10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs [8.1]. - I move-
That this House records its sincere regret at the death of the Honorable W. 0. Archibald, who was formerly a member of the House of Representatives, and thisHouse expresses its appreciation of the enthusiasm and zeal with which he devoted himself to his public duties, and tenders its profound sympathy to his wife and family in their great sorrow.
Honorable members will have read with great regret the announcement of the death of the Honorable W. O. Archibald, appearing in this morning’s press. The late Mr. Archibald first entered this House,, as the representative of Hindmarsh, in 1910, and retained the seat until the election which took place at the end of 1919. He held the portfolio of Minister for Home Affairs from September, 1914, to October, 1915, and was Minister for Trade and Customs from November, 1916, until February, 1917. During the past three years it has been my duty, on too many occasions, to submit motions of sympathy with the relatives of those who were members of this assembly, and whose public service, in many cases, contributed greatly to their death. I am sure that the House would desire to express its regret at the death of Mr. Archibald, and to place upon record its appreciation of the services he rendered to the country, and its sympathy with those -whom he has left behind. We trust that this recognition of his public service and the sympathy extended tothem may do something to assuage the grief of his relatives at the loss they have sustained.
.- In seconding the motion, I associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister regarding the late Mr. Archibald. He played a part in the public life of this country during a lengthy period, having served in the Parliament of South Australia prior to his entry into the Commonwealth Parliament. He did his best for his country, serving it faithfully and well, and we all regret his passing, and sympathize with his widow in the great loss she has sustained.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to Mrs. Archibald the foregoing resolution and a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
Automatic Telephone Exchange, hobart.
Mr. MACKAY, as chairman, brought up the report of the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of an automatic telephone exchange at Hobart, Tasmania, and moved -
That the paper be printed.
– It is for the House to decide what shall be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Introduction of Undesirable Immigrants
– I ask the Minister for Markets and Migration- whether his attention has been drawn to a statement which Judge Bevan is reported in last Saturday’s Argus to have made at Albury, when sentencing James Malyn, a recent arrival from Scotland, to two years’ imprisonment, and to deportation at the end of the sentence. The judge is reported to have said -
A few months ago I obtained a return showing the number of immigrants who between June, 1923, and June, 1925, had . arrived at the State from England, Scotland, and Ireland, and from various other countries, and who had been convicted of offences and were at some time within those two dates serving sentences within the jails of New South Wales. There were 66 immigrants who were serving sentences during that period.
In view of that statement, I ask the Minister whether he considers that proper precautions are taken to prevent undesirable persons from- coming to Australia ?
– My attention has been drawn to the remarks attributed to” Judge Bevan, and in order to allay any uneasiness that they may have created, I wish to make a short statement with regard to the matter. The system in operation in the United Kingdom for the taking of applications for assisted passages is such as to reduce to a minimum the possibility of undesirable persons being approved. Each prospective migrant is checked over, and the two references be or she is required to submit as to character are referred back confidentially to the referees. The obiect of sending back the references confidentially to the referees is that, as is well known, many persons when pressed by an individual for a reference will give one, although not particularly enthusiastic about him. When these references are sent back confidentially, the referees often make much fuller and franker statements concerning the persons concerned. Occasionally well-meaning, but misguided, persons will give satisfactory references in order that some one who has not been a success in his homeland may be given a chance overseas; but this does not happen often. In other cases personation has been tried; but as every possible check is employed those who succeed in that way are very few, Judge Bevan did not say whether the persons referred to as having arrived between June, 1923, and June, 1925,’ and the 66 persons who were serving sentences in New South Wales during that period were or were not assisted migrants, but I am making inquiries on the point. Even if the 66 persons referred to were assisted migrants, for the approval of whom the Commonwealth was responsible, it does not follow that they were migrants booked to New South Wales; many of them, no doubt, had come there from other States. During the period mentioned the arrivals of assisted migrants in the Commonwealth numbered 52,178. The Commonwealth Government makes itself responsible for the repatriation of migrants who during the first twelve months after their arrival in Australia prove to -be . . undesirable mentally and physically.
– At whose cost?
– At the cost of the Commonwealth. The fact that less than two per 1,000 have had to be repatriated on those grounds speaks volumes, I think, for the supervision exercised in Great Britain.
– I . ask the Prime Minister when we are to have the report on the administration of Norfolk Island.
The Royal Commissioner who was appointed to investigate and report on the subject, spent five weeks on the. island, and returned to Australia about eight weeks ago?
– It is true that the Royal Commissioner returned to Australia some time ago, but his report has not yet been received by the Government. I shall ask him when we may expect to receive his report.
Commemorative Postage Stamps
– In connexion with the issue of postage stamps to commemorate the opening of the Federal Parliament at Canberra, has the Postmaster-General finally decided to limit the commemorative issue to stamps of the penny-halfpenny denomination; or will he consider the representations of those who are interested in these matters and desire that the number of denominations to be included, in the commemorative issue should be increased?
– It has been decided to limit the commemorative issue to stamps of the penny-halfpenny denomina tion. Further consideration will be given later to the advisableness of publishing a full set of new stamps ; but I think that, for commemorative purposes, the stamp which is mostly used by the public should be adopted.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Sugar Board is under the control of the Queensland Government, and I shall endeavour to obtain from that Government the information desired by the honorable member.
Payment by Commonwealth Departments.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Included in this vote is the following provision : -
Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, £500 per annum.
Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, £504 per annum.
Secretary to the Leader of the Country party, £400 per annum.
Applications for Work
– On the 25th June, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question -
In view of the great amount of unemployment at present existing in Melbourne, will the Prime Minister have a list made out giving the names of the’ secretaries of all Commonwealth ‘Department at which men and women can apply to be listed for employment, and also the names of the officers who will register their applications?
I am now in a position to furnish the following information.- -
Applicants for temporary employment under the Commonwealth Public Service Act should register with the Public Service Inspector, Alfred-place, Collins-street, Melbourne. Certain classes of work, such as those of labourer, navvy, artisan, &c, are carried out under exemption from the provisions of the act, and employees are engaged by the departments concerned. These would be chiefly the Works and Railways and Postmaster-General’s Departments and the Department of Defence. The officers who would engage such employment are: -
The Works Director, Department of Works and Railways, Post Office-place, Melbourne.
The District Engineer, Electrical Engineer’s Branch, General Post Office, Melbourne
And the following officers of the Defence Department: -
The Industrial Officer, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne
The Chief Engineer, Ordnance Reserve, Maribyrnong
The Manager, Small Arms Munitions Factory, Gordon-street, Footscray; and
The Manager, Clothing Factory, Wellsstreet, South Melbourne
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator -
No. 15 of 1926. - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 16 of 1926. - Line Inspectors’ Association.
No. 17 of 1926.- Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 18 of 1926. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 19 of 1926. - Commonwealth Public
Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 20 of 1926. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Customs Acts and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, Nos. 66, 70.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 70.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing Reports, Recommendations, . and Assistance granted up to 24th June, 1926.
Papuan Oilfields - Drilling Programme for deepening No. 3 Bore at Popo.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s request resumed from 25th June, vide page 3566) :
(2) Exposed or developed films representing dramatic or Australian subjects : -
Other, per lineal foot, British, free; intermediate,1d.; general,1½d.
Provided that any such films printed from a negative which was not the produce or manufacture of theUnited Kingdom shall not be entitled to entry at the rate of the British preferential tariff under this sub-item.
Senate’s Request. - In sub-item (c) (2) (b) leave out “lid,” and insert “ 2½d.”
Upon which Mr. Pratten had moved -
That the requested amendment be not made.
.- Whilst I differ from the Minister for Trade and Customs in regard to many things, I commend him for the well reasoned and common sense statement that he delivered on Friday last when urging the committee not to accede to the request of another place that the duty upon motion picture films be increased. He clearly indicated that such a duty would not encourage the production of motion pictures in Australia; on the contrary, according to the evidence before us, it would seriously injure the very people whom it is designed to assist. The vast number of employees in the motion picture theatre business have protested against the proposal, and all the Australian producers have stated in evidence before the Tariff Board that the suggested duty would be of no assistance to them. We must remember also that the contracts between the motion picture distributors and the exhibitors provide that any duty imposed by this Parliament shall be passed on; therefore the impost proposed by another place would - inflict hardship on the wage earners whose principal, if not only, entertainments are the motion picture shows.
– Has not the honorable member been imposing an additional hardship on the wage earners by supporting increased duties on their clothing?
– “ 0’ wad some power the gif tie gie us to see ourselves as ithers see us !” The honorable member is a great advocate of consistency in others, but he does not noticeably practice it. I desire to protect Australian industry wherever practicable, but having closely perused the evidence given before the Tariff Board in regard to the motion picture business, I cannot find any thing to justify the proposed duties. I would favour an investigation to determine whether the industry should be assisted by a bounty to be paid from the proceeds of the present duty on films or by some other means; but we cannot overlook the fundamental fact that production on the enormous scale adopted in America is practically impossible in Australia, and is very difficult in Great Britain. One of the witnesses before the Tariff Board was Mr. Stewart F. Doyle, who represents Australasian Films, one of the principal firms producing motion pictures in Australia. According to the evidence given before the Tariff Board, that company has established two studios in New South Wales - one at Rushcutters Bay at a cost of £18,000, and another at Bondi at a cost of £30,000 - and encourages Australian producers by allowing them the use of the studios at nominal charges. Mr. Doyle stated in his evidence that the greatest difficulty with which Australian and British producers have to contend is the lavishness and costliness of American productions. The Americans, he said, spend from £40,000 to £50,000 on each picture, whereas in England the cost is probably only from £3,000 to £4,000. The result is that British showmen, though desirous of showing their patriotism in a practical way, cannot- afford to show pictures made by their compatriots, because they are not comparable with the American productions, and for that reason do not appeal to the British public. The Americans have an enormous advantage in their vast home market, from which they get 60 per cent, of their returns. Their second best customer is Great Britain. Australia has a population of only 6,000,000 people, and we can hardly expect to produce pictures profitably in our own country, unless we are prepared to stage them as well as the Americans stage theirs, so that they will be acceptable in markets outside Australia. I am advised that recently a company in the Commonwealth produced two ‘ motion pictures, at a cost of between £20,000 and £30,000; but, because they could not be sold outside Australia, they were unprofitable. The most successful Australian producer is Mr. Beaumont Smith, who, catering especially for Australian audiences, was able to make pictures at a minimum of cost. His productions were well received in Australia and, I believe, to a limited extent, abroad ; but other companies that have attempted to produce on a more ambitious scale have met with little success, because they could not compete with American productions in overseas markets. I am prepared to give every possible assistance to any practicable scheme for the promotion of this industry in Australia, but we cannot expect wild-cat companies, with a capital of, perhaps, £10,000, to compete successfully against the huge aggregations of capital engaged in America and elsewhere. The same difficulty is being experienced in England. Because the British companies do not produce on the same scale as the Americans, the British public practically 1 refuses to patronize the locally-made pictures, and about 96 per cent. of the films shown” in Great Britain are of American origin. So far the British Government has not come to the assistance of British film producers, whose number is gradually dwindling. There may be justification for action on the part of the British Government, or on the part of the British and Dominion Governments conjointly, with a view to the creation of an Empire market for films manufactured within the Empire. If it were practicable for this Parliament to restrict the proportion of American films, as has been suggested, I should be prepared to discuss the proposition seriously; but at present, according to the statement of the Minister, there are not sufficient British or Australian pictures produced to enable us to fix a proper quota. Furthermore, we have no legislative power to do so, except by the indirect method suggested by the Minister, of operating a system of licences in order to check the number of films shown.
At present both the Federal and State authorities exercise censorship over films, and it seems a pity that joint action cannot be taken by them instead of having conflicting authorities. We should have one central authority controlling motionpicture distribution and projection throughout Australia. Local control is purely a matter for the State legislatures. The Commonwealth Government has failed to seek the needed constitutional power in relation to trade and commerce, to enable it to deal effectively with a number of the problems confronting us, including the control of combines. We may express our opinions, and some honorable members have suggested that there is a film combine in Australia, but in the absence of legislative power to control combines acting in restraint of trade we are unable to act.
– We should impose heavier duties.
– But in this particular instance that would not enable us to achieve out objective, which is to encourage Australian motion picture production.
– We could impose a duty up to 2s. 6d. a foot.
– The imposition of an exorbitant rate would not necessarily result in the production of Australian pictures and their projection in preference to those of American productions. It is a matter of public taste.
– Prohibitive Customs duties have been imposed in other instances, why not in this?
– The circumstances are not analogous, as the honorable member for Perth would admit, if be had been more attentive to my remarks. There may be justification for an inquiry into the ramifications of the motionpicture, industry, and such an inquiry would settle this controversy. The New South Wales Government has recently taken legislative steps to tax the profits derived from the hiring rights of American films, which are now going overseas, but similar action cannot be effectively taken by this Parliament. One or two honorable members have alluded to the moral influence of picture films, but, in my opinion, the censorship has been effective. In company with other honorable members, I had an opportunity last week of seeing some of the cuts made in imported films, and, incidentally, of viewing the screening of the film entitled “The Big Parade,” which has caused a good deal of controversy. I should like the Minister, when replying, to inform the committee of the number of films censored during the last few years. The gentleman who was explaining the film to which I have referred supplied me with the names of. films from which the cuts shown to us had been made, and they were taken during a period of several years. If they represent the worst, it would appear that the American pictures are not so black as they have been painted. At the same time, I appreciate the need for a strict censorship. .The censor has power to censor any picture that is - (a) blasphemous, indecent, or obscene; (b) is likely to be injurious to morality, or to encourage or incite to crime; (c) is likely to be offensive to the people of any friendly nation; (d) depicts any matter, the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interests. If we are to legislate for a standard of moral perfection, we ought to do it generally, and not confine it to one section of amusements. At present a drama entitled “ White Cargo “ is being played in Melbourne, which, in the opinion of many persons who have seen it, is filled with obscenities. Indeed, if we are to adopt a puritanical standard, and to say that the mind of the community shall not in any way be corrupted, some of Bernard Shaw’s plays, in which a sanguinary expletive which is much used in Australia occurs might have to be censored. I am not here to defend any particular interest”, but when we question the moral influence of moving pictures, we ought to realize that the moral outlook of the twentieth century is entirely different from that of the Victorian era.
– On the average, it is very much better.
– Yes. The community is less prudish now than in the past generation. There is now’ a wider spread of education throughout the community, and a freer discussion of social problems generally. The moral training of - the young depends largely upon parental control, in the absence of which no legislation by this or any other Parliament will prevent this corruption of morals. Apart from this, the moral control of the community is a matter for secular and religious education. I welcome the decision of the Minister in refraining at this stage, in the absence of evidence to justify the Senate’s request, from imposing an additional duty. I congratulate him upon the effective character of the censorship, which is based upon common sense, and is in keeping with -the outlook of modern society. I suggest that a thorough investigation should be held into the allegations made during this debate, with a view to bringing about uniform control by a central authority of both imported and locally-produced films, and steps should be taken to ascertain whether the payment of a bounty will enable pictures to be produced in this country on a scale that will enable us ultimately to supply the international market. The principal effect of the extra duty -would be to increase the admission charges to motion picture shows, and that would react upon the wage-earner, whose principal amusement consists in going with his wife and family once or twice a week to a picture theatre.
I am glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words on this subject, because I have made an intensive study of the picture-film, business. I have made my fourth visit to Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills, and I have also been to Germany and Japan to investigate this industry. The American film production business has reached gigantic proportions. The money invested in it amounts to about £100,000,000, which at the moment is beyond anything Australia can put into the business. The American producers of films do not in any way hamper the production’ of Australian films. I can assure honorable members that .all the distributing companies in Australia are looking for Australian films, and, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has pointed out, they have spent up to £50,000 in trying to. obtain good Australian films. Excellent Australian films have, in fact, been produced. The production of Miss Louise Lovely’s film, Jewelled Nights, was in every way an excellent Australian production, Paramount. A film called The Moth of Moonbi was produced in Queensland, and the producers of it negotiated with the famous Lasky film corporation for its screening. It was screened at the Prince Edward Theatre, Sydney, and the representatives of the Lasky corporation told me that it was one of the finest films they had seen. The Lasky corporation offered to screen the film, and to give 65 per cent, of the profits to the producers, and to retain 35 per cent, themselves. The only cost to the producers was to be that of printing nine copies of the film. When such a firm is willing to make available its threatres throughout Australia for the exhibition of an Australian film on the basis I have mentioned, it cannot be said that the American picture film producers are ‘ preventing the production of Australian films. The Lasky corporation, however, did not obtain the contract for showing that picture,, which was given to another firm. I can assure honorable members that an increase in the duty on picture films, up to even 5s. a foot, would in no way promote the production of Australian films. The only effect of a heavy duty would be to increase the prices at the box office. Picture theatres provide the chief amusement of the people, and I understand that between 64,000,000 and 74,000,000 people visited Australian pie,ture theatres during the last twelve months. The producers have to show what the people want to see. The demand for Australian films has not been met by the supply. Mr. Howe, president of the Federated Picture Showmen, has asked me to inform honorable members that his organization wants Australian films. I am glad that the committee is opposed to increasing the duty. The members of another place must have acted in ignorance of the facts when they requested an increase in the duty.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [3.471.-
I support the Government in this matter, and I think I can claim that in doing so I am acting consistently. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that Australia can supply the requirements of the picture film market. I agree that something should be done to control the operation of the American combine, and to ensure that the pictures produced in Australia have at least a fair run. I wish to criticize the administration of one phase of the censorship. The censorship of the films is well done, and no one who has seen the work of the censors can say that a censorship is not required ; but the Minister has completely failed to carry out a promise made some time ago to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) regarding advertisements of films. If the Minister has walked along the streets of Sydney and Melbourne with his eyes open, and has seen the advertisements of a film called The Phantom of the Opera, and says that they are not degrading to the womanhood of this country. . I do not agree with him. The inference to be drawn from the advertisements displayed outside the theatre is that there is something worse to be seen inside. The youth of this country must be protected from that sort of thing; I am not so much concerned about protecting the adults. The kind of advertisement to which I refer is dangerous to our youth, and is degrading to our womanhood. Reference has been made to the production of pictures in Australia. If the industry is likely to do for this country what it has done for America, we could very well do without it. However, I have no wish to labour that aspect of the subject. I rose chiefly to remind the Minister of his twelve months’ old promise concerning the censorship, particularly in regard to certain phases of publicity. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not complaining of the pictures that are being shown, but of the offensive nature of advertisements on hoardings in our capital cities, and in the Sunday newspapers, which it is impossible to prevent young people from seeing. “We should be recreant to our trust if we did not protest against the publication of advertisements that are so degrading to the womanhood of this country.
.- May I remind the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Lazzarini) that the Minister for Trade and Customs has no control over the advertisements of picture films?
– He has ; because for the most part they are printed in America.
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me pf the action of a protectionist firm in Sydney, which urged the people of Australia to buy Australian-made goods, but distributed calendars that were printed in the United States of America.
– What firm does thehonorable member refer to?
– I have no desire to give its name. If the honorable member wishes, I shall supply it to him privately. The control of advertisements is in the hands of the State authorities, therefore the honorable member for Werriwa should address his complaint to the responsible Minister in his own State. I agree with him that the publication of obscene pictures and advertisements should be prohibited; but that matter is in the hands of the State Minister.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs twelve months ago said there was a gentleman’s agreement concerning publicity matters, and that, if it were not observed, he would bring down legislation to deal with the subject.
– The Commonwealth has not yet full power to deal with trade and commerce, and I hope it will not get it. With regard to the item, it is gratifying to know that the advocates of high protection in this committee appear to have changed their opinions. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has just told us that the imposition of this additional duty on foreign-made films would mean an extra burden on the working classes who patronize picture shows. Unfortunately, we had no such protest from the honorable member recently when we were discussing the position of appalling duties on articles of clothing worn by the working classes-
– Is the honorable member in favour of this duty?
– I shall tell the honorable member in a moment. I wish first to say a word or two about this extraordinary change in the attitude of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), in his desire to build up a great Australian industry, went so far as to suggest the payment of a bounty for the production of Australian films; but immediately an increase in the duty on foreign films is proposed to help establish the industry, he objects because the burden, so he says, will fall upon the working class.
– What about wire netting?
– Parliament decided that wire netting should be admitted duty free, but it also passed an anti-dumping law which enabled the Minister to impose his protectionist principles upon the country. I am not in favour of the proposed increase in the duty on this item. I should have no objection to the imposition of heavy duties on objectionable films and the introduction, duty free, of films of an educational character. Pictures of certain types are loathsome to decentpeople, and must have a pernicious effect upon the youth of this country. We soe this view confirmed by the steady increase in crime statistics.
– The figures show that there has been a decline in crime during the past ten years.
– Judging from reports in the newspapers, will any honorable member say that there has not been a terrible wave in crime, practically over the whole world, during the. last twelve months? I suppose we must attribute this unhappy state of affairs to the war, but there appears to be something wrong, and I have not the slightest doubt that the class of pictures shown in many theatres throughout Australia has a very bad effect upon the youthful population of this country. I admit that some magnificent pictures are being shown, especially some relating to the progress in art, others that deal with historical associations, and others, again, which depict the development of the great manufacturing industries of the world. These are educational, and should be encouraged. T hope that the Minister will insist on the strictest possible censorship being exercised. I know the censors have been doing very good work, because I have had an opportunity to see some of the pictures that were prohibited. I rose to direct attention to what appears to be a change of policy on the part of some honorable members who, on other occasions, have voted for high protective duties. I trust that the good work which a few of us have been able to do in this chamber will result in others following their example. I hope that this apparent desire on the part of honorable members to return to something like moderate protection is genuine, for reversion to such a policy would be of great advantage to Australia.
.- I cannot follow the arguments of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) nor can I see that he has appropriately compared this item with others in the schedule. I am certain from inquiries I have made that an increase in the duty on films will not, in present circumstances, help the Australian film producers; but I should be favorable to the payment of a bounty to achieve that end, until say 30 per cent, of the films required in. Australia are being produced here. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) speak in such mellifluous accents of a certain American film-producing company that he said was worth £100,000,000. Not so very long ago, he strongly condemned a big American combine for the abominable and criminal part that, according to him, it had played in tampering with the oil wells at Roma in Queensland. These big American film producers are doing their best to prevent film production in Australia on a commercial basis. If they are anxious to have Australian films, let them come here and make some. We are told that the American producers are crying out for new plots, new artists and new scenery. I am sure that we can partly meet their requirements in Australia. Some Australian films, notably those of Captain Hurley, illustrating Papua and New Guinea, have been favorably received in thousands of American theatres. I strongly object to a continuation of, let alone an increase in, the entertainments tax, and I feel sure that if we increased the duty on imported films, the people would be taxed, at any rate, indirectly for it. It would be just as reasonable to tax groceries purchased over the counter in a grocery store as it is to tax people who enter a theatre for amusement. A few days ago I asked the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the following questions: -
His replies were as follow: -
It appears, therefore, that during the financial year .1923-24 the amusement tax yielded nearly a third of the land tax; and in the following year nearly a quarter. I feel sure that honorable ; members, irrespective of their fiscal views, will agree with me that that is not a fair thing. Picture shows constitute practically the only amusement of many people. I enjoy looking at good moving pictures myself. I trust that the day is not distant when the cinematograph will be used to a much greater extent than at present for educational purposes. I regret that the Director of Education in Victoria (Mr. Tate) did not see fit to accept the proposal made to him for using the film, and the phonograph in the schools, to instruct children on sex matters. The records which he was asked to use were prepared by one of the highest authorities in the United States of America on sex education, and the phonograph records were most carefully worded. Even if films cannot at present be used to assist in teaching health subjects, there is no reason whatever why they should not be used to drive home geography lessons. What, could be better than, say, a children’s picture day at school, on which films showing the manufacturing activities and the scenic beauties of other countries could be displayed? In English schools, for instance, a picture could be shown to indicate how an arid French desert was transformed by the growing of turpentine trees from which a great deal of the world’s turpentine is now obtained. Possibly if the first constitutional question to be submitted to the people shortly by referendum is answered in the affirmative, the Government may be able to oblige picture show managers to include in their programmes a fixed proportion of educational and scenic films each night. I congratulate the Government upon producing the series of films “ See Australia First.” I was under the impression that these were being shown in our picture theatres by compulsion, but I was very glad to learn that that is not so. Although Australia’s scenic beauties do not excel those of other countries - I have seen some entrancing land and sea scapes in countries abroad - nevertheless, I am sure that we have scenery here which would delight any company of people. A view of our giant eucalypts taken from an eminence like Mount Buffalo would compare favorably with anything that I have seen anywhere. If the Government has not already entered into communication with the great film firms of the world with a view to making Australia better known by means of the cinematograph, it is time it did so.
– Some of those films are being shown in the United States of America.
– Yes. Films showing beautiful scenery are in demand throughout the world. At one time I was an enthusiastic collector of prints and pictures, and I still take a pleasure in looking over them. Only last evening, when studying views of the wonders of Baalbek, I was thinking how much more interesting these would be if shown on the moving picture screen. The Carnivals, and the Mi-Careme, as I saw them when a young student, were not to be compared with a representation that I saw of one of these festivals at a later period in a picture theatre in Melbourne. The kangaroo, which may soon become practically extinct, should make an interesting subject for film producers. Some 50 years ago, on Mount Schanck station, in South Australia,, I saw more kangaroos than sheep - the herds were sometimes a mile long - but I have never witnessed such an exciting kangaroo hunt as was depicted by means of an Australian film produced by Mr. “ Snowy “ Baker. Having seen three presentations of the Australian picture Jewelled Nights, and having known the heroine, Miss Louise Lovely, since her childhood days, I desire to thank the honorable member for: Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) for the gentlemanly manner in which, on Friday last, he explained his comments upon the character of the picture. Miss Louise Lovely is possessed of great dramatic power; but, like many other Australian artists, she had to leave her native country in order to find an outlet for her talents. In the United States of America she quickly rose to fame, and, in her particular branch of art, emulated Melba. It seems to me that the proposed extra duty of1d. a foot on foreign films would not solve the problem of popularizing Australian pictures. Moredrastic action is required if Australian film producers are to compete successfully with the American combine. The Government should cause a thorougrh inquiry to be held into the operations of, not only the moving picture combines, but also every other monopoly that is crushing Australia to-day. On th. other hand, a committee of inquiry that concentrated its attention upon the matter particularly under consideration might be advantageous in that the Government could obtain its report expeditiously. I propose to support the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), because I know that he has given a good deal of study to the subject, and is anxious to be fair to all concerned. Either the Australian producers must receive a bounty, or the exhibitors of foreign films must be compelled to include Australian pictures in their programmes. I am no longer in medical practice, but in connexion with the supervising of a dispensary, I have had many cases brought under by notice by a doctor in which the minds of young children have been warped by the influence of certain pictures which should not have been shown. I am sufficiently optimistic to consider the world more moral to-day than it has ever been in the past ; but I realize that many of the moving pictures now shown are positively harmful to the rising generation. If the exhibition of films delineating the methods of burglars is allowed, children should not be permitted to see them. At some theatres special programmes for young folk are arranged, and I have heartily enjoyed their laughter at the discomfiture of the villains.
.- I rise to explain my reason for opposing the Senate’s request. I should be willing to support a proposal to prohibit the entry of American films if, by so doing, an Australian industry would be built up. But that would not happen. Reference has been made to a picture entitled “ The Moth of Moonbi,” which, it is said, cost about £12,000 to produce, and in which I have a great interest. Australia’s difficulty is not so much the competition from America as the lack of capital invested in Australian picture-making enterprises. Australian scenery will hold its own with that of any country; but a programme consisting solely of Australian scenery would not satisfy Australian audiences. Seeing that at least 90 per cent, of the films exhibited in England are of American origin, it is obvious that to increase the duty on imported films, a-3 requested by another place, would nos result in the establishment of the film industry in Australia ; its effect would be to raise the price of admission to picture shows. Most honorable members appear to have considered this request from the point of view of residents in the cities only, overlooking its effect on the picture showmen in the country who provide what, in many cases, is the people’s only amusement. I have in mind a picture showman who exhibits films in three different country centres 30 or 40 miles from any large town. He has purchased an expensive plant, and has specially fitted out a motor car for his purpose. His exhibitions provide employment for a- number of people. Should he be required to charge more for his shows, many of those- to whom he now gives pleasure would be unable to attend them. I have been financially interested in two or three picture shows, and T know that, even at the present cost of films, they are not money-making concerns. Any increased price of admission rendered necessary by higher duties would mean decreased returns. For the most part, these picture proprietors are lawabiding citizens who not only give employment to others, but are always willing to assist charitable institutions. Should their returns diminish, many of them will be forced out of business. I, therefore, hope that the committee will not agree to the Senate’s request.
.- I am opposed to the imposition of higher duties on picture films, although I have no doubt that honorable gentlemen in another place, in making this request, were actuated by the best motives. Had they considered the matter more fully, they would have realized that the imposition of an additional duty of Id. per foot on films could not possibly result in the establishment of the film industry in Australia.- I desire to assist the Australian film industry; but it will not be assisted by the imposition of a higher duty on imported films. The American film producers have the people of Australia, as it were, by the throat. They have reduced the picture showmen in this country to a position in which they are practically employees of the American film combine. The showmen must pay the rates charged by the combine, or go out of business. These American producers know not only ‘ the class of film desired by the Australian ^public, but also the takings of the Australian showmen; and they fix their fees accordingly.
– The showmen are forced to exhibit the pictures that are supplied to them.
– Yes. Although’ many film-producing companies have their registered offices in Australia, they are really American companies, because the bulk of their shareholders reside in the United States of America. Yet, I understand on reliable authority that in many instances they evade the payment of both Federal and State taxation in Australia. Unfortunately, this Parliament is unable to deal effectively with . combines. I agree with honorable members that many picture showmen throughout Australia are making only small profits. The bulk of the profits from the exhibition of films in Australia goes to the American producers, who lay down the conditions which the Australian showmen must observe in order to obtain their pictures. Their contracts contain a clause requiring the showmen to pay any increase of duty that may be imposed on imported films. Honorable members will, therefore, see that while to agree to the Senate’s request might benefit the Treasury to the extent of approximately £100,000 per annum, it would not in any way injure the American combines, and it would affect adversely Australian showmen and Australian patrons of picture shows, as well as throw a number of persons out of employment. There are 20,000 persons engaged in this industry in Australia, to whom the prospect of continuous unemployment is a serious matter. Despite the remarks of the honorable member for ‘ Swan (Mr. Gregory), the picture industry in Australia is different from other secondary industries. Australia has adopted a policy of protection in order to assist manufacturers to produce articles to supply the Australian market.
– The honorable member does not worry about that.
– -I do. The adoption of protection as the nation’s fiscal policy has resulted in 500,000 persons being employed in secondary industries in this country. Any man who advocates the discontinuance of that policy is antiAustralian in spirit.
– The film industry does not provide , work for many people in Australia.
– That is so. It would be unwise for us to shut out of Australia films from other countries, since many of them are of great educational value, particularly to those people living in the outback country whose only opportunity of obtaining some idea of the beautiful scenery and wonderful industries of countries such as Switzerland, England and America, is by seeing them depicted on the screens. It has rightly been said that the picture theatre is the main place of amusement for the poorer people. The great bulk of workers in Australia cannot afford the high prices that are charged at the leading theatres, and, of course, those living outside of the large centres of civilization have few opportunities to attend theatres at all. The circumstances of those people should be considered by Parliament in determining an increase in the tariff on films. The very fact that the representative of Australian Films Limited, “which, I understand, is the largest producer of films in Australia, stated before the Tariff Board that that company did not want an increased duty on films, should be sufficient answer to the arguments of honorable gentlemen in another place. The assisting of the Australian film industry is another matter altogether, and it should be thoroughly inquired into by the Government. I take it that most honorable members who believe in protection, when desiring to assist a newly-established industry, advocate not the imposition of high duties but rather the payment of a bounty, and whether a bounty should be paid to the producers of pictures in Australia is a matter for consideration by the Tariff Board, lt is clear that Australia, like many other countries, is almost entirely dependent on the United States of America for films. According to the Commonwealth Film Censorship, during 1925,. Australia imported 22,841,912 feet of film from the United States of America, and 664,0.04 feet from the United Kingdom. Out of a total of 24,021,708 feet of film: used in Australia 95.1 per cent, was imported from the United States of America,. 2.8 per cent, from the United Kingdom^ and 2.1 per cent, from other countries. The question of introducing legislation to control the showing of films has engaged the serious attention of at least sixteen countries of the world, and if such legislation is put into effect, as it has been in many cases, it will detrimentally affect the American film production. The greediness of the American combine, and its arbitrary method of dealing with the show proprietors in different countries, ‘ have played an. important part in bringing about the opposition and criticism that is everywhere in evidence respecting its operations. In England, proposals for the establishment of a quota system, under which British and American films would be shown on the basis of one in ten, rising to one in four, were defeated by a vote of the exhibitors taken in December last. The Board of Trade there is now to fix its own quota system, probably on the basis of one in seven, rising to three in five in 1930. In England legislation has also been proposed to operate against block booking, and to assist the Home industry, probably, by establishing a national studio. In France a general tariff is pending which, if imposed, will increase the duty on American films by 30 per cent., or more. Next year, in Germany, the “ one for one” contingent plan again will be in effect, with even more severe restrictions ; for example, two German educational films must be presented to secure one foreign film. There is a growing tendency in the different countries of the world, particularly Italy, Austria and Hungary, to encourage the local production of films, particularly those of educational value. Legislation was proposed in the Victorian State Parliament to compel picture show proprietors to include 1,000 feet of British films in every programme. That has not yet been given effect.
– That law has not yet been passed.
– The New South Wales Parliament has passed a law taxing the gross revenues of film distributors at the rate of 5s. in the £1. I understand that the constitutionality of that law is being tested in the courts. If the Federal Parliament had power to control trusts and combines, and also trade and commerce, we should be able to deal effectively with film importers who are to-day exacting the last penny from the Australian show men. The American combine more than meets the full cost of producing a picture film by showing it in America, and then everything made in Australia i3 profit. The showmen here must conform tq the conditions laid down by the film importers, and it is no wonder that there has arisen in this country an agitation to force them to make a reasonable charge for their films. Thousands of proprietors and showmen to-day are practically working for nothing in order to boost the profits of this great American combine.
.- The question now before the committee is whether it shall agree to the request of the Senate to increase the tariff on picture films by Id. a foot. The only argument used in another place in support of the proposed increase of duty was that it would greatly assist the Australian industry, but that contention has been exploded by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), who submitted to the committee evidence that had been given before the Tariff Board. The extra duty, I have no doubt, would be passed on to the public either in the form of a higher charge for admission to picture shows, the exhibition of inferior pictures, or the observance of conditions in the business which would not be so good as obtain now. Many of us last week had an opportunity of witnessing the way in which the censorship of picture films is carried out, and saw that a great many of the cuts that are insisted upon arejustified. I may say that I went with some degree of apprehension to see the picture, “ The Grand Parade,” referred to by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I thought I should see one of the flamboyant pictures which are commonly received from America. Having read criticism of the picture in various newspapers, I thought it would be one devoted solely to the glorification of America, and that I should not enjoy it. I may say that I was agreeably disappointed. I do not consider that its exhibition would be harmful in any way. As a soldier, I saw no objection to it; and, as a citizen, I regarded it as an ordinary American picture, which might be shown in any picture theatre as a war film. Perhaps some of the scenes depicted might be left out when it was being exhibited to children. It contained some very gruesome incidents which I do not think we would like our children to see. Speaking as a soldier, I thought it a good film, and about as good a representation of actual war conditions as could be made elsewhere than at the front.
– It showed some of the horrors and bestiality of war.
– It certainly showed some of the horrors of war. So far as the picture might be said to lend itself to a glorification of America, I say that, in a year or two, very few people looking at it would know whether the uniform worn by the soldiers was an American uniform or not. I do not see how the proposed extra duty would be of the slightest use to Australian picture film producers, and I shall vote against the requested amendment.
.- Honorable members have dealt very fully with the merits of this proposal. There is need for the production of pictures in Australia. Quite a number of disparaging things have been said of the pictureproducing industry, but I want to say that it could be made of great educational value. It might be used for the purpose of giving people a knowledge of their own country, or of other lands, which it would be quite impossible for them to obtain by any other means. This being so, something should be done to encourage the picture producing industry in Australia. How to encourage it is the problem with which we are confronted. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will probably say that I am slipping on my protectionist views when I say quite candidly that a duty will not help to develop the picture industry in . Australia. Usually the purpose of a duty is to encourage the establishment of an industry, or to assist one that has already been started. The picture industry has not been established in Australia, and we are unable to supply the demand of the public for moving pictures. It is the duty of Parliament, and particularly of the Minister for Trade and Customs to institute a full inquiry to discover the best means to properly develop the industry in this country. Some competent authority should be appointed to inquire as to the truth of the allegation that a picture combine is in existence. I believe that some of the people who are assailed in this connexion would welcome such an inquiry. We should obtain information as to the possibility of developing the industry in Australia. It is of no use for Parliament to take action in connexion with the matter if there are obstacles in the way which cannot be surmounted. We should know what obstacles, if any, are in the way, and how they can best be overcome. If an inquiry is made, it should be by a royal commission representative of all the interests concerned - people who know something ot the business, members of Parliament, and men having special knowledge of finance.
– There should be some of the mothers of the community on the commission also.
– It would be a good idea to have on the commission some one representing the general community. Such a body could inquire fully into the whole ramifications of the business, and should be able to supply information which would be most helpful to this Parliament in arriving at a determination as to the best course to pursue. I, personally, am of opinion that the only way in which we can deal with the matter is to pay a bounty on the production of pictures in Australia. We could in that way help the industry over the initial stages of its difficult career. I trust that the Minister will induce the Cabinet to agree to the appointment of a commission of inquiry, so’ that we may be informed as to the steps we should take to place this industry on a sound foundation in Australia.
T4.491. - I have been extremely interested in the debate, and I regard with satisfaction the practical unanimity of honorable members in support of the proposal of. the Government in this matter. In dealing with the subject last Friday, I explained the whole position. This afternoon one or two remarks have been made to which I think I should reply for the information generally of honorable members. It will be admitted that, because of the difficulty in passing judgment upon pictures, and from the fact that the industry is practically monopolized by the American producers, the censorship of films is not an easy matter. The censorship is confined to import and export restrictions. Once film material or advertising matter is admitted, control by the Federal Government ceases. In order that the whole position should be met, it is necessary that in co-operation with Commonwealth import activities, there should be State legislation. Summarizing the position as it exists to-day, we may deal with it under three headings - present censorship, internal advertising - referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini)- and the development of Australian or Empire films, of which the House is unanimously in favour. Of about 700 feature films imported into the Commonwealth last year, nearly 400 were passed only after more or less cutting, and a number were rejected. I have before me a very recent report from the Chief Censor, from which I find that 328 feature films were imported into the Commonwealth during the period from the 1st of January to the 19th of June of this year. Of this number 165 were passed only with cuts, or after . reconstruction, or were rejected outright.
– How many were rejected outright?
– The number rejected outright was 35. It should be stated that the work of our Chief Censor, Professor Wallace, and our Sydney censor, Mr. O’Reilly, is well and honestly done, and done without fear or favour. No censorship can secure the substitution of films of a different character from those coming into the country now. That must be done by the development of the pictureproducing industry in Australia or in England. We use in the Commonwealth from 1,500 to 2,000 films a year.
– Of what value?
– The value is, roughly, put down for import purposes at from 2d. to 3d. per foot, or a little more in gross import value than the amount of revenue we collect. The United Kingdom is unable to supply any reasonable percentage of the films .required here to keep our picture theatres going. However much we may desire the development of a better class of Empire films, these are not at present available. I am hopeful that some action will be taken by the British Government itself to develop the film-producing industry in Great Britain, so that we may have an opportunity to exhibit good duality British films to people attending our picture shows.
– I understand that it is proposed to establish a national studio in Great Britain.
– I am hopeful that something wild result from the bitter complaints in England against the monopoly that the American pictures have obtained there ; and that the British Government will do something to resuscitate the British film industry. If that is done, I believe that we can develop an Australian film industry hand in hand with the British industry, cooperating and interchanging with it. What, powers Parliament has given me, I shall unhesitatingly use against all efforts to the contrary. I welcome the expressions of objection to some of the local advertisements of picture films. On every occasion that objection has been taken in the House to newspaper advertisements or posters, I have investigated the matter and warned the importer. It is true that the Commonwealth censorship, stopping as it does at the ports, has no ‘ direct control over local advertising or printing ; but the department can exercise a moral control over the importer, and prevent him from doing anything distasteful or repugnant to the bulk of the people of Australia.
– Many of the posters are imported.
– There is a certain amount of truth in the honorable member’s interjection, but I have had several conferences with the importers, and they have given me certain pledges, not only in regard to their imported advertising matter, but also in regard to their local advertisements. These pledges have been carried out by the majority of the importers, but suggested advertisements often come through the post. I have not yet gone to the extent of stopping packages coming to the importers through the post, but if the agreement with me is not carried out, I shall insist that nothing comes from America that is objectionable to the people of Australia. I am glad to have the example mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). I shall certainly find out who is the culprit in that case. In regard to the development of Australian films, I am sorry to say that the number produced last year was only seven, but, in view of the attitude of this Parliament, I am hopeful that, perhaps in collaboration and co-operation with the British film industry, our future progress will not be so slow. The Commonwealth Government will produce this year about 500,000 feet of film, a continuation of the “ Know your own country “ series, and if its standard is ,as high as that which has been maintained in the past by the Immigration Department, these films will be shown, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but also in Great Britain. I repeat that I welcome any complaint in this House about improper methods adopted by the film agencies. I shall certainly resent any breach of the understanding they have made with me, to the effect that they will properly control local advertising and local printing. I look to them to do so. If they fail, I shall have to exercise a most rigid scrutiny and censorship in connexion with the whole of their importations of films and printed matter of all sorts, either through the Customs Department or through the Post Office. It is most important that every step should be taken to prevent the Americanization of our people We ought to cultivate a national sentiment and show more national pictures so that our children may know more about their own empire. Since I have had the honour of controlling the Trade and Customs Department, I have given a considerable amount of attention to the point raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), and, realizing its importance, I shall continue to act along the lines already laid down, which are, I believe, entirely in accord with the sentiments of honorable members on both sides of the committee. I shall consider the suggestion the honorable member has made, becausewe cannot know too much about this industry, its. control, and its activities, and because we cannot too soon begin to develop by the production of our own picture films the sentiment of “Australia first.”
.- The matter to which I drew the attention of the committee is too important to be passed by with the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) that he has given very definite warnings to those importers who are responsible for the posters to which I have referred. It is quite evident that they have not taken notice of his warnings. If they have given him certain pledges they have deliberately broken them. Advertisements were displayed in Sydney a week ago which were a disgrace to the country, and degrading to its motherhood and womanhood. When, some months ago, the honorable member for Adelaide called attention to some picture posters, the Minister said that he had threatened to censor pictures on the advertisements and not’ on the pictures themselves, if the importers did not carry out their agreement with him. I should like to ask him if he applied that threat to the “ Phantom of the Opera “ picture recently shown in Sydney. The advertisements of that picture were such that parents who cared for the welfare of their children could not allow a Sydney Sunday paper containing them to go into their home. I am afraid that the Minister has not maintained that strong stand in these matters which he said he would take some time ago. It is idle for us to talk of placing the responsibility on the States. The people expect us to deal with the matter, and I ask the Minister now if he does not think it possible to censor the pictures on the advertisements.
– Yes. The honorable member has mentioned “ The Phantom of the Opera “ picture, and I have taken a note of it.
– It should not be necessary for an honorable member to voice a complaint in this House every time he notices objectionable advertisements. The department ought to exercise some initiative in the matter. I am not exaggerating when I say that a recent display in front of a picture theatre in Sydney was calculated to degrade womanhood, and was a grave danger to the youth of this country. I am npt worrying so much about the picture itself. Parents can prevent their children from seeing a picture, but they cannot prevent them from walking along the streets of a city and looking at degrading posters, and it is equally hard for them to keep newspapers containing such advertisements from their children. Two-thirds of the pictures presented to-day are an appeal to the sex instinct, and it is time that innocent children, who may not be permitted to attend pictures themselves, were protected from the advertisements which are flaunted before them. I ask the Minister to do what he threatened some time ago, and censor the pictures on their advertisements, which nine times out of ten are worse than the pictures themselves.
Motion agreed to.
Debate resumed from 28th May (vide page 2467), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to create a commission of four to investigate matters relating to the development of Australia primarily and industrially with the object of making provision for the settlement of immigrants. It would be to the advantage of the Commonwealth if such a commission were appointed with sufficient power to enable it to ascertain the quantity of land held by the Crown and by private individuals still available for settlement in Australia, its situation in relation to railways and markets, and the purpose for which it is most suitable. The investigation might include the manner in which land is now being utilized, and how it could be developed to the best advantage. No one would take exception to the creation of such a commission, because the time has arrived when we should deal with the problems of migration and development in a businesslike way, instead of continuing to expend money upon bringing migrants to Australia without having any definite scheme for their absorption, and leaving many of them to further burden an already congested industrial market. In April, 1925, the Commonwealth made an agreement with the British Government by which the latter was to advance £34,000,000 for the purpose of bringing people to Australia, and settling them upon the land. Subsequently the agreement was accepted by five of the six States, but it has never been ratified by this Parliament. The
Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when moving the second reading of. the bill, said little of the agreement. His speech would lead one to believe that the agreement is not involved in this bill, whereas, in fact, it will operate concurrently with the commission’s labours. The States are to be paid £75 for each migrant they receive. I assume that that payment will apply chiefly to the immigrants who have been nominated, or assisted by the Government to come to Australia. For every migrant settled on the land a further £1,000 will be paid to the States.
– That provision does not apply exclusively to migrants. The £1,000 is to be paid in respect of every farm established, but up to 50 per cent, of the total number of people settled on the land may be Australians.
– That may be so; but the agreement is couched in legal phraseology, and if it were -referred to half a dozen lawyers for interpretation, probably half a dozen different opinions as to its meaning would be given. I suppose it was drafted on the other side of the world.
– At any rate, it was signed in England by Mr. Gore on behalf of the Imperial Government, and by Sir Joseph Cook for the Commonwealth Government. Does any honorable member believe that £1,000 will be sufficient to settle a man on the land in Australia? We know that it will not. In New South Wales, the average cost per soldier settler has been £3,000, and in Victoria £2,000, and many settlers in both States have failed. Only recently, this Parliament wiped off a debt of £5,000,000 in respect of soldier settlements, and probably in the near future, we shall have to agree to forego a further considerable sum. It is evident from these facts that £1,000 is not sufficient to establish a man upon’ the land. Yet, because the agreement provides that, of the interest, 2 per cent, shall be paid by the States, 2 per cent, by the Commonwealth, and for the first ten years, 2 per cent, by the British Government, people may be misled into the belief that we are getting cheap money. We shall probably find that it is very dear money. The people of the Commonwealth and the States are one, and for the first ten years they will pay 4 ‘per cent, for this money, and thereafter they will bear the whole burden of the interest. In addition, assuming that the cost of each settler in New South Wales is £3,000, the people of that State will have to pay the market rate of interest, which will be not less than 5 per cent., on a further £2,000 per settler. It seems likely that the States will be heavily burdened by this agreement. The British Government has stipulated that the total cost to it in the first ten years shall not exceed £7,000,000. At the end of a decade the whole burden of this expenditure will be borne by the Australian people. It is understandable that the terms of the arrangement are very satisfactory to the British Government, which has been expending about £60,000.000 per annum on doles for the sustenance of - its unemployed people. Any scheme which will reduce the cost of maintaining these people, by sending large numbers of them to the dominions, is a profitable bargain for the British Government. In a leading article published on the 17th of April,- 1925, the Age said -
As Britain has been compelled to promote unemployment schemes costing approximately £400,000,000, and is still paying unemployment doles at an expense of scores of millions a year, it is apparent that it will cost her far less to send some of the poorer people to Australia under this agreement than it will to keep them at home. The expenditure of £7,000,000 within ten years may save that sum in poor relief many times over, and, from the British point of view, be a very good bargain. Should the scheme be adopted, the Commonwealth must expect to be called upon by the States to raise annually an amount of capital greater many times over than the sum contemplated by the agreement. In view of the tremendous loan resumptions ahead, the fact is serious….. Very properly, Britain’s Government does not advance its taxpayers’ money or grant financial concessions without a reasonable guarantee of full value. In this case it aims’ at doing wonderfully well for its taxpayers. There may be Federal Ministers whose first object is to help Great Britain….. The Federal Government signed’ it without consulting Parliament or people, thus risking a humiliating rebuff.
That is correct. The agreement has Deen signed by the Commonwealth Government and accepted by five of the State Governments, but the Federal Parliament, which is seriously concerned in its financial provisions, has never been consulted about it. It is drawn in two sections, one relating to persons who may come to Australia to follow industrial occupations, and the other to those who intend to settle upon the land, and it provides -
The Commonwealth Government undertake to raise all necessary loans required by the State Governments in connexion with the agreed undertakings and to issue the proceeds of such loans to the State Governments as required at a rate of interest not exceeding two pounds per centum per annum for the first five years and two pounds ten shillings per centum per annum for the . succeeding five years.
The Secretary of State undertakes to make payment to or to the account of the Commonwealth Government during the currency of the Empire Settlement Act ( 12-13. Geo. V. Cap. 13) and within the limitations thereof, of contributions in the proportion of £130,000 for every principal sum of £750,000 certified in manner to be agreed to have been expended from time to time in Australia on agreed undertakings under this agreement.
Apparently, the meaning of. that provision is that from a sum of money set aside by an Imperial Act £130,000 shall be drawn for every £750,000 expended under this agreement, but in no circumstances shall the principal and interest for the first ten years exceed £7,000,000. The agreement continues -
Provided that -
if the principal sums shall have been raised by the Commonwealth Government at a rate of interest other than five pounds per centum per annum the contribution payable by the Secretary of State for every - principal sum of £750,000 so raised and expended shall be determined from time to time in accordance with the general principles of this clause but shall be adjusted in accordance with the net rate of interest (not exceeding six pounds per centum per annum) actually payable by the Commonwealth Government on the loan from which the said principal sum was issued, such net rate of interest to be deemed to be the percentage yield to the investor at the price of public issue.
for every principal sum of £75 issued to a State Government in accordance with this agreement and subject to the terms and conditions thereof one assisted migrant shall within ten years after the date of this agreement sail direct from the United Kingdom to the State concerned and be received into and satisfactorily settled in that State, and within ten years after the date of this agreement there shall have been included in every 10,000 assisted migrants received into and satisfactorily settled in the State concerned such a number of assisted migrant families without capital as consists in the aggregate of 3,750 persons.
In other words, of every 10,000 persons, 3,750 must be settled upon the land, even though they have no capital -
Provided always that in assessing the total number of migrants settled in respect to the total amount issued to a State Government under this agreement regard shall be had to the provisions of clause 6 with respect to undertakings under clause 1 (k) and the proportion provided for above shall in so far as is necessary be modified accordingly.
Clause 1 (k), which relates to land settlement, is subject to the following provision : -
The Prime Minister interjected just now that 50 per cent, of those settled on the land may be Australian born ; but he did not tell us that the agreement, although signed in 1925, takes effect as from 1922. Therefore, persons who came to this country without being assisted with money under the agreement, will be equally entitled with Australians to farms. Paragraph 6 provides - =
If it appears to the Secretary of State that the number of assisted migrants settled on farms is not in accordance with paragraph (c) of this clause, then the proportionate part of any contributions paid by the Secretary of State in respect of land settlement agreed undertakings shall be repaid by way of interim adjustment by the Commonwealth Government in accordance with the general principles of clause 5 hereof at the end of the third and sixth years respectively from the date of issue to the State Government of the principal sums under this clause, without prejudice to a final adjustment which the Secretary of State and the Commonwealth Government undertake to make at the end of the tenth year.
If that provision of the agreement is not observed, the British Government can, apparently, settle the matter on an equitable basis.
– The Italians in Queensland will be able to obtain financial assistance.
– Yes. It is clear, from what I have read of the agreement, that it is intended to place a large number of assisted British migrants on the land. But is Great Britain in a position to spare a large number of persons who have had experience in rural work? There is a dearth of suitable farm workers in Great Britain, where the production of foodstuffs, notwithstanding the increased population, is less than it was 40 years ago. There are large areas of valuable land in Great Britain which do not require irrigation, yet which are not used for the production of foodstuffs for the British people. In 1924 Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that -
Between 1830 and 1840 enough food was raised in Great Britain to maintain a population of 21,500,000. Notwithstanding the great discoveries in scientific research which had come to the aid of agriculture, and enabled the soil to now yield richer stores, Britain was only producing sufficient for 15.500,000, and the arable land of the country had decreased in the last 50 years by 4,000.000 acres, and the population on the soil had dwindled.
There is, I think, very little likelihood of obtaining migrants from Great Britain suitable for settling on the land in Australia, and many who come here will enter into competition with industrial workers in various parts of the Commonwealth. We do not wish to add to our national debt by incurring expenditure in’ bringing to Australia persons for whom employment is not available; but under this agreement, which aims chiefly at settling people on the land, very heavy expense will be entailed. It may be argued that in view of the large number of nominated migrants coming to Australia, it will be of advantage to the States to obtain money at a comparatively low rate of interest. It may be of temporary advantage, but the States will eventually be saddled with additional debt. I would have no objection to the appointment of a commission on which industrial, rural, and other interests had representation, in order that its work would be effective. My opposition to the bill is based . on the fact that once again the cart has been placed before the horse. The Commonwealth is committed to expenditure before the Federal or State Parliaments have had an opportunity to consider this scheme, under which £24,000,000 is to be borrowed. It is not likely that such a proposal will meet with the approval of the Australian people, particularly when they realize that many of the assisted migrants will come into competition with our own people. Prom that view-point, it is deplorable that Parliament should be asked to support a bill covering an agreement which we have not had an opportunity of ratifying, and concerning which we have not had a word of explanation from the Prime Minister.
– It is practically a machinery measure.
– Yes, for the expenditure of £34,000,000. In submitting the bill the Prime Minister did not indicate what was intended, and did not say anything concerning the agreement entered into. I do not think objection would be taken to an investigation into the possibility of our rural and secondary industries absorbing an additional number of our own workers, and means being provided to settle British migrants on the land. The Labour party is not opposed to immigration on a proper basis. The commission will have power to investigate State undertakings, including the construction of irrigation channels. The State authorities, which are to be allowed £1,000 for each migrant settled upon the land, will be involved in heavy expenses in undertaking developmental work such as I have indicated; indeed, the expenses in that connexion will be so heavy that sufficient funds will not be available for settling men on the land.
– But the construction of irrigation channels is permanent developmental work.
– Yes ; but the States will have to spend about £3,000 for the settlement of each migrant who goes upon the land, which, when considered in conjunction with the heavy interest charges, will prove an expensive job. The States will be able to obtain financial assistance to construct railways, but much more money will be required than will be available under this scheme.
– Constructing railways means opening up new country.
– Yes; but how much will be available for settling migrants who come to Australia without money? I am not opposed to a developmental policy that is financially sound, but it is my duty to point out that, under this agreement, developmental work cannot be undertaken without the expenditure of a much larger sum than is provided for. One-third of the families -to be settled will be without capital, and these will therefore be in the position of many ex-soldiers who have been assisted by the States. As some experienced returned soldiers, after receiving £2,000 or £3,000, and, in some cases, even more, have failed, we can readily imagine what will happen to the inexperienced immigrant settlers to be assisted under this agreement. We have been informed that the agreement provides for establishment of schools of agriculture in which migrants may be trained, but the expense involved in training them to undertake rural work on their own account will be considerable. The whole scheme is bristling with difficulties. The first duty of any government is to provide for its own people.
– Many of our own people are waiting for land, and cannot get it.
– The construction of canals and railways will make more land available.
– Work of that nature will provide temporary employment, but it will involve the States in heavy additional expenditure.
– Many settlers are now leaving their blocks.
– They are. And many farmers’ sons, who have had considerable experience on the land, are unable to -obtain blocks.
– If railways are constructed,, and water is made available, additional areas can be settled.
– There are large areas of unsettled, cultivable land adjacent to existing railways. One of the first duties of the commission should be to ascertain where land is available, who holds it, and whether it is being used to the best advantage; and land-holders should be informed that they must either use their land or allow others to use it. M’any people in this country are unable to obtain land. At Albury in March last there were nineteen applicants for 98 blocks; at Lake Cowal, New South Wales, there were 413 applicants for one block; at Grafton last August there were 2,200 applicants for three blocks; at Moree last October there were 1,205 applicants for one block; at Armadale there were 90 applicants for one block, although the frost was- severe and the grass poor; and 6£ miles from Moombooldool, near Narrandera, last March, there were 315 applicants for four blocks. Those figures are evidence that farmers’ sons and other land-seekers in this country cannot obtain land.
– Are they not anargument for opening up new land ?
– They are an argument for making the land available to the people. “When migrants come from oversea, blocks should be waiting for them. The agreement provides for bringing a certain number of persons to this country within a period of ten years. One year has already passed, and if we have not brought out a certain percentage by the end of the third year the agreement will lapse. The agreement adequately protects the interests of the British Government. The Age, in a leading article, stated -
If 1,000,000 people could be brought forthwith from Britain and clumped down in Australia, this country would not be benefited, but probably ruined. Despite our “ vast undeveloped resources “ there would be no work for ti eni to do, and instead of being as they now are, a charge upon over 45,000,000 people, they would become a ruinous charge upon 6,000,000 people.
There can be no question about that. If large numbers of migrants are brought here while some of the workers here are unemployed, an additional charge will be imposed upon the taxpayers of this country. Before the recent industrial trouble in New South Wales some of the men in my electorate had worked only seventeen days this year, and during last year one colliery worked only 35, and another on] v 38 weeks. The short time was not caused bv industrial troubles, but by the condition of trade. The men had to be given sustenance work, which was a heavy expense to the State Government.. We are not justified in bringing large numbers of men from other countries to compete in an already overcrowded industrial market. The Rev. A. E. F. Young, of the Mission of St. James and St. John, gave the following evidence recently before the Royal Commission on National Insurance: -
Witness : There are men cadging in the streets nf Melbourne, to-day, who have arrived in Australia during the past six months. They were selected migrants, but they are physically unfit, undersized, and lacking in initiative. Many of them have not a strong mentality.
The Chairman : How were they selected in London, in that condition?
Witness : I do not know. Perhaps they were members of large families.
Senator Grant : How is it that they cannot get work?
Witness : Mainly because of physical weaknesses, and a lack of initiative. .
That evidence is a reflection on the Government and its officials for allowing mentally weak migrants to come here. The witness comes in contact with the migrants, and, therefore, speaks with authority. Our national debt is large enough without borrowing more money to bring persons here from oversea. We can ill afford to increase our debt unless we receive full value for all the money we spend ; but no one who reads the agreement can say that there is any possibility of obtaining full value for the £34,000,000 it is proposed to spend. If migration were placed on a proper footing, and Australians were all employed, the Labour party would have no objection to bringing migrants here. We wish to see this country populated, but it should be done in a proper manner. It is easy for honorable members opposite to say, in an airy way, “ We want population. We have large undeveloped areas, and there is danger of invasion “ ; but it is necessary to establish a basis upon which we can build a durable structure without impoverishing our own people in doing it. It has been contended that increased population is necessary in order to defend our White Australia policy, and, in that connexion, the Northern Territory has been mentioned. But what are we doing to populate the Northern Territory ? Is there not land there that is capable of supporting settlers ? The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has stated that land is available there; he has told us exactly where it is, and that it can be used for raising certain tropical products which - he has enumerated.
– But the trouble there is the absence of markets.
– And is not our trouble here the absence of markets?
– All the schemes in the world are useless without transport facilities.
– I agree with the honorable member, and provision of transport facilities should be included in the scheme. We should take stock of the Northern Territory, and determine what land is available, and for what purpose it can be used, and we should then provide transport facilities. If we spent £34,000,000 in that way, we might do some permanent good : but we have had control of the Northern Territory for many years, and the net result is that its population is dwindling. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has done much to enlighten us as to the possibilities of that part of the Commonwealth^ but it is obvious that no scheme of settlement will succeed unless transport facilities are provided. If it is necessary ‘to add to the national debt, why not spend the money where additional population is needed ? As we improve our conditions here we shall attract the best class of person from the other side of the world. The thrifty, far-sighted members of other communities, when they learn that the conditions here are superior to those in their own countries, will quickly come here. In that way we can obtain migrants equal to our own people. I see very little difficulty in attracting people to our shores in that way. In the Northern Territory we have a vast area awaiting development, and what have we done to develop it? Nothing. How far would £34,000,000 go in developing it? It would go a long way. If we could settle 1,000 families in that part of Australia in the next eight or ten years, we should do something worth while, and it would result in a population of considerable dimensions. Money spent on making railways and roads in the Northern Territory is spent on providing permanent benefits. Railways are just as necessary there as in the States, but there is no likelihood of them being provided unless the Commonwealth provides them. The States can look after their own territories, but the development of the Northern Territory rests entirely with this Parliament. From what the honorable member for the Northern Territory has said, it would seem that as many migrants could be placed on its land as in the States, but the area given to each individual would have to be greater. The difficulty of finding markets for rural produce exists all over Australia. . If we were able to place 1,000 persons on the land to-morrow, could we say that we had a market ready for their produce?
– That would depend upon what they grew.
– It would, and they could not all grow wheat. Some would have to take small areas and engage in market gardening. Some persons in this country hold hundreds of acres of land suitable for market gardening, but cultivate not more than 50 acres of it. That is not in the best interests of the country. At present there is not a ready’ market for all. that can be produced in Australia. I am pleased to know, however, that the position of the dried fruits industry is better than it was last year. A few years ago those engaged in it were unable to make a livelihood. Before I went to England, a couple of years ago, a deputation which waited on me stated that the dried fruits industry was not returning £2 a week to those engaged in it. It is useless to bring people to Australia to settle on the land if we cannot guarantee to them a market for their products. That is to be the work of the proposed commission. My objection to the bill is that the position was not thoroughly inquired into before the agreement was signed. We should have taken stock of our position to ascertain what are the possibilities in connexion with the development of our secondary industries, because to a large extent our primary producers must depend upon the substantial development of our secondary industries. .The interests of the two sections of the people cannot be divorced. Our chief concern should be to ascertain in what way we can best absorb additional population. The Government, in signing the agreement, has put the cart before the horse. A thorough investigation should have been made before any definite engagements were entered into, and before the Government agreed to borrow £34,000,000 to promote migration schemes. The Government should have brought the agreement to Parliament for ratification. Had that course been adopted, there might have been a reasonable chance of success. The agreement has been more or less in operation since 25th April, 1925, and it has been accepted by five of the six States. I am sorry that* they have agreed to the proposals, as I feel sure they will find themselves in difficulties, but they should know their own business. My point is that the wrong procedure has been adopted. Consequently, I intend to oppose the bill.
.- If fine phrases could solve Australia’s economic troubles, the speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in moving the second reading of the bill, would have smoothed out all our difficulties. Unfortunately, we are up against solid economic facts which cannot be dispersed with fine phrases. The bill, so far from achieving the objects for which it is submitted, will make Australia’s position worse than it has been. The right honorable gentleman said that if there were not an international agreement with regard to disarmament and international peace, we should have to justify before the nations of the world our right to hold this country. For this reason, he said, our need for a steady flow of migrants was imperative, so that we should have sufficient population in Australia to defend this country from aggression. But it is useless to introduce migrants if we cannot guarantee remunerative employment for them. This bill will not do that. It ‘ will ensure a .flow of immigrants to Australia without making provision for them. As a result, the scheme must fail. As a matter of fact, it will retard development, and, as the unemployment problem will not be solved, our economic position will be worse in the future than it is to-day. I agree with my Leader (Mr. Charlton) that the agreement made between the British Government and . the Commonwealth Government was a fine piece of business for Britain, because if we borrow £34,000,000 from Britain to finance the migration scheme, we shall have to accept that amount in British goods to the lasting injury of Australian secondary industries. I am not alone in this view; other honorable members agree with me. The Minister for- Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), prior to his elevation to Cabinet rank, held substantially the same opinion. I invite honorable members to study the speeches made by the honorable gentleman on the 1st April and the 15th May, 1924, as reported in Hansard, volume 106, pages 151 and 687. He was not then a minister, but was qualifying for a portfolio, and he placed the facts before the Government in such a way that, to close his mouth, and to prevent more speeches of the kind from coming from its side of the chamber, the Government took him into its ranks. The honorable member severely criticized this policy of borrowing abroad. He emphasized that the money must come to Australia in the form of goods, and he said he would not stand for that policy. Twenty-four hours after the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), had told him that the Government intended to continue its policy of borrowing, the honorable member for- Martin, was sworn in as a member of the Government, and by his acquiescence in the present Government’s policy he has swallowed the whole of his earlier criticism. From what I have said it is clear that at least one member of the Cabinet cannot support this bill, from conviction, because the only effect of this agreement to borrow £34,000,000 from the British Government will be to increase importations. In other words, the policy of the Government is to import migrants and export their jobs. That is the principle underlying this measure. It is useless for the Government to ‘ argue that the scheme will find more employment for people in Australian industries. Likewise it is useless to -contend that it is standing up to its promises to give adequate protection for the development of Australian secondary industries. This measure will not help in that direction. The wholesale importation of goods must retard the development of our secondary industries, and make our economic position worse than it is. The history of the world proves the force of my contention. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has just reminded me that if the United States of America had indulged in a policy of wholesale borrowing for migration and other purposes, the secondary industries of that country would never have been developed to their present high state of efficiency.
– Nor would America have been in her present position if she had not endorsed a policy of wholesale immigration.
– But concurrently with wholesale migration, the Government of the United States took adequate measures to ensure the utilization of the natural, resources of that country and the development of its secondary industries, so as to absorb the steady influx of population from overseas.
– The Labour party when in office, has borrowed more money abroad than any other Government.
– That does not affect my argument. The Treasurer’s sole purpose appears to be to make unfair allegations against a Labour Government. I remind him also that when he was in the corner leading the Country party he was quite as critical as 1 am now of this policy of borrowing abroad, but since he has become a member of the Government, like the honorable member for Martin, he is silent. The Prime Minister, in moving the second reading of this bill, referred to his visit to England, and said that the position with regard to migration was not thoroughly understood. He told us nothing about his references to the Government’s scheme for unemploymentinsurance. He held these proposals out as an inducement to the people of Britain, telling them that, as his Government was about to launch a scheme for unemployment insurance, if they came to Australia their position would be secure. We heard the same promises during the last election campaign. The Government appointed a commission to inquire into these matters, but its investigations, like a “Kathleen Mavourneen’s “ farewell, may be for. years or may be forever.
– The honorable member mustconfine his remarks to the bill.
– I referred to that matter because the Prime Minister did so. The Prime Minister, in endeavouring to dispel misunderstandings in Great Britain as to the Government’s immigration policy, caused worse misunderstandings in regard to its national insurance policy. Nothing was done during the life of the last Parliament to give effect to the promises that the Prime Minister made then, and the life of this Parliament will be half spent before we shall even have an opportunity of dealing with the matter.
– Wo are waiting for the report of the commission.
– The Government is making certain that the report shall not come to hand in time for us to do anything with it in the near future. If it had a real desire to increase our population, it would set about the matter in a business-like way. I want to see our population increased, but before agreeing to the policy the Government is now propounding, 1 wish to see our own unemployment problem solved. If we allow things to remain as they are, and bring thousands more people here, we shall undoubtedly add to our unemployed army. We have been told that the Government intends to bring to Australia only persons experienced in rural occupations, but there are none of them available in Great Britain. The British statesmen are bending the whole of their energies to rehabilitating the rural life of their country. I know from my reading, and those who have had the opportunity of visiting the Old Country recently know from their experience, that this is the big feature in Great Britain’s post-war activities. In these circumstances, we cannot expect a big percentage of British rural workers to migrate to Australia. The teeming millions that we are told are available would come from the artisan classes. They are the men and women. who’ are to-day unemployed because of the slump caused in British secondary industries mainly by the unfavorable application to Great Britain of the Versailles Treaty. But, assuming that we are able to absorb rural workers in our country districts, it is useless to argue that we can absorb large numbers of artisans in our secondary industries. I am quite willing to admit that Australia is a country of wonderful natural resources, and that if she were properly and rationally developed she could support a- population of 60,000,000 instead of 6,000,000.; but we cannot get away from the fact that, according to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, in 1925 there were 35,507 unemployed persons here. And that cannot be said to be a complete return, for the Commonwealth Statistician admits that it is made up entirely from information supplied to him by trade unions and other organizations. But there are thousands of unemployed scattered throughout the country, of whom the Commonwealth Statistician knows nothing whatever. While it is true that they may not be permanently unemployed, it is also true that they are probably out of work for two, three, or even more months in the year. Our first duty is to look to the interests of these people. When we have eliminated unemployment in Australia, we may try to introduce more people of the artisan class. Even though there were tens of thousands of people with rural experience in Great Britain who could be brought to Australia, I should dispute the wisdom of bringing them here for their experience of intense cultivation, such as is practised in Great Britain and other western European countries, would not be of much value to them here. We should act in the best interests of Australia if we placed on our undeveloped lands those who are already living in our settled areas ; either our own Australian-born, or persons who har. been in Australia for the last eight or ten years. I wish to say quite definitely that I believe in the principle “ Australia first,” although I do not necessarily believe in the slogan, “Australia for the Australians.” Our first duty, as I have said, is to those who were either born here or have been admitted here under the laws of our country. I could supply the Government with the names of thousands of Australians who would be glad to get land on which to settle. I have in mind two or three persons in the Camden district of my own constituency who were dairy farming on the share! principle, but who, when the owners of the land decided to give up dairying, were obliged to take up some other occupation. They would be glad to obtain land under conditions only 50 per cent, as good as those outlined by the Prime Minister when he was in Great Britain, and they would make a success of it. My own experience is typical of that of many Australians. I, and my three brothers, were compelled to leave the farm that my father worked because it was impossible for us all to be maintained there. We came to the city because we were forced to come to it. That is the story of tens of thousands of young men in Australia. They are not, as we are so often told, attracted by the comforts of city life, but are forced by rotten land laws - I do not think that that is putting it too strongly - to leave the country districts. As a matter of fact, the attractions of city life do not appeal to them.
– They do; and the honorable member knows it.
– They may appeal to the honorable member, but I know that the average man who has been accustomed to living in the country is satisfied with a couple of weeks of city life. Thai was my experience and the experience of many others I know. My brothers and I would have been well pleased to take up farms had we been able to get them. Freehold land is obtainable now only at fabulous prices.
– People who should work on the land are attracted by the artificial conditions in the cities.
– Governments that the honorable member has supported for years are responsible for equally artificial conditions in the country. Whenever land is balloted for, and genuine land seekers have an opportunity to obtain blocks at reasonable prices, . there are hundreds of applications - a true indication of the land hunger. The efforts of the Government should be directed to the settlement of those persons who have a reasonable chance of making successful settlers by reason of their knowledge of local ‘ conditions. It is economically unsound to settle men on expensive freehold property, as that will always be heavily mortgaged to financial institutions.
– Much of the money can be used in the purchase of homesteads” for persons who are already working on the land in Australia.
– But the British Government will have the thick end of tlie stick. All Australians who are landhungry should be settled upon an economically sound basis before holdings are made available to immigrants. When one remembers the history of land settlement under the repatriation scheme, and the “jobbing” that took place at that time, one wonders if the intention of the Government is to dispose of land that is not acceptable to those competent, to judge its value.
– Nonsense! Fifty per cent, of the farms may be offered to Australians.
– The Minister well knows that land that had been passed over as unsuitable for settlement was made available to returned soldiers nt high valuations. More people may be settled under the land than on it by reason of the Government’s proposal. Very little good agricultural land is now available in two of the States, at any rate, except land that has already been alienated from the Crown. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, at the- 30th June, 1924, 1,843,869 acres of private land had beenpurchased in New South Wales for soldier settlement at a cost of £8,060,002, or over £4 per acre and, in Victoria, 1,744,111 acres of private land had been purchased at a cost of £13,214,902, or nearly £8 per acre. Three-fourths of that land had been on the market for years at £2 and £3 per acre. I am suspicious of the present proposal, because it is put forward by a Ministry that has the support of all the land jobbers in the country.
– Have the State Governments favoured the proposal?
– The Federal Government, which alone can’ solve the financial problem, has “swung the lead” on the State Governments, which now find themselves financially embarrassed. The Commonwealth Government has now absolute control of finance. This Government shackled the Commonwealth Bank, and it established a so-called rural bank, which it refuses to allow to be used. It is evident that the States are helpless in the matter. The Government has introduced this scheme at the behest of the “money bags” who support it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– There is a danger under this measure of past history repeating itself respecting the unloading of large parcels of land on unfortunate settlers at much more than their true value. According to the Commonwealth Year-Book, in 1923 all the land in New South Wales was alienated. or in process of alienation with the exception of 9.25 per cent., which was held by the Crown, and even some of that was occupied. In Victoria the percentage of land held by the Crown was 23.12; in Queensland, 22.55; in South Australia, 42.70; in Western Australia, 53.70; and in Tasmania 48.59. We know that in Western Australia, and South Australia in particular, there are large areas of land which it is impossible to cultivate, and that other areas need a considerable expenditure on transport and other facilities to make them of use for settlement purposes. As a matter of fact, as the honorable member for Wan- non (Mr. Rodgers) has said, most of the Crown land in those two States is comprised ofrocky hills and deserts. I take strong exception to clauses 5 and 9. Under clause 5, four persons are to be appointed to the commission, two to form a quorum. One commissioner is to be the president and another the vice-president, and the presiding commissioner is to have a casting vote. If the president is absent, and only the vice-president and another commissioner are present at a meeting, the decision of the vice-president, owing to his casting vote, will be final. Clause 9 reads -
A commissioner or an actingcommissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
He, in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of more than 25 persons -
becomes concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the commission; or
participates, or claims to be entitled to participate,, in the profit of any such contract or agreement, or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom.
Under this clause any member of the commission may belong to a company consisting of more than 25 persons, and be directly interested in the . contracts made by the commission. The vicepresident, if a member of such a company, may, presiding at a meeting at which two commissioners are present, log-roll through the commission any contract relating to the company with which he is concerned. That is a most undesirable feature of the bill. The commissioners are to be appointed for terms ranging from five to seven years. Such tenures of office are far too long. The Government should not appoint members of a commission for any period greater than that of the life of a Parliament.
– The commission will handle enormous sums of money.
– It will be difficult . to set a limit to its financial expenditure. This foolish attempt to develop Australia by wholesale immigration will fail miserably. Under the bill we are deliberately handing over the general functions of Parliament to an outside body. This Government is more and more shelving the responsibility of office by placing the power of Parliament in the hands of outside bodies. When the Country party combined with the Nationalist party, we were supposed to be getting an enonomy government, but experience has proved the contrary. This is the most spendthrift government that we have ever had. It refuses to say who are to be appointed as commissioners, and what salaries they are to receive. Another department is to be established. A new Minister for Migration has just been appointed, ‘and surely the Government has sufficient confidence in his ability to handle that department.
– Will the Minister control the commission, or will that body guide the Minister?
– If history repeats itself, the commission will guide the Minister, and in the event of serious blunder he will shelter behind the commission. That was the action of the Government when a revolting case occurred in New South Wales.
– Unfortunately the Government pays too little attention to the mental defectives of this country.
– A man named Pudifoot and another mental defective came out here as immigrants. While I have the greatest pity for mental defectives who are born here, I consider that there is no need for us to bring such persons here from other countries.
– We do not want them here.
– That, is so. We have quite ‘enough on our hands .in looking after our own mental defectives, without caring for those of other countries. The Government proposes to give certain definite powers to the commission. We have no idea of its personnel. This legislation will be dangerous if incompetent men are appointed to administer it. By introducing this measure, the Government is asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque. Of course, if necessary, amending legislation may later be introduced, but it frequently happens that in such cases its introduction is too long delayed. I ask honorable members not to pass this measure without giving it the fullest consideration. I intend to oppose the bill, but if it passes the secondreading stage I hope that the Government will, in committee, agree to insert vital amendments in it.
I regret that I had not the opportunity of hearing the Prime Minister when he was enunciating the principles of this bill. I myself have had some experience of the effects of the farming out of powers to commissions, and this practice has not impressed me very favorably.
– The War Service Homes Commission is a case in point.
– The Government had power to veto what that commission did, but had not the power to alter it.
– Mr. Stewart gave the honorable member a rough spin.
– I invite the fullest investigation of the administration of the War Service Homes Act. No man in Australia will successfully indict me for the shortcomings of the War Service Homes Commission. I do not - wish to raise discussion upon, a matter of the kind, but, if honorable members desire a full-dress rehearsal of the administration of the War Service Homes Department, I am prepared to give it.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton
Groom). - The honorable member would not be in order in giving it on this bill.
– The principle of administration by a commission is involved in this bill, and the man who id without the courage to defend himself in this chamber should not be a member of this Parliament. I never let one COLItract in Australia, but I reconstructed many. It fell to my lot to save the ‘bus before it fell over the precipice. I have taken my share of the opprobrium attaching to the administration of the War Service Homes Act, and this is the first time on which I have publicly taken a stand in my own defence in connexion with it. I did not want to “do it. I thought that some one in this House would have defended me, but not one of my old colleagues was, apparently, game to do so, and my defence on the occasion to which I refer was left to a member of the Opposition.
– The honorable member was not a member of the House on the occasion to which he refers.
– That is so.
– The honorable member should come over to this side.
– No; I shall not. These little memories have not sufficient influence upon me to draw me to the other side, but, if any one wishes to attack me in connexion with the administration of war service homes, I am always here, prepared to defend myself. If the proposal has support on each side, I am prepared to-morrow for a full-dress rehearsal of the administration of the War Service Homes Department.
– It is time we had such a rehearsal.
– My memory is one succession of photographs of the developments that took place in connexion with the administration of the War Service Homes Department. I have a complete record of everything I have done, and I am prepared to speak in my own defence. I shall never be found shirking my defence.
– .Order !
– May I just complete my references to this matter by saying that I read the report of the proceedings to which I have referred at fi o’clock in the evening when I was up the country. I caught a train, and was here at 10 o’clock next morning, and challenged the Government in connexion with it.
– The members of the Government turned the honorable member down.
– I do not care about that. I am just as good a custodian of the- principles of the party to which I belong as any one of those who turned me down is likely to be. I am my own interpreter. I have very carefully read the report of the speech of the Prime Minister on the proposal to create a special commission to deal with migration and development. I am 100 per cent, for migration, subject only to about two conditions. One is that first opportunities in Australia be given to the sons and grandsons of the pioneers who made this country. I am first for the Australian-born, whether of the first, second, or third generation. After that 1 am whole-heartedly for the migration of British stock to Australia. I take a liberal view after that of all who may desire to come to this fair land to improve their lot in life. 1 hope I shall never be so hide-bound as to withhold rights of citizenship in Australia from any world citizen of good health, character, and ambition who desires to come here to better his lot. I am wholeheartedly for migration, bearing in mind all the time the preservation of the principle of a White Australia. I am not a strong believer in the appointment of commissions to do the work which rightly belongs to Parliament. I ask the sponsors of this measure how they expect it will be possible for four men, who are as yet unknown to honorable members, to bring forward proposals for the development of the Commonwealth that have not yet been thought of by the seven Parliaments of this country operating all these years and examining all the resources of Australia? I have personally a very great regard for the gentleman whose name I have heard mentioned in this connexion, Mr. Gepp, I believe that he possesses one of the best scientific brains in Australia. He is a first class man.
– At a job he knows something about.
– There is a good deal in that. He is a first class man of high scientific attainments, and I personally believe that the output of his brain. would be worth the money it is proposed to pay him as chairman of the Migration Commission. I do not know who else is to be appointed, and I do not even know whether Mr. Gepp is prepared to accept an appointment. If he is, I am prepared to admit that he possesses one of the master minds of the Commonwealth; but if I read the remarks of the Prime Minister aright, he and his commission will be elevated above this Parliament. The commission will have the right in connexion with migration plans to veto any decision of the Federal Parliament. It will have the power to veto, not merely the proposals of the Federal Government, but those of a State Government and those also of the Commonwealth Government and a State Government. If the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of a State agree upon definite proposals for the benefit of Australia and for the benefit of migration, Mr. Gepp and his commission will have the power to veto those proposals.
– This Parliament will1 have to approve the expenditure.
– This is the first time in the history of Australian politics when it has been proposed to create a commission with power to veto a decision of an Australian government or of the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of a State. Apparently, the significance of the proposals has not yet been appreciated by honorable members. I am not prepared to grant power to any commission to override the decision of any Australian government. If we create a commission which is to go over the head of the Government we shall create something which we cannot control.
– It would have been a good thing if some government had not overridden the decisions of independent valuers.
– That is so trivial a matter in the light of the great principle here involved as to be hardly worth bothering about. There is no better authority on land .and cows in this House than is the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) ; but what has that to do with the grant ‘to a commission of the power to spend or to promulgate proposals for the spending of £34,000,000?
– And quite likely more than that.
– Yes ; the commission is to have power to borrow with the consent of the Parliament. I want to know why such a proposal was not evolved when we were spending £40,000,000 of Australian money to settle the sons of Australia on the land. Why did we not then appoint a commission with power to override decisions of the Parliament? I remember that on one occasion I had to find money quickly for six State Governments whose expenditure had exceeded their resources. Those State Governments spent money lent to them by the Commonwealth Government.
– They appointed commis810118 to do it.
– I remember having to re-adjust the finances of the Commonwealth, because one of the State Governments had spent more money than it was entitled to for purposes of repatriation. In the year to which I refer, there was a grant of, I think, £15,000,000 for land settlement, and £6,000,000 for war ser vice homes. Only five months of the year had passed, and £5,000,000 had been spent on war service homes.
– And had entered intocommitments for a great deal more.
– They were committed to expenditure over which the then Minister had practically no control, and they did not know the extent of their commitments. Every State Government had over-run the constable, and had1 bought more land than it could pay for.. I shall not vote to deprive this Parliament of its power to control a commission-, it creates.
– The honorable member cannot have read the bill.
– I read the secondreading speech of the Prime Minister.
– The right honorablegentleman did not say what the honorable member suggests.
– I invite the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) to read the speech of the Prime Minister again. The Commonwealth Government may put forward a proposal, or any State Government may put forward a proposal in connexion with migration, arid the proposed commission is to be given power to veto any such proposal, or to veto .a proposal put forward by the Commonwealth Government and a State Government combined.
– That is clear.
– Is the honorable member prepared to vote for that?
– I want to think over it.
– Of course, the honorable member does, and he should have time to think over it. I have been thinking, or’ I would not now be speaking. I am not a standpatter. I do not stand patbehind every proposal of the Government whether I believe in it or not. I have not voted for any proposal which I have spoken against. I believe that a great deal of development is necessary before we can absorb migrants from overseas Might I tell honorable members why I am sp keen, and feel so strongly about this matter. I have in my own electorate a soldier settlement. Twenty-two Imperial officers bought an estate, and put into it practically £1,000 each under a proposal put up by the State Government. These men have spent a few years on the estate, and to-day practically every one of them is up against it. “We cannot shut our eyes to the facts. It is futile to bring men to Australia to settle upon the land upon conditions that will not assure to them a livelihood. On the estate I have indicated the 22 settlers cannot get in return for the capital invested much more than half the basic wage.
-They cannot- get a shilling’s worth of credit.
– I am grateful for that interjection. Any government that engages in the business of land settlement must be prepared to carry the settler through good and bad times until he becomes established. Governments- have done very well in this regard ; they have gone to the assistance of men who were in distress, but when the State holds the lease and a mortgage over the stock, implements, and growing crop, the settler cannot get a penny’s worth of credit in his district. The most successful land settlement in Australia has been that which followed the private subdivision of estates, because the machinery agents, the sellers of manures, and the local merchants were prepared to give a genuine trier credit until he found his feet. The Mallee settlements would never have come into profitable use but for the patriotic work done by the ‘ late E . H. Lascelles and men of his calibre. They stood behind the selectors, gave them credit, brought financial institutions to their aid, and nursed them through lean years, and now those settlers are the proud owners of estates in what was once barren and inhospitable country. “Will a government do that ? Will a commission be bold enough to nurse settlers in the days of their need ? I hope that my somewhat abrupt intrusion into this debate will induce the Government to call a halt. I intend to be the stout protector of the men who are put on the land, and asked to work out their problems under the uneconomic system that prevails in Australia to-day. This Parliament cannot call into existence suddenly an omniscient commission, with plenary powers, to override parliamentarians and government experts who for years have studied intensely the problems of land settlement.
– The Mallee farmers were saved by’ the water conservation scheme. .LUtt
– To some extent. What was once known as the Wimmera River used to drain the waters from the mountains into the sands of central Victoria. All that precious water was lost. Now the river leads the water to a series of great reservoirs that store it in readiness for dry times. Prom them it is reticulated by a system of channels which make every 640 acres in the dry parts of Victoria more independent of rainfall than some of the wet areas, which for some months before the last rains fell were almost waterless. To-day the Wimmera and the Mallee is the best watered country in Australia, thanks to the wisdom of some fine natural engineers, who saw the possibilities of that> area, and fought unremittingly to have the water resources scientifically conserved and distributed. It is useless for the Prime Minister to tell me that by appointing a commission on migration development we can inaugurate a new era in land settlement. I have more faith in the combined wisdom of seven parliaments than in the proposed new commission ; if the’ legislatures of the Commonwealth and the States cannot be depended upon to manage this business, the people had better disperse them, and’ substitute a dictator. If after 70 years of responsible government it is necessary to create a commission to evolve hitherto undreamt-of schemes for developing Australia, God help responsible government! I have had experience as a Minister working with a commission, and I do not desire a repetition of it. The present Minister for Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) is doing excellent work - better work than I was able to do.
– Hear, hear!
– And a damned sight better than the Postmaster-General could do ; at any rate, one does get a . reply from him on the day following a request for information. If the Minister for Repatriation had not more professional knowledge and practical experience than the members of the commission which is supposed to be controlling repatriation, he would be obliged, as I was obliged, to take their decision, and many soldiers would not have received that just treatment they have had since his accession to office. Nevertheless, his power is limited, and if the commission refused to abide by his wishes, he. would be helpless. . I challenge the Minister to deny that.
– Quite right.
– Let me illustrate the impotence of commissions. Three wellmeaning men, all soldiers, were appointed to constitute the Repatriation Commission. They have certain regulations to guide them. They desire to do well, but although they must act within the regulations they have authority to override the judgment of their Minister. Often I, when acting Minister for Repatriation, tried to have decisions made in favour of individual soldiers, and to let them have the benefit of the doubt, but frequently the commission thought otherwise, and overruled’ me. And the present Minister for Repatriation, too, but for the fact that his professional knowledge is greater than that of the commissioners, and but for his experience during the war. as DirectorGeneral of Medical Services, would be subservient to the commissioners, and if they chose to exercise their authority it would be impossible for him to do more than submit matters to them for a decision.
Mr.E. Riley. - But the Minister has overridden the departmental heads.
– By the force of his knowledge and experience he has managed to get his will done. I wish good luck to the new Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson), but if Mr. Gepp is appointed chairman of the proposed commission the’ Minister will never rise superior to what should be a subordinate body. His power in connexion with the expenditure of this £34,000,000 will be constantly diminishing. He will be answerable first to the Commonwealth Parliament, and then to the six partner State Governments. The seven governments will be responsible for the carrying out of the migration scheme, but above them is to be set a commission that can veto not only what the Minister may wish, but what any or all of the seven governments may desire.
-i do not think the honorable member has read the bill.
– I have. The Prime Minister has said that the commission will not have power to override the Parliament.
– That is stated in clause 13.
– But there is a difference between Parliament and the Minister, or the Government. The truth is that the Minister, and even the Govern ment, will be powerless; and if Parliament is not in session, the commission may hold up any scheme that the Government desires to put into operation. It can declare black the Minister or the Government, or all the Governments of Commonwealth and States. I hope I have not occupied time in vain to-night in drawing attention to the danger of once more creating a commission that will be superior to the Government. Although I wish the immigration scheme well, and fully realize the need for a vast addition to Australia’s virile population so that’ this country may. be more . adequately developed, I am not prepared to vote for the creation of this commission. I have been subservient to two commissions, and I would not consent to serve under another.
– It was quite refreshing to listen to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who, I presume, has very vivid recollections of his experiences when administering the War Service Homes Department, and of the criticisms uttered concerning his work by certain honorable members occupying lie corner benches.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I think it will be found, sir, that my remarks are relevant. The most severe critic of the Government of which the honorable member for Wannon was a member, was the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), whose particular charge at that time was that the Government was shirking its responsibilities.
– Which was quite true.
– Yes. and it is true “ to-day. The principal culprits were the members of the Country party, who said that it was time that responsible government was restored. Consequently the honorable member for Wannon feels some satisfaction in telling those who, a few years ago, said that responsible government should be restored, that more boards have been appointed by the Government with which they are associated than by that they criticized so severely.
– That is not the truth.
– I understand the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) to suggest that the honorable member for Hume is not telling the truth. I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– In submitting the bill the Prime Minister stated that the commission to be appointed will have very important duties to perform, and I feel sure that the people will agree with the honorable member for “Wannon that they are so important that they should be undertaken by the Government and not placed upon the shoulders of others. The point mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the Government is once again placing the cart before the horse, cannot be too strongly emphasized: A progressive developmental policy, including’ the finding of markets overseas for our produce, should have been launched before any migration agreement was entered into between Great Britain and the Commonwealth. It has been truly said in some quarters that this agreement will be of great benefit to Great Britain ; but the first duty of an Australian Parliament should be to assist the Australian people. A stocktaking of our our resources, of which we have heard so much, should have preceded any scheme for bringing migrants to Australia to settle on the land. One of the first duties of any Federal Government . should be to provide means for the sons of Australian farmers to take up land on their own account; but no such provision has been made. For years the members of the Labour party have urged the necessity of making land available to our own people before endeavouring to-provide for those from other countries. What is the use of settling people on the land unless the Government can guarantee settlers that they will be able to profitably dispose of their products?
– What guarantee does the honorable member suggest?
– The work of the proposed commission will take years to accomplish unless some assurance is . given that profitable markets will boavailable.
– We have to make markets, not find them.
– Men engaged in the dried fruit industry, for instance, have found that there is no market for their products. Thousands of men, including returned soldiers, have for years been trying to eke out an existence in that industry. Last, year they were unable to dispose of their products.
– If individuals undertake such work on their own account, it is their “ pigeon,” but if at the instigation of a government, it is the government’s responsibility.
– Yes. A great deal has been done in an endeavour, based on wrong lines, to settle soldiers on the land.
– There have been many failures.
– Yes, because the Government dumped settlers on unsuitable land, and shirked the responsibility of finding markets for the commodities they produce.
– The honorable member is referring to State Governments.
– Not wholly. “Under this measure the Government is to co-operate with the State Governments in the matter of finding markets. “ Mr. Charlton. - It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to find overseas markets.
– Of course it is. When members of the Country party contested the election three and a half years ago as the opponents of the Nationalist Government, the finding of profitable markets for primary producers was the chief election cry. But the position to-day is even more acute.
– It is not.
– The position of the dried fruits industry has never been worse.
– It is better than it has 6v61* 1)6611.
– Notwithstanding” the wonderful butter stabilization scheme, for which the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) is responsible, I do not think the dairy farmers are much better off than they were years ago. The scheme entered into under this migration agreement has been thrust upon the people.
– Without Parliament being consulted.
– Exactly . The agreement has been entered into virtually by one man, and the honorable member for Wannon, who has condemned the appointment of boards, has probably a greater reason to condemn the Government which entered into an agreement binding the Commonwealth in regard to certain financial arrangements without consulting Parliament. The interest charges will have to be borne by the taxpayers, and Parliament, which represents the people, should have been consulted beforehand. Although the position was unsatisfactory under a previous anti-Labour administration, it has become very much worse since the composite Government has been in office. No other government has appointed so many boards. Many of them should be abolished.
– What boards would the honorable member abolish ?
– The Deportation Board was one that must be something in the nature of a nightmare to members of the Government. They would like to forget all about it.
– But it served an election purpose.
– It served the purpose of the Government for the time being, but naturally an unpleasant odour now attaches to the Government over the deportation proceedings. I said just now that this agreement was a very good one for Britain, which will lend £34,000,000 to the Commonwealth Government for the development of migration schemes. Every one knows, of course, that we shall get this £34,000,000 not in cash, but in goods, and that that will materially assist the British Government to handle its unemployed problem. Also, it will provide an outlet for many unemployed in Britain.
– Only 15 per cent, of the migrants who have reached Australia during the last four months were unemployed at the time of their approval by the migration authorities in England.
– I doubt if the Minister has helped his case very much by his interjection. It is well known that when the agreement was entered into there was acute unemployment in Great Britain. We have this on the authority of the Prime Minister himself, who said that when he was in London, in 1923, there were 1,500,000 unemployed in Great Britain. At that time the members of the British Government and the members of the Imperial Parliament were making speeches all over the country, stating that they were going to have a conference with the representatives of the dominions to settle the unemployment problem bv a migration movement to the outer parts of the Empire. The Prime Minister went on to say -
When I reached London I pointed out that the idea was absurd. I told them that we could possibly solve the problem over a period of five or ten years, and that, having so solved it, Britain need never fear a recurrence of it. We were receiving migrants to the number of about 25,000 a year at that time, and could unquestionably have taken more, although the number we could absorb was limited by our state of development. I pointed out to them that the only way in which we could solve our problem of populating Australia, and the only way in which they could look forward to solving their problem of economically providing for their people, was by progressively linking up the development of this country with the absorption of migrants. I also said that Australia could absorb many more migrants than it was absorbing, but that we should need to spend a large amount of money, the interest on which we could not afford to pay with our small population. I suggested that the British Government might help us over a period of ten years with the interest burden on money used for developmental purposes, and that at the end of that period we should take over the whole burden ourselves.
This proves that the scheme propounded by the Prime Minister when he was in London in 1923 was intended to absorb some portion of the 1,500,000 unemployed persons in Great Britain at that time.
– Also it is a scheme to populate Australia.
– The honorable member will find an excuse for anything that this Government cares to do.
– The building of cruisers in Great Britain was not a scheme to assist migration to Australia.
– No. That contract helped the British Government to deal with its unemployed problem. The London newspapers thanked Heaven that the Commonwealth Government appeared to be more concerned about the unemployment in Britain than the British Government itself .
– The cables stated that there was rejoicing on the Clyde when the contract was let.
– But whilst there was rejoicing on the Clyde, there was depression amongst the people on the Yarra. It was, of course, very good of the Prime Minister to think so much about the unemployment difficulties in Great Britain. Unfortunately, he forgot that a problem much nearer home should have occupied more of his attention. My Leader (Mr. Charlton) mentioned that problem this afternoon, when he stated that so many of our farmers’ sons, men who understand Australian conditions, are seeking land and are unable to get it. Honorable members must surely have noted the latest instance of this land hunger in New South Wales. Recently there were no fewer than 5,000 applicants for one homestead block in the Narrandera district, and, a couple of months ago, there were 500 applicants for a block of land in the western Riverina district. No one can deny that the position as regards land settlement in Australia is very acute. The case cited by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), of four or five members of a family occupying one block of land, is common all over Australia. A man sets out to make a living on 700 or 800 acres, and as his family grows up around him he finds that he can only provide for one or two of his sons. The rest have to drift to the cities and become wage earners in our secondary industries. This state of affairs is very unsatisfactory. The Treasurer, when he was Leader of the Country party, frequently spoke about this problem. I well remember the Minister declaring that centralization was the greatest curse in Australia. He spoke so much about it that it became almost an obsession with him. He was continually referring to the difficulty of farmers’ sons who, being unable to get land, wore forced into the cities, often against their wishes.
– This, measure will help, because it provides that alternate farms must be reserved for Australians.
– The Minister for Markets and Migration is an optimist.
– That is what the agreement says.
– It is the bounden duty of the Minister, as a man with an intimate knowledge of this problem, to get down to root causes for its solution, and not cast’ this responsibility on the shoulders of a commission which knows very little about it. Ministers are proposing to appoint this commission, and to say to it : “ Here is a problem that has been exercising the minds of public men in this country for many years. We do not know much about it. You take it and solve it for us.”
– It is an admission of failure.
– The Government is willing to give every second farm to Australians !
– That is so. If 100 blocks are made available under this scheme - and, for the sake of my argument, I am willing to allow that it may have that measure of success - the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) and the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) will have to say to the sons of farmers in their districts, “We know you are anxious to go on the land, but we must reserve 50 of these blocks for the people we are expecting from overseas.”
– For the visitors.
– The honorable member should bear in mind that the land will be secured with overseas money.
– And that £34,000,000/ is involved.
– I am sure that the honorable member forWannon (Mr. Rodgers) could be eloquent on this subject if he would let himself go, for he knows very well that we shall not get money, but only goodsand unemployed, from Great Britain. This is a good bargain for the Old Country, but a bad one for us. I cannot see how this scheme will increase themajority of the Minister for Marketsand Migration in Gippsland, for half theland that will be made available under it. will, as the honorable member for Batman(Mr. Brennan) has said, be “for the visitors.” In my opinion, the Government is tackling the problem from the wrong; end. A few days ago the honorablemember for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) quoted: official statistics which showed that the- number of Crown lessees in Australia was considerably less than it was five years ago, and that it has decreased greatly since this composite Government has been in power. That, of course, was to be expected, for the Government, by its neglect to find markets for our primary producers, has obliged many of them to abandon their holdings. When the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was leading the Country party from the Corner opposite, he said that if he could have a say in tha government of the country he would do something to decentralize its affairs, but, since he has been in the Cabinet, the number of Crown lessees has decreased instead of increased. I suppose the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) did not realize that he was giving us these facts at the expense of the Government he supports ; but’ that is so. In my opinion, the problems to be handed over to this commission should have been investigated before the migration agreement was made. It should have done something to settle at least all the sons of our farmers who were anxious to take up land, for they could do far more to develop Australia than people from overseas who know nothing whatever about our conditions. If the Government had taken some definite action to make land available on proper terms to Australians who desire it, honorable members on this side of the chamber would have been prepared to help it to bring migrants here from overseas; but it has not properly repatriated even our ex-soldiers. The honorable member for Wannon referred a few days ago to our unsolved problems of exsoldier settlement. Many of our exsoldiers have had to abandon their holdings after working hard on them for four or five years, and to return to the cities to work. Some of them were settled on land which did not give them a hope of success. I have in mind particularly some areas which would have cost £80 an acre to clear. I say without fear of truthful contradiction that no man, however willing he might be, could make a success of farming on land which cost £70 or £80 an acre to clear. Surely if any people deserve well of the Government it is the men who fought our battles overseas.
– The honorable member is referring to a matter which affects the State Governments entirely.
– This Government is supposed to be cooperating with the State Governments in connexion with our ex-soldier land settlement schemes. In my opinion, the Prime Minister would have done the right thing had he said, “Let us first settle our exsoldiers and other Australians who desire to go on the land; and then we may be able to do something for migrants.” But he, with the Minister for Markets and Migration also it seems, is quite prepared that no more than half the land that may be involved in this scheme shall be available for settlement by our exsoldiers and others already resident here, while. the other half shall be reserved for visitors.
– It would take the visitors a long while to clear some of the land that our ex-service men are settled on.
– That is so.
– Tell us something of what the Queensland Labour Government has done for the returned men.
– It is quite evident that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) does not desire me to discuss the matter that is definitely before the Chair. I will undertake that he would not be prepared to visit any of our exsoldier settlements and read to the settlers the speech that the Prime Minister delivered in introducing this bill.
– I accept the honorable member’s challenge, and will go with him.
– The only settlements the Honorary Minister would be willing to visit would be those which have been deserted. It can hardly be denied that under this bill the responsibility that the Government already has for settling our soldiers is increased.
– The honorable member knows as well as any other honorable member that the settling of returned soldiers, on the land is the sole responsibility of the State Governments.
– All the difficulties belong . to the States !
– I do not admit the contention of the Minister for Markets and Migration, for the Commonwealth Government is supposed to be co-operating with the State Governments in our repatriation policy.
– I dislike agreeing with very much that the honorable member says, but I must admit that the principle involved in our soldier land settlement policy is that we borrow the money and make it available to the State Governments to get land and co-operate with them in seeing that the men are settled on it.
– The fact that the honorable member for Wannon agrees with me shows that he can be right sometimes. The Minister for Markets and Migration is well aware thai he is right, but it does not suit him to admit it. When he was sitting in the corner opposite he eloquently pleaded on more than one occasion for the restoration of responsible f over amen t in this country, but now, having assumed ministerial office, he is willing to eat his words. I should like the Minister to stand up to the doctrines that he preached when occupying a bench in the corner.
– I always shall do that.
– At that time he said, “ Let us restore responsible government,” and now he says, “ I am a Minister, so let my old doctrines pass to the four winds.” Other essential matters should have preceded the immigration scheme. We have heard a great deal about establishing a system of rural credits in this country to .assist the man on the land. It has been said that we have a rural credits branch of the Commonwealth Bank, but I ask, where is it? I venture to say that no distressed settler, no matter how good his security may be, can possibly find it. The establishment of a real rural credits branch in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank should have preceded the immigration scheme, in order to give some security to intending settlers that in time of stress they will be able to secure financial assistance. There are only two branches of the Commonwealth Bank in my electorate.
– There are only three branches in the whole of Western Australia.
– We have heard of the Commonwealth -Bank providing cheap money.
– Not for the primary producers. The cry of the Leader of the Country party before the composite Government was formed, and when he came back to this House with thirteen followers, was “ cheap money for the farmers.”
– That is not so.
– That was his slogan in my electorate. I admit that cheap money has been provided, but for the wealthy only. The Commonwealth Bank provided for the private banks £15,000,000 worth of notes at 4£ per cent.
– That was in 1910, in the days of the Fisher Government.
– The Minister knows that that is not so. I am speaking of the request made by the private banks to the Commonwealth Bank under the old board for £15,000,000 worth of notes. The request was not then granted, but when the present board was appointed, just before the last, election, the money was provided fox the private banks at 4£ per cent.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that the private banks did get £15,000,000 worth of notes from the Commonwealth Bank. It was cheap money, but it was not given to the primary producers at 4^ per cent. They were lucky to get it at double that rate. The rural credits branch of the Commonwealth Bank does not exist except in name. To encourage our own men to go on the land, we should give them some reasonable guarantee that markets will be found for their products, and that they will be able to secure money at reasonable rates of interest to tide them over periods of stress. That guarantee should have preceded the immigration scheme, which was fathered, according to the Prime Minister, by him when he was overseas. He said in his speech that he suggested the terms of the migration agreement to the Imperial Government. Before doing that he should have tried to solve the problem of settling our own men on the land. If there is any section of the community entitled to money at a cheap rate of interest, it is that engaged in industries, and particularly in primary production, because without it the Commonwealth Bank could not properly function.
– What is a reasonable rate of interest?
– I am quite satisfied that the primary producers could not get money at the rate of interest charged the private banking institutions. However, if a rate a little higher than 4.^ per cent, were charged the primary producers, we could then truly say that the Commonwealth Bank had been of some real service to the community. Most of the problems of land settlement existing to-day should have been solved, or partially solved, before entering into the migration agreement. We are now asked to accept this agreement, which has been in existence for twelve months, and about which we were never consulted. It is, indeed an excellent agreement for the Imperial Government, but a very bad one for the people of this country, and as this bill starts at the wrong end, I propose to vote against it.
.- I should like to throw a little oil on the troubled waters, so that we may reason together and come to a fair understanding of the position. I cannot refrain from saying that it is hardly in good taste for honorable members opposite to reflect upon the migration agreement, which is really a magnificent effort to relieve the Old Country of some of her great troubles that have been brought about by her participation in the great war to save the civilized world. While engaged in that humane action, which in history has no parallel, America was seizing the world’s trade and revelling in wealth. Britain to-day is engaged in the restoration of the trade that she lost during the war, in addition to carrying, not only her burdens accruing therefrom, but also those of nearly all her allies. Any man with a spark of honour left in him should resist these contemptible references to the Old Country, whose supreme effort made Australia safe for the Australian people-
– What about the warriors of this country?
– I could give the honorable member a little about what was done by the warriors of this country, if he desires it. I want to say very definitely that this bill is not to interfere with the progressive development and opening up of rural areas in connexion with which our own men are to be given opportunities equal to those afforded to migrants. Honorable members opposite have been charging us with being anxious to relieve the people of the Old World, whilst we forget that there are unemployed in this land. There ought not to be any unemployed in this land in view of the glorious opportunities offering in this great continent, with a population of only about 6,000,000. We should realize our obligations and responsibilities to the brave men who pioneered this country, the men who with grit and determination faced our wild forests, and made for us the inheritance we enjoy to-day. Let us consider what is occurring in connexion with industries in this country. There is a tremendous development in the building trade in every city, and in pretty nearly every town in Australia, but certain people are terribly afraid lest anybody else should come in to share with them the prosperity of the industry. In spite of the improved position of the building trade, men are to-day laying not more than half, and, in some cases, not more than one-third, as many bricks as men used to lay in days gone by, although today men get two - and in some instances three - times the wages paid to those engaged in the industry in the past.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I know only too well what I am talking about. I am giving the honorable member a little medicine that he does not like. I can prove every word I say from the books of the Works and Railways Department. I can quote actual cases in support of what I say. Honorable members opposite talk about this country as if they made it. What does Britain propose? We have here a vast continent that is almost empty. It cannot too often be driven into the minds of the people of Australia that we cannot continue to keep it empty. This almost empty country is groaning for workers of the right type. The Old Country asks that we should bring to
Australia men and “women of the stook from which we have sprung, and these men and women are to bring £34,000,000 along with them. There never was such an offer made by any mother country to the colonies that sprung from her loins.. T want people outside, as well as honorable members, to know my views. When we are told that we have no room in this land for more people, it is about time that we took stock, and saw where we are. We want many more of the type of the men who made Australia what it is today. Having said that, I want to say further that this business of migration and settlement should be administered with the greatest possible caution. This is largely a machinery bill. We have not to-day, within the settled areas, a great deal of land that is suitable for agriculture.
– Except at a very high price.
– I shall deal with that view of the matter.
– We have a lot of land, but we cannot use it.
– Why ?
– Because the people who hold it will not put it to its best use.
– I shall deal with that statement also.
– There is quite a lot of agricultural land in the honorable member’s electorate that is used for running sheep.
– That is so, and I shall deal effectively with that statement also. I know a little about land settlement in this country. I want, briefly, to give honorable members my experience of land settlement over the last 40 years. Conditions are very different to-day from those which prevailed 40 years ago. It is true that when particularly attractive parcels of land in the settled areas are offered for occupation to-day there are hundreds of applicants for each block. So far as the locked-up land is concerned, it is perfectly true that land was locked up 40 years ago, and it was a crying shame. That reproach has to-day been very largely removed, and almost entirely in South Australia. - In one or two of the States the Governments have not gone as far as they might have gone in dealing with the locking up of land. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) says that whilst we have agricultural land in some of the settled areas, the problem set up by the high prices asked for it is practically insoluble. I remember that 40 or 45 years ago lands were locked up in South Australia, and were used to grow sheep, when we thought they ought to be growing men. After some time, immense areas outside the line of good rainfall were cut up and offered to settlers in blocks of 640 acres each. It was country to which God never intended men should go to grow wheat. Yet men did go there, and struggled for 20 or 25 years. They were the truest stuff that God ever put the breath of life into. If there are any men in this world to whom I would take my hat off sooner than to any one else, they are those fine pioneering men who would not give the game up in spite of hardships never paralleled anywhere else. At last fate was too much for them, and they had to leave the country. Then five or six of the blocks were combined in one, and men who took up the larger blocks and went in for dairying, and for growing wool, ‘are to-day in a comfortable position, and do not owe any one a bean. The Prime Minister has said that the State Governments are taking stock of their position, and so they are. They are arranging to convert into small holdings some of the wide areas they control, but they are terribly near to committing the same blunder that was committed in South Australia 40 or 45 years ago. If a man takes up an area for agriculture on which there is not a greater average annual rainfall than 10 inches, it will require mighty good farming, taking one year with another, to make it pay. If an area offered for settlement has an annual rainfall of less than 10 inches, to send settlers there is to condemn them to a life that will be almost hell itself, in view of the struggle and misery to which they will be subjected without any adequate return. Such land is a grazing, not a farming proposition. The same remarks apply with almost equal force to some of the wide pastoral areas, and I have on several occasions, made vigorous protests to the Government on these lines. In South Australia a commission of very able men has gone very carefully into the matter, but has not yet presented its final report. It tells us that some of the country on which it is suggested sheep might be run is not worth tackling at all.
Cattle might be run on it, if they could be got away to market. Should a long drought occur it would destroy cattle and everything else, unless the holder could transfer his stook in drought periods. During the regime of the Fisher Government, between 1910 and 1913, a proposal was made to impose a land tax on outside leaseholds. I spoke in opposition to the proposal from the other side until 12 o’clock on a Saturday night. The Opposition at the time thought that if they could delay the decision of the matter until the Monday morning three Queensland representatives would arrive, and it would be able to defeat the Government’s proposal. On the Monday morning the three Queensland men did not turn up, and a land tax was imposed on outside leaseholds. As one who knew, I told the Government then that it would never collect half as much revenue from the tax as it would cost to make the assessments and collect the tax. That is exactly what happened. The present Government took a leaseholder to court, the other day, to recover tax to the amount of £120,000. The claim was subsequently reduced to £9,000, and the leaseholder is resisting the payment of even that amount. These are matters which should have careful consideration. In South Australia we have no agricultural lands available other than those which are required for thesons of our own farmers. There is not a great deal of such land available in Victoria. There are some fairly big areas of pastoral country in this State that have not been cut up; but honorable members should remember that this land would be very costly to buy, and much of it is not wheat country, . but wool country. I ask leave to continue my remarks,
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1926-27.
– I move -
That the resolutions be now re-committed to a committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of requested amendments Nos. 4, 8,and 14.
The Solicitor-General has advised that it ia necessary to make certain consequential amendments tp these items in order to protect the revenue by ensuring that the duties to which the committee has already agreed shall be collected from the dates on which they were passed by this chamber. The items affected are - 118 (carpets), 176 (mining machinery, n.a.i.) and 318 (watches and clocks). No alteration of the duties already agreed’ to is involved.
Motion agreed to.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Items 118, 176, and 318 amended in accordance with the Minister’s explanation.
Resolutions reported; by leave, report adopted.
That the bill, amended accordingly, be returned to the Senate.
House adjourned at 10.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260629_reps_10_113/>.