9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Land Titles Ordinance
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories when doeshe expect that the Land Titles Ordinance for the Mandated Territory of New Guinea will he brought into operation?
– The information is not yet to hand, but I expect to receive it at any moment.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Minister consulthis advisers with the view of establishing telephone communication between Norseman and Salmon Gums, Western Australia, and thus link up with the Eastern Goldfields system the line which is at present constructed between Esperance and Salmon Gums, Western Australia?
– The extension of the proposed Salmon Gums-Esperance telephone line to Norseman has already received, careful consideration, but, in view of the heavy cost involved, the extension is one that cannot be undertaken at present.
Royal Commission Inquiry
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will appoint a royal commission to inquire into the coal industry?
– The Government does not propose to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the coal industry. Any suggestions, however, for Commonwealth action in connexion with the industry will receive careful consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether any settlement has been reached in regard to the purchase of a site for a post office at Cygnet, Tasmania?
– No decision has yet been reached regarding this matter, which is still under the consideration of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Increase in Price.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that since the duty on imported brandy was increased by 5s. per gallon, the Australian manufacturers have increased the price of Australian brandy by 7s. per gallon?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he can state when the royal commission appointed to investigate the existing method of deciding the origin of disabilities, and the degree of their aggravation, by war service, will meet, and where?
– Arrangements have been made for the first meeting of the royal commission to be held in Melbourne on the8th September.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice-
Whether the Minister will immediately have the latest state directories placed in all post offices, where it is usual for such publications to be made available to the public?
– Where it is found necessary to supply up-to-date copies of directories, for departmental purposes, they will be made available for public reference. In certain other cases where the expense of providing current issues would not be warranted, arrangements will be made to make available the directories of the preceding year.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Whether be will favorably consider the making available of a sum for the establishment of a laboratory at Broken Hill, for the investigation and treatment of industrial diseases?
– Consideration will be given to the question of establishing a health laboratory at Broken Hill when the report of the proposed royal commission has been received.
– On the 6th August, in reply to a request from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), I promised to inquire into the complaint that a number of employees were being dismissed at Cockatoo Island. I am now in receipt of advice from the Commonwealth Shipping Board that it is regretfully compelled to reduce the number of employees engaged on construction and repair work, as the present volume of work is not sufficient to employ more than a limited number of men. It may be pointed out that there must, of necessity, be fluctuations in the number of men employed in industrial undertakings of the nature of that carried out at Cockatoo, and it is hoped that the endeavours of the board to secure additional constructional and repair work will, in the near future, absorb such of the present employees that it is now necessary to temporarily discharge.
– On the 8th August the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) asked the following question: -
What was the highest price the Australian canned fruit brought in England, and what was the average price of the total shipment.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The highest price obtained in England for 1921-22 and 1922-23 shipments of Commonwealth pool canned fruits was 18s. per dozen, and the average price 8s, per dozen.
The following papers were presented : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 109.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1924 -
No. 26- Supply (No. 1) 1924-25.
No. 27 -Laws Repeal and Adopting (No. 2).
No. 28- Appropriation (No. 2) 1922-23.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments resumed from 13 th August, vide page 3110) :
Senate’s Amendment. - After clause 16 insert the following new clause: - “ 16a. After section sixty o of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 60oa. The board may issue Australian notes to the bank or to other banks in Australia in exchange for money or securities lodged with the London branch of the bank.’ “
Upon which Dr. Earle Page had moved -
That the amendment be agreed to.
And Mr. Whitsitt -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ money or securities,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “gold.”
.- This is one of the most important provisions proposed to be inserted in the bill. It will well repay the most careful consideration. We know the very grave difficulties which exist, and have existed for some time in the matter of exchange. From both sides of this chamber the Government has been recommended to take some action which will tend to make the position less acute than it is at present. I have given a great deal of consideration to the method of dealing with the problem now proposed, and it is nearly two years since I first -advocated it. I claim to be the first to have published in the press in Sydney this method, which I regard as absolutely safe, of dealing with the exchange problem. The difficulty then was acute, and it has become more troublesome since. The exact cause of it is extraordinarily difficult to find. I admit that it is difficult, as was pointed out last night by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), to reconcile our import and export figures with the present condition of the exchanges. The exchange difficulty, however, undoubtedly does exist.
– To what extent?
– I am not prepared to say, but it is certain that it detrimentally affects the industries and the welfare of this country. Great difficulty is experienced by persons who desire to transfer credits from England to Australia, but those who- desire to transfer credits from Australia to England can do so at a profit. I mentioned this subject several times in this chamber before the bill was suggested, and I remember the honorable member for East- Sydney (Mr. West), saying it was a matter with which experts should deal. I shall quote briefly the opinion of a number of” experts, though it would appear that the honorable member, and other honorable members, are prepared to accept the opinions of experts only when they agree with their own.
– If an opinion does not agree with one’s own, it is not that of an expert.
– It is no use appealing to Caesar unless one is prepared to accept hia decision, and an umpire is superfluous if we quarrel with his decision. I’ have heard it stated by honorable members that the exchange difficulty is entirely artificial, and was brought about by the trading banks in order that they might make greater profits.
– The first authority I shall quote is Mr. Andrew Williamson, the chairman of directors of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, in London. The bank has a larger capital than any other British bank trading in Aus tralia, and if the present situation was satisfactory to any bank, it would be satisfactory to that bank. There are banks with large businesses in Australia only, but this bank has a large business both here and in Great Britain. Mr. Williamson, in his address to the annual general meeting of shareholders of the bank, held on the 14th November last, dealt with the control of currency and credit, and said: -
As you may remember, when addressing you last year, I advocated a plan for Australia as a temporary expedient to meet a temporary deadlock. I then said: - “In such circumstances the alternative which presents the most natural and sound method to relieve a situation which is most prejudicial to the best interests of Australia seems to be for the Commonwealth Notes Board (the issuing authority) to issue notes to the banks in Australia against deposit by them in London of cash or its equivalent. There would be no inflation in this, as such issue of notes would be secured by cash, £1 for £1 on this side. This would greatly assist the free flow of the export trade of Australia.”
That is the method that I think might wisely be had recourse to in times of exceptional stringency, when the balance of trade may be exceptionally disturbed.
It should never be forgotten that control of credit is quite as essential as control of currency. Scheme after scheme may be ingeniously devised for controlling currency, but until you can devise a scheme that will also control credit, the present methods of sound banking, supplemented in times of exceptional stringency by some such facilities as I have already suggested, will, I believe, be found to work more smoothly, more effectively, and more fairly than any of the schemes yet suggested.
Since these observations were written the findings of the Imperial Economic Conference on the question of inter-Imperial exchanges hare been announced, and in the main confirm what I have said, though they cover a wider range.
Almost at the same time an opinion was expressed by the president of the Bank of New South Wales, Mr. Thomas Buckland, at the half-yearly meeting of the shareholders of his bank in Sydney, on the 30th November. The following was published as an extract from his address in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st December last: -
The exchange position continues to be abnormal, and to cause us some concern. Money, being the foundation of modern economic civilization and exchange, rates playing as they do such a.n important part on the movement of commodities, they must be of great interest to the community, but the matter has become so complex that it would be a futile endeavour on my part, or indeed upon the part of the moat astute financial authority, to attempt to forecast its operations, even in the immediate future. Before the war, currencies were based upon a general standard, that is to say, the rates of exchange obtaining between the different countries of the world were more or less stable, and comparatively small, variations being governed chiefly by exports and imports, say seasonal requirements, but now political influences have such a very material bearing upon the matter.
Speaking more directly for Australia, I would mention that when currency was on a gold basis, and the banks in Australia issued their own notes, the moving of the crops gave us little concern; but with an inconvertible note issue at both ends the adjustment by the Australian banks of surplus balances in London has been very difficult and costly for the last few years, and I feel that some scheme whereby value might be received in London and an equivalent amount in notes issued to the banks in Australia, to relieve such temporary stress, or vice versa, should the balance veer round the other way, is a matter which should receive the most serious consideration of our Notes Board. Without some such relief, and the impossibility of making gold shipments to adjust balances, the rates of exchange between Australia and London cannot be expected to be on the same plane as when currency was on a gold basis.
That is the opinion of one of the leading bankers of Australia. A fact that is often lost sight of is that since the gold standard has been abolished and we have had an inconvertible note issue, both here and in Great Britain, it has become absolutely impossible to ship money from one side of the world to the other. Various means have been suggested for -overcoming the difficulty, and I would like to repeat a quotation that I made in my speech on the motion for the second reading of the bill. It was an opinion expressed to the shareholders of the Midland Bank in England by Mr. R. McKenna, who said’: -
People often talk of money going abroad or of foreign money coming here, but as a fact, when gold is not in use, money is incapable of migration. An individual may sell his sterling to an American for dollars, but the American will then own the sterling in England ‘and the Englishman dollars in the United States. The change of ownership does not remove the money, which necessarily remains, and can only be expended where it was created. No exchange transactions, no purchase nor sale of securities, no import of foreign goods for export of our own, can take the money out of the country or bring ithere.
That is the position which we have to face. The exchange difficulty has been largely aggravated by the borrowing abroad of large sums of money, the value of which can be returned to Australia only by the importation of goods. This practice should be stopped. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. McDonald) on the 26th June, when speaking on unemployment, brought the exchange situation under the notice of the House, and he blamed the Government for not taking steps to deal with it. He said -
Unemployment is particularly bad in the manufacturing trades. That is largely due to the inaction of the Government in connexion with the exchange problem, which has dislocated our trade and commerce. Surely the Ministry will not say that that is not a matter for their attention. It was the duty of the Government to solve the exchange problem, but it failed to do so. As a result, instead of our secondary industries being in a flourishing condition, and giving employment to all connected with them, Australia has been flooded with an excess of imports.
I agree with the honorable member that the exchange problem must be dealt with if we are to solve the difficulty of unemployment. If our tariff is to have the desired effect, that is, the protection of our Australian industries, we must solve the exchange problem. No better way of doing it can be found than that suggested under the amendment. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) painted a fanciful picture of what would happen when these notes were issued in Australia, and were used for purchasing more goods overseas. Surely the honorable member does not suggest that we should benefit both ways? One cannot have his cake and eat it. If notes are issued by the Commonwealth Bank in Australia we must have in London moneys and securities against it. In my amendment, which was adopted by the Government1 and inserted in the bill in another place, I stipulated “ approved” securities, one reason being that if gold were paid into the bank, as is now proposed under the amendment, and notes, pound for pound, issued against it, the money would be lying idle in the bank. The original act stipulates that a certain percentage of the money should be held in gold in reserve, and the balance invested. Section 60i of the Commonwealth Bank Act reads -
The Board may invest the remainder or any part thereof -
On deposit with any bank, or
in securities of the United Kingdom, or of the Commonwealth, or of a state; or
in Trade Bills with a currency of not more than one hundred and twenty days.
This money can be invested in securities of the United Kingdom. If it is invested in gilt-edged securities, the interest will be paid to the credit of the country holding the securities and issuing notes against them. It has been suggested that one way out of the exchange difficulty would be to make Bank of England notes legal currency in Australia.
– The honorable member would find it very difficult to get the committee to agree to that suggestion.
– I do not say that we should do it, but the suggestion has been made by men of ability quite equal to that of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). This is a double difficulty. We are faced, not only with the exchange situation, but with a shortage of currency in Australia. If Bank of England notes were brought out here and placed in circulation all the profit on the issue would be gained by the Bank of England. We know that for £100 in England, it is now possible to obtain only £97 out here. Only last week I saw the quotation by one of the leading banks of Sydney of t£3 2s. 6d. per cent, as the lowest rate at which it would exchange a considerable amount of money with England. By bringing out Bank of England notes to Australia, we should be losing that 3 per cent., and also any shortage that might occur through loss of notes. Our own notes here are just as good as Bank of England notes. That method of solving the exchange difficulty would not be as effective as the methods suggested by the amendment. It has been stated that the alteration in the notes issue is a deep-dyed conspiracy by the banks to further their own interests. The exchange difficulty is not appreciated by the banks. I admit that they are making money out of it, but they always make a profit out of exchange. They could make it in many ways much more profitable to them than the antagonizing of their customers, which is happening now. The bankers are anxious to have the exchange position made easier. They realize that there is a sprag in the wheel of progress which is blocking business. The exchange difficulty is leading to a great deal of unemployment. I hold no brief for the bankers. I am acting for the people of this country, and not for the financial institutions. Many people imagine that when a tariff duty is imposed we are making the foreigner pay, and they rejoice when, say, their grocer has to pay extra income tax, because they think that the high cost of goods is being taken out of him. Honorable members know that the import duty is put on an article when sold, and we know that the retailers, when putting prices on goods, allow for their income tax. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) recently said that increased costs are passed on, and in the same way the profits of the banks are passed on. They try to make profits, but desire to do so with as little inconvenience to the public as possible, and without injury to the country. Honorable members have quoted the balance-sheets of some banks to show what profits, they are making. But, in any case, they will earn profits. We all follow the same practice, and look after ourselves. The banks would not be in the position in which they are to-day if they did not look after the shareholders’ interests. The shareholders would not permit the directors to hold their positions for long if they made no profits. Unless we can solve our exchange difficulties the troubles described by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) will become still more acute. Raising the tariff barrier is no solution, for facilities for purchasing goods are better in Great Britain than in Australia at present.
– We should be manufacturing our own materials here.
– I agree with the honorable” member, but we shall not be able to do that to a much greater extent than at present until the exchange difficulty is removed. Once that trouble is overcome we can ascertain whether our tariff is sufficient.
– The honorable member is putting the cart before the horse.
– I do not think so. After it was known that the Government had decided to include this provision in the bill, the following cablegram from
London was published in the Sydney press : -
London, 24th July.
The cabled announcement of .the proposal to amend the Commonwealth Bunk Bill so as to permit the issue of notes against security in England has given general satisfaction in financial and mercantile circles. It is believed that this will result in relieving the currency stringency, and removing apprehensions that there ‘would be difficulty in financing the wool clip. Some American wool firms were considering whether it would be worth while sending buyers to the Australian sales.
We want as many wool buyers as possible to come here to compete for our wool. Every man who has the welfare of his country at heart desires that our wool and wheat shall be marketed at the best possible price. One great trouble that we have to face in marketing our products, is that they must all be sold’ within a few months of the year. At any rate, if they are not marketed they are ready for the market, and loss is caused by holding them. The outlook for the coming wheat harvest is excellent. It is quite probable that the value of the wheat harvest this year will be three-fifths of the value of the wool clip. If we are to enjoy the full measure of prosperity that such a volume of production should mean we must take all possible steps to obtain the full market price for our commodities. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), in addressing the committee last night, said that I was in favour of currency inflation. He does not understand the difference between a period of prosperity and a period of inflation. Currency inflation has become a bogy with some honorable members, and also with certain financial authorities in the business world. This country, on account of the prevailing seasonal conditions, should be passing through an era of great prosperity, but the exchange difficulty has caused serious financial stringency. The only reason why die public is feeling so little inconvenience is that the seasons have been favorable. I invite the honorable member for Angas to explain what he means by currency inflation. In my opinion, the currency is inflated when paper money is issued without a sufficient backing. Would the honorable member consider the currency to be inflated if the Commonwealth Bank issued notes in Australia against approved security in London? Or would he suggest that the issuing of notes by the head office of the bank in Sydney, against securities held in this country, is inflation? Honorable members must rid their minds of the idea that prosperity means inflation.
– The currency is inflated when we buy goods at too high a price. *
– That accentuates the trouble. In the last seven years the gross turnover of our trade has increased nearly two and a half times, but we have £3,000,000 less currency to deal with it. It is quite true, as has been pointed out, that the exchange difficulty could be overcome by still further increasing our imports, but honorable members who advocate that policy are in a hopeless minority in this, chamber.. I submit that we must stabilize the exchange situation before we can hope- to develop our- secondary industries so that they can provide for our people all the employment that they would be capable of providing under normal conditions. The Government is to be commended for having put this provision in the bill. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) has proposed that we shall return as speedily as possible to the gold standard, but we must recognize that to return to the gold standard immediately would hurt us considerably. Probably few honorable members of the committee realize that better than does the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and I noticed that, when he was speaking on this subject last night he was very careful in what he said. We all hope for a return to the gold standard, but I do not think that it will be possible for some time to come. The best means of rectifying the exchange situation in the immediate future is that now proposed by the Government.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr.. Manning) claimed credit for having originated the suggestion that notes should be issued against credits in London.
– I did not. I said that I first put the suggestion into print. I heard of it in. New South Wales, and it struck me as being a very fine one.
– The honorable member also claimed credit for introducing it to honorable members when he delivered his second-reading speech on this bill. As a matter of fact, quite a number of us have known that for the last twelve months the private banking companies have been consistently advocating the adoption of the principle, and they have done their best to enlist the sympathetic attention of certain honorable members of this chamber. Little credit is due to the honorable member for his efforts to bolster up the policy which is favoured by the private banking institutions.
– It took some of them a long while to decide in favour of it.
– When the honorable member said, a few moments ago, that we must remedy the exchange difficulty before we can develop our secondary industries, I interjected that he was putting the cart before the horse. I suggest that the best way to counteract the difficulty is to build up our industries. Insure the local manufacture of our raw material, thus keeping our credits in Australia instead of in London, and we shall be relieved of the necessity for providing a remedy such as is embodied in the amendment. Some honorable members have suggested that this proposal is in the interests of the primary producers, particularly the wool-growers. I have not heard more than a passing reference to the wheatgrowers, who comprise the middleclass section of primary producers. For a long time they have been agitating for a Government guarantee for this season’s wheat and the Government has remained adamant, but when the wealthy wool-growers require something done the Government acts at once. Of course wool production is one of our staple industries, and I favour its being assisted if the assistance is extended to all primary industries. I am convinced, however, that this proposal is not in the interest of any section of primary producers. Many explanations have been given of the causes of the present state of affairs, but I have not heard any honorable member attach the blame to the private banking institutions, which are principally responsible.
– I think the British Government is responsible.
– There is a great deal of truth in the statement, which has never been contradicted on behalf ofthe private banking institutions, that during the last two years they have advanced such large sums of money for speculative purposes that their cash reserves in proportion to liabilities have declined about 17½ per cent. Binding themselves at a dead end, the banks have asked the Government to help them out of their difficulties. When the notes are made available to them upon the security of London credits they will be used not for the benefit of the primary producers, but to get the banks outof the difficulties in which they have involved themselves.
– How muchof the money will be used to rectify their overtrading ?
– That is the principal purpose for which the money is required. It is time to tear away the veil from those hypocrites who say that this amendment is in the interest of the primary producers. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), when a private member,mentioned that he had exported a quantity of tin and, owing to the adverse exchange, for every £100 which the sale abroad yielded he received £97. The producers of wool and wheat also must be losing 3 per cent, of every £100 worth of goods they export. Under the amendment, while the banks will receive £100 they will pay only £97 to the producer, and by the time their adjustments are made the exchange will possibly have righted itself. Moreover, they will be able to build up credits upon the basis of these notes, and the cheque money thus created will be lent to the primary producers at 7 per cent. or 8 per cent. interest. Thus the banks will benefit in two ways.
– The secondary industries are likely to benefit just as much as, if not more than, the primary industries.
– I cannot see where the benefit to the primary industries comes in. This is not proposed in the interests of the primary industries, but to enable the private banking institutions to get out of the. difficulties in which they have placed themselves. The Treasurer is the Leader of the Country party in this House, and if this proposal is framed in the interests ofthe primary producers, bow is it that the honorable gentleman did not know that it was necessary when moving the second reading of the bill. In introducing the bill itself the honorable gentleman said that this provision would have the .effect of killing our secondary industries. Surely the honorable gentleman did not altogether forget the primary industries when he was introducing the bill. Which of the two opinions expressed by the Treasurer is correct?
– They are the same.
– There is a vast difference between them. I should like to know from the honorable gentleman whether he stands by his statement that this provision would give our industries a setback, because it would be cheaper to import than to produce locally.
– I pointed out that that would take place only if the provision were operated without proper discretion.
– I ‘ have read the honorable gentleman’s speech through, and he did not make any qualification of the statement I have referred to. He said that damage would be done to our industries, and there would be consequential unemployment. He further said that a consideration of these possibilities would show that the central bank must not be directed to issue notes in the way now proposed.
– This i3 not a direction.
– The fact is that since the Treasurer made his second-reading speech on the bill, Senator Greene, a very prominent member of another place, who has not denied that he is in close touch with the private banking institutions, submitted this proposal at their suggestion. I should think that the Treasurer’ would stand by his original opinion “when he knows the source of this amendment. ‘ Practically every one of the amendments moved in another place by Senator Greene was submitted more to embarrass the Treasurer than for any other reason, and all were in the interests of the private banking institutions. In the circumstances, how is it that the Treasurer meekly accepts these amendments?
– The honorable member is giving the credit for this amendment to the wrong senator. It was notmoved by Senator Greene, but by Senator Duncan.
- Senator Greene said that the private banking institutions had been asking for this pro vision for twelve months, and he supported it. He did so, not because it would benefit the primary industries, but because it would benefit the private banking institutions. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) will tell the wool-growers and wheat-growers of his electorate, through Hansard, that this provision is intended to benefit the primary producers. If they take the trouble to look into it they will find that it is in the interests of the private banking institutions. The creation of credits, and the issue of notes for credits is a policy for which- honorable members on this side stand, so long as the credits are in Australia, and we know what they are. We do not stand for the building up of credits upon some mythical security on the other side of the world. The probability is that these credits do not exist in London at all. No honorable member opposite can tell us whether our credits overseas represent £5,000,000, £10,000,000 or £20,000,000. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has admitted that he does not know the extent of our credits on the other side of the world. The Treasurer also admits that he does not know what they amount to; yet he is proposing that our notes shall be- issued on the basis of those mythical credits. If we want to benefit the primary producers of this country, our notes should be issued in Australia against securities here. The Common : wealth Bank should be placed in a position to issue notes, so that our primary producers may get £100 for every £100 worth of their products. There should not be a reduction of 3 per cent, to benefit private banking institutions, who will build up credits on the notes and, later on, as I said before, advance them to the primary producers, charging interest at 7 per cent, or 8 per cent. They will gain both ways, whilst the primary producers stand to lose under this provision. We have no objection to a note issue based upon our local credits, but we do object to the issue of notes on some mythical credit on the other side of the World which the Treasurer is unable to define. If the Government desires to benefit the primary industries, the way is clear and distinct. It should build up our secondary industries for the manufacture locally of our raw materials. It should seek to bring about an early restoration of the balance of trade in our favour, and discontinue the present reckless policy of borrowing abroad. Our trade cannot be balanced under a proposal of this kind, which is merely a palliative, and will only accentuate the trouble. The proper way is to build up our industries for the local manufacture of our raw materials, and keep our credits in Australia, where we shall know what they are.
.- I do not intend to enter into the intricate question of exchange, but there are one or two facts which I should like to bring under the notice of honorable members.
– I think we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I am thoroughly in accord with the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker* Moloney). My solution for the settlement of most of the troubles from which we are suffering is the encouragement of our local manufacturing industries. Instead of sending our raw materials to Britain and elsewhere, we should establish industries for their manufacture here, and thus give employment to our own people. I wish to direct attention to some remarks made at a recent conference, which will always form a part of the political history of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). He attended this conference, I think at the end of last week, and induced the farmers and settlers to endorse the Federal pact. If he had remained at the conference a little longer, his education would have been improved. The conference discussed a question relating to the Commonwealth Bank, and I quote the following report for the honorable gentleman’s information : -
At the conference of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association, held in Sydney, a motion urging the Commonwealth Bank to open branches in country towns was carried by a large majority. Mr. Thorby, M.L.A., pointed out that the bank bill now going through the Federal Parliament would alter the Commonwealth Bank from a trading bank to a federal clearing house for the other Danks. He said the motion should be made to refer to ‘the state bank. This point was emphasized, but the mover refused to alter the wording of. his motion. He said he was quite aware of the intentions of the bill, but considered that the Commonwealth Bank should remain a trading bank.
The conference carried a resolution that amounted to an expression of want of confidence in the Treasurer for the action he had taken in trying to’ emasculate the Commonwealth Bank. Can any other construction be placed on the report! It was a meeting of farmers and settlors who were holding their annual parliament; they were armed with the latest statistics, and primed with the eloquent speeches of the Treasurer himself. Mr. Thorby, when he referred to the bill, must have known that, so far from enlarging and extending the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, it would turn it into an institution upon which the private banks could lean, and out of which they could grow rich.
– Does not the resolution state that the scope of the Commonwealth Bank is enlarged?
– It does not. The farmers and settlers have asked for an extension of the bank, and they want to see branches of it in every country town, so that they may receive even-handed financial justice. When the Treasurer next consults, the electors, he will be brought to the bar of judgment, and will be roundly and soundly condemned. Many of the votes given to him in the past will go to his opponent in the future. The only members of this committee who are standing behind the primary producers are the members of the Opposition and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt). On two- points he stands out as a bright, shining star on the other side. He is quite sound on the subject of protection. I would like him to have a heart-to-heart talk with the Treasurer, and with that almost incorrigible freetrader, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). What does the bill, with the proposed increase in the note issue, and the boosting of things generally, mean ? It means that on the surface the Government is protectionist, but. is really doing all it can to kill Australian industries. . Finance has an intimate connexion with commercial and primary producing interests. We cannot conduct our mercantile houses or our farms or float our ships, without finance. The business of the world is closely interwoven with finance. We have heard a lot about our credits in London, and during the last election I was partly convinced that we had a huge balance amounting to £60,000,000, on hand in London. There is no doubt that, from time to time there have been big balances in our favour in London. During the war, and immediately after, I believe, many millions of pounds were lying to our credit there. How were they used ? They were not shipped out here. The Treasurer, and particularly the Prime Minister, know that these millions of pounds are let out on short-dated loans for a month or three months, and that they thus assist British manufacturers to compete with Australian manufacturers This Australian money is loaned to our industrial opponents in theUnited Kingdom. The Prime Minister will admit that it is often let out for periods as short as a mouth.
– A week.
– I wished to be conservative in my statement. ‘The use of this money by our competitors in England retards the development of Australian industries. What the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) said about tin is true of all our exports. We pay practically a 3 per cent. export duty on all of them,. Surely we have not got beyond the stage of trying to find a remedy. The bill is only a stop -gap proposal, as a result of which our last condition will be worse than our first. The time has arrived when we should determine that Australian requirements must be manufactured in Australia, so that goods to the value of millions of pounds will not need to come from the other side of the world. Our adverse trade balance last year amounted to £21,000,000, and in the previous year to £13,000,000, making a total for the two years of £34,000,000. It is strange that during 1923-24 the two largest items of imports were apparel and metals and machinery. It is interesting to note that a reduction for the year of, approximately, £6,000,000 in apparel, textiles, and goods of that class was more than counterbalanced by an increase of £8,544,000 in the value of imports of metals and machinery. There is a process going on that will eventually kill our metal industries.
– The importations of machinery are an encouraging sign. They will enable new Australian industries to be started.
Mr.FENTON. - Certain classes of steel may not be produced here, but it will be found that the bulk of the imports can be made in Australia. The time for say ing that we cannot make them has passed . Honorable members have had an. invitation to visit Thompson’s foundry, at Castlemaine. If the proprietors of those works had been asked seven years ago whether they could make: a marine engine, they would most likely have answered “ No,” but they have done it under the stress of war conditions.. In addition to Thompson’s, there are Walker’s Limited, at Maryborough, in Queensland, and foundries in New South Wales, that make this class of machinery today. Tons of the metals imported, and hundred of thousands of pounds’ worth of the machinery, could be made not merely as well, but better, in Australia than in any other country. If we could manufacture all the requirements of our population of 6,000,000, the exchange difficulty would practically dish appear. More money would then be needed in the Commonwealth, more* wages would be paid, and Australians would become better customers of the primary producers.
– It would be better if we had 20,000,000 people here.
– Yes, but how can we increase the population unless we have a greater variety of industries?’ The Treasurer would have Australians remain hewers of wood and drawers of water.
– Ihave done more to secure the development of the power resources of Australia than has any other man.
– I give the Treasurer credit for what he has done, but not for that. When we ask him, and those who support him, to do something practical to promote the industries of Australia, no action is taken. What is the good of words on a platform if they are not backed by practical action? What is the use of merely saying that we have wonderful sources of electric power in Australia ?
– Hydro-electric power is being harnessed in Australia at the present moment.
– The State that is doing most in that direction, apart from Tasmania, is Victoria. If we could supply cheap electricity in every state it would stimulate manufactures and give employment to workmen. Will the Treasurer explain how the bill will affect exchanges ? It is probably safe to say that 40,000 Australians have gone to the
British Empire Exhibition at Wembly, and for European, and American: tours. If they spend £500 each, a total of £20,000,000 of Australian money is being spent abroad.
– That is to our advantage. It will help us out of the exchange difficulty.
– I dO. not think so. People1 who claim’ to Be- financial experts tell us that millions’ of pounds are lying to our credit in London, but in view of the’ Fact that in the last two years’ our trade- balance has deteriorated to the extent of £34,000,000, it would appear that we must have’ a debit instead of a credit balance- in London. Members- of Parliament cannot attempt to unravel the exchange and other financial difficulties from which this- and’ other coun- tries are suffering. Any proposed’ alteration of the’ Commonwealth banking: system should be referred- to a1 body of experts; so- that we might have the Benefit of their inquiries.
– The Commonwealth Bank Board will consist of a body of experts.
– The Treasurer knows very well that the salaries to be fixed’ for the board of directors will not be sufficient to obtain, the services of eight capable, men. There are- financial experts’ in Australia, able to obtain information both here and abroad, and an investigation made by them would assist us in framing Banking legislation, that would be more conducive to the interests of this country than the measure with which, we are now tinkering. The treatment of the bill by another place will further tighten around the people the bands of financial stringency. We might just as well’ tie them hand and foot, and place them at the mercy of their financial’ enemies,, the banks. If the Senate’s amendment is passed the bands that were- as cobwebs in the past will become chain cables. The primary producers are to be left at the mercy of. the financial institutions. I could not fully follow the honorable’ member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt), when moving his- amendment, but I am opposed to the amendment inserted by the Senate. I am distinctly against using our. notes and the influence of. the Commonwealth Bank to bolster up other banks-, especially those on the- other side of the world. Charity begins at home-, and assistance is needed here. As mem bers of Parliament we must legislate for the benefit of the country. Great Britain, is quite capable? of looking after herself. If the Senate’s amendment is passed our. financial position will be very much, worse.
From the lack, of interest shown in the discussion by government and country party supporters, it is evident that they fail’ entirely to realize the enormous importance of the revolutionary change that is proposed in our method of issuing notes.
–I draw attention to the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The proposed amendment’ . entirely alters the basis of our currency. It is proposed to increase currency against securities’ and credits lodged with the Commonwealth Bank in London. Notes thus issued should be dcsignated as such, and should not become part and; parcel of our- ordinary currency. It has been stated that the alteration’ is necessary because wo are paying today about £3; for every £100’ of credit abroad,, the- value of which in goods is sent to Australia. No information has been- given as to the amount of our credit in Great Britain. I ask the Treasurer to say whether it is £10,000,000 or £40,000,000? No one can say whether the issuing of these notes will relieve the exchange difficulty. If the amount standing to our credit in London were £10,000,000, and the ordinary rate of exchange 1 per cent., it would cost £100,000 to “transfer that credit from England to Australia. If the rate of exchange now being charged - 3 per cent. - is taken, the cost of transferring our credit would be £300,000. Is it worth while tinkering with, the basis of our currency to save £300,000? The alleged credit may, of course, be more, but, then,, again, it may be nothing. According, to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. (Scullin) last night, we have no credit in London. Those figures have not yet been controverted. The Treasurer and his supporters are plainly groping in the dark. They are obeying the dictates of l-he private banks. The Government is dealing- too lightly with its responsibilities, and honorable members will be lacking, in -their duty if they allow the amendment to pass without a protest. I believe that . the. Treasurer in this matter is a well-meaning enthusiast, and is honestly trying to do the right thing, but it is evident that he is unwittingly being made the tool of the private banks. We are told that if we vote against the amendment we shall vote against the interests of primary producers: but the private banks under this Shylock proposal intend, not only to benefit by the 3 per cent, when discounting bills for private individuals, but also to use the note issue, from which they will obtain 8 per cent, interest on, approximately, £400 of credit issued against each £100 worth of notes given them. They wish to obtain a rake-off both ways, under cover of acting in the interests of the primary producer. I am not prepared to support such a procedure, and I shall explain the Labour party’s position on the public platform on every possible occasion. The Treasurer in advocating such a revolutionary change in the note issue without supplying information asked for is treating this Parliament with very little respect.
– He has made two speeches, one of which contradicts the other.
– That is only to be expected by those who know the Treasurer. He made two different speeches - one on the second reading and the other on the amendments now before the committee. Either he simply recited his first speech like a gramophone, without knowing its purport, or else influence hae been brought to bear upon him to change his attitude.
– I said exactly the same thing on both occasions.
– The Treasurer did not. He said that this was a most dangerous proposition. The members of the Country party speak of building up our industries, by using electric power, and to encourage the workmen of Australia; but when it comes to employing them, work is sent 13,000 miles away. A cruiser is to be built in Great Britain, and I suppose that when the board which is to be appointed has reported on that subject, it will decide in favour of building the other vessel there. Honorable members in the. corner seem to believe that industries grow in a night like mushrooms., and function without assistance.
It seems that no pretext is so flimsy that honorable members opposite cannot use it as an argument to support this proposal. We have been told that the tourists to the Wembley Exhibition, who have taken so much money out of the Commonwealth, have caused the exchange difficulty. I was in the Commonwealth Bank the other day when a woman who was about to leave for England was making arrangements for the transfer of £120 from here to London. She was willing to pay for the service that was being rendered to her, but instead of charging her for it the bank paid her 30s. That is a remarkable position.
– As a matter of fact, the tourist traffic is relieving the exchange position.
– The Treasurer, the Minister for Trade and Customs, and other authorities on the other side of the chamber, think otherwise The private banks have asked for this provision, and the Treasurer is acting as their mouthpiece.
– This. power was conferred on the bank four years ago.
– But the associated banks have never previously asked that it should be exercised. Now they consider that it will be “a very satisfactory arrangement.” Honorable senators in another place had moved amendments to give effect to a scheme of this kind, but when the private banking institutions prevailed upon the Treasurer to father this particular proposal, they quickly withdrew their suggestions. We have been told that this arrangement is necessary in order profitably to dispose of our wool clip, but no details have been given of the manner in which it will achieve that end.
– The board of directors of the bank will only use the power as circumstances warrant its use.
– What does the Treasurer say about the suggestion that it is desirable to agree - to the amendment to assist in disposing of the wool clip ? *
– It is desirable.
– Then it must be intended to use it. No honorable member doubts for a moment that the board of directors of the -bank will use it. Upon the present Notes IssueBoard refusing to agree to issue additional notes the Government said : “ We must have a Notes Issue Board that will do so.” When we get down to rock bottom we find that the notes will not be issued against credits in London, but against the credit of the Commonwealth. If the so-called gilt-edged stock lodged in London as security for the notes issued here should suddenly lose its value. - and even gilt-edged securities lose their value at times - who will be obliged to make good the loss? Unquestionably it will be the people of the Commonwealth.
– The notes will be issued on the security of gold, government securities, and certain bills.
– Yes, it will be a case of issuing Commonwealth notes against British bonds.
– And the private banking institutions will have a fine “ rake off.”
– They get 3 per cent. for discounting bills here.
– It is not suggested that they will get a note here for a note over there.
– Oh ! they will do better than that. They only give £97 for each £100 bill now if they bring the credit here, but the Government proposes to give them 100 £1 notes for every £100 worth of security lodged by them in London. They will proceed to build up £3 or £4 worth of credit on each £1 note they get, and will charge the primary producers 1 per cent, or 8 per cent, for any accommodation they grant, on this credit, so that whereas they pay only 3 per cent, for the notes they get, they will receive anything from 28 per cent, to 32 per cent, on what they are enabled to lend because of the inflation which they will be able to cause.
– And they will run no risk.
– That is the beauty of it from their point of view. I am not speaking of theories, but of actual practice. In all the circumstances, I am not prepared to take this step in the dark. To agree to the proposal will be worse than that. It will be to plunge into a bottomless pit. The Treasurer has lamentably failed to give honorable members any information on which to make up their minds on this important matter. He has not even told us what the credits in Great Britain amount to. Hon orable members should not be invited to tinker with the basis of our currency. An investigation by experts in Australia might reveal valid reasons for increasing the note issue on the strength of securities in this country, or at least on the strength of our growing wealth and increasing trade, but that possibility does not seem to have entered into the minds of the members of the Government. If we agree to this suggestion, the position six months hence, when our wool has been sent abroad, will be worse than ever, and the exchange difficulties will have been accentuated. The most that can be said for this proposal is that it will stave off the evil day. Later on we shall find, metaphorically speaking, that instead of 1 ton of sand falling on us, wo shall be overwhelmed with 2 or 8 tons. Honorable members who have any regard for the interests of the primary producers will bitterly regret their action if they support the proposal. We have had an amazing experience with this bill. It was passed by us in one form, and returned to us from another place an entirely different measure. So altered was it that it might well have been withdrawn and re-introduced as a new bill. Then we could have discussed it properly. Instead of adopting that course, the Government has chosen to patch it up, but, like a rotten ship, when a patch is put on in one place, a burst occurs in another. The Treasurer is like a novice handling dynamite. The fortunes of the industries and the livelihoods of many of our people will be endangered if we agree to this provision, and honorable members must bear a heavy responsibility if they vote for it.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Senate recognizes its responsibilities?
– No doubt it does. When the Minister in charge of the bill in another place introduced this proposal, he informed honorable senators there that the Treasurer ‘ had that very day been in consultation with the private banking institutions. What a wonderful effect the consultation had on him. It caused him to acquiesce in a proposal which previously he strongly opposed. I suppose that honorable senators in another place, generally speaking, are as little acquainted with banking practices as the ordinary man in the street.
– Is not the honorable member reflecting upon the members of another place?
– If there has been any reflection upon them the Treasurer has been guilty of it. He speaks of restoring the balance of trade; a restoration of the balance of trade will be impossible so long as we have an allegedly protectionist Government dominated by a Free Trade party. The balance of trade is against the Commonwealth this year to the amount of £11,000,000. Honorable members must see that Australia is in a bad position commercially. The contention of members of the Country party that the tariff is prohibitive is disproved by those figures. If the tariff were prohibitive there could not be an adverse trade balance of £11,000,000. Judged by the statistics of imports and exports the present tariff is not an adequate protection for the man who has invested his capital in industry. If it were, the exchange rate would not he so unfavorable to the sale of our primary products. The exchange rate is intimately bound up with our trade and commerce, and it is impossible to have the balance of trade in our favour if we borrow extensively abroad and at the same time import largely from foreign countries goods that compete with local manufactures.
– The honorable member has reached his time limit, but if no other honorable member wishes to speak he may take his second period now.
– This committee ‘has not received from the Treasurer the information to which it is entitled regarding the state of Australia’s credits in Great Britain, and in the absence of such information we are justified in being cautious. I know that the associated banks are doing what they consider to be in their own interests. They cannot convince me that they promoted this amendment in the interests of the primary producers. I have a vivid recollection of having participated in a deputation to the Treasurer to seek financial assistance for the primary producers, because, the private hanks had turned them down. This amendment is entirely for the benefit of the banks. They do not wish to pay £300.000 on each £10,000,000 to transfer credits from Great Britain to Australia. Assuming that Australia is in credit in
Britain to the extent of £20,000,000, it would cost the private banks £600,000 to bring that money here. Is it reasonable to ask this Parliament to tinker with the currency for the sake of saving £600,000 on a total of £20,000,000? As regards the discounting of bills, the banks will lose nothing, because the traders have already paid the discount. This proposal is simply a gigantic hold-up, without masks, to enable the banks to rake off £600,000 at the expense of the Commonwealth. Having regard to this, the committee would be well advised to reject this amendment until it has received further information. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) pointed out that the only primary producers who have been mentioned are the wool-growers; there has been no mention of the dairymen, the wheatgrowers, and the orchardists. The wealthy graziers, operating through the private banks, have given their instructions to the Government, and that is why the Government cannot give any information to honorable members on this side. The ministerial supporters do not even ask for information, because they have received their instructions. If we are responsible legislators, and not mere marionettes, and are using our intelligence to safeguard the interests of the people, Ave should defer this proposal until we have definite information whether Australia is or is not in credit in Great Britain. In the light of the figures quoted by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) last night, nobody can believe that we have a credit balance in London, especially as the Commonwealth will shortly have to meet heavy interest liabilities there. Over £800,000,000 is owing by the Commonwealth and the states, most of it to lenders in Great Britain, and the interest on that amount has to be paid every six months. If a thorough investigation is made we shall find that there is no substantial credit abroad against which the notes may be issued in Australia. The Treasurer is a novice in finance, and is allowing himself to be made the tool of the banks, which support the Ministerial party. The decision of the Farmers and Settlers’ Conference, which met in Sydney a few days ago, amounted to a vote of censure upon him for hie action in connexion with the Com- monwealth Bank. The farmers desire the bank to be extended, but this bill will merely establish a central bank and clearinghouse that will not be able to compete with the private banks. The Labour party’s ideal is to extend the Commonwealth Bank to every town and hamlet in Australia.
– I have not heard honorable members refer particularly to my amendment, but before it is taken to a vote I should like some information from the Treasurer. Against what security are the notes to be issued to the banks? What rate of interest will they pay? Is there any certainty that after this proposal is put into operation the balance of trade will not continue as at present? Who will issue the notes ? Will they be lent to the banks for a certain period at a definite rate of interest, and be ultimately repaid.? There is only one real security we can have for our notes, and thatis gold. We must be in a position to pay gold for our notes when it is demanded, otherwise we shall be entering on a financial jamboree which will lead us to destruction.
– I should like to refer for a moment or two to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt). It is not necessary that I should now refer at length to the arguments of other honorable members, because I have dealt with them already. The honorable member for Darwin proposes that notes should be issued only against gold. There is no banking system in the world in which all the paper money is backed fully by an equivalent amount of gold. In the Argentine the gold backing amounts to 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. The Bank of England note issue at the present time is not covered by an amount of £19,750,000. The Treasury notes of the United Kingdom total £300,000,000, and against them only £27,000,000 is held in gold. The legal backing of motes of the reserve banks of the United States of America includes 40 per cent. in gold, and the gold backing of the note issue’ of the reserve bank of South Africa is also 40 per cent. In Australia the following provision contained in section 60k of the Common wealth Bank Act has been in force for many years: -
The board shall hold in gold coin and bullion a reserve of an amount not less than one-fourth of the amount of Australian notes issued.
Since 1920 section 60i, which reads as follows, has been in. force : - (1.) Part of the moneys derived from the issue of Australian notes or acquired on the transfer of the Australian Note Issue from the Treasury, shall be held by the Board in gold coin for the purposes of the reserve provided for in section sixty k of this Act, and the Board may invest the remainder or any part thereof -
The position under the amendment will be that the board of the bank can deal with securities in any way it sees fit. At the present time it can hold securities of the United Kingdom. The dire prognostications of honorable members opposite as to the way in which the board will act presuppose that it will be composed of irresponsible men who will not take ordinary business precautions.
– Why take responsibility away from them by this amendment?
– It will not take from them any responsibility.
– It gives them a direction.
– It gives no direction, but does away with the ambiguity of the existing provision. I made it quite clear in my second-reading speech on the bill that this could and would be done by the board with absolutely unfettered discretion. Honorable members can safely vote for the Senate’s amendment, because, as I suggested to the honorable member for Gwydir, it is no more revolutionary than putting on today the suit one had on yesterday.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question (Mr. Whitsitt’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 0 .
– The numbers being equal, I give my casting vote with the Ayes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (Mr. Whitsitt’s) negatived.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has said that there is no doubt about the exchange difficulty in transferring credits from Great Britain. There is no diversity of opinion upon the matter. The honorable member quoted one or two experts. He told us that every one quotes the opinions of experts that are similar to their own, and he followed his own excellent suggestion. Before we divide on the Senate’s amendment, I wish to quote the views of one or two experts that suit my opinions. One of these experts is the chairman of the
Commercial Banking Company of Sydney.
– That bank deals in exchange only to a very limited extent.
– But the chairman of directors of the bank is an expert. .
– Not in dealing with exchange.
– According to the honorable member, only those are experts who agree with his own political views. I do not know whether the gentleman I propose to quote is an expert or not, but I do know that he is the chairman of directors of a great banking corporation in New South Wales. As he is a New South Wales man his authority should be accepted by a” representative of that state. He says -
I mustsay that I look with apprehension on the proposals that notes should be issued against securities in London and that Bank of England notesshould be made legal tender here. The adoption of either of these proposals would mean decided inflation with all its dangers, and instead of improving the position, would, in my opinion, eventually make it worse and would lead to serious trouble.
The honorable member for Macquarie says that the proposal to issue notes on the basis of securities in Europe arises out of the existence of excess credits in London. It is most remarkable that, whilst the banking corporations of this country can furnish us with particulars of the actual amounts of credit they have in London in excess of previous years, apparently not one of their agents has any information to give on the subject, and we have the astonishing spectacle of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth making proposals for the issue of notes against credits abroad without being able to submit one fact to justify the position he takes up. One of our newspapers has referred to the actions of the private banking corporations during the war in very strong language, but not stronger than has been used by some who have been employees of the banks. A gentleman named Butchart, who was connected with one of the English banks, gave a lecture recently to the Legacy Club, in which he said -
It was hoped that whoever was placed in charge of the notes issue should be wise enough and strong enough to appraise rightly advice given by bankers. With one or two honorable exceptions they had no principle, but were men of expediency.
Another gentleman, who was twenty-three ‘ years the manager of a bank, told a Royal Commission in this state -
The present banking system is a disgrace to civilized communities. It places in the hands of a small committee a power greater than that of government. They control our reserves, our rate of interest, our credit, and possess a more absolute jurisdiction over our livelihood, our savings, and our mastery of the future than the Government.
Mr. Butchart also said in the course of a lecture he gave -
Soon after the outbreak of war, the chief bankers of Australia agreed among themselves to abandon the principle ob convertibility of credit instruments with gold, and to effect settlement in paper money.
I direct attention to the vote just taken, for it shows that the members of the Labour party voted for the gold standard, while honorable members on the Government side voted deliberately against it. We have no objection to that, but their votes and their names are recorded, and the information will be valuable in the future. There is not one tittle of proof that there is an excess of credits in London. I pointed out yesterday that the official figures of the banks showed that there were £26,000,000 of excess credits overseas in 1914. . If the assets and liabilities in Australia are deducted from the total assets and liabilities, we arrive at the amount of the assets and liabilities overseas. Before the Avar the surplus overseas was £26,000,000; to-day it is £44,000,000. The statistical records of this country show that the value of our exportable products is 85 per cent, above pre-war values, so that it is obvious that £44,000,000 worth of excess credits overseas has no larger purchasing power than £26,000,000 worth of excess credits had before the war. It is one of the most gigantic impositions ever attempted in Parliament. There is nothing to show that there is a vestige of truth in the statements made by the banks. If the truth is wanted it can be found in the statements of Mr. Butchart, who is not a member of the Labour party. He has quite clearly and distinctly said that’ what is wrong with the banks is that they have inflated their credits to five times what they were before the war. Upon a £50,000,000 surplus of notes and gold they have erected a superstructure of £300,000,000 of credits, upon which they are able to draw interest from the struggling community. In the present internal financial condition of this country they have no means of sustaining their credit, so they have come to the Government and asked it to give them credit in Australia upon their resources in London. Apart from notes, the banks hold something like- £30,000,000 worth of government securitiesin London, as compared with £4,000,000’ before the war. The only thing upon which they can build ‘up credits in England is Bank of England notes; government securities are of no use for that purpose. Therefore, they have no intention of putting Bank of England notes into cold storage in England against notes to be issued here. We shall discover that they will put into cold storage, not their cash, but their securities - their British bonds - against which they will ask theCommonwealth Bank to issue notes in this country. If they are paying 5 per cent, for the securities lodged in England, they will get an equivalent of notes in this country. If the securities depreciate on the English market, the people of Australia will have to carry the responsibility and make up the deficiency. There is nothing in the bill to compel the banks to accept responsibility for depreciation in their securities. On the notes issued in Australia they will erect a superstructure of credit, so that £5,000,000 will be equal to £1,000,000 of securities lodged. Mr. Butchart has pointed out that it is not a question of exchange. He has shown quite clearly the real reason for the demand made by the banks. It has not been shown that there is an exchange problem. The balance of trade is not with us, but against us. Members of the Opposition will vote against this amendment’ of the Senate, because it is directly opposed to the principles of banking as applied in this country hitherto. Its adoption will be a revolution engineered by the banking corporations to serve their interests at the moment. Tomorrow, however, their policy may suit our interests, and we shall then apply it for the benefit, not of a few wealthy cor.porations, but of the people.
Question - That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to (Dr. Earle Page’s motion) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative..
Senate’s amendment agreed to.
Remaining Senate’s amendments agreed to.
That the committee had agreed to amendment No. 25 with an. amendment; had disagreed to amendment No. 28; and agreed to the rest of the Senate’s amendments.
The committee appointed to draw up the reason for disagreeing with the Senate’s amendment No.. 28 submitted the following, which was. agreed to -
The public interest is sufficiently safeguarded without the requirement contained in the amendment which, if agreed to, would hamper the bank in carrying out its functions.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
. -Might I ask whetherthe House is following the customary procedure, or whether we should not follow the procedure adopted when the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill was discussed. In that instance, the general Works and Buildings Estimates were’ dealt with bef ore the bill was introduced. Is it a departure from ordinary practice to take the second reading of this loan, bill before the Loan Estimates have been dealt with?.
– I shall treat the honorable member’s inquiry as a. question of order. The procedure now being followed is quite regular. On some occasions loan bills have preceded revenue works bills, but there is no standard practice or rule. The procedure to be followed is rather a matter for the convenience of the House and of the Government leading the House. The course that is now being taken is a perfectly regular procedure.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time:
I shall’ give honorable members information respecting the various items contained in the schedule. When the Estimates were recently distributed, a statement was attached showing the-, estimated expenditure out of the loan fund for the current financial year. The bill is to authorize the Treasurer to raise the necessary loan moneys, and to appropriate those moneys for the purpose detailed in the first schedule to the bill. The chief items of expenditure contained in the bill are as follow : -
The total) of the estimated expenditure as shown in the Estimates is £8,282,835,. and the redemptions of Northern Territory loans and Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway loans for which no appropriation fs available, total £1,609,055. In preparing the Estimates for post office1 buildings, it was- anticipated that an amount of £99,164 would remain unexpended at the close of the year. As- loan appropriations dor not lapse at the end of the> financial- year, it is necessary now to ask Parliament to- appropriate the full amount required.. An additional amount of £50,000 is also- included iia the bill in respect of capital expenditure an the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway ann) serum laboratories. These figures total £10y041,064. Parliament has already passed an appropriation; for’ the subscription to the capital of the Commonwealth oil refineries. It will be necessary, therefore, to deduct the amount of £93-,75# included for this purpose: in> the estimates <of expenditure. The amount thus remaining - £9.t9.47,304 - is the total of the schedule to the bill . Clause- 2’ of- the bill authorizes the Treasurer to borrow £6,450’,000. This- amount, together with the unex pended moneys in the loan fund at the 30th June, the further instalments- payable this financial year in respect of the loan raised in London in May last, and ‘ the balance of borrowing authority still available under previous loan- acts, will enable sufficient moneys to- be raised to meet the expenditure of £9,947,304 provided in the bill. The amount of £6,450,000, mentioned in clause 2, is made up as follows : -
Clause 3 directs that the amount borrowed under the authority of the bill shall be applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purposes of appropriations made or to be made by law. Clause 4 appropriates the amount of - £9,947,304. Considerable detail of the contemplated expenditure is set out in the schedule to the bill’,, and further details will, if so desired, be furnished when, the items are under the consideration of the committee.
.- Before the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) can expect this House to pass’ a bill providing for a loan of £9,00O,000j it is only reasonable that he should explain what was dome with the loan:, moneys appropriated last yea>r. I understand1 that we are now dealing with- the estimates for new works and buildings at the back of the loan Estimates, I very much desire some information on the following item of expenditure out of loam last year - “ Purchase of ex-enemy vessels, £271,492.”
Will he tell us how that money came to be expended, when it was appropriated, and who gave authority for its expenditure?
– The whole matter is set out in the budget pagers. If it is the wish of honorable members that I shall read each item in them I shall do so.
– When was this amount appropriated, and who authorized its expenditure? Will the Treasurer give me that information ?
– I shall be pleased to give honorable members any information of that kind when we reach the committee stage.
– I desire to know the facts about this and some other amounts before we finally pass the bill. Will the Treasurer undertake to give me the information for which I am asking?
– When we are discussing the hill in committee I shall be pleased to answer any questions that honorable members may ask.
– Will the honorable gentleman give me the information that I am seeking on this particular matter?
– I shall.
– I propose to discuss two or three matters which are affected by the administration of departments that are mentioned in the bill, and I take it that I shall be in order in doing so. In the first place, I call, the attention of honorable members to the position of the dried “fruits industry. It seems to me that in every instance in which private enterprise is required to accept a fairly big risk in marketing our primary products it falls down on its job. If I understand the position correctly different private concerns in Australia have .been prepared, in the past, to finance the producers of dried fruits.
– Does the honorable member intend to discuss the dried fruits industry under this bill? I do not see anything about it in the schedule.
– I do, Mr. Speaker, for it comes under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs, whose department is mentioned in the hill.
– The honorable member will not be in order in so doing.
.- I desire to take this opportunity to justify my actions in connexion with the failure to remove the William-street post office, Sydney, from its present site. As most honorable members know, the Sydney City Council widened William-street in 1917, but the post office was not removed, and still projects some 50 feet into the roadway. When the request was made to the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) to either remove the post office to another site or put the building into alinement with the other buildings in the street, it was ascertained that before that could be done the telephone exchange, which was housed in it, , would, have to be removed. Subsequently when the Estimates were under consideration in this chamber, I inquired what the intention of the Government was in connexion with the matter. I ascertained that it was proposed to remove the building. I made inquiries in the Works and Railways Department, and learned that plans were drawn up for a new post office to be erected on land which the Sydney City Council had provided for the purpose. I was satisfied with the result of my investigations. But when three years had elapsed and nothing had been done to shift the building, I resumed my inquiries. I then discovered that the plans that had been drawn had been set on one side and that the department had decided to resume land in another part of Sydney for the purpose of building a telephone exchange and intended to retain the Williamstreet building for purely postal purposes. The Lord Mayor of Sydney and members of the council, being politically opposed to me, tried to lay. the blame for the altered arangements and the delay in shifting the old building on my shoulders, and I had a hard joh to satisfy some of the electors who were inclined to support me that no blame should be attached to me. The present position is ridiculous. The old building, standing 50 feet 0U in the roadway as it does, causes a decided obstruction to traffic, and this, with the increase of motor cars in Sydney, is a serious matter. I understand that a new telephone exchange is being erected in Liverpool-street, but that nothing can be done to install the necessary electrical equipment until the building is sealed. I have no complaint to make in that connexion, but I protest strongly about the delay in removing the old building from the William-street roadway. I am told now that it cannot be shifted until 1927. When the Lord Mayor of Sydney ascertained that that delay would occur, he wrote to the Postmaster-General on the matter. Incidentally, I may say that he was guilty of a total lack of ordinary courtesy in not approaching the PostmasterGeneral through me.; and I wrote and told him what I thought of his smart effort to belittle and overlook me. My letter woke him up somewhat, for he showed it to some of his friends. That was just what I’ wanted. There will be a municipal election in Sydney in December, and as I propose to participate in it, I shall have an opportunity to tell the people what I think about the whole situation. The population in that part of Sydney has increased enormously, and the Postmaster - General’s Department has shown very little foresight in not earlier providing the reasonable postal and telephonic facilities for the people. The shifting of the old post office and the provision of a new telephone exchange have been so long delayed that many Sydney people consider that the Commonwealth Government is composed of fools or idiots, and I know that the Prime Minister is not too popular in Sydney. I have been trying to induce the PostmasterGeneral to have that monstrosity removed, and I am now requested by the residents of East Sydney to approach the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who, being a business man, will see a hole through a ladder quicker than will his colleague. Nobody can contradict my statements regarding the William-street post office. The correspondence which has taken place on the subject exonerates me from any charge of neglecting the public interest in this regard. The department is moving slowly, however, and it seems as if I may yet be dead before the alinement of the building is altered. I hope the Acting Postmaster-General will bring my observations under the notice of his officers, and if he expedites the re-alinement of the post office building and the building of the new telephone exchange, he will receive the thanks of the residents of a very busy portion of Sydney.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Authority to borrow £6,450,000).
– If we pass this clause shall we not be committed to the expenditure set out in the schedule?
– No. This merely authorizes the borrowing of not more than £6,450,000, and none of the money can be expended until the bill as a whole has been agreed to.
.- What is the relationship of this bill to the proposals contained in the budget speech ? The schedule includes three items under the control of the Department of the Treasury, and to two of them I can find no reference in the Estimates. For instance, where in the Estimates is there mention of the item of £240,000 for the “ construction of ships (to be paid to trustfund, Commonwealth Government Ships Account).” The item, “Loan to State of Queensland to cover advances made to returned soldiers, &c, £91,645,” seems to be the only one that corresponds with the Estimates. According to the Estimates there is to be no expenditure from loan funds during the current financial year upon the Federal Capital Territory, but the schedule to this bill includes an amount of £215,000 for the Territory. I ask the Treasurer to explain the bill.
– If honorable members will turn to the estimates of expenditure from loan fund they will see at page 373, an estimate of war and repatriation expenditure, and on page 377 appear the estimates of expenditure for works out of loan fund. The items shown separately in these two divisions are grouped departmentally in the schedule of the bill for the sake of convenience. For instance, the item on page 373, “ loan to State of Queensland to cover advances made to returned soldiers, £91,645,” is grouped in this schedule with another item appearing on page 377, “ loan to the Territory of New Guinea for works, £67,000.”
– What about the amount of £93,750 appearing on the Estimates. as a subscription to the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– A separate bill for the appropriation of that money was passed.
– The total of the various amounts required is £10,041,054. Parliament has already appropriated for the oil refineries £93,750, which, deducted from the total, leaves a balance of £9,947,304. This bill merely gives authority to borrow £6,450,000 of that amount.
– I find that the following amounts are set out in the schedule for buildings for the Postmaster-General’s Department: - New South Wales, £316,047; Victoria, £203,272; Queensland, £100,874; South Australia, £138,639; Western Australia, £44,715; Tasmania, £4,241; and Northern Territory, £4,016. Those figures show a remarkable disparity between the amounts allotted to the various states. If only the amount of £4,241 is to be expended in Tasmania from loan, will there be a correspondingly larger expenditure out of revenue? The expenditure in the Northern Territory, which has only a few hundred people, is to be almost as much as that in Tasmania, which, although it has a population equal to about half that of Western Australia, is allotted only one-tenth as much money. A comparison with other states shows an even greater disparity, yet new postal buildings are as urgently necessary in Tasmania as in any other state. The expenditure on new works and buildings in each state is usually in proportion to the population, and some explanation should be given of the great discrepancy between the expenditure proposed for Tasmania and that proposed for the other states.
.- I wish to direct attention to the very small amount set down for the building of post offices in Western Australia. I quite sympathize with the claims put forward by representatives from Tasmania, but that state is more developed than is Western Australia. The State of Western Australia constitutes practically one-third of the continent, and it is’ largely in the developmental stage. The Post Office Department is a public utility, and its extension should keep pace with new settlement in a state like Western Australia. We have recognized the claims of such states as Western Australia to special consideration in the allocation of the grant for main roads development. The method adopted for its allocation is most equitable. The grant is made partly on a per capita and partly on an area basis. The vote for additions, new works, and buildings should be apportioned on a similar basis. Having regard to its enormous area, very few new post offices are proposed for Western Australia. Many claims for post offices in the division I represent are not met by votes upon this year’s estimates. Much money could, in my opinion, be saved if seasonal conditions were taken into consideration in the letting of contracts for works. In the south-west of Western Australia the rainy season is most unsuitablefor the commencement of the erection of any class of building. Contractors will’ not tender so cheaply in the wet season as they will in other seasons of the year. The Works Department often lets tenders at most unsuitable times, and this results in higher costs and spasmodic employment. I trust that the Postmaster-General will see whether the Deputy PostmastersGeneral cannot, in co-operation with the Works and Railways Department, make considerable savings in expenditure on post office works by letting tenders for construction at suitable seasons of the year.
.- I want to call attention to the alterations and additions to the Launceston Post Office. I have had considerable correspondence with the Postmaster-General’s Department on the subject, but so far without satisfaction. Whilst, generally speaking, a good job was made of the alterations to the Launceston Post Office, I complain that a doorway only 3 feet wide has been provided as an entrance to the private letter boxes. This entrance, which is opposite the Town Hall, is used, not only by several hundred owners of private boxes, but is also the entrance to the postmaster’s office, the doorway through which telegraph messengers pass in and out with their bicycles, and the entrance at the same time to three or four public telephones. The congestion at this doorway is at times very great. The Launceston Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution condemning this alteration. I am given to understand that a sum of about £100 would be sufficient to make the entrance to the post office what it ought to be. Apart from the inconvenience to the public caused by the narrowness of the existing entrance, it is not right that, in one of the main streets of a city like Launceston, a 3-ft. doorway should be provided to accommodate the traffic I have referred to. I hope that a- satisfactory decision on this matter will be arrived at at an early date.
– In the expenditure proposed under the control of the Department of Defence 1 notice an item of £30,000 to cover “transport services in connexion with Expeditionary Forces, including passage money, hire, fitting and reconditioning of ships, wages, coal, victualling, and other expenditure incidental to such service.” The last of the Australian Imperial Force who returned by transport arrived here a considerable time ago. Those who have been returning for some time past have come by the vessels of established steamship lines. Some explanation is needed, of a vote for the fitting and reconditioning, of ships bringing men back to Australia six years after the close of the war. Three-fifths of the total amount appearing in. the schedule for expenditure under the control of the Defence Department is proposed in the item to which I have referred, and really it. would appear as if the statute of limitations might be pleaded in regard to it.
.- Some weeks ago I raised my voice in protest against the way in which postal requirements of the South Coast districts of New South Wales were being neglected. I thought the Government would give some consideration to the representations I made regarding the conditions existing there. After about six months’ correspondence with the Minister and the department consent was given to the establishment of a post office at Wan barra, and a lady was to- be placed in charge of it. Instead of making provision for the carriage of the mails to and from the nearest railway station, the lady was expected to walk one and a half miles to the station for the mails in the morning and again in the evening with the return mail. She naturally refused to accept the position in the circumstances, and there is therefore no post office yet provided at Wanbarra. The department could not withstand any longer the agitation for a post office at Wanbarra, but it deliberately applied to the grant of the facility asked for conditions that were patently ridiculous.
– Is the honorable member talking of a receiving office?
– I am talking of postal facilities at this particular place.
– The honorable member will be able to state his case when the general Estimates are being discussed. The committee is now dealing with loans for works.
– I object to the Minister catechizing me in this way.
– I am not “ catechizing” the honorable member; I am putting him right.
– The Minister is so often wrong himself that I doubt whether he is capable of putting any one right. I bring the matter forward because the people concerned are complaining that, after three or four years of agitation, when the department grants the facilities, it surrounds them with conditions that cannot be fulfilled.
Money should be provided for a new post office at Burrowa. The exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) told me soon after I came into Parliament that the matter would be attended to. After that I got a half -promise from the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson).. Mr. Webster, who preceded Mr. Wise, went to Burrowa, agreed to the post office being built, and told the people at a public meeting that it would be built. Since he went out of office no one has taken up the matter. I have in my possession letters in which the department admits that the existing office is in a bad condition, and agrees that a new office should be built. The postmaster has had to take a long leave of absence because of ill-health, which was mainly due to the unhealthy environment of the building’ in which he works. The post office is situated at one end of the town. A few months ago a hotelkeepers wife told me that she had to telephone telegrams to the post office, which is half a mile away. Many of the business people have to pay 3d. extra on every telegram they send, in order to telephone it to the post office. The provision- of a new office has been too long delayed. The Minister wilt find, on the files of his department, a. recommendation for the construction of the office, and a minute by Mr. Webster, and I have a report of the departmental inquiry that was made. The door of the postmaster’s residence cannot be shut, and the building generally is in a state of decay. I cannot be said that a town of the importance of Burrowa is not entitled to a decent post office, for it is in the centre of one of the most progressive farming districts of New South Wales. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), before he became Treasurer, said that if he had control he would spend more money on providing postal facilities for the country, and less on providing them for the cities. I do not complain about the provision of facilities for the cities, but the country should get its share. Expenditure is being incurred in the cities that could be withheld if money is not available for both the cities and the country. I shall never contend that there is any rivalry between town and country interests.
– Does the honorable member know that, the Government is providing £712,000 this year for the extension of post office facilities, and that the amount provided last year was only £375,000.
– I do not care if the Government is spending £10,000,000 - it is not spending it at Burrowa. If the Treasurer, or any member of the Government will go with me along the south coast of New South Wales he will discover that I have not exaggerated in anything I have said about the lack of postal facilities there. I hope, even if the Minister cannot grant my request now, that he will at least make a promise and keep it when the first opportunity offers. The cost would not be more than £2,000, but the expenditure would be highly appreciated by the people of the town and district. When a new post office is built, it . should not be placed on the same site as the old one, but in the centre of the town.
.- I wish to speak in support of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). The amount provided for Western Australia is disproportionately small.
– Will the honorable member find a word to suit the amount provided for Tasmania?
– The honorable member is quite capable of fighting for Tasmania. The large area of Western Australia probably makes the cost of postal services heavier than it is in the smaller states, and, that being so, the amount provided is even smaller in proportion than appears at first glance. If the services in a particular state cost more, a larger sum should be provided for maintaining and extending them. In my electorate two or three applications for new post offices seem to be dragging on interminably, particularly those relating to post offices at Bayswater and at Melbourne-road, in the western end of the city of Perth. The accommodation at Bayswater is disgraceful; the building is out of date, worn out, and inadequate. The local authorities have been pressing for improved facilities for a long time, and I have received a communication to-day to the effect that the department cannot do anything at present, but will communicate with me again in three months’ time. The policy of the post office is to provide as many postal facilities as- possible, but my experience is that when one makes an application for new facilities the first inclination of the department is to block it by finding all the reasons possible why it should not be granted. Such action is wrong, and is not in accordance with the policy of the department. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) visited the locality of Melbourne-road with me some time ago, and as far as I could gather, was impressed with the need for an office there. The Deputy Postmaster-General also visited the district with me, and, as far as his words and manner could convey his opinions, he also was in favour of providing an office. Time drags on, however, and nothing is done. The absence of this office means that a large part of the city is not provided with convenient postal facilities.
Cannot something be done to provide travelling post office facilities on the transcontinental train, so that heavy mails for Perth can be sorted before arrival ? At present there is far too much delay in delivery. Federal members’ rooms are in the General Post Office, three floors above the mail-room. The transcontinental train, on some days, arrives at 9.30 a.m., and I have frequently not had my letters delivered to me on the upper floor of the General Post Office until 1.30 p.m., or quite four hours after the arrival of the mail at the post office. Better facilities than that should be provided for the delivery of letters to the business community of the city.
.- This is a suitable occasion for me to discuss the general policy of the postal department. Much better work would be done by that department, and discussions such as we are now having would be unnecessary, if the revenue of the department wa3 kept apart from the general revenue of the Commonwealth. I have always felt that the policy of gobbling up the profits of the post office in the general revenue was wrong. When the postal officials need to spend money out of revenue they have to apply to other departments for a grant of money that is really their own.
– The amount “gobbled up “ this year is £140,000.
– I am expressing my views in a general way, without reference to any particular year. Whether the postal revenue is increased or decreased by penny postage or twopenny postage is a matter of policy, but in any case the profits of the post office should be retained and spent by that department on its own development. If in past years the Postal Department had been properly managed, we should not now be required to borrow huge sums of money to extend the postal facilities. During the war period almost the whole of our revenues were used for war purposes, and consequently urgent departmental works had to be delayed. Of course, it is easy to be wise after the event, but the Postal Department would have benefited considerably if even small quantities of material had then been purchased, because for some considerable time after the war few postal supplies could be obtained, and when they could be obtained in quantity prices had risen 400 per cent. I doubt whether any electorate has had private capital invested in it to the same extent as has my electorate, but notwithstanding the rapid development of that district, few postal facilities are there provided. A year or so ago the late chief inspector of the Commonwealth visited my electorate and drew up a programme of postal works required. A change has since been made in the department, and the programme is not being proceeded with. One recommendation was that an additional story should be added to the main post office at Newcastle to accommo date linesmen and others, who, owing to the limited space, had had to move to another building to make room for the ordinary expansion of business. .For that extra accommodation the Postal Department is paying £60 a month rent. It is false economy, as that £60 would pay the interest upon the cost of the additions required to the post office. The promises made by the officers of the department to municipal councils and other public bodies should be honoured. It would greatly benefit the Postal Department to have its own works branch.
– Does not the honorable member think that we have enough duplication already?
– It would not mean duplication, but direct action. It is now becoming the practice to call for tenders for works for which the money was voted, not at the beginning of the financial year, but at its close, and to include the expenditure in the next year’s Estimates, the works re-appearing as new items. Surely it can be arranged for tenders to be called for works authorized by these Estimates before the end of the financial year, to prevent re-voting the money the next year. I hope that the Government will, as its predecessors have done, bring in supplementary estimates. Money should be provided to enable the additions, as recommended by the late chief inspector, to be made to the Newcastle post office. This should be done on the score of economy. I do not wish to make odious comparisons, but more revenue is received at that post office than at the one in Hobart. It is a very busy office, and yet not one penny is on the Estimates to provide proper facilities for it. Mr. SEABROOK (Franklin) [6.28].- I join with the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), in his remarks respecting Tasmania. Looking through the Estimates we find that Western Australia has sixteen new buildings and Tasmania three, all of which are practically completed. I want to inform the PostmasterGeneral .that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Tasmania has authority to spend only £5. That amount now has about the same purchasing power as had £1 a few years ago. When a new post office was built in my electorate, the postmaster wrote to the Deputy Postmaster-General, asking for furniture. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral had no authority to purchase that furniture. He sent to the Works Department, that department sent to Melbourne, and Melbourne sent back to the Deputy Postmaster-General of Tasmania giving authority to expend £25. An official occupying the position of Deputy Postmaster-General of Tasmania should be allowed to expend at least £50, and thus save a considerable amount of time and expense. The opening of that post office was delayed for three weeks, because of the time it took to send to Melbourne to obtain authority to spend £25.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to S j).m.
Why has the Government been so unkind to Western Australia in providing postal facilities? Only £44,715 is allocated for new “buildings, additions and alterations, and sundry offices there. That is a very small sum for such a large and rapidly developing state. We hope to help to keep Australia white, and we expect more consideration than we have received. Not a shilling i9 to be spent in my electorate, in spite of the fact that there is an abundance of room for improving the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services there. In South Fremantle, which is very thickly populated, land has already been secured for the erection of a new post office, and I fully anticipated that provision for it would be made in this bill, but nothing is provided. Swanbourne is also the centre of a rapidly developing district, and its postal facilities are totally inadequate. The post office is a little store. If it is impossible for the Government to provide, out of loan money, for better facilities in these and other places in Western Australia, it should do so out of revenue.
Mi-. GABB (Angas) [8.3].- Last year’s loan hill gave the details of the proposed expenditure on each work to be undertaken, but this year only the totals are given. Can the Treasurer explain why .last year’s practice has not been followed ? Is it to prevent honorable members on this side of the committee from discovering what proportion of the money is to be spent in the metropolitan area and the country districts respectively ? Unless my memory is at fault, £80,000 was provided last year for the metropolitan area, and only £7,000 for the country districts of South Australia for new works and buildings for the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– Only the total expenditure is given in the bill in order to prevent difficulties in the completion of works which may cost a few pounds more than was estimated. This year’s practice has been adopted on the special recommendation of the Works aud Railways Department.
– I accept the Minister’s explanation, but I think that honorable members should be informed in some way of the details of the proposed expenditure.
– I have asked for a detailed statement, but I have not yet received it.
– The details will be available almost immediately.
– One or two other matters in connexion with works and “buildings for the Postmaster-General’s Department call for explanation from the Government. It appears tot me that after the departmental estimates were framed they were revised a second time by the Treasurer. My reason for making that statement is a letter that I hold from the secretary to the Postmaster-General. It refers to promised alterations and additions to the post office at Nuriootpa in my electorate. Four years ago I approached the Deputy Postmaster-General of South Australia on the matter, and received a promise from him that provision would be made on the next Estimates for this work, but when the Estimates were submitted to Parliament I found, to use a colloquialism, that I had been “ sold a pup.” I continued for some time to press Nuriootpa’s claims for consideration. It is not infrequent for the temperature in the present post office to reach as high as 108 -degrees in the summer time. The postmaster who was in charge there for some time had to retire recently on account of ill health, and I am positive that his condition was due in some measure to the premises in which he has had to work- in the summer. When I last approached the Postmaster-General, Mr. Gibson, I received a promise which quite satisfied me, and soon afterwards the following letter, which I handed to the press for publication, was sent to me from the secretary of the department: - 14th April, 1924.
Referring to your letter of 8/4/24, relative, inter alio) to desired alterations and additions to the Nuriootpa post office building, I am directed by the Postmaster-General to inform you that provision has been made for this work on the Draft Estimates, 1924-25, and provided approval therefor is given by Parliament, the proposal will be given effect to during the coming financial year.
Such a promise has always previously been honoured. In fact, I have three other letters in my hand which contain similar promises, and provision is made in the Estimates to give effect to them; but in this case the promise has not been honoured.
– Very likely the PostmasterGeneral put that amount on the draft Estimates and it was cut out when they were revised by the Treasurer.
– That is exactly what I am contending.
– Well, the PostmasterGeneral must be exonerated from blame, because he did his best to fulfil the promise.
– I do not agree with that. When such a definite, undertaking has been given it should be honoured. I quite naturally assumed that the Government would honour this promise, and that was why I had the letter published in the press. In spite of the Minister’s legal training, he cannot “ put it over “ me like that. A definite promise in black and white should not be treated as this one has been. I resent the Government’s action, and feel justified in using strong language about it. I do not know who is to blame- for what has happened, but I consider that the Government has acted contemptibly and dishonourably, and is not playing the .game. I wish also to refer to the needs of a place in my electorate called Marama. Twelve months ago I made a request to the PostmasterGeneral for consideration to be given to the people there. Marama has only one train and one mail a week. Quite a number of farmers have settled around the township, and if any place is entitled to telephonic communication Marama is. The following letter, which I received from Mr. T. H. Glasson, chairman of the Vigilance Committee, under date 3rd June, 1924, explains the position in which settlers find themselves : -
Again I am reminding you of the necessity of telephone for Marama. Two instances have occurred showing .how greatly it is needed. Last Friday a wire was sent from Adelaide saying our daughter had just undergone a very serious operation. The wire was brought from Karoonda, noon, Sunday, by a neighbour. Monday we had to send to Geranium, fourteen miles, to reply to same. Mr. Mills was taken to Lameroo Hospital last week, and that means a ride of 23 miles to hear how he is. Surely we are entitled to a little consideration, if 123 miles from the city. These are only two instances of last week, but every week there are things occurring showing how urgently it is needed. Trusting our time of waiting is almost over.
I also trust that their time of waiting is almost over, but when definite promises such as I received in connexion with the Nuriootpa post office are dishonoured, one becomes anxious about everything else that is promised. I have a definite promise from the Postmaster-General and also from the Deputy Postmaster-General in South Australia that Marama will be provided with telephonic communication, and I hope that nothing will be allowed to interfere with ils fulfilment. The failure of the Government to provide for the needs of. Nuriootpa., as it definitely promised to do, makes one doubly regret that a reduction was made in the postal rates last year. Twelve months ago I predicted that the reduction of postal rates would ultimately mean that honorable members representing country electorates would find it increasingly difficult to obtain necessary facilities for their constituents. It appears to me that already the pruning knife is being applied to the loan expenditure, and that makes ug more than ever regretful that £1,000,000 of postal revenue has been handed back to the big city business interests. I regret and resent the reduction in postal rates, particularly when I know that the interest on the deficit of the Department amounts to £282,369. The Treasurer has said that the Postal Department should not be made a taxing medium. To a certain extent I agree with him.
– The experience of the world is that cheap rates mean increased revenue.
– That has not been the experience of the Commonwealth, for the revenue has decreased by £1,000,000 since the reduction of the rates. Not only was the rate on letters reduced, but the big city interests, such as the banks, agents, and auctioneers, may now send 1 oz. of printed matter through the post for 1½d., whereas formerly they were charged 2d. for’ oz.
– The honorable member astounds me when he opposes cheap postage for the people.
– I shall be opposed to cheap postage until the department has been placed on a business basis, and its deficit has been wiped out. I do not see why the interest payable on that deficit should be extracted from the whole of the people in order that a concession may be given to certain large city interests. Whilst I do not advocate that the Postal Department should be made a taxing machine, I consider that the postal rates should not have been reduced until the department had wiped out its deficit, and was able to give decent facilities to the people living in the outlying districts. When a settlement like Marama is given only one mail a week, and cannot get telephonic communication, cheap postal rates are a delusion.
.- I congratulate the Postmaster-General’s Department upon having made available certain sums of money for new works in the federal division of Lilley. For many years the postal business of Windsor, a suburb of Brisbane, has been conducted as a semi-official office in a grocer’s shop. That suburb has a population of about 15,000 people, and I notice that there is in the schedule a sum of £2,000 for the purchase of a site and buildings which are to be converted into a post office. I welcome also an amount of £9,675 for a new post office and telephone exchange at Albion, and £5,000 for a telephone exchange at Newmarket. These proposals were investigated and approved by the Commonwealth Public Works Committee nearly two years ago, but this is the first monetary provision for them that has appeared in the Estimates. The erection of these two exchanges will considerably relieve telephonic congestion in Brisbane and suburbs, and I hope that the works will be carried out without further delay. There is an amount of £433 for a post office at Nundah t The amount seems small, and I do not know whether it is for the completion of the work or merely an instalment towards the total cost. There is also a sum of £52 for some small additions to the post office at Sandgate. Much of the correspondence received by honorable members relates to postal, telegraphic, and telephonic matters, and often it is necessary for us to arrange deputations to the Deputy Postmaster-General in support of the claims of our constituents. We feel we have accomplished something when the Deputy PostmasterGeneral consents to include in his draft Estimates certain sums of money for the works we have advocated, and great disappointment is caused when it is found that the Treasurer, has eliminated works which the Deputy PostmasterGeneral was convinced were necessary. In this connexion,. I draw the attention of the Acting Postmaster-General to the omission of any provision for the purchase of sites for post offices at Arran and Dayboro, and a telephone exchange at Nundah. It is false economy to delay the purchase of these sites. Those three places are in the vicinity of Brisbane, and the price of land is continually increasing. The sooner the department decides to purchase the sites required the better it will be, even if it is not able to erectbuildings thereon for some time. I am certain that the department would save many hundreds of pounds by purchasing land immediately instead of deferring action for another year.
.- The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), after congratulating the Postal Department upon having made moneys available for works in his electorate, complained that the amounts allotted were insufficient. ‘ Although a great many postal and . telephonic works have been carried out in my electorate, others which are very necessary have been neglected. The people in many country districts have been labouring under great disadvantages. To their request for increased facilities, the department has replied that the matter was receiving consideration. I direct the attention of the Acting Postmaster-General to the request made by the people in the Eidsvold district for additions to their post office and a more up-to-date residence for the local postmaster. I visited the place some months ago and was astounded to find that in that semitropical region the postmaster was not provided with a decent bathroom. An old closet had been brought from another locality and converted into a bathroom, but it had neither a roof nor a door, and the only shower was a makeshift arrange? ment rigged up by the postmaster. The post office building also is quite inadequate to the requirements of the district. Some hundreds of railway employees have been living in the vicinity for some time, and they make extensive use of the Eidsvold post office. The department was asked to enlarge the counter space and provide better accommodation for savings bank depositors, but the reply received was th:,1 it was not considered advisable to incur additional expenditure at the present time. A similar reply was made to a request by the people in the sugargrowing district of Kolan South, in the neighbourhood of Bundaberg. The building in which the semi-official post office is conducted is quite inadequate for the purpose. It has one small room, and you can see through the walls. The residents were informed that the matter of improving the accommodation had received consideration, but the expenditure involved was not justified. I am one of those honorable members who opposed the reduction of the postal rate to ltd. for I realized that whilst it would mean a big saving to the people in the large commercial centres, it would impose serious disabilities upon the people in the remote districts who require improved postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities, and would be informed that no money was available. I knew that requests for better services would be countered by the statement that there was not sufficient money available, whereas if the old rate of postage had continued there would have been ample money available to meet the demands for increased facilities and increased payments to mail contractors. I shall have an opportunity on the general Estimates to discuss more fully the claim of the residents of Frenchman’s Creek, in the vicinity of Rockhampton, for a postal delivery. When they applied to the department they were told that they would have to contribute £22 per annum towards the service. The delay that occurs in the carrying out of even those works which have been approved by the department is disgraceful. The erection of a post office at Mount Larcom, in central Queensland, was approved after the matter had been under consideration for years. An amount was placed on the Estimates, but the carrying out of the work was delayed for about eighteen months. Such delays should be eliminated, and the department should proceed with appoved works as soon as the money is made available. There are other approved works in my electorate which I hope the Minister will expedite. Amongst them are the alterations to the telephone exchange at Rock.hampton, for which £740 has been appropriated. We are told that the matter is now under consideration by the Postal Department, and it will remain under consideration for months unless prompt action is taken by the Postmaster-General. The erection of a post office and residence at Nebo is an urgent necessity. The people of that centre at the northern end of the Capricornia electorate have been asking for a post office and residence for some time. A ‘tender has been accepted for the building, and I urge the Acting Postmaster-General to see that the work is carried out expeditiously. I do not intend to complain further of the serious delay in erecting the post office at Yeppoon. The work was approved before the last general election. There has been serious delay, also, in the erection of a septic tank “at Rockhampton. All these delays are quite unnecessary, and cannot be justified. If the officials of the Works Department who hold up these works had to suffer the inconvenience to which country people are subjected because of these delays, the works would be carried out with much greater expedition, than they are:
I notice in the schedule a vote of £67,000 as a loan to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea for works, and I want the Treasurer to explain how that money is to be spent. I was one of the members of this House who visited New Guinea. I saw the urgent need for carrying out public works there in the interests of the Territory, the planters, and the officials. One of the urgent necessities is suitable residence accommodation for the officials. Many of the bungalows provided for them are a disgrace to the administration and the Government. Many of the officers, married and single, are living in practically slum conditions in New Guinea - a condition of affairs which is damaging alike to their self-respect and physical well-being.
– The conditions cannot be worse than they are in the Northern Territory.
– Two wrongs do not make a right. The honorable member can put the case for the Northern Territory when he speaks, although it has been very well put on several occasions in this chamber by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). There is no representative of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea in this House, and it is, therefore, the duty of honorable members who have visited the Territory to urge upon the Government the necessity of constructing suitable bungalows for the officials employed there. The quarters provided for single men are particularly unsuitable:, and, according to one of the officials, the accommodation provided is lowering to the self-respect of those who have to use it. It results in mental and physical deterioration, and damages the prestige of the white men in the eyes of the natives. The buildings to which I refer were constructed without the sanction of the Department of Public Health. They were condemned by that authority, but were erected by the local administration,
– The Administrator is a military autocrat.
– The honorable member knows a good deal about the matter, and is in a position to speak with authority. In the case of married officials, two families are compelled to live under one roof. The bungalows contain two main rooms, and each married couple occupies one of these rooms. No one can justify married people being compelled to live under such conditions in a place not 120 miles from the equator, where the temperature throughout the year is from 70 to 81 degrees, and the humidity 75 to 80 degrees. The lack of proper housing accommodation for officials reflects seriously upon the administration of the Territory, and it is the duty of the department controlling it to see that a large sum of money is set aside for the erection of proper bungalows for officials at Rabaul and other centres in New Guinea. The existing houses, for want of repairs, are in a dilapidated condition. The members of the Public Service there are alive to the inconveniences they are called upon to suffer, and in a letter which Mr. B. W. Sherman, secretary of the Civil Service Association, placed before the members of the parliamentary delegation that visited the Territory in September of last year dealing with the housing accommodation he showed favoritism in the allotment of houses to officials who are friends of the Administrator. An extract from the statement reads : -
During the absence of Mr. Grose on leave, the house which had been allotted to the Government Secretary, and occupied by Mr. Grose when acting as Government Secretary, became vacant. Since the new Government Secretary did not require it, Mr. and Mrs. Weir were given it. On the return of Mr. Grose, Mr. Weir, although an officer in the same division as Mr. Grose, and a married man, was given notice to quit to allow Mr. Grose, a single man, to occupy the three-roomed house. At this time, one man, with a wife and two children, had but one room, and an attached room erected athis own expense, for has family.
I want to know what the Government is going to do about this. Will the Treasurer assure honorable members that part of the vote of £67,000 will be set aside for the construction of bungalows essential to better living conditions for the officials of New Guinea? The secretary of the Civil Service Association made the following complaint to Senator Crawford, the Minister who visited the Mandated Territory with the parliamentary delega-‘ tion : -
In February, 1923, the association informed the Administrator, “This association protests against your methods of allotting houses.” Mr. Montgomery, another friend of the Administrator, and holding the position of Drill Instructor, is appointed Sub-Inspector of Police, Morobe. Mr. Montgomery had no previous police experience, so far as we can ascertain, yet was appointed over the heads of persons in the force without the position, which was then for the first time created, being advertised, in spite of the many reiterated promises of the Administrator that positions would be advertised. We wish to emphasize the Administrator’s favoritism towards his friends, and his failure to carry out a definite system, of allotment of bungalows.
It will be a disgrace to this national Parliament if the existence of such conditions is tolerated any longer. Mr. Sherman further said that a motion of noconfidence in the Administrator was carried because of his lack of foresight in providing proper accommodation for married couples in the Mandated Territory. Is it any wonder, in these circumstances, that so many officers resign, from the Service in. the Mandated Territory? Up to the 17th October, 1923, no fewer than 150 had resigned from the Expropriation Board .and the Administration. Most of them did so because they were not provided with proper accommodation. A few high officials are provided with very good residences. Members of the rank and file of the Service are induced to . go to the Territory by promises that they will be provided with bungalows as soon as any arc vacant. Some of them are there six months, twelve months, and even two years before they are provided with bungalows.. Their wives remain in Australia, and officials receiving salaries of from £300 to £400 a year are forced to keep two homes and to live away from their wives. When they complain to those who visit the Territory they are told that they are disgruntled, carping critics, out to defame the fail* name of Australia. The total European staff working for both departments in New Guinea since the inception of our’ administration of the Territory numbers, approximately, 500, and, as I have said, of these, about 150 have resigned because they could not put up with _ the living conditions there. I promised that I would bring the matter up in this House. I interviewed the officers of thedepartment concerned, and urged that a sum of money should be set aside for the construction of proper -well-ventilated residences of, say, five rooms each, with a wide verandah all round, and that a bungalow should be provided for each married couple. It is a disgrace to us that a mau, his wife, and two children should be asked to live in one room in the Territory. Is it any wonder, in the circumstances, that men fall- sick and die of malaria and other illnesses.
– Twenty-six per cent, of the members of the Public Service of New Guinea are always absent from duty because of malaria.
– If they were provided with decent housing accommodation, much of the sickness amongst them would be avoided. A cheese-paring policy has been adopted by the Administration. I know that an effort lias been made by the Administrator to make the Territory selfsupporting, and that that is the policy of the Government. I understand that is one of the conditions on which the Territory was taken over under the mandate from the League of Nations. Any attempt to administer a Territory that received in pre-war days an annual subsidy of £80,000 from the German Government, without allowing the Administrator any subsidy or an adequate amount of loan money for the building of bungalows and the carrying out of improvements, must end in failure. Honorable members would be lacking in their duty if .they did not oppose the continuance of a policy that is detrimental to the health of the officers and incompatible with the well-being of the” Territory generally. In the course of a tour of the islands I noticed . that, although we passed along 1,500 miles of dangerous coast, we did not see a guiding, light. Our trip was from Rabaul to Kaewieng, Mokareng, Maron, Pelluluhn Longan, Maty, Seleo, Alexishafen, Madang, Witu, and back to Rabaul. Sea captains have to sail very cautiously through the coral islands, for not one light has been erected by the Administration to guide them. If they are not extremely careful, remaining on deck for 24 hours in severe weather, they may come perilously near to losing their ships. From November to April very violent monsoonal storms occur, and it is only with extreme difficulty that boats are navigated through the 600 coral islands that extend 1,100 miles east and west and 450 miles north and south. The Germans had completed a tower for a. light on Elizabeth Reef, Cape Lamond, but when the war broke out a Japanese ship-builder took his schooner out and removed the light from the reef. The framework is still there, and it would cost only about £200 to provide a light. Recently a ship was blown on to one of the reefs, and it i3 a frequent occurrence for some of the traders, in their small craft, to be blown on to the rocks at night. I could not help thinking, when we were sailing up the coast off Cane Gazelle Peninsula, through’ St. George’s Channel, amidst most wonderful scenery, that a skipper, if he was not careful, might run his boat on the Duke of York group of islands, with heavy loss of life. A light costing about £100” would suffice to prevent such a disaster. Nothing has Been done by the Administration to safeguard the lives of passengers and crews of boats trading in the Territory. There is a point called Cape Lamber, on the “home journey to Rabaul after leaving Witu, I took the trouble to examine? the charts of that part, and found a coral reef extending out to sea for a distance of 5 or 6 miles. There was not a light to guide boats that were passing by it, and yet if they went within 6 miles of the coast, they would run on to the reef. It would be wise for the Government, before such a disaster occurs, to set aside a portion of the £67,000 for the provision of navigation lights. I ask the Minister to give this matter his personal consideration, because if he leaves it to any one else, the present policy of apathy will probably continue, and matters that require urgent attention will merely receive consideration, and nothing will be done. I hope the Minister will see that money is spent out of either loans or revenue to provide better shipping facilities. A snipping expert, Mr. A. M. Greenless, of Union House, 247 George-street, Sydney, recently went to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to report on some of the boats used by the Administration. In these boats the lives of many people are in danger every week of the year. This is what he said regarding the a.s. Siew -
The framework of this vessel is not in a good state ‘of preservation, and, in my opinion, further expenses in any attempt to bring her up to the standard is not justified. Further, I recommend that this vessel should not be engaged in any trade in the open sea, but may be used for enclosed harbour work.
He also reported on the Meklong, the Madang, and other boats. He pointed out their serious defects and their unsuitability for further use in rough, tropical seas, unless large sums of money were spent on repairing them. I utter these words of warning to the Treasurer in the hope that he and the Prime Minister will see that the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) exercises a close personal supervision over these matters, and takes steps to protect the good name of Australia in her management of the mandated territories. The care of these territories has been entrusted to us by the League of Nations, and who knows but that in a few years New Guinea may become our sole property. While Australian control is on its trial we should see that everything possible is done to develop the Territory in the best and most efficient way. The inter-island shipping is dangerous and in- adequate. The lives of officials and medical men are risked every week because they are forced to go out to sea in stormy weather in unseaworthy vessels. They are frightened to say anything about the conditions of their work, and if they do give any information they stipulate that it is confidential, and add, “. Don’t on any account mention my name.” The steamer Sumatra ‘ was lost. There is a diversity of opinion as to the cause of that disaster, but many people who knew her realized that she was not seaworthy for a trip to Sydney. The Meklong, Madang, and Star, which formerly belonged to German companies, are to-day practically unseaworthy. The administration chartered the s.s. Tintenbar, and she has been wrecked. The shipping is in a disgraceful condition, and some of the loan money provided in this bill should be set aside for providing better shipping facilities. If the money can be provided out of revenue well and good, but it is the duty of the Government to do something out of loan money expeditiously to safeguard the lives of officials. There are no fire-fighting appliances at Rabaul, and the property of the administration and the Expropriation Board is in constant danger of destruction by fire. A wharf, which is said to have cost Germany £80,000, was burnt on the 3rd January, 1923, and a large part of Chinatown was destroyed lately. In the wharf fire the Expropriation Board lost goods, which were not covered by insurance, to the value of £10,500. I urge the Minister to install fire-fighting appliances, but he should give first attention to the provision of housing accommodation for the married couples and the single men, .who are now forced to live in most unhealthy places, and tend to lower the standard of living of the whole community.
.- I think I heard a discussion similar to that which has taken place to-night a quarter of a century ago. I am amazed at the apostles of postal progress who have spoken to-day. What does the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) suggest? His idea of progress is to have a separate works department for the Postal Department. God knows that we have sufficient duplication in this country already. Other honorable members charge this. Government with being spendthrift and extravagant.
Yet those honorable members propose to increase the rates of postage and the charge for telephones. Does the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) propose to go back to the times when the postage on letters was 6d., 9d., or1s.? Has he read the history of the world? Does he know that the rates of postage in every country in the world have been reduced at one time or another? Most countries, after reducing the rates by one-half, from 2d. to1d., found that the aggregate revenue increased within three years.
– Why did the Government increase postal rates during the war ? To get increased revenue !
– Here is another apostle of progress! He ought to know that war conditions are very different from normal conditions. I wonder whether the honorable member for Angas will go to his constituents in the backblocks of South Australia and tell them that he thinks their rates of postage are too low.
– I have said that all over my electorate.
– Will the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) say it to his constituents?
– I voted against the reduction of the postal rates.
– I am opposed to heavy postal rates, because the Post Office is a great educator. The people who require the services of the Post Office most are those in the isolated parts of this country. It is only a catch-cry to say that postage is reduced in the interests of the merchants. Who pays the postage on the merchants’ letters? The producers pay it, of course. How many people who send telegrams send them at the ordinary rates? The red form is nearly always used, and double rates are paid. Telephones are a luxury at present prices, but I look forward to the time when there will be a telephone in every house in Australia. It is quite practicable for us to have cheaper telegrams, cheaper telephones, and lower rates of postage. I have heard postal rates debated, not only here and in the various states, but also in the postal congresses of the world, and it has been proved that lowering the rates has in every instance increased the revenue. I have studied the subject, having had considerable experience in postal matters.
– It was a long time ago.
– What has happened in the past is likelyto happen again. These alleged apostles of progress sitting opposite will not be satisfied until the postage rate is increased to 6d. In that event, a farmer with a large family would incur considerable expense in correspondence alone. Honorable members opposite wish to increase the cost of telephones and telegrams, contending that the present low rates are to the interests of the merchants. I am pleading for the people of Australia. The honorable member for Newcastle wishes to duplicate the Works Department, and yet in his next speech he will very likely charge the Government with extravagance. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) makes complaint, because, although the Postmaster-General promised him four post offices in his district, he does not find provision for all of them in the Estimates. For a new member he has managed very well. My district is to be provided with improvements to three post offices. Honorable members opposite, the alleged apostles of progress, wish to increase the cost of postage, telephones, and telegrams.
– We want to increase the cost of postage only, as the present rate benefits the big city interests.
– What increase would the honorable member propose?
– The rate should be 2d. for half an ounce.
– Why not make it1s. ? The honorable member’s idea of progress is to increase the cost of living to the people in the isolated parts of this country. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) wants nice bungalows built for the people in the Mandated Territories. That is all very well, but why should the people of Rockhampton, and in the isolated places in Queensland, who now suffer through lack of telephonic and telegraphic facilities, bear the extra burden of increased postage? The same honorable members took exception when at one time I proposed to use trees to support the telephone wires. They were called Chapman’s bush telephones. The people must have these conveniences, and as it is very expensive to erect posts throughout the country, why notput the telephone wires on the trees where saving shouldbe effected? The Opposition still holds to the old exploded idea that the Government is acting in the city interests. The man in the city is entitled to fair play.
– The farmer cannot pass on his costs like the man in the city..
– I have the interests of the , farmers at heart. I do not speak with my tongue in my cheek, treating the subject as a joke, but with an earnest desire to benefit the people. The merchant to-day employs a messenger boy to deliver letters in the city, because it is cheaper than paying l½d. for each letter.
– What was the honorable member’s attitude respecting wire netting?
– I, unlike the honorable member, stood for wire netting made in Australia. I showed conclusively that imported wire netting was not up to the standard of ours, and that given fair play the Australian manufacturer could produce wire netting of the verybest quality at as reasonable a price as the imported. I regret that the honorable member is opposed to the encouragement of Australian industries. I am amazed that men who profess to be democrats should oppose the granting of postal facilities to people in the country districts. Honorable members opposite want higher postage, although it has been proved that the cheaper the rate the greater the aggregate revenue.
– That is absurd.
– Anything can be reduced to an absurdity. Many years ago New Zealand had penny postage, but the rate was increased during the war. Since thenit has reverted to penny postage. Mr. Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, said the other day that he was very pleased with the result, which had certainly proved that1d. was the correct rate for postage. Is not this great Commonwealth willing to progress on the same lines as New Zealand? I have always advocated cheaper postal rates, and New Zealand hasshown us what can be done in this direction.In all countries where cheap postage . rates have been adopted the results have been beneficial.
– The merchants of those countries did not give their customers cheaper goods because of the cheaper postage.
– The honorable member maintains that we should penalize the country people. Does he suggest that the postage rate should be doubled ?
– It should be 2d. for half an ounce.
– If so, the people in the country districts would have to pay nearly double the present rate.
– A person in the country writes perhaps only two letters a month.
– History has proved that the penny postage rate gives the greatest aggregate revenue.
– Which should come first - an increase in old-age pensions, or a reduction in postage?
– I am surprised that the honorable member objects to increasing the old-age pension.
– That is untrue. I do not oppose the increase of the old-age pension. In fact, last year I moved an amendment in this House to make it £1 per week.
Sir- AUSTIN CHAPMAN.- I am in favour of increasing the old-age pension.
– The honorable member voted against it last’ year.
– I did nothing of the kind.. Old-age pensioners are not all carried awayby the clap-trap of the honorable member. They realized then that this country could not afford to pay a greater pension than 17s. 6d. per week, and that it was better to receive that “amount than nothing at all. I am prepared to support a proposal to increase the old-age pension to £1 per week when the finances will allow that amount to be paid.
– The Nationalist Government has twice raised the pension.
– The Labour party advocates certain things, but when it comes to definite action it is found wanting. If honorable members opposite are in favour of increasing the postage rate why not increase it to 6d.?
– The honorable member is an extremist.
– The honorable member should be a judge of extremists.
– The honorable member has been treated fairly; he has obtained three post offices forhis district, while others have obtained none at all.
– Improvements to post offices are to be made in my district at Berry, Albion Park, and Moruya, for which I am thankful, as they are necessary.I shall do my best to reduce the- postage rate, and the cost of telephones, so that a telephone may be installed in every house in Australia at a rental of £1 per year, with six free calls a day to enable housewives to communicate with tradesmen. Although this would cost a considerable sum of money the result would justify the expenditure. It would be a tremendous source of revenue to the Commonwealth. I am as sure that penny postage will apply in this country within the next year or two as I am that the day will dawn tomorrow morning. Additional postal facilities are’ urgently required in isolated places, some of which receive only one mail a. week. I am strongly in favour of granting these, and reducing the postalrates. We are badly in need of cheaper telephones. I hope that we shall soon reach a time when we shall not have to pay double rates for telegrams.’ It is well known to-day that people who wish to get their telegraphic messages through in reasonable time use he red form. Big business alwaysmeans cheaper business, and for that reason it would pay the Government to reduce charges, and so encourage the use of the telegraphicand telephonic- services to a still greater extent. Let honorable members askthemselves which businesses prosper in Melbourne. The answer is: those which have full-page advertisements in the newspapers. Big business means . efficiency and more revenne. The Government’s policy of taking one step at a time is the right one; but I trust that we shall’ soon restore penny postage in the Commonwealth.
All honorable members are glad to see the honorable member for Eden-Monaro(Sir Austin Chapman), back in the chamber, and also to find that he is in such vigorous health. At the same time,Icannothelp remarking that he has put- an. entirely wrong construction on the remarks made by the honorable member forAngas (Mr. Gabb). Like myself and someother hon orable members on this side of the committee, the honorable member for Angas opposed the Government’s proposal last year to reduce the postal rate on ordinary letters from 2d. to l½d., and we are quite prepared to justify ourselves to our constituents. It is ridiculous to say that the honorable ‘member for Angas is in favour of high telephonic charges. The most effective reply to the remarks made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro is contained in the Treasurer’s budget speech. I quote the following paragraph for his information : -
The reduction of postage rates, which took effect from the 1st October, 1923, entailed a loss of revenue of approximately £800,000 during the nine months of 1923-24.. The loss for a fall year approximates. £1,067,000.
The honorable member for Angas- does not favour an increase in the postage to 6d. Our contention when the reduction was proposed last year was that it would be of no benefit to the general public. We pointed out that ordinary people would probably not post six letters a year, so that the reduction in the rates would benefit them by not more than 3d. a year each on the average. On . the other hand, big commercial houses in the centres of. population post thousands of letters a year. The reduced rates must have put nearly a million pounds into their pockets in the last twelve months. The reduction in. the rates has been detrimental to. the community, for it has prevented the Government fromproviding needed additional postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities. The money which could have been collected had the previous letter rate been continued would have provided many extra facilities for people in the outlying areas of the Commonwealth.For instance, meteorological stations could have been established at MullewaandPerenjori,twocompara- tively, new settlementsin my electorate. It ishighly desirable that records of the rainfall and other meteorological details should be tabulated in these and similar new settlements,but the Government, which reduced the postage rate, and so benefited “ big business,” has no money to help thepeople in these.new areas. . .
Thesame situation has arisen in regard to the establishment of tropical laboratories. Some time ago the Government stated that these laboratories would be established in various parts of Australia”. New South Wales and Queensland have alreadybeen favoured, but so far notone has been established in Western Australia. In March last I was told by the Acting Director of Public Health that consideration would be given to the establishment of a laboratory at Broome when the next Estimates were being framed, but not a penny is provided on these Estimates for that most necessary work. The Government has been guilty of a distinct breach of faith in the matter, and, in addition, has placed certain honorable members in a distinctly unfair position with their constituents. Had the former postal rate been continued, money would have been available to establish these laboratories.
I regret that the ex-Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), who was a most excellent Minister, was not able, before he left office, to complete his negotiations with the South Australian Government for the building of a railway line on the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge from Port Augusta as part of the Commonwealth Government’s scheme to link that town with Hay. It is gratifying to learn that the revenue from the last quarter’s operations on the east-west line was £12,225 more than for the corresponding quarter of last year. In an official statement on this matter, issued by the exMinister for Works and Railways, it was said that more than one truck of meat a week was now being carried on the eastwest line from South Australia to Kalgoorlie. I may add that every passenger train that ran over the line in the last few days carried a full truck of sheep and a full truck of meat for consumption in Western Australia. That traffic will soon be largely increased, for abattoirs are being established at Kingoonyah and Loongana to provide meat for the people on the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia. If an agreement is reached between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government which will result in linking up Hay and Port Augusta, the commercial men in the eastern states in Sydney and Brisbane who have business to transact in Western Australia will be very unlikely to make the detour to Melbourne and Adelaide on their journey westwards. Soon after Hay and Port Augusta are linked, two trains a day will run over the transcontinental railway, and it will be within measurable distance of being a paying proposition. The building of the Hay-Port Augusta line will also contribute largely to settling the break of gauge problem, for South Australia and Victoria will be obliged, in their own interests, to convert their lines to that standard gauge as soon as practicable.
I have been agitating for some time for renovations and renewals to be made to the post office at Fitzroy Crossing, in the Kimberley district. The building is badly infested with white ants, and, although £200 was spent on it recently in repairs, it was discovered that an additional £300 would need to be expended to renew the floors and other parts of the building before it could be said to be in proper repair. Last year an amount of £950 was placed on the Estimates for building a linemen’s shed at Fitzroy Crossing, but the money was not expended. One reason given by the exMinister for Works and Railways for the failure to do the work was that it could not be started on account of the rainy season. Every one who knows anything about that district knows that the rainy season is from November to March. We are fast approaching November in this year, and I suppose we shall be told presently that the work cannot be done this year because the rainy season has arrived. The letter I received from the Minister for Works and Railways on this matter also contained the following paragraph : -
As it would be uneconomical to send a working party to this remote locality unless other work in the district were required, it cannot be stated at present when these services will be carried out. The North-West Department, Western Australia, will be requested, however, to have the repairs put in hand as soon as possible next financial year.
If Ministers would pay a little more attention to the advice of honorable members who represent these remote districts, and are better acquainted with the local conditions than officers in the various departments in the cities can possibly be, they would find that there would be much less discontent outback with the administration. I regret that the general expenditure out of loan money on works for the Postmaster-General’s Department has been allocated to the different states on such an unequal basis. Honorable members who represent Tasmania have already complained about the treatment their state has received.
– We are only getting one-tenth of what some of the other states are getting.
– I trust that the Government will see the justice of helping Tasmania, for without help she cannot be expected to make much progress. Members who represent Western Australian constituencies also have reason to complain about the treatment meted out to their state. Last year an expenditure of £62,000 was provided for; but this year only £44,000, or a third less than last year, is to be expended.
I wish now to refer briefly to the lighthouse administration. Ever since my entry into this chamber I have been appealing to the Government to provide a more adequate lighthouse service for Western Australia. In a report on the lighting of the west coast of Australia from King George Sound to Cambridge Gulf, in November, 1912, Commander C. E. W. Brewis, B.N., recommended the placing of eleven new lights on the coast. I have from time to time suggested a similar provision, but the Government has taken no steps towards the better lighting . of that very dangerous coast, particularly the Kimberley coast. Commander Brewis recommended -
That a vessel be . obtained, well found, and capable of taking the sea in all weathers, of such a steam power as to move rapidly in case of emergency.
That was twelve years ago. The Government has admitted that the provision of two steamers for the lighthouse service is essential. Last year, £38,450 was appropriated, and, I believe, spent, and this year an amount of £150,000 is placed on the Estimates. That makes a total of £188,4.50, but the total estimated cost of the two vessels’ is £240,000, so that even by the end of the current financial year these two vessels, which are so necessary to the efficient lighting of the coast, will not be available. At the present time, the Government steamer is making only one trip a year to the Western Australian coast. Commander Brewis recommended twelve years ago that a vessel should make the trip three or four times a year. I again quote from his almost antique report -
The northern lighthouses are visited by the Government steamer once a year.
The reason for that is that for nine months of the year the present vessel dares not travel that coast north of North-west Cape. The vessel is quite unseaworthy, except in very calm weather -
This should be carried out at least three or four times a year. Should it be necessary for women or children to leave the stations at other times, a passage has to be taken to the nearest town by passing lugger-
Manned by Malays and Japanese - which is not suitable for a woman to travel by, with or without her children, unaccompanied by her husband. These luggers also have no accommodation.
I bring those inspiring facts under the notice of the Treasurer, whom the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman) has boosted as an apostle of progress..
– Why are not the lighthouse boats travelling on the northwest coast?
– Because the department has no suitable boats. The Kyogle is on its way to the north-west now.
– How long was it held up at Fremantle?
– The object of the Treasurer’s interjections is to make it appear that the state of affairs which has obtained during the past twelve years is due to a difference of opinion amongst the members of the crew of the Kyogle regarding their terms of employment. That excuse is too thin. When the two steamers have been constructed, and are able to make regular trips to the coast, it will not be necessary for women and children leaving the lighthouse stations to travel on luggers manned by Malays and Japanese, and having no adequate accommodation for passengers. I do not blame the Government wholly for the existing state of affairs, but I direct attention to the urgent necessity for building these vessels as early as possible, instead of extending construction over a number of years.
– The Estimates provide for the building of two vessels.
– I have already pointed out that the provision on the Estimates is inadequate, and that even in June of next year the vessels will not be ready. Meanwhile women and children, must huddle on luggers with Malays and Japanese. Commander Brewis recommended the establishment of eleven new lights on the Western Australian coast, which extends for 3,130 miles. At the time of his report there was one light to each 170 miles of coast-line, and his scheme provided for one light to each 81.6’ miles. The position to-day is no better than it was twelve years ago. The absence of lights involves such delays to ships entering the ports of Wyndham, Broome, and Derby, that the owners incur an additional expenditure of £50 to £100 at each port on every trip. From Cape Leveque to Darwin, a distance of 620 miles, there is not one light. The coast of the Dutch Islands, which are within three days’ steam of the WesternAustralian coast, and have in parts only o.ne steamer in a month, or even two months, is, by comparison, as. well lighted as Bourke-street. We pride ourselves upon being in the van of progress^ bub the Dutch Government could teach the Commonwealth Government a great deal about making the coast safe for shipping. The sooner something is done to establish lights along the Western Australian coast in order to make navigation safer and to reduce freights, the better it will be for all concerned.
– I, too, regret that the Treasurer, has’ not made a larger sum of money available to the Postmaster-General. I know that the Treasurer considers that he has been extremely liberal” in letting his colleague have £4,000,000 to expend this year on postal services ;. but I, like other honorable members, received promises during the last twelve .months that certain necessary works would be placed on the Estimates for the current financial year, and I am extremely disappointed to find that they have been omitted. Only a few months ago I visited Drysdale in the company of the senior postal inspector and district inspector. Those two officers were amazed to find that the local post office building was little better than a dog kennel,’ and before leaving the district they inspected a number of sites which, had been offered to the department for postal purposes.. They also attended a meeting of the local progress association, and so strong was the case put before them that they decided that something must be done immediately to relieve the existing, conditions. Within a few weeks the department acquired a. site for a new post office, and subsequent correspondence led me to believe that money would be found for that very necessary work. I was, therefore, astonished to find no provision for the Drysdale post office in the list of works to be carried out this year. When I complained to the Treasurer, he replied that I was only one of many honorable members who were disappointed because he. was not able to find all the money that the PostmasterGeneral required’ for new works.
– Did the honorable member receive a promise in writing ?
– I received from the department certain letters, which I forwarded to the local progress association,, by which I was congratulated upon the success of my representations. Now the residents are wondering why the Government has not fulfilled the departmental promise which had been made in- accordance with the recommendations of the senior inspector. Unquestionably the department is doing a great deal for the development of the country by means of telegraphic and telephonic facilities. I believe that it is genuinely desirous of giving all services to the people wherever practicable:, but is handicapped by insufficiency of funds. - During the past year, the long promised additions to the switchboard in the Geelong Exchange arrived, and are now being installed. I mention the matter because I wish to express- the hope that in future, when orders for postal requirements which cannot be supplied in Australia are placed abroad, they shall be given well in advance to avoid repetition of such delays as took place in connexion with the additions to the telephone exchange at Geelong. The work was held’ up for many months because of some neglect in America. It was only after repeated representations had been made that the necessary material was shipped to Australia.
A great deal has been said about the reduction of postage to Id., but in view of the present financial position of the department, I would not favour any reduction of postage. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman), who was at one time PostmasterGeneral of the Commonwealth, has. said much in support of penny postage; but in his comparison of .Australia with countries in which penny postage has been successful, the honorable gentleman overlooks the distances which have to be traversed by mail in this country, and the large subsidies which have to be paid to mail contractors. This makes our conditions very different from those of other countries that have penny postage. There are places in Australia that have a mail only once in every month or six weeks, and it costs the Government up to £700 per annum to subsidize their mails, although they. are not as large as many of our city postmen carry round in a morning delivery. We cannot agree to the department being robbed of revenue, as I think it would be, by the reduction of the postage to one penny. The experience pf the last nine months has proved that a reduction of postage does not increase the revenue; and I cannot agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that a further reduction of postage would do so.
– The reduction by another half-penny would mean the loss of £1,000,000 a year.
– Yes; and probably more. In the erection of country post offices, I think that provision should be made for a residence for the postmaster. We have numerous instances in the country districts of post offices being erected without a residence. In such cases, considerable difficulty sometimes arises through the department being unable to’ secure necessary accommodation for the postal officials placed in charge of these post offices. I have had this experience in my electorate, and I am sure that my experience in the matter is not singular.
I notice in the schedule a vote of £120,000 for “works services, and acquisition of land in Federal Capital Territory.”’ I should like to know what proportion of this amount is to be spent in the acquisition of more land. I was under the impression that all the land acquired in the Territory by the Government up to the present time had been paid for. I cannot see any justification for the expenditure of “another £120,000 at the Federal Capital. Too much money has been expended there already. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) shows me a photograph of the provisional Parliament House, which he says is nearly finished. He has not shown me a photograph of the hostel. In my opinion, there are very few members of this Parliament sufficiently well off to take up residence in the hostel.
– They will have to batch.
– Then why build a hostel? We are expending tens of thousands of pounds on a hostel, ostensibly for the use of members of this Parliament, whilst the tariff will be so high that very few honorable members will be able to avail themselves of the accommod’ation to be provided.
– What is the tariff going to be?
– It is said that it cannot be less than £1 per day if the hostel is to pay interest on cost of construction, apart from working expenses.
– We had better make a hotel of it.
– Hotels are barred from the Federal Capital territory, and I hope they always will be. I should like to know in how many more ways provision is to be made on’ different estimates for the expenditure of money in the Federal Capital territory. In every estimate put before us some amount appears for further expenditure on the “ Celestial City.” We should be given some information concerning this vote of £120,000. I should not have thought that, it was necessary to acquire more land. There are something like .900 square miles of land in the territory, but a great deal of it is absolutely useless. I hope the Treasurer will tell us what the vote appearing in the schedule to this bill is required for.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer. It is in connexion with the item, “ Expenditure under War Service Homes Act, 1918-23 (to be paid to credit of Trust Fund, War Service Homes Account), £1,800,000.” I do not know exactly for what purpose this money is required. Probably some of it is required “for advances to soldiers acquiring homes under the act. I want to refer to a very bard case which recently came under my notice. It is .that of a widow who has. received an intimation from the department that she must get out of the house she is occupying, notwithstanding the fact that all her rent, rates and taxes are paid, because she refuses to keep the property in proper repair at her own expense. I visited this home to see what the conditions were. The house is a disgrace to the department. I understand that the Commonwealth Bank waa responsible for its erection. The iron with which it is roofed had previously been used to cover wheat stacks. Holes in it were filled up with red lead, but the water comes through and percolates through the three-ply ceiling on to the bed clothing and furniture in the house. Some of the widow’s belongings have been spoiled. One of the windows in the house will not close, and another will not open. This woman, in good faith, entered into a contract with the department expecting to get value for the money she was prepared to pay. Like many more she signed her contract without knowing the conditions it contained requiring the place to be kept in proper repair. There should be no reason to make repairs to a new house.
– Has the honorable member approached the Minister regarding this case?
– It is before the Minister at the present moment. I have had this matter before the department since 1922, but it has been hung up; and now an ejectment order has been issued to turn this widow out of the house. It is a scandal, and I hope the Government will see that justice is done to her. She entered into the contract fully determined to do all in her power to honour it to the letter, but she has not received from the bank what she contracted for. I hope the Government will remedy this case of injustice without delay.
Mr. McGrath (Ballarat) [10.2].- There are many matters I should like to discuss. They include the. borrowing of money for immigration and to pay transport expenses incurred during the war. It seems to be rather late in the day to receive a bill for £30,000 for transport expenses during the war. On the present occasion, however, I intend to confine myself to the policy of borrowing money for defence. A sum of £362,000 is included in the bill for defence purposes. To borrow money for defence is wrong. Between 1910 and 1913 the Labour party was in power, and during those years the Australian Navy was established, compulsory training was instituted, and provision was made for the war that was looming ahead ; but every penny that was spent on defence came out of revenue. The result was that when we were plunged into the war we were able to borrow to finance ourselves, for we had no past debt to handicap us. The present Ministry is led in this matter by the Treasurer, who, when he sat in the Corner, compelled the Government to reduce its defence expenditure out of revenue by £1,000,000, although he now proposes to commit this country to an expenditure, out of loan money, of one-third of a million pounds for defence. That expenditure will not produce any revenue, and will merely add to the national debt of this country. It is futile to talk, as the Treasurer did in his budget speech, about reducing the loans of Australia by £2,000,000 while he is increasing our loan indebtedness in the manner disclosed in the bill. I believe that we should spend money, not upon cruisers, but rather upon the works indicated in the bill. There may be some justification for those works, but not for borrowing money for them. They should be provided out of revenue. I would go even farther than that and say that every shilling spent on the defence of this country should be recouped by a direct tax on wealth. The poorer section of the people should not be called upon to contribute money for this country’s defence. The bill does not propose that even the wealthy class should pay anything, but it passes the obligation on to posterity. If this policy continues our Federal debt will increase from £410,000,000, then to £420,000,000, and so on. Even Great Britain does not pay for her defence out of loan moneys. Prior to the war, every shilling she spent on Imperial defence was provided out of the revenue of the year; and to-day, although she is faced with a heavy interest bill, she is paying for her defence out of the revenue of the year. She is repaying her ‘ debt to America, and reducing her war loans very considerably every year. But we in this young country, whose war debt and defence expenditure are as “nothing compared with those of Great Britain, and who pride ourselves upon being in a better financial position than any other country in the world, provide for future defence out of loan moneys. It is a dishonest method of finance, and I am satisfied that it will not be tolerated by the people. As soon as the facts are placed before then*,, and they are told that money is being borrowed, not for reproductive works, but for building, arsenals or factories, or buying land for such buildings, they will declare emphatically against such a policy. I move -
That the following words be added to the clause “ Defence expenditure shall not be paid from the above-mentioned loan money.”
If that amendment is agreed to it will not preclude the . construction out of revenue of the works mentioned in the bill.
.- It is very difficult for a member of Parliament to ascertain exactly what is the capital outlay on the post offices in the Commonwealth. I suggest that the Postmaster-General should submit a proper balance-sheet of his department showing exactly what the assets of the Post Office are. A balance-sheet should show how much money is spent on post offices out of revenue and how much out of loans. At present we do not know the facts, and have no means of ascertaining them. I ought to be able to place my finger on the information, but it is impossible to glean it from the figures supplied to us. We should know what the assets of the Post Office are worth, and where the taxpayers’ money goes. A sum of £118,000 is set down for remodelling the Sydney postoffice.
– That work is badly needed.
– That may be so, but the . fact that the expenditure is necessary is evidence of. bad management. No man could run a private business in that way. A statement of receipts and expenditure is not a balance-sheet. Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral tell me how much money is invested in the Post Office? Ministers have a habit of ignoring such direct questions. ‘ Any Minister ought to be able to inform honorable members of the details relating to his own department.
I also want to know something about the £250,000 provided for “immigration - advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants.” Such expenditure should certainly not be provided for out of loans.
– The honorable member’s Government says it should.
– It is the Government of Australia, but it is not my Government. I am as free and untram melled as the air we breathe. Because I support the Government it is not above criticism. What will the immigrants do when they come here? Have we jobs for them? Shall we put them on the land, so . that they will curse the day when they set foot in this country? I would rather see the men who are brought out here placed in our secondary industries to assist in manufacturing the things we require. Wo are bringing immigrants from Great Britain to settle on the land, and yet that country will not buy our products. She prefers to buy her goods from Greece and other like countries in which labourers receive lOd. a day. That is not the proper way for a mother to treat her sons. If we are prepared to absorb immigrants from Great Britain to relieve her of her congested population, it is her duty to take the products of her sons in return. That is the only way to develop Australia, and ensure success for those who go on the land. The Government proposes to expend £15,000 on a solar . observatory at Canberra. I cannot understand the reason for this expenditure* It may be that it is intended to explore the moon, or, perhaps, members of Parliament when at Canberra wish to gain inspiration from Mars. This expenditure is entirely unnecessary at present. We are borrowing £9,000,000, which will aggravate the exchange situation. Where is this money to be borrowed ?
– In Australia, I hope.
– I hope so, too. If it is to be borrowed from Great Britain the exchange difficulty will be seriously aggravated. Australia has a huge public debt, and we should not expend one penny unless for . revenue-producing, works.- God knows that our debt is too heavy, and is greater than we can bear, yet we continue to issue notes. How can we weather the storm if we continue to borrow money for unproductive works? We have not 6,000,000 people in Australis, yet the taxation is increasing all the time. The people have to bear the brunt of any expenditure on unproductive works. Not one penny should be borrowed from abroad until the exchange problem is settled. We are in a most critical financial position. There is a dead loss on all federal public works, including railways, the administration of the Northern Territory, and the building of the Federal Capital site. To meet these losses the people must be heavily taxed. All expenditure on nonproductive works is money gone by the board. I sincerely hope that the Government will take some cognizance of what I have said.
.- I rise to protest against the statement made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman), who I regret has left the chamber. Out of consideration for his unfortunate infirmity I hesitated to interrupt his flow of eloquence. But to use a term that has in the last few days become fashionable in this chamber, he was guilty of a deliberate misstatement. In his outburst, he said that he was amazed, yet it was apparent that he was in a maze, and entangled in a wire netting entanglement of contradiction. He stated that I voted against increasing the old-age pension to £1 per week. That statement was not treated seriously by honorable members, but .when placed on record in Hansard it is apt to leave an erroneous impression outside. On the 10th July last year I moved an amendment that the Estimates be reduced by £1 as an indication to the Government that the pension should be increased to £1 per week. Besides the Labour party, the honorable members for Henty (Mr. F. Francis), Robertson (Mr. Gardner), Corio (Mr. Lister), Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt), and Fremantle (Mr. Watson) voted for the amendment. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who has repeatedly declared himself in favour of increasing the pension to £1 per week, voted with the Government, so I ami at a loss to under - stand how he can have the cold-blooded audacity to make such a misstatement respecting my views on old-age pensions. Unlike him, I have always been consistent in my attitude. During the debate that then took place this party declared that before the Government made free gifts to the big pastoralists and financial institutions, and before it reduced the postage rates, its bounden duty was to make provision for the invalid and aged. On that occasion we were supported by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and other honorable members, who gave somewhat similar reasons for their attitude. These honorable members were not consistent, because subsequently, on the 24th August, when the subject was again debated, with the exception of the honorable -member for North Sydney (Mr, W. M. Hughes), who was absent when the previous vote was taken, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), they voted with the Government.
Having disposed of that, allow me to say that I regret that the late Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) saw fit to tender his resignation. I, with most honorable members of the House, found him keenly attentive to the various matters brought before him. He proved to be an efficient executive head, and he tried to do his best for all members, irrespective of party. He is certainly a loss to the Administration. I have no complaint regarding the provision for postal works in my electorate as a result of my persistent representations. A sum is to be appropriated to enable post offices to be completed at Belmore, Lakemba, Guildford, and Merrylands, the amount to be expended exceeding the total vote for Tasmania, so I cannot very well complain in this regard .
.- I moveThat the House do now adjourn. The House is fully cognizant of the situation that has arisen during the past few months concerning the growers of doradilla grapes in Victoria, New South Wales, and particularly South Australia. The Government during this time has been endeavouring to find some solution of what is unquestionably a difficult problem, involving a serious crisis in the industry. The trouble has arisen to a great extent from the fact that soldier settlers were compelled by the states to grow doradilla grapes, and the production has become so great that it is almost impossible to find an outlet for it at a price that will give a reasonable return to the growers. This year’s crop was so abundant, and the outlet so small, that large quantities, of grapes were sold at a price which certainly did not give the growers a profitable return, and a considerable percentage of the crop could not be sold at all, and. rotted on the vines. The Government recognized the difficulties of the growers some little time ago, and gave careful consideration to the whole situation. It requested the Tariff Board to investigate the subject. The board met representatives of all concerned in the industry - the growers, the vignerons, and the distillers - and subsequently I also saw these representatives on several occasions. They requested the Government to take some steps to meet the serious situation that had arisen. The Government replied that before it would do anything it must be given an assurance that the interests of the growers would be safeguarded, and that they would be given a reasonable price for their grapes. Unfortunately, our efforts in that direction were not successful. The Tariff Board, after making its investigation, submitted certain recommendations to the Government with the object of stimulating the production of . sweet wines, and making possible the marketing of them overseas. At that time the Government felt that it could give effect to only one of the recommendations of the board unless an assurance was forthcoming that a satisfactory price should be paid to the growers for their grapes. Had the Government adopted all of the Tariff Board’s recommendations without such a guarantee, it would really have been giving assistance to the people who were responsible for building up the large stocks which existed. The recommendations of the Tariff Board were- (1) That there should be a reduction of excise from 26s. to 21s. per gallon on brandy distilled from doradilla grapes; (2) that the excise on fortifying spirits distilled from doradilla grapes should be reduced from 6s. to 5s. ; and (3) that a bounty of 4s. per gallon on fortified wines of a strength of 34 proof spirit or over should be given, and that the drawback of 6d. per gallon, at present allowed ‘on exports, should be withdrawn. The Government did not see its way clear to adopt those recommendations, except in regard to the reduction of the excise on brandy distilled from doradilla grapes. A bill was introduced on the 4th April which really gave effect to the first of those three recommendations by increasing the import duty on brandy by 5s. per gallon. We now desire to create a market in which it will be possible to dispose of an increased quantity of fortified wines, and we shall ask the House later to give effect to recommendations (2) and (3) of the Tariff Board. The market which is available for sweet wines in Great Britain is, I believe, almost unlimited, but, as legislation will have to be submitted to the House to give effect to these recommendations, I do not propose to discuss the matter further now. I shall speak at length of the consumption of sweet wines in Great Britain when the bill is introduced. I may say, however, that when I was in Great Britain I made strenuous attempts to induce the British Government to take action to alter the basis of the existing duties which operate against the Australian producers. The duty on dry wines is very much lower than that on sweet wines. The British Customs Department distinguishes sweet from dry wines by the amount of spirit they contain. On the present basis wines containing over 30 per cent, of proof spirit pay a much higher duty than wines containing 30 per cent, or less of proof spirit. This enables the continental growers to put their wines on the market in Great Britain at the lower duty. Because of the great distance that Australian wines have to be carried, and the fact that they have to pass through the tropics, they have to be fortified to an extent which makes it impossible to get them into England on the “ 30 or under “ basis, and they have therefore to pay the higher duty which is applicable to wines containing over 30 per cent, of proof spirit. I was unable to get the British Government to agree to an alteration of the present basis, owing to a treaty with Portugal, but the proposals which the Government is now suggesting will overcome the difficulty to a great extent, and enable us to put our strongly fortified wines on the English market. I shall go more fully into this matter later, but content myself now with saying that I believe that action along these lines will stimulate the whole trade. Undoubtedly there is a great opportunity for building up a big business in Australian sweet wines in
London. It is not unreasonable to propose the reduction of. the excise duty on fortifying spirit to 5s., . so far as spirit obtained from doradilla grapes is concerned. Prior to the war excise on this class of spirit was only 6d. per gallon. It was increased to 8d., and there it rested until the exigencies of war finance, of which you, Mr. Speaker, know something, compelled the Government to seek additional revenue and was then increased to 6s. per gallon, the present rate. The Government proposes that the revenue from this source shall be used to provide the bounty to be paid to the growers. I stress the fact that, although the Government is proposing to pay this bounty, its action is not to be taken as a precedent that will be followed should any other section of the community seek help. This industry is providing its own bounty, for the money will be paid from the revenue collected from the industry. It should be explained that the bounty on the fortified wine exported will be paid only on the condition that the Minister is satisfied that the grower of doradilla grapes is paid a reasonable price for his crop. A matter which should receive very careful attention from- the states is the future of the doradilla growers. At present, as I have said, very grave difficulty is being experienced in finding an outlet for the doradilla grapes that are produced. The proposals of the Government will meet the immediate needs of the situation, but will not’ in any sense be adequate when all the vines now planted are in bearing. It is necessary, therefore, that an investigation should be made into the situation generally, and the Government proposes to request the interested states to co-operate in the appointment of an expert committee to ascertain what the production of doradilla grapes will be in the next few years, and to advise the settlers on the best action to take to protect their interests. For instance, I understand that it is not difficult to graft other varieties of grape on the vines. The only other matter to which I shall refer is the attitude that has been adopted by the states. The House will remember that I indicated a week or so ago that such a serious position had arisen in the industry, and that such a low price was being paid for doradilla grapes that we had approached the states with a proposal that a bounty, to be contributed in equal shares by the states concerned and the Commonwealth, should be paid to the growers which would give them a reasonable price per ton for the season just closed. I am sorry to say that the South Australian and Victorian Governments -have replied that they cannot see their way to accept the oiler of the Commonwealth Government’. They have adopted the course which, I venture to say, has almost become a habit with the states, of suggesting that the Commonwealth Government might very well pay the bounty itself. This the Government does not feel disposed to do, for it is not responsible for the position which has arisen, and is really due to the fact that the state authorities compelled the settlers to. plant doradilla grapes. In view of those facts, the Commonwealth Government feels that it is acting generously in offering to bear one-half of the expenditure. On behalf of the Commonwealth Government, I shall again urge the states to undertake their share of this obligation for the past season, and indicate to them that the Commonwealth is taking the action announced this evening in the hope that it will prevent a repetition of what occurred last season. I .shall point out that, as the Commonwealth Government is bearing a share of the burden and is employing the revenue received from the excise towards assisting the industry in the future, it is reasonable that the states shall pay half of the expenditure for last season in order to give relief to the. growers.
.- The statement of the Prime Minister is one to which I desire to make a short reference, even at this late hour. The Prime Minister has taken the stand that the obligation to pay the bounty to the growers of these grapes does not rest with the Commonwealth Government, but the fact remains that the repatriation of our soldiers is a Commonwealth obligation. In this matter the states have, to a certain extent, acted as our ‘agents. It is true that they planted the blocks, or advised the soldiers to plant them, with doradilla grapes. That action has caused the present glut, and to that extent the growers probably have some claim on the states. But when we remember that the growing of doradilla grapes is unprofitable largely because the
Commonwealth takes in excise the sum of £40 6s. in respect of every ton used for the manufacture of brandy, and £9 6s. in the case of every ton used in the manufacture of fortifying spirit, it is not asking the Commonwealth Government to do too much when we request it to repay £2 out of £40 in the one case, and £1 or £2 of the £9 in the other case, to assist the growers. On a previous occasion the states rejected the Commonwealth proposal to pay on an equal basis a bounty sufficient to bring the price received by growers of doradilla grapes up to £5 a ton when grown on irrigated areas, and £4 a ton in the case of those grown in what are known as the “dry” areas; but now that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to pay export bounty they might reconsider their decision. With the proposal to pay an export bounty in respect of wines which are fortified to the extent of 34 per cent., I heartily agree. To provide a bounty for the growers for this year only would meet their present need, but wouldhold out no hope for the future, whereas the proposal of the Government, as outlined by the Prime Minister, will provide them with hope for the days ahead. If any advantage can come from the glut, it will be by using the increased production to fill other channels in addition to those through which the trade has been flowing, and by forcing our way into new markets. This action of the Commonwealth Government in giving a bounty will help the distillers and vignerons to find other markets. The other proposal of the Prime Minister, that the excise on spirit used to fortify Australian wines distilled wholly from the fresh juice of the doradilla grapes, subject to regulations, shall be 5s. per proof gallon, instead of 6s., is a dangerous one. At the present time the surplus of spirit is along the Murray valley, but immediately a preference of1s. per gallon is given in the case of spirits made from doradilla grapes, the result will be to remove the surplus from the Murray valley and transfer it to the “ middle “ portions of South Australia. The growers of Matara grapes will, in that event, graft over to doradilla grapes from their present vines. They will do that to get the benefit of the1s. a gallon difference in the excise. In course of time there will be a greater area of country in South Australia, and probably inVictoria, under doradilla grapes than there is at present. I hope that the Minister will refer this matter again to the Tariff Board. It is perfectly clear that if a preference of 1s. a gallon is given to spirit made from one particular kind of grape, the result will be that men will graft over to that variety, and the last condition will be worse than the first. At a later stage I may have something further to say on this matter. The action of the Government in differentiating between spirit made from Matara and other grapes and that made from doradillas will present greater difficulties in the future than up to the present have been encountered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240814_reps_9_108/>.