9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister received any further communication from the Governments of the wheatgrowing states concerning compulsory wheat pools ?
– I have received no further communication on the subject.
Mr. MACKAY brought up a report from the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Elsternwick, Victoria.
Ordered to be printed.
– A report has appeared to the effect that the Postmaster-General has been negotiating in London with the big meat interests with a view to the settlement of 20,000,000 acres of country under sheep. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to that report and the big settlement scheme referred to ? Will the right honorable gentleman indicate the negotiations in which the Postmaster-General was engaged? Were such negotiations made at the request of the Commonwealth Government? Who is the meat expert referred to in the report? Is the Government financially interested in the venture ? If so, in what manner and under what conditions will the land be made available?
– I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member refers, nor have I received any communication from the Postmaster-General with regard to any such scheme.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House whether he has come to any final decision regarding the proposed changes in connexion with Duntroon Royal Military College?
– No definite decision has yet been arrived at. At present we are considering whether Duntroon College can be used as a college of the Sydney University. A final decision on the matter has not yet been reached.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that the Duntroon students are to be trained at Victoria Barracks, Paddington ?
– No such proposal has been approved. The only suggestion made in that direction was that contained in a report which was laid on the table last week.
– I ask the Minister for Health if he can give the House any information as to the intention of the Government with regard to the establishment of pathological laboratories in the Commonwealth. A number of requests have been made by people for information as to what is to be done. Is it intended to refer the matter to the Repatriation Royal Commission for report?
– Nothing further will be done with regard to the establishment of pathological laboratories until the report of the Royal Commission has been received. If the honorable member requires more specific information, I shall be pleased to obtain an answer to his question if he will put it on the noticepaper.
– In view of the importance to Australia of the decisions of the Allied Conference recently held in London, and the fact that Australia is pecuniarily interested in reparations, and was represented at the conference, has the Prime Minister been officially advised of the decisions arrived at, and, if so, will he give full information concerning them to the House?
– I propose making a statement during the course of the day with regard to the conference recently held in Great Britain to which the honorable, member .has referred.
– On the 8th August the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) asked the following question : -
In connexion with the termination of the services of Mr. E. S. Little, late Trade Com-, missioner in China, will the Minister, in justice to Mr. Little, inform the House, was the termination of Mr. Little’s services due in any way to his personal character, trustworthiness, or efficiency?
I am now able to furnish the following information: - As the honorable member is aware, the action which was taken by the Government in dispensing with the services of the Trade Commissioner in China occurred long before I joined the Ministry, but I wish to say that I agree with the determination to abolish the position of Trade Commissioner in China, as I think other and more successful methods can be adopted for the development of Australian trade in the East than by purely official appointments. As regards the termination of Mr. Little’s appointment, there is no reflection whatever on his character or capacity. I hope, at a later stage, to place before the House, suggestions which may assist Australian trade in the East, without committing Parliament to the appointment of trade commissioners there.
Telephonists’ Sick Leave
– On the loth August the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) asked the following questions : -
The answers are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table all correspondence between the High Commissioner’s Office and the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the Fifth Australian Division Memorial at Polygon Butte?
– Action has been taken to lay on the table of the Library the papers referred to by the honorable member.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has Canada protested against nonrepresentation at the Reparations Conference; if so, what action has the Australian Government taken?
– The Dominion of Canada, in common with the other dominions, was represented at the Reparations Conference. I desire to direct the honorable member’s attention to my statements in this House on the 16th and 23rd July, which deal fully with the question of dominion representation at this conference.
– (By leave). - I have been asked several questions about the agreements recently arrived at between the British Government and theGovernmentofthe Soviet Union of Russia. For the information of honorable members I now propose to amplify the replies which I have previously given. Action, in three directions, has recently been taken by the two Governments concerned, namely: - (1) The recognition of the Soviet Union Government in Russia by the British Government, (2) the making of a genera] treaty on outstanding questions between the two governments, and (3) the making of a commercial treaty. As to the first matter, action was taken by the present British Government immediately after it assumed office, without consultation with the other self-governing parts of the Empire. Technically, this was not a compliance with the now established principle of consultation with the Dominions on all questions of Imperial foreign policy. But, as the Commonwealth Government did not consider that the interests of Australia were affected by, or that any complications involving Australia were likely to arise from, its not being consulted, it made no protest, particularly in view of subsequent assurances which it has received from the British Government of its desire for the closest consultation, showing that the course adopted on this occasion will not form a precedent for action in the future.
The general treaty that has been made deals with questions outstanding between Great Britain and Russia. A full summary of its text was cabled to the Commonwealth Government, and later a full summary of the alterations made in the final text, as signed, was cabled, with an intimation that copies of the treaty were being forwarded by mail. In making this treaty, the procedure for the negotiation of treaties laid down by the Imperial Conference last year was followed. It. will be remembered that the following resolutions were passed at that conference : -
The subject-matter of the treaty is confined entirely to questions which were at issue between Great Britain and Russia, and the interests of Australian nationals are not affected by the arrangements that have now been made. The Commonwealth Government was kept informed throughout the negotiation of the treaty of the steps that were being taken, and felt that the matter was one for determination by the Government of Great Britain, as it only was concerned. All that I wish to say about the commercial agreementis that in such arrangements it is for each of the self-governing parts of the Empire to make such agreements with foreign countries as it may deem desirable. This right is now fully recognized, and was confirmed at the last Imperial Con ference. Naturally, Australia does not feel that she should interfere in regard to any commercial agreement that Great Britain might contemplate, nor would she tolerate interference by Great Britain with her proposed commercial arrangements. The Commonwealth Government felt that this commercial treaty was a matter in which it had no right to interfere or to express opinions. It has been suggested that this treaty may detrimentally affect the interests of Australia in the British market. No doubt a commercial agreement by any part of the Empire may affect the commercial interests of other parts; but, as I have already said, the Commonwealth Government has no more right to interfere with the commercial policy of the United Kingdom than the United Kingdom has to interfere with the commercial policy of the Commonwealth. As honorable members have shown considerable interest in these treaties, I set out, for their information, the following summary of each of them : -
Ang lo-Soviet Agreements.
The following is a summary of the General Treaty: -
Convention of 18S2, and give Soviet citizens exclusive rights of fishing within three miles of the coast, and in White Sea waters south of the parallel 69 degrees 40 minutes North Latitude. This provision is to be deemed not to prejudice the views of either party as to the limits of territorial waters.
The Commercial Treaty provides for most favoured nation treatment in practically all matters of commerce, including Customs duty, right of entry, residence and exercise of trade &c, in the Soviet Union; national and most favoured nation treatment in regard to taxation, and national and most favoured nation treatment in the matter of navigation.
There’ are also provisions giving legal rights to individuals and companies; freedom from transit duty on goods; exemption from military service, compulsory labour, &c. ; freedom to communicate by post and telegraph, and to make use of telegraphic codes; national treatment in regard to possession and disposal, but not the acquisition, of property; recognition of arbitration clauses in contracts; guarantee against unfair trade competition, and provisions for the conclusion of a special convention in regard to industrial, literary, and artistic properties.
In general, most favoured nation treatment is subject to the right of the Soviet Union to give special favour to States which previously formed part of the Russian Empire, and continental border States in Asia. Most favoured nation treatment is also made dependent in form on the extension by H.M. Government of the export credit scheme to the Soviet Union.
The treaty is to continue in force for three years, and thereafter to be subject to a year’s notice of determination.
The stipulations of the treaty may, subject to any modifications mutually agreed upon, be extended to any of the self-governing Dominions or India by an exchange of Notes. In the event of the treaty not being extended to any particular Dominion, goods produced or manufactured in that Dominion will enjoy in the territory of the Union complete and unconditional most favoured nation treatment so long as goods manufactured or produced in the territory of the Union are accorded in that Dominion treatment as favorable as that accorded to goods manufactured or produced in any other foreign country, but liberty is reserved by the Government of the Union to denounce this paragraph at any time in respect of any particular Dominion.
Both treaties were made between Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the one hand and the Soviet Government on the other. The dominions incur no obligations under them. Both treaties are subject to approval and amendment by the British Parliament.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 7th August, vide page 2977), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under division 1 - the Parliament - namely “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- When my remarks were interrupted on the 7th August, I was dealing with the administration of the Treasury Department, particularly in connexion with the taxation branch. No department controlled by the Government lends itself more to maladministration than does that of the Taxation Commissioner. It collects from £14,000,000 to £20,000,000 a year, and unless it is administered strictly and impartially, but without harshness, it can be improperly used as a political weapon by any party, minister, or government. For several years the administration of the taxation office has been unsatisfactory to the people. It has been carried on in defiance of the law under which the taxes are raised; in fact the commissioner and his officers and the Treasurer, who is the ministerial head of the department, are annually breaking the law of the country. Section 9 of the Land Tax Act provides that an annual report shall be made by the Commissioner of Taxation. Parliament realized, that in handing over to a department the right to collect taxation, it was delegating a great power, and it deliberately enacted that the commissioner should annually let Parliament know what he was doing, and how he was doing it. But there has been no report from the Taxation Department for the last three years, and there was only one report in the preceding three years; in other words, one report has been submitted to Parliament in six years. When I called the attention of the Treasurer to that fact, on the 19th June last, the honorable gentleman, instead of promising to see that the law was observed and the evils of the past remedied, offhandedly replied that if I were to refresh my ‘ memory I should realize that there was always delay in submitting these reports, because of the intricate figures involved. It is noteworthy, however, that when a Labour Government administered the affairs of the Commonwealth there was no difficulty in gettin- annual reports. A report was submitted to Parliament every year until the Labour Government went out of office. Since 1918 there has been only one report. The result is that when honorable members desire information regarding outstanding taxation, remissions, and defaults, and the reasons for them, we are unable to get. it. I submit that the annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation is as important to Parliament as is the balancesheet presented by the managing director of any company to his shareholders, but the Treasurer has not promised that the past remissness will be corrected and will not happen again. I desire to emphasize also the large amount of land taxation outstanding. At page 21 of the budgetpapers it appears that £2,114,914 worth of land taxation is owing.
– Is that good debts, or bad debts ?
– There is no explanation of the amount, because we have not the commissioner’s report to guide us. If we had the report it would probably contain an explanation, because it is part of his duty to inform Parliament of these matters.
– I guarantee that not many small taxpayers are included amongst those who owe that money.
– I agree with the honorable member. In June. of last year there was outstanding £1,330,000 on Crown leaseholds. The assessment and collection of that taxation is now the subject of investigation. I feel confident that the report of the royal commission will not be submitted to Parliament this year, and that means that another financial year will elapse without the money being collected. Nevertheless, there appears to be about £800,000 due on other lands, presumably freehold properties mainly. Who owes that money? Section 70 of the Land Tax Assessment Act provides a maximum penalty of £500 for evading the land tax, and, in addition, the defaulter must pay treble the amount of tax due, and there is a penalty of £100 for failing to furnish a return. Section 66 gives power in cases of hardship to release taxpayers of their liability, but in every instance the Minister must place the full facts upon the table of the House, setting forth the names of the taxpayers, the amounts they owe, and the reasons for their release. Yet a sum of £800,000 is outstanding, in addition to the £1,330,000 due on leaseholds, and not one word of explanation has been given to Parliament. I ‘ draw attention to this remarkable fact, that a year ago this Parliament, at the instance of the present Government, abolished the taxation on Crown leaseholds; therefore, there was no assess-“ ment of Crown leaseholds last year. We were given to understand that the largeness of the amount of land taxation outstanding in previous years was due to the difficulty of assessing Crown leaseholds. What, then, is the explanation of the amount of £189,000 outstanding for the last financial year ? None of it represents taxation on Crown leaseholds, because such taxation has been discontinued. Presumably the taxes are due on freehold properties and right of purchase leases. Who owes the money, and why is it not collected? Where is the Commissioner’s report that should explain these matters to the House ? There is no explanation in the budget speech or elsewhere of these uncollected amounts. While over £2,000,000 of taxation is due to the department, the Government is floating loans to carry on public works. On the 2nd April of this year I asked the Treasurer what amount of land tax was outstanding on Crown leaseholds, and how much was due by each of the following leaseholders: - The Australian Estates Limited; The Scottish Australian Investment Company Limited ; The Northern Pastoral Company Limited ;
The Australian Land and Mortgage Company Limited; The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Company; The Peel River Land Company; Sir Sidney Kidman; Mr. Edmund Jowett; Mr. A. T. Creswick; Thomas Norton and Company. The Treasurer’s answer was -
The practice had always been to refrain from publishing any information as to tax payable by any particular taxpayer. There is no good reason why that policy should be departed from.
That is the attitude of the Government when one seeks information about companies and big pastoralists - the Kidmans and the Jowetts - but it does not hesitate to publish the names of small men who owe money to the department. The Treasurer, who professes to have come into this Parliament to represent the struggling farmer and the small landholder, has no compunction about pillorying them when they are in arrears with their taxation, although at the same time he shields the big pastoralist. I have, here a printed list of names published in the Northern Territory Gazette, which is incorporated in a Darwin bi-weekly newspaper. On this list are the names of 208 persons whose payments for land tax are two years in arrears. Among the large land-owners are some whose taxes are seven, eight, and nine years in arrears, yet neither their names nor the amounts owing by them are disclosed to this Parliament. In this list of 208 small land-owners, the largest amount of tax owing by any one of them is £7. Half of them owe £2, 89 owe under £1, 9 owe 2s. 6d., 35 owe 5s.,- 34 owe 10s., and so on. The names of the small taxpayers are published broadcast, but when we ask for similar information respecting the large land-holders we are told that their names cannot be disclosed, as it is not the practice to give such information. The Treasurer may quibble, and say that these two sets of landowners come under different acts, but the document referred to is signed by R. Ewing, Commissioner of Land Tax, the same Commissioner who has for three years failed to give this Parliament a report concerning the administration of the Land Tax Act. We have arrived at a serious position. The big land-holders defy the Taxation Department by refusing to send in their returns and to pay taxation. Two weeks ago I made that statement across this table to the Treasurer, and he shook his head in reply. I then challenged him to have an investigation made. What has he done? Pie has allowed the matter to drop. There is at present in this country a large number of ex-officers of the Taxation Department, who, while in that department, obtained inside information concerning many overpayments of taxation. Having left the department, they, as taxation agents, earned big commissions by advising large land-owners how to obtain remissions of their taxation payments. An ex-officer of the Taxation Department now represents the Pastoralists’ Association before the royal commission inquiring into the taxation of Crown leases. I have no quarrel with these ex-officers who use their brains to recover over-payments of taxation, but some of these men are talking to their friends and others about under-payments of taxation, and this subject might also be inquired into by the royal commission. In view of the authentic source of the allegations and charges that I have made, I demand that the Treasurer investigate the administration by the Taxation Department of land taxation, and probably the administration of income taxation should also be investigated. An open inquiry should be made to ascertain why certain big land-owners are not paying their arrears of taxation. Surely it is a fair request that an explanation and investigation respecting outstanding taxes should be made? We should know the names of the big men who are defying this Parliament. I want the Treasurer to act, not on mere general talk, but on the facts respecting the outstanding payments. There is an amount of £2,114,914 outstanding, probably at least £750,000 of which is owing on freehold property. The latter amount is certainly not due to any difficulty in assessing Crown leaseholds. Why has no explanation or investigation been made, and what is the department doing ? I ask the Treasurer to place upon the table of this House the file of papers respecting Sir Sidney Kidman’s land taxation. To show that I am not idly asking for it, I make the charge now that Sir Sidney Kidman has not sent in any land tax returns for freehold or leasehold on his properties for seven or eight years.
– That is a scandalous state of affairs.
- Sir Sidney Kidman owes this country something like £100,000 in taxes, about £25,000 of which is due on freehold property.
– It is enough to condemn the Government.
– I ask the Treasurer to place the documents on the table, so that honorable members may ascertain whether my charge is true. Such a position could not exist in the case of a small land-holder. I know of several small land-holders who have been relentlessly pursued by the Taxation Department for their arrears of taxes. The list of 208 men to which I have referred bears out what I say, and the other night I mentioned the case of a man in the Werribee district who, three years running, through sheer’ carelessness or cussed - ness, did not send in his return. He was prosecuted and fined each year, and yet his land tax amounted to only £9 a year. It is quite right that such cases should be prosecuted, unless the nonpayment of taxes is due to hardship, and in such event the act gives the department power to release the person concerned from payment. If the department prosecutes small land-holders for non-payment of taxes, it should also proceed against Sir Sidney Kidman and his ilk for the same offence.
– The Treasurer should reply at once to such a serious charge.
– Is it fair that the great mass of the people should pay increased taxation because the members of a small wealthy section refuse to pay theirs? Why should the general public be called upon to pay taxation when others refuse to do so? Why should favoritism be shown? Why free from taxation the big men who control thousands of square miles of this country at a peppercorn rental? One of our weekly newspapers truly stated that the “ Kidman blight “ has settled on many parts of Australia. This clear and definite indictment of the Taxation Department should be answered immediately. According to the Government’s own budget papers, there is, for last year, an amount of £189,000 of land tax outstanding, with not one word of explanation. I leave the matter there.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the taxation officials are deliberately allowing some people to evade payment of their taxes?
– I say that for years some men have not sent in taxation returns, and that, under the Land Tax Act, they should be prosecuted.
– Does the honorable member make the actual charge that there is deliberate preference given to some persons?
– I make the deliberate charge that the Land Tax Department is not carrying out the Land Tax Act, and that largeland-holders are not sending in their returns, and are not being prosecuted under the law.
– I merely wish to ascertain the nature of the honorable member’s charge. I assure him that the Government is not wittingly a party to what he complains of, and that the charge will be investigated.
– If Sir Sidney Kidman owes taxation on Northern Territory land, why is his. name not on the list of persons whose payments there are in arrears?
– The list referred to by the honorable member includes the names of taxpayers who are in a different c lass from Sir Sidney Kidman.
– They are under a different act, but they should not be treated differently. I do not know whether Sir Sidney Kidman has land under that particular act, but I know that he has land in the Northern Territory. Both the South Australian legislation of 1884 and the 1910 Commonwealth act give power to the Government to pursue defaulting taxpayers, whether big or little men. It is futile for the Treasurer to say that Sir Sidney Kidman is in a different class because he may not come under the act of 1884, which was passed before the Commonwealth took over the Territory. The one act should be administered with as much rigor as the other.
– The honorable member has made a charge against the Commissioner of Taxation, who must be given every opportunity to refute it.
– I hope such an opportunity will be given. I am induced to make these statements by the figures presented to the committee by the Treasurer. I invite honorable members to read page 21 of the budget papers, where the amount of taxation and fines outstanding annually since 1911 are set out. The figures are -
I suggest that the Prime Minister should get an explanation of that table from the Commissioner, and should also ask him why Parliament has received only one land tax report since. 1918, although such reports were presented annually from 1912 to 1916, and with only one break to 1918. Section 9 of the act says that a report must be presented to Parliament annually. The Prime Minister says that ‘ I am making a charge against the Taxation Commissioner, but my charge is made against the Government. The Labour Government, when it was in office, had no difficulty with the officers of the Taxation Department. The Prime Minister might also ask why no report from the Income Tax Department has been presented to Parliament since 1921, although section 8 of the Income Tax Act says that an annual report shall be presented. Both the income tax and land tax reports must, according to the acts, contain certain important information, such as explanations of defaults, remissions, and so on. Yet honorable members do not possess that information, because the Ministry has not made the Commissioner and his officers carry out the law.
When the Treasurer rushed into the taxation amalgamation scheme last year, many honorable members predicted that it would not be so successful as he expected. I, among others, told him that
he had started the wrong way, and that there was only one authority that could be the sole tax-collecting authority, and that that was the federal authority. The scheme has not unified the taxation machinery, because a central authority must exist, in addition to the state authorities, for the collection of taxation on incomes earned in more than one state. If the state offices had been co-ordinated under a Commonwealth office, the work would have been done much more satisfactorily, and much of the bungling that has occurred in connexion with the amalgamation scheme would have been avoided. Instead of promoting efficiency, the scheme has produced chaos in the department and dissatisfaction in many quarters outside. The Treasurer estimated that the taxation office expenditure last year would be £314,000, but he spent £516,000, and explained that there was some delay in getting the machinery into operation. But at the end of the year the amount of income tax uncollected was £2,000,000, which, added to £2,000,000 of land taxation outstanding, makes a total of £4,000,000 of taxation owing to the Government. .Yet the Government is floating loans to carry out necessary works.
– The reduction of the staff of the Income Tax Department has been very small.
– Some men were dismissed as a result of the amalgamation, and the amount of compensation paid to them was £200,000. It will take a long time to wipe that out by the savings effected by the amalgamation, particularly when, the uncollected tax is taken into consideration. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, said that 279,000 incometax returns had not been examined at the end of the financial year. That figure represents half the total number of returns. In view of the Treasurer’s statement that the estimate for last year was exceeded by £200,000 because the new machinery was not got into operation until late in the year, one would expect an improvement this year. But what is the estimate? The estimate for taxation office expenses this year is £381,000, as against an estimate of £314,000 last year. The increasing of the exemption to £300 will reduce the returns by half, so that this year 200,000 fewer returns will have to be examined. Yet the estimated expenditure for the department is £67,000 more than last year’s estimate. That is neither effective nor efficient administration.
– Nevertheless a pretty substantial saving has been effected.
– As against the £574,000 spent in. the previous year, there was a saving of £60,000 last year, but £200,000 had to be provided for compensation to retired officers,’ and the uncollected revenue amounted to £2,000,000. I leave the matter there.
– But the honorable member wants certain files laid on the table.
– Yes, I am asking for them. Men who were employed in the department are now using -their brains and their knowledge on behalf of ‘ taxpayers to reduce the collection of public revenue. It is declared by other ex-officers that there are more cases of underpayment than there are of overpayment, and that some individuals have defied the department,, and have not paid their land tax. And what is true in regard to land may possibly be true in regard to income tax. When the Treasurer lays on the table the papers relating to Sir Sidney Kidman’s land tax payments, I trust he will also lay on the table the papers in relation to the same gentleman’s income tax payments. It is a serious position that land tax arrears should pile up as they have dome, and that in relation to these matters questions should be dealt with in a flippant manner. It is time we had an absolutely clear and definite administration of the taxation of the Commonwealth.
.- Honorable members on the Government side frequently disagree with statements made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), but every one must admire the industry with which he prepares the speeches he delivers. It is undoubtedly the function of an opposition to criticize a government and to touch upon all the weak points of its administration. But it is also the function of supporters of a government to show what ministers have been doing during the financial year. A critic of the present Administration must . admit that it has had a very successful term of office, if it is to be judged by the work it has accomplished in the last twelve months.
– What does the honorable member think about the evasions of the land tax?
– The Treasurer or the Prime Minister will reply to the very serious statements that have been made. I feel certain that there are two sides to the question as there are to all matters brought up from time to time. According to the newspapers the budget ‘speech of the Treasurer has been favorably received in all parts of the Commonwealth. The fact that the (Estimates have been brought down at this early period of the year is very creditable to all concerned in their preparation, and presents an example which all future Treasurers should endeavour to emulate. So much has been said in favour of economy- in administration that I think the supporters of the Government should not lose an opportunity to set out the actual position. It is, of course, necessary to emphasize the fact that the bulk of the expenditure of the Commonwealth cannot be reduced materially without impairing the efficiency of the growing departments or reversing a policy which has had the immediate endorsement of the electors. The following table given by the Treasurer in his budget speech should form a profitable study to any critic of the Government; -
So’ far as ordinary departmental expenditure is concerned, Parliament has deliberately placed on the Public Service Board the responsibility of seeing that the administration of the departments is conducted with efficiency and economy, and the personnel of that board enjoys the confidence of Parliament. It is difficult to find fault with any commitment set out in the table. The business undertakings mentioned refer to the post office and the Commonwealth railways.
The federal income tax was first imposed to meet the necessities of war, and as our obligations in regard to the great world war have decreased it is satisfactory to note that the Government are gradually relinquishing this form of taxation. In the financial year 1922-23 they gave relief to the taxpayers to the extent of £2,100,000. The number of taxpayers was then reduced from 750,000 to 460,000. During the current financial year it is proposed to reduce the income tax by a further £2,000,000, and again relief is being afforded, principally to persons with small incomes. The general exemption is to be increased from £200 to £300. In this way 96 per cent, of the taxpayers will obtain relief in some form or other. It must be remembered that £35,750,784 is collected through the Customs Department so that, indirectly, every person in Australia contributes to the revenue. Tn his budget speech the Treasurer indicated the amount of annual taxation remitted by the Government during the last three years. This is set out in the following table : -
The increase of the maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions from 30s. to 35s. a fortnight has proved of great benefit to persons in needy circumstances, and as the average rate of pension paid in June of this year was 33s. 8d. per fortnight,, it is quite evident that the administration has been exceedingly sympathetic.
I welcome the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the subject of national insurance. A satisfactory scheme should provide for casual sickness, permanent invalidity, old. age, and unemployment. As our population grows it will be necessary to provide large sums of money to meet claims made under these headings, but I think every man while he is in his youth, and has health and strength, should make some provision towards his future by contributing to a national insurance fund. It is necessary to have a thorough investigation of national insurance, from every aspect, before a scheme is finally approved of. I think such a scheme should “make provision for contributions by employers as well as by the Government. I shall be disappointed if the royal commission which is now inquiring into this subject delays making its report until after the life of this Parliament.
I desire to draw the attention of the Government to the difficult position in which numerous town and shire councils in different parts of the Commonwealth find themselves through having within their boundaries large areas of nonrateable land. Owing to the increasing burden of responsibility which these local governing bodies are called upon to shoulder, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to finance their operations When the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) visited Brisbane some time ago I introduced to him a deputation from the Enoggera Shire Council, which asked for some consideration of its position. I quote the case of this council, since it is in an extremely unfavorable position, and it illustrates the plight in which probably several other councils in the Commonwealth find themselves. The facts, briefly, are that this shire has a revenue of some £8,000 per annum. The Defence Department controls some 1,400 acres of land within the shire, and this is used for military purposes. In addition, the War Service Homes Commission owns some 160 acres. The shire is further penalized because the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board has authority over an area of 8,000 acres’. It is estimated that the consequent loss in revenue to the shire amounts to £1,500 a year. The Minister for Defence promised to ascertain whether anything could be done by the Government to assist the shire. I now urge the Government to consider whether all lands held by the Crown should not be assessable by the local governing authorities for rating purposes. If not, I think that as an alternative a special grant should be made- It is not now necessary for the War Service Homes Commission to retain large areas of land in different parts of the Commonwealth. I understand that the Home and Territories Department is dealing with, this matter, but I urge that there be no delay. Land not required for homes for returned soldiers should be disposed of, so that the councils interested may levy rates on the land.
Many misleading statements have been made concerning the influx of Italians into the sugar districts of Northern Queensland. It has been said by opponents - of the industry that half the growers engaged in the production of cane are foreigners. According to the census taken at the latter end of 1921, however, there were fewer male Italians in the whole of Queensland than in New South Wales, Victoria, or Western Australia. According to that census, there were 1,658 in Western Australia, 1,515 in New South Wales, 1,411 in Victoria, 1,383 in Queensland, 296 in South Australia, and 32 in Tasmania. In the whole of Australia there were 6,306 male Italians and 1,829 females. The Director of the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, Mr. Easterby, stated in his last report that less than 10 per cent, of the farmers engaged in sugar production are foreigners, there being 4,900 growers of English descent, and 482 foreignersThe bulk of the non-British settlement is in the Herbert River and Mourilyan districts. In any case, I think that the Italians have proved themselves to be both good citizens and capable farmers.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) believes that the preservation of the sugar industry in the northern parts of Australia is- essential to the maintenance of our cherished White Australia policy. He does not accept the view held in the southern states that the sugar agreements made in the past have been solely in the interests of the growers. It is only just that this fact should be recognize^. When the Government consented to continue the present embargo until Juno, 1925, the Prime Minister said that if a’ higher duty became of vital importance to the industry, the Government would be prepared to protect it against unfair competition. I now urge the Government not to delay consideration of its policy until’ the expiration of .the embargo, for I point out that the sugar crop to be planted this year will not be harvested until the latter half of next year, when the grower will have to meet outside competition on the basis of the present duty.
– Is the honorable member in favour of repealing the present embargo ?
-I anticipated- that the honorable member for Capricornia would raise that point. I suggest that he wait until I have finished my remarks. He will then learn what my position is on this matter. The growers are already anxious to know what their position will be. It must be recognized that the price is continually fluctuating. For instance, in February last, sugar was. quotedoutside at £30 per ton, while a few weeks ago the price had dropped to- £17 a ton. I hope that the policy of the Government with respect to the’ embargo will be announced at the earliest possible moment. The prejudice in the southern states against the industry is regrettable, lt seems that the press cannot refer to the matter without misrepresentation of the facts. Efforts are continually -being made to picture the sugar-grower in the role of the poor relation constantly asking for assistance. The critics apparently do not realize that in 1923 the sugar production in Australia was valued at almost £10,000,000. They seem to forget that in four states of the. Commonwealth an enormous amount of work is provided by the refineries, foundries, and engineering works for which the industry creates employment. Then, again, one should remember the large amount of revenue that is obtained by the various state governments as a result of the existence of the sugar industry. The Melbourne Argus recently pointed OUt that some eight ships were required to. bring the sugar from Northern Queensland to the refineries. Those vessels, of course, provide a considerable amount of employment for seamen, waterside workers, and carters. I hope that the Government will not delay making its policy known to the people.
– Will the honorable member ask the Government to continue the embargo %
– I have already requested the Government to take the matter into consideration, and give its reply at the earliest possible moment. I am pleased that Sir Henry J ones has visited the sugar districts of Northern Queensland. He is reported in the Melbourne Herald, of Friday last to have made to the Mackay Chamber of Commerce a statement to which I hope the southern press will give consideration when next, it thinks of attacking the Queensland sugar industry. The report of his speech states -
The people in the south approved of the embargo on foreign sugar, and acknowledged that it was no use expecting, to hold Australia under white-labour conditions without giving the sugar -grower sufficient protection to enable him to produce his sugar and still live; hut they considered some definite policy should be laid down for the grower of cane as in every other industry.
He suggested that one way to overcome friction between north and . south, and so assist stabilization; would ‘be -to provide’ representation.on the Sugar Board for the. southern/fruitgrower and also for the jam-maker, who manufactured for the overseas trade. ‘ Views could then -be exchanged, and all sides could state their case when prices were being discussed. Sir Henry’ added that as a result of the settlement under the “ White Australia “ policy, while the people in une north were benefiting from the growing of cane, the people in the south were also reaping a reward. ‘ All industries were affected by the sugar .industry.
I should be pleased if a- greater number of representative men visited .North Queensland and investigated, .on behalf of the southern press and of the industries referred to by- Sir Henry Jones, the conditions under which the sugar industry is being carried on. Some persons mistakenly believe that the present high price of sugar .has an injurious effect upon the fruit industry.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) is one of those who holds that belief.
– I disagree with him on tha.t point. The quantity of sugar used in jam making and in the canning of fruit represents only 7 per cent, of the total quantity refined in Australia. The quantity of fruit canned and made into jam- in Australia represents less than 2 per cent, of the fruit grown. How, then, can’ the fruit-growers contend that -the price of sugar’ adversely affects the industry in which they are engaged? Critics of the sugar industry apparently do not realize that in a 30-oz. tin of preserved fruit the quantity of sugar used is only 1.6 oz., the cost of which is .425d.
– Has the honorable member represented those facts to the honorable member sitting on his left (Mr. Seabrook) ?
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) evidently is a mind-reader, because only a few minutes ago I placed these facts before the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), and he is almost converted to the view that the fruit-growers have not very much ground for complaint. These figures have been prepared by one who has closely interested himself in the financial side of both the sugar and fruitgrowing industries. Estimating the cost of the fruit at £9 per ton, the value of the quantity contained in a- 1-lb. tin of jam would be less than £d. The cost of the sugar- used in a 1-lb. tin of jam is 2.4d. The total cost of sugar and fruit used in a. 1-lb. tin of jam is, therefore, only 2Jd., and that jam is retailed at lOd. per lb. It will thus be apparent that the price of sugar does not retard the growth of the fruit industry. Recently, before the full bench of the State Arbitration Court in Queensland, the sugar workers asked for further considera-. tion of their claim for an increase in their wages. The court conducted an extensive inquiry, during which it visited the principal sugar districts in North Queensland, including Cairns, Innisfail, Townsville, Mackay, Bundaberg, and other centres. In delivering the judgment of the Court, Mr. Justice Douglas is reported to have said -
The figures submitted showed to what a very large extent the industry was one of small growers. From the field workers’ point of view, that position had its disadvantages, and, from a national point of view, it was desirable that there should be as many small growers as possible. Statements of the profits made by farmers, as shown by income tax returns, pointed out that the profits made by the farmers are not at all large.
Such a statement by a high judicial authority will probably be accepted by the doubting Thomases in the southern states, and convince them that the industry is not in the hands of a few wealthy sugar kings, as has been represented.
I desire now to refer to immigration. It appears to me that the development of Australia is inseparably connected with immigration. In three years Australia secured only 74,000 migrants, whereas the United States of America in the latter half of 1923 secured 150,000. The high rate of passage money, and the length of the journey to Australia, undoubtedly constitute a severe handicap in our case. The financial assistance rendered, I believe, should be on a more liberal scale.
– Does the honorable member not think that unemployed who are now in Australia should receive’ financial assistance?
– I am very sorry to hear that there are unemployed migrants in Australia. If our industries were properly regulated there would not be a lack of employment in any of the states. One can quite understand that in seasonal industries such as shearing, sugar-growing, wheat-growing, and fruitgrowing, a certain amount of labour must be unemployed at certain periods of the year. Organization by the State Governments, I believe, would to a largo extent obviate the necessity for men being unemployed. From a series of wellwritten articles that recently appeared in the Melbourne Argus, I learn that Canada is granting free passages to children up to sixteen years of age who travel to Canada in charge of their parents. The New Zealand Government grants free passages to those who . come out as domestics, and public school boys are brought out %o .that dominion at the nominal rate of £2. From a conversation that I recently had with a gentleman who had just returned from England, 1 gathered that Australia can obtain a constant stream of immigrants, if they are provided with the money for their passages. I admit that the Commonwealth is securing a good class of immigrant under the nomination system, but the progress in that direction- is altogether too slow.. The boy migrant is extremely popular in at least three of the states, and I commend this Government for making available financial assistance to those boys. Answers that were given to a series of questions asked, by me of the Prime Minister (Mr.. Bruce), recently, supplied the information that the Common^ wealth Government and the British Government contribute £5 10s. each towards the passage money of those boys, the full amount of which, I understand, is £33. The balance of £22 has to be found by a boy before he leaves England, or be repaid by him subsequent to his arrival in
Australia, if he avails himself of the facilities that are provided for obtaining the money on loan. The Prime Minister has promised to consider representations made by me, that the amount of free grant to lad migrants be increased when the present agreement expires, in March, 1925. I again urge the Government to take action in that direction at the earliest possible moment. Proof that the lad migrant scheme is giving satisfaction is afforded by the fact that farmers who have employed these boys are seeking an additional number. Canada is competing with Australia for this class of migrant. In ,the Canadian House of Commons, lately, the Minister for Immigration said -
The policy of the Government would be to secure a large proportion of the “ teen age “ boys, and girls. . . . Australia had become a strong competitor with Canada. … It was the class that appealed to him very much, because these children would go to Canadian hemes, grow up in their schools, and become thorough Canadians.
It will be. remembered that early last year a delegation from the British Overseas Settlement Committee visited Australia. A. member of that delegation, Mr. John Wignall, M.P., representing the Labour party, since his return to England has stated -
The Empire delegation reported favorably on the boy migrant scheme. We spoke collectively or individually to from 500 to 1,000 boys settled in South Australia, and received complaints from only three, one of whom admitted that he was home-sick, the second that he had poor accommodation, and the third ought never to have been emigrated, as he. was temperamentally unsuited.
– More than three have committed suicide.
– If that is the case, the circumstances must have been exceptional. A scheme which has proved successful in three states cannot be condemned because of such unfortunate incidents.
– The South Australian Labour Government has turned down- the scheme.
– Yes; it is to be regretted that the’ present South Australian Labour Government has turned down the Barwell scheme.
– Boy migration was a test question at the recent South Australian election.
– It was not. The facts were not sufficiently known, and the position in South Australia is not as some suggest. The report of the British delegation states that the question of boy immigrants has received the ‘ closest attention, as it offers the widest and most satisfactory field for selection, and the best opportunity to introduce into Australia migrants whom the members consider will in a short time become real Australian citizens in the fullest sense. The report of the British delegation continues -
We have been glad to find that wherever we have gone this opinion has been endorsed by the people of Australia themselves, particularly in the three states in which special schemes are operating, and that, generally speaking, a high tribute - has been paid by those who have had experience of them to the value of the boys now coming out. With regard to the New South Wales “ Dreadnought “ scheme, satisfaction is expressed with the treatment the boys receive on the training farms. Satisfaction is also expressed with the South Australian and Queensland schemes. The opinion is expressed that the migration of boys ought to be confined to definite schemes of training or apprenticeship,, and that any further demands for boy migrants will be accompanied by provisions and safeguards on the lines that have already proved so successful.
For the information of honorable members, I shall read the following letter, dated the 15th June, 1924, from the Rev. Canon Garland, of Brisbane, in reference to the work accomplished by the New Settlers’ League in cooperation with the State Government : -
It was a pleasure for me to find you so interested in the handling of our immigrant youths in Queensland, and I gladly give you some information.
The New Settlers’ League is .responsible as a Government organization for the welcome and placing and after-care of these youths. They are met on board the boat by the Government officials and by citizen members of the Council of the League. After arrival at the depot .visits are paid to them and friendships made. The league, through its officials, prior to arrival of the boat has been in touch with employers, and as a rule situations are waiting ready for the lads as soon as they arrive. They- are followed up after they go to their situations, being kept in touch -with the league generally through the 100 branches of the league in Queensland, the members of which take an interest in any lad in their neighbourhood. In other cases they are encouraged to keep in correspondence with the league office; and its travelling officer, who is admirably fitted for the work, in his journeyings through the state looks them up wherever it is possible. Every encouragement is given to the boys to work and to make good, while at the same time care is taken that there is no sweating or ill-treatment. The league holds numerous letters from the boys full of gratitude for its care. When each batch of boys is placed, the heads of the denominations to which the boys may belong are notified of the names of the lads, their ages, their employer, and address. The denominations are urged to keep in touch with them, from a spiritual point of view. I believe in most cases this is done as effectively as our scattered country places in Queensland permit. In addition to that, the Church of England has a department of immigration, of which I am director. Our policy is not to set up an independent organization, but to work coordinately with and subject to the New Settlers’ League. Every Church of England boy is followed up, the nearest priest being written to, and, where such a one is too far away, if possible I find some women or laymen” nearer to the boy to get in touch and act as a friend to him. In many cases replies are either received from the clergy or from the boys themselves, and, where practicable and desirable arising therefrom, I get in touch with the friends or relations at home, and let them know how the boy is doing. As a rule, I have a batch of these boys for one Sunday while they are in Brisbane, bringing them to church in the morning, entertaining them at the Anzac Club for dinner, amusements and tea for the remainder of the day. I enclose a photograph of such a gathering, which further helps to set up friendship. I hope this letter will be in time to be of assistance to you.
In view of such testimony from the Rev. Canon Garland we need not pay too much attention to the statements made concerning a few who have failed. As it may be said that boys are being brought out with the intention of reducing wages, I may say that, in reply to a definite inquiry, I was informed that the lads are paid 15s. per week to commence, and after four months’ service their pay is increased by 2s. 6d. per week, and then by regular increments. They are provided with board and lodging, and twothirds of their wages is paid into a savings bank in their own name, where the amount accumulates with interest until they reach 21 years of age, when the full amount is unconditionally handed over to them. In the meantime the boys are, of course, supplied with pocket money. As there are some employers who doi not treat their employees fairly, it is of the greatest importance that the responsible authorities should arrange for regular inspections. An employer who does not treat his employees properly should be drastically dealt with. From inquiries made, I am’ convinced that most rigorous investigations are made concerning the conditions under which the boys have to work. I have before me copies of perhaps 100 communications received by the New Settlers’ League from boys, and if letters were selected at random it would be found that the youths are well satisfied with the conditions under which they are working. According to the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire for April, 1923, the chairman of the Overseas Settlement Committees, speaking in the House of Commons with reference to the migration of boys to the dominions, is reported to have said -
The great majority of the children who went abroad were destitute orphans, whose outlook in this country was hopelessly black They had to give them a ‘better outlook and a better chance in this new country.
I submit that we can give these boys a better opportunity in Australia, and we should do so for the reason given by the Canadian Minister for Migration, ‘ because they will go to Australian homes and will become thorough Australians. The importance of this question merits the consideration of the Government. I hope it will make a more generous contribution to the passage money than it has done in the past. The present fare is £33, and I think it would be a reasonable thing for the Government to contribute one-third of the amount. I believe the British Government could be induced to contribute another third, and it would probably not be too much for the boys to obtain the remaining £11 from other sources. “We have a unique opportunity presented to us in this boy immigration scheme to do a great deal of good for boys overseas, and at the same time assist in populating Australia with the right class of immigrants.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Many ‘speeches have already been made during the debate on the budget, and perhaps the most important matter dealt with has been that of public health. I wish to refer to a phase of the question which has not been very fully dealt with. I agree with those who have expressed the opinion that in his budget the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) might have made, a good deal more available for health purposes than he has done. I regret that, apparently, there is no intention on the part of the Government to make any money available during 1924- 25 for research or experiment in connexion with the Spahlinger treatment for tuberculosis. I am aware that the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) is not well ; but I should have liked him to be present to hear what I have to say on the subject, because we know that he went to Europe to inquire into this treatment, and has made a report to the House. I have been furnished with information on the subject which I should like to give to the House and the country. I do not, since I am not a medical man, profess to know anything about the subject myself. But I am impressed, as I hope the committee will be, by the opinions and direct testimony of medical men pre-eminent in their profession, throughout the world. Were it not for the skill and attention of a surgeon I should not be speaking in this House to-day, and honorable members will understand that any remarks I make must not be assumed to reflect upon doctors individually. J should like, further, to say that I would not attempt to deal with the subject if I thought that by doing so I should give rise to hopes that may not be realized in the breasts of those suffering from the awful disease of consumption. But it seems to me from the evidence placed before me that there is sufficient .data obtainable regarding the Spahlinger treatment to justify the Government iri making available ?100,000 or ?200,000 for further research in connexion with the matter. I shall be excused ‘for quoting a few extracts on the subject, because I wish to give honorable members the benefit of the experience and conclusions- of highlyqualified medical men in Europe who have used the treatment, and have placed on record their opinion as to its efficacy and their conclusion that it is worthy of more attention than is being given to it at the present time. I have extracts here from statements made by eminent medical men and from the Lancet, an authoritative medical journal published in Great Britain. Referring to the results following the Spahlinger treatment, Dr. John D. Rice says -
I can only describe the improvement as miraculous. The patient’s relatives are so impressed that they have given ?600 to Spahlinger’ s appeal fund. The suggestion that M. Spahlinger should permit his serum to be tested for results by a committee of medical men is only doing again what was done in 1913-14, when about 35 oases went through the treatment at the City of London Hospital, St. George’s Hospital, and the French Hospital, London.
Dr. Leonard Williams gives the following testimony :
I have nothing but praise for the man, his ethical attitude towards the medical profession, his scientific methods, his singleness of purpose, and the clinical results of his serum and vaccines. … A large number of British physicians and bacteriologists have journeyed to Geneva to examine the possible value of the treatment, and I understand each one has been deeply impressed.
Here is the statement of A. H. Croucher M.D., P.R.C.S.-
Being the first doctor to apply Spahlinger’s method for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, in 1912, I desire to state that all the cases that I know treated and vaccinated six years previously were still alive at the end of 1920, and capable of carrying on their daily occupations in a normal manner. All these patients were, in 1913, affected with advanced pulmonary tuberculosis. Since 1920 I have every reason to be still more impressed with the result of M. Spahlinger’s work.
There is a statement in which it is distinctly asserted that people suffering from tuberculosis have been cured. The honorable member for Calare stressed the point that he knew of no cases of cure. He explained that, in the case of the persons he examined, he did not know what their condition was before the application of the treatment. Dr. Edmund Lardy, writing in the Lancet, says -
In a report during October, 1915, I made this emphatic statement - As long as a consumptive is living, no matter how far gone bis case,- he can be cured by the Spahlinger treatment. Since that date, the amount of clinical evidence goes to show that this statement was correct.
Here is the statement of Dr. T. H. Stephani-
I have applied this method since 1915 to more than 250 patients. The curative effect of the vaccines in chronic forms of T.B. has shown itself extremely reliable. Since for want of funds, the serum can no longer be prepared (thus involving the recovery and lives of a multitude of sufferers), I consider it now to be my duty to make known the results obtained by this method.
Here is a statement made by Camillo Savoire, Paris, former honorary Director, Dispensaire Antitubeculeux de I’Hopital, Beaujon-
In 1918, Signor Stephani, whom I consider to be one of the highest authorities on T.B. in Europe, informed me of the remarkable results obtained, and supplied me with serum. In every case treated, the sera exerted a very favorable curative action. In my opinion, Spahlinger’s researches are the most rational direction in which search has been made for a specific treatment.
Here is the testimony of J. F. Mackeddie, M.D., of Melbourne, published in the
I am from Australia, commissioned to investigate for the Government of Victoria. I have investigated the treatment in action at a sanatorium, and have spent some wonderful days in Geneva with M. Spahlinger. . . . .An, further evidence, I feel sure, will only confirm me in reporting to my Government that Henry Spahlinger^ vaccine and serum treatment stands by itself, and that the medical profession should ‘lose no time in taking a definite stand in this matter.
I do not wish to weary the committee with too many extracts, but I should like to quote the following statement by Dr. Edmund Lardy, which appeared in the Lancet: -
I have only recently had the opportunity of reading, in your issue of 16th March, a letter from Dr. -A. H. Croucher, who first applied M. Spahlingers method in England, in 1013. I can claim an earlier association with
I i is treatment, as I first became interested in it by controlling the experimental work. In 1912 I had the opportunity of using the vaccines on a human being. The patient suffered from, lymphoma of the neck (right and left side) which were ulcerated and suppurating on the manubrium sternia, there was an ugly patch of lupus about 3 inches in diameter. The patient had been, treated in two hospitals, over periods of nine months and four months, but the disease had resisted all ordinary methods of treatment. A complete recovery was effected after sixteen injections of Spahlingers vaccine. I consider it remarkable that eight tuberculosis glands, all suppurating, - as well as a large patch of lupus, could be made to disappear “with so limited a treatment. Ever since her recovery in 1912, this patient has lived in very poof and unfavorable conditions. Notwithstanding (this, she has remained in perfect health all these years, all that is evident at present being a -few scars under the chin. Of the accompanying photographs, the first three were taken after two, four, and twelve injections in 1912, and the other two show the patient’s condition in. 1923. I was associated in the preliminary note presented to the Academy of Medicine in Paris in 1914, and have delayed further publication in order to avoid increased demand for remedies which cannot yet be supplied.
Reference is also made to six or seven other cases, and the statement concludes -
It is important to note that the patients who went through the course of vaccine are alive today and carrying on their normal occupations.
I also have a statement by Dr. Hugh A. Wylie, M.B., of Adelaide, which is similar to the one I have just quoted, though given in somewhat more extended terms. Dr. Wylie observes, inter alia -
The majority of medical men appear to be still either ignorant of, or uninterested in, this treatment.
That is one reason why I have introduced this matter. Another is that I have been requested to do so by a number of inmates of the Waterfall Sanatorium in New South Wales. I submit that a case has been made out that would fully justify the expenditure of public money for experimental purposes. The knowledge and skill of the medical practitioners whose names’ I have given cannot be questioned. Apparently the Government can find money for nearly everything but health matters. Thousands of pounds may be spent in entertaining visitors; £5,000,000 can be provided to build cruisers; but nothing can be spared to spend on caring for the health of the people. I submit that the Government would be more justified in spending £5,000,000 on research work with a view to the eradication and prevention of disease than in building cruisers. I even go so far as to say that, from the purely defence point of view, expenditure designed to improve the health of the people would be thoroughly justified. So far as I know, the honorable member for Calare is the only Australian who has investigated the Spahlinger treatment of recent years and emphatically condemned it. Dr. W. E. Collins, of New Zealand, made an investigation, of which the following report was published :-
At a recent meeting of the New Zealand executive of the Red Cross Society an interesting report was submitted by Dr. W. E. Collins, who, on the occasion of his visit last year to England and the Continent, was asked by the Government to investigate the Spahlinger method of treatment for tuberculosis. Dr. Collins spent a week in Geneva, and was conducted by M. Spahlinger over his laboratory at Carouge, Geneva, where he carries out his bacteriological work. M. Spahlinger is not a medical man. He is famous as a bacteriologist who has devoted his life and a considerable fortune to the study of bacteriology in relation to disease. He has spent about £80,000 of his own money in equipping his own laboratory, and has never accepted fees for his treatment and remedies. He is willing to show any one over his laboratory and explain his own inventions, but he will not reveal his methods of extracting toxins from the tubercle bacillus. His complete serum is composed of 22 antitoxins, and he claims that it can he administered without danger to patients. Further, he states that patients can he treated in their own homes, and do not necessarily have to go to sanatoria. “After examining the patients,” says Dr. Collins, “ I felt driven to the conclusion that the treatment was a valuable one, and in advance of any form of tubercular treatment in’ vogue up to the present time.”
Dr. Collins quotes a statement by an English medical authority, in October, 1923, which contains the following:- “ May I point out that there are authentic records of over 400 cases treated, with 80 per cent, of recoveries.”
We have been told that it is not possible to obtain M. Spahlinger’s serum. On that point I quote the following from a Sydney newspaper: -
Mr. Davies, M.L.A., has written to the Premer : “ According to the Melbourne Herald of 7th April, Mr. Theodore, Premier of Queensland, has interviewed M. Spahlinger regarding a supply of serum for the health department in that state. M. Spahlinger has promised to send out serum to the Queensland health department, so that experiments may be made to ‘prove the efficacy of his cure.”
The answer that Mr. Davies received to that letter was, if not a negative, at least an evasion. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Theodore, was able to make arrangements to secure supplies of this serum, and, if he could do it, so could the Prime Minister. I quote now from a letter written to Mr. Theodore by M. Spahlinger in connexion with the report submitted to this House by the honorable member for Calare: -
I invited Sir Neville Howse to come to my institute. It was only just before leaving Geneva (where he had remained during four weeks) that he came. I wanted to explain to him all the details of the technical work, but he objected that he was not a bacteriologist and would not understand it. Therefore, he just glanced through the institute: He declined to meet the doctors who had used my treatment, and to examine any of the patients, saying that he was not a lung specialist and that his opinion, therefore, would be of no value.
The honorable member made a similar statement in this chamber. He told us that he was neither a bacteriologist nor a lung specialist. If he did not feel competent to make a report on the subject, he should not have been asked to do so. I suppose that, if he were consulted by a person suffering from tuberculosis, he would advise the sufferer to consult a specialist. The honorable member, by his admission of incompetency to judge the matter, destroyed in a large measure the value of his report, but that fact seems to have been overlooked by honorable members, and his declaration has’ been received by both this chamber and the country generally as authoritative. I submit, however, that evidence is available that would more than justify the Government in expending money to test the treatment under Australian conditions. Even hard-headed business men have been impressed by the results that have followed the treatment. I quote the following from the London Daily Express of 16th December: -
The Daily Express states that a deputation from the Lancashire Insurance Committee, which investigated M. Spahlinger’s treatment for tuberculosis, reports that there can bc no reasonable doubt about its efficacy. More than 80 per cent, of the cases treated are reported to have been absolute cures, although many of the patients were said to be in a hopeless condition before the treatment was applied. These recoveries have had no relapses.
The honorable member for Calare admitted that he did not see the persons who are reported to have been cured of this terrible disease, and did not examine the records of their cases, which are in the possession of M. Spahlinger. A visit of a couple of hours to a laboratory would not qualify him to speak with authority. That he went abroad, not for the special purpose of preparing this report, but to attend the meetings of the League of Nations is an additional reason why we should not accept his ‘opinion as conclusive. It appears that the Baldwin Government of Great Britain was well satisfied to experiment with the treatment, for the following cablegram was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 23rd March of last year : -
Mr. Neville Chamberlain, Minister for Health, replying to a question in the House of Commons, said that the Health Ministry experts had been impressed with the results of the new Spahlinger consumption treatment, and were carrying out a further investigation. A supply of serum would shortly be available.
I do not wish to weary honorable members with quotations on the subject, but I invite their careful consideration of the following : -
Dr. Charles Gosset, professor at the University at Paris, and chief surgeon of the Salptriere, pays a great tribute to the serum for the cure of tuberculosis discovered by M. Henry Spahlinger, of Geneva, says the Daily Express correspondent, “ It is one of those truths,” says Professor Gosset in an interview, “ that ought to be published on the house-tops, because without being entirely unknown they are too little known - to say nothing of being disregarded.”
The opinion of that doctor is practically similar to that of Dr. Lardy, to which I have already referred. It is strange to me that, although so many medical practitioners are individually hopeful of the treatment, it is not possible to secure any enthusiastic support for it from the
British Medical Association. Continental doctors are also very hopeful. I do not deny that M. Spahlinger may have made some mistakes in his efforts to win attention to his discoveries. “What would happen if people refused to undergo operations or consult doctors because some members of the profession have proved fallible? Thousands of mistakes are made by highly qualified medical men. In order to prove that the judgment of doctors is not always right, and that in the matter under discussion the medical men may be wrong and M. Spahlinger right, I quote this extract from Stead’s Review: -
In a letter to the British Medical Journal, Dr. Rutherford Morison, late Examiner in Surgery at the Universities of Liverpool and Birmingham, refers to some of the blunders committed by careless surgical operators. “I have seen the wrong side operated upon for hernia, the wrong kidney explored, and the wrong knee-joint opened. … A house surgeon of my own amputated the left ring finger of a woman instead of the right. He would have saved himself and the patient much pain and regret if he had remembered my rule: - Always mark with a cross before the patient is anaesthetised, the side of the body to .be operated upon.” He refers also to numerous cases where “ swabs “ have been left in the body after operation. “ During the last ten years I have removed six which had been the cause of weeks or months of ill-health. All these patients recovered, but none of them learned the real cause of the trouble, and so far as I know none of the surgeons who operated were informed of the mistake they had made.”
When surgeons make such errors in work in which they are so experienced, it follows that when they attempt to pronounce on other matters with which they are not familiar, their views are not to be relied upon to the same extent as is the opinion of a man who has devoted his life to one particular branch of research. I am sorry that only a few. thousand pounds is provided on the Estimates this year for the conservation of public health. Such niggardliness indicates the indifference of the Government to this most urgent problem. It is high time that the Commonwealth had an efficient Health Department, and I agree with those honorable members who have said that there should be a Commonwealth ministry of health. A royal commission to inquire into health matters is proposed, and I hope that its investigations will have beneficial results. But surely, with the accumulated results of past research before us, and our knowledge of the wonderful medical organization which the war made necessary, wo have enough data to guide us without wasting money on another royal commis-sion.
The present Government seems ready to appoint a royal commission to investigate almost anything, the one striking exception being the coal-mining industry. An investigation into it has been sought repeatedly. To those who say that the coal-mining industry is a state matter, I reply that public health is a federal concern, and I remind them of the losses of life that have occurred in recent years in Queensland, in the Bellbird disaster in New South Wales, and the explosion in the state coal mine at Wonthaggi a few days ago. Wherever ‘there is coal-mining accidents occur, and the health of large numbers of men is in jeopardy. We hear much talk about the development of industries in this country, but little consideration is given to the men who go into the bowels of the earth to mine coal, upon which most other industries are dependent. Had the accident in the Bellbird mine happened a few hours earlier or later, not merely 20 men, but 200 or 300 would have been sacrificed on the altar of the coal kings. Men who have delved in coal mines for years, and have an expert knowledge of the working of the industry, have, in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, proved the need for a thorough inquiry, but they have pleaded in vain. The loss of human life may continue, men must work in the mines in hourly danger, and no royal commission will be appointed because- the coal barons forbid. The Coal Vend controls about -90 per cent, of the coal output of Australia, and it pours money into the election funds of the Nationalist party. The colliery owners fear a royal commission, and there will be no investigation if they can prevent it. If evidence were taken on oath by an independent body it would show that some of the mine-owners should be in gaol. I have not worked in the coal-mining industry; but from many men who have done so I have learned something of the conditions under which it is carried on, and I am positive that if a royal commission were appointed it would recommend the socialization of the mines. The royal commission which was appointed in Great Britain at the conclusion of the war almost unanimously declared in favour of the socialization of the industry, and a commission which inquired into coal mining in New Zealand a few months ago reported that the industry was one in the management of which the employees should have a voice, and recommended strongly that it be socialized. The colliery-owners know that if a royal commission were appointed in Australia it would make a similar recommendation, and, therefore, they frustrate such an inquiry. Ex-miners who are now members of the Parliament of New South Wales have challenged the State Government to appoint a royal commission, and have undertaken to prove that if the employees, were given control of the .industry it could be conducted more economically, and the price of coal reduced by 15 to. 20 per cent., while at the same time the mines could be equipped with every safety appliance known to science. In the Bellbird disaster a number of men were launched into eternity in a moment. Healthy and strong they left their homes in the morning, and in the evening widows and fatherless children waited for .the return of their Corpses. Two of the bodies remained in the mine for months. Such . tragedies are not isolated ; they happen all too frequently. There have been, some painful experiences on the south coast of New South Wales. A few hours before the Mount Kembla disaster the miners had been complaining that there was gas in a mine. The. mine-owners and others were giving sworn testimony in the court house at Wollongong that there was no gas in the mine, and almost as they spoke the town was shaken by an explosion in the very mine which was the subject of their evidence. Recently the employees in a mine on the south coast complained that the safety lights with which they were supplied were not efficient. An expert tested about six of the lights, and every one was extinguished. Notwithstanding that test, the management refused to rectify the lights, and ordered the men to enter the mine. The miners were compelled to strike, and were deprived of their living for two or three weeks, in order to compel the management to make the lights safe. Such happenings could be proved by. sworn evidence. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was asked whether the Commonwealth Government would appoint a royal commission to inquire into the industry, he said that the Government would give consideration to any proposal calculated to assist the industry. Our primary concern is not the assistance of the industry, but the protection of the lives of the men engaged in it. They should not be asked to go into the mines without proper safeguards. An inquiry of a kind was held into the Bellbird disaster, and this verdict was brought in by the jury over the dead bodies of the men who were slaughtered to make profits for the coal barons -
The evidence did not prove how the disaster occurred, and the jury therefore recommends that a gentleman of mining experience be appointed and invested with the powers of a royal commission to ascertain the real cause thereof.
But no such appointment was made. Almost immediately after the Bellbird disaster, I asked the Prime Minister if he would consent to give a private member an opportunity to move for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the conditions of the coalmining industry, so that Parliament itself could decide the matter. But the right honorable gentleman would not consent to that course. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) were here, he, with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), could place before this chamber certain conditions of employment, the nature of which would cause all honorable members, if they had the opportunity and if they acted according to their conscience, to vote for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into1 the cause of the periodical disasters occurring at coal mines. The coal barons insist on their pound of flesh, to compensate them for the heavy payments they make to party funds. They provide faulty safety lamps, and neglect to establish rescue stations and proper appliances so that, in times of disaster, miners may assist their comrades in distress. To show that the opportunity for disasters similar to that at the Bellbird mine still exists, I refer honorable members to page 77 of the last report of the Chief Inspector of Mines, in which he enumerates a great number of minor accidents, all of which might have led to serious disaster. He reported the following occurrences : - Fires underground at Pelton colliery; ignition of gas at Abermain No. 2 colliery; fire underground at Victoria Tunnel colliery; small fire underground at Cessnock colliery; fire underground at Elermore Tunnel colliery; small fire underground at Ironworks colliery ; slight ignition of fire-damp at South Greta colliery; small fire underground at Aberdare colliery; same at Aberdare colliery; spontaneous fire underground at Aberdare Central colliery; fire underground at Abermain No, 2 colliery, and fire underground in new workings of Gunnedah colliery. In the majority of these cases no safety appliances were provided at the pit’s mouth, and it was only by the providence of God that there was not a repetition of disasters like those at the Bellbird and Wonthaggi mines. The Government has appointed a royal commission to inquire into unemployment, insurance, and old-age pensions, but it is very improbable that any recommendation made by that body will be given effect by the Government. An expenditure of tens of thousands of pounds will be incurred by this commission, and yet the Government is unwilling to appoint, at a cost of a few thousand, pounds, a royal commission to inquire into the coal industry. The following paragraph concerning the prevention of accidents appeared on 26th June in the journal Common Cause, the official organ of the coal-miners : - “ Half the accidents and deaths occurring in the coal mines of the country annually could probably be eliminated by more adequate safety supervision by coal-owning companies and the exercise of greater care by mine employees,” states Mr. W. W. Adams, Statistician, . Department of the Interior (United States of America), in a report just made to the Director of the Bureau of Mines. “The employment of more supervisory employees, whose services are needed particularly to prevent accidents due to haulage equipment and to falls of roof and coal, might possibly cause an initial rise in the’ price of coal to the consumer,” Mr. Adams points out. “ The prevention of unnecessary accidents would, however, soon more than compensate for the increased pay-roll expense of supervision, so that the selling price of coal at the tipple could be restored to its previous level, if, indeed, it proved necessary to increase it in the -be ginning. It is generally known that in the coal mines of the United States of America more men are killed by accidents in proportion to the number of men working than in the leading European countries. It is not as widely known that fewer men are killed in the United States of America in proportion -to the quantity of coal mined than in any other country.”
These statistics can be applied to the Australian industry. . There is no -reason why similar figures should not. be issued here. The report goes on. to show in percentages the toll of life taken by the coal “industry. In the United States of America, for the production of 1,000,000,000 tons, the percentage is 3.86, in Great Britain 4.52, in France 6.9, in Belgium 8.1, and in Russia 11.5. These statistics deal only with accidents caused through falls of roof and coal and. defects in haulage equipment, . and not with explosions and disasters. A royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the coal industry from the humanitarian, health, economic, -and industrial points of view. The complaint “ known as “ miners’ nystagmus “ ‘ is particularly prevalent on’ the south coast, and Judge Hamilton, when commenting on this subject, was reported as follows: -
When a number of compensation claims came before His Honour Judge Hamilton in the Wollongong Court on Thursday, Hia Honour referred to a report recently issued by a committee of scientists appointed by the Privy Council to inquire into the cause of miners’ nystagmus; the committee held that it was a nervous trouble caused by use of defective lights; His Honour remarked that he himself had brought .under the notice of the State Attorney-General the seriousness of the position in the southern mining district from his own experience, and he hoped that the authorities would not wait for what they considered a perfect lamp, but would immediately avail themselves of the best at present obtainable.
Judge- Hamilton there drew the attention of the Attorney-General of New South Wales to the seriousness of miners’ nystagmus on the south coast. The expert evidence is that this complaint is caused through insufficient light.- Favourable reports have been received of experiments with electric light having a yellow shade for underground work. Yet dozens of the coal-owners, particularly those on .the south coast, will not install electric safety lamps until forced to do so. It is of no concern to the Coal Vend that its employees suffer from miners’ nystagmus. As the Treasurer well knows, this complaint not only .affects the eye, but also causes a severe nervous break-down. Miners who have suffered from it are useless for underground work. Of course, they receive compensation, but it is barely sufficient to keep body and soul together. The cost of production of coal is 21s. a ton.
– The cost is from 18s. 6d. to 19s. a ton at the pit’s mouth, and the coal is sold to the small consumer at about £4 per ton. The railways authorities in New South Wales refused to pay 18s. 6d. a ton for coal, and unsuccessfully tried to compromise with the Coal Vend. They thereupon established their own coal mine, and now the cost of production to them at the pit’s mouth is 10s. 9d. a ton.
– Whore is that mine ?
– At Lithgow. It is the only one in Australia in which a sanitary system is installed. Every employee receives a fortnight’s holiday and a railway pass, together with the other benefits not given at private coal mines. The price of coal at the Lithgow mine at the pit’s mouth is 10s. 9d. per ton, as against from 18s. 9d. to 19s. at the private mines. Yet we are told by the mine-owners that the industry cannot stand the provision of safety appliances, rescue stations, and other necessary improvements. In spite of its huge profits, the Coal Vend refuses to adequately protect the lives of the miners. The coal barons have no right to hold large leases of coal areas. Coal is a natural” product, and the mines should be developed in the interests only of those who mine and consume it.
– That may be said of gold.
– I have never heard a more absurd interjection. Gold is an unnecessary product, but we cannot do without coal. The Coastal Shipping Company has its own coal mines, and transports coal along the coast. Here is a statement relating to that company -
Tt lias very large coal interests, which have earned substantial profits and achieved a good deal of watering. Its original authorized capital was £780,000, all paid up but f 5,000. In 1020 it re-valued ‘its assets, including £581,000 in disclosed reserves, and contrived to reconstruct as a £3,000,000 concern, presenting its shareholders with three shares for every one originally held, without taking in one penny of new money.
In the three-year period succeeding the watering, shareholders in this company received the equivalent of a return of almost 150 per cent, on the ‘initial par value of their shares, while the total disclosed profits, including the amount added to reserves for the three years, were £565,923.
– How many shareholders are there in that company?
– Very few. The report I am reading does not state the number of shareholders, but, whether there is one or 10,000, 150 per cent, is too much profit for them. The statement proceeds -
Tlie year before the inflation the concern
Ea-id a 15 per cent, dividend, and the year before that, 10 per cent. Take another big company, which probably owns or controls an output of more than 3,000,000 tons of coal per annum from the Newcastle and the Maitland fields. Its profits for the five years 1918-1922, including an amount unexplained in origin of more than half a million pounds, which it added to its reserves, totalled £1,718,009, or £200,000 more than its issued capital. It reduced its capital by making a cash payment pf £500,000 to its shareholders last year.
Its two leading collieries netted profits totalling £625,000 in the past three complete years on highly inflated capitals of £1,800,000.-
Similar examples could be quoted in great number, but I shall place only one or two on record. The following statement, taken from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, relates to the Bellambi Coal Company Limited : -
In 1912, this company had a capital of £250,000. Whether this represented all hard cash, or whether reserves had been capitalized prior to that date, is not stated. But it is admitted that, in October, 1912, the capital was increased from £250,000 to £400,000 by capitalizing £150,000 out of the reserve account and allotting it to the shareholders in the form qf fully-paid up bonus shares.
For the year ending August, 1922, the company made a net profit of £79,816 or 20 per cent, on the nominal capital of £400,000. Of this amount a dividend of 15 per cent. (£60,000) was paid to the shareholders, and the balance (£19,816) added to the reserve account of £128,916, making a total amount in reserve of £148,732. equal to 37 per cent, of the capital.
In actual fact, the percentage of profit is considerably higher than that disclosed by the balance-sheet. On the actual capital of 1912 (that is,t disregarding the amount capitalized from reserves ) , the net profit for the last year works out at 32 per cent.
The August issue of the Australian Investment Digest stated that the profits qf the coal industry for the period covered by the article were 36.66 per cent., which is being paid, of course, on “ watered “ stock and “salted” capital. There is not a company operating in the south, west, or north of the State of New South
Wales that has not capitalized its reserves by issuing bonus shares. I make a conservative statement when I say that the organization known as the Coal Vend controls 90 per cent, of the coal output of New South Wales. Although these huge profits are being made, the industry is seething with discontent, and when the Bellbird disaster occurred a feeling of unsafety and a wave of unrest swept through it. Who can wonder at that, when the men employed in the industry know that the appliances they use are not the best obtainable? There are no rescue stations, although these could be supplied without spoiling the handsome profits now being made; in fact, the installation of modern appliances would probably increase the profits. Parliaments passed votes of sympathy with the victims of the Bellbird disaster, and the Commonwealth Government donated £500 to the widows and orphans of those who lost their lives ; but neither sympathy nor the £500 was of much good to the sufferers. Honorable members who refuse to grant a royal commission to inquire exhaustively into this industry2 who refuse to allow the best appliances to be used to protect the lives of those who work in the industry, are displaying a callous indifference, no matter what sympathy they may express in their speeches. I do not like making charges in this matter even by innuendo against the Government.
– This is a matter for the State Governments.
– It is a matter for the Commonwealth Government. The coal-miners are governed by the Industrial Peace Act that was passed by this Parliament,’ and their wages and conditions of work are controlled by a tribunal created by this Parliament whose officers are paid by the Commonwealth. What would be the good of the state of Victoria appointing a royal commission? It could do nothing in Queensland. I hope that the Minister will agree to; the appointment of the royal commission. I know that the men could prove to a royal commission that the reforms could be introduced while reducing expenditure. After the war great trouble was experienced on the coal-fields of Great Britain, and a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the working of the industry.
It recommended the socialization of the industry. Later, a -royal commission inquired and reported on the coal industry in New Zealand, and again recommended socialization. The present Government knows, and every other Government must know, that an exhaustive inquiry made by an impartial royal commission must inevitably .result in a recommendation in favour of socialization. That is as certain as that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. The commission would say that the men who work in the industry, and take all the risks and produce all the wealth, should have control over their conditions and the price of their product. The coal industry could be more easily socialized than any other industry, and it is the basis of nearly all other industries. When the coal mines cease work a thousand industries are closed down. Supporters of the Government have spoken of the need for defending the country and building up basic industries. Coal is the base of all industries. Prom considerations of humanity, honesty, health, economics, and national development, a royal commission should be appointed. The coal barons are n’ot prepared to carry out the findings of a royal commission, and that is why no Government representing their interests has appointed one.
.- The budget as delivered by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has much in it to be commended. The proposed reductions of taxation will afford considerable relief, and the proposal to exempt from the payment of tax entertainments held for public and religious purposes and for raising funds, for the building of memorial halls, will be very much appreciated. It is satisfactory to learn that the Postal Department is engaged in a large programme for improving telephonic and telegraphic services, and it is gratifying to hear that it is the intention of the Government to financially assist the dairying industry by securing adequate cold storage accommodation and organizing ‘ markets abroad for butter.
I regret that the Commonwealth Government did not retain more control over the efforts of the states to settle returned soldiers on the land. I have paid three visits to the settlements on the Murray river, and I am in a position to know that the. men who have been placed on those settlements with a view to producing currants and raisins and such products will be in a position in another twelve months to place on the market about six times the pre-war supply of those fruits, whereas, so far as I have been able to ascertain, the local consumption is now not more than double the prewar consumption. There is, therefore, great need for an overseas market for this produce. Before federation I could import currants and raisins from Greece, the south of France, and Spain at a price which was far less than the duty of 3d. a lb. we have now placed on dried fruits to afford protection to the local growers. If a duty of 3d. a lb. is required to enable Australian growers to get a fair price locally, how can they meet in the markets of the world the competition of growers in Greece and California? One way in which we can help this important industry is to open up new markets in the East and elsewhere. It is useless to disguise the fact that mistakes have been made in every state in the settlement of returned soldiers, and I mention the fact as a warning for the future when placing immigrants on the land.
The encouragement of immigration is the right policy for the Commonwealth to pursue, because we cannot expect to hold an enormous territory, bigger than the United States of America, with a handful of people; but in this matter also the Commonwealth Government should exercise a little more control than it now has over the states. It should act . in an advisory capacity as to the manner in which immigrants should be settled. Plenty of land suitable for settlement is available at a very small price. Queensland has about 421,000,000 acres, and many millions of these are suitable for all kinds of cultivation, including cotton. It is far better to send immigrants to localities where they can get good land at a. reasonable price than to: place them on land which will cost them anything from £50 to £100 an acre, and will involve them, not only in this initial outlay, but also in Heavy annual interest and land tax payments. Unless further protection is given maize cannot be grown on land for which such high prices have to te paid, with any chance of competing with South African black-grown maize. If, however, it is grown on land for which not more than £6 or £8 an acre is paid, there is a very much better chance of meeting that competition.
In view of the fact that it is the intention of the Government to secure a large number of the right class of immigrants for settlement on the land, I urge them to place on a safer footing dairying, cotton growing, maize growing, broom-millet growing, and kindred industries. At an early date, I understand, a bill will be introduced to deal with the export trade in butter. It is essential to give assistance promptly to the very large number of people who are absolutely dependent on the dairying industry by stabilizing it.
There are now about 90j000 acres of land in Queensland under cotton. Last year this area would have been nearly doubled had it not been for the action of the Queensland Government in accepting wrong advice and cutting out ratoon cotton, thus not only preventing some people from extending their operations, but also disgusting others who would have made a start at cotton growing. For,tunately, the State Government has now removed the embargo, and ratoon cotton is allowed to be grown and treated. On .the 22nd August, 1922, a letter from the Department of the Prime Minister stated that three accredited delegates, representing a large and influential section of the Lancashire cotton manufacturers, had been invited to visit Australia and discuss fully the details of a proposed scheme to manufacture cotton goods from Australian cotton, and to erect mills -in Australia. The extent of the Commonwealth’s participation in . the guarantee had not been finalized at . that stage, and I do not remember reading a report, of any finalization of that suggestion. However, cotton growing will be a very large industry in Australia. From many years experience of cotton growing in Queensland, I say that, if it has proper treatment, it will be the second largest producing industry of that state. Wool, of course, will always be the first. This year the production of sugar will be worth at least £11,000,000. But the value of the world’s production of cotton for the five years from 1917 to 1921 inclusive was £3,102,000,000, and for the five years ending 1922 it averaged £620,400,000!
It has been proved beyond doubt that cotton can be grown in Queensland, and, I. believe, in other parts of Australia, as satisfactorily as it can be grown in any other part of the world. It was grown in Queensland during the American Civil War, but after the war was over the American negroes returned to work for practically no wages. The cotton sent from Queensland to Great Britain at that period, not only plant, but also ratoon cotton, gave every satisfaction, and its cultivation would have continued but for the fact that the Queensland growers could not compete with the cheap black labour available to the growers of the United States of America. However,” that difficulty has now disappeared. Many of the descendants of the negroes who picked cotton for practically nothing have now acquired the lease or freehold of cotton plantations, and work for themselves, and others will not work at lower wages than those paid to the white men as they can work with their own people. In that regard, therefore, the cotton growers of Queensland and those of the United States of America are on an even footing, but the Queensland growers have the advantage of cheaper land, and the further advantage of being free from the ravages of pests such as boll worm. I hope that something will be done in the near future to assist this industry in developing, and I trust that, if the machinery which is found necessary for the manufacture of the raw material cannot be produced in Australia, it will be allowed to be imported free of duty.
– It is now imported free of duty.
– We should do everything possible to establish the manufacture of cotton grown in Australia, thus saving the cost of transporting the raw material to Great Britain, and the manufactured article from Great Britain to Australia, and also insurance, exchange, and freight.
I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to give attention to the position of the maize growers, and I should like him to give me a statement that I can convey to the growers of Queensland, as well as those of Victoria and New South Wales. This year we are producing, at least, 1,000,000 bushels of maize more than is required for local consumption. Honorable members will recollect that, on the 19th May, 1921, as recorded on page 8547 :of Hansard, the duty on maize was fixed at 3s. per cental. The object of imposing this protection was to keep out the black-grown maize of South Africa. If honorable members will refer to Hansard of the 13th October, 1921, page 11969, they will see also that both Houses agreed to the duty of 3s. per cental. But it was subsequently found that, owing to a reciprocal treaty with South Africa, the duty could not be imposed. The matter was brought before the then Minister for Trade and Customs, to whom it was pointed out that if South. African’ maize were admitted an advantage would be given to the growers of that commodity in South Africa, instead of the producers in Australia. But nearly three years have elapsed, and nothing definite has been done. . We have been told definitely that negotiations with South Africa have been in progress with a view to varying the treaty, but I contend that ere now some tangible result should have been obtained. I appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) and also to the Government to see that there is no further delay in. getting the reciprocal tariff varied so that adequate protection may be afforded to our maize growers.
A considerable amount of unrest exists throughout Queensland in connexion with the sugar industry. In 1923 an embargo for two years was placed on black-grown sugar, with a promise of an increased tariff duty, if necessary, at the expiration of that period. In June, 1923, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stated in Brisbane, according to a report in the Queensland Agricultural Journal, that it was impossible to deny or overlook the legitimate claims of an industry that paid £6j000,000 a year in wages to some 25,000 employees, and produced a crop worth £9,000,000’ per annum. Sugar, he pointed out, was sold in all the capital cities at the same price. He added that if, in June, 1925, a higher duty became imperative for the industry, the Government would be prepared to protect it against unfair competition. That is all right as far as it goes, but I am considering the needs of the industry in the interests of the Commonwealth, and I desire to prevent any further misunderstandings. For two years - from June, 1923, to June, 1925 - with a pool which is working satisfactorily, the price of raw sugar is to be £27 a ton, and the pool will hold £1 a ton against the loss of export abroad. This year the value of the crop will probably be £11,000,000, not £9,000,000, the figure mentioned by the Prime Minister last year as the value of the output. The wages paid will amount this year to £7,000,000, as against the sum of £6,000,000 quoted by the Prime Minister, and the number of employees, instead of being 25,000, will probably be nearer 30,000. I understand that it is the Prime Minister’s intention to visit Queensland soon after Parliament rises, and I trust that his experience will be similar to that of other visitors from the southern states, who, although previously antagonistic to the industry, have come to the conclusion that stabilization is essential to its success. Sir Henry Jones, of Tasmania, who recently visited Queensland, stated that in his opinion .it would be for the benefit of all concerned to adopt a system of stabilization covering a period of years, so that the grower would know what was ahead 6f him. Protection, up to £14 a ton, instead of £9 6s. 8d., is required. In the absence of control of the industry, and the granting of an embargo on black-grown sugar, and in the event of the price of sugar abroad rising considerably, there would be nothing to prevent the Australian price being raised to considerably over 4Jd. per lb., and that would seriously interfere with the many industries dependent on a supply of sugar. The pool and embargo have worked very satisfactorily, and the growers, refiners, wage-earners, and consumers know exactly where they are. The same price is fixed for all the capital cities of the Commonwealth. It is estimated by the Director of the Sugar Experimental Stations that this year’s crop in Australia will produce raw sugar totalling 352,500 tons, comprising 330,000 tons in Queensland and 22,500 tons. in New South “Wales and Victoria. In accordance with the report by the Collector of Customs, the export rebate on Australian sugar used in locallymanufactured goods exported from’ the Commonwealth has been fixed as from the 1st July, 1924, as follows: - Jams, preserved canned fruits, condensed milk, £10 13s. a ton on sugar content; other products, £12 a ton on sugar content. Refined sugar is sold in the Commonwealth at 4£d. According to the Australian Sugar Journal of the 8th August, 1924, there will be about 50,000 tons of sugar to be disposed of this year outside Australia. The cane-cutters’ daily earnings for the last year, taking the average earnings of gangs in the districts mentioned, were as follows: -
Many people will probably imagine that those are high wages; but it should be remembered that the cane-cutters are not employed for the whole year, that the weather conditions are sometimes against them, and that- many of them have to travel to Queensland from states as far distant as Tasmania. Recently they appealed to the Arbitration Court for an increase in wages. Commenting on the court’s decision, the Australian Sugar Journal, of 8th. August, 1924, stated -
On the question of prosperity of the industry, even in the northern areas, the producers were able to show by statistical evidence, covering in many instances the actual taxation returns of some hundreds of farmers, that whatever may be the position in exceptional cases, the average grower of cane as making nothing more than a fair return on his ‘labour and capita. invested, and in very many instances substantially less, in view of losses from seasonal vicissitudes and the ravages of pests. One of the arguments used in support of the assumption that the industry was enjoying riotous prosperity was the state of business in some of tlie townships serving the sugar -growers; but against this, it was pointed out that the sums of money paid in wages, week by week, and month by month during the harvesting season give a very large purchasing power, for the time “being, to employees in the industry, and account for extensive circulation amongst the local trades people, thus creating an appearance of disproportionate prosperity imaginary rather than real, so far as the actual grower of the cane is concerned. The remarks of the Bench on this particular point are worthy of repetition in illustration of our’ argument. In the judgment of the court, the following passages occur: -
While it is perfectly true that there are individual cane-growers ‘in the industry who are making large profits, the conclusion that we have come to on the evidence is that they are only a small proportion of the total number of farmers. In judging of the prosperity or lack of prosperity of an industry, one must have regard to the average person in the industry. Returns were furnished for Pleystowe, Racecourse, Farleigh, North Eton, Marion, Cattle Creek, Plane Creek, Isis, Pioneer, Inkerman, Kalamia, Qunaba, Millaquin, Fairymead, Bingera, Macknade, Victoria, Goondi, Mourilyan, South Johnstone, Babinda, Hambledon, Mossman, Mulgrave, and Moreton mills, showing that the numbers of suppliers of cane under 500 tons total 3,394; of suppliers of cane between 500 and 1,000 tons, 712; and of suppliers of cane over 1,000 tons, 498. These figures are for the year 1923. They are not quite complete returns for the state, but all the large mills are included. In addition, there were 304 suppliers to Proserpine Mill, but the return does not dissect the tonnages supplied. It is well known that the growers there are all small growers. .Some of the suppliers of 1,000 tons or over comprise partnerships of two or more persons. These figures show to what a very large extent the industry is one of small growers. From the field workers’ point of view, that position has its disadvantages, as the small grower does not employ much field labour. From a national point of view, it is desirable that there should be as many small growers as possible.
That is the opinion of the court, based on the evidence placed before it in the sugar districts throughout Queensland, which it visited to ascertain whether the wageearner was entitled to a higher rate of wage than he was receiving. It decided that he was not entitled to greater remuneration. I have heard in this House the statement that a very large number of members of coloured races are employed in the sugar and banana industries in Queensland. That is not so. If honorable members study the last census returns, compiled in 1921, they will see that at that time there were only 7,853 nonEuropean males in Queensland. Victoria, which has a vastly smaller area than Quensland, then had 3,798 nonEuropean males; yet no one would say that the primary industries in this state employ a large number of that class of labour. I was president of the federal league in my city and district when federation was under discussion. We have religiously observed our pledges, and now we ask that the Commonwealth Government shall continue to fulfil its contract by protecting the sugar industry in Queensland against unfair competition by black-grown sugar.
Main roads development is a matter of vital importance to the states that are large in area. Customs duties amounting to £2,121,004 were paid last year in respect of motor cars, motor cycles, motor bodies, chassis, chassis parts, tubes, lorries, motor spirit, tyres; &c. The improvement of roads will lead to an increase in the amount of duty collected by the Customs Department. I sincerely trust, therefore, that when the next budget is being prepared, instead of the grant being £500,000 for one year, provision will be made for a grant of £1,000,000 per annum for five consecutive years. I have had an experience covering a period of twenty years of the work of shire councils, and I know that their principal difficulty is to so estimate their probable revenue that they can with a reasonable degree of certainty map out a programme of works. I consider that the Works and Railways Department should vary its present policy in relation to the works upon which this road grant may be expended. Main roads boards operate in Queensland and in other states. In Queensland it has been desired to devote a certain portion of the grant towards the construction of small bridges on main roads which will be of sufficient strength to carry the traffic from the soldier and other settlements to the nearest railway station. That has been disallowed, the contention of the Works and Railways Department being that the whole of the grant must be spent on the construction of roads. The sum which a shire council in Queensland may raise by way of loan is limited by the Queensland Government, and I believe that every shire council in that state has borrowed up to the limit. Where, then, is the money to come from for the construction of these bridges; and, without the bridges, of what use will be the roads? Why should not this Government allow the Main Roads Board in Queensland and in other states to decide in what way this grant can be most profitably expended? I know that at the soldiers’ settlement at Gordon Brook, 1,500 bags of maize are to some extent held up because there are no means of crossing the creeks. I have made several requests for approval to be granted to expenditure on bridges that have been passed by the Main Roads Board in Queensland. That work has been hung up because the Works and Railways Department has withheld the grant as far as bridges are concerned. The latest advice that I received from the department was that the matter would be considered by the department in conjunction with the Main Roads Board in Queensland when the allocation from this year’s vote was being decided upon. Mr. Hill, of the Works and Railways Department, proposes to visit Queensland in the next few weeks to consult with the Main Roads Board. Is it necessary for him to have that consultation, in view of the decision already given by the board? In the meantime the works are being held up, and returned soldiers and others are unable to get their products to the railway. I trust that the Government will favorably consider my suggestions in regard to this matter, also the stabilization of the sugar industry, by the extension of the existing embargo against black-grown sugar.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Chairman-
– I call attention to the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.’]
– When speaking on the budget twelve months ago I complained that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) had been lax in his duty, because he had not made greater provision for paying off a portion of the national debt. I was pleased to notice that in Sydney some months ago he stated that a part ‘ of the accumulated surplus would be used in paying off a portion of the national debt, and I am very pleased to gather from the budget figures now before us that a fairly considerable sum will this year be devoted to that purpose. The complaint I have to make on this occasion is that while last year the Treasurer saw the light, this year, 60 far as I can judge the position, he is prepared to retreat into darkness. In his budget speech he boasts that during this financial year the reduction in taxation will be equal to over £6,000,000 as compared with the position three years ago. I know that any honorable member who criticizes such a reduction will not add to his popularity or improve his chance of securing votes, but in my opinion the action of the Government in this connexion is one which cannot be commended. At present we have an annual interest bill of approximately £20,000,000. To speak of £1,000,000 has little effect in this chamber, but when we remember that to count up to 1,000,000, at the rate of one a minute, without allowing time for relaxation or refreshment, would take five weeks and five days, we realize that £1,000,000 is an amount of some importance. Our annual interest bill is approximately £20,000,000.
– And it is increasing.
– Yes. In. the financial year, 1923-24, the Commonwealth expenditure . out of loan money was £9,353,586, and in that year the. amount of debt redeemed was £9,041,6*70, which is satisfactory. For the present financial year the estimated amount of expenditure out of loan is £8,282,835, and one naturally asks what the Treasurer intends to do in regard to debt reduction. He has budgeted for a surplus of £26,000. Of course, there is a sinking fund provision under which we will pay off a little over £2,000,000, but allowing for that there is still a difference of approximately £6,000,000. The Treasurer is boasting of the fact that this year there will be a reduction in the amount of taxation, but this reduction I cannot commend. I believe that individuals should always follow the safe course of getting out of debt as soon as possible, and although I know there is a difference between individuals and governments, the principle which should apply to the former should to a large extent also apply to the latter. The Treasurer will probably say, “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” but we have to consider the remission oftaxation which is always so difficult to reimpose. Perhaps the Treasurer is thinking of the next election, and has his eye on the future. For the year 1925t26-
– That is .the election period.
– Perhaps. Judging from the budget figures, one would be justified in assuming that the Treasurer was under the impression that an election was to be held this year. The position makes one think that the Treasurer’ believed that the pact was breaking up, and that he would present figures which would be pleasing to the electors in the event of an election. Commonwealth loans maturing in 1925-26 amount to £69,813,950, on which we are at present paying 4j per cent., and when the Government reconvert they will probably find that the interest rate will be much higher.
– It is 4£ per cent., tax free.
– Yes, but we shall find that we shall have to pay at least 6 per cent., and if that is the case the increased expenditure on this item alone will amount to £1,047,000. I therefore ask the Treasurer what the position will be next year, and how much of the national debt is likely to be paid off during that period, seeing that he has no accumulated surplus to fall back upon ? As we are now at the peak period, if we have not already passed it, in the matter of customs revenue, and as there is a possibility of the exchange difficulty gradually being overcome, imports will fall off. That, with this increase in interest of over £1,000,000, and a probable decrease t6 a like extent in customs revenue, will necessitate the re-imposition of taxation. Does the Treasurer believe that a Labour Government will be in power in 1925-26”? Is he reducing taxation to gain the favour of the electors, and so that, if his party fails to gain that favour, and a Labour Government is returned, one of its first duties will be to re-impose taxation ? For a considerable time I have been interested in reading statements made by wealthy members of the Taxpayers Association, supported by the press, to the effect that the burden of taxation is a means of keeping money out of industry. It is merely a bogy, because money is not being kept out of industry. Money may be withdrawn for a time, but it is merely transferred from one channel to another. It is incorrect to say that it is withdrawn from productive industry. If a. person received, say, £1,200 as interest on £20,000 worth of bonds, the amount required to meet his ordinary expenditure would be returned to different branches of industry whilst the surplus would be reinvested, and would be available for further use. If he were to lend- money to a manufacturing concern, or to a bank, it would go back into industry, so that this bogy of the Taxpayers Association has been set up merely to delude the people.
I particularly wish to protest against the proposed 10 per cent, reduction in the income tax rate. When the Defence Equipment Bill was under consideration the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) said he hoped the Government would not relieve the income taxpayers. The honorable member suggested that out of income taxation the Government should finance its defence proposals. Speaking after -the honorable member in the same debate, I said that I agreed with “that suggestion. I say to-night that I regret that the Government has proposed a 10 per cent, reduction in the income tax rate. It should consider the amount of money which, because of this reduction, will be saved to men enjoying incomes of £5,000, or £10,000, or £40,000 a year. The Government proposes to reduce the taxation of. the wealthy in this community, in spite of the huge national debt, which it is doing so little to lift from our shoulders. Recently, during the discussion of the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the provision for the purchase of London credits, it occurred to me that it should be possible for the Government, instead of remitting taxation to the extent of £6,000,000, to continue to collect £4,000,000 of that amount, and with that money purchase from the banks here credits in London, which could be used to pay off some of our national debt overseas. By this means we should greatly assist in rectifying the exchange position. If the Government adopted that course, it would prove itself a better friend of the primary producer than it has done in remitting taxation during the last three years. I admit that one effect of my suggestion would be to take money out of industry in this country; but by rectifying the exchange position the secondary producer would be benefited as well as the primary producer, since there would not then be the same influx of goods from abroad that we have to-day because of the exchange position. The 10 per cent, reduction in income tax will mean a gift of £4,000 to one man in this country, whilst the adoption of the course I have suggested would confer a benefit on the whole of our primary producers. I believe that if that course were followed for three or four years, the exchange position would be righted, and we should then be able, if necessary, to increase our note issue here without the need for any transfer of credits in London for the benefit of the private banks. The profits made from the expansion of our currency would help to reduce the national debt.
I notice that in the budget speech the Treasurer said that there is a sum of £500,000 to be used for the marketing of primary products. I am glad that the Minister for Trade and Customs .(Mr. Pratten) is present, because I wish to refer to the dried fruits industry. It is unnecessary for me to emphasize the fact that the position of those engaged in this industry needs the most careful consideration of the Government. Private enterprise has fallen down on its job. In past years it has wholly financed the growers concerned in the dried fruits industry. To-day there is a risk in doing so, and because of that private enterprise goes back on the job. It refuses to take the risk, and leaves it to the Government to finance the industry. If there should be a loss, the private enterprise friends of the Government will criticize it because of that loss, ‘overlooking the fact that they were not prepared to face the position themselves. The Government has had to come to the rescue, and has submitted a proposal for the assistance of the industry. It proposes in the case of currants to advance £5 per ton a month on the export quota of the applicant, and for sultanas and lexias 30s. a ton on the export quota of the applicant. The money advanced is to be used by the growers in carrying on the work of their blocks, and is ultimately to be repaid with interest at 6 per cent. The Government in this case steps into the position which private enterprise formerly occupied. No doubt the Government proposal will be very, helpful for the present, and will be availed of by many of the growers of dried fruits. But at best it is only a. palliative, and does not hold out very much hope for the future. The growers asked for a bounty, but the Government turned that request down, and gave the growers some well-intended advice with regard to the organization of their industry and their markets overseas. The advice may do good, but the Government proposal is insufficient to meet the position as it is to-day. I am aware that the Government appointed a committee of men, who I believe are outside the industry. The committee has inquire.d into the position, and has no doubt reported to the Minister. I do not know what its report is, but I know that the Australian Dried Fruits Association has made certain recommendations to the Government. According to last Friday’s issue of the Murray Pioneer - a very fine newspaper published on the Murray River - I find that the recommendations were: - (1) The registration of the organization. (2) A board of control to .be appointed, consisting of three growers’ representatives and one Government nominee. (3) Financial assistance. The Government is asked to place the board of control in a position to take over the whole of the future financing of the industry. (4) A general manager in both Australia and London. (5) That packing sheds should be licensed and inspected under the supervision of the board of control, and that they should be limited in their operations to the processing of fruit and the selling of growers’ requirements. Looking into these proposals, it is clear that the two principal objects of the scheme are to free the growers from their financial obligations to the packing sheds and agents, and the equalization of export amongst all growers. Every one who has taken any interest in the dried fruits industry knows that men who have not joined the association secure the benefit of the local market, and that it is on the export trade that money is lost. They are not bearing their share of the loss on the export trade, and it appears to me obvious that, while it is not stated in so many words, what the Australian Dried Fruits Association is asking for is that compulsion shall be used to bring all growers of dried fruits into the one organization, so that each, shall bear his fair share of the export, and there shall be no breaking down of the home market for dried fruits. I have my doubts that the Government is prepared to go to the extent of ultimate compulsion, even to save the industry. But there are other courses which might be adopted. I have asked questions on a number of occasions in this House regarding a preference treaty with Canada. I heard the Prime Minister say to-day that’ we can enter into commercial treaties with any other country without considering Great Britain, and Great Britain can do the same without considering the dominions. Proposals have been made in this .connexion by Canada. The Minister for Trade and Customs knows what they are; but, so far as I am aware, they have never been made public. Still the press of this country has undertaken to tell us what these proposals are, and I find in the Argus, of the 21st July last, a statement to the f 0110wing effect r -
Canada is prepared to give a preference of 3 cents (lid.) per lb. on our dried fruits upon the condition that we place her in the same position as Great Britain in regard to imports of motors, news print, and tinned salmon.
Other items may have been mentioned by the Canadian Government, but the press has undertaken to tell us that what I have quoted is what Canada is asking for. I do not wish to commit myself, but I say that if this is all that Canada is asking for, and if she is not proposing to strike a blow at some of the other industries of this country, I am at a loss to understand why the Government should have been trifling with the matter for months. In this month of August, Californian fruit will be going into Canada, and the Government should have done something more than it has done to safeguard the interests of Australian producers in the matter. There are only seven representatives in this chamber of the growers of grapes. Most of them are on the other side, and three or four of them are Victorian members of the Country party. I do not know what they may have been doing behind the scenes, because we all have to do something of that kind, but I have failed to understand their silence in this House. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) was for a time a member of the Cabinet, and so was gagged, but now that he is free we may hear from him on this subject. I have marvelled at the silence of three Victorian members of the Country party, whose constituents are concerned in the grape industry.
– It has been due to their loyalty to the pact.
– If so, the electors who sent them to this Parliament will see that they are well “ packed.” The same article in the Argus stated -
Canadian imports of dried fruits of all kinds, including apples, apricots, figs, peaches, prunes, plums, raisins, and currants during the twelve months ended March 31 last were 75,432,992 lb., of which 64,614,192 lb. came from the United States, chiefly California.
I do not say that we could compete with California in all those lines, but. I unhesitatingly assert that if we had from Canada a preference of 3 cents a lb. on currants, raisins, and dried fruit of that class, we could successfully compete in those lines. The offer of a preference like that should
Dot be lightly refused. The Government would need very good grounds indeed for not accepting it, and the article from which I have quoted does not disclose any such grounds. Motor cars are mentioned as one of the items on which we are asked to reciprocate. I know that motor bodies are manufactured in Australia, but motor chassis are not, to any great extent. Possibly, if the conditions which we aretold have been proposed were accepted, the motor body making industry might receive a set-back. It is unfortunate that we have not been given the full facts, to enable us to analyze the position thoroughly.
– The honorable member should not assume that nothing is being done.
– If I said that nothing was being done, I used an expression that I intended to avoid, for I freely admit that since the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) has been Minister for Trade and Customs, I have found him very approachable. I know that he has tried to give definite decisions on the matters that I have submitted to him, and has not “ fooled around “ with members. I appreciate that. The fact remains, however, that no lead has been given to us in this important matter of preference for our dried fruits. I am speaking on behalf of the grape-growers generally, seeing that honorable members opposite axe silent. They may be doing something in private, but they certainly are apathetic in public. According to the Argus report, Canada also asks that we shall give her a preference on newsprint in return for the preference that she offers us. It should not be difficult for the Government to agree to that proposition, for it will not be denied that the bulk of the newsprint that is imported from Great Britain is really of Scandinavian origin. Tinned salmon is another item on which it is suggested that we should reciprocate, and I dare say that our principal supplies of that commodity now come from the United States of America or Japan. If Canada is only asking for consideration on these three lines, or even if she is asking for a good deal more, 1 cannot understand why the Government has not accepted her proposal, for a preference in a market which can dispose of 75,000,000 lb. of dried fruits a year would be of immense advantage to the Australian dried fruit industry at this critical stage.
New Zealand is also knocking at our door. She has a consumption of 4,000 tons of dried fruits a year, and has offered us a preference - I speak subject to correction by the Minister - of 2d. a lb. on raisins and currants if we will allow her white oatsfree entry into this country, I do not claim to know a great deal about the production of oats, but, if the price we are called upon to pay for oatmealbe compared with the price the producer of oats is paid for his produce, it will be seen that there is ample scope for investigation by a committee of inquiry to find out the reason for the difference. I am at a loss to know why we cannot hold our own with New Zealand in producing oats.
– We cannot do it.
– And the reason is our high tariff on agricultural implements.
– I have investigated that subject, and if I had sufficient time I am positive that I could prove that the interjection of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is quite incorrect. A comparison of the position of freetrade New Zealand with that of protectionist Australia in respect to agricultural machinery would entirely disprove his assertion. Possibly New Zealand also is asking for other concessions. I do not know, for it is so difficult to obtain information. On the facts that I have, I certainly do wonder, in view of the desperate position of our dried fruit in dustry, why the Government has nottaken steps to conclude reciprocal arrangements with New Zealand and Canada. Before the war, Australia was consuming 80 per cent. of her production of dried fruits, but now the dried fruit producers in the Murray Valley are faced with the situation that80 per cent. of their production must be exported, and they are naturally impatient at the inaction of the Government.
– I assure the honorable member that there has been no delay on. the part of the Government.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister, but I am obliged to say that appearances are against it.
I wish now to refer to the proposal of the Government to make available £500,000 to be used to develop markets for Australian products. Is some of this to be used for the purpose of assisting the grape and wine industry? I made some remarks on this topic a few days ago, when the Prime Minister outlined the proposals of the Government to assist the doradilla grape growers. I should have said a good deal more on that occasion but for the lateness of the hour, and I feel it incumbent on me to supplement those remarks, for I have a duty to these producers, many of whom are returned soldiers, to state the case from their point of view. As the Prime Minister said, when makingthe statement to which I have referred, the Government has for some time been aware of the serious position of the doradilla. grape growers. As’ the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) pointed out to-day, the position will grow worse when all the doradilla vines that have been planted come into bearing. The first step the Government took to do something definite in the matter was to request the Tariff Board to make an investigation. That was a very good move. The Tariff Board subsequently recommended a decrease of 5s. a gallon in the excise on brandy produced from doradilla grapes. The Government took a somewhat different course, and increased the duty on imported brandy by 5s. a gallon. I do not think that that altogether met the position. Later, the Government made a proposal to the states concerned that a bounty - to be provided in equal shares by the State Governments concerned and the Commonwealth
Government - should be paid to the growers of doradilla grapes, which would ensure them a return of £5 a ton on irrigation areas and £4 a ton on nonirrigated areas. The State Governments rejected the proposal, and rightly so, in my opinion, for the reason that the obligation to repatriate our soldiers rests chiefly on the Commonwealth and the states act only as our agents. I admit that the states unwisely compelled or advised returned soldiers on the irrigation areas to plant doradilla grapes, and to that extent are responsible for such an increase in the production of these grapes that there is a glut in the market. In so far as the states compelled the planting of this class of grape, I think the growers are entitled to relief from them. But it must always be remembered that the Commonwealth takes in excise the sum of £40 6s. in respect of every ton of doradilla grapes used for the manufacture of brandy and £9 6s. in the case of every ton used in the manufacture of fortifying spirit. While it is obtaining such ‘large revenues from the production of these grapes it is not too much to expect that it shall repay to the growers of them £2 a ton when the product is used for manufacturing brandy, and £1, or even £2, a ton when it is used for manufacturing* fortifying spirit.
– In what form would the honorable member have this money refunded to the growers?
– I agree with the Government’s proposal to pay an export bounty on sweet wines containing over 34 per cent, proof spirit; but I think, in the circumstances, that it is not too much to ask that it should foot the whole bill. Let us see what it would amount to. The Tariff Board reported that if an export bounty of 4s. a gallon were paid on wine containing 35 per cent, proof spirit it would cost us, at the present rate of export, £5,000 per annum. We are all hopeful, of course, that the export trade will grow under the’ stimulus of this encouragement. It is the next proposal of the Government with which I do not fully agree; not because I am against a reduction in excise, but because I am against a reduction which will give an advantage to one section of grape-growers over another. In 1922-23, the last year for which I have been able to obtain figures, the quantity of fortifying spirit manufactured or cleared was 851,000 gallons, and of brandy 172,000 gallons. Those figures show that for every ton of doradilla grapes used to manufacture brandy 5 tons are used to manufacture fortifying spirit, so that these grapes are used chiefly for making fortifying spirit. To give effect to its proposal to reduce the excise duty on fortifying spirit from 6s. to 5s. a gallon would cost the Government £42,550 a year, taking the 1922-23 figures as a basis. In regard to the growers’ bounty, the River Murray district of South Australia produces 12,000 tons of doradilla grapes, and the remainder of the state 16,750 tons. That mean3 that the growers in the Murray River irrigation areas will receive, by way of bounty at £2 per ton, a sum of £24,000, and the growers in the other parts of Australia, at £1 per ton, £16,750, making the total bounty payment in South Australia £40,750. If the South Australian Government agrees to accept half that liability, the Commonwealth will have to pay £20,375. Add to that the £5,000 for the export bounty and the £42,550 on account of the ls. reduction in the excise duty on fortifying spirit, and the total payment by the Commonwealth will be £67,925. I have not the statistics regarding the quantity of grapes for fortifying purposes that are grown in New South Wales and Victoria, but I assume that, combined, it will be only equal to that grown in South Australia. If that is so, we must add £20,375 as the Commonwealth’s half share of the bounty to the growers in New South Wales and Victoria. That will make the total claim on the Commonwealth in respect of the growers of doradilla grapes throughout Australia £88,300. That estimate, of course, is based on the assumption that the State Governments will pay half the bounty to the growers, but if the Commonwealth agrees to foot the whole bill it will pay - reduction of ls. per gallon excise duty on fortifying spirit, £42,550; export bounty, £5,000; bounty to growers, £81,500, making a total of £129,050. In the year 1921-2 the Commonwealth collected in excise on fortifying spirit £228,125, and, in 1922-3, £255,300. In excise duty on brandy it collected, in 1922-3, £223,600.
– Do not the honorable member’s figures relate to doradilla grapes only?
– Those figures represent the excise duty on fortified, spirit, which is made mainly, although not exclusively, from doradilla grapes. But, regardless of what grapes we use, the fact I am stressing is that, while the growers are asking for £ 129,0o0 to give them a chance to find new markets and tide them over the present period of difficulty, the Commonwealth is collecting in excise duty upon fortifying spirit £255,000 per annum. The excise duty collected on all spirits manufactured in Australia in 1922-3 amounted to £1,617,975. As the Commonwealth is taking that immense amount of money from the grape growers, it is not unreasonable - assuming that the fortifying spirit is mainly produced from the doradilla grape - to ask the Commonwealth Government to pay £129,050 to tide the growers of those grapes over their present difficulties and enable them to find export markets. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) suggested, by interjection, that grapes other than the doradilla are used for the production of fortifying spirit. That brings me to a consideration of the circumstances of the growers of mataro and other grapes. They come mainly from the older vineyards. In 1912, and earlier, they were growing the mataro grape, never anticipating that the State Governments would practically force the returned soldier settlers or any other persons to plant the doradilla vine. I have both classes of growers in my electorate, and, whilst I am quite willing to fight for the interests of the returned soldiers, I desire to put before the committee also the position of the mataro grape growers. The Tariff Board proposal is - “ Spirit for fortifying Australian wine, distilled wholly from the fresh juice of doradilla grapes, subject to regulations, per proof gallon, 5s.; present duty, 6s.” I am forced to the conclusion that the Tariff Board, in giving an extra ls. preference in excise to the growers of the doradilla grape, desired to force the mataro grape into the wine market. Those growers of the mataro. vines who have been in the industry for many years are likely to be subjected to great hardships. Today there is in the river Murray areas a surplus of spirit manufactured from the doradilla grape, and the Tariff Board has proposed a preference of ls. per gallon for that spirit over the spirit produced from any other grape. The inevitable result will be that the doradilla spirit will be sold, and gradually the glut which is at present in the river Murray district will be transferred to the older districts, unless the growers of the mataro grape are forced to sell their product for wine-making purposes. If that should happen, what will follow? If there are too many mataro grapes, and they are used for wine-making purposes, down will come the price of those grapes. Then the grower will be forced to graft the mataro vines over to doradilla in order to get the benefit of the lower excise duty. Thus a bigger area will be brought under the doradilla vines. It is all very well to try to force the mataro grapes into the wine market, but unless the scheme is studied very carefully there is a possibility of the last position becoming worse than the first. Last week I visited Tanunda at the request of the Barossa Vine-growers Association, and several proposals were put before me. I have represented them to the proper authority, but I wish to record them in this House, so that there can be no doubt that I have done my duty towards the growers. The first proposal was that if the proposed bounty be granted, payment shall be made to the growers direct, and not through the big distillers and wine-makers. I have a shrewd idea why the growers desire that course to be followed, and as the Barossa Vine-growers Association has a membership of over 600, I hope the Minister will pay some attention to its request. I have had no request from the co-operative distilleries, and I suppose the growers connected with them will he satisfied to receive payment through the respective secretaries. The Barossa growers wonder why the department proposes to differentiate between them and the growers in the irrigated areas in respect of the bounty. They point out that along the river the grower gets a return of about 8 tons of doradilla grapes to the acre, whereas the return in the middle district is conservatively estimated at 3 tons. The growers in the middle districts argue that the extra return per acre along the river amply compensates the grower for the extra cost of irrigation, and therefore he should not receive an advantage over them of £1 per ton. I, too, have wondered why the department proposes to differentiate, and I have surmised that the Government has been influenced by these considerations: Firstly, the cost of irrigation; secondly, the men in the Murray River settlements are mainly returned soldiers; and, thirdly, in those settlements the Government has a fair amount of capital invested, and it therefore wishes to help those to whom it has lent money. The growers further asked me to represent to the Government that no bounty should be paid on doradilla grapes produced from vines planted after 1st January, 1924. They know, of course, that the market is glutted, and the purpose of the’ export bounty is to relieve the glut and open a market elsewhere. Therefore, the further planting of doradilla grapes should not be encouraged until markets have been established. I think that the Minister will recognize the wisdom of such a course. To show how great is the need to assist the growers, I have obtained from Mr. Montague T. Ellis, the secretary of the Barossa Vinegrowers’ Association, the prices paid for grapes during the past -seven years. His letter to me reads -
Herewith prices of Dora, grapes from 1918 to 1924. These grapes were actually sold by the writer to the distilleries mentioned, and the net cash -received as per our books. The writer can vouch for their accuracy
From 1921 to 1924 the return that these growers received dropped from £9 to £3 a ton. I merely quote- those figures to show the difficulties that the. growers in this industry are up against.
– What is the reason?
– First of all there is a glut through over-planting.
– That is over-production.
– There is no doubt about that. There is also a suspicion that the big distilleries throughout South Aus tralia are trying to place the growers in the position that they were in before the war, when they were forced to sell at prices fixed by the distilleries. One reason for this suspicion is that when the Government approached those distilleries, offering to give an export bounty on condition - and wisely so - that they paid the growers a certain price, the distilleries refused the proposal, stating that they had full stocks, and so on. There might have been a certain amount of truth in that excuse, but had they the interests of the industry and of the growers at heart, they would have closed with the Government’s offer, especially in view of the fact that there was a possibility of opening up oversea markets. The other day I received the following wire from the Moorook Returned Soldiers Association : -
Soldiers here running co-operative distillery, no payment yet made doradillas. Apparently do not participate proposed bounty until sales eventuate. Require immediate assistance. Situation desperate.
I approached Mr. Oakley, Controller of Customs, to ‘ ascertain whether returned soldiers who were shareholders in a cooperative distillery on the River Murray would be eligible to receive a bounty on the grapes put through that distillery. He told me, after reading the wire, that, provided the word “ sales “ mentioned therein meant sales of brandy and other spirit, and supposing the co-operative distillery advanced, say, 30s. per ton on grapes, the returned soldiers who were shareholders in that distillery would be eligible to receive the maximum amount of the bounty for the irrigated areas, namely, £2 per ton. As the “Minister has not contradicted me, I presume that that, is the true position. This is the only speech that has been made in this chamber setting out the position of the growers, and I have therefore endeavoured to place the facts fully before the Minister.
– The honorable member no doubt understands that the spirit is not marketable for two years, because it must remain in the wood for that period.
– That applies as far as brandy is concerned; but I do not think that fortifying spirit would be kept in the wood for two years. The trouble is that in the past cheap spirits have been brought from overseas, and there: is no’ guarantee that it has been kept in the -wood for two years.
– Accompanying the imported spirit is a certificate to that effect from the Customs of the country in which it was produced.
– The certificate, in the case of some imported spirits, is merely one given by the local mayor.
– The spirit made in Australia’ is carefully supervised” by the Customs. -
– And also that imported from overseas.
– I should not trust certificates accompanying spirits imported from overseas. I have been assured by those concerned in the industry that in order to facilitate the export of .spirit, and the netting of a quick return, foreign Customs officials would certify incorrectly as to the length of time it had been kept in wood. In any case, -why import spirit from overseas? I would go as far as to say that no spirit from overseas intended for human consumption should be permitted to enter Australia. We manufacture in Australia sufficient spirit to meet our own needs. By prohibiting the importation of foreign spirit, we should have the advantage of knowing that all’ spirit consumed in Australia had’ been two years in the wood, and, therefore; would probably be a much more wholesome drink than the imported article.
It has often been stated that the NorthSouth line is not a paying proposition, and this will not be denied by any person who has visited Oodnadatta. It was never intended to end that line at Oodnadatta, but to continue it to Darwin, via the Macdonnell Ranges, to which point it would be possible to bring from almost any part of the Northern Territory cattle to be trucked southward. A journey of 250 miles on the hoof from Macdonnell Ranges to Oodnadatta would, in an ordinary season, take condition off any cattle, quite apart from the lack of proper watering facilities, as described by Dr. Stefansson in a newspaper article recently. The loss on the North-South line will increase unless the Commonwealth Government fulfils its legal and moral obligation to- South Australia by continuing the line to1 the Macdonnell
Ranges. This Government has notified the South Australian Government that after the end of next year South Australian rolling-stock will not be required on that line. Orders have been placed for locomotives, trucks, and carriages. It is intended to expend over £250,000 to improve the facilities on a railway ending in a desert. I am still waiting to hear whether the Government has decided to continue the line to the Macdonnell Ranges. In the past; when not using this rolling-stock for trucking cattle, the South Australian Government has used it on other narrow-gauge lines. but the bulk of the new rolling-stock when provided by this Government, will remain idle for at least five months out of twelve. The interest bill and wages bill will still have to be met, and the loss on the line will be greater than before. I regret very much that the Government has seen fit to take such a step. The present loss of over £70,000 on that line will not be reduced until the ‘ terminus has been extended to the fertile regions of the Macdonnell Ranges.
I regret that in the Estimates this year no provision has been made for the erection of a Commonwealth Serum Laboratory to serve the river Murray districts. From my correspondence with the department, I gather that it is intended, ultimately, to establish a laboratory at Morgan. At first sight this proposal may seem wise, but a closer examination will prove it to be otherwise. I have nothing to say against Morgan, or its people. A Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital has recently been erected at Murray Bridge, and in many respects that institution is thoroughly up to date. The serum laboratory should be established at that town. Morgan is the terminus of a railway line, and a proposal to extend it along the north bank of the river Murray was turned down by the South Australian Railways Standing Committee. Many railways converge upon Murray Bridge. A bridge is now being built across the Murray River at Paringa, to connect Renmark and the northern bank settlements with .Adelaide. Loxton, a prosperous town on the south bank of the river, has a railway that connects with Adelaide, via Murray Bridge.
A railway is “being constructed from Moorook, which is the centre of a prosperous wheat-farming district, to Wanbi, and traffic from this line will go via Murray Bridge.. Waikerie has a railway that goes to Adelaide via Murray Bridge. There is a line to Peebinga, and traffic from it will go through Murray Bridge. There is the fertile and rapidlydeveloping district of Pinnaroo, the traffic from which goes through Murray .Bridge to Adelaide. Traffic from districts in the south-east of South Australia, and from what is called the Ninety Mile Desert, goes through Murray Bridge. The line from Sedan, which runs down the Murray Flats, does not go into Murray Bridge, but into Monarto South, which is only 12 miles from Murray Bridge. The present Minister for Health is a South Australian, who knows the facts better than the previous Minister, who seemed to favour Morgan. I am satisfied that with his knowledge of South Australian conditions he will readily realize that of all the places in the newer districts along the River Murray, the best for the laboratory is -Murray Bridge. There are other places like Waikerie, Loxton, and Renmark, that have hospitals, and any of them would be’- preferable to Morgan. There is no doubt that Murray Bridge, which has a population of 6,000, should have this facility.
At a distance of 12$ miles from Adelaide there is the rapidly-developing township of Salisbury. The telephone regulations say that the metropolitan telephone network extends for a radius of only 10 miles, air line, from the General . Post Office. The people of Salisbury are naturally anxious to come within the me’tropolitan network. I approached the PostmasterGeneral, and his reply was that if the radius was extended beyond the 10- mile limit now fix’ed, it would have the effect, particularly in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, of bringing an increased number of subscribers within the metropolitan network, necessitating the ‘ duplication of many of the junction lines and a big increase in the equipment. As these outer divisions of Sydney, Melbourne, and the other capitals develop, and the number of electors increases, the radius of the metropolitan network will have to be extended to include them. I hope the Postmaster-General will give the matter consideration, and, if possible, will increase the present radius.
On several occasions I have urged that allowance postmasters should be divided into two classes - those who keep stores or other places of business, and those who do not. The person who has a business naturally has to be on duty to attend to it, but the others, among whom axe returned soldiers and widows or relatives of former postmasters, have frequently to. be tied to their office for .postal duties only. The payment that some of them receive is too low. Those who axe not kept in the post offices by their own businesses should receive a larger return than the others, but I maintain that all of them are underpaid. I have -some letters that I must read to the committee in support of contentions I have advanced previously. When the Treasurer can give £1,000,000 a year in reduced postal rates to big business interests, he ought surely to be able to give some consideration to the claims of allowance postmasters. A letter I have received from Pyap, in South Australia, says, among other things -
As one who has served the department faithfully during the past 28 years in my present office, 1 am far from toeing satisfied with the manner in which the department considers the non-official postmasters. The majority of. these officials are noted for their civility and courteous manner towards the public when engaged in their departmental duties. As regards my office and remuneration for duties performed, I am receiving less per annum to-day, with twelve subscribers on the exchange, as against only three twelve months ago. This matter I referred to yon some little while ago, when I whs reduced in salary through supposed loss of revenue, although during the period of supposed loss the exchange was increased by eight new subscribers. It is now about twelve months since that’ event, yet with the increase of revenue from subscribers’ rentals and telephone business, nothing is heard of a refund of my lost portion of salary. My present salary is £64 per annum, or £1 6s. 8d”. per week. Out of that salary I have to provide a telephonist to operate at the switchboard from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. This work is performed by my ‘ daughter, to whom I cannot allow the” rate per week she is justly entitled to, viz., £2 10s., which is the figure paid by the department to telephonists in official offices. You will see the gross injustice meted out when the salary allowed is not sufficient for the telephonist, independent of the official, duties of postmaster in charge.
Although in this and similar cases there has been an increase in business following an increase in the number of telephone lines, the Government, which gave £1,000,000 to big interests, has re’duced the remuneration of allowance postmasters. I have received the following letter from Penfield, in South Australia : -
I keep the post office here, and I am not at all satisfied with the small salary which I get for the trouble it give’s. I receive £2 5s. per month. It is worth much more. It is a terrible tie. The only days we do not get the mail is Christmas Day and Good Friday. The mail comes daily, and I have to find my own matches for sealing mail and registered bags. I have to pay rent for the premises in which the post office is kept. The hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This woman is receiving the magnificent salary of £2 5s. a month. She has to pay the rent of the premises, provide her own matches and light, and is on call the whole week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– That is what one would expect from this Government.
– Then all I can say is that it is time the reign of the big man came to an end and the reign of the small man began. If these allowance postmasters only knew their own strength, and would organize themselves, they could in closely-contested electorates control the result of the political contests and thus change the government of the country. If they do not receive just treatment from this Government, I trust they will elect another government that will deal with them more humanely.
– Has the remuneration of the allowance postmaster who wrote that letter been reduced?
– I do not say that it has. If it was reduced any further, the only place left for the recipient would be the grave.
– I thought the honorable member was accusing the Government of reducing it.
– I am accusing the Government of reducing the rate paid to allowance postmasters for telephone calls, while refusingto collect £2,000,000 of taxation from bigland-holders and presenting big businesses with £1,000,000 in the form of reduced postal rates. It was the same Government that sacrificed the Commonwealth Woollen Mills.
– Surely a reduction of postal rates does not benefit the big man only !
– How many letters are written by the average working man, farmer, gardener, or dairyman ? There is not only the reduction in the rate of postage from 2d. to l½d., but the banks, insurance companies, agents, and big warehouses are allowed to post an ounce for l½d., whereas previously they would have to pay 4d. for that weight.
– The big business houses will “ pass it on “ all right.
– It is “ all right “ for the honorable member who sits behind a government which considers the interests of big men, but it is not all right for the small men in this country. The quicker those men realize the facts and decide to make a change in the Government, the better it will be for them.
– Were the allowance postmasters better paid when the postage rate was 2d.?
– The Treasurer has shown that, during the last twelve months, that is to say, during the first twelve months of reduced postage, the revenue of the Postal Department has declined by £1,000,000. The advantage has not gone to the small man. It is merely a rake-off by the big cityinterests. Why has this concession been given ? It has been given because the so-called Country party, having got their rake-off for the pastoralists - the rake-off to which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was referring this afternoon - the big city interests must also get their rake-off in the shape of a reduction in the postal rate.
– The honorable member has not answered my question. I asked him if the allowance postmasters were paid more when the rate of postage was 2d. than they are now paid with the rate at l½d.
– Yes; they were, in several directions. One direction was in connexion with telephone exchanges. Another direction was in connexion with the making up of road bags. They were paid according to the number of road bags they made up, but this right was taken away from them as soon as cheap postage was brought about, and now the mailman picks up the road mail letters in one big bag as he goes along from post office to post office. I have one other letter to read. It is as follows: -
About October a memo. came along: “Your salary for the ensuing year is fixed “ at soandso. That’s all. We get no statement.
That is one of my objections to the methods of the Postal Department. They do not let these people know on what basis they are paid. They give them no opportunity to determine whether they are fairly paid or not. The letter proceeds -
How it is made up only the heads o”f the department know. I receive the sum at present of £65 per year for six days per week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fees from telephones are part of this sum, and they install telephones all over the district and allow them ito be thrown open to the public. I could write pages regarding these sweaters, but it would not avail.
Once again I put in a plea for consideration for these allowance postmasters. There are 200 of them in my electorate, and, as there are 75 electorates in the Commonwealth, they are a force that should make itself felt at the ballot-box at the coming election to remove from office a government that, instead of giving the underpaid a lift, gives them a lower salary and looks after its own friends by reducing the income tax, so that a man with an income of £40,000 a year will secure a reduction of 10 per cent, in his tax.
– .The honorable member for Parkes cannot say that there is no man in Australia with an income of £40,000 a year. A reduction of 10 per cent, will make a difference of £4,000 to one individual, yet women are asked to look after post offices from 9’ o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock for an allowance of £2 10s. a month. It is time that, not only honorable members of the Opposition,- but also members on the Government side, took up the cudgels for these under-paid and sweated officers, who are fulfilling a public service, and tried to get justice for them.
– I congratulate the Treasurer (Dr.’ Earle Page) on the budget he has brought forward. It is satisfactory to know that the national debt has been reduced to the extent of about £9,000,000, of which £7,000,000 was dead weight. One item in the budget which will give satisfaction to all sections of the community is the raising of the income tax exemption. It will be gratifying to men with moderate incomes. A man with a family of four under the age of 16 will be exempted to the extent of about £10 per week ; that is to say, £300 general exemption and £200 for the four. children, before he will be called upon to pay Commonwealth income tax. One aspect of the reduction of the income tax has not yet been touched upon. It has been proposed more than once that the Commonwealth should evacuate the field of taxation upon individual incomes, and at the same time retain in the Commonwealth exchequer the amount paid to the states as per capita payments. If this is done, it will simplify taxation operations, but at the present time the Treasurer can say to the state Treasurers, “ I am now collecting £11,000,000 in income tax, of which £9,000,000 represents the taxation on individual income taxpayers, as distinct from companies. If I refrain from paying you £7,000,000 in per capita payments, and abandon the taxation of individuals’ incomes, you will have a margin of £2,000,000.” With a budget of that character, the Commonwealth Treasurer may possibly induce the state Treasurers to accept his proposal voluntarily, but, if we whittle away our revenue from the income tax by the proposed exemptions, the Commonwealth Treasurer will not be in such a fortunate position to bargain with the state Treasurers. He would probably have to say to them, “ I shall relinquish my field of taxation to the extent of £7,000,000, and retain the per capita grant of an equal amount.”
My particular object in rising to-night was to speak of the £500,000 which the Treasurer announced is to be ear-marked for the marketing of primary produce, and the speech of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), delivered in his usual impetuous style, acted as a spur to me to rise and say something also aboutagricultural machinery. I interjected while the honorable member was speaking, but I think he misunderstood what I said. I interjected that it was my belief that, to some extent, the prospect of securing preference for dried fruits in Canada was hindered by the fact that we were imposing a heavy tariff on agricultural machinery. I propose to give some figures in regard to that class of machinery. A few minutes ago honorable members opposite informed me by interjection that they could prove that agricultural implements are more costly in freetrade New Zealand than they are in Australia.
– That is so.
– I shall give some figures to refute that statement. At the present time the price of a Canadian binder is £47 in Canada, £70 in New Zealand, and £92 in Australia.
– Has the honorable member price-lists for the different countries ?
– I have the latest figures from the very best sources. Had I known that honorable members opposite were about to raise this issue I could have brought a list showing that the same applies, in a more or less degree, to most agricultural implements made in Canada, and sold in New Zealand and Australia. It is quite true that about a year ago the Australian agricultural implement manufacturers put arguments before the Tariff Board in an attempt to prove that, in spite of the fact that Australia had a high tariff on agricultural machinery, Australian implements were cheaper than were Canadian implements in New Zealand. That was absolutely true at the time, and the reason for it was that the freights between Canada and the four most important ports of New Zealand were extraordinarily high. They had not dropped to anything like their present level. On the other hand, freights from Canada to Australia had already dropped very considerably below the peak war level. As a consequence the prices of Canadian agricultural implements were a little higher in New Zealand than they were in Australia, and I believe that I am not uncharitable when I say that the Australian agricultural implement makers, when they put this argument before the Tariff Board, knew quite well that the higher price in New Zealand of Canadian agricultural implements was a purely temporary matter, due to the fact that the freights between Canada and New Zealand were very much higher than they were to Australia. At present the freights from Canada to the four principal ports of New Zealand and from Canada to Melbourne and Sydney are .identical, and the result is that the Canadian binder, which costs £47; in Canada, is sold in New Zealand at £70, and in Australia at £92. I. wish to be absolutely just to our agricultural implement makers. I admit that they have not used to the fullest extent the protection afforded to them by the tariff; that is to say, they sell their binder at £80 instead of at £92, which they could charge in competition with the Canadian article. I am informed that owing to the fact that a larger number of machines can be sold in Victoria than in New Zealand, and that only one head office is needed to regulate the trade, whereas four offices are required in New Zealand, the Canadian binder, if there were no duty to be paid, could be sold, here for £65 instead of £70, the price which rules in New Zealand. I want to show why the price of £47 in Canada is nearly doubled in Australia. Even with a duty of 45 per cent, one wonders how an article worth £47 in Canada cannot be sold at less than £92 in Victoria. The 45 per cent, duty is not imposed on the net £100 worth of machinery leaving Canada. The Customs Department, in order to find a basis on which to fix the duty, adds £5 to cover railage, freight, and packing. That makes the amount £105. Then another 10 per cent, is added to cover loss on exchange. It is a most extraordinary anomaly. I believe that when this Parliament passed the tariff of 1921 the intention was that where we were dealing with goods from countries such as Germany, with depreciated currencies, the Customs authorities should have the right to add to the home consumption price of the article an amount sufficient to cover the depreciated currency, and thus bring it to par. There was some reason for doing that. But I understand that some particularly bright intellect in this House made the suggestion that if this were done it might be as well to apply it both ways, and no one had the wit to realize what the result would be. The- result is that extraordinary blot on our tariff by which, when the rate of exchange is # against Australia, the amount by which it is’ against us is actually added to the invoice price, and the tariff is increased accordingly. The action taken is in the same category as charging a man income tax on his losses. If we add this 10 per cent, to the £105, we get £115 10s., because the 10 per cent, is charged not only on the £100 worth of machinery, but also on the £5 added for railage, freight, and packing. Then there is also a statutory 10 per cent, to be added, which increases the amount to £127 ls. Fortyfive per cent, duty oh that amount is £57 4s., the duty being 30 per cent. British preferential, 40 per cent, intermediate, and 45 per cent, general. Canada, although part of the Empire, and inhabited by people of our own kith and kin, is charged the full 45 per cent., and the result is that the actual fiscal protection amounts to 57.2 per cent. The natural protection, as between Canada and Australia, taking into account ocean freight, marine insurance, handling charges, and the very great exchange loss, amounts to an additional 40.2 per cent., with the result that the total protection is 97.4 per cent. This is borne out by the difference in the prices of binders in the two countries, namely, £47 in Canada and £92 in Australia. I have used the binder for the purpose of my argument, but there are other implements in respect of which very much the same argument could be applied. I believe in using Australian agricultural implements. I do not desire to see a single additional machine imported, but the producer who has to sell whatever he grows in the open markets of the world should be able to buy Australian machinery at competitive rates. If it is not possible for that to be done owing to the Australian standard of wages and other conditions, the implement manufacturing industry should be assisted by a bounty, rather than that the primary producer should be forced to bear the burden of a tariff ; otherwise we are asking the primary producer to carry a secondary industry on his back.
A good “deal is heard in these days about the cost of production. It seems to me that it is very difficult to use that measurestick in deciding whether an article is cheap or dear; but there is one yardstick that we can use, and that is world value. Assuming that a commodity that can be bought at less than the world value is cheap, and that anything that costs more than that is dear, we come to the ‘ conclusion that the Australian farmer, at any rate, has to buy his agricultural implements in a very dear market. Let us for a moment consider what he has to sell. About a fortnight ago I referred in this House to the dairying industry, and to the marketing of butter. I pointed out that for the greater part of the year the butter producer has to accept, for his local sale, export parity rates. I said that in a protectionist country it is un- reasonable for people to expect to be able to purchase, fox their local requirements, butter at export parity rates. I should not expect an agricultural implement maker in a protectionist country like Australia to sell his product locally at export parity rates, though he might be able to do so at import parity without duty.
– Would the honorable member expect it of a sugar-grower ?
– I should not expect it in a protectionist country of any man. It is well to contrast the position of a man who has to sell in an export parity market with that of one who has to sell in an import parity market. The man who produces butter has to buy everything used on his farm at an import parity level, and for everything he sells he receives the export parity rate, which means world’s value less the tremendous cost for transportation and an allowance for deterioration. I shall try to show what the export parity means. I said a fortnight ago -that the export parity of butter was about 16s. per cwt. less than world’s value. . I find now that I understated the position, since it is at present from 20s. to 22s. per cwt. less than world’s value. One of the items that accounts for the difference is the freight, which is now Id. per lb. Another item is Jd. per lb. for exchange, so that on those two items alone there is a deduction of 1¾d. per lb. Then, again, if it were possible to send our butter to London by wireless, and put it on the grocer’s counter in London in as fresh a condition as it is retailed in the Melbourne shops, it could command a price equal to the best Danish butter. This was proved beyond doubt some years ago when butter, which had been sent from Australia to London, was shipped back with some Danish butter. The Australian article had passed through the tropics twice, while the Danish butter had been through that region only once, and when the two articles reached here the Australian butter was found to oe at least equal in quality to the Danish-. Were it possible’ to eliminate the two months’ carriage in refrigerated chambers, and the delay in putting our butter on the English market, the Australian producer should be able to obtain at least the equivalent of the Danish price. I think it can be said that we lose at least Id. per lb. owing to the fact that our butter when marketed, in London is not quite fresh, having lost some of its nutty flavour. Furthermore, we lose 2£d. per lb. on account . of freight, exchange, and handling charges. Consequently we have to sell it at 3Jd. per lb. less than it would be worth if it could be put on the market free of all export charges and without deterioration. From this fact it is easy to conclude that if the export parity rate determines the local price, the producer, during the export season, has virtually to bear the loss of heavy ocean freight, not merely on the butter that he sends overseas, but also on that which is consumed within this country. On butter which is never transported he loses d. per lb. exchange, although it has not the remotest association with the exchange position, being marketed here, and he loses Id. a lb. for deterioration on butter that is absolutely fresh and has not had time to deteriorate. Is it reasonable that in a protectionist country an article that is put on the market in a fresh condition should be .depreciated to the extent of 3¼d. per lb. to enable the local market to be in sympathy with the London .market ? If, say, as the result of a dock strike in the Old Country, or in consequence of one or two Australian steamers arriving simultaneously with a couple of vessels from New Zealand, there were a glut on theEnglish butter market, I ask if it is fair to expect the Australian producer to suffer in his local market by reason of something that has happened 12,000 miles away?
– The law of supply and demand must operate.
– Would the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) approve of an industrialist in Australia having his wages temporarily reduced on account of something that occurred in a country 1-2,000 miles across the ocean ?
– No, but the honorable member stands for that principle, and we do not.
– I maintain that, so long as a country has a- protectionist policy, the law of supply and demand cannot operate there. A fortnight ago I sought to explain, for the benefit of honorable members who were not conversant with the very small profits made in the dairying .industry, that a returned soldier taking up a dairy farm, and milking eighteen cows of average: type, yielding 130: or 140 lb. of butter fat per annum, with butter fat at the. average price realized during the last twelve months, would obtain in actual profit, as expressed in wages, about 5d. per hour. I allowed for 5 per cent, interest on his land, “and interest and depreciation on his stock and plant, and the return I gave was certainly not an under-estimate. Further, in order to show that men who were conducting herds on a very efficient basis, and obtaining extra yields, were not by any means making fortunes with butter at the price ruling, I gave figures to show that where the yield was 250 lb. of butter fat a year, or practically double the Australian average, and where allowance was made for overhead charges, including y per cent, interest on land, interest and depreciation on stock and plant, and a small sum for hand feeding, the net profit for that part of the time spent on dairying only amounted to ls. 4d. an hour. That is an effective answer to the assertion that if something were done to artificially raise the price to the Australian consumer, it would be tremendously profitable for the. man who is efficient. I should like to point out that, although some honorable members say that the main cause of the low returns from dairying is the high price of the land, that is not the only aspect to consider. Take the case of the soldier settler whom I quoted previously, and who milked eighteen cows. If he owned his land, cows, .and plant, and if they only came up to the standard I have mentioned, his total return, allowing for the skimmed milk in addition to the cream, would give him an income, if spread evenly over the whole year, of about £3 12s. per week. That is a smaller sum than is received under our industrial System by the can-washer, the lowest-paid operative in a butter factory. It seems to me that it can be easily proved that butter is one of the cheapest commodities on earth, when judged by the standard of the labour, employed in producing it. As I previously pointed out, the reason for that is that the dairying industry depends almost entirely on unpaid family labour. The practice being followed by some housewives in this city, I believe, is to buy flour in order to bake their own bread. It is thought that a saving can be thereby effected. If the same practice were followed in regard to butter, a housewife would require to buy 9 quarts of milk to produce a lb. of butter, and, with milk at 9d. a quart, the butter would cost 6s. 9d. per lb. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) recently asked, by way of interjection, why the dairymen wanted legislation to assist them, and why they should not help themselves. I propose to show by what means the dairymen have, in the last two years, adopted a system for self-help. Perhaps it would be convenient to report progress at this stage.
Reparations: Summary of Events Leading up to Agreement.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
In view of recent Government advices, and the news recorded in the press that an agreement has been reached between the various countries interested in the complicated issues arising from the reparations question, I think the House might like me to give a brief summary of the events which have led up to this happy conclusion. The appointment of the Dawes Committee, the report of which has just been adopted, had its genesis in the Imperial Conference that was held in October last. As I indicated in this House at the time, the reparations question was one of the most important to which that conference devoted its attention. The British Government had exhausted every suggestion for a possible way out of the impasse into which Europe had been brought, primarily as a result of the occupation by France of the Ruhr. The effects of such an occupation were, in themselves, complicated enough, and they were further intensified by political issues. Ever since the war ceased, the paramount question in French politicshas been that of reparations, upon which the fate of many governments has turned. The position has been almost precisely the same in Germany. All suggestions for a solution of the difficulty had, up to the time of the last Imperial Conference, broken down at the outset by the failure to reach any agreement as to the basis upon which discussions should proceed at any conference that might be decided upon. Lord Curzon, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, took the Imperial Conference over ‘ the whole ground of reparations in a full statement which has already been published. The conference then devoted itself to a thorough examination of the position. The view which I emphasized was that no solution of this complicated problem was possible without the participation of the United States of America. This view was generally accepted, and on the advice of the Imperial Conference, and with its full support, the British Government put forward to the allied governments two proposals for securing the participation of the United States of America in a full reconsideration of the whole reparations question. I need not now enter into the details of these proposals, which were published at the time. What I wish to emphasize, however, is that the action of the British Government, supported as it was by representatives of all the dominions assembled in conference, may fairly be regarded as being primarily responsible for the great advancement which has been made. On the 30th November last it was announced, after a considerable amount of correspondence had passed between Washington and the allied capitals, that two committees of experts, drawn from the allied countries and America, were to be appointed. The first committee was entrusted with an inquiry as to how Germany could, in conformity with the Treaty of Versailles and arrangements subsequently made, carry out her obligations and at the same time balance her budget and stabilize her currency. This committee was not called upon to determine Germany’s liabilities, nor to alter their total sum. The second committee was charged with the task of estimating the value of German capital which had escaped abroad, and of devising means for bringing about its return to Germany. The Government of the United States of America acquiesced in the appointment of American representatives on both bodies in an individual capacity, and the American member, General Dawes, was appointed chairman of the first committee. In April of this year, the two committees presented comprehensive reports to the Reparations Commission. I do not propose to deal in detail with these reports, as they have already been published in full. I have summarized them, and as I am really answering questions that have been asked at different times by honorable members, perhaps I may be allowed to have the summary inserted in Hansard without reading it. The outstanding facts emphasized by the first committee’s report may be summed up as follow : -
I shall not go further into the details of the report, except to point out that the committee has been loath to. interfere to any unnecessary extent with the control of Germany’s revenue and expenditure. They have confined themselves to a demand that certain specific tax revenue shall be under control. Their wish throughout has been to place the onus of responsibility on the German Government, and to secure for the latter the fullest unfettered opportunities for meeting its obligations. The last and most important part of their proposals is for the issue by Germany in the first year of a foreign loan of 800,000,000 gold marks (i.e., £40^000,000 sterling) for the double purpose of providing currency stability and financing deliveries in kind. During the period of economic rehabilitation for the success of this loan, it is, of course, necessary that the allies on their part should guarantee Germany against any such interference as would spoil the prospects of the loan. I shall not discuss the report of the second committee, presided over by Mr. McKenna, since its estimate of the amount of German capital which had been transferred abroad is of academic rather than practical interest. There is every, reason to suppose that the best way of inducing this capital to return to Germany is by the adoption of the plan proposed in the Dawes report. The Dawes report, as it has been called, was greeted very cordially throughout the world as constituting a reasonable basis of settlement. Progress was, however, somewhat delayed on account of the fact that, following upon the French elections in May, there was a change of government in France, and some weeks, necessarily elapsed before the new French Prime Minister, Monsieur Herriot, was able to devote himself to its detailed consideration. At the beginning of July, as a result of a meeting between M. Harriot and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, the British and French Governments came to a general agreement as to the best method for giving effect to the Dawes plan. It was decided to hold a conference of all the allies on the 16th July, at which it was hoped that the United States of America would be represented. As the House is aware, that conference was held; the United States of America was represented, and every detail of the difficult question was thoroughly threshed out. The Commonwealth Government and the other dominions were represented, by the panel system, on the British delegation, and I have been kept fully informed from day to -day of the varying phases of the negotiations. It was at first contemplated that representation of the dominions at the main conference should be individual and separate, but when we were advised by the British Prime Minister that the position was already delicate, and that to press’ for such a form of representation would jeopardize and most certainly delay the solution of this most important problem, the Australian Government unhesitatingly agreed to representation by means of the panel system, on the distinct understanding that such a course should not be regarded as a precedent. It was clear from the start that all the allied countries were anxious to carry out the recommendations qf the Dawes report, but it was perhaps natural that the French Government should feel reluctant to grant any further freedom of action to Germany, and to withdraw from its occupation of the Ruhr until it was quite sure that Germany intended loyally to carry out her obligations under the new scheme. On the other hand, it was equally clear that Germany could hardly be expected to accept the new scheme unless she could secure for herself, in the near future, full freedom to develop her great industrial districts. These were the most difficult questions requiring settlement, but I am glad to be able to inform the House that a com,plete solution has been arrived at. The agreement signed, comprises, shortly, a protocol and four annexes. Annex one is ‘ an agreement between the German Government and the Reparation Commission relative to the carrying out of the Dawes plan. Annex two is an agree- ment between the allied and German Governments, provided for arbitration in ease of dispute arising over- the interpretation or working of the plan. Annex three gives the time-table of the dates upon which Germany and the allies will carry out their respective obligations. Annex four comprises the arrangements for considering and dealing with Germany’s possible default. ‘ The problem of security for those who are prepared 10 lend money to Germany has been settled by the making of elaborate arrangements, providing for participation of an American official or (more probably) unofficial representative in any meeting of the Reparation Commission called to consider the question of Germany’s default, and, if necessary, the reference of this question to impartial arbitration, and, further, the allies have pledged themselves, in the event of their being forced to take “ sanctions,” as they are called, against Germany, to avoid interference with such specific securities as have been pledged to the service of the loan. Lastly, as a result of prolonged negotiations with the German delegatos to the conference, a time-table has been agreed upon, according to which the French and Belgian Governments will evacuate the districts they have occupied on the right of the Rhine in successive stages within the maximum period of twelve months, “ if the London agreements are carried out in the spirit of good faith and pacification.” The Dawes plan, including Germany’s promulgation of the necessary laws, the establishment of the bank of issue and of the railway company, and the’ fulfilment of contracts for the loan of 800,000,000 gold marks, is to be put into execution not later than the 20th September next. The restoration of the fiscal and economic unity of. Germany is to be completed on the 5th .October. As soon as the full text of the agreement has been received it will be laid upon the table for the information of honorable members. All that now remains is for the agreement to be formally signed on the 30th of this month, after ratification by the French and German Parliaments. While, as I have already said, both in Germany and in France the question is somewhat complicated by political issues, the action, of the French in withdrawing at once from certain occupied districts has had such profound effect that there is every hope that this important question, which has kept Europe seething with unrest, has now been settled. The adoption of the Dawes report by the allied conference is the greatest step that has been taken towards permanent peace in Europe since the signing of the armistice. We can only express the fervent hope that the agreements will be formally ratified, and that a new era of mutual trust and goodwill will dawn in Europe.
– I assume that it is the desire of the House that the summary of the Dawes report should be embodied in the Hansard report of the Prime Minister’s speech, as requested by the right honorable gentleman.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240819_reps_9_108/>.