10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Defence saywhether the rumour is true that in a dying accident this morning two officers stationed at Point Cook aerodrome were killed?
– I regret to say that the rumour is true. Today, at 10.40 a.m.; an accident occurred about 2 miles north of Manor station. The machine was one of the D.H. Q. type, and contained Flying Officer William Arthur Holtham, instructor, and Cadet Thomas Stuart Glendinning Watson, pupil. The only particulars at present available are that the machine crashed on lauding, and burst into flames, both occupants being, apparently, killed outright. Flying Officer Holtham had flown some hundreds of hours dual and 300 hours solo. He was an instructor of considerable experience, and had been instructing in the Royal Australian Air Force since his appointment to a commission on the 25th June, 1925. Cadet Watson was a pupil under instruction on the current course “ A,” and was appointed as a cadet in the Royal Australian Air Force on the 26th April, 1926. He had flown 19.15 hours dual and 16.25 hours solo, and was considered to he a cadet of good promise. A court of inquiry has been convened to investigate this accident. I have tendered to the bereaved relatives the sympathy of the Government.
– In reference to the an nouncement that one of Australia’s new submarines, the Oxley, was launched yesterday, I ask the Government to consider my suggestion that when the vessel is commissioned it should travel to Australia via the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Not only would the crew benefit by that experience, but an opportunity would be afforded to pay a courtesy call at American seaports, in acknowledgement of the visit of the American fleet to Australia last year.
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration, but the route by which the new submarines shall travel to Australia will have to be determined when their construction is completed.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been directed to the newspaper statement that the list of cases to be heard by the Deputy Presidents of the Arbitration Court during the next few months does not include the plaint of the Timber Workers Union, which was filed in 1925? Will the honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that that case is dealt with by the court ?
– The Act recently passed by Parliament provides that the Deputy Presidents of the Court may continue to exercise their functions in relation to any part-heard matters. It is possible to extend the direction already given to the court to cover any part- heard cases not included in the published list. Inquiries are being made to ascertain definitely whether the timber workers’ claim is a part-heard matter. If it is, it can be included in the list; if it is not, it will be dealt with by the judges who are shortly to be appointed.
– My attention has been drawn by certain constituents to the report that portions of the electoral rolls are being printed in Ballarat and Geelong. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether this is a fact, and, if so, whether some of this work will be given to printers in the Bendigo electorate?
– The Government Printer occasionally lets to private firms contracts for the setting . of the rolls, but all the printing is done in the Government Printing Office, Melbourne. However, I shall make inquiries in the Electoral Department, and furnish the honorable member with a more complete answer later.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Government will take into consideration the advisability of extending the Aero Club system beyond the centres of Melbourne and Sydney and in other States?
– Consideration has already been given to this matter, and it is hoped that a number of flying sections on the lines of those already approved will be organized in selected centres throughout the Commonwealth.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Having in mind his reply, on the 30th June, to a question of the honorable member for Wentworth, that the matter of the abolition of the boys’ training shipTingira, and the transfer of such training to Osborne House, Geelong, and also the recruiting for the Navy, was still under review, will the Parliament have an opportunity of expressing its opinion on this vitally important matter before any definite decision has been arrived at, or, if arrived at, before such decision is given effect to?
– Consideration of the estimates for 1926-27 will afford the opportunity the honorable member desires.
Imposts and Exports: Excise
– On the 18th June the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
1922, £171,435; 1923, £156,433; 1924, £145,262; 1925, £142,423.
Tobacco, unmanufactured, per lb., 5s. 4d. - Tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured’ into tobacco or cigarettes- to be paid at the time of removal to the factory - (a) Unstemmed, per lb., 2s.
Tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured into cigars - to be paid at the time of removal to the factory -
Stemmed, or partly stemmed, or in strips, per lb., 3s.
I would point out to the honorable member that there is some discrepancy between the answer that I have given here and that which I gave just now in reply to another question. The discrepancy arises owing to one reply relating to a financial year, and the other to a calendar year.
– On the 29th June the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) asked when it was anticipated that the report of the Royal Commission on Norfolk Island would be available. I now desire to state that advice has been received from the royal commissioner indicating that the final section of the report is to be placed in the hands of the Government Printer to-day.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointment of A. N.
Horner, Postmaster-General’s Department. Representation Act -
Certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Numbers of the People of the Commonwealth and of the several States as at 3rd April, 1926.
Determination, made by the Chief Electoral Officer, of the Representation of the States in the House of Representatives, dated 29th June, 1926.
Debate resumed from 30th June (vide page 3679), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I cordially support the bill. It is the first indication by this Parliament of a desire to handle immigration on broad national lines, and I approve of its introduction because it promises progress towards a solution of this great problem. The bill places development before migration, which is as it should be, and sets out to provide increased sustenance for an increased population. Without such provision immigration would be ofno use to the Commonwealth. The Labour party’s attitude towards the measure is to be regretted. Apparently at the outset the Government will have to carry on despite oppositionin this House, though I personally am not altogether depressed by that prospect, because I understand and sympathize with the view ofhonorable members opposite. As one deeply interested in this subject, I know that the previous method of dealing with immigration has deserved the antagonism of the workers in Australia, and I hope that as we proceed on this new course we shall convince honorable members opposite and those whom they represent that we are following right lines, and shall ultimately obtain their close and active co-operation. Repeating what I said in this House on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I can see no future for immigration in this country if Labour is hostile to it. We must win Labour over to any immigration movement if it is to prosper, and this for two reasons. The first is that in addition to the immigration agreement with the British Government we have an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and under it the Commonwealth Government can do nothing at all - it cannot bring out a single immigrant - until a State Government has requisitioned for him. The Commonwealth has no power to initiate immigration, but in effect acts solely as a recruiting agent. I do not wish to introduce political considerations, but we must face the fact that we have in Australia five Labour Governments, and if they are of the same mind in respect of the British agreement and the bill as the Leader of the Opposition here, a great deal of difficulty has to be overcome before we can place the scheme on a satisfactory footing. There is also this simple fact to be borne in mind, that of any given number of persons brought to Australia under an immigration scheme, 90 per cent, will be workers. That is too obvious to need demonstration or emphasis. Therefore, if we propose to introduce large numbers of workers into Australia, we cannot hope for success until we have satisfied the workers here, and those who represent them politically, that the newcomers will not prejudice them, or those of our own people who intend to settle on the land. While I make that plain admission, I appeal to all members of the House, and, indeed, to Australians as a whole, to remove from their minds much of the prejudice that exists at present, not only to the immigration movement, but also- -to the migrants as individuals - a prejudice that is most unjustifiable. Many persons seem to think that the giving of financial assistance to immigration is something new in Australia; but, so far as I can learn, it began about 100 years ago. It may surprise . honorable members to be told that, during the past century, we have brought from Great Britain, no fewer than 1,000,000 financiallyassisted migrants. Probably the majority of those in this House are descended from people who came out here as assisted migrants.
– Assisted by government or by private ‘Companies? _ Mr. GULLETT. - Most of them assisted by governments. Of our Prime Ministers, five have been immigrants, and all the Prime Ministers who have led the Federal Labour party have been migrants. I do not say that they have been assisted migrants, but they have been migrants. All persons in this country are either “ pommies “ of yesterday or “pommies” of to-day. Therefore, at the outset, I appeal for the abandonment of the personal prejudice against migration which is so prevalent in the Commonwealth to-day. While I strongly favour migration, I recognize, and I think we all must recognize, the need for proving two or three things before we ‘embark upon a big enterprise of this kind. We must first demonstrate clearly that Australia is capable of carrying a population greatly in excess of that which is here to-day. That she can do so is so obvious to ail honorable members. well informed ‘as they are of our natural resources, that I do not purpose to ‘labour the point. I take it for granted, and I feel sure that other honorable members will too, that none of us can place a sure limit to the future population of this country. I speak as one who was a practical farmer, and as an Australian who is familiar with the rural conditions of the six States. I have for fifteen or twenty years made a hobby, in wandering up and down the world, of comparing, so far as I was able, the population capacity of Australia with that of the already more or less crowded and developed countries oversea. I have done that in four continents, and the farther I have gone with the inquiry the farther back I have pushed any limit I might have had in my . mind as to the number of millions of people that Australia could carry and still retain its existing standard of living. I shall not weary the House by demonstrating that this country is capable of carrying a population many times greater than that which it has at present. I come now to the national necessity of migration. If we cannot show national necessity and economic desirability, we have no case for migration, particularly for migration at the expense of the taxpayers. I am not an alarmist about the future safety of this country; but I submit that no one with a knowledge of history, or of the present temper and international morality of the world, can toe entirely satisfied that the defence of this country is safe for all time in the hands of 6,000,000 people and their natural increase. I do not raise bogies. . I shall not refer to countries by name, but while we live in the age of Locarno and Geneva, we have also had the tragic experience of belonging to a generation which has known the greatest war in history. I doubt whether the world was ever more selfish or unscrupulous than it is to-day, and we know that it was never so land hungry. It has become very small. All Europe can read and write, and the nations of Asia are rapidly becoming educated. This distant, rich, empty country of ours, which a few years ago was an unknown land to the crowded continents of the northern hemisphere, is wel? known to-day. Charged as we are with the preservation of this country, we should be false to our trust if we took any risk at all with its safety. I do not say that there is an immediate or probable danger of invasion, but there is a conceivable risk of invasion, and if we can remove that risk with profit to ourselves, we should do so. Therefore, on the ground of national necessity, we should actively assist migration from Great Britain, and possibly from other selected countries also. I should like briefly to .state the national and economic advantages that I see in a vigorously-conducted policy fur” assisting migration to this country. Let me take, first, the subject of defence. We are not defenceless, for to-morrow, if necessary, we could .put 6.00,000 men of first-class quality into the field; but men cannot fight with their hands, and in these days they cannot travel far on their feet. An army must have railways close behind it, and must be supplied with munitions, the making of which requires an .extensive investment in industrial machinery. I do not pretend to know the minimum number of people required to make Australia .safe, but it can be expressed in general terms. At present we do not own this country; we have been given merely a brief option over it, and it is for us to make that option good. The number of people necessary to make this country safe is a sufficient number to carry a good system of strategic railways on an economic basis - in other words, on the basis of settlement and production. We cannot continue indefinitely building east-west, northsouth, north-west, and other railways with only our present slender population to bear the cost. We require sufficientpeople to carry strategic railways economically, and to support manufacturing industries that will be convertible in time of war for the output of munitions and fighting gear generally. I believe that we have not, and never have had, a supply of munitions sufficient for a modern war, on a big scale, for one month. It was not Woolwich, Enfield, and the other great arsenals that won the war for the Allies; it was the’ industrial machinery of Britain, France, and America. Until we have in this country machinery of that kind capable of being converted to the manufacture of munitions, this country cannot be counted as safe, for it will not be capable of selfdefence. I say quite frankly that, up to the present, we have depended for the safety of this country, and for the enforcement of our White Australia policy, upon the British Navy, and, generally, upon the might pf Great Britain. I believe absolutely that Britain would, at any time, if she could, come to our assistance in defence of our White Australia ideal, but the might of Britain to-day is not relatively what it was before the war. We should frnakly face that fact, and, when viewing the prospect of, assistance from that quarter, should consider her ability to keep our searoutes open and to supply us with munitions and the other requirements of war. I shall leave the national aspect of thesubject for the moment, and turn to theeconomic effect that a big migrationmovement would have upon every class,, including the workers of this country. I take, first, defence, and then pass on to the public debt and other matters. At present, we are spending about £5,000,000 a year upon the defence of Australia. I do not suggest that we shall double our population within a few years; but consider what would be the position if it were doubled. If we do that, we get a clear picture of the benefits that would flow from an increase of population. Had wo a population of 12,000,000 - instead of 6,000,000- and still spent only £5,000,000 on defence, this country would be infinitely safer than it now is. As we add to the population we make the country potentially safer, and we also make a big saving per inhabitant oh a most unpopular and difficult class of expenditure. But the most substantial economic gain that we should get immediately, and one that would be appreciated by every one, has relation to our non-productive war debt. That debt is now some £400,000,000, and is the chief cause of our economic difficulties and straitened circumstances, collectively and individually, because of its huge interest bill and the consequent burden of taxation. We have funded our debt of £90,000,000 to Great Britain, a sinking fund having been established for its liquidation in 35 years; but 50 years will elapse before we are relieved of the balance of the debt, for which loans were raised in Australia. Obviously, the easy way to lighten the burden of our war indebtedness is to increase our population and place it on the shoulders of a larger number of taxpayers. Thus, if we double our population, we shall halve our debt, and halve the taxation due to it.
– Then how large would the population need to become to wipe the debt out altogether?
– Is it not advantageous even to halve it? I am not referring to the recurring and increasing public debt that will grow with our increasing population, but to what I may call the dead debt of the war. Then, briefly, let us consider the effect that doubling our population would have upon our industries. It would result in increased production, because there would be mass production and an increased horse-power in machinery for each worker. There would be a greater turnover in every wholesale establishment and every retail business in the Commonwealth; there would be wider markets, both for primary and secondary producers, and with cheaper production the cost of living would be reduced. Consider, too, the effect on public utilities; Five or six years ago, I wrote to the Chief Railways Commissioner in New South Wales, and asked him if he could indicate to me what would be the effect upon the earnings of the railways of that State if its population were doubled. He informed me that in 1921 he expected a deficit of £577,000. He had obviously set his accountants to work on this question, because he supplied me with a detailed statement. But he estimated that if the State’s population had been twice what it was, there would have been a profit in that year of £5,155,000. In other words, Australia’s troubles are due to the fact that 6,000,000.. people are too few to carry on the work of developing the country to economic advantage. Our population is now insufficient to secure full profit for any individual or class, since we are handicapped by excessive overhead charges. This could be illustrated in 50 ways. I have given a railway illustration; I might also instance the telephone system. A line extending for 10 miles to give communication to one settler must be expensive, but, at virtually the same cost, it would serve 20 or 30 subscribers. To my mind, the argument applies to every form of indus try in the Commonwealth; to the earnings, not only of capital, but also of labour. It is the labour aspect of the matter with which I am most concerned, because, as I said at the outset, if the present scheme has not the support “ of Labour, it cannot be successful. We must satisfy Labour that immigration will be to its gain. It seems to me that immigation is the only genuine cash offer that can be made to the people of this country. Properly conducted, this movement will mean money to the people already here. I submit - and I think my argument will be hard to challenge - that with 6,000,000 people, all classes of workers in Australia are better off to-day than when the population was 5,000,000. They are still better off than when we had 4,000,000 or 3,000,000. Personally, I am certain that, as our population grows, and until it reaches the saturation point - about which we of this generation need never be concerned - we shall find our excessive overhead charges getting less. The more people we have, the better it will be for everybody here, including the workers. Consider the position in the United States of America. The present population of that country is 112,000,000, and, as its population has grown, the prosperity of America has advanced, and particularly that of the workers of that country. In Chicago, in 1921 or 1922, the average wage throughout the building trade and a great many others, was 55 dollars, or £11, for a week of 44 hours. That does not suggest sweating or long hours. It is just about twice the wage that the Australian worker earns to-day, and is due to improved organization, the employment of more mechanical power, and the reduction of overhead costs.
– Supposing that we admit the value of all the honorable member’s arguments, and agree that his deductions are correct, where does he propose to place the migrants, and what does he propose to do with the product of their labour) That is the pressing question.
– I shall come to that. As one who has given a good many years of his life to migration work, and as a warm advocate of the bill, I should like quite definitely to declare that I should oppose bringing assisted migrants here if they were likely to prejudice our Australian workers or land seekers. I should not, by vote, or by any other means, do anything to bring persons to this country to add to the unemployed, or to the considerable number of landless Australians. I regret that honorable members opposite have parted company with us on this side so quickly, for. I assure them that a considerable number of honorable members on this side of the chamber are quite as firm as they are on that point. So far as I am concerned, I should insist, and so I think would the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), on development marching ahead of migration. I can see nothing in this bill to suggest that there is a move afoot to flood the Australian Labour market or to bring people here before provision has been made to receive them. I realize that the likelihood of increasing local unemployment is always in our mind when we are considering migration. While I was in charge of the Commonwealth Migration Department, I twice had the unfortunate experience of having a ship-load of migrants land at Port Melbourne on the very day when a deputation of the Melbourne unemployed was waiting upon a Minister of the Crown to request that work should be provided for them- No migration movement can prosper in circumstances like that.
– That is exactly the situation we are in to-day.
– I have already said that I appreciate the antipathy of honorable members opposite to migration as it has been conducted up to the present. Any migration scheme to have a hope of success must begin by dealing with unemployment here. I am prepared to accept, as a normal condition in any big industry, a certain small percentage of unemployment in ordinary times, and so, I feel sure, is the Leader of the Opposition; but I say, without hesitation, that immediately the number rises higher than the accepted minimum, any scheme of migration must of necessity break down. I trust that unemployment will be the first problem that this commission will seek to solve, and that the Government will soon seriously consider providing some scheme of unemployed insurance to back up whatever the commission may do.
– That is only a palliative.
– Local unemployment must be got out of the road before migration plans can succeed. Practically every winter since I was a boy, we have had unemployed in the streets of Melbourne, shaking their money-boxes in our faces and discrediting us before the whole world, which shows that this is a seasonal problem, that it is surely not beyond the wits of our State and municipal authorities to solve.
– When labour is a profitable commodity, there is no surplus of it.
– The fear that honorable members opposite have that this movement will be used to flood Australia with cheap labour and to break down the good conditions of our working classes which they have been so largely instrumental in obtaining, is groundless. It is practically impossible to use migration for that purpose. As honorable members know, I spent some years in recruiting migrants in Great Britain, and I discovered that the labour leaders there kept in very close touch with labour conditions in Australia. If, at any season of the year, we landed 100 migrants in Australia . and did not at once provide them with employment, that was immediately reflected in our recruiting results overseas. There is no sentiment about migration. The British migrant does not follow the flag; he follows profit. He will go to whatever country offers him the best working conditions, and the best prospects for his children. If we were to land 500 British immigrants at various Australian ports to-morrow, and they were kept out of work for a month, it would at once be known to the trade union leaders in the United Kingdom. I am completely satisfied that there is an almost automatic check upon migration in that way, and that our labour market could be affected only to a very slight degree. For my own part, I would not run the risk of bringing migrants here unless I was sure there was work ready for them to do. I should like now to refer to two. or three of the main obstacles that we have encountered in obtaining migrants in the past. Perhaps an experience I had with a State Government four or five years ago, when I was acting for the Commonwealth Government, will sufficiently illustrate the first point I wish to make. This State Government, which I shall not name, requisitioned for a considerable number of British workers who would be willing to take up farm work immediately they arrived. Expert farm labourers were not asked for, because it was realized that they were not available; but. I was asked to secure inexperienced men, who would be prepared to start at a wage of £1 or 25s. per week. I endeavoured to get the State to agree to accept some married men with families, but it would not take even 5 per cent, of migrants of that class. The fact is that it is impossible to place families in the country in that way. If even a dozen first-class Scotch farm workers arrived here with their families, and were handed over to Mr. Whitehead at the Victorian Migration Office with a request that they should be placed within a fortnight, I undertake that it could not be done. There is no opening for them. The greatest obstacle to migration of the best kind, and one of the greatest blights on our social system, is the absence of housing accommodation for agricultural workers. It is true that on stations of the better class some decent accommodation is provided for the staff, but on the farms there is practically none for the married man with a growing family. This may seem a small matter, but it is vital, and until the proposed commission, in cooperation with the State authorities, erects tens of thousands of workers cottages over the Australian countryside, migration to the rural districts will not make much headway. Representatives of country constituencies will urge that the Australian farmer is not sufficiently prosperous to abolish the wretched living-in system for agricultural labourers. In discussing this subject, I am speaking from practical experience, because as a youngster I was employed as an agricultural labourer and lived in the huts. I know what a hideous system it was then, and I do not think it has improved since. To-day only single men can be found employment in the country, and unmarried migrants are the most difficult and expensive of all to handle, because each individual requires a job. For every single consumer added to the community one job must be found, and that is difficult; whereas, a married migrant with a wife and five children adds seven consumers to the community- for each job provided, and those seven consumers, by providing an extended market for primary and secondary products, increase employment. Thus, in effect, each married male adult immigrant makes an opening for himself. The greatest cause of the relative unpopularity of country life in Australia is the absence of adequate housing for the workers, and until that disability has been wholly or partially removed, it will be a serious handicap to development under this bill. The farmer’s wife is to a large extent a slave. During certain seasons all the workmen are crowded in her kitchen for meals, and one or two hands may be there all the year round. She is unable to get any domestic help, and the farmer has a difficulty in maintaining a supply of farm workers. If we can introduce a comprehensive scheme of rural housing we shall have in the next fifteen or twenty years possibly 250,000 Australian-born children growing up in the countryside for local work of all kinds. No more effective developmental work could be undertaken under this bill, but - and this is evidence of the extent to which rural housing has been neglected in the past - I understand that of all the schemes put before the Prime Minister by the State Governments for works to be undertaken under the agreement with the British Government, none includes the provision of houses for rural workers. I have mentioned the importance of family migration, and that my remarks apply not only to rural migrants, but to all classes of people brought to our shores. The married man with a small family is incomparably preferable to boy migrants. It is sound policy to set as many consuming units as possible against the number of jobs required for the new arrivals. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked me to suggest what should be done with migrants when they reach our shores. There is a great deal of misconception as to the absorption capacity of Australian industry as a whole, even without the artificial aid which is to be administered under this bill. Hitherto we have continued casually bringing in people of certain classes; but there has never been a continuous census of the labour market, and a scientific regulation of immigration accordingly. If that were done, as I think it will be done by the commission, this country could easily absorb 50,000 or 60,000 peopleprincipally family groups - per annum. I do not propose to discuss to-day the agreement with, the British Government; but I remind those honorable members who are pessimistic about the capacity of this country to absorb new population, of what Australia was doing before the war. In the five years from 1909 to 1913, the Commonwealth made a net gain by migration of 281,000 souls. Immigrants were arriving at the rate of 56,000 a year. In the year 1912, the net gain was 84,000 people, and I venture to say that no member of this House was embarrassed by that great influx because of unemployment in his constituency.
– Australia was enjoying good times then.
– Obviously. The wonderful development in assisted migration during the period to which I have referred was due very largely to the sympathetic policy of the Fisher Government. Honorable members opposite are opposing the scheme which the Government has submitted today; but I remind them that Mr. Fisher set aside £50,000 per annum for expenditure upon immigration propaganda in Great Britain. I had the pleasure of spending a good deal of that money, and I was greatly fortified by the knowledge that the Immigration Department had the full sympathy and support of members of the Labour party ; indeed, the scheme upon which I was engaged was to a large extent evolved by them. I do not say that a big stream of migrants is a certain remedy for unemployment; but I shall quote figures, which have been compiled for me by Mr. Wickens, to show that a big influx can take place, even without artificially-aided development, and not bring about unemployment. In the years 1909 to 1913 inclusive, when the Australian population was making a net gain by immigration of 56,000 per annum, the ratio of unemployment was only 5.62 per cent., and lower, perhaps, than at any other period in the history of Australia. In the years 1907 to 1913, when immigration was considerable, the ratio was 5.59, whereas in the decade between 1896 and 1906, during which this country made no gain at all by excess of arrivals over departures, it was 8.2 per cent. Those statistics justify the conclusion that immigration on sound lines does not cause unemployment, but, on the contrary, makes more work.
– In the years 1909 to 1913, were not the majority of immigrants those who came on their own initiative, and unassisted by the Government 1
– Assisted migration was greater at that time than at any other period in Australian history. Although I shall not discuss to-day the details of the agreement with the British Government, I trust that the proposed commission is not bound by it. I should like to believe that, with the passage of this bill, we shall be making a new start with migration, and that the proposed commission will start with an absolutely clean slate. The agreement is good in principle, and has good features; but I am convinced that the commission will ask that it be amended in certain respects. If it does wish to turn the agreement inside out, and the British Government is agreeable, no objection should be offered by the Commonwealth Government. The arrangement is capable of improvement. The fact that it has been in existence for two or three years, and has not been accepted with great cordiality by any of tha States, not even by Victoria, and is not yet in operation anywhere, indicates that it is not by any means a perfect agreement. If the contract is not final and binding, alterations could be made which would meet many of the objections voiced by the Leader of the Opposition.
– If the agreement were thrown aside, I do not think there would be any objection to having a scheme drawn up by a commission. .
– I am glad to hear that. I hope that the commission will have the right, subject to the approval of the British Government, to re-open the agreement. There is no reason why that should not be possible. I believe that we could obtain more generous terms from the British Government. From my experience of recruiting for immigrants in Great Britain, and from my dealings. with the British Government extending over many years, I know that all the defects and troubles have been at this end. We have always had a free field in our selection of migrants. We have always been able to get any class, type, or individual that we wished, with the exception of, perhaps, the agricultural class. The British Government has always been exceedingly generous in this matter, and I believe that it has never been more disposed to be generous than it is at present. If the defects of the agreement were pointed out to it, I am sure that our representations would meet with sympathy and success. This is a very important subject, ranging over not only every industry, but also every phase of our social and national life. I do not expect immediate results under the bill. I should have no objection to the Government postponing the actual immigration for a year until the scheme can be effectively put in motion. If we are to progress with this movement, we must secure the co-operation of honorable members opposite and those whom they represent. I appeal to them not to oppose the bill, but to offer some constructive suggestion, to tell us on what terms they will accept immigration. If they tell us that frankly, we shall find that their terms are our terms. If they would come out into the open on this matter, we should find them to be strong immigrationists, subject only to the maintenance of Australian conditions, with preference to Australian workers and land seekers. If they will say that they are in favour of immigration on those lines, we shall find that there is little or no difference between them and those on this side who, like myself, favour this measure.
.- The Government made a serious blunder in rushing into an agreement with the British Government before appointing a board of experts to ascertain Australia’s capacity to absorb immigrants. The speech delivered by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who has spent a great many years studying immigration, shows clearly that, up to the present, it has been carried on in a very haphazard manner, with the result that a .large section of the community is naturally hostile to the introduction into
Australia of thousands of immigrants without the necessary, preparation being made to absorb the new-comers, as well as the “resent unemployed. Fraudulent immigration agents have operated from time to time in England, including the agents of shipping companies. All kinds of propaganda have been used to persuade people that all they have to do’ is to come to Australia to make a fortune. Many people were induced to leave good homes and fair positions in England to come to Australia, to find that the conditions here were not as beneficial as they had been depicted on the picture screen and by the immigration agents. The result was, in many instances, bitter disappointment. We should adhere to the truth. The immigration agreement does not give any great concession to Australia at all. Great Britain, under it, will he able to relieve herself in ten years at comparatively s nail cost of the maintenance of 4o0,000 people. The scheme involves a total expenditure of £34,000,000. I find that under paragraph 11 of the agreement Great Britain is committed only to a maximum expenditure of £7,083,000. That paragraph readsThe total contributions of all descriptions paid by the Secretary of State under this agreement shall in no case exceed the sum of
That figure includes England’s share of interest on the loan. Great Britain should really bear the brunt of the interest bill. Striking an average expenditure, the total cost of interest for the period of ten years will be approximately £8,500,000. Great Britain’s share will be £2,830,000, assuming that the rate of interest is 5 per cent. Its maximum expenditure under paragraph 11 of the agreement is approximately £7,000,000, and therefore its total liability, exclusive of interest, is only £4,000,000 over a period of ten years. For that expenditure Great Britain is relieved of its responsibility for nearly 500,000 people, and, assuming that 80 per cent, of them are now unemployed, according to Mr. Amery, their ration doles will no longer have to be paid by Britain. It must also be borne in mind that after ten years we as a nation shall be responsible for approximately £31,000,000 of the expenditure, and our interest bill at 5 per cent, will be approximately £1,550,000 a year. It will be seen that the British statesmen have made a very good bargain with the Australian Government, lt was the duty of this Government before entering into the agreement to bring it before this Parliament for ratification. The Labour party is not opposed to any system of immigration that is conducted on sane and scientific lines. A plank of its platform reads -
We declare that Australia is capable, under good government, of -supporting in happiness a much larger population, but to protect our fellow workers from being deluded by false statements into leaving home and kindred in order to become tools of sweaters, we insist that land, housing accommodation, and employment be provided for overseas migrants before they are invited to come to Australia.
– The Labour party will not favour immigration until the whole of the unemployed here is absorbed.
– That is wrong. Under the present system some unemployment must at times exist the world over. The honorable member knows that the policy of bringing people here without any settled scheme for absorbing them is absolutely wrong, and before the Federal Government entered into this agreement with the British Government it should have instituted an inquiry to be conducted by the best men procurable, who would travel the country to see conditions for themselves and ascertain whether we could absorb the immigrants that we intend to bring to Australia under the agreement. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) rightly referred to the bousing scheme, and the bad conditions under which thousands of rural workers are housed in Australia today. He pointed out that before we could make occupations in . the country more attractive to Australians or to intending immigrants, better housing conditions must be insisted upon. The agreement originated in the Empire Settlement Bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. Amery, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, on the 26th April, 1922. Speaking on the second reading of that bill, he said -
About 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of those who will be sent overseas are unemployed. The free passages will eventually cost £2,700,000. The same people would have cost the community in various forms of relief to the end of the year £3,000,000. If you did not send them out they would still be with you, and a drain on your purse. Our expense is finished with the last passage booked.
It can be seen what was in the mind of Mr. Amery at that time, and all credit is due to him for helping to solve the unemployed problem in England by shifting portion of - the responsibility to some other country. We would welcome immigrants providing that we could absorb them. Under any scheme of immigration we should strive to induce those of our own kith and kin to come here. When Great Britain, under the agreement, is relieving herself of the payment of doles to the extent of millions of pounds a year merely for the expenditure of approximately £4,000,000 over a period of ten years, and at the same time shifting her responsibility for half a million people, it cannot be said that she is making any sacrifice. Mr. Amery, in moving the second reading of the Empire Settlement Bill, admitted that 90 per cent, of those who would be sent overseas were unemployed and living on rationed doles. He went on to say -
What an economy the scheme offers to the nation as compared with the policy of doles and stop-gaps on which we are spending £100,000,000 a year.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was right when he said that Australia could have obtained a much better migration agreement from the British Government. There was no need for this Government to rush into it. The cart has been put before the horse. Before a general stocktaking had been carried out, it rushed in prematurely, and accepted this agreement, the chief advantages of which are with the British Government. Mr. Clynes, another member of the House of Commons, when speaking on the measure, said -
Naturally, the least skilled, the least healthy, are not desired by those who have the general good conditions of other parts of the Empire in their keeping.
He recognized that a certain number of people who were not in good health, or were undesirables, found their way to other parts of the world under migration schemes. I cast no ‘reflection on the class of migrants we have received, because some of the finest men in Australia to-day came here as migrants, assisted or otherwise ; but one only has to read the statements of Judge Bevan and others to know that a certain number of undesirable migrants find their way here. The decent people who come here from the United Kingdom regret that circumstance as much as Australians do. Those facts go to show that more care should be exercised in selecting migrants on the other side. Captain Gee, speaking on the before-mentioned measure in the House of Commons, said -
In his opinion it was a pity the money available for the scheme was so’ limited. Instead of £3,000,000 a year, it should be £20,000,000 a year. It would be a form of state insurance and gilt-edged security, and would do away with the bogy of the yellow peril.
He made the important point that the British Government’s annual expenditure under the scheme was too limited. The expenditure of £4,000,000 over a period of ten years, which is about the total to which the British Government will be committed, is much too small. An astute Australian Prime Minister, with all the facts before him, would have obtained a much better deal for Australia. I read the other day that England receives from Europe every year 35,138 persons in excess of the number of departures for those countries. Some honorable members appear to think tha£ this migration agreement will relieve England of all her troubles. If England is desirous of putting ‘ her house in order, why does, she allow such a large influx of people from other countries to add to her economic: troubles? The Labour party is prepared to go as far as any one can reasonably be expected to go. to assist Great. Britain in her present difficulties, but there is. no reason why the Australian. Government should not ask for a fair deal, or why the Government that. is. going to ba relieved of an expenditure of millions of pounds a year in rationed, doles- should not meet a much bigger proportion of the expenditure under the agreement. This party contends that the Government had no right to enter into the agreement, without a stocktaking and the placing of all its cards on the table. Before anything is done, the commission should take stock, and inform us of the number of migrants that Australia can absorb. Some honorable members opposite seem to think that all that is necessary for the development of Australia is an influx of thousands of migrants every year, and they would leave the migrants to settle themselves. That haphazard system has been in vogue for many years, and it has not only accentuated the unemployment problem, but has added to the- expenditure of the States in ration doles. There are other objections to this bill. I object to clause 6c of the agreement, which reads -
At least one-half of the new farms provided by the State Government shall be allocated to assisted migrants who have sailed from the United Kingdom since the 1st day of June, 1922, and have not been resident in Australia for a period of more than five years at the date of allocation.
That is a monstrous provision. What chance will the sons of Australian farmers have if every migrant who has come here for the last four years is given preference? It would not be so bad if only the migrants for this year were included.
– The clause fixes the proportion only as between migrants; not as between migrants and Australians.
– It means that a greater number of farms will have to be made available for migrants when all1 those who arrived in the country since 1922 have to be provided for. The acreage of good agricultural land available in the State?’ is limited, and is decreasing every year.
– Is it not a fact that up to the present the States have had the power to regulate that preference, but have not done it?
– For some time thi Queensland Government opposed this scheme because of this provision. It contends, that the landless Queenslanders should, have first preference.
– But the Queensland Government has not given that preference in its own land legislation.
– It has. A .careful selection is made, and preference given to experienced Australians. The State Governments have put up a strenuous fight against the objectionable features of the agreement, and they have always given preference to Australians in the selection of land. The scheme will involve the States in a large expenditure, in addition to the £34,000,000 provided under the scheme. Clause 6a of the agreement provides that “for every principal sum of £1,000 issued to a State Government in connexion with agreed undertakings for the settlement of persons upon farms the State Government shall provide- one new farm.” The average cost of placing selectors on. f arms is £3,000 in New South
Wales and £2,000 in Victoria. The cost of railways to open up new country also has to be taken into account. The Northern Burnett railways cost £2,000,000. The States will have to find money to advance to the settlers, and, as happens in all such schemes, there will be losses. If the Government had placed this agreement before the Parliament, and had allowed it to be freely discussed, these weak spots would have been disclosed, and amendments suggested. This is not a party question. Honorable members on both sides have a first-hand knowledge of the conditions in their respective States, and they should have been consulted on a matter of such great national importance. I recognize that agriculture plays a very important part in the development of the country, and that primary and secondary industries should be developed concurrently. With the expenditure of considerable sums of money on research work, Australia could be developed on more scientific lines. Facilities for industrial research, as distinct from purely scientific research, are freely provided in the United States of America, which spent £20,000,000 last year for that purpose. In addition, large sums of money are spent by trading organizations and companies in that country for the same purpose. Many of the problems of the primary producers in this country could be solved if larger sums of money were made available by the Commonwealth Government for research work. The problem of the bunchy-top disease in bananas, and difficulties that confront the sugar and other industries, should be investigated. I have listened to criticisms of. the Northern Burnett scheme; They have been. based upon false premises. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), although, no doubt, sincere, gave the House some entirely wrong information, which was presumably supplied to him by persons actuated by party bias, who were endeavouring to strike a blow at the Queensland Labour Government. The honorable member said that the scheme was an absolute failure. No one knows the Northern Burnett lands better than the honorable member for Henty, because, as Commonwealth Superintendent of Migration in Australia, he was deputed by the Hughes Government in 1921 to report on that scheme,and his report was very favorable to the undertaking, but his recommendation was turned down. I sent a telegram to the State Lands Department to ascertain whether the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) was correct in his statement that theUpper Burnett scheme had not been successful. The reply I received was that 884 selectors had been allotted portions since the inception of the scheme. Although 315 portions had been surrendered, 221 had been re-allotted to other settlers, so that 790 blocks were still occupied, and 915 were now available. The size of the holdings varies from 160 to 7,248 acres. Obviously, exceptionally good progress has been made for a new settlement. There were good yields of cotton last season, and good headway has been made in dairying. Heavy orders have been given for agricultural machinery, and, since a great many of the settlers are paying cash, they must be prosperous. The surrender of certain leases is in no way due to the system of land tenure in Queensland, but is due entirely to reasons personal to the applicants. Naturally, when any large area such as that in the Upper Burnett district is thrown open to selection, a number of the settlers who have had no previous experience find that they dislike, rurallif e, and decide to leave their holdings.
Mr.G. Francis. - As a rule those who leave their blocks are not suitable settlers.
– That is so. Many of the early pioneers had to cut their farms out of the scrub, and they received no financial assistance such as that offered to present-day settlers. I have ascertained from a number of men who have taken up land in that district that they have done well out of cotton and maize, and I have been informed by a man who visited the district a few months ago that a number of them have cleared up to £600 and £1,000 a year from those crops.
– The honorable member might add that much excellent land is still available there.
– Yes; I am glad to be reminded of that. The classification of that land is : Agricultural land - Northern Burnett, 186,000 acres first class, 400,000 acres second class; Callide, 104,000 first class. 391,000 second class; and grazing lands - 588,000 acres first class, and 824,000 acres second class. Altogether there are 3,000,000 acres available, sufficient to accommodate 3,280 settlers. When railway lines have been built there, very few of the settlers will desire to leave the land. Lines are being built from Many Peaks to Monto, 28 miles; from Rannes to Monto, 110 miles ; and from Mundubbera to Monto, 77 miles. This will make three ports available. Gladstone will be 103 miles, Urangan 207 miles, and Rockhampton approximately 213 miles distant. The “Upper Burnett and Callide Valley lands are in a highly favorable position, being comparatively close to ‘ Brisbane, with its population of 263,000. Many of the farmers in the Mundubbera district, adjoining the rich Burnett country, have already obtained good returns by sending their produce to the Brisbane market. The honorable member for Herbert must have been ignorant of these facts when he condemned the settlement. The fertility of the Upper Burnett lands has been proved by experts. The rainfall is satisfactory, and plenty of timber is available for fencing and building purposes. Of the 915 portions at present available for selection, 876, suitable for agriculture, are offered on perpetual lease in areas ranging from 250 to 1,280 acres, and at capital values ranging from 17s. 6d. to £3 an acre. In Victoria similar land would cost from. £12 to £15 an acre. There are also available 39 portions for grazing homesteads at rentals from Id. ‘ to 5£d. an acre, and in areas from 1,320 to 6,104 acres. Towards the end of this year the last blocks to be subdivided will be offered, and then there will be another 500 agricultural and grazing portions available. In addition to the three large ports I have mentioned, and the larger towns such as Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, and Mount Morgan, many smaller towns will be developed. At the present time the settlers may. obtain loans from the State under the provisions of the Queensland Agricultural Bank Act 1923. The maximum sum advanced is £1,700, and the terms are reasonable, the basis of each loan being 16s. in the £1 on the fair estimated security value of the holding with its improvements.
– The interest is only 5 per cent.
– Yes, and the loan is repayable over a long period. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was so impressed by the Northern Burnett country that he recommended th6 Commonwealth Government of the day that a loan of £2,000,000 should be made to the Queensland Government to assist in the building of railways there. His recommendations were: -
Unfortunately, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) refused to make the loan available. It was stated in the Queensland press that the honorable member for Henty, by way of protest against the Government’s attitude, resigned his position as Commonwealth Director of Migration. I presume, however, that there were other causes which induced him to take that step. The honorable member reported upon the land as some of the finest in Australia for grazing and agriculture. He said that it was ideal for subdivision into small farms, and so far as rainfall, soil, and proximity to the coast were concerned, left nothing to be desired. The honorable member for Herbert evidently wished to have a tilt at the Queensland Labour Government when he condemned that country. Queensland has more land suitable for closer settlement than any other State. It is making 700,000 acres available in the south-western portion of the State. The Mount Abundance pastoral lands, recently resumed by the State Government in the Roma district, will be ready for occupation early next year. There are 146,360 acres of freehold, and 74,247 acres of leasehold land, a total area of 220,607. acres. The criticism regarding the Queensland system of land tenure that arose in this chamber a couple of weeks ago, originated in a statement by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr), who quoted certain figures in an attempt to prove that perpetual leasehold would result in retrogression in land settlement. The figures given were quite misleading.
– In what way?
– The Government Sta.tistican shows that in 1915 - when Labour came into power - the total area of land actually under crop in Queensland was 729,588 acres, while in 1924 the area was 1,069,837 acres, an increase of 340,249 acres during the period that the Labour party’s perpetual leasehold system has been in operation there. In 1915 the total area used for agriculture in Queensland was 1,059,401 acres, and in 1924 it was 1,275,039 acres, an increase of 215,638 acres. The records of the Queensland Department of Public Lands disclose that in 1915 a total area of 10,861,563 acres was held under agricultural tenures from the Crown, practically all of it being freehold, whereas in 1925 the total area held under agricultural tenures from the Crown, including perpetual lease selections, selected since 1915, was 10,513,779 acres, so that there was a decrease in the decade of 347,784 acres. But this important point must be borne in mind. In that period a total area of 947,897 acres of the agricultural selections, held from the Crown in 1915, was made freehold, and ceased to be held from the Crown. Thus the apparent decrease of 347,784 acres becomes an actual increase of 600,113 acres. This is obvious to any one who cares to subtract the decrease of 347,784 acres from the total of 947,897 acres of selections made freehold since 1915.
– Was the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) quoting from the Speaker’s Hand-Book?
– He was speaking from a copy of that publication, which was used in the last State election campaign; and it may have served well then, but it is of no use here. I should like to point out that the great bulk of land in Queensland is held under short grazing and pastoral leases of a maximum period of 30 years, so that the Honorary Minister’s figures, even if correct, would have been misleading as an argument against the perpetual leasehold system. In dealing with a matter of this kind consideration must be given to all the circumstances. The following tables, compiled from statistics supplied by the Queensland Statistician, and from the records of the Queensland Lands Department disclose the true position : -
Total area in occupation under Crown tenures -
Total area in occupation under short grazing and pastoral leases -
It will thus be seen that the decrease in the area in occupation is due to grazing and pastoral areas going out of occupation. These are not perpetual leaseholds, but pastoral leases, the system which was in operation long before the advent of a Labour Government. Although it does not affect the argument for or against perpetual leaseholds it may be pointed out that the decrease in area held under grazing and pastoral leases is due largely to the serious slump that occurred in the Queensland cattle industry. In the years 1915 to 1919, our cattle-raisers were receiving almost fabulous prices for their stock, but, with the ending of the war, meat contracts made with the British Government terminated. Moreover, when the Argentine, after years of propaganda and herd and transport improvement, captured the British market, the bottom fell out of our market. The Argentine, it must be remembered, is a fortnight nearer the world’s markets than we are, and this, with the assistance of favorable shipping contracts, enabled it to capture practically the whole of our trade. The position became so serious for the Queensland cattle men that this Parliament provided a special bounty to tide them over their most difficult period. Seeing that the industry was passing through such severe trials, it was only to be expected that some of these short pastoral leases, granted long before Queensland had a Labour Government, would be abandoned.
– The great proportion of land in Australia is held under lease.
– That is so, but it is also true that nine-tenths of the agricultural lands of England are held, and threequarters of London is also built . on land held under the leasehold system. ‘I am sure that the Minister for Markets and
Migration (Mr. Paterson), who hails from the Old Country, could confirm these statements. It is ridiculous, in such circumstances, for honorable members opposite to tell us that prospective English settlers are discouraged because a freehold title is not available for some of our land. In addition to a large number of Queensland’s pastoral leases falling in durthe last ten years, the prickly pear has rendered large tracts of country there absolutely useless. The pest is spreading at the rate of over 1,000,000 acres of country a year in Queensland, so that in ten years practically 10,000,000 . acres have gone out- of occupation from that cause alone. It must also be remembered that as land settlement has been in progress in Queensland for two-thirds of a century, the Lands Department there is not able to provide good agricultural areas with the same readiness as formerly. As a matter of fact, greater and increasing difficulty is being experienced in Queensland in meeting the demand for good agricultural land. It was for this reason that the Queensland Government, with commendable enterprise, decided to extend its railways into the Northern Burnett River and Callide Valley country, where 3,000,000 acres of very good country are available. It is unreasonable to expect men to settle on country 40 miles or more from a railway. But those railways are under construction, and as soon as the railways are built, and all the country is available, there willbe keen competition for it. We shall then have additional evidence that the perpetual leasehold system of land tenure is no hindrance to settlement. The antiQueensland speeches that have been delivered by some honorable members opposite, and particularly the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), and other honorable members who were born there, might lead one to believe that the State was in the grip of an octopus, in the form of a Labour Government, and was being crushed to death; but the people of the State do not think so. An election was held there recently, and I am sure that it was no comfort to the honorable member for Herbert to find that in the ‘division which he represents a ma- .jority of. 10,500 votes was cast for Labour candidates.
– That is ominous.
– There was no scare or strike at that time. The area represented by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) is also a striking example. Every State seat in that area is filled by a Labour member. That does not suggest that the people consider Labour rule to be such a terrible thing. In the back-blocks of the honorable member for Kennedy’s division, where large areas are held by graziers and pastoralists, four Labour men were returned unopposed. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures effectively controvert the argument of honorable members opposite that Queensland is suffering, from the migration stand-point, because of the succession of Labour Governments that she has had. In the last quarterly statistical return available, the table setting out the excess of immigration over emigration gives the following figures : - Queensland, 13,553 ; New South Wales, 10,199; Victoria, 6,837 ; South Australia, 6,649 ; Tasmania, 4,029; and Western Australia, 3,189. The people, it will be seen, are flocking to Queensland, many from the southern States, notwithstanding its ten years of Labour rule, and that the propaganda of some honorable members opposite is designed to drive them away from it. I may summarize the effects of Labour rule in Queensland by saying that, in the last few years, the State has had records in bank assets,’ deposits, and depositors;, record bank advances and investments; a record favorable trade balance; a record dairying, agricultural, and secondary industries production; record wealth production; record total wealth; record building boom; record population, and a lower percentage of insolvents. Queensland primary industries have made wonderful progress in the last ten years. The value of her crops in 1914 was £5,679,000, and in 1924 it was £13,992,000, an increase of £8,313,000. The total value of our primary industries increased from £51,099,000 in 1914 to £77,129,000 in 1924, an increase of £26,020,000. The value of our butter, cheese, .condensed milk, and other dairy produce increased from £2,393,000 in 1914 to £4,726,000 in 1924, an increase of £2,233,000. Mr. W. H. Barnes, a former Nationalist Treasurer of Queensland, said some years ago, “ No truer index of our general prosperity can be found than is disclosed by the banking returns.” What do the banking returns disclose? The savings bank deposits for the ten years ended 1914-15 were £68,916,000, and by 1924-25 they had grown to £179,802,000, an increase of £111,000,000. The general banking returns are equally significant. The deposits in 1914 were £38,138,000, and in 1924-25, £61,544,000, an increase of £23,406,000. The wealth production in 1914 was £38,342,000, and in 1923 £56,921,000, or an increase of £18,579,000. No wonder that the Brisbane Daily Mail, in February, 1924, wrote after nine years of Labour rule -
Secondary industries have made such progress in Queensland that the output of factories is valued at £40,000,000. New industries are opening every week.
– The 4.4 hours’ week is not retarding development.
– No. In all parts of Brisbane, huge buildings are being erected, and in other ways people are showing their confidence in the Labour Government, which is carrying out a great developmental policy. The value of the output of the secondary industries advanced from £25,491,000 in 1914, to £38,867,000 in 1923, an increase of £13,376,000. During the period of Labour rule, the population has increased from 670,000 to 850,000.
– What have been the profits of the railways during the last nine years?
– The railway mileage increased from 4,338 to 6,114 miles. The honorable member belongs to the Country party that desires to make the railways pay by charging higher fares and freights to the people living in the back-blocks, and thus intensifying the difficulties which the pioneers have to encounter. That is not the policy of the Labour ‘ party in Queensland. The railways show a loss, but it is made good with money obtained by just and equitable taxation from the wealthy people who can afford to pay. The Railway Department is subsidized to give cheap fares and freights to rural producers, who went out into the country to make a living and were obliged to send their produce 200 or 300 miles to market. A married man with a wife and three children receiving up to £450 a year pays no taxation in Queensland. Many >of the migrants will have families, and it is desirable that they should know these facts, lest they be influenced by the unpatriotic speeches of the honorable member for Herbert and others, to shun Queensland, and settle in the southern States. A general stocktaking of Australia’s ability to absorb migrants, and to determine the developmental possibilities of the secondary industries, and their capacity to absorb more workers, is essential before we can accept an ill-considered and badly balanced migration agreement, which gives most of the advantages to Great Britain and very few to Australia.
.- Much constructive criticism has been offered during the course of this debate, but the points that are, in my opinion, most vital have not been mentioned. I shall support this bill, as I supported a kindred measure for the creation of a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. These proposals afford proof that the Government is alive to the need for applying scientific methods to both primary and secondary industries, and to the organized settlement of migrants. The very need for a commission ito regulate migration and development is proof of the inefficiency of present methods. I am not sanguine that either or both of these commissions will solve our problems, but I believe that those bodies will point out to this Parliament the obstacles to the effective settlement of people on the land. I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). He showed that he has a wide knowledge of migration problems, but his acquaintance with the problems of land settlement is not quite up to date. On a former occasion the honorable member said that if the Governments of Australia had paid half as much attention to the development of the land as they had paid to the development of the secondary industries, the wealth of this country would be double, if not treble, what it is to-day. That statement shows that the honorable member recognizes the importance of settling people on the land. Yesterday the honorable member for Indi ‘(Mr. ‘Cook) referred to the general exodus of the sons of Australian farmers from the country to the cities. If any men could make good on the land, they are those who were born and bred there; but they are leaving the farms and stations because work on the land is irksome and unattractive, and they can get more pleasure in the cities and greater pay for shorter hours of work. This lack of balance between urban and rural industries requires attention. Our sons will not go upon the land, and we are importing people who are less qualified to make a success of country occupations. Many migrants become enamoured of the idea that they will be the owners of broad acres. Having worked on farms in the Old Country, they have envied the landlord, and they are filled with enthusiasm at the idea of becoming landholders in Australia. When they have had time to settle down, and the glamour of the new life has worn off, they find that landholding is not what they expected it to be, and they ask why the sons of farmers will not remain on the land. The cost of living is high and the cost of production so great that they cannot dispose of their output at profitable rates. When their disillusionment is complete, they, too, sank employment in the cities. We must get to the root of the economic disadvantage suffered by the man on the land, if we are to make settlement effective. Some guidance in this respect may be expected from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Migration and Development- Commission. The honorable member for Henty pointed out that we are not effectively occupying Australia with a population of only 6,000,000, and that, whilst there is no immediate danger, we must have a large increase of population if we are to hold this land of wonderful possibilities. We aim to populate it with white people, and I suggest again that Australians must show white efficiency if they are to retain this continent for the white races. The honorable member for Indi said that, notwithstanding the difficulty under which rural production is carried on, 96 per cent, of Australian exports are products of the soil. By the income derived from this source our financial credit is established, and all other industries are maintained. Therefore, the first duty of this and the State Parliaments is to develop that source of income as far as possible. It is desirable to place people on the land,- but land-holding must be made a profitable undertaking for them; otherwise, the country will lose much money in carrying out land settlement schemes. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) referred to the group settlements in Western Australia. I pointed out a few days ago that any scheme of settlement which does not preserve the principle of individual responsibility will be a .failure. When we bring twenty settlers together to give them community benefits, they all work for the development of certain areas of country. They are paid so much a day for working, and that is a charge on the land which they ultimately will possess. One man works more slowly than another, and this causes a feeling of discontent. When the account is made up, it is a stunning factor to them. It is a capitalization of that land which they are not prepared to meet, and immediately representations are made to the Government for a remission of some of the expenses to make it possible for them to till the soil and to produce marketable prodnucts for a livelihood. Some of those individuals do not really intend to settle on the land. They are receiving a certain sum a week, and when the work is finished, they will return to the city and obtain a softer job than that of cultivating the soil. I hope that the commission, in collaboration with the States, will consider the individual system which permits of community arrangements, such as schools, halls, and other benefits. There is in Western Australia a system under which the Agricultural Bank provides money for land, settlement, and I do not think it has been improved upon in any part of the world. There are large areas of land suitable for cultivation in Western Australia. The land is classified, and a man may select blocks under conditional purchase. He approaches the Agricultural Bank’ for a loan to develop the land. He is asked what he requires the loan for, and he replies that he wants to provide a house and other improvements. The loan is granted; and he proceeds to erect his house and to clear the land. He receives progress payments. He can do the ringbarking himself or let the work out at a fixed price. If that man finds that the work’ is not suitable to him, he throws up the sponge, and his payments cease. The land has become, an asset, because so much ring-barking and clearing has been done. It is then occupied by a more capable settler. The persons appointed to the commission should be the best men procurable, with experience of Australian land conditions. Our new settlers should be placed on propositions from which it will be possible for them to make a living. Western Australia is providing probably the greatest field for the settlement of immigrants, and some of the States envy her in that regard. But, up to a point, it is not an enviable position. Immigrants who are settled on the land pay no taxation to the State, because they have no taxable income ; but immediately they are settled, they are worth, to the Comomnwealth, about £6 a head, which is roughly £30 for a family. The position is aggravated in view of the Treasurer’s financial proposals, removing the per capita payments. It devolves upon the Federal Parliament to recognize more fully than it has in the past, its responsibility respecting land settlement. I think, too, that the Mother Country, seeing that the agreement will relieve her of a great deal of her population that is at present unemployed, and to which she is paying ration doles, should display greater’ generosity respecting the settlement of her people in Australia. The honorable member for Henty’ spoke of improving the conditions of people working on the land, and every humane citizen would like to see his ideas given effect. Land settlement is unattractive under present conditions. Only those people who obtained land in the earlier days, or acquired it under conditions different from those obtaining today, can be regarded as flourishing. They have been taken as examples of what has been done on the land, but for every one of them I can point to a score of others who are engaged in a struggle far beyond that experienced by any working man in the city. The honorable member suggested that it would be better if a husband and wife and three or four children were brought to this country and housing provision made for them. I do not know whether he meant that provision should be made by the Government or by the farmer, but. the markets for the produce of the farmer and the return for it would have to be very much better than they . are to-day before he could make arrangements of that kind. A man is employed on a farm to meet the demands of the city for choo per living. Ou my own farm we employ a husband, wife, and son. We have the accommodation, but I know of thousands who have not. The wife assists in the cooking, and the husband and son work on the farm. It is a fine arrangement for them, but it cannot be done to any considerable extent unless special arrangements are made by the Government. By appointing a commission, the Government will receive impartial and expert advice respecting the weakness of our land settlement policy. Mention has been made of the tobacco industry. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has shown that £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 worth of tobacco is imported into Australia annually. As one who has grown tobacco over a considerable period up to the point of preparing it for market, I contend that Australia can grow all the tobacco that she needs. There are as many as 80 different varieties of tobacco. In my tobacco-growing days the grower produced the heaviest leaf to get the greatest tonnage from the soil. It was a heavy, greasy tobacco that did not sell well, and was not smoked except by those who worked in the open. Australia is capable of growing the best leaf in the world. If the commission and the Council of Scientific Research ascertain where in Australia tobacco can be properly and profitably grown, and the right kind of plant to grow, I am satisfied that Australia will no longer need to import tobacco. What I say in regard to the tobacco industry applies in many other directions. We have lacked scientific advice in Australia. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) pointed out the lack of scientific advice respecting the dairying industry. It is possible that these two bodies may help to solve very difficult problems. This Government will have to consider whether the cost of production in Australia cannot be lessened by scientific application, and by an increase of the turnover. It has been shown clearly that the wages paid in this country are not in excess of those paid in other successful countries; but the output seems to be deficient. If the output were similar to that of some of the large works in America, such as Swift and
Company’s meatworks, Ford and Company’s works, and other large concerns, the rate of wages would not matter. Under the tariff we suffer the operation of internal combines, which force our settlers to pay exorbitant prices for machinery, and for the clothes that they wear. If they employ men to help them they have to pay so much extra to meet their requirements. Since 96 per cent, of the income of Australia, is. derived from the products of the soil,, the man on the land pays 96 per cent, of all additional burdens in the way of protection and other things that increase the cost of living, because they are met out of the income of this country. I do not suggest that there should be an impoverishing reduction in the cost of living, but I do say that the high standard that we have set up in Australia, even higher than that of the peak period of the war, is placing us in an insular position, and making it impossible for us to make progress. All that is happening is that we a,re getting increased money with a decreased purchasing power. The sum of £1 in 1914 purchased what it now takes’ £2 to purchase. It is of no use to compare our wages with those of other countries. We must judge wages by what they will buy of -the necessaries of life. The standard that we are aiming at is throwing back the burden on the man on the land.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with thebill?.
– My remarks: are most closely connected, because the purpose of the bill is development, and migration. A commission is. to be appointed to ascertain where development can take place, and where immigrants can be settled. I am not too sanguine that we have yet come to the root of the matter. I have been trying to get at the tap-root. If we increase the cost of production we cannot expect to find markets for what we produce, nor should we expect immigrants to be foolish enough to go on the land. I would not for one moment throw cold water on this bill, because it is an earnest of the Government’s intention to provide for an urgent necessity; but I am hopeful, although I have- been unable in this House to convince honorable mem bers that our present policy is wrong, that a scientific commission such as is provided for in the bill will give the Government impartial advice. Sir Frank Heath, who was ‘ sent to Australia by the Imperial Government, showed clearly in his report that he has been thinking on similar lines, for he has informed Australia that she is attempting too much, and is spending money on kinds of development for which the time is not ripe, and is neglecting things that will bring us happiness and contentment, increase our population, and maintain our defence.
.- The subject of this debate is an intensely important one; and it is worthy of very much more consideration than is possible at the present time. About the desirableness of increasing the production of Australia, and ascertaining and developing, its resources, all Australians are unanimous. Whether the bill will do anything to achieve that end, is a question on which we cannot pronounce judgment at the present moment. We all agree that we ought to survey the great possibilities of this country and ascertain what it. is capable of producing. That, matter does not require argument. We are in agree- ment, too, with the statement that there is, ample room in this country for a larger population!. When we come,, however, to the proposals that will be endorsed by the carrying of this bill, and consider facts and conditions as they are, we- have to pause before saying “ aye” to a proposition which includes, not only the appointment of a commission to make inquiries into the possibilities of developing the country, but also the endorsement of an agreement to provide for a large influx of immigrants, irrespective of whether our national problems have been solved. I have always believed that the policy of going to other countries to recruit immigrants is unsound. I am satisfied that when a country has reached the age of Australia, if the conditions are made as good as they ought to be, the best of the surplus population of other countries will he attracted here. The problem that has confronted this national Parliament for many years is a problem which is within our own shores, and when that has been solved we may pay some attention to the problems of other countries; Much has been said about “ increasing production,” opening up the land,” and “ filling our vacant spaces.” I am in agreement with those sentiments. I have stumped this country for years advocating the breaking up of large estates and the settling of people on the land; but I, and other members of this party, have advocated also the building up of secondary industries to provide a market for the produce of the land. It is a wrong and lop-sided policy to place people on the land to produce something, and to discover afterwards that there is no market for what they produce. We have done that in many cases, and have settled the settlers rather than made them into happy, contented producers. In saying that, I am not denying this country; I am simply pointing out that production must be balanced, that we must build up our manufacturing industries concurrently with the extension of land settlement. The bill asks us to endorse an agreement which was entered into last year without this Parliament being consulted about its terms. That was a wrong procedure at the start. The agreement should have been tabled in this House, and should have been discussed by honorable members before it was signed. When, it is realized that this Government comprises men who’ represent tho Country party, and who have been loud in their denunciation of irresponsible government, the procedure adopted is incomprehensible. This is one of the biggest obligations this country has ever accepted.
– Is the honorable member forgetting that the. State Premiers were consulted?
– I do not admit that the State Premiers are the Parliament of the country, or that the Prime Minister is. The agreement was entered into on behalf of this Government without this Parliament being consulted, and surely that was wrong. If, as the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) urged, we are to be unanimous on this great question, the Government ought at least to consult the members of this House before committing them to such an agreement as this. The bill is an endorsement of an agreement which has been made without our approval, and is actually in operation. Let us consider1 some of the conditions that preceded the signing of it. I have referred to the files of the public press to refresh my memory, and I read the following in the Age of 14th July, 1923: -
The British Government is’ contributing to the cost of migration mainly because it wants to get rid of a great number of people whom the Old Country cannot support.
That journal referred to immigrants as having -
No more experience of agriculture than the unemployed in our own cities..
Since that statement was made, the agreement has been entered into to provide that over a period of ten years 450,000 immigrants shall be brought to this country. I use the word “ immigrants “ because that is the proper word to use; some camouflage has been introduced by calling them “migrants.” The States are required to provide the land and the work on the conditions that have been stressed by the honorable the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson), who said that the Australian-born would be treated generously by being, given an equal opportunity with new arrivals to obtain land. I see no generosity to Australians in that provision.
– Is the honorable member forgetting that British money will finance this scheme?
– The Minister is most unfortunate in that interjection. How much of the money will be British? There is a loan from Great Britain of £1,000 for every person settled on a farm, which is. about one-third of what the undertaking will cost. Furthermore, the £1,000 is part of a loan for which, except in respect of one-third, Australia will have to pay full rates of interest to Great Britain. In what form will the loan come, to us ? In the form of British goods, the importation of which has been responsible in recent years for much unemployment in Australia. Am I forgetting that this is British money ! This loan of £34,000,000 can come here only in the form of goods, and yet it is used by the Minister as an argument for making only half of the land available to Australians. I was in .the district of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) last year. He told a pitiful story in this House last week of the number of people who have left the land in his electorate. I arrived at Moree on a Tuesday, and I heard the details of a meeting of tho Land Board there on the previous Saturday. Six blocks were offered for selection, and there were 1,205 applicants for them. I met eighteen of those applicants; and, if I am any judge of Australian character, they were, with the exception of two of them, the right type of men to place on the land. They had a little accumulated capital, and from 20 to 30 years’ experience behind them of raising sheep and cattle. They had appeared before many land boards in their quest for land. They had reared families in this country. Yet the Minister is defending a scheme to provide blocks for these men and new arrivals on a 50-50 basis, although not 1 per cent, of the new arrivals know anything about agriculture. I recently read some immigration pamphlets which were issued cn the authority of the Government, printed by the Government Printer in Melbourne, and distributed through Australia House, London. One of them pictured in glowing terms the magnificent life of a man on the land in Australia, and I contrasted that picture with the doleful words of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and other honorable members of the Country party, who tell us of the almost insufferable conditions of the man on the land. I accept neither statement. I do not believe that the conditions of life on the land are as bad as those honorable members state, and I certainly do not think they are as bright as they are depicted in the immigration pamphlet, which was printed at the public expense to lure immigrants from the other side of the world. Australia for the Farm Labourer is the title of one of the pamphlets, and it states that “comfortably seated, the ploughman placidly watches the overturning of the rich red soil.” He works “ beneath the blue skies, sunshine, and crisp, bracing air “ ; he is provided with “ every comfort and convenience “ ; Australia offers him “ work,’ wages, farm ownership, and independence “; and “ the Government undertakes to find him work immediately he lands.” I ask honorable members to notice the beautiful alliteration of the words employed. What does the Government do for these immigrants f It meets them at the ship, gives them a cup of tea, and provides them with work at 35s., 30s., or 25s a week 300 or 400 miles from a capital city. After about six weeks they are back in the cities, and I venture to say that there are more such land settlers in my electorate of Yarra than there are in any country electorate. Members of the Labour party stand four-square for the development of this country, and ‘for the settlement of its lands by Australians; but we do not support a policy of inducing immigrants to come to this country by statements like that. They should not be provided with work for a month or two and then be allowed to drift back into the cities. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) spoke of the prejudice existing in Australia against immigrants from Great Britain. I have no prejudice against them; some of my best friends have come from overseas. But there is a deeprooted prejudice against immigrants, due to the fact that, soon after their arrival in Australia, they very often obtain work that has been applied for unsuccessfully by Australians.
– Some of them obtain jobs within a couple of days of arrival.
– Yes. The case of a young Australian who was unable to obtain employment was brought under my notice recently. His widowed mother kept a boarder, who had been in Australia only three months, but had obtained a job. The latter said to the man who was out of employment, “ My advice to you is to go down to the shop where I am working and say that you have just arrived from the Old Country. You are sure to be taken on.” If that is a true indication of the atittude of employers, the position is scandalous. I have heard of similar instances from men’ whose word I have no reason to doubt. They have told me that in a foundry where they work the blacksmiths’ fires have been kept unlit for weeks while they, have been waiting for work, and yet new arrivals have been given employment immediately they have landed. The suggestion is that jobs have been kept for immigrants, and Australian workmen naturally entertain bitter feelings towards them. In every country there may be a few unemployed who do not desire work; but there is no justification for saying that the 10 per cent, of the people who are unemployed in Australia to-day consist of men who are not willing to work. If sufficient employment can be provided, I can find hundreds of men who are striving for work and are unable to get it at the present time. The unemployed problem is as great to-day as it has been for many years ; but we shall not solve it by spending good money in paying the passages of immigrants from abroad. In the Melbourne Herald last evening I read that for the year ended the 31st March last the amount expended upon the passages of migrants to this country was £283,821, and 25,596 immigrants have been assisted. We have more than that number of men out of work in Victoria alone, and yet we are paying over £280,000 a year to bring more people to this country.. The latest statistics available show that for the first quarter of the year 8.2 per cent, of the population were unemployed. But the first quarter of the year is always the most favorable. The present quarter usually shows the highest percentage of unemployed, and it may be taken to be almost 10 per cent. We have no less than 8 per cent, of the people out of work for the whole year.
– What is the chief cause of that?
– The Commonwealth Statistician suggests that it is due chiefly to the importation of goods. He remarks that when imports were high there was a tendency for unemployment to be high, and when imports were relatively low there was a tendency for the percentage of unemployment to be low. Thus the facts bear out the logic of my argument that the migration scheme will not reduce imports but increase them, since loan money can only be obtained in the form of goods. I suggest that before any further attempt is made to increase immigration we should endeavour to bring Australia back to normal conditions.
– What does the honorable member regard as normal conditions 1
– Conditions were fairly normal, so far as unemployment was concerned, in 1911, when only 4 per cent, of the population was out of work. The last official statistics available show that to-day that figure has increased to 8.9 per cent. ; but at the end of June it will probably be practically 10 per cent.
The honorable member for Henty said that 90 per cent, of the migrants under this scheme would be workers.
– And it was when the percentage of unemployment was so low that immigrants were coming here in such numbers.
– But we were absorbing them and providing work for them.
– Had not the State Governments something to do with that?
– The State Governments had very little to do with it. What made immigration possible on a considerable scale at that time was the bursting up of large estates by means of the land tax imposed by the Fisher Government in 1910. The imposition of that tax was one of its first acts.
– That operated very slowly, and did not accomplish much.
– I submit that it did ; but its benefits have been arrested by governments such as those supported by the honorable member. Every settler placed on the land results in the provision of work for two men elsewhere.
– The ratio is two to seven.
– The Minister’s statement strengthens my argument. For some four years Australia has been flooded with imports. The Government permitted this importation to continue, knowing perfectly well that it was crushing the life out of some of our local industries. .
– How would the honorable member stop that?
– The difficulty is being dealt with, to some extent, by the latest tariff.
– The imports are increasing all the time.
– I do not wish to be a carping critic; but I charge the Government with permitting this importation to continue, although I grant that the new tariff will to a considerable extent reduce the evil.
– That is what was said in 1921.
– What was a good protective policy in 1921 would be worthless to-day. When the new tariff is put into operation, and our secondary industries grow, as I hope they will, we should, with our increasing population, return, perhaps next year, to the conditions that obtained when unemployment was only half as prevalent as it is to-day. Australia should, as far as possible, be built up as a self-contained country. I listened with interest to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who spoke of the development expected as a result of the efforts of research bureaux and the commission proposed to be appointed under this bill. His theories were interesting, but I point out that a little practice is worth a lot of talk. Last year I introduced a deputation to the right honorable gentleman, and invited him to do something to relieve the awful conditions experienced in Melbourne last winter through unemployment. That deputation had an extremely cool reception. The Prime Minister replied that the matter had nothing to do with the Commonwealth Government, and said that the responsibility rested with the States. The members of the deputation then approached the State Premier, who also disclaimed his responsibility in the matter. The solution suggested by him was that the workers should accept reduced wages to enable them to obtain employment. Everybody knows, however, that if the purchasing power of those in employment is reduced, unemployment is intensified. Surely this problem, can be solved in a young country like Australia, with all the resources with which nature has endowed it. An economic survey should be made, and, before we talk about bringing people from abroad, let us find land and work for those already needing them- in Australia. When the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Allan) was asked last year to subscribe to this agreement, he said -
There is no land available for settlement in Victoria at a price that Victorian farmers will pay.
He was criticized for saying so, and his attention was directed, as ours is from time to time, to numerous unoccupied areas in Australia. But the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) practically endorsed Mr. Allan’s statement by saying that the only land settlers in Australia who are flourishing are those who got their land in the early days. That suggests, not that our people are of a poorer type than the pioneers - for, generally speaking, they are their sons and daughters - but that the price of land is too nigh to make settlement on it profitable.
– It suggests that very unsound economic conditions surround production.
– Honorable members of the Country party frequently tell us that artificial conditions, set up by our Wages Board determinations and Arbitration Court awards are responsible for the present unsatisfactory conditions; but the real cause, the price of land, has far more to do with them than anything else. The workers are not responsible for wage increases; they have been forced to apply for them because of increases in the price of all the commodities, that they use. Price increases have always preceded wage increases, and have undoubtedly burdened the man on the land. Our Chambers of Commerce and Flinders-lane merchants are chiefly to blame for the artificial conditions complained of by honorable members of the Country party, as any one may see who cares to examine the balancesheets and watered stocks of our big companies. We ‘all know very well that profiteering was shamelessly done before our eyes for years, and this Government did not lift a finger to stop it. The workers have had to struggle frantically to get the courts to listen to their claims for increased wages, which have always come six or twelve months after the increase in prices. The position of men with large families is worse to-day than ever before.
– I admit it.
– The solution of the problem does not lie in reducing wages or in abolishing Arbitration Courts and repealing f actory acts, but in enlarging our constitutional power to deal with corporations, trusts, ‘and monopolies, which, acting in restraint of trade, have caused the increased prices. Although honorable members may criticize the statement of Mr. Allan. I well remember listening in this chamber to an eloquent speech delivered by Senator Massy Greene, then Minister for Defence, and a ministerial colleague of the honorable member for Wannon, in which he said -
If a block of land in any part of Australia where there is an average rainfall is thrown open for selection, there is not one applicant, but hundreds.
That is a commonplace fact.
– Speculators will always apply for these blocks ; they are like prizes in a Tattersalls sweep.
– The honorable member has stated the case exactly, ‘and in so doing has emphasized my argument. If a block of land in any suitable locality-
– Suitable locality, that is the point.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), in their speeches on this bill, gave numerous instances of hundreds of persons applying for blocks of land in New South Wales, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) told us that 1,900 persons applied for one block in his division.
– There’ were 1,400 applicants for one block in Queensland.
– There are always numerous applicants for land when it is first made available.
– That is the point. The unearned increment that was obtained through the construction of the east-west line was tremendous.
– The honorable member for Wannon is evidently prepared to admit that it is all a question of price.
– People are always ready to take these gifts from the State.
– The speech of the honorable member for Henty was, as he admitted in his concluding remarks, an argument for increasing our population more than for adopting the proposals in this bill. There is no dispute as to the wisdom of increasing our population. The question before us at the moment is whether, . under existing conditions, we should adopt this scheme. The honorable member for Henty said that if we adopted it, and it led to doubling our population, our national debt would be cut in half. The debt per head of the population might be halved by that means, but what an alluring prospect for the immigrant! We say to him in effect, “ Come here and share our debts with us.”
– Hundreds of thousands of British people would be quite prepared to do that.
– That argument is generally kept- in the background.
– The honorable member for Henty would have been wise had he also kept it there. It is not nearly so attractive as the descriptions, in the official pamphlet, of Australians working beneath blue skies in bright sunshine and crisp, bracing air, and with every comfort and convenience at their disposal; nor as such slogans as, “Australia offers work, wages, farm ownership, and independence.” Not so long ago, at the invitation of the Government, I was present at the projection of a moving picture film, which was produced to send overseas to advertise Australia. I should like to say in passing that that film was a sufficient answer to those who contend that we cannot produce good pictures in Australia. As a representation of Australian life, and of our pastoral industry, and unparalleled natural beauties, it was an excellent production. But I take strong exception to the story it told. It depicted two brothers landing in Australia with £30 apiece, and went on to show that, having deposited their money in the bank immediately on their arrival, they went into the country to work for 25s. a week. After a while, they began share-farming, and later again, they took up first one selection, and then another, until, in a comparatively short time they occupied some thousands of acres, and had a beautiful home which was better than 90 per cent, of the residences that are to be found anywhere in the country. At this point, the hero came forward, figuratively speaking, and related to his admiring audience, which would be the picture patrons of a British cinema theatre, how he was soon able to send home for the sweetheart he had left behind him to come out and marry him, and how he now had a fortune consisting of several healthy young Australians, £12,000 in hard cash, 7,000 acres of land, and I forget how many thousand sheep. I was so led away by the entrancing story that I forget the exact figures; but that makes very little difference. The hero capped his story, so to speak, by suggesting that his case was not exceptional, but that plenty of immigrants had done far better than he had in much less time. As I was going home I recalled quite a number of the doleful speeches that members of the Country party had delivered in this House.
– Such cases have occurred in Western Australia.
– I do not dispute it, but I certainly suggest that they are not typical.
– It was not done on 25s. a week.
– It has been done from such a beginning.
– No doubt some new settlers have “struck it lucky” and won Tattersalls prizes like that. The moral of the picture to which I have referred, was that that man had not drawn a special prize; that any other man could do as well, and many others had done better. The financial picture painted by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was almost as illusory. He said, in effect, that Australia’s national debt being £175 per head, all we have to do is to double our population and the debt per head will be reduced to £87 10s. The honorable member omitted to add that we have to borrow £75 for every immigrant brought to this country under this scheme, even if he is not settled on the land ; therefore, immigration will not spread the burden of debt to the extent that he so attractively suggested. Nevertheless, every sane person will admit that if we increase population and production, the overhead charges of the nation will not correspondingly increase. The railways afford a sound illustration. We can double the production of the soil and the earnings from freights and fares, without the overhead charges of the system rising proportionately. That is a sound argument, and a man would be a fool to contest it ; but the Labour party says, “ Let us settle the problems of our own country before we worry about those of other countries. Before we borrow money to bring the unemployed of Great Britain to Australia, let us provide work for the unemployed already here.” The defence argument is about the only one that advocates of wholesale immigration can adduce, and even that is based on a poor foundation. Mere numbers of people will not make the country secure. It is admitted that Australia could, with its present population, put sufficient men in the field to keep off any likely invader, if we were able to equip them. The basis of a defence policy is not immigration, but the development of the manufacturing industries in order to ensure the economic preparedness of the country for war. When the challenge comes, if it ever does come, we must be able to arm and equip our defenders from our own resources. People will come to Australia readily enough if the conditions here are made sufficiently attractive. Let us make them so; let us solve the unemployment problem, and when we have provided for. all our own people, others will realize that there is room for them, and come without any pressure. Honorable members opposite have caricatured the policy of the Labour party in regard to immigration. They say that so long as there is one man out of work in Australia, even though he be unemployable, we are opposed to immigration from overseas; That is not our attitude. We realize that, under the present system, there will always be a floating population of unemployed. The methods of private enterprise make inevitable a surplus of labour and machinery at times, tn industry there is a peak period and a slump period. Men who work teams of horses find that at times there is no employment for the horses; but the difference between the unemployed man and the unemployed beast is that the latter is fed whether it is working or idle - it is never turned adrift on the roadside to starve. In Victoria,’ at the present time, there is no authority that believes it has a responsibility to do anything for the men out of work. Both the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments disclaim liability, and the municipalities declare that they cannot provide for the unemployed out of their rates. One man said to me - “ If I commit a crime, I shall be put in jail, but at least I shall be clothed and fed; if I lose my reason, I shall be clothed and fed in an. asylum, but if I lose my job, I must starve.” In the district I represent a number of people are living on the pawnshop, pledging their household goods in order to procure the means of purchasing food, and when those resources are exhausted, they are dependent on a few charitable organizations, and the small relief funds that are raised to provide food and clothing for the workless men and their wives and children.
– What has been the principal cause . of unemployment ?
– I have previously dealt with the causes; now I am dealing with the effects. “ While these conditions obtain, the Government proposes to bring immigrants to this country. We, on this side of the House, do not say that so long as any member of the community is out of work the population must not be increased from overseas, but we do say that before spending money to pay the passages of immigrants from overseas, we should lay the foundation of some fund - be it a national insurance fund or something else - to provide for the surplus labour in periods of slump. I do not advocate the payment of doles to men who are out of work ; that is the worst form of relief. If we are to tackle in earnest the problem of development and increased production, we must first establish an unemployment fund and machinery for applying it to special works which will give employment when the number of unemployed exceeds the normal. We should apply our organizing capacity to the solution of our own problems before we start organizing to relieve unemployment in other parts of the world. Another problem calls urgently for attention. I could take honorable members to parts of my electorate where two or three families, some of them immigrants, are living in one house. Do not the disgraceful housing conditions and exorbitant rents constitute a. problem that is -worthy of the attention of this Parliament? Alleged economists say that the high rents are due to the high wages paid to carpenters and bricklayers, but a big percentage of the houses were built before any living bricklayer or carpenter was born. Let our first responsibility he the removal .of these blemishes upon our civilization. Let us attend to the wants of our own people, provide land for the landless, work for the workless, houses for the homeless, and then this country will, without any artificial aids, attract people of the best type from the other side of the world.
.- To some extent, I concur in the contention that Parliament should have been consulted before the migration’ agreement with the British Government was signed, but I believe that the Commonwealth Government was so satisfied with the extraordinarily liberal offer made by the Imperial authorities to help in peopling this great continent, that it believed that the agreement would have the unanimous support of the House. I am very much surprised at the criticism which bias been uttered by honorable members opposite, and particularly by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who is one of the leaders of the Labour party. He made it appear that because there is some unemployment in Australia the party to which he belongs is opposed to immigration.
– It is not opposed- to it, but believes that conditions here should be rectified first.
– The general trend of the speeches delivered by honorable members opposite was against immigration. It was distressing to hear the honorable member for Yarra speak of the great amount of unemployment and distress in Australia. In 1920, we were told that if only we would consent to impose heavy duties on imports, work would be provided for all our people, and Parliament acted on that advice. Later, when there, was a further complaint of dearth of employment, the Customs duties were increased ; in fact, this Parliament placed almost an embargo on imports. Yet to-day we are told that unemployment is worse than at any previous time. What is the reason ? The honorable member for Yarra might in fairness have pointed out that, owing to dissatisfaction with an award of the court, certain men connected with coalmining went on strike, with the result that tens of thousands of people throughout Australia were thrown out of employment. That strike has been settled ; but now men on the . water-front refuse to work, regardless of the distress of poor people who require fuel during the winter months. Honorable members opposite might be expected to show themselves desirous of removing these causes of unemployment. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) flooded the House with statistics designed to show the wonderful progress that Queensland has made under a Labour government, and its present remarkable prosperity and wealth. If the wealth of that State is as great as the honorable member would have us believe, the continuance of the embargo on sugars - thus compelling the people to pay high prices for the local product in order to bolster up a Queensland monopoly - is almost criminal.
– Order! . The honorable member’s remarks are wide of the bill.
– I am dealing with the capacity of this country to effectively absorb more people. The potentialities of Queensland are enormous, and, instead of maintaining the embargo on imported sugar, limiting production and restricting the inflow of population, we should Le able to give profitable employment to tens of thousands of people from overseas, and increase production. Any person who studies the trend of national affairs must realize the imperative need to effectively people this country. A continent as big as the United States of America is held by only 6,000,000 people - we have less than two persons to the square mile. A few decades ago, Australia was bo far removed from other countries as to be almost secure from invasion; but in the last 20 years, scientific developments have been so rapid and wonderful that distance is being almost annihilated; and the northern shores of our continent are only distant about two days’ travelling from a potential source of danger. We have read in the press lately the views expressed in Europe recently by representatives of other , nations regarding the White Australia policy, and as sane people, we must realize that we are not effectively peopling and developing this country.
– Does the honorable member believe in the White Australia policy?
– I do; and I wish to be able to maintain it against all other peoples.
– Then why does the honorable member advocate the removal of the embargo on black-grown sugar?
– The honorable member knows that the sugar industry made greater progress when there was a duty on sugar of £6 a ton. With a moderate duty, far greater progress would be made, and a greater number of people would be settled upon the beautiful country extending from the Clarence River to beyond Cairns. Under the agreement, the British Government has made a magnificent proposal to the people of Australia. Mr. Bankes Amery clearly said that the agreement had not been entered into merely to enable Great Britain to obtain some relief from unemployment. There has always been a certain amount of immigration to Australia, and the British Government is prepared to lend us £34,000,000 to enable us to extend our immigration policy. For a period of five years, Great Britain will bear onehalf of the interest payments, the States will pay 1 per cent., and the Commonwealth the balance. For the next ten years each will pay one-third of the interest cost. We want to bring people here, and to settle them on the land. I have a dread of the huge concentration of people in the cities, such as we now have in Australia. Under the agreement, the Federal Government is accepting a certain amount of responsibility. It will pay . a proportion of the interest on the loan, and the British Government will look to it as well as to the State Governments to justify the various schemes that are adopted. This Government has, therefore, rightly decided to appoint a commission consisting of practical men, who will be able to advise it on immigration matters. I listened with interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) yesterday. There is no doubt about the potential wealth of Australia, and in consequence of the works carried out on the river Murray there should be a large area of magnificent country available for closer settlement. I have always supported the action of the Commonwealth Government in financing the building of weirs across the river Murray, with the object of ultimately increasing the population and the wealth of this country. We have the opportunity to settle tens of thousands of people upon the areas that will be developed under the Murray Waters scheme. We do not want a repetition of the conditions of the dried fruit industry. Industries should be selfsupporting, and not be compelled to go cap in hand to the Government asking for assistance. The practice of approaching members of Parliament to interview the Government to obtain concessions in certain industries is abominable. By exercising a sound economic policy it should be possible to settle an enormous population, not only adjacent to the river Murray, but also in many other parts of Australia that must subsequently be developed. The commission to be appointed under this bill should consist of men of practical experience, able to advise and to report to the Government. The Prime Minister has wisely offered the chairmanship of the commission to a certain gentleman who is most suitable for the work to be undertaken.
– Does mot the honorable member think that the inquiry should have taken place before the agreement was entered into?
– If we intend to proceed with the scheme, the sooner the agreement is put into effect and investigations made the better it will be for Australia. Before we ask the British Government to lend us money to bring people here, we should be satisfied that our immigration proposals are likely to be successful. Several schemes have been developed in Western Australia, some proving remarkably successful, while others were somewhat costly. In many cases it will be necessary to write off a portion of the capital expenditure to enable the settlers to make good. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred to a film that was screened at a theatre, depicting the wonderful progress of a certain settler in Australia. I can honestly point to over half a dozen instances of men who have settled in Western Australia within the last ten or twelve years, and although experiencing hardships at first, have afterwards made good, and been able to make trips to England and return with motor-cars. I knew one man who settled in a very dry area in Western Australia. I met him at Fremantle the day that I was unveiling the memorial to Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, the great engineer who designed the harbour works there. When he landed in Western Australia he did not know wheat from oats, but he subsequently made good. He was then taking a trip to England, and was hoping to bring back other Englishmen with him.
– Was he a wheat-grower ?
– Yes. A friend of mine, a Mr. Gerald McKenna, has a large area of land. Just before he enlisted for active service a neighboring farmer asked him to be allowed to cart his superphosphate from the railway station at a cost of £5, so that he might have money to buy food for his family. Mr. McKenna willingly consented. Quite recently I sent him a newspaper paragraph showing that that self-same farmer had returned with his wife and family from a trip through Canada to England. It is :a revelation to know that such things are possible. These men became wealthy largely because of the cheapness of clearing land when they settled upon it, and the high prices ruling for wheat of late years. There are many other such instances. I remember that when Sir James Mitchell took control of the Lands Department of Western Australia, it was generally agreed that beyond Kellerberrin it would be unsafe to establish farms, but his great optimism and belief in the wealth of the country has successfully settled some thousands of farmers. I have seen country nearly 100 miles northeast of Northam, with a rainfall of about ten inches, yielding 22 bushels to the acre.
– ls not the honorable member forgetting that the price of wheat may fall?
– I am coming to that. We have not heard very much growling about the high cost of production under the tariff, because with the high price for wheat he is still able to carry on, but, with a fall in prices or a failure of the harvest, the farmer will rise in his wrath against the high tariff fanatic. I recently read a report from a special inspector of the Western Australian Government who advised that something like 2,750,000 acres of land within 13 miles of a railway, had not yet been opened up for settlement. A large proportion of it was first-class land. There is available in Western Australia today enormous areas of land suitable for wheat growing and grazing. There are, of course, difficulties in respect of transport and water supply. If we appoint a commission consisting of experts, it will, by consulting State engineers and other authorties, be able to ascertain what lands are suitable for settlement. Its investigations should be very helpful, not only in establishing water supplies, but also in bringing about greater returns from the land. I also wish to congratulate the Government on the appointment of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, whose investigations must confer great benefits upon Australia. That body and the commission to be appointed under the bill will be able to give valuable advice to farmers. I got into trouble the other day by pointing out to farmers that instead of devoting all their energy to the production of wheat and other cereals, they should pay more attention to sheep, dairy herds and pigs. Mixed farming is essential if land settlement is to be successful. Of course, the greatest difficulty is caused by lack of water and the rabbit pest, but we must try to overcome that. The honorable member for Wakefield spoke of the wonderful change that has taken place respecting certain lands in South Australia, and he referred especially to the use of subterranean clover. I, myself, know of a piece of land of 19 acres that I would not have accepted as a gift. The rainfall in the vicinity is about 26 inches. That land was planted with subterranean clover. I am informed that . the 19 acres subsequently carried 27 head of horses and cattle throughout the year. As we realize the value of the country, so we shall progress and become wealthy. A settlement scheme was introduced in the south-west of Western Australia, but the overhead charges were particularly high. The land is heavily timbered with redgum, and the cost of clearing it is enormous. Settlement there will proceed at a greater rate when better methods of clearing land are discovered. Two thousand five hundred families have already been settled under this group scheme. The figures have been supplied to me, and I shall refer to them when I am dealing with the States Grant Bill in order to show the wonderful work of the Western Australia Government in settling families on the land. I desire to see the secondary industries of this country flourish under proper and fair conditions, but what chance have we to build up large manufactures unless we. increase the population and find markets for the production of the factories. It is of no use settling people on the land to impoverish them. If that were done, their purchasing power would be of no value to the secondary industries: It is necessary to have producers on the land to provide a market for the secondary industries we are trying to establish. Everything possible should be done to assist primary production, and that is why I am so eager to accept this bill. I cannot say much about the development of our mineral resources, because I do not hope for much in that direction until we alter our economic conditions. With ore at £2 10s. a ton, the Mount Morgan mine was closed down after it had made enormous losses for two or three years.
– Why was it closed down ?
– Because of the enormous Customs duties, and because this country does not get value for the money it spends. The honorable member might ask me why it is that the United States of America and Canada can produce machinery at half the cost of producing it in Australia, although they pay twice as much in wages. We must mend our ways, and stop spoon-feeding our industries. The Government of Western Australia spent enormous sums of money in building railways and providing water supply and public buildings for Kalgoorlie, and private individuals also spent large sums of money there. No one can say that miners are paid too much, for they receive less than the men who drive bakers’ carts in the cities.
– High duties did not close down the Mount Morgan mine. Mr. GREGORY.- The economic conditions of this country have almost put an end to mining. No private company will carry on an industry unless there is at least a possibility of a profit. Reports of the Chambers of Mines show that the cost of materials and machinery used in mining is enormously greater than it was in pre-war days. I do not expect prices to be as low as they were in pre-war days, but they have increased disproportionately in this country. There are duties of from 40 per cent, to 60 per cent, on mining machinery, and hardly an honorable member was prepared to vote for a lower duty. Similar duties which are imposed on the requirements of all primary industries have closed down some of them, to the detriment of the State, the employees, and others.
– The mines of Australia would have been ruined long ago had not the secondary industries supported them.
– That statement is not correct. The honorable member may remember that when Western Australia had freetrade, Thompson Brothers, of Castlemaine, did a large part of their business in Western’ Australia. Then they could compete with the world; but to-day they are in distress, principally because of the high cost of all their raw material and labour troubles. I have urged, with all the force at my command, that the Government should do more for the people in the north of Australia. If we cannot settle people there, we cannot justify our claim to it, and yet we have done practically nothing. If I had the power, I would remit all harbour and light dues on ships calling at northern ports. Vestey Brothers took a ship to Darwin to load 300 head of cattle, and they had to pay harbour dues amounting to £97. I would also ask for an amendment of the Constitution to allow the admittance to the Northern Territory, free of duty, of all the requirements of the people. In this connexion I refer only to necessaries, not luxuries. Such a policy, applied for ten or fifteen years, would enable the people there to make good. The Western Australian Government built a meatworks at Kimberley, and for years the people in that district have been expecting the time to come when they would be able to sell their stock at reasonable prices. The 1922-23 balancesheet of the meatworks disclosed that 30,000 cattle had been killed, and that the return to the stock-raisers was only £3 4s. a head. The cattle realized £297,000, but the working expenses, freight, insurance, and other charges left only that small margin for the producers. I believe that the management of the works was not at fault. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has informed me that wild pigs of extraordinary size are to be found in that district. It should, therefore, be good country for the production of pigs. I believe there is land not far from Wyndham where settlers might be induced to start tropical industries, such as the growing of cotton and sugar. I should like to see a special investigation made of that part of Western Australia. It should be recognized that many people prefer to live in a tropical climate, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will agree with me that there are happy people at Derby. I could not live in that climate, but some persons glory in it. It should be possible to settle people in the north under conditions that would enable them to make good, but I want the fullest investigation made before we send them there. The question of railway communication is sure to arise. I hold the view that, instead of extending the North-South railway farther south, a railway should be built from Derby or Broome, through Western Australia and the Northern Territory, to the Barkly Tablelands, and thence to Camooweal.
Sitting suspended from 6-30 to 8 p.m.
– There are wonderful possibilities, both in Queensland and Western Australia, in the settlement of migrants on the land and the populating of the northern and north-west portions of the continent is a matter of urgency. Any commercial man would be prepared to make sacrifices at times for the purpose of building up his business, and I strongly urge the Government- to relieve settlers in .those outlying parts of harbour and light dues, and to consider whether an amendment of the Constitution should be made to enable all the settlers’ requirements, other than luxuries, to be admitted duty free. It will be necessary also to erect petrol and crude oil tanks, not only at Port Darwin, but also at different points along the coast, since motor spirit will bc largely required in the development of the interior. When those areas are occupied by a prosperous population, profit must ultimately accrue to the rest of the people of Australia. We must also consider our economic position. With the great increase of our public debt, there should be a greater demand to-day for the products of the primary producers than there was in 1911. In that year our export trade amounted in value to £70,000,000, but taking our exports at the same values as those of 1911, we find that in 1921 that trade was valued at only £60,000,000, a reduction of £10,000,000. That was a very grave diminution. In 1922,’ the value of the export trade was £75,000,000, and the increase was due to the fine harvest reaped in Australia; but for the years 1923 and 1924, the figures dropped to £58,000,000 and £50,000,00 respectively. The total is now £20,000,000 below the figures for 1911. The reduction is astounding, and it indicates a remarkable decrease in production. The public debt of Australia is now about £1,005,000,000. The debt in 1911 amounted to- £280,000,000, and since that year, exclusive of war loans, we have borrowed for reproductive works the sum of £420,000,000. That money has been mostly spent by the States in the construction of roads, railways, harbours, and other public works, which should have tended towards development, ‘and yet, on the basis of quantity, and taking 1911 prices, Australia exported £20,000,000 worth of goods less in 1924 than in 1911. These figures should make the people realize how essential it is to do something to alter the economic conditions, and reduce the cost of production. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) referred to some statements published some time ago regarding the Commonwealth note issue. He mentioned that since the Notes Issue Board had been created, the sum of £15,000,000 had been lent to the private banks at a low rate of interest, and said that the money had been relent to the people in the country at a substantially increased rate. If the honorable member had studied the statistics provided for the information of Parliament - only last September a pocket compendium was distributed among honorable members, and the figures relating to the note issue were clearly set forth in it - he would have found that the statements were contrary to fact. In 1921, the notes in circulation amounted to £58,094,987.
– Now the honorable member is making the position worse.
– Apparently the board thought that there had been an inflation of the note issue,. and it reduced it in 1922 and 1923. The notes in circulation on the 30th June, 1922, amounted to £53,556,698, and on the 30th June, 1923, to £52,102,025. But thos reduction was so heavy that it caused a great deal of trouble in financial circles. In one instance a Japanese firm applied for £200,000 in notes from the Bank of New South Wales, but was refused, although it offered to ship gold from San Francisco in exchange for the notes. In 1924 the Commonwealth Bank offered to lend up to £15,000,000 in notes upon Commonwealth securities in Great Britain, but ihe banks found that it was impossible to trade upon those terms. During the last election I telegraphed to the Department of Trade and Customs to ascertain how much gold had been imported, and 1 was informed that the banks had imported £10,700,000 in gold into Australia to enable them to carry on the business of this country. If the honorable member turns to the T ear-Book he will find that the note issue is less by some millions than it was in 1921, although to-day the banks hold in reserve in their vaults between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000 in £1,000 notes.
– Does the honorable member contend that the private banks could not issue credits against their rights to the notes without taking them ?
– How could they do so? The majority of the bank;: of Australia had a large proportion of their credits in London. When it was suggested that they should accept British notes as legal tender, we could have obtained British notes, but not British gold. Statistics were supplied to-day by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) showing that large consignments of gold had arrived from the United States of America in the last twelve months.
– The only notes issued were to be repaid within a definite time.
– The banks had reached the danger point. They had huge securities in London, and the statement that the Commonwealth Bank had lent the States £15,000,000 at high interest rates was incorrect, and it needed only an examination of the note issue statistics to show how false it was. The deflation of the note issue had occasioned previous loss to the producers. Returning to the bill, let me repeat that it essential, in my opinion, that the Government should appoint a board to investigate and report upon schemes for migration and development. I trust that the Minister will be able to secure the services of men who . have a thorough knowledge of their work, and have due regard to the importance of enabling the settlers to make good. The commission should r eport .regarding both primary and secondary industries. Every honorable member who believes in protection, and wishes to see the secondary industries built up, realizes that secondary products cannot be exported to any great extent from Australia. We must have enough people in the country to provide customers for the products of secondary industries.
– The Tariff Board will look after those industries.
– I am afraid that there will be a certain amount of overlapping on that account. .If this measure will lead to the abolition of the Tariff Board, I shall support it with particular pleasure. Specialists should be appointed to this commission, for I can see that it will have to determine some difficult questions. For instance, it may have to consider the advisableness of constructing a railway from the Barkly Tableland to the Gulf of Carpentaria, or to investigate some other railway project that may be suggested to provide work for the expected migrants. In these circumstances, it is desirable also that we should retain the provision in the bill which empowers the commission, subject to the approval of the Government, to obtain the advice of experts. But I dislike the prospect of another big public department being set up. This commission should be able to carry on without a big staff. I favour paying its members a good salary and a liberal travelling allowance, so that they will be encouraged to put their heart into their work; but I can see no justification for allowing it to build up a big staff. It would be highly advisable for us to fix in the bill the tenure of the commission. As it is proposed to appoint the chairman for seven years and the other members for five years, we should do well, in my opinion, to fix seven years as the life of the commission. At the end of, say, five years, we should be able to make up our minds whether it would be desirable to extend its life for another five years or more.
– I should support the honorable member if he moved for a shorter term than seven years.
– At any rate we should remove the impression that this is to be a commission in perpetuity.
– Why appoint a commission at all ? Why cannot the Government take the responsibility?
– I dislike, as much as the honorable member for Wannon, handing over the responsibilities of the Government to commissions, but, in this case, there is some justification for it, as the Government is acting in co-operation with the States. I trust that all the schemes that may be propounded for stimulating land settlement will be carefully investigated, and that those that are adopted will give the settlers a reasonable prospect of success.
– How would the honorable member like to be Minister for Migration, and have to hand over to a commission the investigation into these important matters?
– The honorable member for Wannon knows very well that the hands of a Minister are tied to a large extent. He also knows that this Parliament has decided that before any public work, estimated to cost more than £25,000, can be undertaken, it must be investigated and favorably reported upon by the Public Works Committee, and that the accounts must be passed by the Public Accounts Committee. He also knows that practically every State Parliament has a standing committee on railways.
– But the Government undertook the direct responsibility of settling 35,000 ex-soldiers.
– And made a failure of it in many respects. We have only to think of the purchase of those timber areas in Queensland to realize that.
– That is why I dislike allowing a commission to handle this problem.
– Nobody’ knows better than the honorable member that the whole trouble in regard to our soldier settlement schemes was that, although the Minister was nominally responsible, the repatriation commissioners had unlimited power to do as they pleased; and they pleased to enter into some extraordinary contracts, that cost Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds. In this matter the Commonwealth Government is practically entering into partnership with the State Governments, for it is undertaking to meet part of the interest bill. Generally speaking, I am opposed to the appointment of more commissions. We could,, with advantage, dispense with quite a number that we already have. I trust that we shall amend clause 14, which reads -
The Commonwealth shall not approve of any undertaking or scheme proposed by a State under the principal Migration Agreement or any supplementary Migration Agreement unless it has been recommended by the commission for approval.
Parliament should not hand over its responsibilities in that loose way. It should retain the final say as to whether certain works should or should not be undertaken, and it should be able to take steps to initiate work. I do not desire to reflect upon the Government, but I sincerely hope that we shall amend that clause and assure the supremacy of Parliament.
.- This bill is sufficiently important to merit the earnest consideration of every honorable member. Notwithstanding what has been said during this debate, the Labour party has a definite migration policy. I think honorable members on both sides of the chamber agree that there is room for a much larger population in Australia, and that we should be doing more to develop the country. The Prime Minister’s main arguments in support of the bill were that it was needed for development and defence purposes. The difference between the attitude of honorable members opposite and ourselves in regard to the matter may be set out quite clearly. They, representing the employing class, are anxious for a large number of migrants to be introduced here within a short period, though I do not say they have any desire for a reckless policy of migration. They argue fairly, from their point of view, that if we could introduce, say, 250,000 people into Australia every year, it would increase our land values, and also the volume of our business enormously. We, on the other hand, while admitting the desirableness of a reasonable migration policy, cannot agree to the introduction of thousands of migrants except under conditions that will not endanger the livelihood of our own people. It has often been said that we are disloyal because we have opposed various unsound migration schemes.
– I do not think that that has been argued in this debate.
– It was argued during the election campaign. We intend to exercise every care to prevent the flooding of our labour market, though we frankly admit that it is not sufficient for us to adopt a policy of mere negation. The Prime Minister, answering a question by the honorable member for Capricornia, said that under the agreement made with the British Government 34,500 people would be brought to Australia’ in the first year, and the number would increase by 3,000 annually until by the end of the tenth year the total inflow will have reached 450,000 persons. The right honorable gentleman said that the present stream of immigration is almost infinitesimal, and that, in comparison with other countries, Australia is failing in its duty to people its vacant spaces. Mr. Wickens, in an excellent article ou the Australian population, published in the Economic Record, of November, 1925, pointed out that the rate of immigration for the last 64 years has been per cent., or an average of 30,000 per annum. That is only 4,500 less than are to be introduced in the first year of the operation of this agreement. The bill proposes to confer upon the commission such tremendous powers that the. Minister for Markets and
Migration will be a mere cypher. Neither he nor Parliament will have any control over the commission, but Cabinet may receive its recommendations. Clause 13, which relates to development, does not make it mandatory for the commission to consult State officers. Those officers possess a more intimate knowledge of the resources of their own States, particularly its lands and climatic conditions, than can be gained by any new body of commissioners. Their knowledge is based on an almost life-long study and experience, and it should be obligatory for the commission to consult them ; in practice, no doubt, they will be compelled to do so. The bill, being mainly a machinery measure, does not offer much scope for criticism. One clause, however, refers to the appointment of experts, and that seems to be the kernal of the scheme. It is essential that the commission shall have the right to obtain the assistance of experts upon different phases of its work, because no four men could possess the sum total of knowledge in regard to Australian immigration and land, settlement problems. The experts must be men of special attainments, for the expenditure of millions’ of pounds will depend largely upon their ability to impress their knowledge upon the commission. Yet the bill provides that the commission shall not, without the consent of the Minister, appoint any officer as an expert at a salary exceeding £500 per annum. That payment would. not tempt an ordinary accountant to resign a £200 a year job in a rag shop with life tenure and chances of promotion for a temporary job of this kind. The limitation is absurd and in marked contrast to the highly-paid jobs created by the Commonwealth Government from time to time. Inasmuch as five of the State Governments have already assented to the principal agreement, -we are hardly required to discuss it in this Chamber ; but it is evident that the State Governments were reluctant to accept it, notwithstanding that they were told that it was wholly in their favour and would provide them with millions of pounds at a very low rate of interest. One State has not yet signed it, and others have done so more or less on compulsion ; they had to do so in order to get money for developmental purposes. Unfortunately the agreements between the Commonwealth and State Governments are not before honorable members, as they should be if we ave intelligently to discuss this scheme. That made between the British and Commonwealth Governments has many flaws. It provides that £130,000 shall be advanced by the Secretary of State for every principal sum of £750,000 expended by the Commonwealth. I read that to mean that £750,000 must be actually expended in developmental work before the Secretary of State will advance the £130,000, which is less than one-fifth of the total. I cannot imagine any business man or contractor being satisfied with a progress payment of 20 per cent., and I think that the Imperial Government in this made a very niggardly condition. One new farm must be established, and one family of an average of five persons settled upon the land for every £1,000 advanced to a State. It is unnecessary to elaborate the fact that men cannot be settled on the land for £1,000 each; that sum is not nearly sufficient to buy the land, and this limitation may mean a breakdown of the scheme. Another harsh condition is that which provides that the Secretary of State should advance only £100 for the purchase of stock and equipment for any assisted migrant settled on a farm in accordance with this scheme. That sum is ridiculously small; it might be sufficient for the traditional “ three acres and a cow “ in the Old Country, but is almost useless in “Western Australia, where not less than 1,000 acres is required for wheat-growing. Another provision in the agreement seems somewhat unfair to the Australian-born. 1 trust that we shall not be considered disloyal to the Mother Country if we try to preserve the rights of our own people. I recognize that the scheme ha.” a two-fold purpose–to draw from Great. Britain its surplus and unemployed population, and to build up this country without impairing its industrial prosperity or prejudicing the employment of Australian citizens. According to paragraph / of clause 9, the assisted migrants and Australians must receive equal treatment in regard to the acquisition of farms. The “50-50” arrangement may at first glance seem fair, but as there will be only 35,000 migrants in the first year, and there are already hundreds of thousands of Australians desirous of acquiring land, a tremendous advantage is to be given to the migrant over the native-born.-
– This is a special scheme of settlement; it is not the only one.
– It is a very special scheme. . Even in Western Australia, which still has tremendous scope for development, hundreds of people apply for every block that is thrown open for selection, and when this scheme is in operation their chances of success will be halved. The agreement provides that assisted migrants shall be found suitable employment at the same rate of wages as is paid to Australians. The immigrants that come here will thus have a tremendous advantage over our own citizens. The Labour party has for years fought for the right of every Australian to work. We have been told that we are visionaries and socialists, and our efforts have been thwarted. Under the agreement employment is to be found for immigrants who do not desire to settle on the land. We know that those who are willing to . emigrate from Great Britain are not the class to be easily placed on the land. Yet when they come out here, they will have the right to work. They will be employed on the tramways and railways clipping tickets, while our own citizens are unemployed. Most of the 1,500,000 persons unemployed in Great Britain to-day are workers. Not one in twenty would be farm workers. As a matter of fact, so far as the Midland Counties of England are concerned, the farming population is fully employed, and,- no doubt, if land were thrown open for settlement in Great Britain, all the rural population could be absorbed. The great majority of the immigrants that will come out here will be factory workers. We know very well that the factory worker in Australia is more eligible for work on the land than the factory worker of Great Britain. I am not saying anything derogatory about the Britisher; but the Australian naturally knows more about his own country.
– The Australian refuses to go on the land.
– The honorable member must know, if he reads the newspapers, that there are hundreds of Australians who are prepared to go on the land at any time. This scheme, of course, will considerably reduce their chances.
– Does the Western Australian Government find itself able to settle on the land the young men of that State?
– No. There are too many applications for the blocks that are thrown open for settlement in Western Australia to-day.
– The honorable member will recollect that one group settlement was composed of wharf labourers from Fremantle.
– Yes. An experiment was made in the electorate of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The Government placed unemployed wharf labourers on land at Yorkrakine, 17 miles from a railway, and a great number of them have made a success of farming. The Labour party’s policy is not opposed to immigration. Its platform states-
We declare that Australia is capable, under . good government, of supporting in happiness a much larger population; but to protect our fellow-workers from being deluded by false statements into leaving home and kindred merely to become the tools of ‘sweaters, we insist that land, housing accommodation, and employment be provided for overseas immigrants before they are invited to come to Australia.
That is precisely what has been done in Canada under business-like governments. Our platform provides the following condition : -
That existing land monopoly should be broken up, and provision made for Australian land-seekers.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), speaking of immigration, said -
Australia is the greatest undeveloped country in the world, and the eyes of the people of all nations are upon us to see what we intend to do with it.
That is an utterly false conception that is present in the minds of many honorable members. The Prime Minister also said -
If the prospect of future peace becomes assured under the rule of international law, we in Australia will inevitably be called to the bar of the world’s opinion and be asked what we are doing with this great continent.
– The honorable member may not read either from Hansard or from a newspaper any portion of a speech made in the present session.
– It would be a poor lookout for mankind if Australia was the only undeveloped country in the world. We in Australia lack a sense of proportion. We are inclined to think that ours is the only country on earth. We look at everything from our own point of view. But we have to go to other countries to find out what they really think of Australia. This . country is rarely mentioned in the newspapers of Great Britain. At one time, when travelling across Central America, I was accosted by a schoolmaster, who spoke to me in Spanish. He asked me where I came from, and I told him “ Australia..” He said, “ Austria, in Europe “ I said, “ No, Australia, in the southern seas.” He had never heard of Australia, and yet he was a school teacher in another part of the world. We forget that there are other portions of this vast earth that are crying aloud for development, and they are far better fitted by their natural resources to absorb a larger population than is Australia. We must remember that one-third of Australia has a rainfall of less than 10 inches, and is, therefore, of no use so far as the growing of cereals is concerned. Great waterways that are so conspicuous in other countries of the world are absent from Australia. Other countries are more ripe for the absorption of population than is
Australia. This country has 6,000,000 of people of one race, a virile people using the latest instruments of production. Brazil has an area of 3,300,000 square miles, which is over one and a tenth times the area of Australia. It is true that it has a population of 30,000,000, but that is sparse in a country of such dimensions. The nature of the population has also to be taken into account. For the most part the Brazilians are savage aborigines, who play no great part in the development of that great fertile land. The State of Amazonas in that country, which is twice the size of New South “Wales, and through which flows the greatest waterway in the world, has a population of 363,000. The imports of Brazil in 1923-24 amounted to £50,000,000. Our imports for the same period amounted to £160,000,000. The exports of Brazil were £73,000,000, compared with £214,000,000 from here. As a matter of fact, Australia has a greater purchasing power than the great Empire of Japan, which has over 81,000,000 people. Under those circumstances, how can we take a pessimistic view of our position? It is true that under proper conditions we could absorb a greater population, but we must proceed carefully. There is the danger of any man-made scheme upsetting the natural growth of industry. It is conceivable that this measure, which we are inclined to think will be of benefit, may bring chaos to this country. The State of Venezuela with an area of 393,000 square miles, is bigger than New South Wales, and its population is about the same. It has been said by Humboldt that the valley of the Orinoco is so fertile that it would feed the whole of mankind. The people of that country import £7,000,000 worth of goods per annum, and their exports are one-thirtieth of the value of the exports of the Commonwealth. The Island of Borneo, which, next to New Guinea, is the largest island in the world, exports £1,200,000 worth of goods per annum, and imports £800,000 worth, which is roughly one twohundredth part of the value of the imports of the Commonwealth. Experience has shown that tropical countries are several times more productive than countries in temperate zones. In the State of Queensland, a man with a small plot of land can, by intensive culture, raise several crops a year, and it is in that part of the
Commonwealth that the population of Australia will increase most rapidly in the future. Java is an island of two-thirds the size of Victoria, and there no man is a hegger, and no one starves. The land is possessed by the whole people, and no man can say he owns any portion of it. But there are 40,000,000 people on that island, and all of them are prosperous in their own way. They are not, of course, living up to our ideals.
– What is all this intended to prove?
– It is intended to prove the incorrectness of the statements of the honorable member and the right honorable the Prime Minister, that this country is not being properly developed, and that we are not producing as much as we should. Although the slogan of the National party is “ Produce and still produce,” and although the honorable member and others are deluding themselves into the unpatriotic belief- that Australians are not doing their duty, statistics show that the people of this country are progressing relatively faster than the people, of other countries. The imports of Japan, which have been referred to in order to scare us, were £244,000,000 in 1924, or one-third more than those of the Commonwealth, and its exports were £180,000,000, as compared with £214,000,000 for the Commonwealth. Let me now deal with the subject of defence. I do not oppose the bill, but I am denouncing the anti-Australian policy which is being proclaimed by many people in this country. I deny that we are doing badly in the matter of production ; on the contrary, when our population is compared with that of other countries, I maintain that we are doing better than any of them. In the matter of increase of population, I oan show that we are also doing well.
– But we could do much better with a larger population.
– I frankly admit that, and to that extent I am in accord with the views of the honorable the Min.ister; but I suggest that it is wise to hasten slowly. It is the bounden duty of the workers of this country to see that no scheme is adopted which is likely to deprive them of work. I hope that the bill will do all that is expected of it. If it does one-tenth of what has been claimed for it, it will be justified. The Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. C. H. Wickens, has much to say on his own account about population. Here are some of his remarks -
We often hear disparaging remarks concerning the rate of growth of Australia’s population, and advice by well-meaning critics to keep our ports open or our cradles full. To any one who has impartially studied the rates of growth of the populations of the world in recent years, it is difficult to understand why this opinion as to slow growth should have got abroad.
He proceeds to show that the three countries in the world which, on a percentage basis, are increasing their population the fastest are Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. We increased our population at the rate if 20 per 1,000 per annum, or 2 per cent., from the year 1911 to 1921. While Australia, Canada, and New Zealand were increasing their population at that rate, the rates of increase in other countries were : The United States of America, 14 per 1,000; Japan, 9 per1,000; Sweden, 7 per 1,000; and England and Wales, 4 per 1,000. It is foolish of us to think that by a scheme of this kind, which proposes to bring into this country over a period of ten years only 450,000 people, as compared with 300,000 arriving under present conditions, we shall receive such an increase in population that we shall be in an enormously improved position to shoulder arms and repel an invader. I know that the scheme will place us in a better position, but we should not lull ourselves into the belief that it will make us safe against invasion. To show that the population figures I have quoted for the ten-year period are not exceptional, I shall quote figures for the 40 years from 1881 to 1921. During that period New Zealand had pride of place with an increase of 23 per 1,000, and Australia was second with an increase of 22 per 1,000. Other increases were : The United States of America, 19 per 1,000: Canada, 18 per 1.000; Japan,11 per 1,000 ; England and Wales, 9 per 1,000; and Sweden, 7 per 1,000. At the present rate of growth Australia’s population will be 10,000.000 in 25 years time, 20,000,000 by 1986, 40,000,000 35 years after that, and 80,000,000 35 years after that, or 130 years from now. Professor Griffith Taylor, of the Sydney University, who has written several excellent pamphlets on problems relating to rainfall and the growth of Australia, says that when Australia has reached the present saturation point of Europe, she will have a population of 60,000,000, and according to that authority we shall have the same saturation point as Europe in about 100 years. It should be frankly recognized that in the next 100 years improvements in the methods of agriculture and manufacture will enable us to produce very much more than is indicated by Professor Griffith Taylor’s figures. Dr. Richardson, of Adelaide, who was a Melbourne student of economics, says there is a reasonable prospect of Australia producing a wheat harvest of 600,000,000 bushels per year, which is about as much as we now produce in four or five years. I am endeavouring to show the possibilities of development in the future from the point of view of the present, without attempting to foretell what our point of viewmay be in the future. The question of defence has been adequately treated in other debates. I have on other occasions quoted authorities who are strongly of opinion that the day is past when troops can be sent across the seas and landed in sufficient force to hold a country like Australia. I shall not discuss that matter at length, but I point out that several eminent authorities in America, Von Scheer of Germany, who fought us at Jutland, and several English tacticians are of that opinion. In the days of Queen Elizabeth England had a population of only 2,500,000, and yet she defeated the great Spanish Armada. We should remember, also, that when the . people of the United States of America decided to start business on their own account, after the Boston tea-party incident, they numbered less than 4,000.000, but they succeeded in beating the flower of the British Army. I admit that many Britishers in America fought against Britain, because that war was the work of a king who was not so wise as he might have been. Even in the South African War, in which volunteers from this country participated, it took the flower of the British Army three years to suppress a mere handful of people. I mention these incidents to show that Australia, with her 6,000,000 people, backed by all the white races, as we should be if a coloured race attacked us, would be able to give a good account of herself . It is unwise to plunge into an enormous expenditure on defence when we need every penny we possess for developing this country. I hope that this bill, after being moulded into shape in committee, will have a beneficial effect in developing the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia. The Western Australian Government has already submitted under this scheme proposals for works which will cost £9,000,000, and all that it is proposed to do is to develop the south-west of the State. That shows what an enormous work has to be undertaken in that part of Australia. Not one acre of that part of Western Australia is in my electorate, but I agree that an enormous amount of development can be promoted there. . I hope that the members of the commission will busy themselves with that matter. If there is anything to be said for the scheme as a means of defence, surely the sparsely populated parts of this continent should receive some attention. Up to ten years, or . so, ago, it was not generally considered that the land in the Murchison district was of any value for pastoral purposes. We were then only concerned in winning gold from that area ; but we have discovered since that there is fresh water at any depth down to 40 feet. That area is almost half the size of New South Wales, and it has very few people on it. It can only carry, it is true, one sheep to 20 acres, but the area from Shark Bay to Geraldton, and east to the South Australian border, would probably carry millions of sheep. That is a matter the commission should investigate. The development of the northwest of Western Australia, and more particularly of the Kimberley district, should be considered. I intended to quote at length extracts from the Australian Pilot, a book which directs seamen regarding the configuration of our coast line, tells them where water is procurable, and where they, can take a ship to land for supplies. It shows that in that part of the country, which is the most indented portion of the Australian coast, from King Sound to Wyndham, there is a large number of bays that are rich in turtle, fish, shell fish, and pearl shell, and that the hinterland is rich.’ It is true that the country is intersected by high ranges, and that the natives are treacherous. Mariners are warned not to land in several places on that coast, because of the possibility of trouble with the natives. The Pilot book states that natives of Andover Bay are treacherous, strong, and agile, and any parties landing there would be well advised to be fully armed. The very fact that they are possessed of fine physique serves to show that the country is productive. I «again reiterate that it is absurd to expect to discover experts to put the’ Government’s scheme into operation at a salary of £500 per annum. I am more particularly concerned, however, about the need for populating the Kimberley district of Western Australia, and the northern and north-western portions of this continent.
. - It is difficult to understand why honorable members opposite do not cordially support a bill of this nature. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) admits that Western Australia is in sore need of population, and that the problem is too great for the Labour Government of that State. That Government is prepared to’ accept £9,000,000 for the development of a portion of the western State, and yet the honorable member intends to oppose the bill.
– I said nothing of the kind, and if the honorable member had entered the chamber five minutes sooner than he did, he would have realized it.
– That part of his speech to’ which I listened gave me the impression that he would oppose the bill ; I shall be interested to see how he votes on it. He spoke of the keen inquiry for settlers in other countries, and he mentioned the attractions of Brazil. But surely he does not desire to see Britishers populating countries under foreign flags, when Australia is so much in need of settlers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is to be congratulated upon the introduction of this measure. Although on some points honorable members may not see eye to eye with the framers of the bill, I hope that it will receive general support. When a Labour government was in power in the Commonwealth some years ago, it went to considerable trouble in obtaining immigrants from the Old Country; but it appears that members of the present-day Labour party do not wish the high wages and short hours now being enjoyed by the workers to be shared with their kith and kin overseas. They say in effect that they want British money and British trade, but they do not welcome British people. Could a more selfish attitude be adopted? Some 30 years ago there .was an outcry in .the Commonwealth against increasing the population, which then numbered only 3,000,000. Immigration was objected to at that time on the ground that there were unemployed in the capital cities. Now, when the population is 6,000,000, the same cry is heard. The fact is that the more people we have the more work there will be. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked what would be done with the immigrants if we brought them here in large numbers. It is estimated that Great Britain to-day has between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 unemployed; but it would not be a serious matter if they were landed in Australia to-morrow. I am satisfied that sufficient food could be obtained for them. It has been said that our population may be expected to reach 12,000,000 in about 20 years. The last speaker evidently quoted an extract from a book in which it is stated that the population of Australia will be 10,000,000 in 1951, which means that in about 1959 or 1960 the population will be double the present figures. The rate of increase here is greater than in Oriental countries; but even a 9 per cent, increase in Japan, and a similar increase -in China, would make an enormous difference to the already huge population of those lands. Some outlet will have to be found for the surplus population of the East, and those who believe in a White Australia must be prepared to build up this country and populate it in order that it may be defended. Three or four of the honorable members opposite who have spoken on the bill, came out to Australia 20 or 30 years ago to try their luck here, and they have been so successful that to-night they sit in this chamber. It is difficult to understand their attitude in objecting to allow their fellow countrymen to share the benefits that they now enjoy in Australia. It is regrettable that the introduction of the bill has been delayed, owing to the agreement having been held up in some of the States, particularly New South Wales.
– That State has not yet signed it.
– I know that under the regime of Sir George Fuller, earnest efforts were made to promote immigration. New South Wales is still an underpopulated State. Fully 90 per cent, of the land in Australia remains under the Crown, and yet we are told it is difficult to obtain land in that State. Having been a member of a land board for twelve or fourteen years, I disagree with the statement that a settler must have had a certain amount of training before going on the land. I know a district in which a certain block was taken up by at least four Australians in succession, each of whom had had previous experience on the land. After the fourth Australian had abandoned this block, a young man from England, who scarcely knew a shovel from a plough, took it up a short time after his arrival from the Old Land. He had to support his widowed mother, who had seven or eight younger children. This family made a success of the holding, and for several years an annual return was obtained of no less than £2,000. Local applicants for land are entitled to first consideration; but I point out that the average man desires to obtain land in his own district. He does not wish to move from one State to another, and often is averse from transferring even from one end of his own State to another. I have known as many as two or three hundred applicants for one block, and in one ease, a few days ago, it was reported that there were 4,000 applicants for a single allotment. Figures such as these suggest that there is a great landhunger. The fact is, however, that whenever a good block is available for selection, the local policeman, postmaster, and publican, and every other speculator, tries to obtain it.
– All have the right to apply for blocks.
– Yes; but when one makes allowance for speculators and informal applications, one discovers that the only land hunger is for blocks in particular localities. The number of persons anxious to obtain land in other than their own districts is very small. When the proposed migration agreement was under’ discussion in the New South Wales Parliament two or three years ago, the Government, in expectation of its ratification, resumed three or four big estates with the object of settling them on a 50-50 basis. The consummation of the scheme was delayed, and, as people were crying out for the land, it decided to go ahead on its own, and it settled the area practically with local people. Many other parts of New South Wales are capable of carrying a much larger population. The Riverina affords an excellent illustration of how a district may develop. The explorers who discovered it reported in Sydney that it was a desert not fit for white men to inhabit, and that the temperature was in the region of 100 degrees in the shade. But it has made magnificent progress. In the last decade Wagga has developed more rapidly than any other town in New South Wales. The mallee country is another instance of condemned country prospering. It was once regarded as hopeless for settlement purposes, but, to-day, it is the granary of Victoria and South Australia. Much of the country in Western Australia was regarded for many years as desert; but such great progress has been made in wheat production there in the last few years that the eastern States must look to their laurels if they wish to retain supremacy. I am sure that we could settle thousands more people on our agricultural and grazing lands. . Years ago, men were not considered to own land unless they had several hundred thousand acres; but now even our squatters with their few thousand acres are passing out. Around Nowra and Shoalhaven River, in my district, many settlers are making a success on 5-acre blocks, on which they grow beans, peas, and other produce for the Sydney market. A good deal of the land along the Murray River which was once obtainable at £3 or £4 an acre is now being intensely cultivated. A few Spaniards who came from South Australia started growing tomatoes there, and nowadays many people are doing better on 3 acres than the original holders did on 300. I am glad that the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria have reached an agreement with regard to railway development in. the Riverina. When the lines now under construction are completed, a considerable area of new country will be available for settlement-. I have had sufficient experience of land settlement to realize that Londoners who have never seen a broad tract of farm country are just as likely to succeed in mixed-farming pursuits as any other people. Quite a number of our bank clerks have recently taken up farming. They came into touch with land-holders who did business with their bank, and decided to launch out on their own; at the moment, I cannot think of a single instance of failure, notwithstanding their lack of training. If a man’s heart is right, and he is not afraid of work, he is more than likely to do well on the land.
– But £34,000,000 is involved in this proposal; and we must have some definite scheme.
– I consider that in the very near future this commission will need much more than £34,000,000. Up to date all our migration schemes have failed. It is for that reason that I am favorable to the Government embarking on this experiment. The Commonwealth and State Governments, acting in cooperation have so far been responsible for migration, and’ they have not been able to agree upon the adoption of a definite policy; but the members of this commission are very likely to work harmoniously and, I think, successfully. I believe that the commission will be able to establish sufficient public works to absorb, not only the unemployed in Australia, but also a great many artisans and labourers from overseas. The constructional period of these big jobs will give the migrants an opportunity to look round and find a place in the general life of the community. I have been greatly surprised at the very few migrants I have met in Australia who are engaged in the occupation or calling which they intended to follow when they left their home land. Men who came out here with the intention of engaging as blacksmiths are on the land, and agricultural workers are in the building trade, and so on, but none of them are starving.
– A man is not able to spokeshave his own son into a position, so how can the Government be expected to do it.
– In most cases the sons are doing better than their fathers.. I have great faith in Australia. I believe that it could support thousands more settlers. I am not favorable to the Government spoon-feeding migrants to any great extent. Our pioneer settlers were able to get on without it, and so should the new settlers who come here. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) said last night that if Ave expected new settlers to do as well as our pioneers we should give them similar conditions. He said that the early settlers in South Australia were able to obtain a block of land in the City of Adelaide for next to nothing, which they afterwards sold for thousands of pounds; or- they were able to climb an eminence and say, “ I will take up all the country I can see for myself, and what I cannot see I reserve for my children.” That may happen today, just as it did years ago. For instance, a man could go to the Northern Territory and take up all the land he could see for a rental of half a crown; and he would be just as likely to do well as those who took up land around Adelaide. We shall have many more Adelaides on the map in the future. There are still great opportunities in this country for people with initiative and faith. Our population is increasing more rapidly, proportionately, than that of most other countries in the world ; but we could still do much better. Things are in a critical state in Great Britain, and we should bring as many Britishers here as we can. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) said that, many years ago, Britain, with a population of 2,500,000, was not afraid of the world, but she did not consider that her handful of people enabled her to defeat the Spanish Armada, for after that great event in her history the Government had a medal struck bearing the motto, “ Jehovah blew, and they were scattered,” or some such words. Our handful of people may be just as ready to acknowledge their trust in a greater power, but we should all feel more comfortable about it if, instead of having a population! of 6,000,000, we had 12,000,000. The honorable member for Adelaide said that the people in the East were not likely to trouble us, and that, even if they did, it was the duty of Great Britain to help us. That is very like a child growing into manhood, and saying, “ I do not care what happens, my parents must look after me.” Perhaps the foundation that Great Britain laid in Australia was not as worthy as it might have been; but she has done great things for us in the last half-century or so, and we ought to recognize it. She is the biggest consumer of our primary produce.
– God help us if she should turn us down !
– We should be up against it but for Great Britain. We have to realize that the O’ld Country is over-populated. Her people must either die of starvation or migrate to Australia, or some of the other British dominion s, or else drift to the United States of America, South America, or some other country which, hi the future, might be at enmity with us. In these circumstances, we should do our utmost to absorb as many Britishers as possible. I regret that Professor Griffith Taylor has been so pessimistic about the future nf Australia,- and to our detriment, has advertised to the world his view that much of our empty country is useless. There are two views on that matter. A gentleman from the United States of America, whose name has slipped my mind for the moment, followed Professor Griffith Taylor to Australia, and he told a very different story. From his experience of bare and arid country in America, similar to much of ours in the Northern Territory, he said that wonderful possibilities were ahead of us. It is a pity that Australians have so much to say against their own country. Honorable members on this side, as well as honorable members opposite, are altogether too hypercritical at times. I understand that the American school-boy is taught to believe that his country, his district, his town, his railways, his telephone system, and his everything, are unexcelled elsewhere; and it becomes his pride to boast about them. It would be a good thing for Australia if she took a leaf out of America’s book. We have every reason for optimism. Our wheat-producing areas are gradually being extended. I can well remember when wheat-growing in New South Wales was confined to the Riverina. When gold-mining operations ceased at Wyalong, many men engaged in wheatgrowing with very satisfactory results. Further north, at Narromine, on the western line, wheat-growing has also been extensively undertaken, and, during the last two years, that district has shown the best wheat yield for the whole of the State. Manufactories in Australia have extended considerably during the last eight or ten years, owing to the changed circumstances which have arisen in consequence of the war, to the protective Customs duties imposed, and to the assistance rendered in different ways by various governments. Australia can now be regarded as a producing nation, as our primary and secondary industries are making satisfactory progress. We wish to maintain the wages at present paid, the high standard of living which our people enjoy, and we do not wish men to work longer than is economically necessary; but, if our industries are to develop, we must have a larger population. At present we are unable to supply the Orient or the islands of the South Seas, which are practically at our door. I was recently informed, on reliable authority, that Australian manufacturers cannot supply even New Zealand with certain goods which are being successfully produced in Melbourne. As the wages we pay to our workmen are higher than those paid in other countries, and we wish to maintain our standard of living, our population must be increased so that a greater home market will be provided for our products. There are one or two provisions in the bill which, I think, might be amended. I do not know why the agreement should be made retrospective to 1922, particularly as it has not been ratified by this Parliament. I think the position would be met if it included those migrants who came to Australia in 1925. If certain British migrants have been induced to settle in Australia on the understanding that this arrangement was being entered into, they should be assisted. A good deal has been said during the debate concerning the high standard of living in Australia, and that, by coming to the Commonwealth, migrants will greatly improve their position. That is true to a certain extent. Generally speaking, Australians are not boastful when compared with Americans, but they frequently are when speaking of the standard of living in Australia. The average basic wage in Australia is £4 4s. a week, but the purchasing power of a similar wage in the Old Country is 60 per cent, greater than in Australia. When considering the standard of living, we should also take into account the purchasing power of money in other countries. Before I was elected a member of this House I met a gentleman from South Africa, who came to Australia with his wife and two children with the intention of settling here. I introduced him to several officers in the State departments of New South Wales, who did not appear at all inclined to give him the informationhe desired. I endeavoured to get in touch with certain Federal officers to see if they could help him, but with unsatisfactory results. This prospective settler was willing to invest thousands of pounds in Australia, but as the officials of the Commonwealth and State departments were not at all anxious to assist him he eventually left Australia. In travelling on the south coast line in the vicinity of Boga and Cooma I met two men who had recently arrived from South America. They approached certain State officials in Sydney concerning the possibility of taking up land in Australia, but, apart from supplying them with maps containing a few meagre particulars, and an introduction to a local auctioneer, they received little help. They eventually returned to Sydney, and as they did not wish to’ spend money in travelling over the country to obtain information which should have been supplied to them, they drifted away. They seemed satisfied with the climate and the possibility of making good, but were not treated as . they should have been. Years ago they had left Great Britain to settle in South America, and they came to Australia where their language was spoken and where they could mix with their own countrymen. In view of the treatment meted out to these prospective settlers, I trust that it will be the duty of the commission, not only to look after those who are brought to Australia under this scheme, but also to assist persons who are willing to pay their own passages.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) was doubtless under a misapprehension when he accused the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) of saying that there were better opportunities for British migrants in Brazil and Venezuela than in Australia. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was merely showing that Australia, with its smaller population, produced more per head of population than the countries I have mentioned. The honorable member for EdenMonaro also said that he would not object if the 1,500,000 or 2,000,000 who are unemployed in Great Britain landed in Australia to-morrow. That to me seems a very rash way of peopling this great Commonwealth. I would prefer to support the common-sense proposition submitted by . the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who made certain suggestions which are worthy of serious consideration. The honorable member for Henty has been closely associated with the Department of Immigration, both in Great Britain and in Australia, and a great deal of what he has said has previously been advocated by honorable members on this side of the House. He made it clear that he would not assent to a migration policy which would, be likely to displace Australians from their employment, and reduce the standard of living, and that any scheme for bringing large numbers of people to these shores must be preceded by development and preparation.
– That is the policy of the Government.
– The majority of honorable members opposite have said a great deal about migration to the almost entire neglect of development. Several of them indulged in scaremongering by suggesting that Australia is menaced by some Eastern nation. All the authoritative pronouncements I have read from the most advanced countries in the East indicate that their governments have no designs upon Australia, and’ they resent the imputations made upon their good faith. I know of nothing more calcu-lated to cause irritation and trouble than references of the kind that have been made in the course of this debate, We are all agreed on the maintenance of the White Australia policy, and I, as an advocate of the development and populating of this country with white people, strongly deprecate the sinister suggestions that have been made against Oriental peoples who are living in amity with us. Honorable members would be wise to refrain from making such statements, which may prejudice Australian interests by causing umbrage to other peoples. I think the honorable member for Kennedy interjected that he feared the menace from the East.
– I did not say that.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s correction, but certainly the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) went too far in that direction. Nothing is more likely to foment trouble than to practically invite foreign nations to do something which I believe they have no intention of doing. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) spoke in the same strain, but more mildly. He drew attention to the opinions held by other peoples regarding the White Australia policy, and quoted from the proceedings of the World Labour Migration Congress, which has just concluded its sittings. I do not believe in quoting abbreviated newspaper reports, especially cablegrams, as conclusive evidence. Newspaper accounts of even the most important conferences held overseas are necessarily abbreviated, and usually it is wise to await the more extensive reports received by mail, or the official reports made by the Australian delegates upon their return. Unintentionally, no doubt, the honorable member for Boothby quoted only part of the newspaper cable message regarding the Migration Congress, and I therefore quote it in full -
London, 25th June.
The Labour Migration Congress yesterday appointed a committee representing both emigrating and immigrating countries, of which Messrs. Evatt,. Kitson, and Wilson are members, to propose the codifying of all proposed resolutions and the’ drafting of a comprehensive scheme embodying, first, a declaration of general principles, and, secondly, implementing those principles requiring immediate action.
The committee sat till after midnight. There was a bitter fight over a Continental resolution that all migration should be free, and demanding the abrogation of regulations restricting migrants on the grounds of race, nationality, or colour. Finally, however, these proposals were jettisoned, including the Independent Labour party’s proposal that immigrants should not be excluded merely on the grounds of race or colour. The committee compromised by formulating a declaration admitting that an inrush of migrants into immigrating countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa- might in certain cases endanger local workers by depressing wages and lowering conditions, but nevertheless affirming that it was the duty of all governments to solve migration problems in a manner that would be conducive to international peace and goodwill and the protection of the interests of immigrants.
Motions were carried advocating the prohibition of private migration agencies and transport enterprises, and the substitution of State agencies on which the trade unions would be represented.
When the committee’s report was submitted to the congress to-day, Continental delegates attempted to reintroduce the subject of free migration between all countries. Dr. Evatt, acting on behalf of the dominions, successfully opposed the move, however, and the congress finally adopted the committee’s report en bloc, including the modified resolutions. - A.P.A.
Mr. Adler, secretary to the Second International, pointed out that the resolution demanding the complete freedom of emigration was dropped in order to secure unanimity.
Dr. Evatt said the Australian Labour party objected to the uncompromising expression of “ absolute freedom of migration.” Australia, Canada, and other newer countries would help in the effort to improve the conditions of the workers throughout the world.
– The honorable member for Boothby said nothing inconsistent with that report.
– I do not wish to do him an injustice, but he did not quote the report in extenso.
– But he accurately summarized it.
– He omitted to make it clear to the House that the original proposal for unrestricted migration was diluted until it could receive the unanimous acceptance of the delegates. I cannot conceive that Australian delegates of the calibre of Dr. Evatt and Mr. Kitson would do anything to abrogate the White Australia principle.
– The honorable member for Boothby said that to the credit of those gentlemen they had fought for that priciple.
– Yes, but a perusal of the whole report shows that the final resolution of the Congress included a proposal for the abolition of private migration agencies. In some European countries private organizations are making a business of recruiting migrants and shipping them to Australia. One of the countries referred to have been sending a considerable number of immigrants to Queensland as well as to some of the other States. This business is, I believe, done in conjunction with shipping companies and other transport enterprises. Therefore, it is desirable that trade unions should have representation on all State migration agencies. Honorable members may think that this is a big demand to make, but I submit that, as the trade unionists of Britain, France, and other countries are in a position to know what are the aspirations of their working classes, there is every likelihood that we shall have a better class of migrants in the future. I am satisfied that Labour representatives in Britain, for instance, would be careful to warn the workers of the Mother Country against unduly flooding the Australian labour market. I regret that the honorable member for Boothby is not present, because, if I am under a misapprehension as to what he meant, he could, by interjection, set me right. However, I am confident that when the full report of the conference comes to hand, we shall find that Dr. Evatt, whom we regard as our chief delegate, has furnished a statement that will be entirely satisfactory to the Labour party of Australia. I do not say that the honorable member for Boothby intended to associate Dr. Evatt or the other Australian delegates with what was done. All I have done is to show that they did combat the view put forward by the other delegates. Another statement made by the honorable member for Boothby - and it shows the trend of his thoughts - was that he believed that the day was not far distant when Australia would have to choose between her White Australia policy and the protection of the League of Nations. Speaking for myself, I have no hesitation in saying that if I have any voice in the decision, I shall unhesitatingly vote in favour of the White Australia policy, irrespective of the attitude of the League of Nations.
– It is not likely that the League of Nations would favour the policy.
– One cannot say what may happen. The honorable member for Boothby also mentioned that the voting of the congress on certain questions was seventeen to five. I have no such record. Whatever may be the attitude of the League of Nations in the future in regard to Australian affairs, my voice and vote will always be used for the maintenance of the. White Australia policy in opposition even to any suggestion from such an august body as the League of Nations. If we encourage the introduction of hundreds of thousands of people to Australia without providing remunerative occupations for them, we shall do a grave injustice to these who are already here. The worst possible advertisement Australia can have is a disappointed migrant. Already wo have had convincing evidence of this fact. On several occasions it has been mentioned in this House. Some time ago an English publication known as John Bull published interview after interview with migrants who had returned to the Mother Country. They all spoke disparagingly of the conditions here, and declared that Australia was not a desirable place to come to. No one will deny, of course, that many migrants are doing well, but we need to be exceedingly careful in the selection of future immigrants. We must see to it that we are able to absorb them without dislocating our industrial conditions. A considerable sum of money is to be borrowed from Great Britain to give effect to the Government’s migration scheme. Some honorable members have said that the Mother Country has displayed wonderful magnanimity over this matter. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Poster) the other night spoke very feelingly on the subject. As a native of Great Britain, it is only natural that he should be whole-hearted in his support of the proposals. He declared that Britain had done a great deal for Australia. I remind him that, in the earlier stages of our development, at all events, certain British statesmen would have been only too glad to get rid of the “ entanglements “ of the colonies, and for a time the British Government gave free passages to a number of people who, as a former governor remarked on one occasion, were regarded as the birth stain of the Commonwealth. But there are two sides to this question. Whilst Britain may have done a great deal for this country, Australia also has done a great deal for Britain. The bulk of our trade is done with the Mother Country, which benefits to the extent of about £70,000,000 a year, and, unfortunately, there was a suspicion some time ago that a large proportion of the goods imported from Britain under the British preferential tariff was actually manufactured in European countries, imported to England, finished there, and then sent to Australia. The departmental regulation increasing the proportion of British labour and material to 75 per cent, has, perhaps, removed some of the objections. Those who talk about the preference which Britain gives to Australian produce should also be reminded of the preference which Australia gives to British goods. I have certain information to show that the British Government has done little to relieve unemployment in England, and that huge sums of money are being paid for work that is being carried out in other countries. It makes one look askance at any proposal of the British Government to help this country. Recently a loyal British shipping company placed an order with a British shipbuilding firm, although its tender was £35,000 more than a German tender. Quite a number of other shipping companies have placed orders for vessels at Hamburg and other foreign ports on account of the low cost of the work there. I should not be at all surprised if some of the material that is being used in the construction of the two Australian cruisers has been manufactured in some other country than Great Britain. That country should do far more than it is doing at present to give employment to its people. Instead of fixing the hours and conditions of labour for the miners, the British Government should pay more attention to the mine-owners and the landowners. Every year, Great Britain has to import £300,000,000 worth of foodstuffs, yet there are thousands of acres of good land in that country suitable for cultivation which are now being used as deer parks and for purposes of sport. The British Government receives no sympathy from the Labour party in its desire to unload some of its unemployed in this country. It is well known .that the loan of £34,000,000 will not be received in actual cash. We pay Great Britain, every year, £70,000,000 for its manufactured goods. Under this agreement we shall obtain an additional £34,000,000 worth of British goods, spread over a number of years. This will throw the people of this country more and more out of employment, and actually lessen the opportunity of settling on the land the immigrants that we propose to bring here under the proposed scheme.
– Our business is to see that, as far as possible, only goods that we cannot manufacture here are imported from Great Britain.
– Nearly half of the materials that we import from Great
Britain to-day could be manufactured in Australia, but we have neither the capital nor the skilled tradesmen to enable us to compete successfully with British firms. We should welcome any extension of their businesses to Australia. Some of them have already established branches here, and are employing hundreds of Australians. We should do all in our power to induce oversea firms to establish businesses here. Portion of the Prime Minister’s speech on this subject reads -
I have been approached by very many men having command of capital and controlling great industries in Great Britain, who have asked me for information regarding the possibility of establishing their works here, but I have had to look as wise as I could in discussing such matters with those who have called upon me.
That is a lamentable admission. The Prime Minister was at one time the head of a great business firm, and yet, in discussing with British manufacturers the possibility of establishing business here, he confesses that he had to “ look as wise as he could.”
– That was his natural modesty.
– He was doing Australia a bad turn. If the Prime Minister had not the information asked for, he should have referred the British manufacturers to Australia House.
– The honorable member may rest assured that the Prime Minister gave all possible encouragement to those manufacturers.
– I am taking the Prime Minister’s own statement. I admit that he used it to show the necessity for appointing a commission, but no business firm in Great Britain would establish a branch here on the recommendation, of any commission. British business firms interested in Australia usually send their representatives here. If the Prime Minister refuses to encourage Australian industries when he is in England, how can we expect Australia House to live up to its reputation ? I do not wish to condemn Sir Joseph Cook, the High Commissioner, because I do not think he is to blame, but I have been informed that our own business men, when seeking information at Australia House,, have received scant courtesy. Mention has been made in this debate of £15,000,000 worth of notes that were supposed to have been lent to the private banks in order to assist the exportation of our commodities.
– Statistics disprove that.
– More than £2,000,000 was required, for the purpose, and the money must have been obtained somewhere. I am informed that should a prominent person call at Australia House and be desirous of attending social functions, he will receive every assistance, whereas those having important business to transact frequently receive the cold shoulder from the officials.
– The honorable member should give the names of the officials concerned.
– I could name them, and I intend to name one of them in the proper quarter. When in Australia, complaints of a similar nature were made regarding him ; but I believe that in London, where he occupies a high position under the High Commissioner, his actions are worse than they were here. Such officials “ive no encouragement to the people who desire to come here. This bill will add £34,000,000 to Australia’s indebtedness. The bargain is a bad one. One of the worst aspects of this question i*3 that the money is coming from the other side of the world, which means that goods to the value of £34,000,000 will be imported, and that work which could be done in this country will be sent out of Australia. During the ensuing financial year loans amounting to £60,000,000 will fall due. Of that amount,. £28,000,000 is payable in the Commonwealth, and the balance in London. New South Wales has to redeem during the year £12,616,000 in Australia, and £5,096,000 in London; Victoria, £1,728,000 in Australia, and £1,304,000 in London; Queensland, £4,000,000 in Australia, and nothing in London; South Australia, £2,000,000 in Australia, and £4,741,000 in London; Western Australia, nothing in Australia, and £5.550,000 in London; and Tasmania, £789,000 in Australia, and £867,000 in London. The Federal Government has to redeem £6,966,000 in Australia, and £12,750,000 in London. Many of the loans which will become due during the year were floated years ago when the rates of interest were as low as 3£ or 3 per cent., and in no case higher than 4 per cent. To-day, money cannot be obtained abroad at less than 5 per cent. Honorable members may ask what we can do if we do not borrow abroad. We were told during the war that to float loans in Australia would retard our development; but to-day half of the loans redeemable by the Commonwealth during the ensuing financial year were floated in Australia. The balance, with the exception of about £15,000,000 obtained recently in New York by the Federal Government, and some obtained by the Queensland Government a few years earlier, is due in London. For the most part it is- correct to say that our borrowed money has come from London. So long as Australia has to meet an annual interest bill of £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 outside Australia, goods to that value will continue to come here. It is a significant fact that since Australia obtained loans from the United States of America our importations from that country have increased. The borrowing of this £34,000,000 will not assist us materially. I understand that Mr. Gepp has been asked to accept the chairmanship of the commission to be appointed. - I admit that he is an exceptionally well qualified man, but whether he will make these schemes as successful as he has made other enterprises, I do not know. He is, however, a fine type of man, possessing considerable knowledge and wisdom. Moreover, he is a good organizer.
– That is a most important qualification.
– Whatever the commission may do for Australia, we cannot disguise the fact that a new department will be established. It may be possible’ to obtain the loan of some officers from the State Governments, but it needs no prophet to predict that before many years have passed a fairly large staff will be attached to the commission. Some important duties will devolve upon the commission. It will be empowered to acquire land and prepare it for settlement, construct roads and bridges, construct and equip developmental railways and tramways, not including main trunk railways, as well as to establish hydro-electric and water services, and other similar works. Already a good deal has been done in this connexion by the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria. Notwithstanding the criticism to which it has been subjected, or the considerable expense involved, I believe that the Electricity Commission in Victoria is doing good work in this State. Later, we shall derive the full benefit of it. Many persons do not yet realize the scope of the Victorian electricity scheme, lt extends from Warrnambool in the south, to Melbourne 160 miles away, and for another 200 miles to Albury, and there is, with the exception of one or two small breaks, a continuous line of electrical power undertakings from there to Brisbane. All the schemes have been designed .with the idea of ultimately linking them up, so that there will be electrical connexion from the north to the south of the continent. Our electricians are taking a truly Australian, and not a Victorian, point of view, and they are doing their bit towards the development of this continent. The appointment of this commission was not necessary for the linking up of the electrical schemes in this country. I hope that, as between the Commonwealth and the States, there will be no interference, but a proper degree of collaboration. Even if I found no cause for protesting against the agreement, I should certainly have to protest against the Government entering into an agreement before consulting this Parliament. Such a practice leaves the decision almost with one man, the right honorable the Prime Minister. It is not right for any prime minister, however strong he may think himself, to enter into an agreement with the British Government to borrow £34,000,000.
– Nothing will be done unless this bill is passed.
– The Commonwealth has been negotiating with the States on this subject for nearly two years. Although some honorable members think that this is a gilt-edged proposition, the State Premiers have been hesitating for a long time about it, and in order to obtain this money, some of them have been compelled to accept conditions that are not palatable to them.
– They were not compelled to accept anything.
– The accumulated debts of the States will be found, when their budgets are announced, to be appalling, and the people of this country must repay, this year, £60,000,000 of loan money. Yet the honorable member says that the States need not accept the agreement. They are compelled to accept it, if they wish to keep their people in employment. Many tragic cases of unemployment come under the notice of honorable members who represent industrial constituencies. The flouting of the Parliament by the Government is not right, and no honorable member can logically defend it. Although, in some particulars, the scheme is good, we shall have to pay too much for the loan. Honorable members may say that the States will be called upon to pay only half the interest, but in the final result the people will have to meet the full interest bill and repay all the principal. There is an easy take-off, but we shall receive a nasty bump in the final stages. The States have accepted the scheme only because of financial stringency.
– Which proves that they regard the terms as excellent.
– I do not think that the honorable member understands the feeling of some of the State Premiers. They accepted the agreement because the money was obtainable cheaply, not because they regarded the scheme as good. In this connexion, I am reminded of a farmer who came to Melbourne to interview a number of immigrants who had arrived on a ship from England. He questioned some of them, told them what they would have to do on his farm, and finally decided upon one young man. He said to him, “ You are no good to me, but catch such and such a train, and come along.” The young man replied, “ If I am no good to you, why are you taking me?” and the farmer said, “Because you are the best I can get in the circumstances. I will give you a trial for three months, and if you do not turn up trumps you will find yourself out on the road.” The last time I heard of that young man he was wandering round the country, but where he is now I do not know.
-Does the honorable member suggest that the State Premiers betrayed their States in order to obtain a little cheap money?
Mr.FENTON. - I do not suggest that there has been any betraying; but some of the State Premiers have accepted this agreement, if not under duress, at least under the impression that nothing better was obtainable. The commission will need to proceed very carefully in carrying out any land settlement schemes. When land was being acquired by the State of Victoria for the settlement of returned soldiers, the Honorable Frank Clarke, a member of a committee entrusted with the task of finding suitable areas for the settlement of the soldiers, made the statement that some most impossible propositions had been submitted to the committee. In fact, he as much as said that the men who had put up such propositions ought to be hounded out of the community. I hope that the commission will carry out its land settlement schemes on lines very different from those followed in the past. I do not say that all the Australian soldier land settlement schemes have proved a failure, but we know that already £5,000,000 has been written off the indebtedness of the States to the Commonwealth in respect of this class of settlement, and it is quite possible that we shall be called upon to forgo a considerably greater amount than the £5,000,000 already written off. When we realize that many of the lads who were settled on the land by means of the money that was advanced by the Commonwealth to the States for this purpose had already practical experience on farms, we can see the great need for care in any scheme now about to’ be launched. Many young fellows who took advantage of the opportunity to engage in farming pursuits had not had practical experience, but, having had two or three years of open-air life, they did not care to return to sedentary occupations. Quite recently, an inspector of lands told me that he did not think that there would he more than 50 per cent. of failures among these settlers. I trust there will not be such a high proportion, but our experience shows the great need for care. An immigrant who recently interviewed me told me that his brother-in-law, a mechanic in England, expected to be thrown out of work, and asked me what I thought would be the prospects of that man in Australia. I told him that, from an employment point of view, the position did not look too good, hut, that as he very likely knew as much about the labour market as I did, he ought to be in a position to give his brother-in-law sound advice on the point. I mention this incident to show that British mechanics are hopeful of making good in Australia. Rome years ago, when we had a flood of immigrants, a group of fifteen or sixteen settled in the Swan Hill district. The chances are that not one of those original settlers is on that area to-day. Most of them gravitated to Melbourne, and engaged in work to which they were more accustomed. If we bring mechanics from Great Britain, before we think of placing them on the land they must be trained to a certain extent in England, and their training must be continued in proper schools in Australia, where the conditions are so different from those obtainingin their own country. I should like to know who will bear the cost of giving them that training. However, with all the precautious we take, the possibilities are that within a little time these immigrants will return to the cities, and the chief object of our scheme will be defeated. Government supporters are determined that the bill must pass. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) may accept a few amendments from his own side, and he may see the virtue of some suggestions put forward from this side.
– When the bill does go through, I am sure it will receive a good measure of support from the honorable member, so that it may be a success.
– When an act is passed, we all do our best to obey it, and make it a success in the interests of the whole community; but I think that this measure will need to be carefully administered.. A great deal will depend on the class of men who are appointed as commissioners. If good men are chosen, and they do the work outlined in the agreement, possibly later on we shall acknowledge that our present fears are unfounded. I hope that that will be the case. Australia has suffered from so many failures in the past that we need to proceed very warily in connexion with any immigration scheme. First of all, we must have the development, that is to say, the preliminary work of preparation ; and I do not think we should extend any welcome to our kith and kin overseas until wo have attended to the requirements of Australians in the matter of employment.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lister) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, Senator Payne had been appointed a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, in place of Senator Lynch, discharged from attendance.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1913-20, Senators J. B. Hayes and McHugh had been appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in place of Senators Foll and Needham, discharged from attendance.
Bill returned from the Senate, with the message that it had agreed to the modifications made in its requests Nos. 3 and 4, and did not press its request No. 15, with which the House of Representatives had not complied; and had agreed to the bill as amended at the request of the Senate.
In committee . (Consideration of the Deputy Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to development and migration.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
House adjourned at 10.57 p.m. .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260701_reps_10_114/>.