9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the progress being made by the expedition which has been sent to search for the supposed survivors of the Douglas Mawson wreck? Is he satisfied that all reasonable steps are being taken for the rescue of the women who are said to be held in captivity by the natives?
– The honorable member’s question is answered by the following statement, which has been supplied to me by the Minister for Home and Territories : -
The Commonwealth Government is keenly sensible of its responsibilities in regard to measures for the relief and rescue of the supposed survivors of the Douglas Mawson, and is satisfied that the arrangements made were the best possible in the circumstances. The unfair and un justifiable) criticism directed against the
Government could not have arisen if the critics hod a proper knowledge or understanding of the facts. The Douglas Mawson was not a, vessel engaged in the Northern Territory trade. She was owned by the Queensland Government, and was under charter to a private firm trading between Brisbane and Queensland ports in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The last that is definitely known of her is that she left Burketown on the 26th March, 1923, and was sighted ofl’ Batavia River on the 28th March. When she was reported missing, there was nothing to suggest that she had been wrecked on the Northern Territory coast, as her movements were ordinarily confined to the eastern shores of the Gulf. The obligation to search for her was one that rested on the Queensland Government, and searches were duly made both by sea and land parties, but no trace of her was found. In April, 1924, it was reported that signs of wreckage had been found in the vicinity of Mount Alexander, in the Northern Territory. A search was at once undertaken by the Northern Territory Administration, two mounted constables, with bblack trackers, being dispatched by the John Alee to the Mount Alexander district. The police were instructed to make us complete a search as possible, and to pay special regard to -the possibility of any survivors having reached the mainland or the islands off the coast. A thorough search, extending over a period of four weeks, was made, but nothing was discovered in the vicinity of Mount Alexander that could have been associated with the wreck. Some pieces of wreckage were subsequently found at Melville Island and Bradshaw’s Inlet; but there were no traces of survivors. Nothing further transpired until Dr. Wade reported to the Administrator statements made to him by natives during his recent visit to the Gulf. The first intimation of this report appeared in the press on the 18th JJuly, 1924. The Home and Territories Department immediately communicated with the Administrator, and received from him a reply confirming the press statement. The Administrator, at the same time, asked for, and was immediately given by the Minister, a free hand and full authority to organize and carry out a relief expedition, and to incur whatever expenditure was necessary for the purpose. In acceding to the Administrator’s request and conferring upon him the authority he desired, the Minister felt that it was a sound principle to allow the authorities on the spot, who were in a better position to judge of the needs of the situation, to exercise discretion as to the nature of the arrangements^ to be observed. He was fortified in this opinion by the fact that the Administrator had had years “of personal experience of both shores of Cape York Peninsula, where he had personally carried out several expeditions of the character contemplated. The only vessel available for the purpose was the Huddersfield; and as she had undergone a special trial in Sydney Harbour, when she attained a speed of 5.54 knots per hour against wind and tide, and of 7.06 knots per hour with a following wind and tide, it was quite reasonable to expert her to be able to reach the supposed scene of the wreck within a few days, and certainly much sooner than a vessel despatched from any other part of Australia could have done. The Administrator originally intended to equip two parties, one to operate from the sea, and the other from the land. He was reluctantly compelled to relinquish the idea of a lond party, because of the serious obstacles to travelling presented by the intervening country, which consists of difficult ranges and large swamps. On the 23rd July, the Administrator intimated that . the Huddersfield would leave Darwin on the 30th July; and, as special constables had to be enlisted, the’ party properly equipped and supplied, and alterations made to the ship for the accommodation of horses, &c, that date was npt considered unsatisfactory. Unforeseen difficulties, however, arose, for which neither the Administrator nor the Minister was in any way responsible. Officers and members of the crew left the Huddersfield, a development which no one, having regard to the purposes for which the expedition was being organized, could have anticipated; and, later, engine troubles supervened. The Huddersfield, it should be borne in mind, is a privately-owned vessel, not a Government vessel. The vessel eventually left Darwin on the 5th August, direct for Elcho Island, where it had been decided she should remain, pending the result of negotiations by a small party which would proceed ‘from the island to the mainland, and there endeavour, by peaceful means, to effect the release of the women said to be in the hands of the natives. his P procedure was considered to be in the highest degree advisable, in the interests of the women themselves, because of a fear that they might be murdered by the natives upon the approach of an armed party. The statement that the detention of the Huddersfield at Elcho Island’ is due to the shortage of provisions is absolutely false. The peaceful party, under a leader accustomed to dealing with natives, ‘is now proceeding with its negotiations, and no move will be made by the armed party to take up the search until such negotiations have definitely failed. Elcho Island ls in the immediate vicinity of the locality inhabited by the natives who are said to be holding the women; but there is no telegraphic communication between the island and Darwin. As, moreover, the island is out of the track of the regular coastal trading vessels, the department is forced to depend for reliable information on small trading luggers which occasionally pass. Consequently, some days must elapse before any further advice is received. The suggestion that the Government has exhibited callousness or indifference in regard to this grave matter is unworthy and unfounded. This is the second occasion this year on which the Commonwealth Government has undertaken a search for survivors of the Douglas Mawson. As has already been pointed out, a search was made earlier in the present year, but, although some weeks were devoted to the work, it was without result.- The means adopted are the only ones which afford the slightest prospect of success. The dispatch of a warship would almost certainly nave defeated the object in view and ended all hope of rescuing alive the survivors, if any there be. The work calls for bushmen, and men accustomed to dealing with natives, and of such the expedition consists. It is already on the scene - a fact which does not appear to be recognized in some quarters - and is carrying out, according to plan, the operations entrusted to it. Therefore, nothing can be done at present to hasten the operations. The members of the expedition have been carefully chosen, and are ample in numbers to effectively accomplish the task that has been set for them.
I desire to add that the greatest care must be taken, iii this endeavour to rescue these unfortunate women, because, if the natives got any hint of the possibility of an armed force being despatched from: Elcho Island, they would undoubtedly be murdered, and the natives would retreat into the hinterland. An experienced bushman is, therefore, proceeding to the mainland from Elcho Island, in company with friendly natives who brought the information that the women were in the hands of the aboriginals ; and, as a result of negotiations, it is hoped to be able to detach them before an armed force lands, or action is taken against the natives COUcerned
– A little while ago, the Commonwealth Government made a grant to .an All-Australian Band which was about to proceed to Great Britain. Prior to that grant being made, a band consisting of working men, which happened to come from my electorate, applied for and was refused a similar grant. That band organized a few concerts, and later proceeded to Great Britain, where it has met with a considerable amount of success, in competition with the best bands in Great Britain. As I have been informed that the prize money available is not great, and that the band needs further financial assistance if it is to continue its tour,’ I should like to know whether the Government will consider the desirability of rendering it some assistance, seeing that it did not receive any grant before it left Australia?
– Applications were made to the Government for assistance to various bands, including that to which the honorable member refers, but all were refused except one from the All Australia Band, the members of which were recruited from all parts of the Commonwealth, which made the band really national in its composition. Although the Government gave substantial finan cial assistance to that band, it did not, unfortunately, receive sufficient funds to enable it . to proceed to Great Britain. I am sure that honorable members -were glad to hear of the success of the Newcastle Band, but whether that success warrants differentiation in its favour after it and other bands, which have not had a chance to win laurels, have been refused government assistance is a matter that will have to be considered.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I’ ask the Prime Minister if he is yet in a position to announce the composition of the new board of directors for the Commonwealth Bank, and, if not, when he will be able to make” a statement on the matter?
– I am not yet in a position to announce the personnel of the board, but hope to be able to do so within a few days.
– Has the Prime Minister read the account of the proceedings of the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, where practically all nations have agreed to confer with a view to formulating a disarmament policy, and, if so, will he indicate if it is the intention of the Government to delay any action proposed to be taken regarding the calling of tenders for the construction of two cruisers for use in Australian waters?
– I have observed what has occurred at Geneva, and, of course, the Australian representatives have taken part in the proceedings; but until something definite and concrete is submitted, the Government cannot give the undertaking asked for by the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a number of immigrants have been arrested in Melbourne and Sydney for gambling and similar offences ? Will he tell the House on whose recommendation these people came to Australia, and from which countries they came?
– The question raised by the honorable member some days ago is being looked into. I have no information concerning the migrants to whom he now refers, but I shall have inquiries made. On the adjournment a few days ago the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) drew attention to the number of migrants coming to Australia from southern European countries, and I then made a statement as to the procedure being followed.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that there is considerable discontent amongst a very large number of people who have installed receiving sets and who, . owing to the unsatisfactory nature and the low power of the Melbourne station, are not obtaining a fair return for the money they have expended on sets and for the amounts they have paid in fees, which fees have been accepted by Government officials on behalf of the Government and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Seeing that this unsatisfactory state of affairs exists, will the right honorable gentleman state how long it will be before the highpower station at Braybrook will’ be completed ?
– The honorable member forMaribyrnong is incorrect in stating that certain persons have paid money to Amalgamated Wireless Limited, because that company does not receive the licence fees.
– The Government does.
– The fees arc paid to Government officials, and, except for the sum of 5s., go to the broadcaster who supplies the programme. I shall have inquiries made as to when the station referred to will be completed and in operation.
Mr.WEST asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What, is thevalue placed on the Victoria Barracks, Paddington, New South Wales, as a property transferred from the State of New South Wales?
What is the total amount of the interest paid thereon to 30th June, 1924?
What is the amount of the annual interest on such property?
Mr. BRUCE (for Dr. Earle Page).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The original value was £210,000. On the 14th October, 1911, portion- valued at £500- was re-transferred to the state. The valuation as a transferred property at present stands at £209,500.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr. BRUCE (for Dr. Earle Page).I understand that the honorable member’s questions refer to the war loans falling due in the year 1925. On this assumption, the following information is furnished : -
CLAIMS for Compensation..
asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice- -
– The questions asked, by the honorable member refer to matters covered by Part VIII. - Reparation, of the Treaty of Versailles- Article 232 of the Treaty.,, and Annex 1 thereto. . ‘The specifics answers, to the. questions, are- 1 and 2. No individual is by law entitled to compensation under the Treaty of Versailles, although there may be strong moral claims. Germany has, defaulted in the payment of reparation as provided for by the Treaty, and there are no funds from which claims, if acknowledged, could be paid. Although the claimants have no legal right to compensation, the claims made, have been under consideration for some time with a view to ascertaining whether anything can be done to assist those who have been subjected to suffering or damage by enemy action, but no final decision has yet been reached.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), asked a question on Friday last regarding, licences for wireless broadcasting; in Tasmania. I am now able to inform the honorable member that applications are being considered, and that no licence has yet been issued. The delay has been caused by the necessity for obtaining further particularsfrom the applicants for licences.
Motion (by Mr. West) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) on account of ill health.
The following papers were presented: -
Commerce (Trade Descripitons) Act - Regular tions Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, Nos. 126, 128, 129, 130.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 127.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924,. Nos. 119, 120, 132.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquiredatBalldale, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Burnley, Victoria; - For Postal) purposes. South Hobart, Tasmania - For- Postal purposes.
Wakefield, South Australia- For Defence purposes-.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance No. 15 of 1924 - Reasons for resumption of Reserve at Alice Springs, Northern Territory; together with Sketch showing area resumed.
Papua Act - Ordinance of 1924 - No. 6 - Supply 1924-1925.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s request) :
Clause 4 -
The bounty under this act shall he payable in respect of fortified wine exported from the Commonwealth on or after the first day of September, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, and on or before the thirty-first day of August, One. thousand nine hundred and twenty-six.
Senate’s Request. - Leave out “ six,” insert “seven.”
.- I move-
That the requested amendment be made.
The effect of agreeing to the request will be to make the act operative for three: instead of two years. The, bill, as drafted, provided, for the payment of the bounty for three years, but after some discussion in this committee the Government accepted an amendment that reduced the period’ to two years. The Senate seeks to restore the original wording. The Government is prepared to agree to the request, and recommends the committee to make the desired amendment. The bounty, if it achieves its purpose, must cause an expansion of. the export trade in fortified wines,, and two years is a very short period in which to determine whether that trade, can be extended. It will probably take; three years to ascertain definitely whether the bounty is benefiting those, persons that we desire to benefit, namely, the grapegrowers. I suggest that; a period of three years is not, in the circumstances, unreasonable..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
Bill amended accordingly, and returned to the Senate.
In. Committee of Ways and Means:
That, as on the. first day of January, One. thousand nine hundred and twenty-five, at 9 . o’clock in the forenoon, Victorian time, the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921 be amended as hereunder set out, and that, on and after that date and hour, duties of excise be collected in pursuance of the schedule as so amended.
Amendment to the Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921.
The excise duty on fortifying spirit is now 6s. a gallon.. This measure is supplementary to the Wine Export Bounty Bill, with which we have just dealt. When I introduced that measure, I explained that it was proposed to reduce by1s. a gallon the excise duty on fortifying spirits made from doradilla grapes. Considerable discussion took place on the question whether the reduction! should be made, only in respect of spirit distilled from doradilla grapes, or should also embrace, spirit distilled from other grapes. The object of the Wine Export Bounty Bill is to. remedy a situation that has arisen in the doradrilla grape-growing industry. As I have pointed out on other occasions, the Governments of South Australia and Victoria required returned soldiers who. took up. certain- blocks’ of land to plant, doradilla wine, grapes; and tothat the present position is largely attributable-. The Government has examined all the; points raised on that bill, and believes that the situation will be best met, and the greatest advantage will be derived, if the reduction in excise duty is made to apply only to spirit distilled from doradilla grapes. That is the effect, of the motion that I have moved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Pratten do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I have endeavoured, on more than one occasion, to persuade the Government that the time has arrived when a general reduction should be made in excise duties: Those duties were increased during the war, when the government of the day was faced with the necessity of raising revenue by whatever means lay to its hands. Honorable members at that time, realizing the exigencies of the situation, agreed to the increasing of those duties. Very few honorable members appreciate the effect which the excise duties have upon the commercial, the industrial, and the medical enterprises of the community. Spirit of wine is the only dissolver of some of the essential ingredients in tinctures and medicines that are in general use. I do not pose as an authority in industrial matters, but I have a fairly good knowledge of their ramifications. The effect of an increase or a decrease in excise duties cannot be stated in set terms. I have been somewhat successful in obtaining a slight reduction in the duties imposed on spirits, for the benefit of the medical profession, the hos- pitals and kindred institutions. It does not lie within my power to move for a reduction now.; I can merely exercise the right that I have to express an opinion regarding the effect of heavy excise duties on spirits. It is quite evident, from the determination of the Government to close Parliament early, that I shall not have an opportunity to bring forward a motion relating to this matter. I merely impress upon the Government, therefore, the desirability of effecting a general reduction in the excise duties on spirits. A man cannot even polish a door without using spirit of wine. So general is the use of spirits that one does noc know where it begins or ends. In the case of whisky, which is worth only about 3s. a gallon, a duty of 30s. a gallon, and in some cases 33s. a gallon, is imposed. The prohibition of the use of spirituous liquors as beverages does not enter into this question, because, a greater quantity of spirit is used for industrial purposes than is consumed as drink. Had it not been for the war, the duties imposed on spirits would not now be so high. There should be a further reduction in the duty on spirits used for medical purposes. I offer no opposition to the bill, but it appears to me that it is in the nature of class legislation, seeing that it deals with one variety of grape only - the doradilla. The Prime Minister pointed out that the Government’s interest in this matter was largely due to the fact that a great number of returned soldiers were cultivating this variety of grape, and were unable to dispose of the product of their labour. If a trade in Australian wines can be developed on the other side of the world, I, for one, shall be glad ; but to single out one particular variety of grape for legislation of this nature is not to act nationally, in the interests of the whole of the community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee : .
– On behalf of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), I ask the Prime Minister if the decision to introduce this bill was made only after mature consideration of the points raised by the honorable member.
– The bill was not introduced until the matters referred to by the honorable member had been looked into.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from 28th August, vide page 3759).
.- In division 9, page 17, provision is made for £600 for a publicity officer; and, in addition, the following expenditure is contemplated : - Supervising assistant, £338 ; Gazette officer, £290; assistant, £228; typist, £162; female sorter, £165. That makes a total of £1,783 for the branch. I should like the Prime Minister to indicate the nature of the work carried out by these officers, of what benefit it is to the Commonwealth, and whether we are receiving a fair return for the expenditure involved.
– The items refer to the publicity officer of the Commonwealth and the members of his staff, who keep records of newspaper paragraphs, as well as other general information which may be of value. These records are filed in such a manner that they are available for reference at any time. This branch also provides publicity matter for the High Commissioner in Great Britain, and’ for the Australian Commissioner in America. There is no doubt as to the value that we are getting in the work of this branch, and the Government is now seriously considering whether the staff should not be increased in the near future to provide greater publicity facilities for Australia in different parts of the world.
.- What the Prime Minister has said may be correct, but in view of the multiplicity of our agencies in London, New York, Paris, and elsewhere to advertise Australia and its products, I wonder whether we are receiving benefits commensurate with the money that we are expending on them. The Publicity Branch may exercise other functions.
– It may be used for political publicity.
– Other branches have taken that colour before to-day. Our Commissioners overseas should be able to attend to their work without the aid of a publicity branch here. If at any future time this expenditure is questioned because no satisfactory benefit from it accrues to Australia, no one will be able to say that I did not protest against it.
.- The staffs of the High Commissioner in London, and the Australian Commissioner in America, would be unable to accomplish valuable work unless supplied from Australia with up-to-date publicity matter.
– What are the departmental officers doing?
– It is really an expert’s job to obtain publicity matter to aid the representatives of the Commonwealth throughout the world. This duty is now being performed by- the publicity officer and his staff.
.- Does the item “ publicity officer “ refer to Mr. Dow, who is an excellent officer?
– Na He has gone to America.
– I wish to refer to Mr. Sheaf, the Trade Commissioner at Singapore.
– He comes under the Trade and Customs Department.
.- I move -
That the amount for Division 9, “ Administrative £35,972,” be reduced by £1.
I move this amendment as an instruction to the Government to provide for the better marketing of dairy produce in Australia as well as for export, by adopting the dairy produce marketing scheme proposed by the Queensland Council of Agriculture, endorsed by the Interstate Dairy Conference in its amended form, and placed before the Prime Minister, providing for a fair and reasonable return to the producers, after investigation by a tribunal on which the consumers and producers will each have a representative, and which will base its decision on the cost of production. This stabilization scheme is to ensure an ade- . quate supply of butter to the consumers at an equitable and reasonable price, and guarantee’ a fair return to the producers, and definite provison must be made to eliminate the speculating middlemen, agents, and market riggers, who are at present making great profits out of handling the farmer’s produce.
– I rise to a point of order. We are dealing with the administrative staff of the Prime Minister’s Department, and as the amendment really relates to the Customs Department, I suggest that it is hardly relevant to the subject under discussion.
– The Prime Minister has been dealing with the proposed scheme to stabilize the marketing of dairy produce, and if I moved my amendment when the Trade and Customs Department was being discussed, the Minister for Trade and Customs would say that he knew nothing of the matter, because it was in the hands of the Prime Minister. I move my amendment now, so that I may place my views before the head of the Government. The Prime Minister was approached by delegates to an interstate dairy conference, and certain proposals were placed before him. He made alternative proposals which were considered by the representatives of the dairying industry. They, in turn, submitted further proposals to the Prime Minister. This matter should be dealt with by him, and therefore I wish my amendment to stand.
– The question is: That the item be reduced by £1.
– I should like your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, whether an amendment dealing with the stabilization of butter can legitimately be introduced on this division, which covers administrative salaries, including those of the accountant’s branch, the correspondence and records branch, the publicity branch, and the foreign affairs branch.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has a right to move for a reduction of £1 on any of the items contained in the division, but not on an item under the Customs Department.
– I regret that the Prime Minister does not wish me to move my amendment on the estimates of his department now under discussion. My amendment is of the utmost importance to the butter industry.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The subject of butter does not come under this division.
– I am dealing with the marketing of dairy produce.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That, also, does not come under the division.
– The export of butter is one of the concerns of the High Commissioner, who has not been giving sufficient attention to this industry. His office comes under the proposed vote. If I cannot move my amendment at this stage, I shall not have a later opportunity. I, as well as other honorable members, have received hundreds of letters from dairymen asking me to take up this matter by moving a direct motion in this chamber. In April last the Queensland Council of Agriculture, which is the mouthpiece of 25,000 organized farmers in that state placed certain marketing proposals before the Interstate Dairy Conference, which, in turn, requested the Commonwealth Government to introduce legislation to deal with the marketing of all dairy produce in Australia, and for export. As I dealt with the scheme in detail previously, I do not intend to do so again now. The Prime Minister, in his reply to the representations of the dairying industry, intimated that the scheme as submitted was not entirely acceptable to the Federal Government, and that it did not, in his opinion, make adequate provision for the control and distribution of dairy products in the United Kingdom. He added that the Federal Government was averse to the proposal that producers of dairy products should have the right to fix the selling price in Australia of the commodities made by them. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement, the proposals originally outlined were amended, and it was decided to make provision in the scheme to allow of the wishes of the right honorable gentleman being carried into effect by providing in the proposed bill : - (a) For the appointment of a federal board of wholesale distributors in the United Kingdom, in order that control should be exercised over the marketing of Australian dairy products in Great Britain; and (6) for the appointment of a tribunal to fix the basic price of dairy products for interstate trade, the consumers and producers to have equal representation on such tribunal. When this amended scheme was placed before the Prime Minister, he said that he could not entertain that portion of it relating to the appointment of a tribunal to control the interstate trade. I understand that the Government intends to deal with the export trade; but only one-third of the dairy products is exported, leaving twothirds to besold on the Australian market; The dairy farmers in my division, as well as in other divisions of the Commonwealth, wish the Government to deal with the whole ‘position. They contend, and, I believe, rightly, that as our secondary industries are protected under the tariff, and workers have the Arbitration Courts, they should have the same consideration. Our Arbitration Courts fix a basic wage for workers. I believe in a good standard of living for workers, not only in our secondary, but also in other Australian industries. If we are to have a wellbalanced social system, something must be done for the dairy farmers of Australia. I may add that this scheme has the backing of the Queensland Government. Mr. Theodore, the Premier of that state, in a telegram which he sent to the Prime Minister, and to each state Premier, said definitely that his Government was whole-heartedly behind it. He also indicated that Mr. Lyons, the Premier’ of Tasmania, had intimated in a telegram to him that the Tasmanian Government approved of it. Figures for the area in which the Queensland Dairy Co-operative Company, Boonah, operates, show that the average return to dairy farmers in 1921 was £4 10s. per week, from which, of course, had to be deducted the costs of production. Obviously, that return did not leave much for the dairy farmer and the members of his family. In 1922 there was a partial drought, and in 1923 the climatic conditions were not good, with the result that the average return to the dairy farmer dropped to less than £2 10s. per week. From that amount had to be deducted the cost of production. The following return, prepared by the Queensland Co-operative Dairy Company, Boonah, sets out the position in the respective years very clearly: -
The. decrease in the average return to £2 10s. per week in 1923, did not leave a living wage for the dairy farmer and his . family. I have been on many of the dairy farms in Queensland, and I know how hard our dairymen and their families have to work. They have to rise before 5 o’clock in the morning, and sometimes earlier, in order to start milking. The children work till breakfast time, and then go to school. Upon their return from school in the afternoon they have to go for the cows, and again assist in milking, as it is absolutely impossible for the average dairy farmer to employ labour. These men are now asking that some steps be taken to ensure for them a reasonable return, based upon the cost of production. That would also enable them to, if necessary, employ labour. A prominent representative of the Trades Hall in Melbourne informed me that industrial unions are not antagonistic to the scheme, because they realize that the dairy farmer is entitled to a reasonable living wage. If the price of butter were increased Id. or 2d. a lb. as a result of the stabilization scheme, the wage-earner in the Commonwealth would get a corresponding increase in his daily or weekly wage, as the basic wage is based on the cost of production. Further savings to the farmers would be effected by the elimination of the speculators and agents who farm the farmer. The Queensland Co-operative Dairy Company, to which I have referred, is one of the most flourishing in Queensland. It operates throughout West Moreton, in some of the richest dairying country at Fassifern, Rosewood, Lockyer, and Brisbane Valley. It has factories at Booval, Laidley, Boonah, and Grantham. The Booval factory, which cost £21,000, is one of the most uptodate in the Commonwealth. The Boonah factory cost £18,000. All of the factories are equipped with pasteurizing machinery and the latest appliances for the economic handling of the cream. Notwithstanding the employment of the most modern methods, the returns paid to the dairymen show in what an unsatisfactory condition the industry is. Dairy farmers in Central Queensland are suffering to even a greater extent than those in the Boonah district. On the 31st July last the Prime Minister declared: “ The Government desired to see if something could not be done to improve the efficiency of the industry. That efficiency was not at present all that could be desired.” I can assure the right honorable gentleman that the farmers themselves are as anxious as any one for greater efficiency, but I submit that it is absolutely impossible to improve matters when the weekly returns fall to £2 10s. I should like to know why the Prime Minister specially selected the dairying industry when he referred to the need for greater efficiency. The same homily might be directed to some of the big manufacturers who, owing to obsolete plants, are not turning out articles that are as satisfactory as imported goods, for which, by reason of the duty, consumers are called upon to pay twice the price. I stand for duties to afford reasonable protection to all Australian industries, but I - also advocate the protection of the Australian producers. The dairy farmers have no objection to paying the duties charged on their machinery if they are also given a fair deal in being able to obtain a reasonable price for their products. At the same time, however, they ask that there shall be a well-balanced national scheme of protection that will cater for every section, giving protection, not only to the manufacturer and the factory operative, but also to the dairy farmer. The ex-Prime Minister (MJr. Hughes) made a very appropriate statement on this subject when, in May, 1922, he said: -
Australia was the greatest food-producing country in the world. What was required was more co-operation to prevent middlemen from skimming the cream off the producers’ milk. They did not want government control, but co-operation must be backed by the Government, and speculators would find it impossible to fleece producers who had at their backs 5,000,000 shareholders.
Note Mr. Hughes’s words, “ Co-operation must be backed by the Government.” The Labour party in this Parliament stands for co-operation just as does the Labour party of Queensland. The Prime Minister suggests to the farmers as a panacea for their ills that they should improve their herds. Probably that is necessary, but I claim that the Government should bring down a scheme for the purpose. The sum of £10,000 or more might be advanced to each of the State Governments to enable them to purchase suitable bulls for loan to the dairy farmers, or arrangements might be made by which the animals could be sold to the farmers on the time-payment system, so that “ scrub “. bulls would be no longer required. I ask the Prime Minister to honour the promise made by the exPrime Minister, who stated at Maryborough, on the 9th November, 1923, in support of the candidature of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) -
There, is only one way of definitely improving our herds - by breeding from high-priced animals. The initial outlay is the cost of transport and quarantine. The Nationalist Government will introduce legislation designed to assist the producers by defraying the cost of transportation and quarantine of stud stock.
I have already requested the Prime Minister to take up the subject of improving herds. If it is necessary to import stud bulls, then let him carry out the definite promise made by the ex-Prime Minister, when he led a government of the same political brand as that now in office. I am assured that it is particularly advisable to import bulls such as polled Herefords for beef purposes. Is it the influence of the Country party that is preventing the Prime Minister from carrying out the promise of his predecessor? Probably it is. But surely some definite scheme should have been introduced ere this, to advance to each of the State Governments £10,000 or £15,000 for the purchase of stud bulls, and to fulfil the promise that all transport and quarantine charges with respect to stud stock would be defrayed by this Government. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has at all times declared his chief concern to be the welfare of the man on the land. That is said to be one of the reasons why he entered the political arena. He has had ample opportunity to prove the sincerity of his declaration, but he has done practically nothing to redeem his election pledges. There are too many middlemen gambling in the farmers’ products, and these persons, of course, are opposed to the: legislation desired by the dairy farmers. There are agents operating in Brisbane such as Foley and Company, Weddell and Company, A. J. Mills and Company, and the New Zealand Loan Company, acting as agents for southern firms. All the leading Tooley-street houses have their agents in Queensland, just as Denham and Company, Barnes and Company, and Taylor and Company deal in grain, and they are all active supporters of the Nationalist party. Foley and Company, Weddell and Company, and all the others have their agents operating in Sussex-street, Sydney. Here in Melbourne, Weddell and Company, John Cooke and Company, McKeever and Company, and numerous others, buy farm produce on a large scale, and they have the. capital necessary to enable them to store the produce and export it overseas when the market is favorable. The Sussexstreet agents in Sydney, and the agents in Collins-street, Melbourne, are the persons who farm the farmers, and unless legislation on the lines suggested by the
Interstate Conference of Dairymen is introduced, the industry will continue in its present serious plight. Other schemes have been suggested by individual members of the Country party. According to a statement in the Hun, the Prime Minister has declared that he has no intention of adopting the proposal of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) for an excise duty on all butter produced, but proposes to introduce a scheme to deal with the export trade. What does the Government propose to do with the two-thirds of the dairy produce that is consumed in Australia? Is legislation to be introduced restricting the- rapacity of the commercial rings and the market manipulators in Sydney and Melbourne, and in Roma-street, Brisbane?
– What has the Queensland Government done in the matter?
– It has done a great deal. The Federal Government assumed control of the price of butter on 21st September,. . 1916, and then fixed it at 149s. 4d.per cwt. for Queensland. The price was increased from time to time, except for two slight reductions, until the 27 th May, 1920, when it was fixed at 228s. 8d., at which it remained until 26th August, 1920, when the State Government took over the price-fixing of butter, and the wholesale price was fixed at 238s. per cwt., or 10s. in excess of what the Federal. Government had been allowing. The Commonwealth Dairy Pool on 1st August, 1920, entered into a contract with the Imperial Government to supply butter at 274s. per cwt. for 90-point butter, with ls. 6d. more or less for each point above or below 90. From 16th August, 1920, butter consumed in Queensland continued at the price of 238s. per cwt., but as all the production of the state was pooled it was immaterial to a factory, so far as the price was concerned, whether its output was exported or consumed locally. When the Imperial contract expired on 31st March, 1921, a conference was held between all the states, and, as a result, it was decided by Queensland and New South Wales dairymen to form a QueenslandNew South Wales butter pool. With one exception all the factories decided to enter this new pool, which fixed the price for Queensland and New South Wales at 196s. per cwt. for first-grade butter, approximately 42s. less than the price fixed by the Queensland commissioner. There was considerable criticism of this at the time. However, this control continued only until 30th September, 1921, from which date to 31st December, 1921, the Queensland Co-operative Dairy Companies Association fixed prices among themselves. On 1st June, 1922, the Queensland butter pool came into existence, and fixed the price at 149s. 4d. per cwt., 88s. less than that fixed by the Prices Commission. The general principle of this voluntary pool was that the factory securing the local market should reimburse the factories compelled to accept the lower prices by exporting. Thereby the local market was kept stabilized. However, one factory - the Kingston - remained out of the pool. On the termination of this voluntary pool, Mr. W. T. Harris, the secretary of the Queensland Butter Manufacturers’ Association, which included 95 per cent, of the. manufacturers, estimated that the gain to the butter producers of the state from its operations was about £153,000. This voluntary pool broke down because the state had no control over interstate trade, leaving the door open for an individual company to take advantage of the freedom of trade between the states, and withdraw from the pooling arrangements. Perhaps the honorable member for Lilley, who asked, “ What has Queensland done?” may be interested to know why the voluntary pool broke down. The result of withdrawals was that there was considerable gambling in butter; markets were flooded by different agencies, and the pool was defeated. It only shows how necessary it is for the Commonwealth and states to pass legislation so that the dairy farmers -may be protected against the speculator and gambler in butter who floods the market at favorable opportunities, and robs the farmer of returns he would otherwise secure from Commonwealth control. Owing to the futility of attempting to carry out pooling arrangements with interstate freetrade, the attempt to form a compulsory pool thus failed. To bridge the gap the dairying industry, working under . the Council of Agriculture, has initiated a scheme for the stabilization of the industry, but it cannot be effective without federal and state legislation. An interstate conference of representatives of all dairying interests was held in ‘Melbourne on 18th August, 1924, and formulated federal and state schemes which have been forwarded to the Commonwealth, and State Governments urging their approval. Mr. Theodore, Premier of Queensland, has sent telegrams to every State Government and to the Commonwealth Government, urging that this scheme be approved. He has done all he possibly can in that direction, and consequently cannot be blamed for the apathy ‘displayed by the composite Government. Endeavours to better the condition of the dairy farmers haveso far failed in the various states because of the existence of opportunity for interstate’ trade and cut-throat competition-. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr.. Mackay) has now been answered. In Victoria after months of labour onthe part of dairymen, organization was rendered abortive by reason of a 5 per cent, dissenting minority. InNew South Wales, after a month’s organized marketing in October, 1923, the arrangement broke down with. 10 per cent, of the producers standing out. In Queensland the cessation of a voluntary butter pool, after organized marketing had been successfully maintained for fifteen months to August, 1923,. was brought about in the manner I have already indicated. In all these cases the move for organization has been frustrated, because of competition between the states. The precedent of the Commonwealth control for several years during the recent war clearly demonstrated the practicability of. success if the element of interstate competition could be eliminated. The Prime Minister can be assured that. the dairymen of Australia are whole-heartedly behind any attempt to Bring about a better organization of their industry . In Denmark, New Zealand, and other countries,, a great deal has. been done to control marketing and eliminate speculators. Danish producers, taking advantage of their close proximity to the. world’s markets, have entrenched themselves, with wonderful success, largely by means of a system of control which has been in existence for many years. In their scheme they have the whole-hearted support of the Danish Government. The New Zealand Government has also done a great deal to assist its dairy farmers. Realizing, the position, as set out in the previous portion of my remarks, and having regard also to the policy of trading within the Empire, it placed on the statute-book, last session, the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill 1923. This vests control of dairy produce in a New
Zealand Produce Control Board, consisting of nine elected producers’ representatives and two persons nominated by the Government, and also provides” for the following objectives :. -
Co-ordination of all selling agencies.
Fixation of minimum prices.
Regulation of supplies.
A system of advertising the New Zealand national brand’.
Improving shipping facilities.
Reduction im ships’ freights.
Elimination of buying, forwaird’ by specula tors, and
Elimination of discrepancies between the price of the Danish article and that of New Zealand.
On former occasions the legality of the institution of Commonwealth control has been raised, but the Council of Agriculture to which. I have: referred has now obtained the opinion of Mr.. W. F. Webb, Solicitor-General of Queensland, which is to the effect that section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution has Been held by the High Court to bind the states, but not the Commonwealth, and does not prevent the Commonwealth from legislating to regulate interstate trade if it is deemed desirable to do so. There should be no question about the desirability. The dairy farmer is overworked and sweated, and his wife and children are often obliged to work ten and twelve hours a day. Yet hisgross return is only £210s. per week, out of which he has to meet his costs of production. He is also fleeced by those numerous speculating agencies to which I have made reference: Surely I have made out a case for Commonwealth, intervention. All that the farmer asks is that while the consumers are amply protected”, the producers, shall also get a fair return for theiir labour. E.very member of the Labour party is prepared to. concede. to the dairy farmers, and other workers, a fair return for their work,, irrespective of their calling.. The Australian Labour party stands for the interests, of all producers,whether they are engaged, in factories, or upon the land. We ask for the creation of a tribunal, to consist of an independent chairman and representatives of the producers and the consumers, to determine what is a fair and reasonable price’ to be paid to the dairy farmer forhis produce. Such a tribunal would give satisfaction to producers and consumers, and, help a great industry which has done so much for the development of the Commonwealth.
.- Although I agree with the contention of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that the Australian dairy farmer receives quite inadequate remuneration for his almost incessant labour, ‘yet I take exception to the statement of the honorable member that the Government is doing nothing. The Prime Minister has definitely promised that legislation will be introduced to help the dairy farmer before the session closes. Exactly what the Government’s proposals will be we do not know, but, so far as the export trade is concerned, we do know that relief will be afforded by legislation which will provide for better marketing conditions overseas. In regard to the local consumption, which amounts to twothirds of the total output of butter, I do not know whether the proposal which I outlined to the House recently will be incorporated in the Government’s measure, but if it is, it will at once abolish those difficulties brought about by interstate competition to which the honorable member for Capricornia has referred. I have received advice from Queensland that the dairy farmers in that state are wholeheartedly in favour of my proposal. Until the promised legislation is before us, and we know what it proposes, it will be premature to censure the Government.” I prefer to wait until we have had an opportunity of examining the measure to be submitted by the Government.
.- I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland, and I regret that there should be an attempt to make the important dairying industry the football of party politics. It is far too important to be trifled with in that way. I congratulate the Government upon having already promised to introduce legislation on the subject during this session, and I propose to withhold my criticism until the bill is before us.
.- In the final session of the last Parliament the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), who is now the Deputy Leader of the Government, moved, on the Estimates, about a dozen amendments, which, if carried, would have been an instruction to the Government to do certain things for the benefit of the man on the land. Many of the amendments were supported by the Labour party. The present Treasurer, when a private member, was constantly moving to reduce the Estimates in order to bring pressure upon the Government, and indeed such amendments provide the only opportunities for honorable members to vote in accordance with their convictions upon matters which are outside the Government’s programme. A motion for the adjournment of the House, such as was submitted by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and was talked out, is futile, but an amendment to the Estimates enables the sheep to be separated from the goats, and reveals those honorable members who are prepared to assist the dairy farmers with their votes as well as with their voices.
– But’ legislation is definitely promised by the Government.
– I have been in conversation with a man who attended the conference of dairy farmers at which the honorable member for Gippsland was present, and he told me that the Prime Minister stated definitely that the Government could not adopt the scheme for the creation of a tribunal to regulate the price of butter sold in Australia, but that it would legislate to improve the export trade. The honorable member for Gippsland must know that the promised legislation relates only to the one-third of the total output which is exported, and the two-thirds which is sold on the Australian market is to continue subject to existing exploitation by the big Sussexstreet agents and others. The honorable member for Gippsland is misleading the committee when he says that legislation to deal with the Australian market i3 promised.
– The proposal I outlined to the House was not put before the conference.
– The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) voted for an amendment moved from this side of the House regarding the payments to Bawra. He did so because he believed that we were right, but there are other honorable members on the ministerial side who prate about their freedom, who declare that they are not the creatures of outside cliques, and yet are afraid to vote in favour of a proposal which would ensure a fair deal for the dairy farmer. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the dairying industry, and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) represents a dairying district. I claim the votes of both those honorable members in support of the amendment. If they will vote with the Labour party, we shall be able to carry the amendment, which will become an instruction to the Government to introduce a proper stabilization and marketing scheme dealing with the whole of the produce.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia is uselessly occupying the time of the committee. He knows very well that the Prime Minister will introduce within a few days legislation relating to this subject. When the promised bill is before the “House those honorable members who are genuinely interested in the dairying industry will have an opportunity of saying whether or not they approve of the policy it contains. This subject should be dealt with in a business-like way at the proper time. It should not be utilized to get for an honorable member a cheap advertisement. I feel convinced that the amendment was moved by the honorable member for Capricornia merely in order that he may claim credit for having spoken on the subject before other honorable members. That seems to be his usual attitude. I hope that when he has been a little longer in this Parliament he will acquire more sense, and deal with important problems in a business-like manner. I shall defer my criticism until the Government’s policy has been announced.
Question - That the amount for division 9 “ Administrative £35,972,” be reducedby£1 (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put.
Question so. resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the amount for Division 9 (“Administrative, £35,972 “ ) , be reduced by 10s.
I submit this motion as a protest against the action of the Government in paying Great Britain £309,412, for ex-enemy ships without consulting Parliament. As I traversed this subject some time ago, I do not propose to go over the whole ground again, but merely to direct the attention of honorable members in broad outlines to what actually occurred. A sum of £309,412 was paid to Great Britain, a portion, I believe, to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the rest to the Admiralty, in connexion with ex-enemy ships captured or detained in Australian waters. This money was paid out of the balance of a war loan floated in 1920. The first payment - £107,000 - was made on the 2nd August, 1923, when the House was sitting, and although the question had been discussed for some years, and the claim of the British Government had been resisted by this and the previous Administration for a considerable time, Parliament was not consulted. The second payment, which amounted to £197,000, was agreed to by the Prime Minister, and was eventually made on the 14th March, 1924, twelve days before Parliament met. . As negotiations had been proceeding since 1919, and the claim had been resisted by a previous Administration, and right up to the last moment by the present Government, payment of it should not have even been contemplated until the matter had been discussed in this chamber. On the 22nd November, 1923, while the Prime Minister was in Great Britain, and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), was Acting Prime Minister, the following cablegram was sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies: -
Ministers are strongly of opinion that as the vessels were seized in Australia, and expenditure incurred by Australia in connexion with their seizure and detention, all these vessels should be allocated to Australia.
Although the British Government did not capture or detain the ex-enemy ships, it holds the cash, and will retain it, until such time as it can be written off against the cash reparations which may be paid on the recommendation of the Separations Commission.
– Is the honorable member for Yarra discussing Division No. 9 ?
– Yes; and I have moved to reduce the amount as a protest against a certain sum of money being paid to Great Britain by the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Where is the payment mentioned in the division?
– No specific amount appears in the division, but I have moved the reduction as a protest against an act of administration of the Prime Minister. The amount does not appear on the Estimates for the current year, because the money was paid before Parliament had an opportunity of authorizing its payment.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) knows perfectly well that this _ subject has already been discussed, and decided by the House, but as he is apparently anxious to repeat the statements he has already made, I have no desire to prevent him from doing so. ‘ There is, however, no item in this division which relates to this matter, and I therefore submit that the amendment is not in order. The amount to which the honorable member wishes to refer is mentioned in the Estimates as part of last year’s expenditure. If the business of the committee is to be properly conducted, matters should not be introduced which are not relevant under the Standing Orders.
– Although the expenditure is mentioned elsewhere in the Estimates under the Prime Minister’s Department, there is no item in these Esti-mates under which an appropriation is to be made, and as the matter has never come before the House for appropriation, I am protesting against the action that has been taken. As the amount is not mentioned, do I understand that we cannot discuss itf
– It can be discussed when the division in connexion with which it is mentioned is under consideration.
– I have no desire to discuss the subject at length, but I consider that I have a right to move a reduction in the amount to be voted under the Prime Minister’s Department, as the payment involves a question of administration. Notwithstanding what the Prime Minister has stated, a vote has not previously been taken on the question. This matter has not been decided by the’ House. When I last raised the subject we were debating loan expenditure, and although there was a general discussion, no vote was taken. Parliament has not had an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject.
– On the point of order raised by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), I submit that itwould be very dangerous to limit the power of the committee in criticizing the administration of any particular department. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) is taking exception to an act of administration concerning payments for ex-enemy ships, and I submit that it would be contrary to the usual procedure if the rights of honorable members were to be curtailed on such an important issue.
– I must rule against the honorable member for Yarra. He is not entitled to discuss the subject raised on the division before the Chair.
– I am reluctantly compelled to disagree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I understand that any member of the committee has a right to move for a reduction in any item in the Estimates. I am sure you, sir, do not wish to deprive honorable members of their rights. One of the great traditions of the British Parliament is that the House shall have control of the public purse. Unless parliament had this power, governments would be able to do as they wished.
– There is an item under which the matter can be raised.
– I ask, sir, if it is not competent for an honorable member to move for the reduction of an amount for any reason that seems to him sufficient? I do hot profess to have made a study of the standing order governing this matter, but the procedure that I have stated seems eminently fair and relevant. The question before the Chair is that the division be agreed to, and thu amendment of the honorable member for Yarra is that the vote for it be reduced by 10s. Having so moved, he is submitting his reasons for that reduction. The amount he has mentioned may not be found in any item of departmental expenditure, but there may be a superabundance of good reasons why the amount before the committee should be reduced. I submit that the honorable member for Yarra is entitled to move for a reduction of the amount and to state relevant reasons why the proposed reduction should be made.
– I raised this point only . because I thought that every honorable member was anxious that the committee should follow the procedure laid down in the Standing Orders. If an honorable member were allowed to move for a reduction of £1 in the vote for a department, and to give reasons ‘ relating to expenditure dealt with elsewhere in the Estimates, the conduct of the business of the committee would become impossible, for no limit would be placed upon discussion. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that when a reduction is moved in the vote for a department, any argument can be advanced as a reason for the reduction, except the argument that moneys have been wrongly expended under an item that appears elsewhere on the Estimates.
– Such an argument does not put the amendment out of order, although it may put the honorable member’s remarks out of order.
– When the vote for a department is being discussed the administrative acts of the Minister for that department are under review. Whether the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) elects to condemn the Government when the Estimates or the Loan Bill is under discussion is immaterial. It has been the invariable practice to allow honorable members to move the reduction of the total for the purpose of discussing any act of administration by the department under review. If that practice is departed from it will limit the rights of honorable members to debate the administrative acts of departments. It would be better to err on the side of allowing too much freedom to honorable members than to curtail their opportunities for debate.
– The amendment is “that the amount be reduced by 10s.” The mover of it is allowed, under the Standing Orders, to give reasons why the amount should be reduced. The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), when he was *in the chair, accepted an ‘amendment from the .honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) to reduce the amount for division 9 by £1. Objection was taken by the Prime Minister, but he, as Temporary Chairman, ruled that the amendment was in order. I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, to reconsider your decision.
– I raised the point of order because I was desirous of following the proper procedure. Although I regarded it as my duty to raise it, I do not wish to press it.
– The object of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in moving the amendment was to discuss the payments for detained enemy vessels. Standing Order No. 130 says: -
Every amendment must be relevant to the question to which it is proposed to be made.
I maintain that the Chairman’s ruling is correct. It is difficult to connect money paid for ex-enemy ships with an item relating to salaries paid to clerks in the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Does not the honorable member see that his argument does not affect the amendment, which is, “ That the amount be reduced by 10s.”?
– For the purpose of discussing
– It does not matter what the purpose is.
– It would be absurd for an honorable member to move such an amendment unless he had an object in view. The honorable member for Yarra has disclosed his object, which is irrelevant to the question before the committee, and is, therefore, according to the standing order I have quoted, out of order.
– My difficulty is that while an honorable member may move the reduction of a vote, the honorable member for Yarra seeks to connect his amendment with an item that is not before me. The Chairman has to be guided by what is before him.
– What is the question? It is administration. What is challenged ? It is administration. . The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has raised a question affecting the administration of the Prime Minister, It is evident that had he merely moved “ That the amount be reduced by 10s.” without stating his reasons, he would have been in order. I suggest that the Prime Minister should withdraw his objection. If the honorable member for Yarra is not permitted to proceed, he will have plenty of opportunities later to discuss the subject. The honorable member for Yarra is in order in moving that the item be reduced by 10s., and he must also be in order in stating reasons for his action.
– The amendment “ That the amount be reduced by 10s.” is in order.
– I understand that my amendment to reduce the amount by 10s. is in order. That being so, any discussion of it should also be in order. I am not concerned with any item in another part of the Estimates, but what I am concerned with at the moment is the action of the Prime Minister in paying a sum of ‘ money - it does not matter for what - without consulting Parliament. It does not matter whether the money was paid for ex-enemy ships, for butter, or for wool - it was “ paid without parliamentary authority. The discussion of the point of order has taken four times as long as I would have occupied with my remarks; indeed, when interrupted, I had almost finished. I was answering a question by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) - whom I am glad to see back in his place - who asked me the date- of the cablegram in which the Commonwealth Government told the British Government that it was strongly of opinion that, as these vessels were seized in Australia, and expenditure incurred by Australia in connexion with their seizure and detention they should be allotted to Australia.. A second payment has been made to the British Government for vessels detained by Australia, and the British Government holds it against a book entry of reparations that it may receive from the Reparations Committee. I am not concerning myself at this juncture with the merits of the question. I am not arguing that the money was due, or not due. That point is debatable; but the fact that the payment was withheld for nearly five years by two Australian governments proves that those governments believed that they had the better part of the argument. The payments were withheld by the present and the previous government. It was the strong opinion of the present Government, almost up to the minute when the agreement was made by the Prime Minister in Great Britain, that the vessels belonged to Australia, and that no payment was -due to the British Government in respect of them. I gave a large amount of information about this matter to honorable members some time ago, and read extracts from the official file. The question is, have we control of the public purse? Is the Government justified in ignoring Parliament by paying out this large sum of money without authority ? The total amount was £309,412, of which £107,000 was paid while Parliament was sitting, and. £197,000 twelve days before Parliament re-assembled. The Government treated Parliament with scant courtesy.
– There was no need to regard the matter as urgent.
– The fact that the dispute had been going on . for several years proved that the payment was not urgent. The proposal to pay the money should have been placed frankly before Parliament for discussion. I have no desire to repeat the arguments I advanced previously ._ I am not anxious at any time to repeat arguments, but I am anxious that Parliament should assert its right to have this and similar matters submitted to it for consideration. A perusal of the files suggests that the payments were stoutly resisted.
– By whom?
-By the Hughes Ministry and the Bruce: Ministry. The last word said by the present Government was a strong Argument that the money should not be paid. That was at about the time when the arrangements were made to pay the money.
– The Government must have a lot of money.
– It paid to Bawra £275,000, not a penny of which was due, and £309,000 to the British Government in respect of ex-enemy vessels - a total of over £500,000 - without an opportunity being given to Parliament to approve or disapprove of the payments. I take this action in the hope that in future Parliament will be consulted before public moneys are expended.
– This matter was discussed at considerable length on a previous occasion, when its merits were closely examined. The issue at present before the committee is whether a certain sum of money should have been paid before Parliament had been given an opportunity to consider the matter. We are not, therefore, concerned with the decisions of prize courts, or those relating to reparations, nor are we concerned with the arrangements that were made in relation to the disposal of the initial sum received by the British Empire on account of reparation payments. The arrangement under which the expenses of the army of occupation were to be defrayed was considered on a previous occasion, when it was shown that Australia had been repaid her total expenditure. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has stated that the amount to which, he has referred was paid without parliamentary authority. That is not the case. The payment was made out of war loan, and the invariable custom has been to appropriate war loan payments in a lump sum. The honorable member also suggested that there had been concealment of its payment. There has been nothing of the sort. The amount is set out perfectly clearly in the Estimates as a payment that has been made. That information concerning it has been available to every honorable member, and they have been at liberty to take whatever action they thought fit in regard to it. The honorable member can, of course, argue that the amount appears in the Estimates after it has been paid, but I can point to instance after instance in which exactly the same .procedure has been followed by this and previous Governments, and it is the only practicable procedure. It is hoped that we are now near the end of these deferred war payments. It has been impossible to finalize them earlier, because of the necessity for adjusting accounts with Great Britain. I certainly think that the committee must reject the amendment, which constitutes a vote of censure on the Government. The action of the Government was perfectly right and proper, and .there is abundant precedent for it. For as many as nine years this committee has sanctioned the practice.
– I understand that this matter was discussed during my absence from Australia, and not having had an opportunity to peruse the files in which it is dealt with, I can only speak generally upon it. The explanation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was a modified form of hypnosis; something which, bottled, would make a good soothing syrup. I failed utterly to learn from it why he paid this money. I understood him to say that he was in possession of the whole of the facts, and that, if he had been able to place them before the committee, honorable members would have been convinced that the action of the Government was a right one. To convince me, the information of the right honorable gentleman must relate to occurrences subsequent to February, 1923. The law and the procedure relating to the distribution of naval prizes were fixed long anterior to that date, and the position of ex-enemy ships had been clearly defined, and was then well understood. The case, as I understand it, is this : The right honorable gentleman has paid to the British Government the sum of £309,412. Little or no comment, let alone objection, would be made in this committee regarding the portion of the payment which was distributed as prize money, but the right honorable gentleman has also paid away a sum of money that is held to be the equivalent of the value of certain other ex-enemy ships. I shall not discuss the law governing this matter, or the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which affect it, and I do not profess to know exactly what has been decided ‘in regard to reparations by the numerous conferences that have been held since the signing of that treaty, to which I’ was a signatory. But I do know that this matter is not new, and that the principles governing it ar© clear and well-settled. I was in. England on two occasions subsequent to the signing of the treaty, and four years elapsed between the signing of it and the date upon which I resigned office. During that period a great deal of correspondence took place in relation to the matter. There always is correspondence when persons stand, or imagine they stand, in the position of creditors; there is nothing new in that. The fact that stands out is that although a great deal was written upon the matter, and very many demands - verbal and otherwise - were made upon me, I did not pay one penny of the claim made on the Government. I had occasion the other night to remind the committee that I took the very same stand in regard to another claim, demands for the payment of which had been made repeatedly during many years. This matter was raised during my visit to England in 1921. The apportionment of the amount of reparations allotted to the British Empire under the arrangement that the Reparations Commission had then made, was discussed. The amount apportioned to Australia on account of the army of occupation was, I think, £35,000; but as the result of the very strong protests that I made, Australia was paid £835,000. Now one reason given for the payment that is at present under discussion by the committee is that I received on that occasion a sum far in excess of what was properly due to Australia. Whether that be so or not, I cannot say; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is the representative of the British Treasury - and the then occupant of that office was a most competent man - would, I think, hardly agree that he had .given to Australia more than her proper share. T was requested at the time to consider the position of these ex-enemy ships, and I took the attitude that I have always taken in regard to them, namely, that they were part of the reparations lawfully and properly due to us, because of the heroic efforts and the tremendous sacrifice of blood and treasure that Australia had made in the war. In face of what other nations had done - the
United States of America, France, and other belligerents - I declined to do more than to agree to debit them against our share of the reparations. I thought then,_ and I think now, that that wa9 the proper attitude to adopt. I do not admit that this payment should have been made. The right honorable gentleman, in a former speech, spoke of the matter resting with the Reparations Commission. I remind him that recently a new arrangement, known as the Dawes recommendation, has been accepted by the nations, which, for aught that I know, may modify the position considerably. Under the former arrangement, our share of the reparations due to the British Empire, .amounted to about £66,000,000. What we are to get under the Dawes report I do not know. Certainly it is very much greater than our indebtedness in respect to the ex-enemy ships. This money ought not to have been paid. The claim should have been set down as a debit against the amount payable to us under the Dawes proposal, or under any other arrangement sanctioned by the allied nations, and accepted by Germany. As to the manner of the payment, I say nothing now. It is. perhaps, a matter which should be dealt with, but I am not disposed at present to touch upon it. I confine myself entirely to a protest against the payment which has been made. The money should not have been. paid. In view of the fact that for years a settlement of the claim was pressed for, and that nothing came of it, except a counter payment of £835,000 from the British Government to us, the action of the right honorable gentleman, in paying the money, apparently without protest, is extraordinary. He told us that the British Government was very pessimistic about the view that might be taken of the amount that he offered, and we are left to assume that a much greater sum was demanded. Upon this, I can, of course, express no opinion. And in any case, why did he pay anything ? But the outstanding fact is that he has paid away a very large sum of money to discharge a liability which could have, been settled by a debit entry. The right honorable gentleman wrote down the value of these ships, and then transferred them to the board controlling the Commonwealth Government Line of steamers. Some of them are worth little or nothing to us as economic assets, and do not warrant their being kept in commission. It would have been preferable to hand them over to Great Britain. It is very difficult to dispose of them, and to-day some of them may still be seen at anchor in our ports. The right honorablegentleman did not hand over the ships to Great Britain, but, on behalf of a government that I understood was strongly in favour of economy, paid a sum of money instead. If he had desired to act the generous uncle, it was open to him to hand over the vessels; they were worth verv much less than the amount he paid, and some of them are earning nothing. But my point is that Germany owes us vast sums of money - vast in comparison with this payment or our liability in respect of the ships - but under one pretext or another she has paid nothing except the £835,000 to which I have referred. That money was properly paid after long conferences and a careful consideration of the whole position. So far as I am concerned, I regard it as a distinct gain to the Commonwealth. . The Prime Minister speaks of the facts he could make available, facts that would convince us. But there are no new facts. This claim is not a fresh one. It has existed ever since the signing of the Peace Treaty. At the time of my visit to Britain, in 1921, our liability in regard to the ex-enemy vessels - which has since been discharged by the present Government - existed. The same pressure that was brought to bear upon the right honorable gentleman was directed towards me, but I resisted it. For many years I bore the responsibility of this unpaid debt. Yet no question was ever asked me respecting it, nor did I make mention of it. And, notwithstanding this liability, which the Prime Minister declares was so urgent, and upon which, the British Government was so insistent, it paid us £835,000. Was that the action of an insistent creditor towards a recalcitrant debtor? If so, and it were followed generally, there would be. great rejoicing amongst all sorts and conditions of men. I do not wish it to be thought for one moment that the right honorable gentleman has done anything other than pay a debt, but I say that that debt should have been discharged by reference to our own debtor - Germany. I followed one course ; the right honorable gentleman has adopted another; the question is, which was the better? That remark applies both to the wool payment and to the payment for these ex-enemy vessels. But it cannot be gainsaid that as the result of the right honorable gentleman’s policy, the Commonwealth is over half a million pounds to the bad. Both these claims were outstanding when I left office, and had existed for many years. No new facts which are relevant and vital have been revealed since my resignation from office to warrant the payment of this money. The debt had been owing for a long time, and, in my opinion, it should have been merely debited against our share of the reparations. The Prime Minister, however, acted differently. In the fullness of time the people of Australia, and their representatives in this Parliament, will have to say which was the better way.
.- The Prime Minister stated that this money had been paid from loan. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of pounds are paid from loan which should be paid from revenue, and thus it is possible for the Treasurer to show a huge surplus at the end of each financial year. We must not lose sight of the fact that for this money we are paying, and must continue for a number of years to pay, interest at the rate of 6 per cent, to the British Government. It is surprising that money should have been paid from loan for such a purpose. If we look through these Estimates, we shall find other instances of a similar nature. By way of illustration, I refer to the sum of £287,000 to be paid out of loan for shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Although we are supposed to have as Treasurer a man who is very careful of the finances of the Commonwealth, we are absolutely “going to the dogs” in financial matters. We had an overflowing Treasury, and an accumulated surplus of millions of pounds, yet loan money was used to pay for these ex-enemy vessels. The same thing has been done in relation to other big expenditure. It is a most unbusinesslike way in which to conduct the country’s finances. Greater time should be devoted to the discussion of the Estimates. Every item should be carefully scrutinized. But since 1914 it has been the custom to rush the Estimates through this House. Judging by the re- marks of some honorable, members, we are . now going headlong toward recess, and it may be expected that many of the items in these Estimates will not he considered at all. So far as this payment is concerned, I hold the view that, even if we were indebted to the British Government, it was wrong to pay the money from loan. We were, however, not indebted, and the amount should not have been paid.
.- I wish to refer . to a long outstanding grievance. I have frequently asked the Prime Minister to inform honorable members of the arrangement made with Great Britain to fund our war debt of ‘ £92,000,000. No one in Australia knows anything about it. He promised that “when in England he would make inquiries, or make a statement. When I have pressed for information on this subject, ‘ the Prime Minister has informed me that he has not had an opportunity to consider it. It seems to> me that this excuse is made because he is unwilling to give the details of the arrangements to honorable members. I ask the Prime Minister now to make a statement respecting this debt.
.- Whatever justification the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) seemed to have for making a payment to Great Britain for ex-enemy ships has disappeared, in view of ‘ the statement of the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), who pointed out that he resisted this claim because he considered it unreasonable. ‘ According to the files that were recently made available to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), it is clear that the exPrime Minister did resist the claim. The very fact that objection had been taken to it by him- should have induced the Prime Minister to consult Parliament before Making the payment. In its various transactions with
Australia, the British Government has consistently insisted cm the Commonwealth Government meeting its obligations. The honorable member for North Sydney truly stated that Australia, during the war, made a tremen’dous sacrifice of blood and treasure. Yet we are paying 6 per- cent, interest wm a debt of £92,000,000, which was incurred so that we might help the British Government and her allies, and about half of the money was spent in maintaining our troops in the United Kingdom. We are bearing more than our fair share of wai1 debt, especially in view of the fact that Great Britain has been able to fund her debt to America at 3 per cent. In this transaction, as well as in others, we have been bled by the British Government. In its various transactions with Britain, the Commonwealth Government should study Australian interests, and not sacrifice our people upon the altar of British imperialism, as has been done, and will continue to be done, as long as the present Government remains in power.
– I am unable to agree with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Colein.in) that the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) has thrown any light upon this subject. It has been made perfectly -plain that the exPrime Minister steadfastly refused to pay this claim in the same way as he refused to pay various other claims, one being the skin wool claim. The honorable member for North Sydney also said that by the payment of these claims we are £500,000 worse off. That depends upon the point of View, and whether there is really a debt or not. I am not content to accept the refusal of the previous Prime Minister to pay this claim as evidence that there was not a debt. I appreciate much more highly the spirit of a government that is willing to pay a debt when it recognizes that it is an honest debt, -and I prefer it to a spirit that haggles and corresponds for years and years, tending to bring the name of the Commonwealth into disrepute.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W.. M. Hughes), when discussing the payment for. exenemy ships, pointed out how admirable he had conducted . the affairs of this nation when in power, and how lamentably.-, the present Government is conducting them. That honorable gentleman will find .’that there is a difference of opinion .in the community on that subject.. But ‘I dp. not wish to intensify that feeling in the very least. The right! honorable member obviously was not present when the matter was previously discussed in this chamber. He said that he had steadfastly refused to “settle the claim of the British Government.
– He assumed an innocence that he really did not have.
– That is quite possible, but I must assume, from the tenor of his remarks, that he had no knowledge of the previous debate. A fact which he completely overlooked is that something happened after he went out of office ; although he suggested that nothing happened. What did happen was the delivery, by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, of what is known as the Sumner judgment. That judgment laid it down that the title to ex-enemy ships, detained on the outbreak of war, was vested in the Reparations Commission. That completely altered the whole situation. Australia had throughout maintained that detained exenemy vessels were in the same category as vessels captured at sea, and, therefore, the previous Government, and also the present Government, contended that Australia, having captured them, was entitled to keep them; but we were prepared to set off part of the sum to which we might be entitled in reparations from Germany. The Sumner judgment made that position quite untenable, if we intended to respect the Versailles Treaty and to honour our obligations as a signatory to it. Before that judgment, however, the Government had anticipated that those vessels would be retained, and, in fact, some of them had been sold. Then difficulty arose, because we could not give a title with them, and, therefore, nobody was prepared to accept them. To that, however, I do not attach importance, so much as I attach importance to the effect of the Sumner judgment, arid Australia’s obligations under the Versailles Treaty. No other course was open to the Government after the Sumner judgment, but to make payment for the vessels to the British Government. I do not propose to traverse the honorable member’s remarks further. I certainly disagree with him in the view he takes of this matter, as I did when he spoke previously on another matter. Whether we disagree or not does not now concern the committee. We are not now discussing the merits of the payment at all, and therefore I content myself with what I said previously when the propriety of the Government’s action in making this payment was questioned.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in making some of his last statements, has not been frank with the committee. He informed honorable members in a very learned way, for which he was cheered by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), that the position had entirely changed because of the Sumner judgment.
– I agree with the Prime Minister’s remarks.
– I challenge that statement in view of the records of the Prime Minister’s own department. The Sumner judgment did not affect the relations between the British Government and the Commonwealth respecting the disposal of detained ex-enemy ships. It simply dealt with the obligations of the British Empire to the Reparations Commission, and had no effect at all upon the- position of Australia. One is still more convinced of this when it is known that the Sumner judgment was delivered on 4th October, 1923, and that seven weeks afterwards, on the 22nd November, 1923, the Commonwealth Government forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies the following famous cablegram, standing up to the position that it had maintained for five years previously : -
Referring to German ships sentenced to detention by Prize Courts, and not subsequently condemned, my Ministers are firmly of opinion that as the vessels were seized in Australia, and expenditure incurred by Australia in connexion with their seizure and detention, all these vessels should be allocated to Australia, proceeds of sale of any which are sold being debited to Australia by* Reparations Commission instead of to Imperial Treasury.
The Government was well aware that some one would be debited with reparations against detained ex-enemy vessels which were in a different category from those condemned as prizes, and that the Reparations Commission would charge against the reparations of Britain the value of such boats as had been detained in any part of the British Empire. That was known before the Sumner judgment, and was confirmed by it. All the negotiations that took place, and the opinions that were given on this subject, as disclosed by the files, show that the Sumner judgment did not alter the opinion of the Government. Although these boats were to be nominally debited against Britain, it was proposed that the British Government should allow us to retain them and debit their value against our share of reparations. This subject has previously been fully explained to honorable members. The Prime Minister said that the Sumner judgment entirely altered the position, but that is not so. If the position had changed, why did the Government, seven weeks after that judgment was given, send a cablegram to the British Government claiming the right to retain detained ex-enemy vessels ? That is the question which the Government has not attempted to answer.I do not propose to discuss the matter further.
.- In the early days of the war I appeared in all the prize court cases in Victoria on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, and, therefore, I know something of the legal position, concerning ships seized in Australian ports on the outbreak of hostilities. Those vessels were not condemned outright, but, under the Hague Convention, were subject to detention. Vessels that are condemned outright by a prize court become the property of the Crown. It would be a fine legal question to determine whether enemy ships condemned outright by Australian prize courts became the property of the King in his right of admiralty or the property of the Commonwealth Government. But, the vessels for which payment has been made were merely ordered to be detained under the provisions of the Hague Convention. The Sumner judgment, however, determined that they belonged to Germany, and that no title in relation to them could be given by any prize court to the Commonwealth Government or to the King. In other words, they remained German ships subject to detention. The provision of the Peace Treaty - I am speaking from memory - was that vessels of over 1,600 tons, had to be credited to reparations account. These vessels were all over 1,600 tons. Practically all of the ex-enemy ships held in Australia were seized in port by officers of the Customs Department. Very few were taken on the high seas. Before the Sumner judgment was given it was generally assumed that at the end of the war those vessels might be condemned, and become the property of the Crown. By the Sumner judgment, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the highest legal tribunal in the British Empire, declared that the law was that we could not retain these vessels, and in accordance with that decision the only proper course - I am speaking now as a lawyer with some special knowledge of the facts - was to make some such arrangement as has been made. I do not refer to the value placed on the ships, because, on that matter, I am not competent to speak. ,
– Is it not a fact that, although you say that they were German ships, we have bought them from the British Government, and paid for them ?
– I am unaware of any such arrangement. Thepoint is, we were unable to retain without payment vessels detained in our ports, because they were covered by the Peace Treaty, and, therefore, had to be given up - or their value accounted for - to the Reparations Commission .
Question - That the amount of Division 9, “Administrative, £35,972,” be reduced by 10s. - (Mr. Scullin’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I direct the attention of the committee to the item, under Miscellaneous, in Division 10, “ Allowance to Auditor-General, £500,” and I move -
That the item be postponed.
I submit the motion as an intimation to the Government that the committee objects to one-third of the Auditor-General’s salary being dependent on the goodwill of the Administration he is called upon to investigate, and, if need be, criticize. This method of paying portion of the Auditor-General’s salary is a violation of the principle of the Audit Act. The emolument of the Auditor-General should be paid under the provision and protection of the Audit Act. I desire to make it quite clear that I have not the slightest objection to the Auditor-General receiving a salary of £1,500. I take the stand that that officer ought to be independent of any Government. When appointed he was one of the highest paid officials in the Commonwealth Service, but his statutory allowance to-day is the same as it was at the beginning of federation, when it was on a level with that paid to the Public Service Commissioner, and the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and £250 a year more than was paid to the Secretary to the Treasury. In the intervening period the salary of the last-named officer has been increased to £2,000 a year, the Secretary to the Postmaster-General’s Department has been advanced to £2,500, the Secretary to the Department of Works and Railways has had his salary increased to £1,250, and that of the Secretary to the Public Service Commissioner is £1,000. The Auditor-General was intended by Parliament to be independent of any Government. It is improper that he should now be dependent for one-third of his salary upon the goodwill of officers whose departments he may be called upon to investigate, and perhaps criticize. His salary should not be less than that of the heads of other departments, and he should be independent of the Administration. Since it is not possible for the Auditor-General to make friends amongst the officers of departments whose administration may be criticized in his reports, the Government should bring down an amending bill to make his salary a statutory charge on the revenue. There would be no opposition to such a measure, which could readily be passed.
– The Government has been considering the amount of the AuditorGeneral’s remuneration, and the manner in which the payment is made. The salary to be paid to him is fixed by the Audit Act, but, during recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the salaries of the more responsible officers in the Commonwealth Service. For instance, the Secretary to the Treasury and the Comptroller-General of Customs have had their remuneration substantially increased within the last few years. In the first instance, this was done by way of allowances, and subsequently the allowances were included in the salaries. When it had been decided to give higher salaries to the more important officers, the position of the Auditor-General came under review. It was recognized that he was an officer carrying out the most responsible duties. No action was taken at the time to amend the Audit Act, but it was arranged to place a special vote on the Estimates from year ‘ to year. The Government now realizes that that is not a satisfactory way of dealing with the position of such an officer. I do not think the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) need press his motion, eince the Government proposes to bring down a measure to provide for an increase to the salary of the Auditor-General. It is considered that a salary of £1,500 a year for this officer is certainly warranted in view of the remuneration received by other officers in highly responsible positions. The item of £500 was placed on the Estimates for this year in case by any chance the amendment of the act might not be made, in which event the Government would otherwise have been unable to pay a higher salary than the £1,000 provided for under the act.
.- On what grounds has the salary of the Secretary to the Treasury been increased from £750 to £2,000, an increase of £1,250, while the salary of the Auditor-General is to be raised only £500? The AuditorGeneral should not be placed in an inferior position to that of the heads of departments whose accounts he is required’ to investigate. It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to say that on amending bill will be brought down. The act should be amended this session.
– I wish it to be understood that the relative positions of. the permanent head of the Treasury and any other officeris a matter on which the Government will come to its own decision. When the amending bill is submitted the amount of the salary of the Auditor-General will be fixed, but I do not desire the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) to think that the Government will be prepared to have the amount altered by the committee.
– Some other Government may look into the relative value of the services of the Auditor-General and the Secretary to the Treasury.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [6.22]. - I protest against the vote of £2,000 in connexion with the High Commissioner’s office for the “ Official Secretary of the Commonwealth of Australia in Great Britain.” Such a salary is entirely out of proportion to the importance of the office, when compared with the salaries attached to such positions as those of heads of departments in Australia. Either the amount of £2,000 should be reduced, or the salaries of some other departmentalheads should be increased. The total vote for the Prime Minister’s Department is £53,015, or £2,007 more than the expenditure for 1923-24.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
– I call attention to the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The proposed expenditure of £84,950 on immigration calls for explanation. We do not know the Government’s policy of immigration, and we should have it fully explained. At the present time there are large numbers of unemployed in every large city of Australia. In Sydney recently, I saw a long procession of unemployed marching to the Treasury, in the hope of getting assistance. They were mostly young men, and there were many returned soldiers among them. Many men are compelled to lis out at night in the Sydney Domain despite the cold.. The
Salvation Army distributes coffee amongst them to try to give them some cheer. Yet while these men are unable to find employment the Government proposes to bring others here to share in. the disability from which they are suffering. The Labour party does not object to immigrants coming; to Australia, but it wants those who come here to find employment, and to be in a position to gi ve the country a good name. The system of immigration at present in force is quite a haphazard arrangement. No steps are. taken to provide new arrivals with employment. In these circumstances it is only natural that we object to the. Government spending the money of the people of Australia to bring out immigrants when our own workers are unable to find employment. There are men now coming to Australia who cannot speak the English language. They are Italians and Greeks.. I do not know how they are coming, but their passages are paid, and they soon find their way to coal mines, iron works, and industrial centres, where they displace men already at work, perhaps because they work more cheaply than our Australians do. I am. informed on good authority that a large number of them are proceeding to the sugar-cane fields. Eventually the sugar industry will be in their hands.
– According to official figures Italians do not number 10 per cent, of those engaged in the sugar industry.
– I know the reason for this inflow. Before America limited immigration fleets of steamers conveyed immigrants from southern Europe to the United States, and now that the barrier has been raised across the Atlantic these people are coming to Australia. I spoke to the Minister for Home and Territories about the matter, but he said that he could do nothing, as these people were paying their passages, or having them paid for them. They cannot speak English.
– They go to only one part of Queensland, Innisfail.
– I have received my information from a gentleman who came from Queensland. He tells me how these people proceed. They operate in gangs of six. After one cutting season the six men who form the gang pool their earnings . and take up a block of land, which they proceed to clear as far as they possibly can before the next cutting season. When cutting is resumed, one of the six remains on the block while his mates go to work on the sugar-cane field. I am afraid that very soon the industry we are now protecting at the expense of the people of Australia will be in the hands of foreigners.
– There is no danger of that.
– We have heard that statement before.
– I know something about it.
– The honorable member does not know all about it. My informant has just come from the locality where these men are working, and he assures me that there is great danger of the sugar-cane industry being captured by them.
– The honorable member will be convinced by the official’ report of the officer in charge.
– The report may be twelve months old. What I was talking about has occurred recently. The barrier has been imposed in the United States quite recently, and these people are now coming to Australia wholesale.
– That is not correct. Since the quota system has been in operation in the United States of America the number of Italians coming to Australia has actually been reduced.
– I cannot understand that statement, because I have seen these men landing at Sydney, and hanging round looking for employment. I suspect that something is being worked about which the Prime Minister knows nothing. We, as a party, say that there is no justification in spending money to bring immigrants to Australia so long as there are numbers of men in Australia seeking employment. Because of the shortage of houses in our cities, the first problem of unfortunate immigrants is to seek accommodation in rooms in some cheap locality. It is only natural, therefore, that they get a bad impression of the country to which they have come. Having settled in a cheap locality, their next problem is to find employment, and if they cannot do so, they suffer great hardship. Yet while this condition of affairs exists, Parliament is asked to allow the Government to spend money on a scheme to flood Australia with labour - in some cases with cheap labour. I understand that the states are to be advanced so much money according to the number of immigrants they introduce, and that provision is to be made for a quota for each state. That is the policy the present Government is pursuing. On the other hand, the Labour party wants the Government to carry out a definite developmental policy which will create employment. The Government is not doing this. For instance, the provision for the Postal Department in the Estimates before us is such that, at the end of six months, very few men will be employed on reconstruction works for tha department. Shipbuilding at Williamstown’ has ceased, and it is at a stand-still in Sydney. If the Government proposes to bring people to Australia at the expense of the country, it should see that work is provided, not only for those who are already in Australia, but also for new arrivals. When a Labour Government was in office, there was an abundance of work in Australia, and immigration flowed here naturally. The population increased, and there was prosperity from one end of the country to the other, a state of affairs which can only be brought about by carrying out a vigorous works policy. It is due to the Prime Minister to make a statement as to the attitude of the Government upon immigration, and with a view to getting such a statement, I move -
That Division 16 (Immigration, £84,050), be struck out.
I do this with a view to test the feeling of the committee on immigration. There is no organization for receiving new arrivals. There is no land to settle them on. A haphazard method is adopted which allows immigrants to go adrift and causes the country to get a bad name. We have a right to adopt a policy which will enable immigrants to be placed in employment upon their arrival. We have no right to mislead them with talk about the grand and glorious wealthy country they are coming to, where they will find plenty of opportunities for advancement, and plenty of openings for employment. Of course, I cannot speak of what openings there are in country * districts. I can speak only as a representative of a city constituency, and in that capacity I know that there are thousands of unemployed in Sydney, one of the most prosperous and progressive cities of the Commonwealth. The fault does not lie with those who are unemployed. It is attributable to the. deflation of the currency. Since the present Government has been in office, money has become so tight, and the rate of interest has become so high, that people who would otherwise be anxious to embark in new industries have been unable to do so.
– The honorable member need not move to strike out the proposed vote. When it is put he may call for a division, and vote against it.
.- I also protest against this proposal to spend £84,950 in assisting immigration. Last year, out of a vote of £70,000 for immigration, £66,866 was actually spent, so that this year it is proposed to spend about £18,000 more than was spent last year. If honorable members do their duty to the people who send them here, they will vote against this proposed expenditure when they realize what has taken place during the last twelve months. Whatever justification there may be for assisting immigrants of our own kith and kin from Great Britain and Ireland, surely there is no justification for spending the money of the people of Australia in assisting immigration from southern Europe.
– Nothing has’ been spent in assisting immigrants from southern Europe; nor ia any of the proposed expenditure to be spent in assisting those people.
– Unless what we read in the newspapers, is wrong, many immigrants who are coming here are certainly not Britishers, but are persons of southern European origin. Possibly their point of departure is Great Britain, and possibly they are naturalized British subjects, but from my experience I am not too keen on assisting people from southern Europe to come to Australia, even if they come by way of Great Britain after being naturalized there.
– That has not happened.
– At any rate, these people are here, and a great number of them have come here as assisted immigrants. How they do it, I do not know. It has been said over and over again, during the course of this session, that there is a tremendous amount of unemployment in Australia to-day. Many good, honest workmen, including skilled artisans, are out of employment in every city and many of the large inland towns. While this continues it will be hard to convince our people that we are doing right in spending Commonwealth money upon the introduction of immigrants. The fiction that the immigrants go upon the land is exploded. Thousands of young Australians who are anxious to go upon the land cannot obtain holdings upon conditions that would enable them to earn a decent living. Hundreds of immigrants who have been brought to Australia at the expense of the Government ostensibly to settle on the land, have never been on the land, or if they started there soon flocked back to the cities to swell the ranks of the unemployed. While the present state of unemployment continues the expenditure of money upon immigration is outrageous and -foolish.
– I enter my protest against the system of child migration, by which boys and girls of from nine to fourteen years of age are assisted to come to Australia. The boys are hired out to farmers, and the girls are employed as domestic servants in the homes of the wealthy.
– There is no assisted immigration of very young children, but juveniles of sixteen years of age and upwards are given assisted passages.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s assurance, although I was under the impression that children of more tender years are being brought to Australia under the Government scheme. Hundreds of boys are being sent into service with farmers upon conditions which even a hundred years ago would have been regarded as slavery. The Government has no right to use the revenues of the country for the purpose of supplying farmers and squatters with youthful cheap labour. I do not think that the small farmer is using this child labour to any extent, but I do know that the squatters, land monopolists, * and large farmers are taking undue advantage of this class of assisted labour to break down the industrial conditions of the Australian workers. As to the domestic servants imported from the United Kingdom, and through various channels, from southern Europe, the conditions under which they work in the homes of the. wealthy and the middle classes, and the upstart get-rich-quiek type of people, should be investigated. I shall not agree to the expenditure of one penny, upon assisted immigration until the Government has instituted an inquiry into the employment of juvenile labour on the farms and in city homes. I emphatically protest against any public money being employed to assist immigration from any other country until such time as the tens of thousands of unemployed Australian workmen are absorbed in industry. While workless men and women are tramping the city streets, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, what sense is there in importing immigrants to further glut the labour market? I regard immigration as a scheme promulgated by the wealthy classes and big employers to keep a surplus of labour on the market, and so enable them to keep down wages and living conditions. The statement that immigrants are brought out to be settled on the land is all moonshine. I am the son of an Australian, and would have been pleased indeed to obtain a little block of land on which to follow the occupation of farming in which I was reared. But I might more easily have climbed a ladder to the moon. It is a very poor type of Government that will assist to place immigrants, upon the land in preference to trained farmers, and sons of farmers, who are endeavouring in vain to get holdings on which to settle. Such a policy is wrong; it is detrimental to the best interests of the Australian people, and will not accelerate in the slightest degree the development of the country.
.- Exaggerated statements such as were made by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) should not be allowed to go uncontradicted by representatives of Queensland. The honorable member’s remarks would convey the impression to people in the southern states thai; the sugar industry is in the hands of Italians, but the twenty-third annual report of the Director of the Bureau of Agriculture and Experimental stations in Queensland shows that less than 10 per. cent, of the farmers engaged in sugar production are non-British.
– But that report is , eighteen months old.
– Even so, it disproves the statement made by the honorable member for South Sydney, for it shows that, of the farmers engaged in sugar production, 4,900 are British, and only 482 non-British. Sugar-growing, no less than other rural production, is an Australian industry, and I am sorry that the people in the southern states have to be reminded repeatedly that the industry is not the drag on the rest of the Commonwealth that it is frequently represented to be. It is true that a number of Italians work in the cane-fields; but it is also a fact that they are workingunder Arbitration Court award rates, and they are considered good enough to be accepted as financial members of the Australian Workers Union. It is unfortunate that the Labour party is opposed to peopling Australia by immigration.
– It is not.
– The speeches of honorable members would lead one to believe that it is. No doubt there is unemployment in Australia in the states controlled by Labour governments, as well as in those controlled by National governments. There has been a Labour government in Queensland for the last nine years, and yet there is unemployment in that state.
– An inherited trouble!
– Even if it was inherited, the Labour Government has had ample time in which to remedy it.
– The Queensland Government cannot prevent the influx of unemployed from the southern states. There were 3,000 arrivals from the other states in nine months.
– The Queensland Government has taken steps to prevent people from the southern states coming to Queensland to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
– Nonsense !
– A man mustbe resident in Queensland for three months before he can get relief from the unemployment fund, and that condition is a wholesome check upon the influx of unemployed from other states.
– That fund is a form of insurance, and a man must have contributed to it for a certain period before he can derive any benefit from it.
– It is regrettable that there should be unemployment, but it is a universal problem; and as some of our principal primary industries, notably the production of wool, wheat, and sugar, are seasonal, there must be periods during which the men who engage in them will be unemployed. Unemployment is the concern of the states rather than the Commonwealth. So is immigration, and I take it that the Commonwealth merely renders financial assistance to the states to enable them to bring immigrants from overseas.
– The Commonwealth Government, by bringing in large numbers of people from other countries, is preventing the states from curing the unemployment trouble.
– Whatever the Commonwealth is doing is done at the request of the State Governments, and not in defiance of them.
– No immigrants are arriving in consequence of any action by the Commonwealth Government.
– The Commonwealth is merely finding the money to assist the State Governments to fulfil their obligations to develop their industries and people their lands. I was sorry to hear the references by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) to juvenile immigrants. This is a subject in which I have taken a great deal of interest, for I believe boys are the best type of immigrant. In Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia, boys from overseas have been welcomed, but not to provide wealthy people with cheap labour. On the contrary, the boys in Queensland start at’ a wage of 15s. per week with board and lodging, and receive periodical increases. I believe it is better to bring out boys rather than adults, because they are more adaptable and more readily assimilated. I hope that the Commonwealth will, in co-operation with the states, foster a policy of bringing more juvenile immigrants to Australia, and render more liberal financial assistance to immigration generally.
.- If there is one portion of the Government’s policy in respect of which Ministers deserve censure, it is immigration. During recent years the press has given considerable prominence to the subject of immigration, and certain sections have adversely criticized the Labour party’s policy in this connexion. The. Labourparty is not opposed to< immigration solong as employment can be found for the people who come here. The. extent to which our population increased during’ the period when the Labour Government was in power is shown by the figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, which show that in 1911-12 there- were- 87,000 new arrivals, and in 1913-14 89-,000. The figure* for later years, which are the latest available, when Labour was not in power, are: - 1921, 14,682; 1922, 24,258; and 1923, 26,645. The migrants who arrived during the Labour regime found employment in our primary and secondary industries-, and became citizens, of whom Australia is. proud. In noting the character of some new arrivals reaching Australia from day to day, one shudders and shivers, and wishes something could be done to prevent them coming here. We are informed that those coming to Australia intend to settle on the land, and assist in the development of this great continent, but from information available it would appear that many of them are engaged in bottle washing and other similar occupations. No doubt the immigration authorities in Great Britain find it difficult to induce suitable settlers to come to Australia, but this is probably due to the fact that they know that there is no employment for them when they reach Australia. It is cruel and unjust of the Government to pursue its present immigration policy, as it is one which is belittling Australia, in. the opinion of reputable persons in Great, Britain. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has informed us that the Commonwealth’ Government is not responsible for finding employment for new arrivals, and that may be so, but under the present pernicious system of using loan moneys to assist migration, the responsibility in meeting the debt we’ are incurring will, eventually rest upon our successors. F.rom 1910 to 1913 not a penny piece of loan money was spent in bringing migrants to Australia, as the whole of the cost so incurred was met out of the Consolidated Revenue. It is ridiculous to pursue a policy under which migrants are assisted to a country which many of them leave at the first opportunity. Members of the Labour party would .be recreant to their trust if they did not oppose a vote of this character-, when they know that the expenditure will have such disastrous results. If deserving people were brought to this country and profitable employment under favorable conditions can immediately be found for them, no one would complain, but such conditions do not exist, and the beneficial results accruing from the expenditure which the Government’s policy annually involves are infinitesimal. If the Commonwealth Government finds that the State Governments are not doing all in their power to make land available and find employment for new arrivals, it. is its duty to draw attention to it. A big land settlement scheme was established in Western Australia some time ago, but it has since been found that for an expenditure of £1,500 per family on some settlements there are no assets whatever.
– I think the honorable member is misstating the position.
– If the money provided by the Federal Government was wisely expended, deserving citizens would not be so unfairly treated, and there would be some return. The immigration policy is so unsatisfactory that it is time an inquiry was held to investigate the whole matter. It would appear that Australia is not the only country receiving more migrants than it can profitably absorb, as I understand it was mentioned at the International Labour Conference at Geneva that although 133,000 immigrants entered Canada last year, not less than 183,000 citizens of that dominion crossed the border into the United States of America and paid a poll tax, where the conditions generally were more attractive. I merely mention this to show that if we are to retain our present population, and induce others to settle here, we must make the conditions attractive. Generally speaking, the Australians are a migratory people, but those in Great Britain are not anxious to travel to another country unless there is a prospect of being able to live in more comfortable surroundings. I understand the British Government and the Commonwealth Government are now considering a scheme under which the former Government is to spend £34,000,000 in sending people to Australia. Who is responsible for the scheme ? The intention is, of course, to reduce the number for whom past Administrations in Great
Britain have been unable to find employment by sending large numbers to Australia to increase the demand here for British manufactures. Those who come to Australia should be engaged in producing commodities to make Australia self-contained. If the Government is not prepared to treat this important subject in a business-like manner, it will not be very long before a government is in power which will retrieve Australia’s good name. In the old days,- not one person in five could sign his name, and not one in ten knew what a newspaper was. Those days have gone, and the Australian of to-day can read, and he circulates the information given to him by the newspapers. I should like the Prime Minister to consider, for a moment, how many people have returned to the country from which they came, and have told of their disappointment with Australia. Large numbers of them returned because they were unable to follow their trade or call-‘ ing. The average tradesman is very conservative, and will suffer privations rather than forsake his trade. Many people in Australia to-day are waiting for public men to give them a lead. During the last fortnight I have seen immigrants walking up and down Flindersstreet, Melbourne, with hardly a shoe on their feet. They were as “ thin as slates,” and looked as miserable as possible. If Ministers walked through the public streets they would see these sights also; but I suppose they tear along in their motor cars, on their way to suppers, dinners, or other entertainments, and have no time to notice the condition of poor people. My heart goes out to the suffering new arrivals, just as it goes out to Australians who are afflicted. I know what worried me after I landed in New Zealand. I could find little prospect for my future there, so 1 decided to come to the larger country of Australia.
– Were not conditions for the immigrant a little more difficult then than they are now?
– No. I saw several “ wind jammers “ come in with four or five hundred immigrants on board. Government boats went alongside, and took the passengers ashore. They were provided with comforts, and were shown round the city, and they and their children were provided with accommodation until employment was found for them.
– Was that a Labour government ?
– It was as good as a Labour government; it was a government that had humanitarian feelings, which to this day are the basis of every beneficent act passed by this or the State Parliaments. An immigrant was never allowed to leave the place where his luggage was stored until he had some means of livelihood, and a residence to go to. To-day the poor immigrants are dumped on Melbourne’ arid Sydney wharfs, to be the prey of magsmen and rogues. No houses ure obtainable, and even rooms are difficult to get. The people who landed in New Zealand fifty years ago were better provided for than those who arrive in Australia to-day. There is only one way in which Australia can increase her population, and that is by providing employment for people when they come here. If it is known on the other side of the world that there is plenty of employment to be had in Australia, the best of the men and women in other countries will come here. Who will control this sum of £34,000,000 for immigration? It will be controlled mostly by people on the other side of the world. In answer to a question I put to him the Prime Minister has promised me that nothing will bc done in the matter of the agreement until Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss it. I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have done my best to prevent an injustice being done to those who come to Australia from the other side of the world. I am very tired of the rubbish that is talked about putting people on the land. If a reasonable block of land is offered for sale in any state in Australia there are usually 1,000 applicants for it. The man who takes up virgin land, even if it has been cleared, and has a good rainfall, and other desirable attributes, has a difficult task ahead of him. He always has a hard struggle for ten years. If he plants fruit trees, it is five years before the trees pay for themselves, and nearly six or seven years before he has a surplus. I hope honorable members will not treat the question of immigration flippantly. It is cruel to delude people into believing that they will find prosperity here, when all they will meet is misery and hardship. Some of the people brought here we could do without. We can fill our gaols fast enough without importing people from the lowest rungs of the social ladder. It is almost impossible to make desirable citizens of them. The Prime Minister and his supporters know as well as I do that the immigration department is mismanaged. Australia ought not to be a dumping ground for the products of the maladministration of other countries. The other day I raised the question of the twenty Serbians who were landed at Newcastle. I ascertained that they paid their, own fares. How generous is the Broken Hill Proprietary! These men were brought out, notwithstanding the fact that there are from 600 to 800 men at the labour bureau at Newcastle endeavouring to get work. The United States of America, in excluding southern Europeans, has set us a good example. That country has decided that too many people of those nationalities will not be conducive to the prosperity of America. America has hitherto been ready to hold out the hand of good fellowship to other peoples, but has now discovered that it is not wise to have a preponderance of southern Europeans. If the present rate of emigration from the ports of southern Europe to Australia continues, the percentage of those races will soon be as great in Australia as it is in America. I have honestly done my best to awaken in the Government a sense of its responsibility. The present system of immigration is an absolute disgrace to the people of Australia. If honorable members have not been impressed by my appeal I am sorry for the dullness of their intellects.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Complaints are still being made regarding the unsuitable types of immigrants that are arriving in Australia. According to press reports, many of the immigrants have immoral habits, and there is a certain proportion who are mentally defective. Has the Government adopted the report on the medical examination of migrants made to this chamber early this year by the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville: Howse) with a view to removing cause for complaint 1 This is a very important matter. Will the Government also consider the advisability of ensuring that picture films depicting farming operations in Australia accurately display the actual conditions?’ I admit that from a photographic stand-point the films reveal good workmanship, but I contend that they make the conditions appear too attractive to intending immigrants. I do not wish to decry Australia abroad, but I do think that we should adequately bring before the people of England the real conditions under which immigrants must labour if they hope to succeed in Australia. If we do that we shall be more likely to seeure immigrants who are prepared to face realities. Those pictures that I have seen make farming conditions in Australia appear absolutely ideal. I realize that, despite the feats of Australian soldiers during the war, an appalling amount of ignorance still exists amongst English people regarding this country. They are prepared to accept any form of propaganda, whether it be by moving picture or lecture, as describing accurately the real conditions that exist in Australia. Many of the immigrants who have come to Australia in the past have claimed that the conditions were misrepresented to them before they left England. By such misrepresentation we give Australia a bad name. The Labour party is not opposed to immigration, but at the moment the conditions in Australia are not favorable to a large influx of additional population. The statistics show that unemployment is increasing. The primary and secondary industries are complaining about the lack of markets in Australia and overseas. They say also that the tariff is inadequate. There is marked unemployment in the textile, the engineering and other industries. In those circumstances it is surely the first task of the Government to ensure that our own industries are safeguarded, and that our own unemployed are provided with work. When that has: been done we shall have reached a reasonable degree of stability, and we can then consider the advisability of spending money upon immigration.
.- I regret very much that honorable members; opposite, whilst claiming that they are not opposed to immigration, do everything they can to have inserted in. Hansard statements that can be used overseas to deter the best class of immigrants from coming to Australia. They compare adversely the conditions of the presentdayimmigrant with those that existed very many years ago. I say that the conditions now are infinitely better than they were. I held a seat in the Queensland Parliament for about’ nine years before I entered this House. Legislation was passed by that Parliament providing that land should be made available tp every immigrant who applied for it. He could obtain from the Government, by ioan, the amount he expended up to some hundreds of pounds, after an inspection of his operations had been made by the agricultural inspector. The advances, including those for improvements, cultivation, and stocking purposes amounted to £1,200. For the first five years interest only onthat sum had to be paid, and during the next fifteen years only interest and one-half of the principal sum had to’ be repaid. Very many second and third sons of Victorian farmers took up land in Queensland with excellent results, and they are still in that state. If men of the right kind take up land with the determination to work it, the facilities are provided which enable them to make comfortable homes, and show good returns. That is the case in Queensland, and, I understand, in. Western Australia. I have visited Western Australia, but I am not very well acquainted, with the conditions that exist there. But I have lived sufficiently long in Queensland to thoroughly understand the conditions, and I can assure honorable members that there are not, as stated, a thousand applicants for every block that is made available. Not one-half of the farms that were put up for selection in the North Burnett were selected. It is good land, railways run into the district, and it is well watered, the rainfall averaging 30 inches per annum. The cottonindustry in Queensland is in its infancy. Millions of acres are suitable for cottongrowing, and it can be made a one-man industry, or utilized as a side line by those who are engaged in other industries. There is an excellent demand for cotton, and it can be produced in Queensland as cheaply as it can in America, which is our most formidable competitor. Our cotton is equal to theirs in texture. If men come to Australia expecting to pick up gold on the streets, they will, of course, prove failures. I consider that adequate measures have been taken to educate’ the people in England in regard to the conditions that exist in Australia. There is room here not only for young men but also for girls. Nearly all the girls in the cities in Queensland enter factories or stores, or engage in the occupations of typists and teachers. Very few are available for domestic service. That occupation will return a girl £1 a week, and provide her with a home as comfortable as that which is enjoyed by many persons who are in good circumstances.
– How many hours a day are they expected to work?
– They can generally complete their duties by from 7.30 to 8 o’clock at night, when they can go to a picture show.
– From 7 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock at night would be a thirteen-hour day.
– They have several hours to themselves in the afternoons. The conditions in that occupation are, therefore, very good. We know that there is a certain number of unemployed in Australia. Queensland has made provision for those. Something like £30,000,000 is spent in the sugar industry. Those who are engaged in that industry as cane cutters are employed for only six or seven months in the year, but they are paid an extra rate of wage to compensate them for the time that they may be out of employment. They are not, therefore, poor people. In every country there are men who do not want employment. I have read, recently, that in Queensland a number of unemployed were sent to work, in different localities, but only a small proportion of the men reached their destination. Neither the states nor the Commonwealth can be blamed for the existence of unemployment among men of that type, who do not want work. Australia contains an area that is bigger than the United States of America, but comparatively it has only a handful of people - under 6,000,000 compared with 112,000,000.
Our land is equal in quality, and taken right through our climate is better than theirs. Why, then, should we belittle this great Commonwealth, as honorable members in opposition do, instead of encouraging the right class of immigrant to come here and help to fill our empty spaces? Honorable members opposite do not believe in spending money upon defence or upon immigration. Can we for all time occupy this enormous territory with, a handful of people, when other countries have no dumping ground for their surplus population? We should imitate the Americans by boosting up our country, instead of making it appear to be not half so good as it is. I have been in Australia since I was a boy. Very few countries, if any, in the world offer better opportunities to the man who has backbone, and the determination to improve his condition. There are in Queensland to-day thousands of people who went there with hardly a penny in their pockets. Because they were made of the right stuff, because their hearts were in the proper place, they are to-day in affluent circumstances. Others could do as they have done. Sufficient land is available to meet the needs of all who are likely to. come to Australia. The facilities are now greater than they were, and better markets are open to the settler. In the cotton industry we could employ tens of thousands of people if they would only show a little pluck and backbone, and most of them would be working for themselves. We have not now to meet the competition of cotton grown by black labour in America to anything like the same extent as formerly; in fact, the negro is demanding the white man’s wage. We have some splendid country suitable for the growing of cotton, which is obtainable at from £1 per acre upwards. We should settle people on that land, and build up this industry.
.- I think that the’ honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) was scarcely fair to honorable members on this side when he said that we were opposed to immigration of any kind. Members of the Labour party are not opposed to a proper system of immigration which provides that those who come here shall have suitable employment found for them, but we contend that to bring out thousands of men, and dump them down in the hig cities to swell the ranks of the unemployed, is a wrong policy.
– The states are responsible. “Mr. FORDE. - To a great extent the Federal Government is responsible for the type of immigrant arriving in Australia. The methods of selection are at fault. The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) pointed out that the system of supervision and selection of migrants in England was most unsatisfactory, and that, as a result, a great number of people arrived here who were physically unfit to do that pioneering work of which the honorable member forWide Bay has spoken. I should like to hear from the Prime Minister some particulars of the Government’s future immigration policy. Recently I read the following published statement: - “ The draft agreements for the operation of the new Empire migration proposals have been received. The proposal is that to assist migration Great Britain will lend the Commonwealth up to £34,000,000 for land settlement and developmental work. The Commonwealth will in turn lond the money to the states, which will administer its expenditure. ‘ Great Britain and the Commonwealth will share the larger part of the interest charges, so that the states will receive the money at a nominal charge?”
I hope that he will tell us something about that scheme. It is all very well for people in affluent circumstances to say that immigrants should be brought here in thousands, irrespective of arrangements for their future welfare, but they should not be brought to Australia unless definte employment is obtainable for them on arrival. We sometimes see moving pictures and pamphlets which are prepared for exhibition in England with the object of inducing people there to come to Australia to settle on the land. Those pictures show us the rude huts erected during the first year of their residence in Australia. Then we are shown the comfortable houses erected after five years’ labour, and, finally, the mansions which become theirs after a period of fifteen years in this well-favoured land, depicting the immigrant owner standing on the steps and smoking a cigar. We who know the true position realize that such examples are the exception, and not the general rule. One man in 500 may become affluent; but the majority of those who come here without money soon find themselves in the local labour market looking for employment, and probably seeking the ration dole. When I was last in Rockhampton, an Englishman, who had walked there from Bundaberg, came to :ne to ask for my assistance in obtaining employment. He said that the position in Australia had been misrepresented to him by the moving pictures exhibited in England by the Australia House authorities. He informed mc that an individual who knew nothing of the details of Australian conditions told him to go to Australia, and that he would experience no difficulty in obtaining employment, or a block of land, and would soon become a. wealthy ranch-owner. His actual experience was that on arrival he was unable to obtain employment; he merely added one to the number of unemployed, then totalling about 5,000 men in Sydney. When he interviewed me, I wrote to the Mayor of Rockhampton, and endeavoured to obtain employment for him with the local council, bun the mayor informed me that they already had sufficient men, and could not employ any more. Two days later I heard that that man had been arrested for stealing 10s., and had been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
– They found him a job.
– Yes ; with rations. Such a system is dishonest, and should not be advocated by any honorable member. We on this side are not opposed to the population of Australia being doubled. On the contrary, we should like to see Australia with a much larger population, but we say that there should be, at the same time, a proper system whereby land would be made available for those who come here as well as for our own people who are seeking it. We should not encourage people to come to our shores if they are to swell the number of the unemployed in our cities. The honorable member for Wide Bay knows a great deal about immigration. Like other Queenslanders, he has seen a great transformation in that state since the time when kanakas were brought from the islands of the Pacific to work on the sugar plantations for about ls. a day. At that time, the honorable member for
Wide Bay was one of a number of business men who ran boats to the islands to obtain the kanakas.
– The honorable member was engaged in “ blackbirding.”
– The honorable member looked at the position from the point of view of employers. To-day, he would like to see thousands of men unemployed, so that there would be great competition and a rush for jobs.
– That is an unfair statement.
– The honorable member knows that what I have said is perfectly true. He has seen the great transformation which has taken place in Queensland since the time when he was engaged in bringing kanakas to work in the sugar plantations at ls. a day.
– Were not those same men anxious to join the federation on conditions which would do away with coloured labour on the sugar plantations? I was president of an association that agreed to that.
– The Labour party in the different states blazed a track in connexion with the White Australia policy. Later, when the majority of the people were found to be behind that policy, certain other men who desired to obtain seats in Parliament also subscribed to it. I remind the honorable member that all the members of this Parliament of the time, whose opinions coincided with those held by him, voted against the adoption of a White Australia policy when the question came to the vote. Instead, they voted for the continuance of the employment of black labour.
– The members of the Labour party at that time had to fight tooth and nail for their ideal.
– At that time the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) was a member of another place. He knows the opposition that existed at that time to the White Australia policy, and the strenuous efforts that were necessary to secure its adoption. It was vehemently opposed by the champions of black labour at ls. a day.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member cannot interpose a personal explanation at this stage, but may do so later.
– Among the members of the National party are still many champions of black labour.
– “ Black “ Barwell in South Australia, for instance.
– Sir Henry Barwell, the ex-Premier of South Australia, when he advocated black labour for the northern portions of Australia, said that he expressed what a great number of his supporters thought, but were afraid to say. He spoke on behalf of a large section of the conservatives of Australia when he advocated black labour. I believe that in the National party to-day there are many men who would like to see black labour reintroduced. When Lord Leverhulme visited Australia-
– What did we say io him?
– I do not know what was said to him by the party to which the honorable member belongs, but I do know what the Leader of the Opposition said to him. Mr. Charlton told Lord Leverhulme that he knew nothing about Australia, and the sentiments of its people, and that his views on this question of black labour would be hotly opposed by the Labour party. A great many people on the Tory side in politics agree with Lord Leverhulme in this matter, but are afraid to voice their opinions. If, by any means, black labour could be reintroduced into Australia, they would welcome it. I have met a number of employers of labour in different parts of Australia who have stated that, in order to develop this young country, black labour must be utilized in the northern parts of this country. The Labour party, on the other hand, believes in a sound and sane policy of immigration, and not in the haphazard policy of bringing people to Australia some of whom are no longer wanted in the Old Country. Englishmen have told me that a number of undesirable people have been passed by the immigration authorities in England much in the same manner that bullocks are passed for slaughter.
– That is not correct.
– Have honorable members not read in the press of many people who, on the vessels between England and Australia, have had their money stolen by the undesirables on board ?
– I saw some very fine types of immigrants in the south-western portion of Australia.
-I am not reflecting on the good people who have come here from England, Scotland, or Ireland. Immigrants of the right type are an asset to this country, but I protest against the good name or the people of those countries being besmirched by a few undesirables who, because of a lack of efficiency on the part of those in London in charge of immigration work, find their way to Australia. It is of no avail for some honorable members to become indignant because of remarks made on this subject. Australia should not be made the, refuge of undesirables from the Old Country, but we should endeavour to obtain as settlers people with some capital who are likely to make a success and be an acquisition to the country. Honorable members on this side hope that Australia will double her population during the next twenty years. We are not opposed to a proper system of immigration, or to assisting the right type of settler to come among us. First we should assist the sons of Australian farmers who wish to settle on the land, and later should provide land for intending settlers from overseas. A man with a capital of from £1,000 to £1,500 should be able to successfully settle on the land. Every man so settled would create work for three additional men in the cities. It is useless to send penniless men to Queensland or elsewhere to settle on scrub blocks. A haphazard system of immigration is of no use to this country, nor to people selected to come out here. I admit that the success of any immigration scheme depends largely upon the states and the system of land settlement they adopt. The Queensland Government has not lavishly expended money on immigration, but has obtained a great influx of people from other states. From the 4th April, 1921, to the 31st March, 1924, the increase of population in the various states was as follows : - Tasmania, 1,497; New South Wales, 118,005; Victoria, 105,998; Western Australia 23,737; South Australia, 31,381; Queensland, 60,100. The very best type of settlers from Victoria and New South Wales is going to Queensland.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) does not think so.
– The honorable member for South Sydney did not say otherwise.
– Some men are going from Victoria to Queensland.
– That is so. It depends largely upon what the state governments are doing. The Queensland Government recognized that something should be done to settle people on the land, so it organized the North Burnett and Callide Valley land settlement scheme under which 3,000,000 acres were made available for settlement. A railway is also being built from Many Peaks to Monto, and from Mundubbera to Monto, to serve that district. North Burnett and Callide Valley are in my electorate. I know some of the new settlers that are developing that country, and I think they will do very well. They are men of the right type, not undersized or physically defective, such as are some of the immigrants that have come to this country. The Queensland Government has also decided to throw open for closer settlement 700,000 acres of the large pastoral holdings in south and south-west Queensland for sheep raising. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that any one could go to Queensland and get the land he desires. I want to remind him that for every block of sheep country thrown open for settlement there are 2,000 applicants.
– I referred not’ to sheep country but to agricultural country.
– The honorable member had the opportunity to assist Queensland producers by voting for the amendment to urge the establishment of a scheme for the stabilization of the butter industry, but he voted against it. The Country party in the last session of the previous Parliament voted for twelve similar motions. To-day they voted against mine. It is useless to send people out to clear scrub country unless markets are provided for their produce. Many fruit-growers who were persuaded to go on their holdings with the assurance of a competency within a few years are now starving. Naturally intending settlers in Queensland want to go on sheep- country, but there is not sufficient of that land for all. For every block thrown open there are 2,000 applicants. I spoke to a man the other day who had been ballotting unsuccessfully for the last ten years for a block of sheep country, and he eventually gave it up. The honorable member for “Wide Bay spoke of the Queensland cotton industry. I admit that that industry will absorb a great many intending settlers, and this in time will greatly benefit this country. If it had not been for the guaranteed price for cotton of 51/2d. per lb. given by the Queensland Government for three years, that industry would not be in its present promising condition. When that guarantee was made, about 400 acres were under cotton, and in the” next year the acreage had increased to about 20,000. Last year the cotton crop was worth £250,000, and this year it is estimated that it will be worth £1,000,000. Prior to the guarantee, people were afraid to grow cotton because of the uncertainty of the market.
– The honorable member has forgotten to mention the part that the Commonwealth Government played in that guarantee.
– I admit that the Commonwealth Government, at the eve of the last Federal elections, promised to bear half the loss on the guarantee.
– What will the industry do when the guarantee terminates?
– It will be time enough to meet that difficulty when it arises. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will honour the promise made by Mr. Hughes, in 1922, that it would bear half the loss on the cotton crop for that year, amounting to £22,000.
– Why should it? It does not stand the loss on other industries.
– I do not propose to discuss that aspect of the subject.
– I advise the honorable member not to do so.
– I would remind the honorable member of the huge loss on the fruit poolsin which he is interested amounting to £600,000. The cotton industry is in a different category from that of the fruit industry, as it promises to be second only to the wool industry. In 1922, there was a loss on the cotton crop of £22,000, and last year a loss of £52,000. The Commonwealth Government intends to pay half the loss on last year’s crop, and not on the 1922 crop, although Mr. Hughes in that year made a definite promise that half the loss would be borne by the Commonwealth Government. I hope that it will honour that promise. The cotton industry has great possibilities, and the Commonwealth Government should assist the Queensland Government to develop it in every possible way. It is now proposed that the growers should control the cotton ginneries owned by the Australian Cotton Growing Association, and which cost £150,000 to erect. A proposal is now being placed before, the cotton growers, and with some amendment it may possibly be accepted by them. If they adopt the system of cooperative control of ginneries and oil mills, it will prevent a repetition of the conditions experienced by the sugargrowers under the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, a monopoly which consistently fleeced them before the Labour Government came into power and introduced its Cane Prices Boards. Men should not be placed on cotton and fruit blocks unless some provision is made to have their products -profitably marketed. They should not be at the mercy of speculators, market riggers, and exploiting middlemen, who have fleeced the producers of Australia more or less for a great many years.
– Why has not the Queensland Government adopted a system of marketing?
– The Queensland Government has done more to assist the man on the land in the way of establishing pools, rural organizations, and marketing facilities, than any other Government in Australia, and this is admitted by all irrespective of their political opinions. According to Wickens, the statistics of land settlement for 1922 were: -New South Wales, 198,036,000 acres; Victoria, 56,246,000 acres; Queensland, 429,120,000 acres; and South Australia, 243,245,000 acres. Queensland under Labour rule of seven years standing leads the way. The Queensland Government recognizes that it isuseless to settle men on the land unless markets are provided for their produce. As the honorable member for North Sydney said, the middlemen should not be allowed to skim the cream off the farmers’ milk. There must be government assistance for any scheme of co-operation, especially in the initial stages. Immigrants come to this country without a knowledge of the conditions thinking that they will be able to pick money up in the streets. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) asked what the Queensland Government was doing to provide markets for produce. That Government has recently established a maize pool for Atherton Tableland, and I want the Commonwealth Government to give it some assistance.
– I thought so.
– The people concerned do not want something for nothing. Unlike those concerned in the loss of £600,000 on the fruit pool, they will pay back what is advanced to them. The pool was constituted without any opposition, and applies for a period of ten years to all maize produced from seed sown after the 1st July, 1923, in the petty sessions districts of Atherton, Herberton, and Chillagoe. The Government is lending the pool board £70,000 to erect the necessary granaries to deal with the crops, and is guaranteeing the board’s overdraft so that? it may deal with the 1924 crop. The Government also erected three small silos in the Atherton district for the storage, drying, disinfecting, and handling of maize. It is proposed to erect two others in southern Queensland at a cost of £125,000. The Queensland Government is asking the Commonwealth Government for a loan covering two-thirds of the cost, in conformity with a promise made by the Commonwealth at the time it advanced money to the “West Australian and New South Wales Governments for the erection of wheat silos. The Western Australian Farmers Agreement Act sets out all the particulars of the agreement. If the Commonwealth Government will agree to advance two-thirds of the cost of £125,000 for these silos in southern Queensland, it will greatly facilitate their erection.
– What has this to do with immigration ?
– It has a lot to do with it. There are immigrants growing maize in Queensland, who are unable to carty on without safe means of storage for their crops. The price for their product depends on the marketing conditions. It is impossible for those engaged in the industry to make a success of maize-growing, unless steps are taken to help them to get a satisfactory market. The Commonwealth Government should accede to the request of the Queensland Government, and treat the maize-growers in that state in the same way as they have treated the primary producers in New South Wales and Western Australia in regard to wheat silos.
– I desire to makea personal explanation. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was in error when he said that the large sugargrowers, merchants, and ship-owners in my division, and in portion of his own division, opposed federation, and therefore were opposed to the White Australia policy.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– TheHansard report will prove that the honorable member said what I have attributed to him. As I was president of the league, and carry on my watch chain a medal denoting the fact, I know that when the members of the league decided in favour of federation, it was on the understanding that under the White Australia policy the sugar industry would be protected against black-grown sugar from other parts of the world.
– I wish to explain that I said nothing of the kind. The honorable member for Wide Bay misunderstood me. What I said was that after federation the conservative members of the Federal Parliament voted against the proposal to abolish black labour in connexion with the sugar . industry. I did not cast any reflection upon the sugargrowers of Queensland. I said that men of the same politieal belief as the honorable member for Wide Bay in this House opposed the proposal.
.- I was unaware, until I heard the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that honorable members of the party opposite were in favour of immigration. If they are, all I can say is that they show it in a peculiar manner. Judged by the speeches of other honorable members during the past few years, I can only come to the conclusion that they are strongly opposed to any system of immigration. On this subject, we cannot help realizing the dangerous position in which Australia stands, with less than one and a half people to the square mile. Not-, withstanding the general desire that the League of Nations should control the destinies of the world, it is inevitable that, unless we people this country, other nations with an overflowing population will demand the right of entry for their people.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong, as a strong protectionist, should realize that an increase in population will widen the market for the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth. But I rose particularly to direct attention to the wonderful opportunities in Australia. About two and a half years ago I made a trip through “Western Australia, and came into contact with a number of young men who, with their wives and families, have settled in that state. I found one or two who might be described as failures, but the majority were a fine type of settler, and were doing well. One farmer informed me that when he came to Australia eight years ago, he hardly knew the difference between a grain of oats and a grain of wheat. He made good, and was then about to go for a trip to the Old Country. A friend of mine told me of another man who had settled in the south-western portion qf my state. A few years ago that man borrowed £5 from my friend, as an advance on a cartage contract, because, at the time, he had no food in the house. That man also has succeeded. Recently he left for a trip through Canada, and on to Great Britain again.
– A wonderful country !
– It is, but not, I should judge,’ for men of the type of the honorable member. I rose particularly to express the hope that the Prime Minister would anakie some pronouncement as to the intentions of the Government concerning the development of the northern portion of Australia. We have an immense area there, but, unfortunately, it is unpeopled. Up to the present all efforts made to develop it have proved abortive. When the Public Works “Committee was preparing its report in con nexion with the provision of wharf facilities at Darwin, I felt tempted to incorporate my own ideas of the best means to develop the Northern Territory, but I realized that it would be outside the scope of reference. I understand the Government proposes to encourage people to grow sugar and cotton, and, perhaps, pea-nuts, but I should like honorable members to realize the hardships which prospective settlers there will certainly have to face. They will be settled a great distance from market, and will have to incur very heavy expenditure in marketing their products, and in obtaining goods for themselves. In the early stages of efforts to develop the Territory along these lines the Government would be justified, if it has power under the Constitution to do so, in proclaiming Darwin a free port for, say, a period of ten years. I understand that some time ago a company prepared a scheme to settle a number of people on the land and to help them. I do not know whether that scheme met with the approval of the. Government, but if efforts are to be made in this direction it would be worth while considering whether, in the early stages, it would not be advisable to declare Darwin a free port so as to give the settlers every chance. At the end of that period the duties operating in other parts of the Commonwealth could be imposed in the Territory.
– I saw, 4 miles out of Darwin, some of the best sugar cane that is grown in the Commonwealth.
– No doubt the honorable member did, but he must know that if people are settled 200 or 300 miles away from Darwin, and if they have to pay heavy freight charges on goods and produce, they will Have little chance of success. I understand that the freight from Sydney to Darwin is. 75s. a ton, compared with 25s. a ton from Sydney to Java, and, in addition, there is the very heavy cost of handling at Darwin to be considered. We should make a genuine effort to settle the northern portion of Australia. The suggestion I have made should receive the careful consideration of the Government. There have been certain requests with regard to the development of the country east of Broome. From information I have received I should say that it is good sheep country. I believe a proposal was made that private enterprise should be allowed to construct a railway line to open up that area. I should, of course, prefer the line to be constructed by the Government, but if by any means we can get sheep farmers settled on smaller areas . that would help to develop the country. There should be some prospect of mineral as well as of pastoral development. With the present high costs of mining it is out of the question to expect prospectors to do anything there, but it is quite possible that big developments may take place if the country is occupied by sheep farmers. I hope that the Prime Minister will tell the committee what the Government proposes to do to settle the northern portion of Australia.
– I do not propose to detain the committee very long, but I should like to say a. few words about the migration proposals of the Government. The Government cannot possibly accept the sugestion to strike out the vote for immigration even if it were not to be considered a vote of want of confidence. We have to spend money to bring people to Australia. It is no use for anybody in Australia to be deceived on this issue. We may argue as to how the migration scheme can be carried out, but there can be no difference of opinion about the need for more people in Australia. We must populate this country, or we> shall never be able to hold’ it. The question of populating Australia cannot under any circumstances become a party issue. There are two alternatives, and we are under an obligation to make the people understand exactly what those alternatives are. One is that the world is to go on in the same old way with nations fighting against one another, and the stronger taking from the weaker what the latter wishes to hold. Australia’s only hope in such circumstances lies in an increased population, and in its ability to protect itself. The other alternative is one which we all hope to see, namely, the dawn of a. better era under the League of Nations, and the substitution of the arbitrament of reason for that of war. The people of Australia should realize that if we are to have the rule of justice under the League of Nations, unless we can get more than 6,000,000 of people into this the greatest uninhabited white man’s territory in the world, we shall never be able to hold it. We shall be told that Australia is the only place that can absorb the great surplus populations of the world, and it must be open to them. It is quite out of the question to talk about abandoning expenditure upon immigration. We must consider the way in which we are to bring people here, and we must take care that they are provided for so that they will be ‘ prosperous and contented. The suggestion has been made that, as a result of expenditure by the Commonwealth Government, immigrants are pouring into Australia at such a rate that there is likely to be a great number for whom it will be difficult to find employment. Not one person is being brought into this country by the Commonwealth Government. Let me indicate the three methods by which immigrants are being brought out. In the first place, the State Governments make requisition for migrants of a particular class. Applications have been received from all the states, particularly for domestic servants and farm labourers. Secondly, there is the system under which migrants are nominated by persons resident in Australia. The third method is by means of the land settlement schemes of Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. Only in those three ways are people brought to Australia by means of assisted passages. Honorable members should realize that no migrants are introduced by the Commonwealth Government; the State Governments alone are responsible for them. All that this Government does is to decide the class of people who shall be brought out, for we recognize that they must be physically fit and of a good type. A good deal of confusion appears to exist in the minds of some honorable members, who suggest that southern Europeans have been assisted to Australia with money provided by the Commonwealth Government. Let me say at once that not one migrant from southern Europe would be affected by the vote now under consideration. From. time to time complaints are made concerning the admission of immigrants who are mentally deficient, and are undesirable as citizens. Last year, the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), at the request of the Government, examined the whole of the machinery for the medical inspection of immigrants coming to Australia by assisted passages. His recommendations were accepted, and they have been put into operation; but he indicated that, broadly speaking, tho system previously followed was a satisfactory one. There is no evidence that the present machinery is not working well. The number of immigrants from southern Europe cannot be’ restricted under any existing law of the Commonwealth, provided that these migrants have passports and cannot bc rejected for health reasons
– Could the Government not apply to them an educational test in any European language!
– No. Representations have been made to the Italian Government, which has undertaken the responsi-. bility of allowing only migrants of a good type to leave Italy for Australia. The Italian authorities are now exercising the strictest supervision, not only in regard to the health of emigrants, but also tho character and antecedents of those who apply for passports. Contrary to what is generally stated, the number of Italian migrants to Australia is not increasing. This is rather remarkable, in view of the fact that the United - States of America has recently placed very great restrictions upon the flow of all migrants into that country. One might have expected that this would result m a great increase of migrants to Australia, but this’ has not been the case. Action is being taken to ensure only a limited flow of southern Europeans into Australia. If, in future, there should be a great influx of any particular nationality that could not be checked by means of the present machinery, it would be necessary for the Commonwealth to consider ‘ what action it should take, and it might conceivably be found desirable to adopt the quota system of the United States of America. I shall make available to honorable members all the figures with regard to the types of immigrant coming here from different countries. I am sure that the committee will recognize that it .is somewhat difficult for rae to speak publicly of the desirability or otherwise of migrants from any country with which we” are on friendly terms, but I am quite prepared to furnish the fullest information to any honorable member who wishes to know the exact position. One honorable member suggested that children were being brought here by assisted passages, but that’ is quite a wrong impression. The Commonwealth, has always set its face against child migration as un- economical for a young country, - but migrants between the ages of sixteen and twenty years are among the best types, for they are sufficiently young to absorb the atmosphere of this country and become true citizens of it, though born elsewhere. No migrants axe allowed to enter Australia under the age of sixteen years. One honorable member spoke as though tens of thousands of boys were’ being introduced, but I point out that very few lads are coming in under any system. The Dreadnought scheme in New South Wales only covers 60 lads a month, and the Barwell scheme in South. Australia, which I much regret to say has been abandoned, contemplated bringing into the country a total of not more than 6,000 boys. A similar scheme adopted by the Queensland Government accounts for only 40 boys a month. I have listened to some of the comments by honorable members opposite with a certain amount of amusement, since the very practice they have been denouncing has been adopted by the Labour Government in Queensland. The Government cannot possibly entertain the idea of having the vote for immigration wiped out or reduced. It stands firmly by its policy of increasing the population of Australia by means of a judicious flow of desirable immigrants. I cannot deal at the moment ‘ in detail with the - scheme known as the £34,000,000 scheme, because certain points submitted to the British Government have not been finalized; but, as I have already indicated, its basis is that money shall be made available to the states at a nominal rate of interest for developmental works which will increase the’ absorption power of the states. Following upon that increased absorption power, the states will undertake to absorb a certain number of migrants in’ proportion to the amount of capital advanced. The scheme as propounded does not contemplate being a land settlement scheme only, but, of course, that is a matter for the decision of the respective-‘ states. It contemplates that settlement on the land shall be open to the nativeborn just as much -as to the migrants from overseas. I believe that when it is in full operation weshall see happen here what has already taken place in America - the native-born becoming the pioneers to open up the country and the migrants not actually going out om the land in the first place, but gradually being absorbed in the country. I realize that criticism will be levelled against the proposal, but the time has not yet come to discuss it. In any case, it has first to be discussed with the states. It is the states who will carry it out. The Commonwealth will merely endeavour to render what assistance it can. The final decision as to how immigrants are to be absorbed, and as to what is to be done with them when they arrive will rest with the State Governments.
Question - That Division 16 (Immigration, £84,950) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240909_reps_9_108/>.