year. This sum is required to open up new routes from Derby to Wyndham, from Sydney to Brisbane, and from Cloncurry to Darwin, and to cover additional expense on contract works which were commenced in 1923-24, but which operated for part of the year only. When the air service is extended from Wyndham to Darwin, and the necessary aerodromes and emergency landing places are established, we shall have almost encircled the continent. Great stress has been laid upon the need for munition supplies, and the Defence Department is endeavouring to establish an organization to make possible the manufacture in Australia of essential munitions of war. The objects of the scheme are, briefly - (a) the establishment of scientific and technical staffs with the necessary laboratory equipped for investigating the utilization of Australia’s resources for munition making, and for the study and development of manufacturing processes so that we may have a centre from which such information can be distributed; (b) the erection of factories for the production of articles of munitions that are not obtainable from commercial sources, or are required in peace times in such small quantity as to render their manufacture by private enterprise economically unattractive; and (c) the preparation of a scheme for the organization of the whole of the industries of the country in war time. The laboratory for munitions research has been completed. Mr. Leighton, who is an enthusiast on these matters, assures me that it is one of the finest institutions of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The Government has not lost sight of the fact that it is very necessary in the defence of Australia to have a scheme for the organization of the whole of- the industrial activities of the country in time of war. But’ first of all it is necessary to have object-lesson factories, at which to train selected men from the different engineering shops in the Commonwealth, so that in time of need their services may be available to the Commonwealth. Factories have been established or are in the course of erection for the manufacture of small arms, machine-guns, and pistols, big guns up to 6-in. calibre and ammunition for them. The last item embraces propellants, high explosives, fuses, primers, detonators, projectiles of various descriptions, and so forth. To show that some considerable progress has been made towards the manufacture of munitions in Australia, the complete round of ammunition for the quick-firing 18-pounder field guns may be taken as an example. Hitherto the whole of this class of ammunition has had to be obtained from England. Various component parts are now being constructed in Australia. A factory has been erected for the manufacture of shell cases, and the plant is in course of installation. Production is expected to start within a few months. The brass cartridge factory is nearly completed, and production is expected to start in March or April next. Fuses and primers are already made on an experimental scale. I think the honorable member for Bourke suggested that we might supply primers to the mining community. Cordite manufacture can be undertaken at once and the T.N.T/ buildings are partly completed, whilst the plant is in course of installation. It is expected to start production of T.N.T. at the close of the financial year. -
– Is the department doing anything in the way of producing gas ?
– We are experimenting in the laboratory with anti-gas apparatus, but are doing nothing at all in the way of manufacturing offensive gases. Their manufacture is very expensive, and as Great Britain is spending millions each year in experiments on the production of offensive gases we think we can very well leave these investigations to the Old Country. Machine guns are to be made at Lithgow, and 18-pdr. guns and carriages are to be made at Maribyrnong. An acetate of lime factory was established at Brisbane for the manufacture of acetate of lime, from which is produced the spirit acetone which is essential in the manufacture of propellants and explosives. Alcohol is also produced at the acetate of lime factory. During peace times large quantities of alcohol and acetone are not required for defence purposes, but the factory is utilized for the manufacture of power alcohol, which is used in motor vehicles belonging to the Post, and Telegraph Department and other Commonwealth departments. If, then,’ the Government’s proposals are proceeded with the Commonwealth will at the end of five years have added to the navy two 10,000 ton cruisers and two sea-going submarines. There will be the necessary barrack accommodation at Flinders, and there will also have been provided five 8,000 ton oil tanks and 32,000 tons of oil.
– I suppose the oil tanks will be distributed around the coast?
– Yes, but principally in the north. The army will be provided with artillery, artillery ammunition, anti-gas equipment, bombs, &c, qf a total value approximating £1,000,000, spread over the five years. There will also be an additional quota of the Citizen Forces in training. In connexion with the Air Force there will have been provided four additional units, together with necessary barrack accommodation, hangars, &c, and the Laverton depot will have been brought to completion. The total expenditure on this last item will approximate £350,000, In regard to civil aviation routes will have been established encircling the whole continent, and possibly it will be found both practicable and economical to carry the mails by arrangement with the Air Force. In connexion with the munitions supply branch, all the munitions factories at present contemplated will have been completed and in operation, and, for the first time in its existence, Australia will in most essentials be independent of overseas manufactures. The factories will include gun factory up to 6 inch, gun ammunition factory up to 6 inch, machine gun factory, rifle factory, pistol factory, high explosives factory, cordite factory, and machine gun, rifle and pistol ammunition factory. So that, although nothing very spectacular is proposed, I submit that there is the outline of a definite developmental programme for the advancement of the defence of Australia, and furnishes a satisfactory answer to the question of the honorable member for Bourke as to what the Government is doing in defence.
– Is the Minister going to wipe out the woollen factory?
– And the harness factory?
– Honorable members refer to the woollen factory and the harness factory. They know that there is quite a definite and clear issue between the two parties in this House on the question of the woollen factory.
– The issue is between Flinders-lane and the party on this side.
– Nonsense. The honorable member has a diseased imagination, and can think of nothing but the most vile insinuations. He never gives any man credit for anything but the most unworthy motives. For eighteen months or two years he has sat on the other side,- and every interjection he has made has been on the same lines, imputing the most disreputable motives. All the time the honorable member has his tongue in his cheek. He does not mean what he says, and he knows that no one believes what he suggests. There is no necessity to become heated about the disposal of the woollen mills. The syndicate that bought them over eighteen months ago has paid no dividend yet. The issue is one upon which we can agree to differ, without any imputation of unworthy motives.
– Political life becomes very tame if one cannot impute motives.
– The honorable gentleman speaks from experience. The woollen mills served their purpose during the war. They manufactured woollens for the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite speak as though they manufactured all the woollens that were sent to our men on the other side of the world. But all the woollen mills in Australia were at the time manufacturing tweed and khaki cloth. They did good work, and the Commonwealth woollen mills set the standard which they had to work to. Our mills did very fine work during the war, and after the war was over-
– Somebody else wanted them.
– We did not want them. I do not know that some one else wanted them very badly. They did not seem very anxious to tender. At the close of the war, we had in hand sufficient cloth to keep us going, and our present requirements would keep the woollen mills going for only three months in the year. It became a question whether for the other nine months, the Government should compete with private enterprise, manufacturing woollens for sale to the public.
– Against Flinders-lane.
– No; the sale would, in all probability, have been to Flinderslane, or some other distributing agency. It was considered wise to get rid of the Commonwealth woollen mills as a going concern. The Government tried to sell them to the soldiers’ leagues, but those organizations could not finance the transaction. The mills were offered for sale for three or four months without any satisfactory offer for them being made. The fact that the machinery installed was for the production of woollens, and not worsteds, had a very adverse effect on the sale of the mills, because any one taking them up would require to spend £60,000 or £70,000 on machinery for the production of worsteds. As no offers were, received, the mills were again advertised, and were then sold to the highest bidder. That was the end of them - though honorable members opposite have no wish to make an end of them. The harness factory simply fizzled out. There was no work for it to do. The men left one by one, as nothing was doing. The only way in which the factory could have been carried on was by entering into competition with private saddlery and harness factories. The party on this side is against that policy, whilst honorable members opposite are in favour of it. The line of demarcation between the two parties is clear. I think that we did very well to get rid of the Commonwealth woollen mills, while honorable members opposite regard their sale as of serious disadvantage to Australia. So far as the defence aspect of the matter is concerned, it must be borne in mind that all the woollen mills of Australia would be at the command of the Defence Department should war .break out. It is not necessary that we should maintain one particular mill to meet our requirements in the event of war. We can do as we did during the last war, take control of all the mills in Australia, and see that we get all the cloth we require when we want it.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) rose something over an hour ago, and it appeared as if he intended to castigate the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) for the eloquent speech he made in this chamber yesterday. The Minister started by saying that the honorable member for Bourke engaged in a maze of generalities, and he then set about answering his statements. He failed as completely in answering the speech of the honorable member for Bourke as he did last week in his attempt to prove to this House and the country that we could not produce sufficient socks in Australia for the men in the navy. He said that the honorable member for Bourke asked whether there was any immediate danger .of the invasion of Australia. I ask the Minister does he say that there is immediate danger of the invasion of Australia? His remarks imply that he does regard the danger of invasion as immediate. After going through a detailed type-written account of many things which the Government is going to do in the dim and distant future, he told us that after a delay of many years what will have been provided will be merely an outline and shadow of defence. In those words the honorable gentleman justified every word uttered by the honorable member for Bourke in his criticism of yesterday. The honorable member said that after spending £17,250,000 in the last five years we have reached the position that we have nothing but the shadow of a defence for Australia. Did the honorable member prove that statement? He quoted from the budget speech the amount of money spent, and he proved from the mouth of the Minister for Defence himself that no adequate defence has been provided. He referred to the fact that the Minister speaking on the 23rd October, 1923, stressed the fact that Australia was not prepared to meet an emergency, that the position regarding munitions was serious, and that the greatest problems were concerning the supply of arms arid munitions. The Minister found fault with the honorable member for Bourke for saying that the Government was not doing all those things at once, but what the honorable member criticized the Government for was that it is doing first not the essential things, but those that are non-essential. The Minister concluded his speech by a feeble attempt to justify the selling of the Commonwealth woollen mills. He said there is a distinct cleavage between the Opposition and the Government on that matter. The Government will riot have the mills which were proved to be essential in time of war, and would again prove so, because they could not be maintained in’ time of peace without competing ‘ with private enterprise. I agree that that makes a clearcut issue between the two sides in this House. The issue between honorable members opposite and ourselves is that we stand for economic preparedness for war as we believe in economic preparedness for any other evil that might come upon this country. The idea of the Government and its supporters is that the defence of Australia should be a burden upon the people, and that no attempt should be made at any time to- derive profits from these establishments, or make them useful in time of peace. The Labour party says that if there is danger of an attack being made upon Australia in the dim and distant future, in preparation for which it is necessary to spend millions of pounds, common-sense dictates that these in- stitutions should pay their way in time of peace. Honorable members opposite know that that is a sound and an economical policy, yet they object to it, because they prefer to see millions of pounds wasted -rather than interfere with the profits of those who have put them where they are. Replying to an interjection by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), the Minister indignantly stated that the honorable member for Angas had a diseased mind, that he imputed motives, and that he could see nothing but bad in every one who .was opposed to him. The honorable member for Angas merely stated the principles for which the Government says it stands. There was no imputation of motives. What did the Minister himself say ? He said that this mill had served its purpose well during the war, and now that the war was over its purpose was ended. I remind him that the woollen mill, the harness factory, and the clothing factory were not instituted to deal with the emergency of war, but were established four years before the outbreak of war. The Minister admitted that when the dark days of war descended upon us those institutions were essential, and proved their value in the defence of Australia. An important part of his speech was the statement that, although the woollen mill did not make the whole of the clothing for our soldiers, it set a standard both in quality’ and in price to which the private mills had to work. Honorable members opposite should peruse the reports of the’1 conferences that were convened by the Minister for Defence of the day, when the profiteers in Australia were charging the highest prices they could because of the exigencies of war. An expert was brought from Scotland to manage the woollen mill. He knew as much about the woollen manufacturing business as any man in Australia, and he was able to give an’ unanswerable reply to every argument that was advanced ‘by ‘the private manufacturers. He kept down the prices of the materials required, and probably saved Australia indirectly many millions of pounds. The only excuse which the Government gave for sacrificing this mill at a price below its value was that it could not be maintained without competing with private enterprise. The Minister also stated’ that the harness factory had fizzled out. How did it fizzle out? At one Royal Agricultural Show I saw exhibited sets of harness that had been made in the harness factory. I was in the company of men who were tillers of the soil. They said that’ the harness exhibited disclosed the finest workmanship and the best material that they had seen in any set of harness. .They made inquiries with a view to purchasing a set, but were unable to do so because it was against the policy of the Government to compete with private enterprise. Some of the harness was sold to soldier settlers, but otherwise the Government would not sell outside government departments. The Labour party believes that the harness factory, the woollen mill, and the clothing factory should be kept going in a time of peace, and that the surplus output should be sold to those who desire to purchase it. If the tillers of the soil want a cheap ‘ set of harness, containing the very best material, they are entitled to buy it from a factory that has been established with their own money. Because the adoption of that policy would have interfered with the profits of the friends of the Government, the harness factory and the woollen mill had to go. When we tell the Government these things we are accused of imputing motives. If the Government is anxious to provide for the defence of Australia without imposing upon its people a burden of expenditure that will almost ruin them, because of the comparatively small number of persons among whom it can be divided, it will be forced to adopt the principle laid down by the Labour party, that these factories shall earn in times of peace, profits that will enable them to maintain themselves, and keep them in readiness to operate to their full capacity in time of war. The idea of the Government is to have a huge factory, like that at Maribyrnong, equipped with uptodate machinery, and involving a capital expenditure of close upon £50,000 or £60,000; employing half a dozen men to .make only ‘sufficient fireworks to give a display when Australia is visited by a prince or a fleet, and to build up a small reserve. We say that the plant should be operated to its full capacity, and should manufacture all the explosives required in the industrial world. It should be wholly selfsupporting, or as nearly so as possible. That is a common-sense view to take of the matter. The Government prefers to import detonators for use in the industrial life of Australia, rather than manufacture them in a Government factory, because to do so would interfere with private enterprise, and would bring down upon it the wrath of those who have placed it in its present position, and provide its party funds. The Minister also attacked the Acting Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Anstey), because he drew attention to the fact that while the Government was expending less money on the actual fighting arm of defence, it was increasing the expenditure on the administrative side. The Minister stated that the honorable member’s summing up of the position was not’ a true one, but that, as a matter of fact, the increased expenditure was being incurred to improve the positions of those who are not highly placed in the department. I have gleaned as much information as I could from the published documents, and I have found that the Acting Leader of the Opposition told only a very small portion of the story that can be told. There is an idea in the mind of the Minister, and of the heads of the Defence Department, that the officers are to be merely ornaments in times of peace ; that they are not to- be asked to degrade themselves by maintaining the defence institutions on an industrial basis, but that they are to continue to be a burden upon the country until their services are required for warlike purposes. By adopting that view, the Government is dissipating the resources of Australia, and wastefully expending its finances, rendering it well nigh impossible to maintain these establishments until an outbreak of war, if such a contingency should eventuate. I shall endeavour to show the extent to which the Defence Department, which the Minister pretends to have administered so effectively, is over-burdened. He has eulogized the department in a type-written statement that has been prepared for him by the heads of the department. Let us compare the position in the year before the war with the present position, and see what we possess in the name of a defence scheme. These gentlemen talk of their patriotism, yet their defence scheme is but a sham, and they are making no attempt to do other than maintain the establishment as a place of refuge for highlypaid officers. In 1913 there were in training two quotas of junior cadets, four quotas of senior cadets, and four quotas of citizen forces - a total of ten quotas in training. In the year ending 30th June, 1924, there were two quotas of senior cadets and two quotas of citizen forces - a total of four quotas in training. The number in training in 1913 was 130,000; at present it is 40,000. How many permanent officers have been required to train those forces? In 1913 there were, roughly, 180 permanent officers. In 1922 that number had increased to 280 permanent officers. Whilst the number in training has decreased by 70 per cent., the number of permanent officers has increased by 60 per cent. That is the efficient manner in which the department has been carrying out its duty. Let us look at some of the details. Take the department of the Chief of the General Staff. In 1913 that department had six permanent officers, including one general; last year it had 12 permanent officers, including 3 generals. Take the department of the adjutant-general. In 1913 it had 3 permanent officers and 1 medical officer. Last year it had 6 permanent officers and 3 medical officers. Take the establishment at Duntroon, which, as an economical institution for training officers, is a screaming farce. Let us look at the last report to hand from the Royal Military College at Duntroon and see whether we are getting anything effective for the money that is being expended. The report states that for the year 1922-23 there were 35 cadets in training, Honorable members who have visited Duntroon and have seen the size of that establishment will be amazed to learn that only 35 cadets are there being trained to be officers. The cost of training in that year was £40,000. The officers and other personnel employed to train the 35 cadets and to carry on the Duntroon establishment consisted of 1 commandant, 1 adjutant and quartermaster, 12 officers on the military instructional staff, 4 professors and lecturers, 45 on the administrative staff, 12 on the riding establishment, 3 in the hospital, 9 in the messrooms, 1 tailor, 5 in the laundry, 1 poultry farmer i and 2 canteen assistants - 96 officials responsible for the training of 35 cadets ! The most delightful part of this report is the statement, “ Economy has been drastic. The staff has been reduced by 34. . . . The extra work has been cheerfully borne by every one. No further reduction can be made if the Duntroon standard is to be maintained.” I have had a comparison made of the cost of this establishment with that of military colleges in other parts of the world. I find that the cost per head per annum in those institutions is as fol lows : -
Those cadets at Duntroon are kept in training for four years. When they leave the college they are sent abroad for six months for further military education, being attached to the military forces in either India or Great Britain. What becomes of them then? In 1922 a wave of economy rolled over the country, and the Government brought down the Defence Retirement Bill, which necessitated the retirement of a number of officers and the payment to them of £300,000 in compensation. Honorable members will recollect that the Government proposed to pay three times as much compensation to the’ retired military officers as to the retired civil clerks. The retirements included 23 officers who had passed through Duntroon College since 1918. They were educated at a cost to the country of something like £5,000 each, and retired with £150 compensation each almost immediately after leaving the college. These statements prove up to the hilt the assertion of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) that the Government’s defence policy is a sham and a delusion. It is framed not to defend the country, but to provide easy and fat billets for the gold braid and brass hat brigade. When these officers leave Duntroon, they join the headquarter’s staff, and do simple clerical work, for which they are paid a lieutenant’s salary of £300 a year, although for doing similar work civil clerks start on a salary of only ‘£90 a year. Of course, having come from Duntroon, where they had grooms to attend to their horses, they could not be expected to be content with the ordinary pay of the head-quarter’s clerk. They are simply glorified messengers. Civil clerks, who draw a small pay, prepare all the documents that are necessary in the routine work of the department, and some of these Duntroon gentlemen carry them from one office to another for others to sign them. The Labour party strenuously objects to this kind of thing. It might be asked where officers could be secured if Duntroon College were closed. I suggest to the Minister that, at present, he has working in his department 100 men who hold the rank of warrant officers, but who served with the Australian Imperial Forces during the last war, and won their commission on the field of battle. Immediately they returned to Australia their commission was taken from them, and they were obliged to accept work with , the department as warrant officers at such a sweating wage as would not be offered in an ordinary Government department in any other part of the world. T-He Duntroon trainees, who are sent to India or to Great Britain for six months’ service with an Imperial regiment after they finish their college course, have to be trained for their work when they return to Australia by these same warrant officers, who receive a smaller wage than the labourers who work in our streets. Is it any wonder in the circumstances that there is no incentive for any one to attempt to do anything really effective for the defence of the country ? If the Minister for Defence is sincere in his desire to formulate an effective defence scheme, he will have to get rid of these glorified messengers, and the gold braid and brass hat. gentlemen, and build on a solid foundation, such as has been proposed by honorable members on this side of the committee.
I wish now to make some remarks on the Treasurer’s administration. The budget statement that he submitted to us is supposed to be a national balancesheet. It purports to show how money has been raised and spent. I do not propose to discuss all the matters with which it deals, for that would be impossible in the time at my disposal, and various aspects of the financial position of the country have already been debated. But I must inform the Treasurer, who formerly talked so much against government interference with private enterprise, and who now boasts so much of his surplus, that if it were not for £1,500,000 profits derived from the operations of the post office, and £1,250,000 profit from the Australian note issue - “ Fisher’s flimsies “ that were so much sneered at years ago - he would have no surplus. Those two amounts total £2,750,000, which is more than the amount of his surplus on the year’s operation. I must also remind him that in the last three years the national debt has increased “by £14,000,000, which involves an annual payment of one and a-third million pounds in interest. When he was leading the party from the corner opposite, he denounced his present chief, who was then Treasurer, for not spending the post office revenue in providing postal facilities for the country. I well remember the attack which he made, for I listened to it whilst I sat at this table in the early hours of one morning. He then asked -
Why is the revenue of the Post Office taken from that department and allotted to other governmental activities 7
He. also said -
I desire to enter an emphatic objection to taking from the Postal Department the profits it makes and crediting then: to general revenue.
He added -
The Postal Department should at lea6t be made self-contained, and whatever profits it earns should be utilized for its extension and development.
– That is the policy I have adopted.
– We shall see what the Treasurer has done. He has not spent any of the postal revenue on postal development, but has paid it into the general revenue. In 1921, an amount equal to 97£ per cent, of the revenue of the post office was spent in postal development, but this year the Treasurer proposes to spend £4,300,000 of loan money on postal development, but none of the department’s profits are to be used for that purpose. He made the following declaration in his policy speech in 1922: -
The Country party desires an immediate and thorough investigation into the Commonwealth Shipping undertakings, the Persian Oil Agreement, the Wireless Agreement, and other doubtful transactions, by independent tribunals.
For two years the Country party has dominated the Government, but nothing has been done to give effect to its declared desires. The Treasurer, when leading the Country party, also criticized the administration of the Taxation
Department, and now I shall criticize his administration. On the 19th June, this year, I asked the following question :; -
Will the Treasurer inform the House how it is that, although the Land Tax Assessment Act provides, in section 9, that an annual report by the Commissioner shall be presented to Parliament, no report has been presented since 1921?
The reply I received from him was -
If the honorable member will refresh his memory, he will remember that these reports are always somewhat late, because of the intricate nature of the figures which have to be prepared.
I wish honorable members to realize how little the Treasurer feels his responsibility. The Land Tax Act states that an annual report of the operations of the department must be submitted to Parliament. Surely it is reasonable that the Commissioner of Taxes, who collects millions of revenue every year from income, land, and other taxation should submit his report annually. .But the last report we have is for 1921. The report’ previous to that is for 1918, so that we have only had on© report in six years. That is an absolute scandal. An act of Parliament should not be flouted like that, and no Minister who had a proper sense of his responsibility would permit it. The Treasurer, when leading the Country party, claimed that he was a great reformer, and that if ever he assumed office he would reform the administration of the various departments. Yet when I asked him why an important report like that of the Commissioner of Taxes is’ not submitted, he simply replies that the delay is on account of the intricate nature of the figures that have to be compiled. “When a Labour Government administered the affairs of the, country, these reports were presented every year. They were tabled in 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1915. There was no report in 1916, which was the year in which the split occurred in the Labour party; but reports were furnished in 1917 and 1918, and then no report was submitted until 1921. The Labour Governments could have these reports pre: pared regularly, and it is a serious indictment of this Government that it has not also done so. But I have some more questions to ask the Treasurer. I wish him to explain why there has been such a fall in the land tax assessment in the last twelve months. In 1921-22’ the land tax assessment was £2,500,000; and in 1923-24 it was only £1,650,000, or almost £1,000,000 less.
– There was a 20 per cent, reduction in the tax in 1922-23.
– That’ would not materially alter the assessment. It would only make a comparatively slight change. I also desire an explanation of why there is such a large amount of tax outstanding. On page 6 of the budget financial statements, honorable members will find that the outstanding land tax, accumulated over a period of years, is £2,114,914. We were told last year that £1,300,000 was due on Crown leaseholds. Let us deduct that; we do not need to discuss it at the present moment, but shall have something to say about it later. That leaves £800,000 of taxation due on other lands. How much of it is due on freehold land ? Last year there was brought down to this House a bill to amend the Land Tax Act for the purpose of removing all taxation from Crown leaseholds. The accumulation of taxes on Crown leaseholds was said to be very largely responsible for the large amount” of outstanding land taxation. There has been no assessment of Crown leaseholds since the 30th June, 1923, and, therefore, none of the outstanding land taxation shown in the budget can be taxation of Crown leaseholds for 1923-24. How does the Treasurer explain that the amount of uncollected land tax for 1923-24 was £189,957 ? He talks about administering his department. That is certainly the way not to administer a land tax department. Time was when the land taxes of this country were collected efficiently. That was when a Labour government was in office. Under the regime of the present Treasurer, and the present Government, big men can hold this large sum of money without anything being done to them. In 1910-11, the amount of outstanding land tax was only £172 ; in 1911-12 it was £225; and in 1912-13 it was £543. Those were the three years when Labour ruled, and the largest amount of land tax outstanding at any time during that period was £543. Against that, we have £189,957 outstanding for last year. The Treasurer gave us not a word of explanation - of that. He smoothed it over, and smothered it. It is one of the first things that he ought to have explained in his budget speech. The excuse cannot be that the collecting of taxes on Crown leaseholds is intricate and difficult, because they are not included in the last year’s assessment. Who owes this money ? There is plenty of evidence that the Government relentlessly pursues the small man when he owes anything. I saw a report three months ago about a man who had been summoned and fined three years in succession for not sending in his land tax returns, and he only had to pay £9 a year. That shows that the department has no hesitation in pursuing the small man. The arrears shown in the budget are not owing by the small man. I make this charge to the Treasurer across the table to-night, that his department, either on his instructions, or in spite of them, is allowing the big land-owners of this countrynot only the holders of Crown leaseholds, but also the owners of freeholds - to defy the department by not sending in returns and not paying their taxes. I challenge him to disprove that statement, and to appoint a commission to inquire into it. When I asked to be supplied, with the names of these gentlemen* who owed the money, what answer did I get. I was told that, “ It is not desirable to publish their names.” There is nothing secret about land taxation ; it has never been regarded as secret, like the income tax. I have been handed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), a copy of the Commonwealth Government Gazette, published in the Northern Territory by a bi-weekly newspaper. In it is published a list of names. over the name of Mr. Ewing, the head of the Taxation Department, of -mall men in the Northern’ Territory who owe taxes. There is not a big name among them. The amounts range from £6, which is the largest, down to 2s. There are amounts of 6s., 7s., 8si( and 15s. There is a. closely printed, long list of the names. The persons mentioned have received notice not only that they will be prosecuted, but that their land will be sold unless they pay their taxes. On the other hand, Kidman and Jowett and others who owe over a million between them are not prosecuted, and for ‘ seven years have been allowed to defy the Government of this country. When we asked that their names should be published, we were told that no good purpose would be served by doing so, and that “ It is a wrong principle.” What about the principle of publishing the names of the small men in the Northern Territory ? That is the way the department is administered by a Treasurer who is supposed to represent the small, struggling man upon the land. The ‘Treasurer boasted that wonderful reforms had been introduced by him since he took office. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should not have risen at this late hour had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) in my absence from the chamber this afternoon. The honorable member thought fit to attack me because of my advocacy of further protection for central Queensland marble, and quoted from a letter which he and other members, received from D. B. Acton and Company, of Sydney, importers of Italian marble: -
Most of the imported white marble is used for gravestones. For that purpose Ulam marble is quite unsuitable. No better evidence of this can be shown than the fact that the gentleman, Mr. Forde, who had so much to say in its favour, recently erected a monument to the memory of his mother in Brisbane cemetery. I have seen the work. It is a very good job, executed by A. L. Petrie and Son, in Italian marble - evidently Ulam is good enough for the other fellow.
– One would have thought that the honorable member for Forrest would have had better taste than to mention that in this House.
– Unfortunately, my mother did pass away within the last eighteen months. My father, who is alive, used his own discretion, and had a tombstone erected over her grave. All credit to him for doing so! The honorable member for Forrest attacked me on the ground that I had had erected over my mother’s grave a tombstone of Italian marble, instead of using Ulam marble, which, he said, I urged should be protected further to enable it to compete with Italian marble. I have urged further protection for Australian marble ; but I shall not deal with that matter now. The action ofD. B. Acton and Company in sending such a statement to the honorable members forForrest (Mr. Prowse), Perth (Mr. Mann), and Swan (Mr. Gregory), hoping that one of them would attack me upon it, stands condemned on the face of it. Acton and Company are importers of Italian marble, and are making a good living by selling it to monumental masons in Australia. If a great Australian marble industry were established in Central Queensland or New South Wales, it would mean that they would have to seek other sources of income. That is enough to show that they are prejudiced. The conduct of the honorable members for Perth and Swan in refraining from using such a statement against me stands to their credit. Before quoting the letter, the honorable member for Forrest should at least have discussed the matter with me, in order to ascertain the facts. His action is contemptible in the extreme, and falls far short of the best parliamentary traditions and the high code of honour which I have always found among honorable members in this House, irrespective of party. The honorable member, when questioned by me regarding this matter, said that he did not read the word “ mother,” but referred to the grave of a “relative” of mine. Those whoknow me best are aware that my mother is dead, and would associate the remarks of the honorable member with her grave. I leave the remarks of the honorable member for Forrest to the judgment of honorable members.
.- Those honorable members who were present in the chamber when I made the statement to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has objected will remember that I read a letter which dealt specifically with the importation of marble. It set out very clearly that there was no commercial white marble in Australia, although there was coloured marble of commercial value.
– There is white marble, too. At Angaston, in South Australia, there are large quantities of it.
– There is no competition from Italy in the case of coloured marble. Honorable members will recollect that, when I read the letter, I expressed regret that the honorable member for Capricornia was not in the chamber. I said, further, that I hoped that the statement contained in the letter was not correct. I did not mention the relationship which existed between the honorable member for Capricornia and the person over whose grave the tombstone was erected; I said merely that it was the grave of a relation. It is not an uncommon thing for honorable members to erect tombstones over the graves of their relations.
– The honorable member would make political capital out of the grave of a man’s mother.
– When, during the course of the honorable member’s remarks on the marble industry, I interjected, I was told that I was a foreigner, a “little Australian.” Seeing that I was obliged to listen to remarks of that nature, I do not think that my action was unparliamentary. If the statement read by me is not correct, I shall be very glad to withdraw it, and say that the honorable member for Capricornia was consistent. I regret that the honorable member has viewed my statement in this light, as I had no desire to take advantage of his absence from the chamber to attack him.
. - I rise to refute the statement made by a firm which imports Italian marble, namely, that there is no white marble obtainable in Australia. I challenge the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to inspect the statue of Robert Burns, on North Terrace, Adelaide, which is of Angaston white marble, and then say that we have no white marble in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 August 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240807_reps_9_108/>.