10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Application for Assistance
– I ask the Minister in charge of the administration of the Precious Metals Prospecting Act bo whom applications for assistance under the act should be made by persons prospecting for gold ?
– In regard to prospecting in a State, applications should be made to the State Mining Department, the States being subsidized by the Commonwealth for moneys expended by them. In regard to prospecting within Commonwealth territories, applications for assistance will receive consideration if sent to the Home and Territories Department.
Opening of Parliament
– Has the Cabinet yet come to a decision about the opening of the Federal Parliament at Canberra on the 26th January next?
– I propose to make a statement with regard to this matter as soon as the questions on notice have been dealt with.
– Will the Prime Minister makehis statement in such a way’ that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss it briefly?
-I think that that would be a little inconvenient; but there will be an opportunity to-morrow to discuss the matter.
– Has the Prime Minister received a report from Mr. Butters, Chief Commissioner at Canberra, with regard to the date when the Parliament House there will be fit for occupation? If bo, will the right honorable gentleman lay the report on the table so that honorable members may discuss it?
– There have been several communications from the Chief Commissioner, Mr. Butters, with regard to the date when it would bo possible for Parliament to function at Canberra. I shall got in touch with the Minister for Home and Territories, and see if these communications can be made available to the House.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a statement in the Age of . yesterday’s date in the form of a wire from Queanbeyan, in which the Chairman of the Canberra Commission is reported as. having said that the commission would be prepared to have the buildings for the accommodation of Parliament available in time, even if the Government decided to fix as the date for the opening of Parliament the’ 26th January, 1927? Has the right honorable gentleman received a report to that effect from Mr. Butters; and, if so, why was the information given to the press before it was submitted to Parliament ?
– I did not see the press statement to which the honorable member refers, and do not know bow the information was obtained.
– In connexion with the proposed referendum for an alteratiou of the constitution, will the Prime Minister at the same time givetheelectorsof Australia an opportunity that theyhave not previously had, of voting on the question whether the Federal capital shouldbe removed to Canberra?
– It will be quite impossible to consider submitting to the electors the question of the transfer of Parliament to Canborra, because on that matter rests the whole basis of federation.
– Can the Prime Minister tell the House when he intends to set apart a date for the discussion of the Locarno Treaty and the agenda-paper of the Imperial Conference?
– The agenda-paper has not yet been definitely decided. So soon as it has been prepared, concurrent announcements will be made in the House of Commons and the Parliaments of the various dominions. The Government will then give the House the earliest opportunity to discuss it.
– Will an interval elapse between the. laying of the agenda-paper on the table and its discussion !
– Yes. I shall move that the paper be printed, and make a statement, and the debate on it can then be adjourned .
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs, in the exercise of proper restrictions concerning the quality of wine exported under the bounty principle, found it necessary to reject any consignments in the interests of the distribution. of Australian wines on the other side of the world?
– Two consignments for London were rejected, and bounty upon them refused, because the quality was not in accordance with the standard set up by the department. Unfortunately, those consignments got away before we were able to stop them ; but a communication regarding the matter has been Bent to the High Commissioner, and I have, for the future, given strict instructions that examination shall take place before export. If wine proposed to be exported is found not to be of good merchantable quality, as provided in the regulations, not only will bounty be refused, but the export of the wine will be prevented.
– In view of the fact that Parliament is being asked to pass laws to provide for the submission of questions to the people by referendum, will the Prime Minister ask Parliament ‘ to include a third question, to discover whether the people of Australia wish the continuance or discontinuance of per capita payments to the States.
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive full consideration.
Introduction by Shaving Brushes.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a report in the press of this city setting out the fact that a commercial traveller engaged in the sale of shaving brushes has been attacked by anthrax? Has the Minister noticed that it is therein alleged that these brushes were sold to that traveller by a wholesale house in the city, and are of Japanese manufacture! The honorable gentleman will recall the fact that I directed his attention, to the importation of tooth brushes that were being sold in this country, branded “ Made in Britain,” although they had been made in Japan.
– I ask the right honorable gentleman to confine himself to the putting of a question.
– As from the facts stated it is evident that this practice has become quite general, I want the Minister for Trade and Customs to say what he intends to do about it.
– My attention has been called to the newspaper paragraph referred to by the right honorable gentleman. I understand that under the Commerce Act of 1906 there is no legal authority whereby the stamping of the country of manufacture can be . applied to individual articles, and it is the intention of the Government to consider an amendment of the Commerce Act to carry out the desire expressed by the right honorable gentleman.
– Has the inquiry of the Royal Commissioner appointed to visit Norfolk Island yet been completed? If so, when is his report likely to be presented to this House?
– I understand that the Royal Commissioner, Mr. Whysall, has just returned from Norfolk Island, but his report has not yet been received.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the serious charges made in the columns of Smith’s Weekly, page 1 of the last edition, in reference to smallpox cases? I understand that one of those charges is that affected passengers landed in South Africa without notification being given to the authority there; also that no notification was given at Fremantle. Will the Minister obtain a report on this matter, and submit it to members of this House as early as convenient?
– I have had the matter brought under my notice, and have made very careful inquiries into it. A statement is being made this day in answer to a question asked in another place.
Tariff Board’s Report
– What has become of the Tariff Board’s report on the proposed bounty on cotton yarn? Will it be laid on the table of the House?
– The Tariff Board’s report on the payment of a bounty on manufactured cotton or cotton yarn is still in my possession, but it has been largely nullified by the deferred duty on cotton yarn passed by this House in March last.
-Will the Minister make the report available so that we may acquaint ourselves of the facts of that inquiry ?
– Has the Minister received any further information from the Canadian Customs Department respecting the dumping duty imposed on 14,000,000 lb. of Australian butter? I might explain that in answer to my question last week I was informed that a cablegram had been sent to Canada, and that the Customs Department here was awaiting a reply.
– So far as I know, no reply has yet been received. The comment, I believe, was made in the Canadian House of Commons that the cable was couched in somewhat sharp terms.
– Has any further development taken place in the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States concerning loans for wire netting?
– I think that the only State that has replied up to the present is Western Australia.
– I understand that the Prime Minister has placed certain proposals before the Premiers of the various States, and amongst them one dealing with capitation payments. Has he in any way put before the conference the scheme that was proposed by the Labour Government some years ago, and likewise, by a previous Treasurer from that side of the House’ - that the capitation payment should be reduced each year at the rate of 2s. 6d. a head for ten years, instead of being discontinued altogether in one year!
– A conference with the State Premiers has been held during the past two days with a view to getting their opinions upon certain proposals submitted to them by the Commonwealth Government. A shorthand note was taken of the whole of the discussion, and if the honorable member wishes to see what views were expressed, those notes will be made available to him at any time.
– Having in mind the great encouragement given by the Treasurer to the Central Queensland New States League during the Federal election campaign and to “ new-staters “ in other parts of Australia, I requested Mm a few days ago to use his influence with the Government to- submit to the people a referendum on the formation of new States. I now ask him whether the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has put the same question to him, because I have received a communication from the Central Queensland New States League-
– Is the honorable member asking aquestion?
– I am basing my question upon a request that I have received from the Central Queensland New States League, in which it asks that some definite pronouncement be obtained from the Government as to when it intends to take definite steps for the submission of a referendum on the question of more and smaller States.
– I ask the honorable member not to make a statement.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Parliamentary New States Committee has asked him to use his influence with the Government in this direction; whether the honorable member for New England has also done so; and whether the Treasurer is a member of the Parliamentary New States Committee ?
– Replying to the first portion of the question, Iremind the honorable member that the matter referred to does not concern the administration of my department, nor is the question whether the honorable member for New England has asked me something elsewhere than from his place in this chamber a matter for the information of the House.
– Through you, Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) whether he has represented to the Treasurer the desirability of urging the Cabinet to ask Parliament to agree to a referendum on the proposals for the creation of new States.
– Order ! The honorable member may ask a. question of a private member only in relation to any bill, motion or other matter connected with the business on the notice-paper of which the member is in charge.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state the reasons for altering the designation of the heads of the Postal Department in the various States from Deputy Postmaster-General to Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs? Has that alterationinvolved any change in the executive control and administration of postal services?’ If so, why was not this Parliament given an opportunity to consider it?
– Previous to this alteration the permanent headof the
Postal Department was only recognized as Secretary; the Postmaster-General is a Minister of the Crown, and there could not rightly be Deputy PostmastersGeneral. Accordingly the designation of Director has been substituted for that of Secretary, and the departmental headin each State has been created a Deputy Director. That change was made in agreement with the Public Service Board. Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss the matter when the bill for the validation of the new designations is submitted.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
Mr.ATKINSON.- The Minister for Markets and Migration has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2. Yes.
Transferof Public Servants
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will guarantee that at the time Commonwealth public servants arc transferred to Canberra, facilities will be available to them and their families equivalent to those now available to them as citizens of Melbourne?
– I propose to make a statement to the House to-day setting out the Government’s intentions “with regard to the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra.
Inspection by Citizens.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to- the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that a sum of £30,000 was placed on the Estimates for the current year for the purpose of providing some of the necessary accommodation for naval trainees at Osborne House, Geelong, he can give any indication as to when this work is to be commenced, and when the transfer of trainees from H.M.A.S. Tingira to Osborne House will be made?
– The whole question of recruiting and training for the Navy is at present under review, and until a decision is reached in this matter it is regretted that a definite statement cannot be made.
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Markets and Migration has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2. Investigations are being made, and the desired information will be furnished.
Importation of Oils Partly Refined
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 21st May the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
– On the 20th May the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish, the honorable member with the following information: -
Date of Meeting of Parliament - Transfer of Public Servants
.- (By leave.)- The date of the removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra has been under consideration by the Government and in the minds of all honorable members for many months past, and I am now in a position to indicate to the House the decision of the Government as to the’ most suitable date for the transfer. Two dates have been suggested - the 26th January, which is Anniversary Day, and the 9 th May, the anniversary of the date upon which this Parliament first met. It is obvious that either of those dates would be thoroughly appropriate. A decision to meet on the 26th January, the anniversary of the first colonization of Australia, would, I believe, meet with general acquiescence. Similarly, the 9th May is an appropriate date by reason of the fact that it is the anniversary of the first meeting of this Parliament, and will mark the completion of the first year of the second 25 years of Federation. After a full consideration of the whole question, the Government’s decision has fallen on the 9th May. That decision was determined largely by insistent practical considerations. Although the Parliament House at Canberra could be ready for an opening ceremony’ on the 26th January next, it would be impossible to arrange for the housing and office accommodation of the staffs that would have to be then in Canberra if the Parliament had to function from that date onwards.
– There is no need for it to function there from that date onwards.
– It was suggested that the Parliament might function at Canberra with skeleton departmental staffs; but examination revealed many objections to that arrangement. One of these was that officers would have had to go and return between the Seat of Government at Melbourne and Canberra every week. The proposal, upon investigation by the Works Committee, was found not to be satisfactory; it would have involved tremendous expense, and would have led to inefficiency in the departments. Consequently the idea was abandoned, and every effort was concentrated upon the transference of the Seat of Government from Melbourne and the opening of the Parliament at Canberra concurrently at the earliest date when it would be possible for the Parliament to function there continuously. Of course, if the opening of the Parliament there took place on the 26th January, it would be only a few months before the transference of the Seat of Government from Melbourne would be made ; but our legal advisors have definitely laid it down that the Constitution would not permit of the Parliament again meeting in Melbourne after it had met at Canberra.
– We shall not want to.
– It may be necessary for us to sit during the early months of next year; but if the Parliament were opened at Canberra on the 26th January next, and it were found impossible for it to function there, we should be placed in the very difficult and embarrassing position of having no place in which to function, notwithstanding that it was desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that the session should continue. Consequently, the Government have come to the conclusion that the position will be best met if the official opening of the Parliament takes place at Canberra on the 9th May next. By that date it will be possible to actually move the Seat of Government there. A matter for later determination will be whether we shall continue to sit in Canberra immediately after the official opening. Possibly May is not the best month of the year in which to hold a session in Canberra,, as the sudden change of climate might prove harmful to some honorable members. But if a session were held in Melbourne in the early part of next year, it might be possible to have the official opening of the second session of the year in Canberra on the 9th May, and then to adjourn until the Budget was ready for presentation some time in August or the beginning of September. I recognize that many honorable members strongly hold the view that the 36th January is the most appropriate date, but Ministers do not regard this function as one with which they alone are concerned. The final determination of the matter must, however, rest with the Government, and we feel that the decision at which we have arrived is the best possible in the circumstances.
There are one or two other matters with which it is desirable that I should deal. The possibility of transferring the Scat of Government to Canberra so that the Parliament could function continuously from a given date is governed by the ability to transfer the necessary staff. A portion of the staff of every department is to be transferred in the initial move. or. as it has been called, the first wave. The whole of the staff of the’ Parliament, numbering 84, will be transferred. The Prime Minister’s Department will take the whole of its central administrative staff. It is obvious that that department, and possibly the Attorney-General’s Department, will need to have most of its officers transferred when the first move is made. The number of officers in the Prime Minister’s Department who will be moved is 54. Other transfers will be: The staff of the office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General, numbering 7: the central administrative staff of the Attorney-Gener.al’s Department, numbering 33 ; 60 officers of the Treasury; 50 officers of the Home and Territories Department, 96 officers of the Works and Railways Department, 41 officers of the Department of Markets and Migration, and 85 officers of the Department of Trade and Customs. In each of those cases the transference will be one of the central administrative staff. The Department of Defence will have a secretariat of eighteen officers, the Postmaster-General’s Department a secretariat of four officers, and the Health Department a secretariat of two officers.. There will also be two officers of the Inspector’s staff of the Public Service Board, and three officers of the Inspector’s staff of the Auditor-General’s Department. The total number of officers to be transferred in the first move will
Mr. Bruce. be 539. In addition to those, there will have to be a staff ‘G>£ the Government Printing Office, which has not yet been selected. Subsequent to the first move as housing and departmental accommodation become available, further members of the various departments will be transferred to Canberra.
I doubt whether most people realize the magnitude of the move we are about to make. A large amount of staff work will have to be done to ensure that the transfer is made smoothly. The organization of the transfer has been placed in the hands of Colonel W. P. Farr, an officer of the Defence Department, who has been appointed Director of Transportation.
There was a brisk demand at the first auction sale of leases held at Canberra in December, 1924, when 290 residential and 104 business sites were offered. On the day of the sale 100 residential and 47 business sites were sold, and since then many other sites have been disposed of. At a further sale, to be held on the 29th May next, 80 residential and eighteen business blocks will be offered. There are indications that the business section of the .community has considerable faith in lie future of Canberra. That has been shown by the way in which business interests have bid for sites there. Arrangements have been made with the Commonwealth Bank to provide liberal assistance to civil servants who may desire to build homes, and advances will also be made on liberal terms for the construction of business premises. Any one desiring to build business premises will be able to do so on terms as favorable as those obtainable in any other capital in Australia. Members of the Public Service have naturally felt .some apprehension about the move to Canberra; but I am confident that, when they have had an opportunity of seeing the future Capital city, and have learned how much assistance will be given to them in establishing homes there, they will realize that they will be able to live there happily and contentedly. In order that members of the Service who will be transferred may have an opportunity of seeing their new home, and selecting residential sites, it has “been decided to give a concession of 50 per cent, of the return railway tickets issued for such of them and their wives as care to visit Canberra for that purpose.
There is still another problem associated with the transfer. It is most undesirable that the large number of public servants to be transferred should be forced to sell their homes in a depreciated market. To overcome that difficulty, and to insure officers against loss in selling their homes, the Government is completing a scheme under which public servants who are to be transferred to Canberra may hand over their homes for realization on the basis of a fair -valuation. The amount at which a home has been valued will be placed to the owner’s credit, and will be available to him immediately towards the cost of building a home at Canberra. I believe that that provision will relieve the anxiety of civil servants who, with considerable difficulty, have acquired their homes in Melbourne. The method of valuation will be laid down in the scheme, and I believe it will be regarded by members of the Service as equitable. The valuing will be done, not by the Government, but by independent valuers, and the interests of both sides in the transaction will be safeguarded. The Federal Capital Commission is preparing a pamphlet containing the plans of different types of homes, with particulars of their price for outright purchase or hire purchase, or their rent. Each officer in the Service will be given an opportunity of choosing a house from the plans. All honorable members must recognize the necessity for making this transfer on a basis that is undeniably equitable to the officers of the Service. The proposals I am now indicating are, I believe, equitable, and I have no doubt that the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra will intensify the national spirit of Australia.
I have been asked to provide certain reports for honorable members; I shall endeavour to do so, and it will then be possible for them to discuss the subject to-morrow.
.- (By leapt.) - For years we have been. hearing statements similar to that just made by the right honorable the Prime Minister. I wish to contrast with it a statement made by Mr. J. H. Butters, Chairman of the Federal Capital Commission, who, on the subject of Canberra, ought to know -what he is talking about. . Here are his words, as reported in the Age of the 25th May, 1926-
Queanbeyan, Monday. - Mr. J. H. But ters, Chairman of tile Canberra Commission, said the major part of the construction had been done, and. the Commission would be prepared to have the buildings available for Parliament even if the Government decided to fix the opening day for 26th January, 1927. which had been mentioned as a possibility.
– I said in my statement that Parliament House could be ready then. That has never been in question.
– Mr. Butters stated distinctly that he could have the buildings ready for the opening of Parliament on the 26th January. He would know what the opening of Parliament would involve. If he did not, he would not be fit for his job. He would know that it would involve the transfer of the parliamentary staff, of the staff of the Government Printer, and nucleus staffs of the different departments. With full knowledge of his responsibility, Mr. Butters has made this statement deliberately.
– In fairness to Mr. Butters, I point out that there is a distinction between the ceremonial opening and the continuous functioning of the Parliament.
– It is not necessary that there should be a continuous functioning of Parliament in January next. Arrangements might easily be made for the ceremonial opening of the Parliament at Canberra, on the 26th January. No date more fitting for it than that of the first settlement in Australia could be fixed. After the ceremonial opening Parliament could be adjourned until the Government was prepared - in May or in June - for a continuous session.
– Did’ Mr. Butters say that there would be sufficient accommodation available in January for visitors who anight wish to be present at the opening of Parliament?
– I have said that Mr. Butters must have realized all that would be involved in tie opening of Parliament.
– He refers merely to the formal opening.
– That is all that is necessary. We 0011]d have the formal opening of the Parliament at Canberra on the 26th January. If honorable members are not prepared to make a vigorous protest against delay in the opening of the Parliament at Canberra they will find, when the 9th May arrives, that it willstillbe contended that there is not sufficient accommodation at Canberra for visitors. I set against the statement of the Prime Minister the statement made by Mr. Butters, Chairman of the Canberra Commission, a man who should know what he is talking about.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
The following papers were presented: -
Naval Defence Act - Fleet Reserve Regulations Statutory Rules 1926, No. 61.
Nauru - Report on the Administration dur ing the year 1925 - Prepared by the Administrator for submission to the League of Nations.
Public Service Act - Appointment ofG. Franklyn, Department of Works and Railways.
Second Read ing.
Debate resumed from 21st May (vide page 2253), on motion by Mr. Marr -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.NELSON (Northern Territory) [3.54]. - The bill now before the House provides machinery to enable the Government to substitute the freehold for the leasehold system of land tenure in the Northern Territory. One would think that, having decided upon the substitution of the freehold for the leasehold system there, the Government would have proposed the same thing for the Federal Capital Territory. But in view of the way in which the leasehold system is working out at the Federal Capital, the Government would do well to pause before departing in the Northern Territory from a system which is having such beneficial results to the Commonwealth at Canberra. I have noticed in to-day’s issue of the Age a paragraph headed “ Booming Canberra - Soaring Land Values - From 15s. to £7,000 - Keen Competition by Business Firms “ -
Queanbeyan, Tuesday. - Messrs. W. B. Free- body and Company, of Queanbeyan. have begun building on a site of a quarter of an acre at Canberra a picture theatre, the estimated cost of construction being £15,000. The land was obtained by bid for £7,000 at a public auction. The Commissioner’s reserve price wasonly £1, 300. When this land was resumed by the Government the cost of purchase was £3 per acre, thus a block bought for 15s. has been leased for £7,000. This is evidence of the extraordinary increase in land values occasioned by the Federal Capital Commission’s administration. The block has a frontage of about 200 feet on one of the main roads of the city.
Commenting to-day on this remarkable leap in land values, the chairman of the commission, Mr. J. H. Butters, said: - “Any public criticism, justified or unjustified, which may be levelled at the Government in regard to the Canberra undertaking, must take account of the circumstances that this project will, without the slightest doubt, pay for itself within twenty -five years. The Federal Capital is going to be the most profitable public utility the Commonwealth has. What was practically waste land, selling for a song, when it was sold at all, is now being sold by the foot, and it is going off like hot cakes. The commission is -putting up for auction next Saturday 80 residential sites and 20 shop sites. Wo purchased by the thousand acres; we are leasing by the foot, and people arc buying.”
This quotation justifies my statement that it would be well for the. Government to pause before introducing the freehold system in the Northern Territory. It is clear that the enhancement of land values at the Federal Capital will prove of great advantage to the Commonwealth. The Minister in charge of this skeleton bill proposing so drastic and momentous a change in land administration in the Northern Territory has said that the measure is to apply only to agricultural and residential areas. I point out that an agricultural area may extend to 20,000 acres. As a huge expenditure of Commonwealth money is contemplated in the Northern Territory in the near future the Government should wait to see what effect that expenditure is likely to have on land values in that territory before proceeding with this measure, and permitting the alienation of Crown lands in fee-simple to the advantage of land monopolists. We do not want further land monopoly in the Northern Territory. As under this measure the Government will be dealing with large areas of Crown lands ranging up to 20,000 acres in extent, it behoves this Parliament to walk very warily and to be assured concerning the precautions taken against the possibility of land monopoly. I do not think that the machinery provided by this bill is sufficient to prevent the acquisition of the freehold of huge tracts of land under a system of dummying. Having regard to the contemplated expenditure of public money in the Northern Territory, it might be possible under this bill for speculators to dummy large areas of country up to 20,000 acres in extent with a view to the subsequent consolidation of the freehold blocks. I am personally in favour of the leasehold system. I consider that we might look forward to satisfactory land settlement development in the Northern Territory, if the term of the leases were increased to 99 years. Even then we should endeavour to make it impossible for any man or combination of men to bring about land monopoly. We have had an extensive experience of land monopolists in Australia. As a result of their operations land has had to bc repurchased by governments at high prices to provide opportunities for settlement. A 99-years lease of an agricultural block of 20,000 acres should attract settlers. I think that quite a majority of leaseholders to-day prefer the leasehold to the freehold system. Land administration is a most important function of the Government, and in encouraging settlement in the Northern Territory we should take every possible precaution against land monopoly. The Government, particularly in the Northern Territory, seems to be only playing with land settlement. No leases, pastoral or otherwise, have been granted in the Northern Territory for some considerable time. A bill providing for the administration of land in the Northern Territory was passed in this House over twelve months ago, and notwithstanding many attempts to secure leaseholds there, settlers have been unable to obtain them. I understand that this is due to the fact that the board created under the legislation to which I refer, has never functioned as this Parliament intended it should. It is true that pastoral occupation licences are being granted, but it does not follow that the persons holding those licences will later on acquire the lands as leaseholds. When the Northern Territory Land Act was under consideration, I pointed out that notwithstanding the fact that it did not provide for improvement clauses in leases the fact that the Government retained the right to impose stringent stocking conditions would be’ sufficient to make the leaseholders improve their holdings in order to carry more stock. Although twelve or more months have passed, some of the best land in the Territory is still lying idle, no improvements have been effected, and the stocking condi tions have not been insisted upon -by the board appointed at great expense by this Government to carry out the purposes of the act. It is futile to talk about granting freeholds when under the present system of . leasehold the lessees are not complying with the conditions of tenure. The Government now proposes to grant freeholds under certain conditions, but if experience is to guide us, we may expect little from freeholders. If conditions are not enforced more stringently than they have been in the past, no progress will be made at all in the development of the Northern Territory. The principle of leasehold is much to be preferred to the complete alienation of Crown lands, which is now contemplated under the bill; but as a number of my constituents desire to own the freehold of their blocks, I shall not oppose the bill. I trust that proper safeguards will be imposed to prevent the operation of monopolies in the Northern Territory.
– I regret that the Government intends to alter the policy that has hitherto been followed regarding the tenure of land in the Northern Territory. We are about to appoint a commission to administer the Northern Territory, and to spend millions of pounds in its development by the construction of railways and roads, and this, to my mind, is a step in the right direction. Under this bill, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory said, speculators may take up land and greatly retard the development of the Territory. It is quite possible that they alone will derive the benefit of any further expenditure there. We know what the sale of land means to this country. If the leasehold system had applied to the capital cities of Australia, and the Government were now collecting rentals for city properties, we should almost be free from taxation, and development would have taken place without there being any need to borrow money in Australia or abroad. Under the system of private ownership of land, higher prices mean higher rents. The pernicious system of selling public lands is a disgrace to this country, and has been the means of greatly retarding its growth. The Labour party when in power established the principle of leasehold in the Northern Territory. It is true that since then the Territory has not developed to any great extent, but this has been due solely to the war.Had it not been- for the war, Darwin would undoubtedly have progressed. Now that we are paying attention to the development of the Territory it is really a mistakeon the part of the Government to substitute freehold for leasehold. What is to- become of the great, tracts of land in the Northern Territory that are nowheld under leasehold ? Arethese leaseholds, to be cancelled and the holders compensated, or do they stand until the end of time ? In the opinion of the Government the leasehold system as applied to the Northern Territory has failed. Yet the policy adopted respecting, the Federal Capital territory is to lease the land, and I venture to. predict that in time to come the city of Canberra will be the finest in the Commonwealth, ifnot in the world. When that time comes, a great revenue will be derived from that territory. Of course, there can be no comparison made between the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital territory, because the latter is much nearer the centres of population. Many municipalities throughout the world owe their development to- the enormous revenues that they receive from the leasing of reclaimed lands and remodelled buildings. The municipality of Glasgow 30 or 40 years ago adopted the principle of leaseholds, with the result that to-day in, that city there is practically no-municipal taxation. An enormous revenue is derived from its tramways, gasworks, and other municipal utilities.
– There are halfpenny sections on the tramways.
– That is so. We should apply thesame principle to Darwin, Alice Springs, and any other locality that is likely to attract asteady and growing population. The Government would then be able to recoup the expense- of developing those cities. This Parliament, as time goes on, willregret the sale of land in the Northern Territory.
. - I regret that the Government does not see its way to extend the freehold principle to pastoral areas.
– To blocks of 12,000 miles?
– No, but I think that the honorable member will agree that a settler on a block of 200 squaremiles should be entitled to buy the freehold. That isthe type of mam that I wish to encourage to settle- in- the Northern Territory. I do not hold with the honorable member’s statement that a man can get a goodliving from a holding carrying 500 sheep. A settler wants a bigger holding than that. It seems to me that, in granting the freehold of agricultural blocks, the Government is putting the cart before the horse, because there is no possibility of agriculturists selling, their products until the population in tie district is large enough to purchase them. The Government will not encourage people to settle in the Territory by holding out the bait of freehold for agricultural selections. Our experience of the disasters in the settlement on. the Daly River should convince us that near-by markets are necessary if agricultural blocks are to be worked successfully. It would be better for the Government to choose a block in the Northern Territory of perhaps 50,000 or 100,000 square miles, subdivide it into small holdings, and sell the- freehold on extended terms, at the same time rigidly enforcing conditions relating to stocking and improvements such as now exist in regard to leasehold, but which, unfortunately, have not always been insisted upon. If the strict letter of the law were enforced in the Northern Territory nearly every leaseholder would be compelled to forfeit his block.
– Does that apply to some of the leases which the honorable member says are not adequately stocked ?
– If the stocking conditions are not observed the lease should be forfeited. I know of one lease on which, in pursuance of the improvement conditions, a well- was bored and a huge windmill erected, but I think some1 years- elapsed before amy water was pumped. It was understood that if bores were put down they would bemain- tained; but, so far as I know, that condition has not been observed. Iurge the Government to extend the freehold principle to pastoral holdingsfor the benefit of bona-fide settlers, particularly the small men to whom I have referred.
I approve of the sale of agricultural landa only because I regard it as the thin edge of the wedge, which will ultimately make pastoral lands also available for purchase. One .man who is interested ifr the subdivision of land suitable for sheepraising has assured me that he would have no difficulty in selling millions of acres in. the Northern Territory if the freehold could be obtained, but that it was useless to try to dispose of sheep country on lease. Of course, the Minister will not accept an amendment to this bill, but I ask him to seriously considermy suggestion, and make a statement to the House regarding the possibility of extending the freehold principle to pastoral lands. I regret that the Government is starting at the wrong end by granting the freehold of agricultural lands, and not of those larger holdings, whose development will be the greatest factor in bringing, prosperity to the Northern Territory.
– I cannot regard the granting of the freehold of agricultural lands in the Northern Territory as anything but a retrograde step. In conjunction with the declared policy of the Government to expend large sums of money in the making of roads and railways there, it is paving the way for the land-jobber. Naturally, public expenditure upon the making of outlets to markets and the provision of improved transport facilities will benefit agricultural lands more than any other, because whereas stock can be travelled on the hoof long distances to market, agricultural products must be carried by vehicle. Therefore, agricultural land will have a considerable increment in value immediately, and 30 years hence will be very valuable to the land-jobbers who have acquired it. Land bought to-day for 10s. or 15s. an acre will in time be repurchased by the Commonwealth for closer settlement purposes at £5 or f<! an acre. That has been the experience in every State. The land-jobber and the speculator never develop a country. Leasehold must be of advantage to the genuine settler, because he can .start to make a living straightway with only one-third of the capital he requires if he has to buy land. Under the freehold system, as land increases in value hold ings cam be obtained only by the payment of enormous sums, and in some hand-locked districts of New South Wales and Victoria a man cannot acquire an area unless lie has so much money that he is able to retire, and, therefore, does not need to buy. This Government is about to create the same conditions in the Northern Territory. Are we never to learn the lessons taught by past follies? Small country towns in every part of Australia arc languishing because all the lands surrounding them are locked up in private possession. That is one of the outstanding evils of the freehold system. It is absurd to say that leasehold has been a failure in the Northern Territory. I think the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) was right in saying that the Government cannot grant the freehold of agricultural land and refuse the freehold of pastoral land. The pastoralists will demand that the same principle be applied to them as to the agriculturists, and they, too, will be able to acquire the fee-simple to their holdings. We should preserve the leasehold system wherever possible; although it may not suit the capitalist who desires to buy up the countryside and manipulate land values, it is much the best system for the genuine settler. Future generations will regret very much this partial abandonment of the leasehold principle.
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) (4.29]. - I well remember the adoption of the leasehold system in 1910, in respect to the Northern Territory lands. Following the passage of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill which was introduced by the Fisher Government after many promises had been made by other governments, this Parliament passed a bill relating to the administration of that vast province which had been transferred from State to Commonwealth control. In the administration of the Territory many mistakes have been made for which critics have severely blamed this Parliament and various administrators ; but, probably had the critics had the responsibility of controlling that huge area, the results would have been even worse. Section 11 of the Northern Territory Administration Act of 1910 says very definitely -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for .any estate of freehold except in pursuance .of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act. lt he has not already done so, I hope the Minister will inform the House of the area of the Territory which had been disposed of prior to the Commonwealth assuming control. I admit that if two systems of tenure are operating side by side a good deal of friction is liable to result. This Parliament applied the leasehold principle to the Northern Territory, Norfolk Island, and the Federal Capital Territory. The folly of granting freeholds is demonstrated by the cost in which the Commonwealth was involved in repurchasing private estates in the Federal Capital Territory. It may be that some areas there are still held in fee-simple, but I hope that the day is not far distant when they will be resumed and converted to leasehold. This Government, however, has departed from the leasehold principle in connexion with Northern Territory lands, and I fear that iti may some day take a similar retrograde step in regard to the Federal Capita] area. Some honorable members suggest that no business can be done in leasehold lands, but the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) has effectively answered such objections by quoting the conditions in Glasgow. A striking illustration of the success of the leasehold system in Melbourne is afforded by the Howie estate, which in the early days of this city was bought for about £300, and is worth today upwards of £1,000,000. It is centrally situated, and, owing to the enterprise of governments, municipalities, and private individuals, has enjoyed a considerable increment in value. Yet the Howie family has never disposed of any of it except upon building lease, at the expiration of which the land and the buildings thereon revert to the original owners. There is a great difference between a private landlord and a government manipulating land on the leasehold principle, and making money from it. There is, of course, a difference between the value of the corner block in Melbourne to which I have referred and land in the far distant Northern Territory, but the principle involved is the same. If it had been decided originally to apply the leasehold principle exclusively to the lands of Australia we should to-day be free from a great deal of the heavy taxation that we now have to bear. The feesimple of the land having been disposed of, the revenue from it is flowing into pri-
Mr. Fenton. vate pockets instead of into the public exchequer. The Anglican church authorities own a block of land with a big frontage to Bourke and William streets, which for a number of years has been let out on building leases, and from which a large amount of revenue has been derived. Hundreds of square miles of land are held by individuals in the Northern Territory. If I have sensed aright the feeling of honorable members, it will not be very many years before that land will have its value enhanced by the construction of railways, roads, and other means of transportation, and the added value will benefit private individuals instead of the authority responsible for providing the means of communication. The present proposal is to apply the freehold principle only to agricultural lands, but before long it will be extended to pastoral lands, and private individuals will acquire for a mere song the best land in the Northern Territory. This is an attempt to drive a wedge into the leasehold system. I remember the introduction some years ago of a bill by the Honorable P. McM. Glynn, under which it was proposed to apply the. freehold system to the 3,000 acres of land that remained in the possession of the Crown on Norfolk Island. That measure was held up in this chamber for several days because it proposed to depart from, a cherished principle. This proposal, I believe, will have very much more serious results. It cannot be said that the adoption of the leasehold system is a departure from established custom, because, to a certain extent in Victoria, and to a much larger extent in New South Wales and Queensland, land is held under that tenure. I realize that the Government are determined to push the bill through, and are bound to have the support of a majority of honorable members. There may be one or two protests, such as that which was made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). The objection of that honorable member, however, was not to the adoption of the freehold system, but to the fact that pastoral areas were not included. I have no doubt that that and similar protests will satisfy the consciences of those honorable members who make them, and that a majority of honorable members will favour the removal of this provision from the act.
So far as I can remember, the leasehold system in relation to the land of the Northern Territory was originally adopted almost unanimously by this House. I am not aware that the Minister (Mr. Marr) has shown that the absence of freehold has limited settlement in the Northern Territory. It is quite likely that a number of interested parties have, either jointly or severally, expressed the desire to be given the freehold of their agricultural holdings. That, however, should not influence either the Government or the Parliament. We sometimes have to steel ourselves against the solicitations of interested parties, especially when a great principle is involved. I shall not be induced to agree to this concession, because there have been requests for an alteration of the existing system. The younger members of the Government party will live to regret having given their consent to the replacement of the leasehold by the freehold system. This will open the door to speculators, and unless the Ministry is very careful the lands of the Northern Territory will be practically given away. When railways and other means of communication are provided the value of those lands will be enhanced, and newcomers to the Territory will find that, instead of being able to obtain land from the Government at reasonable leasehold rates, they will have to pay “ through the nose “ to the private individuals who hold it. I protest against this proposed departure from a very valuable principle in regard to land settlement.
– I cannot understand how the Government can consistently ask for our endorsement of a proposal which will have the effect of preventing the Commonwealth from enjoying the advantage that is conferred by the enhancement of the value of land. The leasehold principle applies to the lands in the Federal Capital Territory. That policy has been endorsed by the Parliament at different times, and distinct advantages have accrued to the Commonwealth. But despite that illustration of the desirability of the Crown retaining the powers of title over land, the Government proposes in relation to another part of the Commonwealth an entirely contradictory policy. The Minister has not said anything which justi fies this proposed change of policy. Knowing the forces that are operating within the Northern Territory, we should not be doing our duty if we permited such a sweeping change to bemade without challenge. Certain interests in the Northern Territory desire to obtain a firmer grip of the land than they have at. present. I recognize that the bill does not “deal with pastoral leases; they were fully dealt with in a past session, when a grave injustice was done to the people by deliberately depriving them of rentals due to them . Although that legislation has little or no relation to the present proposal, it certainly indicates that the interests which took such an unfair advantage of the people at that time are still active, and are claiming freehold titles over other lands which I, as a representative of South Australia, am not prepared to grant. I think I may claim, without offence to other honorable members, that the representatives from South Australia feel that they have a more direct interest in the future of the Northern Territory than the representatives from other States.
– All States will suffer equally. It is a dastardly policy.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) recognizes the iniquity of the proposal. I think he will also recognize that, as the Northern Territory was at one time part of the State of South Australia, South Australians have a real interest in its future.
– Honorable members from South Australia are looking after their own baby.
– And we do not wish to leave it on the doorstep. We wish to feel that we are providing it with nourishment in the form of wise legislation, upon which it will thrive until it has become a strong, healthy unit of the Commonwealth. Itcannot develop properly under a system of freehold tenure. If it be wise to have a leasehold system in the Federal Capital territory, it cannot be unwise to have the same system in ‘the Northern Territory. We have experienced the evils of freehold tenure in the different States, where land jobbery has been rampant, and the speculator has profited at the expense of the community. The speculator says. “ If you do not speculate you do not accumulate,” and he makes certain that he, at least, accumulates. Financial interests in all parts of Australia are taking advantage of the development of the community to reap the reward! that rightly belongs to the community. They have secured’ a grip of the. laud required by the community, and are charging excessive prices for it. That has been made possible by the granting of freehold titles. The State Governments have experienced great difficulty in regulating the activities of these men, and in preventing them from perpetrating wrongs on the people. The Federal Government, by lending itself to a vile, vicious, and evil principle, will bring itself into disrepute. Revenue which should come to the Commonwealth will go into the pockets of private individuals. If those individuals were- doing anything to promote the higher interests of the Commonwealth, and were contributing to the added values of the land they deal in, I might be able to concede some merit in the arguments of the Minister ; but I know that they “toil not, neither do they spin,” and that, while contributing nothing to the progress- of the community, they receive the fun advantage of any progress brought about by the community. Thus they prey upon society. The Government has . departed from a cardinal principle in land policy, and unless there are more substantial reasons for the change than those advanced by the Minister. I must register my opposition to it. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) advanced many logical arguments why the Government should not proceed with this policy. We, on this side, have often accused the Government, not without justification, of lending itself to wealthy and vested interests, and in its laud policy it has again justified the allegation. I shall await with interest the reply of the Minister. It may be that he thought there was little or no need for a long explanation of the proposal, because the greater the explanation the greater the condemnation would be likely to be, and “ the least said tha soonest mended.” The Minister - did not waste much eloquence on this proposal’.
– The honorable member evidently did not hear my speech.
– Very great interest was taken in what the honorable gentleman had to say, but, unfortunately,, it was devoid of the logical argument which should have been advanced to justify this radical change m the land policy of the Northern
Territory. I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate, he will recognize the vast importance of the sweeping change of policy proposed by this bill. The Government proposes to make provision for freehold in the Northern Territory, and Ave should like to know whether this is merely a first instalment, and whether similar proposals are yet to be submitted for other Territories of the Commonwealth. We should learn from the experience of the past, even in a young country like Australia, that the land should be kept in the hands of the Government, and should not be handed over to private individuals for speculation and exploitation. The people as a whole should reap the benefit from added values given to laud as the result of community efforts. I express my resentment at and condemnation of this proposal, and if my voice and vote influence the Government to refrain from doing what they propose to do under this bill, I shall feel that I have performed a duty to Australia.
.- What I regret most in connexion with this measure is the very little interest that appears to be taken by honorable members in the great land question. It has been a burning question in Australia for a great number of years, and has been associated with the greatest scandals and abuses of our national life. The adoption of the freehold system has been the means of inflicting the greatest hardship upon the community. We give away the fee-simple of lands which should have been retained by the State for those who are to follow us. By giving away the lands which should be regarded as the birthright of future generations, we place the destinies of Australia in the hands of a few. We have in this Parliament a Country party, the members of which, on every opportunity, assert that the land is the chief source of all wealth. Philosophers and social reformers whose opinions are respected have warned governments that to give to individuals the fee-simple of Crown lands is cruel and unjust to present and future generations. I cannot understand the indifference of honorable members to so important a question. They should rise in their places and use their intelligence to prevent the injustice which is sure to follow from the application of the land policy contained in this measure. We cannot say what the future wilt be, but we know that, in the past, private individuals have unjustly acquired wealth as the result of land transactions. The land policy proposed in this bill is destructive. Under the freehold system, people desiring to- hold land have to carry a burden that, in financial phraseology, is described, as a “blister.” If they were able to take up land on the payment of a nominal rent to the Crown, their savings might be invested to enable them to secure a return from their land, instead of having to be used to pay interest on a mortgage. Honorable members on this side are prepared to devote some of their time to the history of land transactions in this country, and to the views of those who have made land administration a special study. I do not say that Henry George, Blanchard, or the author of Looking Backwards, are correct in the views they have expressed, but they certainly have submitted good reasons to justify us in taking action to prevent land robbery by private individuals. A friend of mine who was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, and was in favour of the leasehold system, said on one occasion that public men, and amongst them some members of Parliament, carried stones in their pockets with the object of floating mines, and carried plans of land which could be acquired from the Crown at a cheap rate and subsequently sold at double and treble the price to persons in want of land. The freehold system cripples the progress of the country. Those who are opposed to the leasehold system are interested in monetary institutions that ave out to extract as much from the people as they can. People are invited to believe that there is some special virture in a freehold, but we know that a great many have had to leave their land before they could remove the blister to which they had had to submit in order to secure it. When I find so- much indifference to this question displayed, I feel that there must be something underlying this, proposal. There is grave suspicion that there is going to be a deal in connexion with land in the Northern Territory as a result of it. The Minister said that some governments have- broken away from the leasehold principle, and yets he is prepared to father this proposal, which will be a burden and a curse to future generations in the Northern Territory. Future settlers in the Territory will curse those responsible for taking away from them the ownership of its lands. Where to-night is the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot. Johnson), the great apostle of the leasehold system ? The honorable member was. returned to Parliament and retained his seat for a number of years as the advocate of that system. Where is the honorable member now, when the Government proposes to depart from that system ? It only shows how the people are deceived by some public men. Look at the misery imposed upon the Irish, people because the lands of Ireland were locked up in freeholds in the hands of titled persons who did not care what became of the country. In Scotland the Crofters were obliged to pay for the right to occupy a few acres of land to grow food for their families, because those lands were held by persons whose policy was to get all (hey possibly could for themselves and let every one else go to the devil. It is not to the credit of the . Government that it does not make an effort to retain the leasehold system in the Northern Territory. We know how well that system is operating now at Canberra. The people of Australia should thank the Labour Government for deciding, when the Federal Capital Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth, that the tenure should be leasehold, and the revenue therefrom accrue to the nation. It was a bold and beneficial policy. Yet this Government intends to violate that principle in respect of the Northern, Territory. In the interests of om- future generations, we should retain the fee-simple of Crown lands. In my young days, my objection to mortgages prevented me from obtaining land. I worked hard at my trade, but not until I was 60 years of age was I able to obtain a home of my own. If the land in the Territory were held under leasehold, the rentals therefrom would materially assist in the reduction of taxation, and in the provision of roads, railways, and other transport facilities. This bill will certainly permit of land speculation. Land jobbing is a profession nowadays. A speculator purchases land,’ allows it to lie idle for a few years, and then sells it, on mortgage, to a small settler at an exorbitant price. In time of drought the settler is unable to meet bis payments, and the property reverts to the speculator. The same process is continued until the speculator become rich at the expense of the small settlers. All honorable . members claim to be statesmen. There is a vast difference between a politician and a statesman. The first wishes to make sure of his seat at the next election, and the second is anxious only for the future prosperity of the country. If honorable members would only view this bill as statesmen, and with clear vision, they would strongly oppose it. I am satisfied that the measure has been introduced at the instigation ‘ of persons interested in the Northern Territory, who desire to speculate in freehold. In view of the past scandals in land transactions, we should strenuously oppose any attempt to sell the freehold of Northern Territory lands. In the constituency that I represent, land has been sold at £1,600 a foot. If the Government had been collecting rentals from such properties, the development of the interior of Australia would now have been an accomplished fact. The bill affects immigration. “We must place our immigrants on the land. Many of them have less than £100, and in order to purchase freeholds they will be compelled to carry a heavy mortgage on their holdings, necessitatingweekly payments of from 20s. to 25s. If these men, during drought time, are unable to meet their payments, their holdings will revert to the mortgagor. The Queensland Government has adopted the system of leaseholds. Along each side of the railway lines of that State is a strip of land, half a mile in width, which is retained as a Government reserve.
– Tell us something of the failure of the leasehold system in Queensland.
– Every State but Queensland settled returned soldiers on freehold land. The Queensland Government placed them on the Government reserves alongside the railways at moderate rentals, and they planted fruit trees and set pineapples between the trees. As a pineapple plantation gives a return in the first year, they were able immediately to earn sufficient to provide the necessaries of life, and were not handicapped by a heavy capital outlay for the purchase of their holdings.
– Very few of the original settlers at Burrum-burrum are there today.
– That is not due to the leasehold system. There has been overproduction of fruit in every State.
– The proposal to grant the freehold of agricultural lands in the Northern Territory is outrageous. When men lease land at a nominal rent, they have more chance of getting a prompt return for the work they put into their holdings. The majority of honorable members opposite are the friends of banking institutions, and get their votes, and they are now trying to serve the interests of their supporters. That is a very poor spirit. Honorable members should take a more statesmanlike view of this proposal. I am satisfied that future generations will bless them if they refuse to part with the fee-simple of our large public estate in the Northern Territory. We cannot expect’ people to settle there unless they have a chance of acquiring a piece of land for their own purposes without having to pay a heavy purchase price. The earth and the fulness thereof belong to all the people.
– A very noble sentiment !
– What is the use of expressing noble sentiments to men who pay no more attention to them than if their heads were so many bladders of lard ? It is bad for the country that some honorable members should take so little interest in public questions, and should allow themselves to be misled by people who have private ends to serve. The man who owns the land owns the people on it. In some of the older countries of the world the masses of the people are at the mercy of Tory landlords; and for the benefit of a few covetous individuals the Government proposes to introduce old-world abuses into the Northern. Territory. I have never claimed to be a disciple of Henry George, but I believe that in the interests of the commonweal this Parliament should prevent the evils of land monopoly in the Territory it controls. I have known 1,200 people in New South Wales to scramble for one block of land. The Government’s policy will bring about a similar state of affairs in the Northern - Territory. Existing evils are not easily removed, but though the past is beyond recall, we can profit by earlier mistakes and mould the future to our will. Now is the time for this Parliament to take a stand against a policy that- will prove detrimental to the interests of the nation. I deplore the lack of true patriotism in those who are supporting this bill. I have never missed an opportunity to prevent or remove abuses, and I should be recreant to my duty . to the electors of East Sydney if I did not emphatically protest against the alienation of Commonwealth lands. After all, freehold is merely a fetish ; many people have inherited a prejudice against leasehold, and attach an exaggerated value to the fee-simple. It is to the interest of some people to perpetuate the popular misunderstanding of the principle that is involved. We could not do greater harm to future generations than by depriving them of the opportunity to share iu that which Providence has provided. The freehold system has been perpetuated because of ignorance. To-day we are an enlightened democracy, and if we act wisely we shall create wealth for the whole of the people of Australia instead of allowing it to be enjoyed by only a few individuals
.- I sympathize with the desire of the Government to apply the system, of freehold tenure to certain areas in the Northern Territory. Only by that means shall we induce closer settlement there. There is not u State in Australia in which one cannot obtain the fee-simple of laud that is required for agricultural and similar purposes. The great objection to the leasehold system is that the government of the day may so alter the conditions of the tenure that the tenant is unable to carry on. I do not believe that one honorable member opposite would choose for himself the leasehold tenure in preference to the freehold. I am anxious that the Northern Territory should be developed. At Canberra recently the Government sold the leasehold of certain land. Those who purchased leaseholds subsequently found that it was impossible to obtain financial assistance to enable them to build thereon. Even the Commonwealth Bank declined to make a loan until it was guaranteed under a special agreement with the commission. In Western Australia at one time the Government wished to provide homes for working miners. Mr. George Throssell, then
Minister for Lands, introduced a new system of leasing land, upon which miners’ homes were to be erected. Before very long the regulations provided that the land could not be sold to a person other than a miner, and that restricted the field of possible purchasers.
– Many miners in Victoria were glad to have the opportunity to obtain a miner’s right.
– That was an entirely different title. A man who engages in cotton growing, sugar growing, peanut growing, or any other form of closer settlement, must be given a legitimate title so that he will have security to offer if he desires to raise a loan. Section 11 of the act provides -
No Crown lands of the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold.
I believe that the power to sell ought to be embodied in the act. Of course, large pastoral and mineral areas should not be sold. In Victoria in the early days considerable difficulty was experienced because mineral rights were not reserved to the Crown. In recent years the practice has been to reserve those rights. There is nothing in the act to prevent the Minister from selling land that contains gold or other minerals and not reserving all minerals to the Crown. Must we depend upon provision being made in an ordinance that no land shall be sold so as to give a pre-emptive right to a depth greater than 30 feet? In Western Australia, a man who buys land is given the pre-emptive right to a depth of only 50 feet. If metals are discovered below that depth the State has the power to grant leases for the purpose of carrying on mining operations subject to compensation being given to the holder of the land for any surface damage that is done. Any ordinance framed under the measure should make a similar provision in regard to the lands of the Northern Territory ; and in addition it should provide for the absolute reservation to the Crown of all mineral rights.
– The bill should provide that any ordinance must be approved by Parliament before it becomes law.
– Every government has found it necessary to take the power to make ordinances. Parliament may either allow or disallow such ordinances.
I welcome the proposal to grant a freehold title for specific purposes in certain areas.
– Can the honorable member state what price it is necessary to pay for some of the wheat lands of Western Australia?
– I am not concerned with the price. I would give the land away if that would induce people to go into the Northern Territory. But we must be careful to see that no pastoral areas are sold. The existing ordinance makes that provision, and the government of the day can be depended upon to see that it is observed.
– High land values are crippling many primary industries today.
– I have no desire to see Victoria’s early experience in connexion with mineral areas repeated in the Northern Territory. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will seriously consider my suggestion that there be an absolute reservation to the Crown of all mineral rights in land the freehold of which is conferred upon -any purchaser, andthat. land be sold so as to give a pre-emptive right to a depth not greater than 50 feet, or whatever the Parliament considers a fair thing.
.- My views arc at variance with those of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He stated that only by granting a freehold title in land would settlement in the Northern Territory be promoted. He further stated that the Government of every State in the Commonwealth gives applicants for Crown land a freehold title. I combat that statement. In Queensland, for the last eleven years, at any rate,Crown lands have been unobtainable, except under leasehold tenure.
– Unless one is a member of the Cabinet.
– That interjection is entirely unworthy of the Minister. If he infers that any member of the Queensland Cabinet is dishonest, it is his duty to make the statement outside this chamber, and to name the individual.
– I have made the statement outside this chamber.
– I could, if I chose, show that there is a far greater opportunity for the Minister to make large sums of money out of grants of freehold to prospective settlers in the Northern Territory.
– The Minister has not the power to grant freehold, and the honorable member knows it.
– I have no desire to indulge in personalities, and I deeply resent the statement that has been made by the Minister. This is an amazing measure, the principal provision of which is contained in clause 3. That clause proposes to repeal section 11 of the act, which reads -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold, except in pursuance of some contract entered into before thecommencement of this act.
The alteration proposed is a vital one, and it should command the attention of every honorable member. On its face the bill looks harmless, but examination shows that it will vitally affect the future of the Northern Territory. I ask the Minister whether any prospective settlers have induced the Government to change its attitude in relation to the tenure of land.
– The circumstances are somewhat suspicious.
– I do not say that; but there ought to be a public agitation in favour of it before a drastic change is effected in relation to the people’s patrimony. This is, moreover, a change that -will affect not only those who are living to-day, but also future generations. The crux of the matter was touched upon by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Will the proposed alteration promote a greater amount of settlement in the Northern Territory? The facts show that it will not help the position in the slightest degree.
– I think it will.
– It will mean that those who obtain possession of the lands of the Northern Territory will effect the minimum amount of improvement, and will be content to wait for the unearned increment. That is happening all over Australia to-day. The disastrous effect of freehold tenure upon development is illustrated in every State of the Common- wealth. In the Northern Territory, the effect will be diametrically opposite to that which the honorable member for Swan imagines.
– Surely the honorable member did not hear my statement of the conditions that are to be laid down!
– I have not heard any convincing reason for this drastic change. There may be a show of argument for retaining freehold tenure in Great Britain and other European countries. In countries where there is no leasehold agricultural land there is a disposition to attribute any agitation for leasehold tenure to the faddist and visionary; but even in Great Britain no less an authority than Herbert Spencer, the greatest exponent of individualism that Great Britain has ever had, who has been spoken of as the greatest philosopher of this or any other age, opposed the freehold tenure of land. Henry George, against tremendous odds in the individualistic country of the United States of America, wrote a book called Progress and Poverty, the conclusions of which, in my opinion, have not been refuted by any one. Persons in the Old Country may not be prepared to tread a path not trodden previously. In that country the difficulties to be overcome in abolishing the private ownership of land are great; the land would have to be nationalized, and large vested interests bought out, and that might be financially impossible. But Australia is differently circumstanced with regard to the Northern Territory. There we can try out the leasehold system, and it was the wish of the Federal Parliament in 1910 that it should be tried out. The Minister and his colleagues are trying it out in the Federal Capital Territory, with the result, as stated by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), that from one small area of land, which cost the people of this country 15s., the Government has drawn unearned increment amounting to no less than several thousands of pounds. That huge profit under a freehold system of tenure would have gone into the pockets of private speculators, hangerson, and those who sit tight and wait. Who was responsible for the large increase of land values in, say, Bourkestreet, Melbourne? Who was responsible for the fact that several blocks in that street have returned £250,000 to the owners of them? Was that result achieved by individual effort - that individual effort which honorable members opposite are so anxious to preserve, and which we on this side are not prepared to question? Was it by any man’s personal energy? Was it by the application of brains to the betterment of humanity? Was it because of the invention of a machine to lighten the work of industry? It was due, not to any of these things, but to the owner, through luck, in many instances, sitting down in Melbourne in the early days-
– The same thing has happened in Scotland and elsewhere.
– That is quite true, for while venturesome spirits went to the diggings and the back country, persons with less energy sat down in the city and pocketed the unearned increment created by the gathering of population around them. We have the example of Canberra, where the leasehold system is being tried. As the leasehold system is being discarded in the Northern Territory, one wonders whether a similar change will be made in the near future at Canberra. . May not the friends of honorable members opposite - the men who finance the National party at election times - apply pressure to obtain the freehold system at Canberra, just as they have done in the Northern Territory? From my observations, freehold tenure, instead of assisting industry in Australia, is ham-stringing it. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said there was not an honorable member on this side who held freehold land who would be prepared to exchange it for leasehold land. That is a wonderful argument, is it not? He asks mo whether I would be prepared to exchange something to which the community has given a greater value for something of less value. Of course I would not. Butwe must not pander to the cupidity of men who wish to have a freehold for which they never bargained. The honorable member for Swan and his friends play up to the cupidity of people. The freehold system is menacing development, and surely that fact should appeal to him. He and I, in our frequent visits to Western Australia, pass through the wheat lands of South Australia. Beside the line from Adelaide to Port Augusta there is land which sells for £20 an acre. It includes some of the finest wheat land in South Australia, hut wheat, it is said, cannot profitably be grown there. The reason is that the land is over-capitalized. The same handicap exists in other primary industries. A large number of the retired people in Adelaide were formerly farmers who sold their land at £12, £15, and £20 an acre. While they walk about Adelaide in their store clothes - for they are unable to discard the saving instinct that a man has to develop on his own farm - and while they collect their rents, the . poor beggars who bought their land at £20 an acre find themselves faced with the impossible task of trying to make a profit out of 18 bushels of wheat to the acre.
– The man who buys the land at £20 an acre sells it for £21 an acre.
– If he can; and that raises the point I wish to emphasize. He buys the land not to grow wheat on it, but in the hope of a rise in values. He buys as a speculator. If he is a farmer he knows that he cannot make a profit by growing wheat with a yield of 18 bushels to . the acre on land costing £20 an acre. Many persons who go on the land in South Australia pay a £400 or £500 deposit, and in good faith try wheat-growing in the first instance. When they find that they cannot make wheat-growing pay, they try to sell the land at £21 an acre. Wheatgrowing on such land does not pay.
– It is paying.
– It is not; I say that as a wheat-grower. The honorable member should “ stick to his last.” He was a storekeeper, not a wheat-grower. Western Australia is favorably placed for wheat-growing, because land is cheap there, but, inevitably, with freehold tenure, the same thing will happen as has happened in SouthAustralia and elsewhere. The farmers will sell out at an increased price, and, ultimately, we shall hear the wheat-grower of Western Australia declaring that wheatgrowing does not pay. It has been represented that, in. the great wheat-growing centres of the middle west of the United
States of America, land has increased so much in value as a result of speculation, that wheat-growing no longer pays. The banks financed many of the farmers, and there has been a big financial crash. The land was valued at from £20 to £30 an acre, and hundreds of the banks who backed the farmers on that valuation have gone into liquidation. The same thing is taking place in the eastern States of Australia, not only in wheat-growing, but also in dairying. The western district of Victoria is, I should say, the fairest part of Australia. Land there is valued at from £100 to £120 an acre, and rents are as high as £5 and £6 per acre. What do we find there? We find the Paterson butter scheme in operation to raise the price of butter so that the poor devils on the over-capitalized land may make a living. They are awakened by the alarm clock in the morning, and on every farm the husband, wife, and children take a share of the work. As a result of freehold tenure, profitable industry has become almost impossible. The Northern Rivers district of New South Wales is possibly the richest country in Australia, with the exception of some parts of Queensland. In that country, the great difficulty is to keep the feed down, rather than to avoid over-stocking the country; but even in that part of Australia, I have conversed with persons who saythat it is impossible to make a profit out of anything but butter because of the high price of the land. We have had as a visitor this afternoon a member of the Parliament of the sister dominion of New Zealand. He says that the fact that land there suitable for dairying sells at up to £120 per acre has made it impossible to make the production of butter a paying proposition in the dominion, which should be the home of the dairying industry. A leasehold tenure has not prevented the best efforts being put forward by those engaged in several industries in Australia. So far as I know there is not an important mine in Australia that is not situated on a leasehold. Those engaged in the mining industry do not require freeholds for their operations. It is true that when the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was a member of the Western
Australian Government he was approached by mining men who wanted the freehold of their mining leases, but the honorable member resisted all such applications. He was against a freehold tenure for mining lands, but is now in favour of a freehold tenure for lands in the Northern Territory. I fail to see any consistency in his attitude. The great pastoral areas of Australia are efficiently worked under the leasehold system by people who might reasonably be expected to desire the freehold of their holdings. The wool industry, which is possibly the most important we have in the Commonwealth, is successfully carried on under the leasehold system of land tenure. Let us consider what is taking place in Queensland where the leasehold systemis being tried. Since 1915 it has been impossible for any one to obtain other than a leasehold tenure of agricultural lands in Queensland. The fact that at the recent State elections the Queensland Government was again returned to power after a tenure of office extending over eleven years, proves that the people of that State endorse the land policy of that Government. In the last eleven years the population of Queensland has increased by 180,000. No other State in the Commonwealth can show such progress. For the first nine months of last year the population of Queensland increased by 15,000, whilst no other State showed an increase during the same’ period of quite 5,000. Queensland under the leasehold system is advancing by leaps and bounds. A system of land tenure found suitable for tropical Queensland should be equally suitable for the Northern Territory, where the natural conditions are much the same. This Bill proposes the adoption in the Northern Territory of a land system, which has brought about an impossible state of affairs in the mother country. The cupidity of private individuals in Great Britain induced them to acquire the freehold of areas available for agriculture; but instead of being used to grow cereals, which Great Britain needs, those valuable lands have been turned into deer parks. A man must work a leasehold if he wants to make a profit out of it, whilst thetreeholder sits down and waitsfor the unearned increment in the value of his land. There is an example of this in the rich district ofToodyay, in Western Australia, which I know, and which is inthe electorate of the honorable member for Swan. The district has made no progress in the last 60 years. Its population is if anything less now than it was 60 years ago, because the early settlers acquired the freehold of their lands, and have been waiting to reap the unearned increment. They are like the people at the back of the Government in this proposal, who are clamouring for freeholds in the Northern Territory. They want to get something for nothing, by robbing future generations of Australia of their birthright in the Territory.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
.- I have to thank the Honorary Minister (Mr. Man-) for his courtesy in letting me see an advance proof of the speech that he made when introducing the bill. If I were a believer in the private ownership of land I should say that it was a very fine speech, and, I dare say, would approve of it; but as I have long held that the land should belong to the people as a whole, I must oppose the bill. I do not believe in private property in land. The land belongs to the people. God gave it to them to be made good use of. Some of the most terrible iniquities have been perpetrated upon the people of many lands under the system of private ownership. The great Jewish race was in the past remarkable for its system of land tenure. In no other country was there so much happiness and prosperity as in Judrea. When the jubilee year came there, every family or its descendants whose land had been alienated had it returned to them. There is no doubt that had the ancient Jewish people been allowed to remain under its own laws the world would have been much happier and more just than it is to-day. Members of that race could not sell land for a period of more than 50 years, or’ beyond the jubilee year. If 25 years had passed since the last jubilee year, land could be parted with only for the remaining period. If 40 years had passed, land could be sold only for ten years. In the jubilee year rejoicings rang through the length and breadth of the country, and in biblical language, every man dwelt “ under his vine and under his fig tree.”
– But have not the Hebrews given up that practice?
– That is a witty remark that does not become the honorable member. He is a very religious man, and for his religious belief I have respect; but I ask him, not at all ill-temperedly, to devote more study to the Book that he values, and that I value.
– I asked the honorable member a simple question.
– Was it not persecution that made the Jewish people apt to get that which was easiest to carry when they were forced to leave their homes? The change which came about in that race was due to its persecution by peoples who called themselves Christian, but were not so in spirit. No man of modern time has studied the values of land more than did Henry George, and when a monument to his memory is erected, it will tower in company with the monuments of those who have most benefited this world. The Labour Government tried an experiment in the Northern Territory. The only other experiment that I know of made under the British flag to abolish private ownership of land was in the colony of Hong Kong, where previously the old bad habit of selling land had held sway. That was discontinued, and in its place came the 999 years’ lease. There are a few of these leases. There is also the 99 years’ lease, and the 75 years’ lease. When any land is reclaimed it is valued at a fair rental, but to get the difference between corner blocks and blocks alongside, they are put up to auction with right to lease, and the rental is based on a fair value. As a result of this system the revenue of Hong Kong increased by leaps and bounds. When the leases expired splendid buildings became the property of the Government. No country under the British flag showed an increase of revenue equal to that of Hong Kong at that time. What was the experience of J apan ? On the advice of the great philosopher, Herbert Spencer, the representatives of the Japanese Government framed their foreign policy. He advised them how to avoid quarrels with foreign nations. He told them to sell no land, and to keep other countries at arm’s length; not to let foreign races have mining rights nor allow their ships to trade on the Japanese coast. Herbert Spencer never imagined that Japan would grow to such a warlike nation as she is to-day. He asked the representatives of the Japanese Government not to make public his advice to them until after his death. In Japan no outsiders, except various religious bodies, are allowed to acquire land, and even in the case of religious bodies the land is gradually being rebought. This leads up to the splendid experiment that we are trying in the Northern Territory. No one will deny that Australia is the heritage of the white race. I resent this attempt to substitute the system of freehold for that of leasehold, just as much as I resented the action of the Government that changed the leasing of mallee lands, to private ownership. At that time any man could get a leasehold block for 2s. 6d. The petty argument was raised that the settler could not borrow money on the land from a financial institution. I suppose one would be safe in dividing, financial institutions into three categories - good, bad, and indifferent. The good institution would be the bank which lent money at moderate rates of interest; the indifferent institution would lend money at a little more than afair rate of interest; and the bad institution would be the money lender. Would not Dante have been justified in consigning money lenders to the deepest of his seven hells? Every honorable member knows what happens to those who get into the clutches of money lenders. The paltry excuse was made that the leaseholders would not be able to borrow from financial institutions. The action of the government of that time was not worthy of a great national government. If this Government holds the same view, why does it not extend the functions of the Commonwealth Bank, as was intended by Mr. King O’Malley, the founder and father of that institution. At present the Commonwealth Bank is only a banker’s bank, no different from other banks except that it is more powerful. If that bank functioned as it was originally intended to function, financial assistance would be given to the farmers. This measure is called a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory Administration Act 1910. Clause 3 reads-“ Section 11 of the principal act is repealed.” That section reads -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall he sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold, except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act.
The government of the day, in its wisdom, laid it down that the land of the Northern Territory should not he sold; a land vast in its possibilities and potentialities, and which we on this side of the House, at all events, wish to hold for our future millions. Let me give as briefly as I may the essentials of the bill. The land is to be divided into town lands, agricultural lands, garden lands, and tropical lands. Town lands, I understand, are not to be sold at less than. £5. Is that an acre or block?
– A block.
– Then, in respect of agricultural land, one-tenth of it must bc cultivated, and sold at not less than 2s. Cd. an acre. Fancy, in these clays of teeming millions in overcrowded countries selling land here at 2s. 6d. an acre! The Government will say that that is its true value at present. I should be willing that a man should have land after he had cultivated it over a period of years and made good. Garden blocks must be within 10 miles of a township, and sold at not less than 10s. an” acre. Then there are tropical lands. A company may take up land not exceeding 20,000 acres, on leasehold for fourteen years, and afterwards obtain it at 2s. 6d. an acre. That might be the present value of the land, but values change. A man who is dying from thirst would give any amount for a glass of water, but would any honorable member say that that was the fair value of the water? We want to settle white men in the Territory, and give them a chance to make good. How many thousands of persons would have settled in Western Australia if they had had to obtain financial assistance to pay for their land? Would the success that has rewarded the efforts of a large percentage of the wheatgrowers in that State have been possible if they had had to buy land with the aid of money-lending institutions? I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : “the bill be postponed with a view to a referendum being taken as to whether there shall be leasehold or freehold in the Northern Territory.”
Approximately £100,000 of the people’s money will be expended in taking a referendum upon certain proposed amendments of the Constitution, in regard to which this Government has kindly condescended to consult the people. If we trusted the people as we should, they could express their will by referendum, independent of any government or parliament. Many honorable members who say that they trust the people speak with false hearts, and their tongues in their cheeks. If the people, in their wisdom, declare that the Government should be allowed to sell land in the Northern Territory, I shall accept their verdict, but they should have the opportunity to declare, as I believe they would, that this land shall be held for the benefit of future generations. If the Government will not allow this question to be determined by referendum, it does not trust the people. The paltry excuse of expense cannot be urged, because if the Government’s constitutional proposals are approved by this Parliament, a referendum will be taken, and one more question upon the ballotpaper will make no difference. In the State of Ohio, in . America, at the first operation of the referendum, the people on one day voted upon 43 separate questions. The Australian people have already voted in three or four referendums, and surely they can be trusted to decide at one appeal three questions. The only additional expense my amendment would involve would be the cost of printing an extra question on the ballotpaper. We who sit in this chamber are only passing objects on the river of time; we must face our creators within three years. Have we a right to say that millions of acres in the Northern Territory shall be offered for sale? It is true that the freehold system is to be applied only above a certain degree of latitude, but judging by past history, it is only the thin end of the wedge. One of the greatest philosophers has said that no ruler, or government, or parliament has the right to make laws that future genera tions must obey, and in making my protest against this bill, I affirm the right of any succeeding Parliament to undo the evil that this Parliament is about to do. I warn those who may acquire the feesimple under this legislation that, if I am returned to the next Parliament, I shall be prepared to repeal this legislation without compensation to the freeholders. As an Australian who loves his country, and wishes to hand it down as a great heritage to the white race, I am opposed to one-fifth of the continent being alienated from the. Crown. The proposal to refer this question to a’ referendum seems to disturb some honorable members. I have heard many public men say that they would be proud to be the servants of the people, and,’ if returned to Parliament, would do this and that. But having been elected, they soon forgot their promises. Very often this chamber has rung with the voices of men who spoke in opposition to what they had declared on the public platform. Many years ago, when I introduced the practice of dividing the Victorian House of Assembly on all controversial questions, Duncan Gillies stated that, though a member might be able to explain away a speech, he found it very difficult to explain away a vote. Next to the single tax ideals promulgated by Henry George is the policy of land nationalization. The Northern Territory is the only portion of the Commonwealth, except the Federal Territory, where all the land is the property of the nation. If we part with the fee-simple of lands in the Northern Territory, who can be sure that a similar policy will not be applied to the lands in the Federal Capital Territory? Collins-street is the centre of Melbourne, and the land fronting it is the most valuable in Victoria; indeed, its value per foot is second only to that of certain Sydney properties. Between Swanston-street and Williamstreet, one may see a succession of noble buildings, in each one of which there is a waste wall. In other words, between adjoining premises there are two walls occupying from 3 ft. to 5 ft. 6 in., of one of the most valuable frontages in Victoria. Add to the value of the land thus occupied the amount of labour and material put into the walls, and it will be found that, at a moderate estimate, £250,000 to £300,000 has been thus wasted in that section of Collins-street alone. If the Commonwealth owned the whole of the square bounded by Collins, Bourke, Swanston, and William streets, and erected a block of buildings twelve stories high upon it, would it be necessary for a person desiring to go to another room a few yards away on the same floor to descend by lift to the street, walk to another entrance, and take another elevator?
No; he would be able to walk along a patio or verandah to any part of the block he desired to reach. The waste I have mentioned is one of the awful results of undisciplined private ownership of land. It is certain that if one person owned the whole block, he would not devote so much space and material to dividing walls. An eminent architect to whom I referred this matter said that, by the erection of four huge pillars, all the huge cost of party walls could have been avoided, and upwards of £250,000 saved. If my amendment is defeated, it will at least have served to spread the gospel of the referendum. I know that it will receive the endorsement of the Australian Natives Association, which is the most powerful friendly society in Australia to-day ; and I believe it will be supported by the strongest newspaper in Victoria - the Melbourne
A ge - which has done more than any other newspaper in Australia to spread the gospel of the referendum, the initiative and the recall. If I am beaten at this stage, I shall move the following amendment in committee: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, or any other act, this act shall not become law until the people of Australia have endorsed it by referendum.
If the people approve of it, I shall be content.
– The settlement of the Northern Territory has been a problem, not only to this but also to preceding Parliaments; but notwithstanding the efforts that have been made, that problem appears to become greater as the years pass. Many millions of pounds have been spent in an endeavour to do something with this vast territory, but it appears to me that it will be a sink for many more millions for years to come. The extent to which we shall be committed, to enable something of a practical nature to be achieved, is not at present apparent. I greatly fear that even the expenditure of millions of pounds upon the railways that are projected will not give us the results for which we all hope. I recently attended a lecture that was delivered by Professor Griffith Taylor, of the Sydney University, who, I believe, has been all over Australia.
– He has not been through the Northern Territory.
– I think he claims to have been through it, and to know all about it. He pointed out that over 60 years ago pioneers penetrated into the central portion of Australia in the search for land suitable for agricultural settlement. He does not deny that the lands of the Territory are suitable for pastoral purposes, but he claims that the investigations of these men proved that it was unsuitable for closer settlement. They went over every foot of the land, but their search was not rewarded with success. He also pointed out that the argument advanced 32 years ago in favour of the extension of the railway in certain directions was that closer settlement would follow, and the line would prove a profitable investment. He said that when the line was opened four families resided in one particular place - which he mimed - but to-day their number had been reduced to two.
– To which place did he refer ?
– Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the place. Professor Taylor claimed that the best agricultural land in Australia was to be found on the fringe of the continent, for a distance of 200 miles inland ; .and that the further you approached the interior the more arid the country became. Listening to his lecture, I was not encouraged to believe that even the extension of railways through the central portions of Australia and into the Northern Territory would lead to agricultural settlement. He pointed out that those who left the coastal fringe and went further inland ‘gradually drifted back if land was- available for cultivation. He claimed that, so long as land could be obtained within that area, it was futile for us to expect people to go further inland and devote their attention to less promising fields of cultivation.
– Did Professor Taylor refer to the whole of Australia, or only to the Northern Territory ?
– He referred to the whole of the interior of Australia, with the exception of the area within a distance of from 200 to 400 miles from the coast line, as I understand him and his diagrams.
– There are many parts of Australia which will give the lie direct to that assertion.
– I have not been further south from Port Darwin than the Katherine River, so I do not know very much about this country. I am giving the opinions of a man whose special business it is to study such questions, and who claims to have an intimate knowledge of both the country and his subject. I am bound to pay some regard to the opinions of those who claim to speak with authority, so long as those opinions are sincerely and honestly expressed. The present Government, realizing the difficulties of the position, and being possessed with a desire to promote closer settlement, propose to experiment with freehold in place of leasehold tenure for certain classes of country. The future alone will disclose the success or failure of that experiment. I cannot see any very great objection to the attempt being made. My friend the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) claimed that this proposal was contrary to the principles which HenTy George advocated. I ask him to look again at Progress and Poverty, in which he will find that Henry George did not advocate land nationalization.
– I did not say that he did.
– Land nationalization was the ideal of Alfred Russell Wallace. Henry George has shown that there are several weaknesses in that system. In one of his chapters dealing with the land question, he has pointed out that it does not matter very greatly whether you have leasehold or freehold. In effect, he says, “ Why bother a’bout leaseholds ; why not continue to attempt to sell and bequeath land in the same way as we are doing at the present time? There is no harm in doing that. If it makes it easier to put the land to its best use, it is as good a principle as any other, provided the privately unearned increment is preserved for the community which owns the land.” Stating it briefly, in other words, he said, ‘ Why bother about the shell so long as you retain the kernel?” If a system of freehold tenure will bring about closer settlement and the cultivation of the land by giving to those who are using the land a greater sense of security, the experiment is worth trying, provided we adopt Henry George’s principle of conserving the rights of the people in the land by taking the fair annual rental value for it.
– Is this Government likely to do that?
– I understand that that is what is proposed. Further, in carrying out the principles of Henry George, the Government should concurrently remove taxes from the production of the people on the land. That is the essential basis of Henry George’s doctrine. He does not advocate taking the rental value of the land for public purposes, and in addition, taxing the product of the man on the land ; but his proposal is to relieve the producer of all taxes except the obligation to pay to the community the fair rental value of the land which should provide the fund for government, in lieu of taxation on commerce and industry.
– That is to say, the full economic rent. The leasehold system provides for that.
– Yes, partially; but unfortunately our leasehold system carries with it the disadvantage that the primary producers have to pay numerous burdensome taxes on the things they need for production. That is what Henry George opposes, and I think he is right in opposing it. Unfortunately, we have become obsessed with the idea that the only way to prosperity is to take money out of one pocket and put it in another.
– That is a good way to save it.
– But by that method one never gets any farther, or any richer, and both the community and the individual consumer becomes poorer. The Government should be commended, rather than condemned, for making a serious effort to give a sense of greater security to persons who take up land in the Northern Territory. By granting freeholds the Government is trying to solve a vexatious problem, and so long as it conserves the interests of the community by taking the fair annual rental value of the land, there can be no objection to the scheme.
.- I once travelled with the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) from Darwin southward for 200 miles, and saw no land suitable for closer settlement, except on the banks of the rivers. The difficulty of settling a large country like the Northern Territory arises largely because of the enormous cost of finding markets. For 200 miles south of Darwin, and towards the Gulf of Carpentaria, the greatest hope of development is in mining, but without roads or railways development is impossible.
– Could the minerals not. be taken to the ports of Queensland ?
– Even if that were done, there would still be a fortnight’s sea trip down the coast. The honorable member saw the wolfram mines from which Germany obtained wolfram to harden the steel shells which were used against our soldiers. I am with those who advocate the leasehold system, with very easy conditions. The honorable member saw cane grass growing up to the telegraph wires in country where the teamsters throw out their matches to get a second crop. It is necessary to provide an outlet to the south.
– Did the honorable member see any agricultural land ?
– I saw plenty of land that was suitable for tropical production. I think that rice could be grown there. The gold we saw at Pine Creek had been mined only by Chinamen.
– And we saw mining machinery rusting there.
– It was rusting for no other reason than that there were no means to get the minerals away. The only way to develop the country is to lease big areas for pastoral purposes, to provide encouragement for mining, and to make provision for transport. Freehold tenure, at the present time, will not promote development.
– I wish to speak to the amendment, and in particular to reply to a few statements made by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) and others.
– The honorable member for Lang had the right to speak to the motion, but the honorable member for the Northern Territory, having already spoken to the motion, may speak only to the amendment.
– I wish to refute some of the statements made regarding the aridness of the country under consideration. I refer particularly to the statements made by Professor Griffiths Taylor. It is strange that we should have in our midst such anti-Australians, who mate statements on subjects they know little or nothing about. Professor Taylor made his statements on only slight information obtained from outside sources.
– The honorable member may not discuss the motion. The amendment proposes to submit to the people by way of referendum the question whether leasehold or freehold tenure should be adopted for the Northern Territory. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to that proposal.
– Having stated that Professor Griffiths Taylor has never been to the Northern Territory, I content myself with saying that I support the amendment. Professor Taylor was in the northwest of Western Australia, but he did not go into the Northern Territory, although ho condemned it as an arid country. When Stefansson, who went through the country, was asked what he thought of it, he said, in a characteristic reply, “ If there is a desert or arid country in Central Australia, all I can say is that I have been through only the oasis of the desert.” That is the only reply that any intelligent man, with powers of observation, could give. The lands of the Northern Territory belong, not to the present ruling political party, but to the Australian people, and it is they who have the right to say under which system the land shall be disposed of. If the people are of the opinion that the leasehold system is the best, they should be given the opportunity to say so. We should remember that we are not legislating for the immediate future only, but for posterity - for those who, in the future, will benefit from the public money we are now expending. Seeing that the Commonwealth Government will create the unearned increment, it should have some voice in the disposal of it. With the inflation of land values that automatically occurs under a system of freehold tenure, there comes a time when the price of land is so high that profitable production is impossible. We then find that land can bc used successfully only for the erection of huge buildings. The Government should provide land in the Northern Territory at reasonable prices, under good conditions, with long leases; and that is all the Government should concern itself about. The leasehold system has been proved to be successful in other parts of Australia, and particularly so in the Federal Capital Territory. A geographical boundary isdrawn in the bill. In the tropical zone a holding of 20,000 acres is allowed. It has been argued that the land in the tropical zone of the Northern Territory is not suitable for agricultural production.
– The honorable member is getting beyond the amendment.
– I am pointing out that the amendment is deserving of special consideration because of the proposal to grant 20,000-acre leases in the tropical zone of the Northern Territory. No provision has been made to prevent men dummying 20,000-acre blocks, and so perpetuating the evils of land monopoly. It is contended that land in the tropical zone is unproductive from an agricultural point of view. I remember when areas of this land were put under rice and yielded as much as 4-0 bushels to the acre. At that time quite a number of settlers asked the Government of the clay to supply them with a rice-cleaning plant, ana guaranteed that each of them would plant not less than 80 acres with rice. The Government would not come to the assistance of those settlers, and that fact, coupled with their isolation, made rice production impossible. Now, in view of the huge expenditure contemplated, it is to be expected that means of transport will be provided which will remedy the isolation of settlers in (the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member must realize that he is addressing himself to the general question. He can only discuss the question whether the proposed referendum shall or shall not be taken.
– Then I content myself with saying that I support the amendment. It should commend itself to the House. We pretend to trust the people. It is proposed that a referendum shall shortly be taken on certain questions, and it should not add greatly to the expense of that referendum if an additional question were put to the people at the same time. If they decide to support the freehold system, the Government will be justified in going on with this bill. If, on the other hand, the people decide in favour of the leasehold system the Government should regard their determination as a mandate to retain the land for the people who own it.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question (Dr. Maloney’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.I rise for the purpose of registering my protest against the passing of this bill. I do not propose to discuss the measure at length. The principles which it is designed to abrogate are principles for which the Labour party has stood during the whole of its political life, for which it has strenu ously fought, and which in several particulars it has had put into concrete form in legislation. The principle the Labour party laid down is that the unearned increment in the value of land belongs to the people who gave the land its value. The principle which the party has opposed is that the speculator and land jobber should by placing artificial values on land reap a reward that he never earned. A principle for which the Labour party has fought is that at least the Territories of the Commonwealth should belong to the people of the Commonwealth. The party laid that down and insisted upon it in connexion with the Federal Capital Territory upon which Australia’s Capital City is to stand. It laid it down, and insisted upon it in connexion with the 525,000 square miles of the Northern Territory, which make up so large a part of Australia, and which up to the present has belonged to the Commonwealth. The members of the present Government were hardly warm in their places before they proposed to abrogate’ these vital principles, and give back to their land-jobbing friends the heritage which belongs to the people of Australia. Apparently they thought that the atmosphere of the House this afternoon was suitable for such a purpose. They have reckoned without their hosts. Although some of us have been engaged elsewhere, it is a matter for congratulation that a number of forceful speeches have been made from this side, which I hope in some measure record the sense of indignation we feel at the introduction of this bill. We have not the numbers to prevent its passage, but we have the responsibility of recording our protest against it, and that we shall do. There is not, and never was, an argument to justify, under any circumstances, handing over the people’s lands to private individuals. The lands of this, as of every other country, are the natural heritage of the people. They are the arenas designed by an all-seeing Providence to enable those people to work out their destinies, and the people are entitled only to the fruits which they win from them. Individuals are not entitled to monopolize the surface of the earth. They are not entitled to become jobbers, creating artificial conditions which will produce artificial land values which have no relation whatever to production.
I have recorded my protest. I conceive this bill to be an outrage upon Australian sentiment.’ The House has declined to send it to the people for consideration’ by means of a referendum. The Government proposes to pass it by force of numbers, but how many honorable members on the other side have attempted to justify it ? If there are any they have been able to justify it only on the basis of the private claims and greed of individuals as against the general wellbeing of the Commonwealth.
– The bill proposes to eliminate section 11 of the original act, which provides that no Crown lands in the Northern Territory shall be sold. I have listened- with great interest to the speeches of honorable- members, and with rauch amazement to some of them. The discussion centres in the question whether the Territory shall be opened up under the freehold or the leasehold system. Honorable members opposite have said that, in Queensland - which State, they say, is destined to become one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in the Commonwealth - the leasehold principal obtains, and they have pointed to that State as an example of the wonderful benefits to be derived from that system. Let me take the Queensland figures relating to land settlement under freehold and leasehold. For the ten years prior to the Labour Government taking office, 23,954 applications were made for land, and for the ten years since the Government took office, 12,437 applications. For the ten years prior to the Labour Government taking office, the land in occupation increased by 91,347,000 acres, and for the ten years since the Government took office it decreased by 23,841,000 acres.
– What is the name of the1 book from which the Minister is quoting?
– Those figures are taken from the report of the Government Statistician of Queensland.
– The Minister is quoting from the Nationalist party hand-book.
– On a point of order, J submit that it is the general practice - and a very good one, too - that an honorable member, and especially a Minister, when quoting in this House from an authority should submit the name of such authority.
– That is not a point ‘ of order. .An honorable member is entitled to quote an authority, and to submit the name of that authority if he thinks fit.
– The Minister has refused to do so.
– I am quoting from thereport of the Queensland Statistician. Some honorable members allow their feelings to run away with them .when they say that, under the bill, the Government intends to rob the people of their land. The honorable member for Batman said ‘ that the people’s birthright was to be given away to the Government’s landjobbing friends, who would subdivide the land they acquired and sell it back to the Government for closer., settlement purposes. As, the- Government does not intend to sell the freehold of pastoral lands, how could the land be subdivided and re-sold to the Government? The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr’. Nelson) said that the land ought to be cut up into closer settlement areas and leased to the people for sheep-raising purposes in blocks of 500 acres. I ask him what sort of a living could a man make on 500 acres.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has deliberately misquoted me. I said that; I- was of the opinion that 500 square miles of- country was sufficient for a settler.
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order. If he desires to make a personal explanation, he may do so later.
– I do not think that the honorable member for the Northern Territory is fair in saying that I deliberately misquoted him. I understood him to say that a settler could make a living on a block of 500 acres. In addition, he said that he would give the settler a nigger to look after his sheep. Does he deny that?
– I emphatically deny it. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, is it right that the Minister should make a statement that is contrary to fact. I did not make such a- statement in this House, and I defy the Minister to show otherwise.
– The honorable member is not entitled at this stage to deny the Minister’s statement. If he thinks that he has been misquoted, he may at a later stage make an explanation.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked whether any of the land in the Territory was at present held under freehold. I “wish to inform him that there are about -600,000 acres held under freehold in small areas. The South Australian Government, many years ago, made land available under the freehold system, in blocks of 320 acres, and for each block taken up the applicant was granted 3 acres of freehold in one of the town areas. I listened with a great deal of interest to the statement of honorable members opposite that the Labour party has always stood for the leasehold system. I would tell them that the Labour party can be likened to the preacher who in the pulpit says, “ Do as I say and not as I do.” No honorable ‘ member of this House would take up land on leasehold rather than on freehold, if he intended to settle on it. I ask honorable members opposite to practise what they preach. The natural inclination of any man who wishes to open up country, or to obtain land in the city, is to have a home and a garden plot of his own. We hope to awake in the minds of the workers in the towns of the Northern Territory the desire to obtain 10-acre blocks, 10 miles outside the town limit, on which to plant orchards and vineyards, and in that way supplement their wages. Honorable members say “ Give the small man a chance.” The Government now proposes to give the small man a chance, and to give the country a chance by the appointment of a commission to administer the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked whether the purchaser of a block would have a right to the minerals found thereunder. The Commonwealth is at present working under the South Australian law respecting minerals in the Territory, and the law is that all minerals found are the property of the Crown. The bill, when passed, will not bring the freehold system into operation; it simply proposes to eliminate section 11 of the original act. The Government will later bring down ordinances which must lie on the table for 30 days. It will be within the rights of honorable members to object to anything contained in those ordinances, and to move to prevent the granting of certain freehold rights to people in the Northern Territory. The same procedure will apply to mining rights. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked who were clamouring for the freehold system. That question might be asked of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who knows that a considerable number of people in the Territory wish to own their own blocks.
– Does the Government intend to extend the freehold system to the Federal Capital Territory?
– The Government has no intention at present of altering the system obtaining at Canberra. The Federal Territory is an entirely different proposition, because the Government has expended millions of pounds there, and the value of that Territory has consequently been considerably enhanced. In the Northern Territory we could give away thousands of square miles.
– That is what the Government is doing under the bill.
– I should like to give the land away. I should be prepared to give a block of land to every pioneer who helps to develop the outback country. One honorable member opposite instanced the settlement of returned soldiers by the Queensland Government on a certain area of land, and if his statement is true, the action of the Queensland Government in that case is no credit to it. I do not blame the leasehold system for that; nor do I say that the freehold system would have saved them. The soldiers should never have been settled on land which was unsuitable and bought at a price which precluded the possibility of its being worked profitably. When the soldiers, were starved off their holdings, the Queensland Government did not come to their assistance; the Commonwealth Government had to pay to them sustenance to keep them from the poorhouse. Any man, soldier or civilian, who goes into the country to pioneer new land has a right to expect this and every other government to stick to him.
– This Government treated the returned soldiers disgracefully.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) cannot speak with the feelings of a returned soldier. We are not called upon now to consider whether, as a general principle, the leasehold or the freehold system is the better. The only issue raised by this bill is - Which system will give to the north of Australia the best chance of development under the scheme the Government has prepared?
– Millions of future Australians will need this territory that the Government is bartering away.
– Any person who wants to acquire 1,000 square miles of country in the Northern Territory can get it now for8d. per square mile. The opportunities to acquire this land already exist. After the war three returned soldiers started from South Australia with a flock of sheep for territory they had selected in the centre of Australia on 30-years’ terms. Everybody thought that they were going upon a fool’s errand, but they have made good, and paid back every penny they borrowed. Those men embodied the pioneering spirit which this Government wishes to encourage. If we can give to the north of Australia a better chance under freehold conditions, it is our duty to do so.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time- put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That an appropriation be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to constitute a fund to be utilized for the purposes of scientific and industrial research.
.- I assume that the purpose of this bill is to confer greater powers upon the Institute of Science and Industry. Whilst I approve of that, I suggest to the . Prime Minister that, instead of investigating abstruse problems, the solution of which may benefit humanity in the dim future, our scientists would be better employed in the consideration of matters of more immediate concern to the people who provide the money for this research. For instance, the Institute might inquire whether the foods of the people are prepared and distributed under healthy and scientific conditions. In regard to bread, it might ascertain what would be a fair price to allow the farmer for his wheat, and the miller for converting it into flour, and what amount the baker should charge for bread over the counter, independent of any additional charge he may make for delivery and credit. If the preparation and distribution of bread were placed on a sound, economic basis, the producer, the miller, and the baker would each get a fair deal, and the consumer would be protected against exploitation. At the present time the people of Victoria are being strongly advised to eat raisin bread. Are honorable members aware that the addition to a 4-lb. loaf of a handful of raisins, which may be bought wholesale for8d. or 8½d. a lb., raises the price of the loaf from1s. to 2s.? The people are robbed, yet the producer does not receive any benefit. Let the Institute of Science and Industry investigate the question whether preservatives in food are injurious to health. Whilst scientists are not prepared to say that preservatives or chemicals in foods are the cause of cancer, neither the Minister for Health (Sir Neville Howse) nor the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) will deny that cancer has become more prevalent since preservatives have been used in food. There may be . other contributory causes, but it is held by dietists that preservatives are a great cause of cancer. If the Institute of Science and Industry clears up that matter it will have expended its funds wisely. Can any honorable member say that colouring matter used in the manufacture of lollies is healthy? If it is not, its use ought to be stopped. Health is the greatest blessing that the human unit can possess. It should be very carefully guarded, and with the assistance of the Institute of Science and Industry it can be very greatly improved.
Question, resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Sir Neville Howse 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) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Institute of Science and Industry Act 1920.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure amends the Institute of Science and Industry Act 1920, and alters the constitution of the Institute of Science and Industry in several respects. The object of the Government is, not to create a great new centralized institute of research, but, for the benefit of both the primary and secondary industries, to bring about co-operation between existing agencies and to enlist the aid of the pure scientist, the universities, and every other agency at present handling scientific questions. Every honorable member must consider it to be essential for Australia, with its splendid opportunities and difficult problems, to make every endeavour to bring to the solution of those problems whatever assistance science can offer. The only consideration which would deter honorable members from supporting this measure would bt the feeling that it might lead to duplication and the overlapping of effort. I can assure them that the exact opposite will be the result; the bill will in no sense lead to a duplication of the efforts of the States, nor will it bring about any overlapping of scientific research in relation to our industrial or other problems. What we propose is essentia] in a country such as Australia. Recent industrial developments prove that science can greatly assist in bettering the conditions of the workers and in bringing greater prosperity to our people. Those nations which to-day are progressing most rapidly industrially and commercially are enlisting its aid to an extraordinary degree. The United States of America, I believe, lead the world in that respect. Their development has been amazingly rapid. Although the area of that country is slightly less than that of Australia, it carries a population of between 115,000,000 and 120,000,000 people, and yet its problem is how to obtain a sufficient number of workers to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. It is freely stated that America could easily absorb another 1.000,000 people to the advantage of the present inhabitants. Seeking a reason for that amazing state of affairs, one realizes what a great part has been played by scientific research. What strikes onemost forcibly is that America’s efforts m the direction of scientific research are not limited to governments nor even togreat associations of employers; individual employers are expending vast sums of money in attempts to improve their methods and generally to advance heir efficiency. Many individual manufacturing corporations maintain their own laboratories for experimental work, and. employ staffs of trained scientists. The largest concern is the Du Pont de Nemours Company, which has 250 chemists engaged on experimental work throughout the year. The Pennsylvania Railway Company has no fewer than 361 scientists employed in its testing laboratory, and the General Electric Company has 150. The first cost of the laboratories of these great manufacturing corporations or transport agencies was as high as £100,000, and the annual cost of some of them runs to a figure equally great. In all there are over 30 large laboratories belonging to individual firms, and a score of associations of manufacturers are engaged in work of- a similar nature. An extraordinarily interesting feature of the position in America is that, although these great research activities are conducted by individual firms or associations, almost without exception the utilization of their discoveries is not confined to their particular business. These discoveries are made known to the industry generally on the principle that the improvement of its efficiency benefits all concerned. We can learn a great deal from America in that respect.. The National Canners’ Association spends about £10,000 a year, and, connected with almost every industry in America there are associations which are carrying out research work for the benefit of their members. This covers a wide field of activity, and applies to lumber, paint, woollens, paper, refrigeration, dairying, cement, tiles, bricks, and almost every other product that can be mentioned. It is notable, also, that American industries are co-operating with the universities. Great industrial enterprises send their problems to the universities to be investigated by pure scientists, and thus science is being applied to the solution of industrial problems. In addition, there are institutions of a public or semi-public character, like the Mellon Institute, which is associated with the University of Pittsburg. In that institute there are no fewer than 80 highly-trained research fellows, who are carrying out work on selected subjects. Research fellowships are given to men who are selected by an industry, and those men go into the institute to solve, or attempt to solve, particular problems. Generally, they are afterwards absorbed into the industry, and, naturally, they raise its standard and assist its scientific development. . We have done a little in this country in promoting standardization, but some persons have been appalled at hearing that the Government ought to spend £2,000 to assist the work. Within the limited means at its disposal, the Standards Association in Australia has done valuable work. But its activities should be extended. The Bureau of American Standards occupies buildings which cost £300,000, and its annual expenditure is about £460,000. All that money is being spent to bring about standardization, which is regarded there as essential. One can readily realize how much can be saved by standardization. We often fritter away time, money, and energy in producing ten articles when, if we had standardization, one would do equally well. With standardization we could reduce capital expenditure and overhead charges, and at the same time enormously increase production and efficiency. We must undertake research work, and the time is over-ripe for it. I cannot now speak of all the activities of America, but I must mention the Carnegie Institute, which has an endowment of £4,500,000, and innumerable other institutions are carrying out similar work. Before the war Great Britain’s activities in this direction were not so great as one would have desired, but there has been, within recent years, with the more intense competition that has followed the war, a realization of the need for research work. Machinery has been established, and is being rapidly extended, for carrying out valuable industrial and general research work. The problem is being dealt with differently in Great Britain and America, and there is something to be learned from a comparison of the two methods. In America there is great activity, but no real co-ordination of effort. Great Britain is attempting co-operation from the top, and that should be our aim, for in this direction the Commonwealth Government can give particularly useful assistance. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in Great Britain was established in 1917, a year before the war closed, and a fund of £1,000,000 for the endowment of research associations was created by the Government, and has grown considerably since. The expenditure of the
British Government for the co-ordination of industrial research work, and for carrying out such work, has nearly doubled in the last three years, and during the current year will probably reach £550,000. The department is endeavouring to stimulate industrial research by manufacturers and associations of manufacturers, and has already promoted the formation of 25 associations of manufacturers to deal with different phases of industrial problems by bringing scientific methods to bear upon them. The British Government is also endowing university research work, and in 1924 made 258 grants, totalling £35,000, for that purpose. Evidence of the development of thought on this subject in Great Britain is contained in the recent report oi’ the Coal Commission. In dealing with the troubles in the coal industry the commission recommended that for a period of seven years an average sum of £50,000 annually should be set aside for scientific investigations into problems associated with the industry. Japan, which has experienced probably a more phenomenal industrial growth than any other country, is spending £300,000 on a national laboratory. The Indian Forestry Department is known throughout the world ; it is carrying out valuable research work relating to forestry and limbers. Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa - our sister dominions - are trying to do something effective in the same direction.
I shall not deal exhaustively with the bill, but I wish to say a word about the Institute of Science and Industry, which was created in 1920. The bill alters the basis of the original proposal. While the institute did not realize all the hopes entertained of it, it is wrong to suggest that it has done nothing. It has done quite a large amount of valuable work, but disappointment has been felt because the aims and ambitions of those who created it were probably too large to be realized in practice. The money provided for it was not sufficient to enable it to function successfully. T hope that on the present occasion we shall remove both these weaknesses in the scheme by not attempting to do too much, and by ensuring that for the next few years it will be impossible for the institute to be starved, and its activities rendered of no value. I should like to refer to some of the work which the institute in its present form has done, because
I think there has been a considerable amount of quite unjust criticism of it. I admit that it has not done all that was anticipated; but it has still done very valuable work, for which it is entitled to credit.
– It has net had the means to do much.
– That is so. It has done very valuable work in connexion with the manufacture of paper pulp from Australian timber. It has done good biological work in the control of the prickly “ pear, and it has, I think, successfully solved the problem of “ bunchytop “ in bananas. . Certainly the institute has not been a complete failure, as some people would suggest, but I think that every one recognizes that the time has come when it should be re-organized and placed upon a different basis. The Government, feeling that very strongly, last year summoned a conference of scientists, industrialists, and representatives of the commercial community. That conference was held in Melbourne, and made certain recommendations. The Government also invited Sir Frank Heath, who is at the head of the British Research Council, to visit Australia. He was in Australia for some three or four months at the end of last year and the beginning of the present year. He made a most valuable report to the Commonwealth Government, and to a considerable extent the proposals I am now bringing forward are based upon that report, which honorable members have had an opportunity of reading.
– Has Sir Frank Heath’s report been made available?
– Yes ; I think it was published some two or three months ago.
– He made an interim report before leaving Australia, but said that his main report would not be written until he reached England.
– I speak subject to correction; but I am almost certain that Sir Frank Heath’s report was given to the press when Parliament was not sitting, and must have been circulated to honorable members in the ordinary way.
– We have only had press notices of it, I think.
– My impression is that it has been available for some time.
The first alteration proposed is that the position of Director of the Institute of Science and Industry created by the existing act shall be done away with. The position as existing under the present act is to be completely altered. The whole of the control of the institute under the existing act is in the hands of the Director. By the new proposal it is contemplated placing the control of the institute in the hands of a Central Council, which will be the body advising the Minister. There will also be created six State committees.
– Is the right honorable gentleman assured of the cooperation of the State Governments?
– I do not think there is ‘ any question of that. The Central Council will be composed of three members appointed by the Commonwealth Government, and the chairman of each of the State committees. These nine will form a body to advise the Government on all questions requiring scientific investigation. In addition to these nine members, additional members, whose assistance may be required because of their special scientific knowledge, can be co-opted. The reason for this is that it might be found that the Central Council did not include a representative of some particular branch of scientific research which it would be most desirable to have represented on the council. For example, there might be no biologist amongst them, and it is essential that there should be a biologist upon an advisory council of this sort. Under the bill it” will be possible for the Central Council to secure the assistance of a biologist, or any other scientist whose help it would be desirable to have.
– What distinct provision is made to prevent overlapping by other institutions carrying out research work?
– That will be made quite clear during the consideration of the bill. Of the Central Council of nine the three members appointed by the Commonwealth Government will form the executive. They will not be permanent, but part-time officials, but it is proposed that they should be paid fees,, and should advise the Minister on all questions. It is not contemplated that the Central Council shall be called together more than once or twice a year. A period of the year when it will probably be called together will be the month of March, when the whole council will meet to prepare the estimates and programme for the forthcoming year. Apart from that annual meeting at which the general policy of the institute will be laid down, and the estimates for the forthcoming year prepared, it is not contemplated that the full council shall meet except in extraordinary circumstances, when some particular problem arises upon which it is necessary to arrive at a decision. In ordinary circumstances the work of the council will be carried on by the three executive members appointed by the Government.
– Appropriations will be made on recommendations of the council.
– ‘The Central Executive will really be the advisers of the Government at all times.
– Who will elect the chairman of the council?
– He is appointed, and is one of the three members of the council appointed by the Government to be the executive of the council.
– Has not Mr. Julius already been appointed chairman ?
– Yes. The Government is extremely fortunate in having obtained the services of Mr. Julius, an engineer, of Sydney, to act as chairman, and with him Mr. Newbigin, and Professor Rivett of the Melbourne University, who have agreed to act as representatives of the Government on the Central Council. That council will deal with the general programme, the budget, and the activities generally of the institute. It must determine the programme of work. It is not contemplated that research work will be carried out by the institute, but that it will be undertaken wherever the best facilities exist for carrying it out. For instance, the problem with regard to fuel waste would probably be best dealt with in Western Australia, and the Western Australian committee would be responsible for carrying out the work which the council determined should be carried out in that State. It is necessary that the institute should co-operate; but I wish to make it clear that research work wall be carried out in existing institutions, such as the universities of the States, and I am confident that we shall get the most cordial co-operation, from the States.
The universities are sympathetic, and we shall have their assistance, as well as the help of the industrial and commercial community generally. The State committees will have power to bring forward problems which they consider should be dealt with by the council, and where research work is being carried out in their own States, they will be responsible to the council for it. In this I think there is the germ of a scheme which should ensure the co-operation of the entire community.
– Has the Government fixed on a method to determine the constitution of the State committees?
– Three members will be nominated by the Governments of the respective States, from the staffs of their scientific and technical departments, and three other members will be what might be called pure scientists. Probably they will be members of the staffs of the State universities. These six members, with a chairman, to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral, will co-opt two or three more so as to make each committee thoroughly representative and efficient. Several of the State Premiers have indicated that they are prepared to co-operate in the scheme, and to afford every assistance. The actual functions of the State committees are set out in the bill. The purpose of the committees will be to advise the council as to the problems to be investigated. If a committee is directly interested in any problem affecting its State, it will investigate it, form its own conclusions regarding it, and make a recommendation to the council that research work upon it should be undertaken in the next year’s programme. It will also be the function of the State committees to keep in touch, and to cooperate with the various other bodies which may be interested in a particular work; to assist the council in organizing the work carried out in the States, and to make inquiries and to furnish reports on matters referred to it by the council. If the executive requires further information from any State, it may utilize the State committee, and get the assistance required.
But when we embark upon a campaign of scientific research, unless we have trained scientists to carry out the work, we are not likely to get very far. It is regrettable that we have already lost the services of so many of the best men trained in our universities. Our objective, in launching this scheme, is to ensure that we shall have the assistance of men trained in Australia, and retain their services for this country.
The only other point to which I desire to refer now is the proposed change of the name of the “ Institute of Science and Industry” to “Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.” We are making the change because we believe it will more truly indicate the functions of the new body. It is to be a council for scientific and industrial research. A further reason for the change is that the corresponding body in Great Britain is known as the “ Department of Scientific and Industrial Research,” and the Canadian body is styled “ The Advisory Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.” These bodies are receiving general recognition in other countries, and as we propose that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research shall have similar functions, it is very desirable that the name should be similarly recognized for the character of its work.
– Are we to understand that research work need not necessarily be connected with industry ?
– It will be in relation to industry generally, primary and secondary.
– The change of name is significant.
– There is no intention to change the character of the work. It will be connected with science as applied to industry.
– Will the new body link up with big industrial organizations if opportunity offers ?
– We are hoping that the big industrial organizations will gradually recognize the necessity for scientific research.
– By that is it meant that they will be able to initiate inquiries?
– Certainly. If a certain line of scientific research is thought desirable, the need for it will be brought before the council. The council will then investigate the matter, and request the committee in the State concerned to go into the whole question and advise what course should be adopted.
– Under the system adopted for the standardization and link- ing up of secondary industries, panels are appointed on which certain industries are represented.
– It is proposed to have a central council representing the whole of the States, with separate committees in each State. Instead of having a centralized bureau with its director in Melbourne, there will be a general encouragement of industrial research.
– When one of those panels issues a specification, that becomes a recognized standard without the necessity for enforcement by law.
– That is so. Admirable work is being done by the Standards Association. The council has given much consideration to immediate problems, and I think that the House will be interested to know what lines its investigations will take. It is considered that immediate investigation should be made regarding liquid fuels, cold storage, and the preservation of foodstuffs, forest products, animal diseases and pests, plant diseases and pests, and fruit-growing problems. All these matters are already receiving the consideration of the executive. Certain estimates in regard to them will, probably, be embodied in the general Estimates for the forthcoming year, so that an immediate start may be made. Every one will recognize that liquid fuel, for example, is an important subject of investigation. Unfortunately we have no indigenous oil supply, and consequently are importing 90,000,000 gallons of petrol a year. There is a wonderful possibility before us if we can find a solution of the liquid fuel problem. The institute up to the present has unquestionably suffered considerably owing to insufficiency of funds for its work. When an effort is being made to stimulate scientific research in relation tto the problems of industry, and the best scientists of the country are showing a sincere desire to help to overcome our difficulties, it is most undesirable that their labours, which may have cost, perhaps, £10,000, should be lost because of the exigencies of a particular treasurer. The council might be on the brink of finding the solution of an important problem, requiring only an expenditure of £1,000 or £2,000 to complete its investigations, and its efforts would be defeated if the Treasurer of the day decided that no further money could bo made available to it. To obviate such. & position, it ib provided in the bill that for the purposes of scientific and industrial investigation, in pursuance of this measure, there shall be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £250,000. It is not contemplated’ to expend that sum in one year. That amount should carry the institute on for some time; but the money will be placed in a trust fund, where it will be available for the purposes of the council. To ensure that full parliamentary control shall be exercised over the expenditure of this money, it is provided that nothing shall be spent from the trust account except in accordance with estimates of expenditure approved by Parliament. The council will meet and prepare its budget for the following year, putting down the amount it considers desirable for the research that is being done. Those estimates will be presented to the Minister, and if he approves of them they will be embodied in the general Estimates submitted to Parliament. If they are passed by Parliament, the money will immediately be made available out of the trust fund. That will avoid any possibility of a treasurer, through financial stress, curtailing the expenditure of the council at a time when it may need the full amount of its estimates to carry on its investigations. The sum of £250,000 will ensure that during the next three or four years there shall be a ‘ fund available for a serious effort to deal with our industrial scientific problems. I am confident that the council’s work will in four or five years’ time be so obviously beneficial that no one will have the courage to attempt to destroy it. The bill should generally commend itself to the House. Every honorable member must be desirous that a serious effort, should be made, with the assistance of science, to solve the great problems now hampering industrial development. I believe that the bil! provides for this. It will prevent overlapping and duplication, and with the assistance of our scientists, we shall achieve a result that may go far beyond what can be anticipated at present.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blakeley) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation for the purposes of the bill reported.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill providing for the appropriation of the sum of £100,000, which was set aside last year for the purposes of the Institute of Science and Industry. It is proposed that, so far as practicable, this sum shall remain untouched, and that the interest upon it shall be employed for the purposes set out in the bill. As I pointed out in introducing the previous bill, Australia has not nearly a sufficient number of trained scientists for research work, and it will be impossible to obtain them unless some assistance is offered to young men who may be prepared to train themselves for such work. The proposal in the bill is. that the income from this amount shall be employed in giving assistance by way of scholarships, at universities in Australia or abroad or at any institution where training can be obtained in particular branches of science. ‘The bill arises out of a suggestion by Sir Frank Heath, who in his report to me, and in his remarks to most people to whom he spoke, emphasized the great necessity for definite steps to enable Australia to procure the services of the requisite trained scientists. He made the suggestion that as the Government bad set aside the sum of £100,000, the money could be employed in no better way than in creating an endowment fund, the income of which would be used to assist those who were prepared to take up research work, by enabling them to obtain the necessary further training. Under the bill it is provided that the funds shall consist of -
A number of leading citizens have recognized the need for men trained in research work, and have desired an opportunity to contribute towards this worthy object. It is felt that the bill will give them an opportunity to make gifts or bequests for the purposes of the fund. The trustees will be the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, appointed by the Commonwealth Government. One of the things it is proposed to do by means of this endowment is to send abroad for further research work men who have had distinguished university careers. They will each receive £300 a year for two years, and an additional £150 for the payment of fares abroad, and the undertaking will be required of them that, after they have , completed their course, they will return to Australia and give their services to the council for a stated period. The idea of having an endowment fund providing a regular and certain income, and enabling the work of the institute to be carried on independent of the needs of the Treasurer of. the day must appeal to honorable members. This will encourage young men to take up the study of science, because they will have good prospects . for the future and the assistance necessary to enable them to carry on their work. It will also prevent Australia from losing so many young and brilliant men as it has lost in the past. I commend the measure to the cordial support of honorable members generally.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260526_reps_10_113/>.