10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Eon. Sir littleton Groom)- took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers
– In reply to a question I asked the other day, I was informed that 25 tons of potatoes imported from New Zealand had been condemned in Melbourne. As these potatoes came via Sydney, I should like to know why they were not condemned there-
– I shall procure - the information desired by the honorable member, but I. may add that I have been informed by telegram that the potatoes in question were very carefully inspected in Sydney, ‘ and no trace of disease was found on them there.
– I understand that the news was received in Melbourne this morning that Mr. Allan Cobham, in his flight from Great Britain to Aus tralia, has met with a serious mishap, and that in consequence the flight has been indefinitely postponed. I should like to know if the Prime Minister has had official confirmation of the news.
– No official message has been received by the Government; but I understand that the press has received the information which the honorable member has just detailed. I am glad however, that information has come to hand showing that Mr. Cobham is not seriously’ hurt, although, I am sorry to say, his mechanic has been seriously injured.
Employment of Labour - -Theatre - Architectural Fees,
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories say whether it is true that the Federal Capital Commission has made an arrangement with the Sydney Trades Hall for the supply of labour at Canberra, and that’ only men bearing certificates from that institution can secure employment on Federal Capital works ?
– I do not know what policy the Federal Capital Commission is pursuing in regard to the employment of labour, but if the honorable member will place his question on the noticepaper I shall have the necessary information furnished by the Commission.
– Should I be in order if I explained the circumstances?
– The honorable member would be distinctly out of order in doing so.
– Is the Minister for Works aware that tho principal . clerk of works in the Federal Capital Territory, in order to secure competent workmen, who are hard to get when employment in the cities is plentiful, has entered into an arrangement with the secretaries of the various unions connected with the Sydney Trades Hall, and that the arrangement is working very satisfactorily? If not, will the Minister have inquiry made to see if the position is not as I have stated itf
– I am not aware of the matter which the honorable member has brought under my notice. His question should be addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories.
– In view of the early removal of tie Federal Parliament to Canberra, and the large influx of population that will occur within the next few months, can the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories say whether any practical steps have been taken towards the erection of a suitable hall or theatre there?
– The Federal Capital Commission has under consideration at the moment the erection of a large hall at Canberra. I also understand that a site has been sold for a picture theatre. I shall be pleased to get any further information the honorable desires.
– In the erection of further buildings at Canberra, will the Honorary Minister see that the same blunder is not made as was made in connexion with the erection of the secretariat, the architectural fees for which will involve an expenditure of £38,000 ? Will he see that Commonwealth officers are employed to supervise the erection of any further public buildings?
– The secretariat was erected by the officers of the Works and Railways Department. A second secretariat which is now being built is also being carried out by the officers of the same department. No architectural fees have been paid in connexion with either building.
– In connexion with the meeting of the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations, is it the intention of the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House about the general international position before asking honorable members to discuss the agendapaper and the Government’s policy in relation thereto?
– I hope to place the agenda-paper of the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations on the table of the House this week, and, in moving that it be printed, I shall make a general statement, after which the discussion will be adjourned so that honorable members may have ample time to give the matter consideration.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether or not the dissolution of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada has occasioned the postpone: ment of the forthcoming Imperial Conference ?
– No official intimation in regard to a postponement of the Imperial. Conference has been received.
– Can the Prime Minister tell the House who has bought the five Australian-built Commonwealth steamers, the sale of which has just been announced in the press; the pricepaid, and the part that Lord Inchcape has played in the purchase of them?
– The honorable member is presumably referring to the reported sale of five vessels of the “ D “ and “ E “ class, and if he puts his question on the notice-paper he will be supplied with the information he seeks. But so that there may be no misunderstanding with regard to the matter.I should like to say that the five vessels which have just been sold are vessels which it was determined to sell two years ago ; they have not formed part of the fleet which the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers has been operating between Australia and Great Britain.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Military, and Air Services be represented?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Dismissal of Returned Soldiers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Importations from Germany and England.
– On the 30th June, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following question : -
What proportion of the 8,110 cwt., value £9,770, of electrical conduit piping, tariff item 1S2b, that was imported into Australia since the 1st January, 1026, came from Germany, and what proportion came from England?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Germany, 312 cwt., £284; United Kingdom, 7,180 cwt., £8,428.
– On the 25th June, the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) asked the following questions: -
I then informed the honorable member that in regard to Questions 1 and 2 the information desired would have to be obtained from the Sugar Board, which has control of the sugar industry. More precise particulars were desired as to what refinery is referred to; and that informa tion would be obtained in regard to Question 3. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following additional information: -
If the Yarraville Refinery is refered to, the following are the answers : - .
The Yarraville plant is not, generally speaking, out of date. It can easily cope with the Victorian and North-West Tasmanian demand for sugar, and frequently is able to send supplies to South Australia and Western Australia. Only one breakdown (lasting one week) has occurred for some considerable time.
The coal shortage is entirely responsible for the present sugar shortage. When the Yarraville Refinery resumed after the recent breakdown a quantity of refined sugar was still in stock, and if the coal strike, which deprived the refinery of coal for six weeks, had not occurred, the refinery could have supplied all requirements by working at only 80 per cent, of its capacity. *
No. Raw sugar, which has been in demand during the last fortnight, has invariably been supplied at the net prices stipulated in the Sugar Agreement, viz., £32 10s. 6d. to manufacturers and wholesale merchants, and £33 3s. 9d. to retail merchants and housewives. It is possible that some wholesale merchants and/or retail grocers have sold raw sugar to the public at the same price as refined sugar (thus making a very excessive profit), but this is not a matter within the control of the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Sugar Board, or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.
– I present the report of the Tariff Board in regard to the proposed bounty on seed cotton, and move -
That the report be printed.
.- I should like to have an opportunity to peruse the report, which is of vital importance to the Queensland cotton industry.
– A copy of the report is available for the perusal of honorable members.
– I have just been handed the report; and I find from a hasty glance through the report that the Tariff Board has recommended -
After a careful review of all the evidence tendered at the public inquiries, and as the result of exhaustive independent investigations made, the Tariff Board makes the following recommendation : -
That a bounty be granted in respect of seed cotton grown in Australia.
That the bounty be for a period of ten years from the date of coming into operation of the Bounty Act.
That during the first six years the bounty be at the rate of 2d. per lb. on all seed cotton, other than such seed as would, under the present system of grading as carried out by the Australian ginneries for the purpose of payment for seed, be graded into grades “ D “ or “ XXX.”
That during the last four years the bounty be on a gradually diminishing scale, and that the rates for the re- spectiveyears be as under: -
The cotton-growers have incurred a great deal of expense in clearing land and planting cotton, for which they have not yet received a fair return; indeed, some of them have scarcely made a living wage. Before proceeding with preparations for the next crop they desired to know what assistance they could expect from the Commonwealth. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of the session contained a promise by the Government that this industry would be dealt with as a national one, and that the cotton-growers would be assured of a fair return. Despite the fact that the Tariff Board submitted the recommendation on the 5th May, 1926, that a bounty of 2d. per lb. should be paid for ten years, the Government has withheld the report from Parliament, and, according to a recent statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs, it proposes to disregard the recommendation of the Board, and ask the Parliament to approve of a bounty of from3/4 d. to l1/2d. per lb. That the assistance which the growers seek is reasonable is proved by the fact that it is recommended by the Tariff Board, which is representative of all sections of the community, including the primary producers. In those circumstances, I am amazed that the Government proposes to offer a bounty of only 3/4d. to l1/2d. per lb. When we were dealing with the bill to create a new arbitration authority, the Government said that Parliament was not qualified to determine the conditions of industries, and that the whole matter should be re ferred to an independent tribunal. In regard to the cotton industry, it has reversed that policy. It referred the subject to the Tariff Board, which, after occupying months in taking expert evidence, and thoroughly investigating the circumstances and conditions of the industry, has submitted a recommendation in accordance with the request of the growers. The Government proposes to ignore this report from an independent body, and to pay a bounty of from only3/4d. to l1/2d. per lb. The majority of the Queensland cottongrowers are in my electorate, and, speaking for them and the cotton industry generally, I say that a maximum bounty of 11/2d. per lb. will be quite inadequate. The Government had the opportunity to deal with this industry in a big national way, and it has failed in its duty to the cottongrowers and the people of Australia. The proposed expenditure in connexion with this great industry is small in comparison with the wanton extravagance displayed by the Government in connexion with the Amalgamated Wireless Australia Limited, the search for oil, and other enterprises I could mention which have not and are not likely to return anything like what the cotton industry would return. The cotton industry should be of the greatest importance to Australia, but if it is strangled at birth the action of the Government will seriously affect many persons who have taken up land with the intention of engaging in cotton-growing. Many have mortgaged their properties, and have incurred heavy expenditure in clearing them and purchasing implements. Some are at present carrying heavy financial burdens, and unless they are adequately assisted with a reasonable bounty, the banks will take over their properties. I again appeal to the Government to reconsider the whole question, and to adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– I desire to know if the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) is in order in discussing the whole question of cotton production when the question before the Chair is “ That the report be printed “ ?
– When a motion is’ submitted for the printing of a report, it is not unusual for a discussion to take place on the subject-matter of the report
I understand that the report of the Tariff Board contains certain recommendations, and it is these that the honorable member for Capricornia is discussing.
– I am surprised that a member of the Country party should endeavour to interrupt a discussion on this subject, which vitally affects the primary producers in the electorate which I represent. The honorable member for Swan is evidently attempting to provide a way of escape for the Government instead of endeavouring to assist the cottongrowers. I have appealed to the Government so often to make an early and favorable decision that I feel justified on this occasion in asking that the cotton-growers be more generously treated. This is the only opportunity I may have of asking the Government and the Minister to reconsider the whole question of the bounties to be paid to the cotton-growers. I strongly object to the Government deciding on the amount of the bounty before the Tariff Board’s report had been circulated. When the Minister for Trade and Customs stated on Friday that a bounty of fd. and l$d. per lb. was to be paid, I was not aware that the board had recommended the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb.
– I distinctly stated on Friday that the board had recommended a bounty of 2d. per lb.
– I followed the Minister very closely, but I did not hear him say that. That, however, only makes the position worse for the Government. I had not an opportunity to speak at that stage, because the Minister was making a statement by leave of the House. On the motion for the adjournment, however, I expressed disappointment because the Government had declined to give what the cotton-growers had asked. At that time I did not know what the board had recommended, as I had not had an opportunity to study the voluminous report, which was not available to honorable members, and which I now find contains some hundred pages of foolscap matter. Before this motion is agreed to, ample opportunity should be provided ‘ to consider the board’s report, and so decide whether the Queensland cotton industry should receive further assistance in order to place it on a proper basis. I understand that the Tariff Board has also made a recommendation in regard to the spinning of cotton yarn. Raw cotton produced in Queensland should be used in the manufacture of cotton yarn instead of raw cotton being imported for that purpose. If we are to grow all the cotton necessary for the manufacture of cotton goods used in Australia we shall have to produce 120,000,000 lb. per annum- Last year we produced a little over 17,000,000 lb. Owing to the bad season, rigid grading, and indifferent prices, the cotton growers have not been able to produce cotton at a rate which has shown a reasonable profit, or return a living wage to those engaged in the industry. The cottongrowers are therefore looking to the national Parliament of Australia to give them a fair deal. Although the Tariff Board has recommended the bounty the growers asked for, this Government has flatly turned down its recommendation and proposes offering something which is quite inadequate. I am strongly opposed to such niggardly treatment being meted out to those engaged in the production of cotton, many of whom will be forced off their holdings.
Mr. PRATTEN (Martin- Minister for Trade and Customs) [3.281. - I listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia. I have had sufficient experience to recognize political propaganda when I hear it. The honorable member admitted that he knows nothing about the subject, and that he did not know the nature of the Tariff Board’s report.
– That is wrong. I know more about the subject than the Minister.
– The honorable member is not aware of the reasons which actuated the Government in coming to its decision. I informed the honorable member on Friday last that the Tariff Board had recommended a bounty of 2d. per lb. on seed cotton, but that for reasons which were set out, it had been decided to pay a bounty of 1½d. per lb. “When the proper time arrives, I shall justify the policy of the Government. I remind the honorable member that there are other honorable members of the House representing Queensland constituencies who are as much interested in the subject as he is, and have done a great deal more to secure the payment of a bounty on cotton than has the honorable member for Capricornia. I am surprised that the honorable member has not displayed ordinary business acumen by waiting until he had learned something about the subject instead of making statements such as he has made this afternoon.
– I know more about the subject than the Minister-
– Order ! The honorable member for Capricornia was given an opportunity to express fully his views on this subject, and he should extend the same courstesy tothe Minister as was shown to him.
– Is the Minister in order in making a personal attack upon the honorable member for Capricornia ?
– The Minister is quite in order in what he has said so far.
– The Government has sympathetically considered the position of the cotton-growing industry. As a business man, I have given the matter a great deal of personal attention, and when the proper time arrives, shall justify the whole conclusions which the Government has reached, and which will be submitted for the verdict of the House
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - Nos. 10, 11, and 1.2 of 1926 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1926, No. 90.
Iron and Steel Bounty Act - Statement, dated 30th June, 1926, setting out particulars relating to approval given for the use of imported materials in the manufacture of products upon which bounty may be paid.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 83.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 2nd July, vide page 3785) :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- “ the principal Migration Agreement “ means the Agreement dated the eighth day of April One thousand nine hundred and twenty-five made between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia in relation to the migration of suitable persons from the United Kingdom to Australia; “ a supplementary Migration Agreement “ means an agreement made between the Commonwealth and a State for the purpose of carrying out the objects for which the principal Migration Agreement was made.
– I understand that there is a provision in the agreement that £75 shall be granted to the States for every migrant received, and £1,000 for every migrant settled on the land. Although the word “ States “ is employed, I assume that the scheme is applicable to the territories under the control of the Commonwealth. The right honorable the Prime Minister stated that up to 50 per cent, of the assistance to be provided could be granted to Australians - and by “Australians “ he meant, I presume, Australian citizens. I was delighted to read that statement, because thousands of young Australians are anxious to play their part in the development of this country. The object of the bill is to populate and develop Australia, and it promotes settlement in those parts that need settlement most, it will serve a great national purpose. The parts that need the most attention are the great undeveloped areas outback, on which the Government would be wise to concentrate its efforts rather than on the congested metropolitan districts. The north and north-west of Australia can absorb all the surplus population of Great Britain, with benefit to them as well as to the Commonwealth and the Empire. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that £1,000 was insufficient to meet the cost of settling a migrant on the land. I agree that that statement is correct in regard to the southern States, where settlement schemes have failed in the past because of the high capital cost of land. Failure in 99 cases out of 100 has been due, not to the unproductivity of the land, but to the inflation of its capital cost, which has entailed the payment of crippling amounts of interest. As the interest has to be paid out of the produce of the land, it is easy to see that inflating the capital cost causes failure. That difficulty is almost unavoidable in carrying out settlement schemes in the. southern States, where large estates have been held by their present owners for a long time, and values have been so inflated from year to year that the capital cost of the land, if purchased or resumed, is out of proportion to the revenue that can be obtained from it. Although I agree that £1,000 per settler is insufficient to provide for settlement under those conditions,- I, nevertheless, claim that such an amount is adequate for settlement in the outback, where the Government has hundreds of thousands of square miles of land, the initial cost of which would not be a burden upon the settlers in the pioneering stages of development. If a settler were placed on such land, and could invest almost the whole of his capital in improvements and stock, there would be nothing to prevent him from being successful. I have just returned from central Australia, where I travelled many miles east and west of the telegraph line, and conversed with men who were almost penniless four years ago, but who can sign their names to substantial cheques to-day. They went there without capital, their only assets being their hands and the will to conquer. Many thousands of square miles of that country are still in their virgin state, and if a mau of the right type were given a start there with 500 sheep he could not fail to make good. When I made that statement previously the truth of it was questioned, but I have been confirmed in my opinion by seeing the results achieved by men who started with from 100 to 200 sheep each. Surely the outback places need development more than do the city areas. Although the bill specifically refers to the States, I hope that the right honorable the Prime Minister will not overlook the large number of persons who are anxious to take advantage of the scheme in the outback. If there is any question about the availability of suitable Australians, I can guarantee to supply, within three weeks, one hundred Australian settlers under the scheme, and I can further guarantee that there will be no failures among them. Their success will be assured by the absence of debt on the land. There is nothing to prevent the Government from settling at least the first batch -of migrants in those parts, and, if it did so, it would strengthen the weakest link in the chain of Australian defence. The failure experienced in connexion with the soldier settlement scheme was not due to the unproductive nature of the land, but to its high capital cost. So much money was absorbed in the purchase of land instead of stock and improvements, that the overhead charges became too great a burden for the soldiers to bear. I know men who, in the last five years, have become fairly prosperous in Central and Northern Australia, although, when they settled in that country, their only capital was an axe and, as I have said, the will to conquer. I realize that from an agricultural point of view the land may not be equal to that in the southern States, but it is equal to the best pastoral land in the Commonwealth. There is sufficient evidence to convince the most sceptical that successful settlement could be accomplished there. Even the most severe critics of the Northern Territory admit the great sheep-carrying capacity of the Barkly Tablelands. Numerous properties are for sale in that area, and they could be purchased at a lower price per square mile than would be charged for an acre in the southern States. The northern, north-eastern, and north-western parts of Australia are destined to be among the most important wool-producing areas in the Commonwealth. When I was about a hundred miles east of Alice Springs recently, I saw horses that were averaging £30 a head in the Adelaide market. Although this country is said to be unsuitable for cattle, I saw cattle that had been raised there that were fetching £7 10s. a head at Alice Springs, despite a period of drought that had not been equalled in the last 30 years. There is no other part of Australia where two months after rain, fat stock can be sent to market. If the opportunities for migration and development in this locality are considered in an unbiased manner, it will be realized that there is no more promising field for the absorption of settlers from overseas. It is futile and unnecessary to dump migrants down in the cities in competition with industrialists. I am satisfied that the sum of £1,000 would be more than sufficient to meet the requirements of each settler in the initial stages. Within a few weeks I could obtain hundreds of persons who would be willing to settle in Central and Northern Australia if adequate government assistance were forthcoming. After all, who have greater rights to the privileges to be conferred under the migration agreement than the Australians? Many of them are prevented from going on the land at the present time merely because there are numerous applicants for every block available in the southern States. There is plenty of room in tho north for all who are land hungry. I am convinced that I could not do better than settle my own sons on the land there. It would be unprofitable to pay the prices asked for land in the south capable of yielding up to 18 bushels of wheat to the acre, because the capital cost would be too high. The only alternative is for settlers to push back into the interior. Several men who have done well with sheep in outlying parts of the Commonwealth have asked me to endeavour to secure the services of young men who would be willing to put their heart into this enterprize if they were given some interest in it. At one time these landholders could obtain the assistance of aborigines, but now they are almost unable to do so, and those that are obtainable are unreliable. Some of them are endeavouring to get helpers through the “ Big Brother “ movement. I am sure that, if the Government investigated the possibilities of successful settlement in those vast areas they would find a means of absorbing the whole of the migrants to be brought out under the present scheme for a number of years, to the great advantage of Australia and the Empire generally. It is true that the North Australian Commission has the responsibility of settling the northern portion of the Northern Territory, but the development of the great area south of the 20th parallel of latitude, which is not under the jurisdiction of that body, is equally important. If the necessary money were advanced for settlement there, millions of sheep could be raised within five years. Preference should be given to Australians who have been unsuccessful in obtaining land in the south and elsewhere. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will give serious consideration to this aspect of the problem of migration.
.- The principal agreement mentioned in the bill contains so many anomalies that I doubt if the Prime Minister has studied it, and certainly I defy any honorable member to understand it. I believe that it has been signed by some of the States, but it is gratifying that Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, is alive to the interests of his State, and has declined to be a party to it. It is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Australia. Honorable members should note that the agreement was made in Great Britain, where it was signed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and by Sir Joseph Cook, the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia. What do the authorities in Great Britain know about the conditions of land settlement in Australia? This responsibility properly belongs to the Governments of the various States. The agreement provides that loan moneys to be made available under it may be utilized for the construction of sugar mills, butter factories, tramways, and other public works tending to assist in the development of rural areas. Surely we can provide for all these undertakings out of our own revenue. Our credit should be sufficient to meet all our needs. If the Sydney City Council decides to extend any of its public undertakings, it obtains the permission of the State Treasurer, and issues debentures which are taken up by the people of New South Wales, on the security furnished by the council. The people of Australia should be warned that they are being deluded in connexion with these migration schemes. I have to admit that, till a few days ago, I had not studied the agreement carefully, but having informed my mind concerning the migration proposals of the Government, and the conditions of the principal agreement, I am entirely opposed to the whole scheme. Our Constitution provides that all proposals for expenditure of public moneys shall be made by means of message from the Crown. The agreement overrides that valuable safeguard, and for that reason it is unsound and dangerous. May I remind honorable members that it is quite possible that the life of some of the materials used in the construction of public works may be shorter than the actual term of the loan? No one doubts the ability of the Prime Minister, but it is obvious that, in the pressure of other public duties he has not had time to study the agreement. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr, Maxwell) knows that invariably long agreements contain many contradictory provisions. Nearly all of the works mentioned in the agreement could be undertaken in the ordinary way by the Public Works Departments of the several States without the intervention of the proposed commission, which will prove to be an expensive and unsatisfactory body. I have been assured by people whose opinion I value that the agreement definitely abrogates our recognized constitutional safeguards in relation to the expenditure of public moneys, and that, therefore, the Prime Minister should not have signed it. I enter my strongest objection to the bill, and I hope that honorable members will not allow the agreement to pass unchallenged. The agreement involves a departure from the ordinary procedure applying to loans. Under it the Secretary of State for the Dominions will have power to veto any proposal placed before him by the Commonwealth. What does he know of the conditions of land settlement in Australia? The agreement makes provision for the building of cottages. If we want homes for the immigrants who come here, why not build them out of ordinary loan moneys? Loans obtained under the agreement will prove to be very expensive. I am not opposed to migration under certain conditions, but the agreement has been conceived by prominent persons in England whose first consideration is the sale of their goods to Australia. The scheme has evidently been drawn up hastily. When the Labour party was in power it did not hesitate to rectify errors in the drafting of bilk. Surely this Government will not refuse to rectify anomalies in the agreement? Let us wipe it out altogether. The commission could then make its own arrangements with the shipping companies overseas for the passages of immigrants to Australia and for any loans that i; desired to obtain abroad. Why should it be necessary for the commission to ask the approval of the Secretary of State for works such as the construction of tramways and the building of cottages? Such a procedure takes away from this House a measure of responsible government. The British Government, taking (full advantage of the inexperience of this Government, has driven a hard bargain with the Commonwealth. If the commission is to be appointed, why not give it power to carry out all works for immigration purposes? When we built railways in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in Australia out of loan moneys, it was not necessary to ask the approval of the Secretary of State for the Dominions. The agreement will prove ineffective. Surely we are capable of conducting our own affairs. The older members of this House must know that the conditions laid down under the agreement are impossible, and really insult our intelligence. There will be considerable delay in obtaining the authority of the Secretary of State to certain expenditure, and, if the Prime Minister is wise, he will reject the agreement altogether. If we borrow money in the ordinary way, we shall know where we stand, but I defy anybody to estimate what the expenditure will be under the agreement. It is an absolute puzzle to me, and there are more flaws in it than in any other agreement in existence. There is really nothing definite in its provisions. The British Government has submitted this scheme to relieve itself of some of its responsibilities respecting its unemployed by giving them an opportunity to live in Australia under decent conditions. I am at a loss to understand the attitude of honorable members who are not opposed to the agreement. It will not be possible to alter it, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) will admit. We must take it or leave it. I can inform the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) that if his constituents saw this bill, and knew that he had voted for it, his seat would be in jeopardy. Every page of the agreement contains something to which serious objection can be taken. If cottages are to be built for immigrants, or tramways or bridges constructed, the Public Works Department, or the commissioners to be appointed under this bill, should do the work. So long as the commission showed that it was capable of carrying out the work, Parliament would not hesitate to make available the necessary funds. I ask the committee to reject the agreement.
Mr. GULLETT (Henty) [4.17!.- I desire to move an amendment to the definition of the principal migration agreement, because I consider that it should be made clear that the existing agreement is not necessarily final. I should like to have the Government’s assurance that, should good reason be shown for amending the principal agreement, no opposition to its amendment would be offered. Subject to the approval of all the parties to the agreement, it is desirable that there shall be power to amend it. In my opinion, the new commission should, so far as possible, be given a free hand; it should not be handed a charter already finalized. If it is to be the body that we desire it shall be, it should be authorized to recommend a revision of the agreement, if necessary, subject, of course, to the consent of all the parties thereto. But apart from that aspect of the question, the agreement is capable of considerable improvement. Without detaining the committee long, I shall direct attention in two ways in which I think it could be improved. The agreement sets out that at least one-half of the new farms to be provided by the State Governments under this scheme shall be allocated to migrants. That proportion is altogether too high. I object to so large a proportion of the farms being placed in the hands of totally or relatively inexperienced men, while there are experienced men in this country seeking land. Such a condition is undesirable from the point of view of the taxpayers, . both of Great Britain and Australia.
– This agreement can bc amended at any time with the consent of all the parties.
– At present, it is a final agreement; it is the only agreement with Great Britain referred to hi the bill; under it the commission will be. required to operate. I should like the Government to make it clear that no objection will be offered to any amendment of the agreement shown to be desirable or necessary. Instead of providing that one-half of the farms to be provided under this scheme shall bc set apart for new migrants, the Government should consent to a variation of the agreement in favour of landless Australians. My second objection to the agreement is that, despite what has already been said, Britain’s contribution in interest is nominal compared with what the Australian taxpayers will be called upon to pay. It is true that, out of £17,000,000 payable in interest during the first ten years, the British Government will pay £7,000,000; but assuming that these loans will continue for 30 years, the total interest bill will be £51,000,000, of which £44,000,000 will be paid by the Australian taxpayers. It will, therefore, be seen that Australia, in addition to repaying the whole of the principal amount, will pay the greater part of the interest. In those circumstances, it does not seem equitable that the migrants should be entitled to one-half of the farms to be made available.
– Does the honorable member suggest that wo should place our own people on farms in connexion with which the British Government will pay a proportion of the interest bill?
– I do. The basis of the agreement should be that for every £1,000,000 advanced by Great Britain, Australia shall absorb a certain number of people; not that they must necessarily settle on the land. We should merely undertake to absorb them into this community, and to do the best we can for them. The offer of Australian wages and conditions is sufficient to induce Britishers engaged in secondary industries to come to Australia; it is not necessary to add to that inducement the promise of a farm on easy terms. Britain’s aim is not necessarily to settle numbers of her people on the land in Australia, but to enable them to come here to enjoy a greater measure of prosperity than is possible in the Homeland; to create a market for her manufactures; and to provide a greater measure of defence in this portion of the Empire. The British Government should not stipulate - and it would not, if it realized the true position - that one-half of the farms to be created with this money must be made available for British migrants. Our aim should be to developAustralia to the greatest extent possible, because by so doing we shall be able to absorb more people from the Old Country. To that end the most suitable persons should be placed on the land. I am sure the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) will agree that, among our own people, will be found a greater proportion of capable potential land settlers than are likely to be found among those who come here from Great Britain. The guiding principle always should be to settle upon the land not necessarily the British migrant, or any other particular person, but the most eligible man who gives the greatest promise of proving successful. If we embark upon a scheme for the general settlement of Australia, . and provide work and sustenance, we shall be able to absorb a greater number of British people than would be possible by any other means, and the British Government would, in that way. obtain a much better return for its outlay. There is one other point that I shall make to prove to honorable members that the agreement is capable of amendment. The extraordinary feature is that the agreement does not provide that the money which is to be made available to the States shall be expended upon works other than those which would, in the ordinary course, be embarked upon by those States. The object which the British Government had in view in making available the sum of £7,000,000 was Ihe encouragement of a greater public works expenditure than has been undertaken by the States in recent years, and the absorption of a much larger number of British migrants. Under the agreement, the States may merely substitute this cheap money for that which it would ordinarily utilize. That is the reason for the acceptance of the agreement by the States. One State proposes to go ahead with the completion of two railway projects which have already been carried * to a state of partial completion, and, in any case, would have been completed within two or three years. Surely, that is a distinct weakness in the agreement. What the British Government and the Australian Government will receive in return for their contribution is not very clear. Without this artificial stimulus, the number of assisted migrants who were brought to Australia in the years immediately prior to the war was practically equal to that which the -States are to be heavily subsidized to bring out during the next ten years. The net gain in migrants last year was 37,000; yet, under this scheme, the average number per annum is fixed at only 45,000. Although, in its main features, the agreement is a first class one, it is susceptible to substantial improvement. I should like the bill to contain a provision under which the commission would be able to function either in the terms of this agreement or subject to any amendment thereof. At a later stage, I shall, therefore, move that the following words be added to the definition of “ principal immigration agreement “ - “ or any amendment or variation of such agreement.”
– The agreement is open to amendment at any time, and can be improved in any manner that is acceptable to the Commonwealth Government and the British Government. Although it represents a very great advance upon any previous proposal, and is based upon the correct principle that the number of people brought to Australia shall be dependent upon our development and our powers of absorption, I have no doubt that the experience which the commission will gain will enable it to suggest alterations that will prove acceptable to the Commonwealth Government, the British Government, and the States.
– Meanwhile, five of the States have accepted the agreement.
– I hope that I have made it perfectly clear that there is no bar to the amendment of the agreement if it is found possible to substitute a better one. The desire of both the British Government and this Government is to advance the development of Australia and increase the migration of British citizens, and we shall view sympathetically any suggestions that are made to improve the prospects in those directions. I remind honorable members that the agreement took on its present form after a consultation between representatives of the Commonwealth and the States, at which a number of suggestions were advanced by the States. Those suggestions were submitted to the British Government, which was induced to accept them. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) argued that better results would accrue if land settlement were confined to the Australian-born, who have had a thorough experience of local conditions, and, on that , account, would be more likely to prove successful than men who were born in Great Britain and had not a knowledge of our conditions. I admit that contention. I have frequently endeavoured to induce the British Government to adopt such a view, but I have not yet been able to bring it to that understanding. There are, however, encouraging signs. I remind the committee that the’ three agreements to which reference is made in this new agreement - those made by Victoria, Western Australia, and New South Wales - although purely land-settlement agreements, do not make provision for the settlement of a single Australian-born citizen ; they are confined purely and simply to the placing of British migrants upon the land.
– How much money did they borrow?
– It amounted to a considerable sum in Western Australia; but I have not the exact figures.
– The latest information I have is that 2,300 families have been settled.
– In discussing the terms of this agreement with representatives of the British Government, I pointed out that we desired to make the scheme a success, that success would be much more certain if Australian-born persons were put on the farms, and that that policy would lead to much more rapid and effective development than any other. But I was only able to get them to agree to the adoption of a fifty-fifty policy. It must be remembered that Great Britain desires to get her people to make a new home under tho British flag. In these circumstances, we may claim that we have made good progress in getting her to adopt the halfAustralianborn half-British basis of settlement. I am glad to say that Britain is realizing the point of view of Australia more clearly every day. Although I was not able in our last discussions to get her to allow the farms to be settled wholly by Australians, and the British migrants to be absorbed in the general community, I am still hopeful that she will ultimately realize the wisdom of that.
– Will this proposed commission be obliged to confine its activities purely to proposals recommended by State Governments?
– Not at all. Although the term “ State Governments “ is used in the agreement there is nothing whatever to prevent the commission that will operate in the Northern Territory from submitting schemes to the commission. Provided that they would absorb a sufficient number of migrants, the British Government would agree to an interest rebate upon the amount involved.
.- I move -
That the definition of “ the Principal Migration Agreement “ be left out.
The effect of the amendment would be to delete the first two paragraphs on page 2. This is the first time that we have been called upon in committee to endorse or reject these migration agreements, and I ask the committee to reject them in toto. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has expressed general approval of the bill, but as one who judges his attitude towards it by his criticism of the agreements, I must congratulate him for having artfully dissembled his love for« it. Honorable members on this side of the committee would welcome any practical proposal for developing Australia, but, so that I may not be charged with ambiguity, I wish to say quite clearly that they are totally opposed to subsidized migration in any shape or form under present conditions. While we admit that there is much to be said for the adopton of a well thought out scheme for developing Australia - and there are bodies already in existence charged with that duty - it must not be thought for a moment that we will agree to the adoption of any policy which would have the effect of transferring to Australia the unemployed problem of Great Britain. It was stated emphatically in the debate on the second reading of the bill that Australia has sufficient problems of that nature of her own, and, in the present condition of society, faces sufficient difficulty in solving them. But it is to the policy which is wrapped round this suggested scheme of development, the policy of pouring migrants into this country, or stimulating their entry here bv subsidies and cheap passages, that the members of this party are irrevocably opposed. All that T have heard from honorable members opposite in support of this scheme presupposes that the greater our population the greater must necessarily be our wealth : and that by adding to our population, whether by natural processes or by immigration, we are necessarily adding to the national wealth. I challenge that view. While it may be perfectly true that immigrants who are attracted by the opportunities and possibilities which Australia offers, and are equipped both in spirit and in means to make a success of settlement here, add to the wealth’ of the country, the statement, as a general unconditioned proposition, is fallacious and wrong. An increase of population, comprising people dissatisfied with their conditions and disappointed at the non-fulfilment of the promises held out to them - people who are individually unsuited for the task of beginning a new life in a new country, would be a source of weakness and not of strength to the nation. I think it was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) who said during the course of the debate on this bill that the worst asset the nation can have is the discontent which proceeds from lack of opportunity and lack of employment. The argument of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), that the burdens of government would be lightened by adding to our numbers and placing them on the shoulders of more taxpayers, has no point when applied to the solution of the problem we are considering, the result of artificially stimulating immigration. Furthermore, the area of the country into which immigration is to take place, which is the standard by which the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) would measure the relative growth of populations, is no true guide. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) had pointed out that the natural increase of our population was gratifying and satisfactory, but the honorable member for Lang argued that the statement of the mere percentage increase was insufficient, and that the increase must be considered in relation to the area of the countries to which the comparison applied. Such a contention is weak almost to the point of imbecility, because in making a comparison of this nature we must primarily consider the productivity of a country, and the type of immigrant. If we compare Holland, almost every acre of which is intensely prolific, with Australia, nine-tenths of which in our present state of social advancement is totally unfitted for closer settlement, especially by persons not acquainted with our special conditions, we see at once that the test of acreage or area is utterly misleading. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has spoken of the gratitude we owe’ to Great Britain, and of the sacrifices we should be prepared to make for that country, particularly in connexion with this agreement. Tho honorable gentleman says that during the dark days of the war the Mother Country upheld civilization. In his view, and apparently in the view of other honorable members who have spoken on the same lines, it preserved the liberty and institutions of Australia, and, indeed, the very lives of our people. I do not admit for a moment that we can afford to approach this business agreement on sentimental lines, nor do I” admit the facts as stated by the honorable member. If I understand the position rightly, Australia itself also did something to preserve the liberty of the world in that great war; and I venture to remind the honorable member that he enters this Parliament as a trustee for the Australian people, and not for the people of any other country; that his first duty is to Australia. I admire in the honorable gentleman those qualities of mind and heart which make him turn affectionately to the land from which he came, and perhaps he will be able to appreciate and understand the sentiment, which I, although Australianborn, feel towards the older civilization and land of greater culture from which I have the honour to draw my ancestry. But while that is so, the fact remains that in this House we are either Australians by adoption or Australians by birth, and our first duty is to consider the paramount claims of the people of Australia, whose representatives we are. I am painfully brought to remind the honorable member that if we had only secured for the development of our country one-tenth of the money which we recently wasted in the great tragedy of the war, what a great boon it would have been to our own people, what an inspiration and example it would have been to the rest of the world, and how much it would have done to preserve the common principles of humanity everywhere ! But the honorable member is an
Englishman. He is certainly none the worse, and probably all the better, for that.
He might have been a Roosian,
A French, or Turk, orRoosian,
Or, perhaps, Itali-an ;
But, in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains an Englishman.
I ask the honorable member to view this matter from the stand-point of Australia. This agreement is recognized throughout Britain - rightly recognized, I think, because the people of that country take a close view of what it means - as one that will have the effect of relieving that country of financial responsibility for those of its people who are unemployed, principally because of the war, but also because of social conditions out of which unemployment must constantly grow so long as the country is pawned and pledged to a few millionaires who hold as serfs millions still drawing the dole. While I have a sympathy with and affection for the masses of the British people, I have no sympathy with or respect for those who are at the back of this agreement, and would rid themselves of their selfcreated problem by transporting to Australia those persons who, through no fault of their own, have been rendered paupers in their own country. There may be something in the claim that, in order to maintain Australia and preserve the White Australia policy, we must promote immigration, but I do not think there is very much in it. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) says that no one can deny that New Zealand and Australia are absolutely dependent upon the Motherland. I deny it absolutely, and I say, further, that the only gesture of offence that has ever been made at Australia arises out of the price we pay for imperialism, and directly out of our imperial connexion. It is just as well to be candid. A few years ago Australians could honestly discuss this question; but now, if one ventures to suggest that we do pay a price for imperialism, his remarks are attributed to lack of loyalty. There is no lack of loyalty in honestly discussing in one’s own Parliament the f orms of government which suggest themselves as being the best and safest. I merely say at this stage, as one who has no quarrel with the imperial connexion, that the time will unquestionably come, as it is coming in Canada and as it must come in other advanced civilizations as population grows, when the people of the dominions will be bound to consider whether their safety and, indeed, their salvation are not involved in an independent existence, except in so far as their independence may be limited by membership of leagues of nations on a common footing, rather than by alliances within the empire such as history has rendered us familiar with. Possibly the greatest menace to our White Australia policy is not our comparatively small population, but our engaging in such enterprises as chasing after commercial advantages in places where we ought not to be compromised. One unsavoury enterprise such as that of sending an Australian warship into the pacific waters of China, in order to protect the threatened - if they were threatened - interests of British and Australian capitalists, is infinitely more inimical to Australia’s interests as a peaceful nation than the smallness of our population, even if our numbers were less than they are. Therefore, when the honorable member for Herbert declares that the teeming nations of the East are casting envious eyes on Australia, he is merely indulging in provocative language: There is not an atom of proof of the statement that the Japanese people, our friendly neighbours, are casting envious eyes on Australia, or that, if the doors were thrown open to-morrow, which, of course, I do not recommend, there would be, in fact, any rapid influx of Japanese into this country. The reason for that waswell stated on the floor of this House by another speaker, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who showed that there was no territorial congestion in J apan or in any of the countries inhabited by coloured races. It was pointed out by him that in the hinterlandof Manchuria and in the neighbourhood of Korea, not to speak of the neighbouring islands, there are rich tracts of practically unoccupied land still awaiting settlement by the Japanese or other people. What is true of Japan is true also of India and what was until recently the Chinese Empire. In fact, honorable members can point to no nation which, territorially, has such an excess of population in proportion to territory that its people must either emigrate or starve. In Japan, China, and other eastern countries, there is intense local congestion of population, but so there is in Fitzroy and Collingwood, and the industrial suburbs of all Australian cities. This congestion is a result of the drift of population from the rural areas to the cities, and does not signify that the country is overstocked. The population of Great Britain has doubled within a comparatively short period, yet her agricultural areas are greatly undermanned and underdeveloped, because there, also, the population is congregating in large cities. What the honorable member for Darling said in respect to Japan might be said with equal truth of every one of the teeming countries with which we are constantly being threatened by pessimists on the Ministerial side, namely, that there is no evidence, at present, that these people will be forced by necessity to emigrate to Australia and menace its integrity or its sacred policy of racial purity. Again, at the risk of being thought a little heterodox, and even disloyal - some honorable members have made that charge against me - I think that the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) was on sounder ground when he said that he had no prejudice against the peoples of southern Europe. I agree with the honorable member, and endorse what he said as to the ancient civilizations of those peoples, their eminent place in art and literature, and the respect which they have undoubtedly earned amongst the nations of the world. I have no hesitation in saying that immigrants from southern Europe, equipped with capital, migrating of their own volition, determined to settle upon the land, knowing where they can get land, and understanding precisely the uses to which it is to be put, are preferable even to men of our own race - Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen - who, under-developed by conditions of long unemployment and hardship, are driven by the fiteni hand of necessity to emigrate or starve. I go further, and endorse the splendid sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Kalgoolie (Mr. A. Green) - who deserves credit for his courage and longsightedness, and whom nobody can accuse of disloyalty- that the
Ifr. Brennan. future of Australia would be more soundly based, if, following the example of America, it drew its population and civilization from the best of the white nations of the world, always bearing in mind the desirability of preserving our racial purity. By so doing, we would establish a more distinctly Australian sentiment. Having no ill-will towards our own forbears or people of other nations, we would be able to judge with more detachment and independence, our own interests, and would gradually build up a stronger and better nation than if we continued to draw upon only Celtic and Anglo-Saxon sources for our population and inspiration. We have been told that we must increase our population if we are to hold this continent. I have previously asked, on the floor of this chamber, who has established the best title to this country. No nation can claim from necessity a right to invade this country. Whe, then, has a greater right to hold it than have we? Historians know that this fertile continent lay unused for many centuries during which the primitive sailing crafts of various nations cruised about its’ shores. Those early navigators took away with them nought but unfavorable reports about the inhospitable nature of the country, and no people could be induced to settle here until the flag of Great Britain was planted on Australian shores, and the pioneers of British blood came here to make their home. The sacrifices which have built up Australian civilization to what it is to-day were made by people of the same stock, and I give them all honour for it. Who was it bore the brunt and burden and great adventure of early settlement on the gold-fields and elsewhere? Who went into the back-blocks and opened up the pastoral and arable lands and converted what appeared to be an arid desert into smiling corn-fields? Who but people of the same stock as those who now occupy it bore all the hardships of pioneering this country? And who has any moral claim to the ownership of it other than those who are already in possession and have established in it a system of government and a standard of civilization unequalled in any other part of the world ? No nation can establish any moral right to invade Australia in violation of the White Australia principle, and I am happy to believe that no nation is making even a menacing gesture. I believe in the expenditure of money wisely in order to make this very attractive country more attractive to immigrants. When it has thus been made attractive, the subsidizing of immigration will not be necessary. But I am totally opposed to attempting the impossible task of solving the conditions which this Government has created on the other side of the world by taking its victims from their natural home, where, under wise government, there would be abundant opportunity for them, and bringing them to Australia, subsidizing them, endeavouring to equip them for work for which they are not fitted - without any guarantee that land will be made available or employment found for them - thus adding to the unemployment which has arisen out of our own imperfect system of government, and generally aggravating the industrial problems which confront us. I hope that the agreement will not be accepted as a basis for either settling the unemployment problem in Great Britain or of aggravating the unemployment problem in Australia.
– We have been discussing a method by which immigration may be more effectively promoted ; not whether assisted immigration in itself is or is not desirable. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman has raised an issue which was not previously before the committee. In regard to some of the proposals in this bill, my opinion does not coincide with that of the Government, but on the general subject of immigration my views are, and always have been, the very opposite of those of the mover of the amendment. I disagree entirely with what he has said, and I confess that I cannot understand what is the policy of the Labour party in regard to this vitally important matter. The concluding portion of the honorable member’s dissertation contained a qualification which left the committee in doubt as to his real attitude. Having said how he admired the stock to whose herculean labours are due the building up of a splendid civilization out of a primitive wilderness, he left us entirely in the dark as to how their descendants and ours are to maintain the monuments of their untiring efforts, and how we and those who come after us are to be protected in this mighty continent which they have prepared and handed down to us. 1’he honorable member of course knows that this country was founded on immigration. True, some of those who came here in the beginning came reluctantly, though many of them turned their talents to employments in directions other than those by which they had acquired notoriety overseas, rendering yeoman service in the making of this country what it is to-day. But since the establishment of self-government, immigration has been part of our national policy. Early in his speech, the honorable member said that these proposals should not be regarded from the viewpoint of sentiment. Such an expression from the mouth of an Irishman surprises me ; because there is nothing on God’s earth which an Irishman values more than sentiment. As a brother Celt, I implore the honorable member to withdraw what amounts to a base slander and a reflection upon the whole Celtic race. We are creatures of sentiment or we are nothing, and there is not one of us but is prepared to lay down his life for an ideal. The honorable member for Batman himself is the living embodiment of sentiment and all that it implies. He would cheerfully lay down his career on the altar of that national sentiment which is the birthright of all the Irish people. But when he spoke of the British stock, he offered it a backhanded compliment. He spoke as though that which was the highest virtue in an Irishman was weakness in others. We cannot divide .the, shall I say, tribes that make up what we call the British nation, as one would divide the sheep from the goats. I resent the attempt to make any such distinction as the honorable member drew. Whether men be English, Irish, Scotch, or Welsh makes no difference to me, provided they comport themselves as becomes citizens of this Commonwealth; it is sufficient that they come of British stock. That such men make good citizens has been abundantly proved by deeds, not by words.
– I drew a distinction between the classes in Great Britain, not between the races.
– The honorable member in his concluding remarks referred to the mis-government in Great Britain. He must then have been referring to Eng land.
– Undoubtedly. There has been gross mis-government in England.
– When we speak of the British stock we do not mean the English as distinct from the Irish, the Scotch, pr the Welsh; we refer to the members of all those tribes, if we may term them such; they are all equal in our sight, provided they are good citizens. I take strong exception to the honorable member’s statement that sentiment has nothing to do with the subject. We cannot pluck this affection for our own people, this love of country and race, out of our hearts. We may speak as though we can, but we cannot, and are hypocrites if we say we can. We may think, when all is going smoothly, that we can do so, and may regard ourselves as citizens of the world, but let the tocsin ring, and it will be found that we are not. When that happens, Britons, wherever located, are found shoulder to shoulder on the one side, and the world, even if it be a world in arms, is on the other. Britain may sometimes be in the wrong, but is that a time when we should desert her? What is the fundamental principle of unionism? It is “unionism right or wrong”; and it should be “our country right or wrong.” Britain is not wrong in our sight. How could she be? We might as well expect a mother to declare her child in the wrong. Remembering, then, that national or racial sentiment is the light that guides us through the morass, let us consider the other point raised by the honorable member, that the area of this country has nothing to do with the subject. It has a great deal to do with it. Let us consider the position of Holland, with a population of 6,000,000. That number might man every dyke, might guard every frontier; but it is not sufficient to protect, unaided, the liberties of a continent almost the size of Europe. Area in itself imposes upon us added responsibilities. This country has to be defended in order that it may be developed. It is useless to talk as if this were a mere question of ethics. We speak of peaceful penetration ; but how did we get possession of Australia ? Where are now the legitimate owners of this country? Most of them have disappeared from the face of the earth. We are here by the grace of
God and the arm of strength, and, when it comes to the pinch, it is our strength and the grace of God that must protect us. We have to consider our present position. The bill gives effect to an agreement between the British Government and the Government of the Commonwealth, and some subsidiary agreements that may be entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of certain States. It relates to a policy of assisted migration. From the time when this country was the precarious camping ground of a mere handful of hardy pioneers to the present day, when it is a great and splendid civilization, our development has gone hand in hand with a policy of immigration. We have now nailed to the mast our White Australia policy. The honorable member spoke of the imperial connexion rather contemptuously. I ask honorable members opposite how they propose to maintain this policy, and make good our claim to hold this continent unless we belong to the great federation of British nations? The honorable member spoke as if the world were governed by abstract ideas of what is right. Yet what has been the cry of the nation to which the honorable member belongs? It is that the weak have been ground under the iron heel of the strong. That cry has been made by the people of the little nations ever since the world began. It is no small thing to us to be able to say that we belong to the greatest and most powerful federation of free nations the world has known. What is the ideal of unionism? It is to establish one big dominating body. There is magic in numbers, a power not to be found in any abstract idea of right and wrong, and when the federation is composed of men of character and of high ideals, those who are members of it are indeed in a happy position. The policy of a White Australia imposes upon every part of the Empire, including Australia, certain responsibilities and risks. It is our duty to lessen these risks. Since we claim a continent as our heritage, we ought to make every effort to induce people of the right type to come here. Of course, by no hocus pocus arrangement can the population of this country be doubled in five or ten years, though some spoke as if this could be done by a great stream of migrants, the like of which the world has never yet seen. The number of migrants to Australia must be limited in accordance with well established principles. Nations are like men, they can absorb only a certain amount of pabulum, and any excess above that quantity produces surfeit. Every nation can absorb only a certain number of migrants; how many it can absorb at a given time, or over a given period, depends on the state of the body national. I doubt whether Australia could absorb more than 120,000 migrants a year, even if everything in this country turned as smoothly as a well-greased wheel ; but, whether it could or not. there are obvious limits to the number of migrants to be brought to this country. But to the extent that migration is possible, we ought to encourage it. It is gratifying to know that the natural increase of the population of Australia is very rapid; it appears to be necessary to emphasize that fact, because many persons defame this country. There are two kinds of defamers. One says that the condition of this country is like that of a man in a fever, that our prosperity is hectic, that our people are degenerate, that wages- are too high, and that our prosperity cannot last. In short, they do what they can by exaggerating the effects of droughts and strikes, to make this country appear undesirable in the eyes of persons oversea. The best and surest way to attract migrants is to make this country a good country to come to; but we must remember that not all the persons who want to come here are able to come. The English are a home-loving people, and only a small percentage of them seek homes oversea. Most of us are the progeny of the hardy and adventurous spirits who came out here years ago ; but it must be recognized that most English people would rather stay at home than come here. If we wish to attract migrants of the right kind we must create conditions that are an irresistible magnet to them. If the stream of migration to this country is not so great as it should be. those who keep on saying that conditions in this country are not sound, that our prosperity will be pricked like a bubble, and that this is a country of strikes and disasters, are partly to blame. But. on the other hand, what are my “honorable friends of the Opposition say ing? Whenever they have the opportunity, they declare that there is no opening for migrants in this country, which is filled with unemployed persons. Both those statements are lies. No other country has so few persons unemployed, and it is of no use suggesting that because a man cannot obtain a job by standing at the top of Bourke-street, the possibility of obtaining work in Australia has been exhausted. This is a very desirable country to live in; the conditions are better for the worker than in any other country, and it offers greater opportunities for every one. It is, with the possible exception of New Zealand, the healthiest country in the world, and it offers to the British worker who comes here with nothing but his hands and the energy of his race, more than any other country offers him - it offers him all that the character of its people has made of this country, and that character is the heritage of the British race. Therefore this agreement, for the reason that it is designed to bring selected British migrants to this country, is a good thing, and I hope that this committee will not contemplate the idea of rejecting it. I am not at this moment inquiring into the terms of the agreement. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) spoke of the imperial connexion, and endeavoured to make light of it. I am not surprised at that, for he has never done anything else. Let us suppose that the imperial connexion is not vital to us - and at our present stage of development I say, most emphatically, that it is - and that we sever it; migration would then become absolutely imperative, for there would be cast upon us, ipso facto, a burden of responsibility so crushing that no 6,000,000 people could carry it. We are able to hold this country because we are a part of the great confederation of nations known as the British Empire, and for no other reason; but, if we break away from that partnership, we must provide for bringing huge streams of migrants to this country, so that when the time comes, as come it will, we shall be able to give a good account of ourselves to those who knock at our gates. The honorable member, viewing this matter, quite naturally and properly, from the stand-point of the worker, demands that no assisted migrant shall be brought to this country unless employment is waiting for him. I agree with that, but I point out to him that this agreement provides for that. The agreement does not contemplate bringing here large numbers of men for whom no preparation has been made. I do not believe that under it many persons will be brought to this country; but in principle, at any rate, it is right to bring men and women of the British stock to this country to participate in the great work which has been undertaken by men and women of that race. The honorable member said something about countries such as Korea and Manchuria in which there is plenty of room. He ought to know that one of the reasons why Korea and Manchuria have not been more thickly populated is that their climatic conditions are unfavorable. Fortunately for us, this country has a climate which imposes no hardships upon its inhabitants. It has no extremes of heat or cold. But that is not true of either Korea or Manchuria, and that explains why, in spite of the opportunities given to Japan, no progress has been made by Japanese settlement in either of those two countries. As to the future of this country, upon which the honorable member dwelt for a moment, we believe in the greatness of its destiny; but we believe, too, with all our heart, soul, and strength, that it can only realize it if it proceeds along the well beaten path on which we and our forefathers have travelled since this country was first colonized by the British. The imperial connexion, if “connexion” be a proper term to apply to an arrangement which leaves us free to do as we please, gives us an assurance of safety, and enables us to develop our heritage more freely than we could without it. I hope that we shall never follow the example of the United States of America, for that Is an example to avoid. The people of that country opened their gates to the whole world, and all the world came into a melting pot wherein there has been no proper fusion, and a hotch-potch of nations has been made out of a’ nation. The greatness of America was built by the Anglo-Saxon race, which is now in the minority in that country. “We in this country axe more .British than Britain herself Long may we remain so. I believe that the progress and the safety of this country depend wholly upon the purity of our race. There is one unfailing spring into which we can dip our cups again and again to fill up this country with men and women of the same race that made it. For that reason I feel sure that this committee, and the people of this country, will approve of the agreement. In saying that, I do not necessarily express approval of every detail of it, but I am replying to the amendment of the honorable member for Batman, who attacks the principle of it. It was in defence of that principle that I rose to speak.
.- The effect of the amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is to repudiate the agreement entered into between the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, and approved of by five of the State Governments. It would nullify years of negotiations. I have already addressed myself adversely to some of the features of the bill, but I am, and always have been, wholly in favour of the principle of migration from the British Isles. After listening to speeches from both’ sides of this chamber, I am convinced that the best migrants we can obtain from oversea are boys from the British Isles, at the plastic age when they can adapt themselves to Australian conditions and imbibe Australian sentiment. To attempt to transfer a full-grown man from, say, London to a rural part of Australia is to attempt almost the impossible. It is futile to expect men -who have grown up in a city atmosphere, such as that of London, to prove successful as migrants on ready-made farms. However, if it is proposed to continue to bring out adult British migrants, the terms are generous, indeed, from Great Britain’s point of view. In a short period of time the migrant will be an Australian citizen, owning a farm, established and improved by means of capital borrowed from Great Britain at a reasonable rate of interest. Britain, for ten years, will share the interest burden, bear a definite proportion of the cost of the migrant’s training, and also pay a proportion of any loss sustained. Nevertheless, I urge the Government to be very cautious regarding the proposal to establish the migrants on these lines, since ready-made farms are, to a great extent, a delusion. What the migrant needs is a first-hand knowledge of rural life. He should work on a well-equipped farm, rather than go to a depot for training. Let him have actual experience of the work in order to ascertain whether he has the temperament and capacity to adhere to it. If he shows promise of making a successful settler, let him be registered for favorable 1 consideration in the allocation of land.; If, after having experienced a testing period, and acquired a first-hand knowledge of farming and stock-raising, he is prepared to tackle one of the readymade farms, he may make a success of it ; but he will do so only under very difficult conditions. I do not desire to traverse the full terms of the agreement. I merely ask the Prime Minister to state clearly whether the control of migration by the proposed commission will be limited by the provisions of the agreement, or whether it is intended that the agreement shall apply to migration to Australia generally, no matter from what source it may come. The bill, I take it, is the machinery promised by the Prime Minister to the British Government to provide for the utilization of the loan of £34,000,000, and not for the general purposes of migration. If so, I shall be relieved of some of the misgivings I have in regard to the success of migration on a considerable scale. Notwithstanding the excellent speeches of an encouraging nature by members on this side of the chamber, and the discouraging statements by members opposite, I point out that the scheme under consideration is purely a business one. The agreement having been entered into, the time for sentiment has now passed.
– Does the honorable member not think that Parliament should have been consulted before it was entered into?
– I should have preferred that. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked me if I did not think that Australian farm-hands would make the best settlers. I certainly do. I have already stated that Australians have the right to first consideration. After 50 or 60 years of land settlement in Australia, first, by the system of allowing the individual to select a farm in a district that suited him, and where the rainfall and other conditions appealed to him, and later by the subdivision of large estates, I doubt the ability of the proposed commission to make a success of ready-made farms. No matter how estimable a person the settler may be, if he owns his land!, stock and implements, and the Crown takes security over all he possesses, including growing crops or stock, he will be deprived of credit in his district, and will be unable to carry on operations. One might just as well establish lads in business in Melbourne, and expect them to make a success of it. To-day, the owning and working of land is more or less a capitalist’s job, and the best way for men without capital to enter that avenue of activity is to start as share farmers. If it is desired to. test these settlers on farms purchased with borrowed money, they should be placed there as tenants with the option of purchase.
– Do not put them on the land as share-farmers in New South Wales under the present legislation of that State!
– The share system has been the stepping-stone to success in the case of thousands of farmers, particularly in the great wheat belts. The landowner supplies the capital, and very often the team of horses or part of it, and often all that the share-farmer is called upon to risk at the outset is his labour. Owing to the high cost of land and farm equipment, and the present cost of living, I have the gravest misgivings regarding the success of migrants who are to be placed on ready-made farms. Notwithstanding the sentiments expressed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), I feel it to be my duty to place the Government and the migrant on their guard. I warn the Government that the ready-made farm experiment is a most dangerous one. I know men who have risked all they possessed in going on the land, and have failed in the venture. Life- on the land should be the ideal existence. Australia has a wonderful climate, and its soil is rich; but the fact must be faced that many settlers, particularly returned soldiers, are unable to make a success of rural life. On some other phases of the bill I shall have something more definite to say. In the meantime, I ask the Prime Minister whether the activities of the commission will be restricted to the expenditure of £34,000,000 on migration and the works to be undertaken in connexion with it? I had hoped that the agreement would be interpreted by the Prime Minister more fully that it was in his second-reading speech. The honorable member for Henty said that he would like to see it modified. Personally, I think that necessary alterations will become apparent after the scheme has been put into operation. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say that the scope of the agreement was not circumscribed by any hard and fast plans. I notice that it provides for approved propositions. At any rate, no “wildcat “ scheme can be adopted, since every proposal must be approved by the Commonwealth and the Imperial Governments. Subject to the definite objection that I have already taken to the bill, I heartily approve of the principle embodied in it. In my opinion, the best possible migrants for this country would be boys in their thousands, who could fit into every avenue of Australian life. They would acquire an Australian sentiment, and would be more successful settlers than men who, having followed various occupations in Great Britain, found themselves suddenly dumped down in Australia.
– Every country should look after its own youths.
– Australia has already absorbed hundreds of thousands of migrants, and the process can be continued ; but I object to the proposed huge financial commitment, since I think that as good a result could be obtained by bringing out lads, regarding whom our only financial obligation would be the provision of assisted passages. I am afraid that the borrowing of £34,000,000 will lead to reckless expenditure, and will not improve an already unsound economic position.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has expressed a doubt as to the wisdom of placing migrants on ready-made farms, and suggests that the expenditure of a large sum of money on such schemes will, in effect, mean forced development. May I remind him that it will be the function of the proposed commission to investigate all such proposals, and, by its recommendations, prevent a repetition of our earlier mistakes in land settlement? State Governments have settled migrants on farms in this way, and I am afraid that the honorable gentleman, who holds strong opinions on this subject, has experienced considerable difficulty in impressing his views on them. The appointment of the commission will give the honorable member his opportunity. He will have an opportunity to put his views before it, and the commissioners will be only too ready to listen to any one who can speak with the authority that he possesses. If he convinces them of the soundness of his views, they, in their conversations and negotiations with the State authorities, as the liaison authority between the Commonwealth and State Governments, are likely to get effect given to them. If, as I hope, the commission gains the respect of the States, its views will carry a great deal of weight. As to the functions of the proposed commission, I suggest it will be better if the honorable member raises that point when the committee is dealing with the clause which sets out the functions of the commission.
.- The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has not come as a surprise. It is obvious that all the members of his party will support it whether or not it is in accordance with their views. They are to be dragooned into voting for it. Honorable members opposite take advantage of every opportunity to “knock” Australia. The whole tenor of their remarks during this discussion has been in that direction. Apparently, they take the view that the potential absorption power of the Commonwealth is very limited, because they have made it clear that they do not wish to see any substantial influx of population from overseas, fearing possibly that it may prejudice the interests of Australianborn citizens. If honorable members opposite could disperse the atmosphere of party politics in the debate on this measure, their criticism of the Government’s proposal would be of some value. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) characterized as a lie the statement that Australia is incapable of absorbing a considerable number of migrants from overseas. I should prefer to use a stronger term if parliamentary usage permitted it. Australia can support an immense population, and if peopled by the right class of migrants, it will be one of the best countries in the world. I disagree with the right honorable member for North Sydney that migrants from European countries could not be assimilated into our population. I visited the United States of America on several occasions prior to the adoption of the “quota” system now in force, and I had ample evidence of the ability of that country to absorb a steady flow of foreign immigrants. On one occasion, I saw a foreign migrant who, after about twelve months’ residence in Boston, had taken out naturalization papers and had come to New York to welcome ‘ ‘ new chums “ from his own country. That man had absorbed the American spirit, and was in every respect a good American citizen. We should have the same experience in this country. I deprecate the attitude of those who declare that we cannot provide work for those already in Australia. I doubt, however, if it would be wise to encourage migrants only on account of their suitability for land settlement, though it is quite misleading to suppose that because a large number of persons apply for a particular block that may be thrown open, there is not ample land in Australia suitable for closer settlement. Large numbers apply for a certain block because they know that if they are fortunate enough to get it their future is assured. Not many skilled agriculturists from the Mother Country emigrate to Australia, because of the demand for their services in Great Britain. I strongly favour the introduction of people of the Nordic race, because they will make pood Australian citizens. Instead of raising artificial barriers to the introduction of suitable immigrants, we should do all that is possible to encourage the right class of people to come here. This migration movement is really a step in the direction of transferring Britain overseas. Australia can support millions of people, and if they are endowed with qualities of enterprise and initiative, they will make this a very desirable place to live in. If we are going to hold Australia, we must populate it with our blood brothers from the other side of the world. The gratuitous insult offered to the people of Australia by the amendment of the honorable member for Batman is unworthy of any one who calls himself an Australian.
.- Since I missed my chance to speak on the second reading of the bill, I am pleased that the debate on this clause has taken such a wide range, though I do not wish to deliver a second-reading speech. I was pleased to hear the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who, as we all know, is a great imperialist, and rightly takes advantage of every opportunity to advocate the strengthening of the ties that link the dominions, to the Motherland. I agree with him that sentiment rules the world. He also made a strong point when he said in reply to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), that if migration is a matter of great importance to-day, it would be a hundredfold more important if that connecting link between the dominions and the Motherland were ever severed. Australia has been built up under the protection of the British Navy. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) referred to the increase of population in Australia. On looking up the figures yesterday, I was staggered to see that, since 1871, the average increase of population in Australia has been about 68,000 a year. Those are amazing figures. We are going ahead faster than people realize. The points that we should consider are - Is immigration necessary - is this bill necessary - are there any other ways of populating the country? That brings me to the consideration of the world’s population today. What are known as the coloured and yellow races have increased, and are increasing, tenfold as compared with the white races. Australia must do something if we are to have the right to maintain the White Australia policy. The honorable member for Batman dealt with China and Japan. I have a fairly good knowledge of those countries, but not to the extent that the honorable member for Henty has. The honorable member for Batman was quite wrong in his reference to the emigration of Japanese to Korea and Manchuria. When I was discussing the White Australia policy with one of the members of the Japanese Cabinet, he informed me that the Japanese were going there to a certain extent, but that the country was not suitable, being too cold. The honorable member for Henty has been to Korea, and he was quite right when he told me the other day that the Chinese, owing to their great numbers, are going, like a cloud of locusts, right through Korea and Manchuria, and leaving no ground worth having for the Japanese. Besides that, the Japanese people cannot live on the wages ruling in Korea or Manchuria. I have no fear of Japan attacking Australia for the purpose of filling this country with her people, but we must not forget that, unless we quickly populate Australia with people of our own colour, we have no right to occupy it. In other words, we cannot inhabit this great territory if we do not do something to fill its empty spaces. The honorable member for Batman said that we could not compare America with Australia, and he did not agree at all that a greater number of people would bring about greater wealth. I do not agree with his contention. The more people that we bring here the more we shall have to provide with food and clothing, thus helping both our primary and secondary industries. We do not want to be in the position of America, whose white people are being submerged by her coloured people. . We must bring people of our own colour to Australia. The honorable member for Henty also states that the dividing line between the Labour party and honorable members on this side on the question of immigration was very fine indeed. With that I agree. I, like the honorable member for Henty, agree with the attitude of honorable members opposite to this extent - that always in the floating population of a country is a certain percentage of unemployed, but beyond that, every worker in the community should be employed before we bring immigrants here from the Motherland. We must provide for the requirements of our own people before we bring others here to take their jobs. So, after all, there is little between us. Like the honorable member for Henty, I hope that, in the future, we shall have the hearty co-operation of the Labour party in populating this country with people of our own colour and speech. I agree with the honorable member for Henty that we cannot succeed in our policy of immigration without the help of honorable members opposite, and of the hundreds of thousands of those who believe with them politically. But the Government is wise in bringing in the bill, because something attempted is something done, and little has been done up to the present. But there are other fields that we might have attempted to explore before that of immigration. We should first try to improve pre-natal and post-natal conditions to save the lives of mothers and infants; and by segregating the mentally and medically unfit, so that they may not marry and bring children into the world, to prevent the filling of our asylums. There are such matters that might first be considered. It may be said that the Commonwealth has no power to deal with them; but have we any power in respect of immigration? We cannot go far without the help of the States. Of course, the matters that I have mentioned come mainly within the scope of the States. In attempting to aid migration, we must remember that there are other avenues in which thousands of lives can be saved every year. Take cancer research. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that, in the next ten years, 70,000 of our people will die from this accursed and awful disease. If we tried to save the lives of infants and adults, it would help to solve the great population problem. However, the Government is to be commended for introducing this bill. We cannot side-step it. Markets should come before migration, because, when people are placed on the land, there must be markets for their produce. I noticed in the press, the other day, that Mr. Dunn, of the New South Wales Ministry, sent a cable from London showing that our method of marketing is still at fault, and that our grading, labelling, and packing are still far from satisfactory. The same thing applies to our trade with China and Japan. We cannot sell Australian goods there because those of California are more attractively placed before the public. All these things need attention. Yet this agreement is good, and we should go on with it. Those who say that an attempt is being made to bring Britain’s unemployed to Australia are wrong. When I was in England last, I entered into conversation with a number of the unemployed in the large cities, such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Hull. Their numbers were appalling; one could not help meeting them. In January, 1925, the unemployed in Great Britain numbered 2,387,000; to-day, there are over 3,000,000 unemployed persons there. In conversation with them I learned that, for the most part, they were miners and others who did not want to come here. But some of their sons - able, strapping chaps who, if trained in agricultural pursuits or otherwise would make good - want to come. I am glad that in England training farms have been established, to give likely migrants instruction in agricultural pursuits.
– Such training is of very little use for Australian conditions. _ Mr. MARKS. - I admit that conditions in England are different from those in Australia; but that training is better than nothing. Although it may not make good agriculturists of the boys, it provides them with the right atmosphere, and gives them some practical knowledge of what is required. It is, at least, a step in -the right direction. So far as the commission is concerned, although under clause 13 it will have wide powers, I should be satisfied if it merely marked time for the first twelve months after its appointment. That period could well be devoted to investigation and thorough preparation. We do not want the commission to hurry, but first to ascertain the avenues in which migrants can be absorbed, whether in our primary and secondary industries, and then to go ahead with a scheme to bring out the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
– I was a little alarmed at something the right honorable the Prime Minister said in reply to the exceptionally strong point made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that the settlement of experienced Australian agriculturists on the land would be bound to bring about greater success and prosperity than the settle ment of people from overseas with little or no training in agriculture. It is true that the immigrants are to be given a certain amount of training in GreatBritain, but I have very little faith in the success of that scheme, because the conditions of agriculture in Australia are so different from those obtaining in Great Britain that on their arrival here the settlers will have a great deal to learn, and one of their hardest tasks will be to forget a great deal of what they have been taught in their own country. After enumerating the works and other things to be paid for with the loan money, paragraph 2 of the agreement says -
If the Commonwealth Government concur in the proposed undertakings, and are satisfied that the proposed works are such as will directly contribute towards the settlement, whether on the land or otherwise, of suitable assisted migrants, they shall submit details of - the proposed undertakings to the Secretary of State for approval by him or on his behalf in such manner as he may determine. In the event of the said proposed undertakings being approved by the Secretary of State and by the Commonwealth Government, they shall be certified in manner from time to time to be arranged as “ agreed undertakings “ under this agreement.
Like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), I do not think that a matter which is purely Australian should need the approval of a British Secretary of State. Although the British Government in a most liberal way is providing this £34,000,000 at a very low rate of interest, it must not be forgotten that Australians will pay the interest and repay the principal. The agreement certainly carries out what the right honorable the Prime Minister says it does, but this evening, after the strong representations made by the honorable member for Henty, he told the committee that it could be altered. I take that to mean that if the Commonwealth Government abandons the settlement of immigrants on the land, it can make an arrangement with the Imperial Government to absorb the immigrants in some other way. That would make this immigration scheme much more offensive to the great bulk of the people of Australia.
– Surely the honorable member does not regard it as offensive now.
– To divert people from the land and rush them into the industrial centres of the Commonwealth would lead to no end of trouble.
– At the present time, many assisted nominated immigrants are leaving the land and coming to the cities.
– That is so. Most of them are nominated immigrants. At the outset they are sent to the rural districts, but by and by they get back to the cities.
– A great many of them have gone into motor engineering works.
– Quite recently a young man interviewed me asking what possible chance his brother-in-law - a mechanic in one of the British motor car factories - would have of obtaining work in Australia. He showed me letters which surprised me. Notwithstanding the recent reported revival in the British motor car trade, these letters indicated that the engineering establishments were dismissing their hands, .and many of those who have lost their employment were seeking openings in Australia.
– The Customs figures show that the British motor trade is reviving.
– That may be, so far as trade with the dominions is concerned, but I am speaking of letters received within the last few months. There is only one portion of the agreement I like, and I want a definite statement from the Prime Minister that before any vigorous scheme is embarked upon to bring people to Australia, the developmental and preparatory work will be taken in hand, and that even prior to that our own unemployed will be absorbed, and provision will be made to meet the requirements of those Australians who are desirous of going on the land. Medical members will agree with the note sounded by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) that Australia should first and foremost look after its own, and that something should be done to reduce our infantile mortality. Statistics show that the number of deaths in Australia is about 40,000 or 50,000 annually, and that one-fourth of this number are infants under twelve months old. I think we ought to devote a large amount of money in an attempt to save infant life, and other lives as well. About 140,000 babies are born each year, but of that number 10,000 die before they are twelve months old. If we could save the lives of half that number we should be doing the very best thing for Australia. I shall vote for the amendment, because I do not think that the agreement is in the best interests of Australia from a financial, immigration, or developmental point of view. No one admires Great Britain more than I do. Listening to the remarks of honorable members on the Ministerial benches, one would think that they came from a different stock from honorable members on the Opposition benches. As a matter of fact, in every sense of the term, we on the Opposition benches are as truly British as honorable members on the Government side. Our parents, or grandparents, came from the British Isles, and if we have any love beyond Australia it is for the Old Country. But this agreement is a gilt-edged proposition for the Old Country. Great Britain has made a splendid arrangement for herself. Australia, by absorbing 45,000 people for ten years, will be doing a good turn for the Mother Country. I do not desire bad feeling to be engendered by unduly large numbers of persons coming into Australia from the other side of the world, flooding our labour market, and taking the land which our own landless ‘farmers’ sons ought to have. Therefore, I must vote for the amendment. I believe that the rejection of the agreement will prove beneficial to Australia. “ Dr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [8.13].- I rise to support the amendment. If what the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has said about the destitution, misery, and terrible conditions prevailing in England is true, and if there are over 2,000,000 unemployed in the Old Country, “ something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” and England must look for some way of giving her people the right to work and obtain food.
– There are tens of thousands of acres of fertile land in England awaiting cultivation.
– England has some of the finest wheat land in the world. It has been proved, not by ten or twenty years’, but by 60 or 70 years’ experience, that the average output of wheat per acre bears comparison with that of the finest wheat country in the world, which, I believe, is to be found in Denmark. We are told that in order to reduce our indebtedness per head of the population we should welcome people from all over the world. By the same reasoning, it would appear that Great Britain wants to increase her net indebtedness per head of population by sending people to Australia. I love England, and its people. I love the land that gave my mother birth; but I loathe. its unjust laws under which, prior to the Great War, little value was placed on human life. According to the figures published in the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire, 6,715 migrants came to Western Australia in 1924, and in 1925 the number decreased to 3,688. In South Australia, 1,375 arrived in 1924, and only 1,288 in 1925. In Tasmania, 226 arrived in 1924, and 125 in 1925. For Victoria, the figures were 8,721 and 8,803 respectively; whereas in New South Wales 6,211 arrived in 1924, and 8,792 in 1925. Under a Labour Government there was a greater increase there than in all the other States combined. In Queensland, there was also an increase during the same years from 1,788 to 2,294. During 1924, the British Government contributed £133,162, and the Commonwealth £143,917 towards the cost of migrants’ passages. The advances on loan by the United Kingdom amounted to £98,157, and by Australia £98,442, or a grand total of £473,678. For the ten months ending the 30th October, 1925, the grants by the British Government amounted to £158,196, and by the Commonwealth Government to £168,157. The advances on loan by Great Britain amounted to £56,754, and by the Commonwealth to £56,992, making a total of £440,099, or a grand total for one year and ten months of £913,777. New arrivals in South Africa cannot obtain employment in a governmental or semigovernmental institution until they have resided in that country for at least three years, and if a similar system were adopted here, much of the trouble we now experience would be prevented. When travelling to my son’s block, which is 250 miles east of Perth, it was pitiable to see the position in which many “ pommies” were placed. The term “pommy” is regarded by some as being disrespectful, but it is not used in an objectionable sense. The men of the American Fleet which visited Australia some time ago were sometimes called “gobs,” but the term was not regarded by them as being disrespectful. It meant “ God’s own boys.” We have read a good deal of the conditions which obtained in America in the days of slavery; but those who have studied the question and have also investigated conditions under which the poor in London and the big cities of England live, have admitted that the slaves in the southern States of America were in a more fortunate position than are the poor of England. British citizens had their freedom, but in many cases they had to starve. According to Mulhall the deaths from starvation in Great Britain have been larger than in the whole of Europe. Some time ago, it was disclosed that the Sutherland family owned 1,753,000 acres of freehold land in Great Britain, which is more than Tyson of Queensland ever owned, even though he held a larger area of leased land. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), when dealing with the tariff schedule, disclosed the profits made by Courtaulds Limited in the manufacture of artificial silk. Huge fortunes are being made by this and other British manufacturing firms, whilst their employees are working for a miserable pittance. The Roman Emperor Hadrian employed his soldiers in constructing homes, and in doing so allowed his men to become skilled artisans, and some such useful work should be undertaken by the unemployed in Britain. In travelling through the South Sea Islands I found that the native huts were in a much better condition than many of the dwellings in which the poor of London, Glasgow, and Liverpool are compelled to live. Great Britain must take care of her population. At a time when Britain had an enormous country population, barefooted men of the finest possible physique decimated the flower of the French armies at Crecy and Agincourt.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I shall do so. I am referring to the physique once possessed by the British people, and I am endeavouring to show how desirable it is that migrants of good physique should be sent to Australia. The men who left Australia during the Great War were of fine physique, and in the words of the Latin adage, “ A healthy body means a healthy mind.” A committee dispatched to Calcutta to investigate the conditions under -which jute is manufactured reported as follows : -
An Indian jute worker, the report states, is paid about £12 10s. a year. His employer exploits him to the tune of £100 a year. In other words, profits amount to eight times the wages bill. The tables of dividends given by the investigators recall the fantastic wealth of Arabian Nights stories. In 1920 the Kinanison Mill made a dividend of 400 per cent. It yielded a comparatively modest 100 per cent, in 1924. The dividends of three other mills for that year averaged over 130 per cent.
For every £1 invested a return of £4 was made. The workers in the industry, who were grossly underpaid, were undercutting the British workers in Dundee.
During a period of ten years, the average dividend for all the companies has been 90 per cent. Who are these employers to whom vast wealth comes so easily? About GO per cent, of the shares are held by Indians, but the effective management rests in the hands of British capitalists. It proved difficult to trace the European holders, owing to dividends being remitted care of a bank. Messrs. Johnston and Syme discovered in the Gouripore shareholders’ list an item of 3,465 shares held “ for Mackay and Company Limited, account Lord Inchcape.”
Australia has no reason to love that name, and it will have less reason for doing so when Lord Inchcape controls all the shipping of this country. It may interest those who honour me by reading my speeches in Hansard to know what the tradesmen receive -
Butchers (women and girls) receive 3s. 4d. per four-day week. Boys are paid 2s. 2d. in the roving departments, 3s. Sd. in the spinning departments. Weavers’ wages range from 9s. a week; hemmers and sewers get 7s., and tenters 12s.
That is what the English workers have to compete against. The British tariff permits goods made under those conditions to enter British ports without penalty. This is how those poor human beings lives -
Housing is horrible. Two-thirds of the workers live in “bustees” one-story blocks of mud and plaster on wicker and matting, with thatched roofs; no windows, chimneys, or fireplaces. Kents from “ these foul ant-heaps of pestilence “ are from ls. to ls. 4d. a month. The remaining third live in compounds; rent from 4d. a week, no taxes.
It seems to me, in this slowly-advancing civilization, that the time is coming when no head of a family will fear the landlord’s knock. There were some landlords who, at the time of the land boom, received 12s. a week for their houses, and those same houses now bring in 25s. a week; but who, after the great debacle, were glad to pay 2s. 6d. a week to any one who would live in their houses and take care of them. In the terrible time of high rents, nothing was more dreaded by the mother of a family than the landlord’s knock on a Monday morning. One of the lessons of the terrible war through which the world passed a few years ago, is that health is one of the greatest assets a nation can have. Therefore, it is the duty of every government to promote the health of the people. My statements do not mean that I would prevent Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen, or Welshmen from coming to this country. I should loathe myself if my lips formed words with such a meaning. But our first duty is to the people of this country. The Australian baby is the finest immigrant we can have - our health statistics prove that - but are our babies getting a fair chance? We have treated the old-age and invalid pensioners fairly well ; but how little have we done for the babies and children, who are more helpless than the old-age pensioners! Every old-age pensioner can do something for himself, but babies of one, two, or three years of age are almost helpless. Only one State in Australia has risen to the civilized plane where it is recognized that a child has a right to a pension. That is the State which you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, have the honour to represent. A widow in that State - New South Wales - also has the same right. Where else in the wide domain of British nations can that be equalled? I should like to see Australia garnering the great lesson that is to be learned from the method that was employed to populate the waste land of Siberia, on a Mercator’s projection in which Australia can be hidden. How did Russia populate that awful place? It sent whole village communities there, with their blacksmiths and storekeepers, and even their “pubs,” and supported them for a certain period. Why cannot we bring the people of English villages to Australia, place them on good land, and provide them with water and firewood? One-tenth of the money spent in settling individual soldiers on blocks of land would more than keep such a community until it could support itself. Men and women brought out in that way would be able to live among their own friends. The almost sterile portion of the north of Asia was settled in that way from 150 to 200 years ago.
– Would it not help if we gave all migrants a pension for a year or two after they arrived.
– I presume that the honorable member makes that suggestion out of the kindness of his heart. My reply is that it might assist, but there would have to be a condition attached that the migrants should not accept less than the standard rate of wage in the occupation followed by them. It happened to my knowledge that a blacksmith, who worked eight hours a day for 50s. a week in England, received 15s. a week for ten hours a day at Kondinin, in Western Australia. I object to migrants coming here when, as in one instance I have in mind, there were over 1,000 applicants for a block of land. When there are three blocks for every two applicants, we of the Labour party will be willing to open our arms to migrants of any European race, but preferably to those from the British Isles. It has been proved by statistics that Australians are more British than the people of Great Britain, and we should keep them British for the sake of the future greatness of this country; but if we cannot obtain suitable migrants from Great Britain, we should take them from other European countries. Here is what happens even in merry England : -
Six hundred thousand workers die in England yearly with hardly a second shirt to pawn.
Two hundred and ninety-one persons get weekly £800 each. Dustmen and engineers rub along with £3 a week and less.
Ex-Queen Alexandra gets £190 per day. Aged 80.
Working women at the wash-tub get 3s. a day (if lucky to click a job), and block ornaments for Sunday and Christmas dinner.
I knew what it was to eat those “block ornaments” when I lived for five weeks in London on 10s. a week. They are waste pieces of beef, which are sold by the butchers at a very low price, and the average worker is glad to get them. I do not wish to have that experience again, nor do I wish any other human being to have a similar experience. I have already shown in this House what chance the white man has in South Africa. On the 1st December, 1924, a proclamation, authorized by act of parliament, declared that all skilled artisans in the building trade must be paid 2s. 9d. an hour for a 44 hour week. The penalty for breaking the law was £500 fine or two years imprisonment, or both fine and imprisonment. In the following February a council, consisting of the large employers and contractors, was formed under the act, and it met the representatives of the skilled trades in the building trade. After taking into consideration the climate and other factors in South Africa, that council raised the wages as high as 3s. 4d. an hour. I have compared the prices of commodities in Melbourne, as set out in the Melbourne Herald, with those ruling in Capetown and Johannesberg, which are the large cities of South Africa. With the single exception of flour and wheat the prices are lower in South Africa than they are here, and rents are considerably lower. Before that act was passed, half castes, who are very intelligent men, were employed as tradesmen, and received up to £2 a week. The negro was the unskilled worker, and he received up to 18s. a week. A white man landing in Capetown or any other coastal town thus had to face a very difficult situation. When I was there, there was not one white plasterer among 112,000 people in Capetown. I was told that there were two white bricklayers, but, although I was six weeks in Capetown, and looked assiduously for them, I could not find them. 1 asked Senator Whiteside about that when he was here. He was formerly employed on the Brighton tramway, and he left this country when the land boom burst. He went to South Africa, and in after years was appointed Commissioner of Railways in that country. I do not know of any other tramway man who has risen to such a position. - When he was here, he would not have any fuss made of him, and did - not wish to be invited to a parliamentary reception. I asked him whether all persons, whether white, coloured, or black, employed in those skilled trades would be paid those wages, and he replied emphatically that they would. I desire to see migrants settled under conditions that will give them a good chance of making a success of their holdings. It would be deplorable to attract those who would enter into competition with the industrialists of Australia. This would bring about conditions similar to those in the Old Country, where, according to the honorable member for Wentworth. (Mr. Marks), there are 3,000,000 unemployed.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put The committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) agreed to -
That, at the end of the definition of “ the principal migration agreement,” the following words be added, “ and includes any amendments to that agreement which are agreed to between the parties thereto.”
Clause further amended consequentially, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Establishment of commission) .
.- This seems to be an appropriate opportunity for the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to make an announcement regarding the scope of the activities of the commission. I should like to know whether it will have power to deal with all migration in the Commonwealth, of whether its power will be limited to the carrying out of the agreement between the Australian and Imperial Governments with respect to the loan of £34,000,000.
.- I should be glad if the Prime Minister would explain why sub-clause 2 gives the commission power to acquire, hold, and dispose of real and personal’ property. I am in favour of the appointment of this commission; but I do not wish it to be unnecessarily aggrandized, lest it become too expensive to the country.
.- In reply to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), I point out that the exact powers and functions of the commission are set out in clause 13, but, since the honorable member has raised generally and broadly the subject of these powers’, I may say that the work of the commission will not be confined merely to the carrying out of approved schemes under the agreement with the British Government, and the supplementary agreements with the States. The commission will have very much wider functions than that. It is to be established for the purpose of dealing generally with development and migration in Australia, in addition to any specific schemes that may be propounded by the States, and it will advise the Commonwealth Government regarding those matters. It will not have control of the migration policy of either the Commonwealth or a State Government. With matters of policy it will have nothing to do. It will have no voice regarding the terms upon which assisted passages shall be granted to nominated immigrants; nor will it have any control over the policy of State Governments regarding requisitions for migrants or specific types of migrants. It will have no power to alter schemes that may have been endorsed by the States, for the bringing out of boy migrants. Matters of policy will remain solely in the hands of the Government. The commission will be concerned with the subject of development. It will advise the Commonwealth Government on that matter, and I hope that its advice may be heeded by the State Governments, though it will not be its function to offer advice to them. The powers granted under sub-clause 2, to which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has referred, are ordinary and general. It is not contemplated that the commission will, under ordinary circumstances, hold land, but it is necessary that it should be a body capable of suing and being sued. From time to time patriotic citizens may desire to try out private schemes for development or migration. For example, ‘a man might, under his will, desire the whole of his estate to be devoted to the promotion of migration in a particular manner, and the Migration Commission might be the most suitable body in whom to vest it. Apart from such cases, however, there is nothing in the bill to justify the supposition that the commission will acquire large areas of land.
– What is meant by “ real and personal property “ ?
– The term is used in the strictly legal sense. Real property is chiefly land, while personal property would be such things as stocks and shares, or money.
– In other words, the term “real and personal property” means movables and immovables.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
.- I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the desirableness of providing for the representation on the commission of the trade unions and primary producers. If one member of the commission were representative of the industrial section of the community, he would be in a position to advise that body of any danger to be apprehended from the flooding of the Australian labour market with migrants from overseas. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who has given this matter careful consideration, stated that unless the Government could ensure the co-operation of the Labour party the scheme would not succeed. Other thinking men take the same view. If the Government is in earnest in its desire to formulate a workable scheme, and one which will appeal not to one section only but to the whole of Australia, it will see to it that the commission comprises representatives of both trade unions and primary producers. It would be unwise to appoint a commission representing wholly city business interests. One member of the commission should have a thorough knowledge of economic problems and a personal experience of the subdivision of land, so that the commission could be safeguarded against mistakes in connexion with the purchase of estates. I trust that the Prime Minister will give this matter careful consideration and agree to the personnel of the commission being on the lines I have suggested. If necessary, I shall move an amendment having this object in view.
.- I should like to know why it is necessary to appoint a commission of four members. In my opinion, three would be ample to carry out the investigations in connexion with the formulation of migration schemes. A small committee is likely to do better work, particularly in view of the fact that under a later provision in the bill there is .authority for the commission to appoint experts to advise it in connexion with special problems. If, for example, there was the need for improved harbour accommodation or railway communication in some remote portion of the Commonwealth, the commission would call in outside experts and rely upon their advice. Besides being less expensive, a commission of three would do better work.
.- There is much to be said for both suggestions. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) forestalled me with regard to the representation of primary producers on the proposed commission. With the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I believe that three members will be ample, especially if one is the representative of the primary producers and has a sound knowledge of land settlement problems. Since the scheme involves the expenditure of £34,000.000 on various undertakings which might include factories for the development nf secondary industries, it is advisable that one member of the commission, at all events, should be able to sneak with authority on industrial activities; and if the third man had a wide general knowledge of finance, the commission should he acceptable to the people of Australia
– The -two points that have been raised are closely related, and can very well be dealt with together. Let me deal first with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that there should be representation on the commission of trade unions and primary producers. The Government could not accept an amendment of that character, because it is not contemplated that the commission shall be representative of any section or class in the community. In determining the personnel of the commission, the Government had in view the problems that will have to be considered in relation to our primary and secondary industries, our industrial conditions, and our financial position. Exactly how the commission will be made up will be determined when we know what men will be available for appointment; but the point I wish to stress is that it would be improper to lay down any definite lines, and say that the commission should be representative of any class or section. We must get the men who will be most suited for the duties of the commission. With regard to the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the commission should consist of three instead of four members, I can only say that the Government has given that matter the fullest consideration. I entirely agree that the objective should be to keep the personnel of the commission as small as possible, but after considering the subject fully, and bearing in mind the nature of the work which the commission will be called upon to do, the Government has come to the conclusion that four is the most suitable number. It is extremely probable that schemes will be submitted from all the State Governments. At present we have under consideration proposals from Western Australia, Victoria, and South Australia. It is desirable that all these schemes should be examined without delay, and that we should have an opportunity to obtain the views of the various State officers concerning them. Therefore it may be advisable to divide the commission, allowing two of its members to proceed to Western Australia, and two to go to South Australia to carry out this work. The Government believes that, more than one member should be available for such investigatory work. I can assure the committee that the Government has given the fullest consideration to the personnel of the commission, and believes that four is the ideal number. I trust, therefore, that the committee will not accept any amendment to reduce the number.
.- The Prime Minister would be wise to agree to the. suggestion made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). Public feeling is tending in this direction.- I believe that the day is not far distant when employees will have representation in all important State industrial enterprises. Already they have this privilege in Great Britain. They have found that very beneficial. It will not be long before the Governments of the various States will adopt the same principle. As the term “ trade union “ appears to frighten honorable members opposite, I suggest that the word “ industrial “ be substituted. The industrial section of the community, which represents 80 per cent, of the population, should be represented on a board of this character. It. is probable that the Government will appoint some military officer as chairman of the commission, as was done in filling the chairmanship of the Public Service Board. In that case, some gentleman acquainted with the work of the Postmaster-General’s Department and of the Public Service generally should have received the appointment. The Government may not accept my suggestion now. hut the time will come when it will be accepted.
.- -I air pleased that the Prime Minister has given an emphatic refusal to the request for a labelled commission. Had that request been acceded to, we should have further requests from various sections for permission to nominate their representatives,, and responsible government would bo in danger. The system of responsible government has already suffered sufficiently under this bill. Clause 5 vests the administration of this scheme in an outside commission. So far as I can see, only one power will be retained by the Minister - he will be able to call the commission together. Otherwise he will be a mere cypher. I regret that the hill has been introduced in its present form. In operation, the commission will be merely a link between the Secretary for State for the Dominions and the Commonwealth and State Governments. Those chiefly responsible under this scheme are the State Governments which will submit the various proposals. As the commission is being appointed by this Parliament some minister should be responsible to Parliament. There is no link between the commission and Parliament. No responsibility will rest upon the Minister; the whole administration will devolve upon the commission.*
– No. The estimates of the commission will have to be submitted to Parliament. This bill does not provide the commission with any money. It will have only such moneys as are voted by Parliament. There will be ministerial responsibility for the Estimates.
– But the commission is empowered to borrow money.
– No; the Treasurer is.
– On the representation of the commission.
– The honorable member is doubtless referring to clause 12, which deals only with the borrowing of money for the purpose of the loans under the principal and the subsidiary agreements. It has nothing to do with the finances of the commission itself.
– By no clause in the bill is anything entrusted to the Minister, but only to the commission. The Minister certainly has the right to call the commission together, but not the right to sit with it. In practice, it will be found that proposals will be submitted by the various State Governments, which have their experts and responsible Ministers, and that before being forwarded to the commission the schemes will have been examined by State experts of long standing. Under clause 16 the commission has power to appoint its own experts; but I see no ministerial responsibility.
– Under clauses 15 and 16 the Minister has certainly responsibilities in respect to appointments carrying a salary exceeding £500 a year.
– There is ministerial responsibility for the approval of the schemes. The commission can only recommend that schemes be approved.
– The Minister cannot approve of a scheme.
– The Minister cannot function.
– It is a good thing that he cannot.
– I hardly expected that interjection from a member of the Country party. The Prime Minister would not have made it. My objection is that four men, who probably will not be drawn from any State Government, and who may be without experience of public activities, and out of touch with responsible State and Commonwealth Ministers and experienced departmental officers, will be appointed to the commission, with the result that there will be supervision by a new organization upon whose recommendation a scheme is either proceeded with or rejected. I accept the Prime Minister’s statement that clause 14 will be amended, and that the commission will not have the power to veto a proposal initiated by a State Government without the sanction of this Parliament, although, when this point was mentioned during my second-reading speech, the responsible Minister twice interjected that I had not read the bill. In the light of what has happened since, it would appear that the Minister himself had read neither the bill nor the Prime Minister’s speech. I repeat that all that is vital to the success of this scheme is in the hands of the States. They have the land, the water schemes, the roads, the public works, and all the great undertakings upon which the success of this scheme depends. We are but the agents between the States and the Imperial Government. I hope that one-half of the members of the commission will not go to Western Australia to determine what shall be done in respect of the proposals submitted by that State, as was suggested by the Prime Minister.
– I did not say that they would determine matters, but that they would make investigations.
– These men might, have no knowledge of Western Australian conditions. The State Governments, with their keen experts, and the whole of their departmental machinery at their disposal, are in a better position to judge the merits of the proposals than the commission would be. Between the Commonwealth Government and the State
Government, the two vital parties to the agreement, with their responsible ministers, their life-long experts, and the necessary machinery and facilities for settling immigrants on the land, we may be imposing an investigating committee which may entirely deprive the Commonwealth Minister in charge of the administration of the act of all responsibility.
– What responsibility does the honorable member suggest the Minister should have which he will not have under this bill?
– I think that the Minister should preside over the commission, or that everything done by it should be subject to his recommendation. If we are willing to hand over the functions of government, and farm out our responsibility, to commissions, what need is there for responsible ministers? I hope that, in practice, at any rate, the Minister in charge of the administration of this act will directly link himself up with the commission, and either be its direct head or bring all its activities under his purview. Although it would be a departure from the usual practice, I should like to see the . Minister at the head of. the commission, or at least a member of it; but, if I were the responsible Minister, I should not like to feel that there was any other person on the commission who knew more about the matter than I did. However, I have entered my protest, and I leave the matter there.
Amendment (by Mr. Blakeley) proposed -
That after the word “ members,” sub-clause 1, the words “ one of whom shall represent the trade unions and one the primary producers “ be inserted.
– I regret that the Prime Minister refuses to accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). I can quite understand the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) agreeing with the proposal, because it is a most prominent plank in the platform of the Country party that primary producers should be represented on all boards and commissions in which they and their interests are concerned. That plank has also been in’ the platform of the Labour party for many years ; long before it was adopted by the Country party. As a matter of fact, the Country party copied it. At any rate, it is a wise proposal that, where a board or commission is appointed to deal with matters which concern the interests of the man on the land, it should have on it a representative of the primary producers; and, as the honorable member for Darling has said, this scheme will not be a success unless it has also the good will and support of the industrial community. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) says, very wisely, that, to make a success of the scheme, every section of the community interested should be represented on the commission; but the right honorable the Prime Minister wants a commission which will not represent any particular class. If, in Australia, we can secure the appointment of a commission which will represent no section or class of the community, it will indeed be a novelty. I remember when the honorable member for Indi and others in the Country party advocated the appointment of a representative of the primary producers on the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank. If ever there was a case in which financial experts should have been appointed, it was that case; but the Government declared that it was not necessary to have every member of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank a financial expert. In fact, it was anxious to have every section in the country represented on that directorate with the exception, of course, of the industrial section, as is usually the case. At any rate, there is a representative of the primary producers on the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and the gentleman appointed has always earned his living on the land, and against him I have nothing to say. There is also a representative of the producers on the Tariff Board. In the appointment of a Tariff Board the Government would have had very good reason for declining to give representation to any section of the community, whose commodities might come under review of that board - I do not quite agree with that argument; nevertheless, I can understand it being used - but despite that fact, an interested section asked for and obtained representation upon it. Surely it is just as logical to ask for representation of the primary producers on a commission that will deal with immigration and land settlement. The honorable member for Darling has moved his amendment because honorable members on this side -of the House lose no opportunity of giving effect to the platform for which they stand; but, so far, the honorable member for Indi is the only member of the Country party who has indicated that he intends to vote for it, because he knows that if he does not do so, he. will be violating an important plank in his party’s platform. But if he is the only member of the Country party who supports the amendment, he will be showing those associated with him in a very bad light. However, I am not assuming that he will stand alone in this respect. I believe that other honorable members of his party will abide by this plank of their platform, whose importance they have always paraded. I have heard many honorable members representing country constituencies advocating the representation of the primary producers on boards which affect their interests.
– They advocate the appointment of the representatives of primary producers on all boards which sell or handle primary produce. That is what the platform provides.
– Yes; and it covers boards whose activities affect primary production. The Minister will not deny that the investigations to be made by this commission will considerably affect primary production and the work of primary producers. He also knows that the platform of his party is intended to apply to a board or commission such as that to be entrusted with the work of carrying out this agreement. This commission will be called upon to investigate every phase of rural production. It will allocate lands and advise as to the areas suitable for a particular form of production - wheatgrowing, potato-growing, and so forth. Will tlie-Minister for Works and Railways say that that has nothing to do with primary producers? As a matter of fact, its activities will come within the meaning of that plank, which is to be found in the platforms of both the Country party and the Labour party, and which asks for the representation of the primary producers on all boards dealing with matters relating to the interests of the primary pro ducers. The Prime Minister should learn that he ought not to crack the whip too early; but I suppose that he knows that his position is quite safe, and that, although honorable members behind him may hold views differing from his, they will fall into line and obey his dictates. I regret very much that he cannot accept the amendment; but, at all events, the Labour party could not let the opportunity go without attempting to give effect to an important plank of its platform.
.- In connexion with the points raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), it should be noted that the commission will not hold office for more than five years, and the periods of reappointment will depend largely upon the manner in which the work is performed. A further safeguard is provided in clause 14, under which the Treasurer is to supply the commission with funds. Whilst I have a very high opinion of the ability of ministers of the Crown, irrespective of the parties to which they belong, they cannot possibly be expected to have the same knowledge of the work to be undertaken as will the members of the commission. If the power of veto were to be given the Minister, as the honorable member for Wannon suggests, it would be very difficult to obtain the services of the type of men the Government require. I am prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s explanation of the position in regard to the representation on” the commission of different interests, and I realize that if the primary producers were represented, other sections would also desire representation.
.- I am deeply pained to find that the only member of the Country party who had apparently been convinced by the arguments in favour of the primary producers having representation on the proposed commission has slipped and fallen at the first hurdle. I saw, in pleasant imagination, the honorable member in the unusual role of a strong man - theonly one of his party - sitting amongst members of the Labour party, and voting in support of the principles in which he has believed for a lifetime. So enthusiastic was the honorable member in announcing his support of the amendment, that he happened to make it known that he had intended to move a similar amendment. During the whole of my parliamentary career I have never witnessed such a painful collapse. I intended pointing to the honorable member as a shining example of fortitude and rectitude; as one who was true to form in party and in principles. The honorable member has at least the merit of visibly blushing at his own political apostasy. I intended calling attention to the fact that with the exception of the honorable member for Indi there was not another member of the Country party prepared to support this vital principle. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) is silent. I ask him now, as the representative of a great rural electorate, if he favours the exclusion ot a representative of the primary producers from this commission. I pause for a reply, but none is forthcoming. With your indulgence, sir, -I am certain that the Minister could say that he believes in the primary producers having representation on a commission intimately associated with primary production and land settlement. This is one of those tests to which we periodically submit these gentlemen. Are they for the primary producers, or are they for place, pay, and political “ toadyism “ to the National Government with which they are associated ? Will the honorable member for Indi consider a further reversal of form after listening to what I have to say.
– Is the honorable member in favour of migration ?
– An answer to the honorable gentleman’s interjection would be regarded as irrelevant to the question now before the committee. How does the honorable member for Indi regard the representation of primary producers on this commission, which will have power to spend no less than £34,000,000 in Australia ? The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was obviously uncomfortable in the knowledge that he is head of a composite Government, consisting of more than one-half in power if not in numbers of the Country party, and hastened to explain more forcibly than logically why he could not accept an amendment to give the primary producers representation on the commission. The right honorable gentleman said that the
Government would endeavour to obtain the services of men with a thorough knowledge of the work they had to perform. Even the most severe critic of the Government admits’ that, when appointing the commission, the Government will seek to obtain the services of men with knowledge. Are there any members of the Country party possessing sufficient knowledge? There is, for instance, the honorable member for Indi, and perhaps others. Is it not obvious that the Government, in the discharge of its high and responsible duties in appointing this irresponsible commission, as it eventually will be, will have to make its choice from some class in the community ? I suggest that the right honorable gentleman should further discuss this matter with the rank and file of the Country party. Suppose a choice is made which is obviously unsatisfactory to that great body of primary producers which is so inextricably bound up with this scheme. If public meetings were held to protest against the great primary industries being unrepresented, and the subdivision and settlement being left, say, to city lawyers, such as judges of the Arbitration Court, the Prime Minister would be in a more comfortable position if he were able to follow the line of least resistance, and say, “Well, Parliament directed that one member of the commission was to be a representative of the primary producers. We have taken one from amongst them.” The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who represents a few farmers and a large number of auctioneers and agents of various kinds, set himself up as the champion of primary producers in this Parliament, and congratulated the Prime Minister upon his emphatic refusal to appoint a representative of the primary producers. One honorable member, whose name has been mentioned more than once during this debate, who pretends to represent the great body of rural workers, said that he would support this proposal, but he now intends to vote against it. When we search for those who support the interests of primary producers, we have to look to such men as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) or the honorable members for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) and Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who have a greater conception of the requirements of a rural electorate than all the experts of the Country party put together. I have not yet heard if the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) believes in the primary producers having representation on the commission. The honorable member is supposed to represent the Country party.
– He was a representative of that party before the Prime Minister spoke.
– I assume that the honorable member for Hume speaks with knowledge, and that the honorable member for Richmond, like the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) has decided to vote against a proposal which he favoured before the Prime Minister spoke. I mentioned awhile ago that certain interests will be represented on . the commission. It is curious that when it was moved from this side by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that one of the judges of the industrial tribunal should not necessarily be a member of the profession in which I am a humble worker, it was immediately pointed out by honorable gentlemen on the other side that the tribunal must be confined to legal men. There are two classes of workers involved in this matter. There are the members of the trade unions, to which may be added, those who ought to be members of trade unions, and the primary producers. They include the great mass of the workers of the community, and it is they who keep the wheels of industry, whether in town or country, revolving, and discharge faithfully the services of the nation. Apart from those two classes there are captains of industry, as they are picturesquely called, importers, and employing manufacturers, middlemen and professional men, but numerically they are negligible. The two great factors in the community arc those who labour in primary production, and the trade unionists who keep the secondary industries of the country going. It was a very happy thought of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to put this matter in succinct form, and to point out that it was the duty of this committee to give a lead to the Government as to the personnel of the commission. It is not for us to suggest names. Some names of eminently suitable persons have occurred to me, but I refrain from mentioning them. I thought at first that if the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) were not ineligible by being a member of the Parliament, he might be persuaded to take the position, but later he sank somewhat in my estimation as a fit and proper person for the office. I have said enough to convince thinking members of this committee of the cogency of the case put forward by the honorable member for Darling. For the rest, it remains for honorable members opposite to justify themselves to their constituents. This will be one of a long list of instances in which they have been faithful in word and unfaithful in act.
– But the two parties in the Government will claim to be separate entities.
-Separate entities! They are nonentities, except in the Cabinet, when they sit behind green baize doors. I have never known a member of the Country party, on a matter which vitally affected country districts, to have sufficient courage and fidelity to principle to remain firm either to his pledges or his conviction. He waves both aside, falls in as the right wing or the tail - I am not quite sure which - of this Government, to do what the Prime Minister directs him to do. What happens between the Prime Minister and his partner, what are the joys and sorrows of their union, or their political differences in the Cabinet room and elsewhere, it is not for me to say.
– Can the honorable member explain why in newspaper cartoons the Treasurer is always depicted as a woman ?
– It is the common belief - at all events, among those who stand for the primary producer - that he is “the better half.” I wish that you, Mr. Deputy Chairman (Sir Granville Ryrie), had been on the floor to support the primary producers of your electorate. I feel that we should then have had a stalwart champion of the cause which I, as a representative of an industrial electorate, am endeavouring to support; but you have duties to perform in the chair, and must be impartial, if not neutral. I have done what I can to support the amendment of the honorable member for Darling. Nothing convincing has been said in opposition to my arguments, unless it is what was said by the honorable member for Indi, who spoke eloquently both for and against the amendment. He delivered the one speech shortly after the other, with only the speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister intervening. His two speeches may be regarded as admirably and mutually destructive, and he has retired from the chamber with the consciousness of work well done, and badly undone.
.- As a representative of thousands of primary producers, I should be lacking in my duty if I did not support the amendment of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). Some years ago a certain member of the Queensland Parliament was known as “Wobbly Bob.” When to support the interests of those who sent him to Parliament would have affected big business interests, he broke his pledges, and thus went down to history as “ Wobbly Bob.” The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) fell at the first hurdle. In these days of Grand National hurdle races, the description was appropriate. The honorable member intended at first to vote for the representation of the primary producers on the commission, but after the Prime Minister had spoken on the matter he changed his attitude. Apparently members of the Country party are prepared to sacrifice their election pledges for the sake of seats on parliamentary committees or in the cabinet. Have we not primary producers in Australia, who, having made good on the land, and knowing the conditions that migrants will experience, would be better fitted than city magnates to occupy one of these jobs at £2,000 a year? The Central Queensland Council of Agriculture has sent me a letter containing a resolution of protest against bringing thousands of immigrants to Australia, and settling them on the land to produce butter, before the Government was prepared to introduce legislation providing for the better marketing of that commodity so that dairymen would obtain a fair price based on the cost of production.
– The honorable member knows that that is not constitutionally possible.
– When members of the Country party obtain seats in the Ministry they quote the Constitution to the farmers, but when they are on the hustings, they adopt an attitude similar to that taken up by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who stated a week or so ago that, when he found obstacles in his way, he pushed them aside, and left others to show afterwards that his action was wrong. It was pointed out by the Queensland Crown Solicitor that the Government had power to stabilize the butter industry. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that, before the migration scheme could meet with success, it would be necessary to obtain the cooperation of all sections, including Labour. The amendment by the honorable member for Darling seeks to give representation to the workers and to the primary producers. What two sections are more deserving than these of representation on a board that will deal with a matter vitally affecting their interests? Members of the Country party should be ashamed of their weak-kneed attitude. It is regrettable that they should be prepared to abandon their principles for place and power.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Blakeley’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Remuneration and expenses of commissioners).
.- Whilst I admit the right of the Government, subject to a direction from this committee, to fix the remuneration of the commissioners, it is desirable that we should have an intimation from the Prime Minister of the salaries proposed to be paid and allowances made to. the members of the commission, other than the chairman, whose proposed salary has already been mentioned.
. - The honorable member has raised an important question, upon which the attitude of the Government can be stated very definitely. We believe that, if we are to secure the services of the very best men available, we shall have to offer good salaries. I have seen the remuneration of the chairman stated, on several occasions, at £5,000 a year. That figure is possibly correct; but I do not anticipate that the other members of the commission will receive anything like that amount. Their salaries will probably be on a much lower scale; but I cannot indicate to the committee what they will receive. Honorable members will agree that, if we are to get the right men for the position, we shall have to pay whatever may be necessary to secure their services. The allowances will embrace the usual travelling allowances, and other charges ordinarily made. They will be based upon the recognized scale now in operation in the Public Service.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Period of office of commissioners).
.- I wish to intimate that, at a later stage, it is my intention to move for the insertion of a new clause to limit the term of office of the commissioners to a certain definite period, unless, in the meantime, the Government finds it expedient to carry on the work of the commission.
.- Does the Prime Minister think that this clause allows sufficient time for the whole of the functions of the commission to be exercised ? The main agreement provides for concessions by the Imperial Government extending over a term of ten years. If the commission is to function rightly, that term is not too long. I hops that in fixing a term of seven years for the chairman, the Minister does not intend to terminate the appointment in the event of the agreement being found satisfactory.
– The period of ten years, which appears in the agreement, was based on Australia’s power to absorb migrants and the development that takes place in this country. Development to the maximum extent cannot take place without the expenditure of considerable sums of money on developmental railways, and in other directions. I pointed out to the British Government that many works could with advantage be carried out in Australia, but that the capital expenditure involved would place too great a burden of interest upon the existing population, whereas if a moratorium period of ten years were arranged for under the agreement, and provided that the money was wisely expended on developmental works, Australia would be able to carry the burden of the additional interest.
– Is a similar agreement in existence between the Imperial Government and the other dominion governments ?
– No. This was an entirely new proposal, and for that reason a period of ten years was. provided. That period has no relation to the term fixed under this clause. The period set out in this clause is that which, after the fullest investigation, we concluded would give a sufficient security of tenure to attract a really first class man as chairman. But, assuming that the commission proves to be a great success, and that it is thought desirable that it should continue, the position is met by sub-clause 2, which provides that the retiring members of the commission shall be eligible for reappointment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Borrowing of moneys for purposes of migration agreements).
– I have not yet had time to consider the Inscribed Stock Act 1915-1918, and, therefore, I desire to know whether, under this clause, we are giving the Treasurer what is practically a blank cheque. Would it be possible for him to issue treasury-bills, or to advance money in connexion with any of these schemes without the approval of Parliament? It appears that the Treasurer might advance the money, and afterwards ask Parliament to approve of his action.
– Let us consider, for example, a scheme submitted by a State and involving the expenditure of £1,000,000. Should it be approved, the Commonwealth Government becomes liable during the first five years for the difference between the 1 per cent, to be paid by the State Government and one-half of the effective rate of interest that is paid upon the money. That portion of the interest would appear annually in the statement of the accounts of the Commonwealth. The obligation of the Commonwealth in respect of moneys loaned to the States is limited to the proportion of the interest set out in the agreement.
– Does it permit the Treasurer to issue treasury-bills and to raise money without the sanction of Parliament?
– Only to the amount of anapproved scheme which operates under the agreement.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
The powers and functions of the commission shall include the following: -
In relation to the development of Australia -
the consideration of matters in relation to the development of the resources of the Commonwealth, whether by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the several States, or otherwise;
the investigation of the condition and development of existing industries, whether primary or secondary, in the Commonwealth; and of the possibility of establishing new industries therein ;
the conduct of negotiations, whether within or beyond Australia, for the establishment of new industries in Australia and the development of existing industries therein;
the making of reports and recommendations to the Minister upon matters dealt with by the commission in pursuance of any of the last three preceding sub-paragraphs;
the exercise of the prescribed powers of control and supervision of works; and
such other powers and functions as are prescribed; and
In relation to migration to Australia -
the examination and investigation of any undertaking or scheme proposed by a State under the principal Migration Agreement or any supplementary Migration Agreement, and the making of recommendations thereon to the Commonwealth ;
the framing and submission to the Commonwealth of other undertakings or schemes in relation to migration which appear to be of advantage to Australia;
the control of the staff employed by the Commonwealth in connexion with migration; and
such other powers and functions as are prescribed.
.- This is the kernel provision of the bill, the clause which empowers the commission to function, and I suggest that its functions, powers and duties should be to inquire into and report on such questions as may be referred to it by the Minister, thus importing into the measure more direct ministerial control. The clause should be so fashioned that the responsible Minister would function, and the commission could not go out on a peregrination of Australia to see what matters it might inquire into whether on its own volition or at the request of the States. It would be better, too, for the States to have to place themselves in communication with the national government. I feel that a Commonwealth Minister should be the direct controlling head of the commission. Otherwise he would be nothing but a figure head.
– It would be impossible for the Minister to travel about Australia making investigations.
– That is not intended.
– But the commission would be useless without such investigations.
– I hold that it would be better for all the matters into which the commission inquires to be submitted by the State Governments to the Commonwealth Minister, and by him remitted to the commission for report to him. In the carrying out of this agreement I cannot conceive of the Secretary of State to the Colonies being represented other than by the Commonwealth. Government. The Prime Minister has not yet indicated whether the use of the words ‘ ‘ agreed undertaking “ involves the presence of a responsible representative of the Imperial Government in Australia with power to acquiesce on behalf of the Imperial Government, or whether that Government will look to the Commonwealth Government to approve of the proposals of the States. I intend to move an amendment in the hope that it will give the commission a direct head in the Commonwealth Ministry, and that the commission will not travel north, south, east and west on projects put up by the States without the cognisance or acquiescence of the Commonwealth Minister entrusted with the administration of the act. My suggestion if adopted would provide the commission with a direct Ministerial head who would be au fait with every proposal of the States and with all the undertakings of the commission. It would provide the missing link in the scheme.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has caused me a good deal of thought since the debate on this bill has been in progress, and I am of opinion that the object he has in view can be met by an amendment suggested by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), which I am quite prepared to accept. I think it will also be acceptable to the honorable member for Wannon, because it covers those interests to which he has referred The objection to the clause as it now stands is that the commission could range over almost every subject, and conceivably could devote a good deal of its time to matters which might not be deemed to be the most vital or essentia], yet there would be no control over it by the Minister, and Parliament could not hold the Minister to blame. I realize that it is desirable to overcome this difficulty providing that the commission is not hamstrung in regard to its proper functions. I think the difficulty could be overcome by inserting at the end of the clause the words -
The commission shall not undertake the consideration or investigation of any matters in paragraph (a) of the last preceding sub-section until the approval of the Minister thereto has been given.
The matters referred to in paragraph a are as follows : -
In relation to the development of Australia -
An amendment on those lines would require the commission to submit its programme of contemplated action to the Minister, and after the Minister’s approval had been given it could exercise its functions without interference.
– That does not give the Minister direct authority.
– The honorable member said that it would be much better if all the transactions were between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments. It is essential that submission of any scheme should be by the States to the Commonwealth, but this proposal contemplates something before the point of submitting proposals to the Commonwealth is reached the investigation and discussion of proposals in regard to contemplated schemes is involved. A commission which will be travelling, should have the power to discuss questions with State Ministers, provided the general approval of the Minister as proposed by the amendment has first been obtained. Commonwealth and State Ministers experience great difficulty in securing co-operative’ action, own)” to the impossibility of ai ranging meetings. It is very difficult to arrange personal interviews between Commonwealth and State Ministers in connexion with schames of this description, and I think the difficulties mentioned would be overcome by an amendment such as I suggest. This amendment is not drafted in such a way as to hamper the activities of the commission, or to prevent what we have in mind, the introduction and investigation of schemes for the further development of Australia
.- As I believe the commission should have definite duties, I move -
That the words “ and functions of the commission shall include the following “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ functions and duties of the commission shall include the following : - To inquire into and report upon such questions ns may be referred to them by the Minister “ be inserted.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs; [10.56]. - I am afraid I cannot accept the proposal of the honorable member for Wannon. ‘ The amendment which I intend to move at the end of the clause will meet the case, lt will meet the difficulties which ihe honorable member has in mind, and the form is, I think, preferable.
– Would not the amendment of the right honorable gentleman affect the work of .the commission 1
– No. The commission will lay down a general programme, and an amendment such as I have suggested will not in any way interfere with its work.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman) [10.57).- For the information of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), I suggest that the proposal which originated with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and owing to his modesty percolated through the chamber until it reached the Prime Minister will meet the position. It is evident that the proposal of the honorable member for Henty gives the Minister greater power than that of the honorable member for Wannon. His suggestion is to enable the commission to entertain proposals made to it by the Minister ; but the proposal of the honorable member for
Henty is to restrict the commission to all those matters approved b” the Minister. In the one case the Minister has a voice in making suggestions to the commission, but in the other the Minister has the power of veto. I believe in parliamentary control expressed through Ministers, and if the two contending members will accept my arbitrament as final I think the suggestion of tha honorable member for Henty preferable, and, on behalf of Ihe members of the Opposition, whom I have not consulted, I shall accept it.
.- I am afraid that the decision of the right honorable the Prime Minister in this matter will make the bill a bad one, foi; it will take from, the commission the power to make examinations of its own volition. The amendment of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) gives a certain amount of control to the Minister. Suggestions for settlement schemes might be made to the Minister, who could instruct the commission to report on them. Under the bill the commission may do just as it likes, without being subject to any control. There is a vital difference between the amendment of the honorable member for Wannon and the proposal of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). We may appoint very estimable men to this commission, and afterwards find that they are not what we thought they were. They may not desire to carry out the wishes of the Government or the Parliament. There is nothing in the bill to compel the commission to do what the Parliament or the Executive Council wishes. I support the amendment of the honorable memfor for Wannon, and I would go even further and give the Minister control of the “ powers, functions, and duties “ of the commission.
– Is there any distinction between functions and duties?
– There is decidedly a difference. I have had more experience than most honorable members of administering a public department, and 1 know the responsibility that is thrown upon members of Parliament by commissions. I remember the protests of honorable members about the taking over of the timber mills in Queensland. A man had been appointed as War Service Homes Commissioner, and, with the authority given to him by this Parliament, he did most outrageous things. I believe that the commission provided for in the bill will be a good commission, but this committee should provide against the possibility of unsuitable men being appointed. The Government should be supreme. I hope that the Prime Minister will agree to an amendment which will give the Executive Council power to direct the commission to make investigations.
.- If I thought that the Government had changed its attitude regarding the appointment of the commission, the suggestion of the honorable member for Henty would be more logical than my amendment, because it would give the Minister direct responsibility and the power to determine matters for himself before having inquiries made. I know that the Ministry does not intend that, and, therefore, I hope that the Prime Minister will accept my amendment, which is inserted in the. right place, the kernel of the bill. The amendment provides that the commission shall derive its power of investigation from the Minister, lt assumes that the Minister starts by submitting matters to his commission. That seems to me the correct course. I do not wish to revive memories or open old sores, but I have had sufficient experience of commissions never again to make a commission supreme over a Minister. The Minister, if he desires to do to, should first place a proposal before his Government, and afterwards set the commission in motion. Thus the time of the commission would not be wasted in examining the wild-cat schemes of the different governments, which, under the bill, will have power to move the commission to investigate almost anything. I can conceive of the commission spending a lot of time in the prickly pear country, where it can learn nothing new. That country has gone beyond the need for investigation ; it remains for scientists to find a remedy. There is so little between us that I hope the Prime Minister will agree to allow the Minister to step off with his right foot and take control of the commission, after determining by consultation with his Government the matters needing investigation. The Commonwealth is undertaking great obligations - the obligation of giving birth to the commission, and the obligation of negotiating the agreement with the
Mother Country and submitting it to the States. The Commonwealth is looked upon as the jumping-off ground. I should like to be a Minister having such a magnificent field of investigation ; it would appeal to me as the most alluring field in the Commonwealth. But if I found that my commission was somewhere in the wide field enumerated in clause 1 (ii) of the main agreement, I should not feel so elated. J hope that without my pleading the matter farther, the Prime Minister will accept my amendment.
– Would the amendment restrict the commission to the consideration of questions submitted by the Minister ?
-No; but I would not make the commission the tool and plaything of the States. The amendment provides that the proposals shall come from the States, and filter through the heads of departments. The Commonwealth Government will determine the matters that will be submitted by the States to the commission.
– There is a fundamental difference between my point of view and that of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He suggests that under the bill power should be given to the Minister to direct the commission to carry out certain investigations; in fact, that the Minister should, to a great extent, be responsible for originating the inquiries. For many reasons that would be totally opposed to the ideas of the Government in framing the bill, and principally because the Government wishes the commission to initiate its own inquiries, and try to open up new avenues of investigation. I agree, however, to the other amendment, because, in the event of the commission trying to go too far, there must be some power to stop it. But the commission must decide the line upon which its inquiries are to proceed. If numerous schemes were submitted from all quarters, the present Government would not take advantage of any power it might have to instruct the commission to inquire into them. However, human nature and governments are what they are, and I can imagine this unfortunate commission spending the whole of its time investigating various schemes referred to it by the Government of the day through the responsible Minister. For that reason I should object to providing, as one of the first duties of the commission, that it should investigate schemes submitted to it by the Government.
– What power of direction has the Minister under the bill regarding the commission’s operations?
– The commission is to be allowed to investigate problems for itself. I recognize that, possibly, it would be advisable to give more ministerial control than is now provided, and the amendment to be considered subsequently provides that “ the commission shall not undertake the consideration or investigation of any matters under paragraph a of the last preceding sub-section until the approval of the Minister thereto has been given.” In practice the commission would lay down a plan of investigation for some period ahead, submit it to the Minister, and obtain his approval.
– The right honorable gentleman stated that it would be impossible for the commission to proceed to the consideration of a scheme unless the Minister approved of it.
– I was then referring to the general investigation of new schemes for development.
– Does the Prime Minister approve of the insertion of the word “duties” after “functions”?
– It seems to me that the words are synonymous.
– I raise the question of the desirability ‘ of paragraph a ii. being so wide as it is. I propose to submit an amendment slightly altering its form, and I hope, also, its effect. The paragraph as it stands provides that the commission may investigate “ the condition and development of existing industries, whether primary or secondary, in the Commonwealth, and of the possibility of establishing new industries therein.” It appears to me that it is possible to establish any industry provided that we are prepared to assist it sufficiently, either, perhaps, by means of a tariff on the one hand, or a bounty on the other. I take it that the point at issue would not be the possibility of establishing new industries so much as the advisability of their estab lishment. I have no desire to cramp unduly the powers of the commission ; and it must be obvious to everybody that if it is to carry out its work properly, it should have sufficient power and data to enable it to do so. I do not think that it should have power to investigate the condition and development of any existing primary or secondary industry. That would result in a conflict with powers already delegated to the Tariff Board. Under section 15 of the Tariff Board Act 1921, the Minister may refer to that board for inquiry, and report the following matters : -
Section 17 of that act states that the board may, on its own initiative, inquire into and report on any of the matters referred to in sub-section 2 of section 15. The powers to be given to the proposed commission under this bill appear to be wider even than those conferred upon the Tariff Board. Whilst the desire of the Government may be to secure coordination, the actual effect, I submit, of this particular clause, will be to duplicate inquiries into primary and secondary industries, and they may be a nuisance and a hindrance to the people engaged in them. Does the clause confer on the commission authority to make inquisitorial inquiries into such matters as capital, methods, costs, and profits, as well as other confidential aspects of industry? If it does, then inevitably it will mean an increase in the staffs of many business concerns. Already many business firms and companies have to employ a staff to answer inquiries made by public officials. I am not, for the moment, offering any criticism in regard to that matter; but if further inquiries are to be made by the proposed commission, then larger staffs will have to be employed by many business firms and companies. If the information is required, it ought to be obtained in some centralized way, and it should be available through that means, not only to the Migration Commission, but also, if necessary, to the Tariff Board. I move -
That paragraph (a) (ii) bo left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: -
the consideration of the advisability of establishing new industries in the Commonwealth
This amendment will, I think,’ answer the purpose which I have in view, and at the same time give all necessary power to the commission. I am aware that, in the final clause, there is power to make regulations which are not. dissonant from the terms of the bill. If the clause is altered as I propose, it will not be necessary for inquisitorial inquiries to be made.
– I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member. I do not think that his apprehensions are well founded. He has suggested that inquiries of an inquisitorial nature may be undertaken by the commission to determine all the facts in relation to existing industries. The clause merely provides that the commission shall have the power to inquire into the condition of primary and secondary industries. Surely, if the commission is to advise as to the best lines of development to be undertaken, it should have the right, from time to time, to investigate the position in relation to certain existing industries. I assure the honorable gentleman that, if the amendment which 1 have foreshadowed, and which I intend to move at the end of this clause, is accepted, any apprehension which he has will be removed, because the commission will not be able to undertake an investigation without the approval of the Minister who, in turn, will be responsible to Parliament. If there is any duplication, or if there is any inquisitorial investigation which, so far from promoting the development and increasing the trade of Australia, is likely to hinder it, Parliament will have power to prevent it. Consequently, I ask the honorable gentleman not to press his amendment.
.- Paragraph v of sub-clause a states that the powers and functions of the commission shall include the exercise of the prescribed powers of control and supervision of work. In this proposed power, I see the possibility of a definite conflict between the commission and State administrative authorities. If honorable members will turn to the principal agreement, they will find that, under clause 1, the State Governments are invited by the Commonwealth to submit full details of any proposed undertakings. These undertakings may include the acquiring or resuming of alienated land, the clearing or preparing of land for farm settlement, the construction of roads, bridges,&c, the construction and equipment of developmental railways, tramways, &c; the construction of hydro-electric and water conservation works; the provision of irrigation farms; advances to settlers for the purchase of stock, equipment, housing material, &c. ; advances to farmers or other rural employers for the erection of cottages for employees; the construction of sugar mills, butter factories,&c; afforestation, and other undertakings. There is a long list of matters in relation to which the commission, under the agreement, may make inquiries. Paragraph v of sub-clause a might come into direct conflict with established State activities that form part of great national undertakings entered into by the Commonwealth and the States. For instance, the Commonwealth proposes to expend the sum of £20,000,000 on developmental roads. Some of the roads to be constructed in accordance with that policy might lead direct to a settlement conceived under this scheme. It is possible that the Migration Commission may be given prescribed powers of control and supervision over loan moneys the subjectmatter of other agreements. Thus we might have a direct conflict between a State functioning as the agent of the Commonwealth in carrying out one great national undertaking and the same State carrying out an agreement between the Imperial and the Federal and State Governments. I should like to get some idea of the powers contemplated under this paragraph. It may be difficult for the Prime Minister to meet my desire; but I can see in this paragraph a fruitful source of disagreement and the possibility of a definite conflict, particularly as work of this description has to be approved by the Commonwealth on behalf of the Imperial Government.
– The honorable gentleman is perfectly correct in urging that it is difficult at this stage to say exactly what powers will be exercised under this paragraph. Many works will necessarily be undertaken if we are to fulfil our great developmental policy. It is impossible to say now what arrangements might be arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States. The paragraph is inserted to provide the necessary powers should it be considered desirable or necessary to exercise them.
– The powers can only be exercised, when prescribed.
– Limitless powers are given.
– I can assure the honorablemember that the paragraph has been inserted only in order that these powers shall be available should it ever be found necessary to exercise such powers.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that many of these powers are prescribed by regulation, when Parliament can exercise no supervision.
– While it is true that under this bill many things may be done, that does not necessarily mean that’ they will be done. It may be found necessary or desirable at some future date for the commission to have certain powers of control and supervision, and, therefore, this provision has been included in the bill.
– It may be an essential safeguard.
– That is so.
.- Paragraph vi of sub-clause a is the final, blank cheque. Sub-clause a deals with the development of Australian industries ; sub-clause b deals with an entirely new phase. It commences “ In relation to migration to Australia.” Paragraph (1) seems innocuous enough, but I ask the Prime Minister whether it is possible for schemes already commenced by State Governments, but which are of doubtful value, to be taken up under this agreement? It is possible that we shall have three different parties in the one field - the new Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Tariff Board, and the new body to be created under this bill. I should be glad to have the Prime Minis ter’s assurance that the Government will not take over partly-developed State schemes and allow this new money, which is intended for definite development, to be spent in connexion with “ wild-cat “ schemes.
– The purpose of this commission is to ensure that we shall not embark upon any “ wild-cat “ schemes. The Government’s intention is that the money shall be spent to increase Australia’s absorption power. It is, therefore, obvious that the Government will not take up a scheme which has proved a failure and advance further money in connexion with it. Beyond that assurance I am afraid I cannot go at present.
– The clause is divided into two parts, one dealing with the development of Australia, and the other with migration to Australia. The consent of the Minister applies to the former only. Why should not it apply also to the latter?
– Because it is not applicable to the latter. The examination and investigation in relation to migration to Australia, as covered by paragraph b, will take place on definite schemes submitted by the States, whereas the examination and investigation referred to in paragraph a will be those which the commission itself sees lit to undertake. I move -
That the following sub-clause be added : - “ (2) The commission shall not undertake the consideration or investigation of any matters under paragraph (a) of the last preceding subsection until the approval of the Minister thereto has been given.”
.- What I had in view, in so far as 1 was interested in the framing of the amendment just submitted by the honorable the Prime Minister, was not in any sense an effort to curtail the powers of the commission, but was rather an attempt to define its scope. It seemed to me that without such a safeguard, if the commission had an unrestricted right to range over every industry in the country, primary and secondary, and over every kind of public work, there would be a distinct danger of its clashing with the Tariff Board, and particularly with the Public Works Committee. My purpose was not to curtail the power of the commission but rather to give the Minister a co-ordinating influence in defining its scope aud in seeing that it did not trespass unduly or unnecessarily on the functions of the Tariff Board or those of the Public Works Committee.
.- I agree with the Prime Minister in his desire not to interfere with the discretion of the commission in regard to the examination and investigation of any undertaking or scheme proposed by a State, under the principal migration agreement or any supplementary migration agreement and the making of recommendations thereon to the Commonwealth ; but I suggest that all the water corked up by the .amendment suggested bv the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and accepted by the Prime Minister will be let out of the barrel if he does not impose in respect of subparagraphs ii. or iv. of paragraph b the limitation he proposes to place on the commission’s investigations into matters relating to development. These subparagraphs are .as follows: -
– The limitation could with advantage apply to the whole of the clause.
– It certainly could apply with advantage to the whole of paragraph a and to sub-paragraphs ii. and iv. of paragraph b. Otherwise, the limitation, I submit, will prove ineffective.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) TI 1.461. - T agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that undertakings or schemes of a developmental character could possibly fall into the same category as the schemes referred to in sub-paragraph ii. of paragraph b; but thev are not exactly the same, for the reason that paragraph a does not deal, as does paragraph b, with -concrete propositions put forward by the States. Matters relating to the development of the resources of the Commonwealth and the investigation of the condition and development of existing industries, which are referred to in paragraph a, are general schemes of investigation prior to migration. In those matters we might have the commission wandering over any field ; but, in the case of schemes which the States may frame and submit to the commission, I suggest it is not desirable to impose the limitation proposed by the amendment. It is desirable only to impose a limitation where the commission may be conducting investigations into all sorts of schemes of which the Minister has no knowledge, and which, possibly, he may not consider desirable. Therefore, in regard to the investigations
– And the framing and submission of other undertakings in relation to migration?
– No. That is done only after investigation - after all the information is made available, and there is then really no need to ask the commission to tell the Minister first of what it proposes to do.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 -
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.
– It is my intention to move an amendment to this clause. Before doing so, however, I desire to indicate what was intended by the clause, and it will be for the committee to say whether it has been carried out. The intention was that thi Commonwealth Government should not have the power to approve of schemes submitted by the States which had been reported on adversely by the commission. It was never contemplated that Parliament would not have every possible power to override the commission and to approve of any scheme, but I am informed, on the best advice obtainable, that the word “ Commonwealth,” as used in this clause, means the Government, and not Parliament. It was never intended that Parliament should be prevented from considering a scheme which the Government supported and which the commission had reported against. To remove any doubt I move -
That before the words “ The Commonwealth “, line 1, the following words be inserted: - “(1) Subject to the next succeeding subsection.”
If that be agreed to, I shall move a further amend nien t, which will make it quite clear that the rights of Parliament cannot be interfered with by the commission.
.- The amendment moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) removes one of the fundamental objections to the principle involved in the scheme that the commis sion should have power to veto a decision of the Commonwealth Government and a State Government. There is, however, a possible objection to the amendment. What machinery will bc provided to enable either or both Houses of Parliament to consider a scheme opposed by the commission and the Commonwealth Government? As the provision stands, it would rest with the Government to bring the scheme before Parliament, so that if the Government supported the commission, Parliament would be powerless. Both Houses of Parliament may favour a scheme to which the commission and the Government are opposed. It should bc the duty of the Government in such cases to bring the matter before Parliament.
– The honorable member suggests that a scheme supported by a State Government, but opposed by the commission and the Commonwealth Government, would not come before Parliament for discussion. That would be an impossible situation. Each of the State Governments might say that its scheme was the best, and would proceed to use all its influence to have the whole subject discussed in Parliament. There are many proposals which the Government refuses to bring before Parliament. It is open to honorable members to censure the Government for not taking certain action, and it is unreasonable to suggest that, in this instance, every proposition opposed by the Commonwealth Government and the commission should be the subjectmatter of a debate in this House. I think the case will be met by providing that the commission shall not override Parliament. The Government for the time being in charge of the affairs of the country must be responsible for submitting to Parliament proposals which it thinks Parliament should consider.
.- I believe it is provided in the Tariff Board Act that in the event of the Government declining to approve of any recommendation of the Tariff Board, the reports shall be tabled in Parliament. If similar action were taken in this connexion, Parliament would have an opportunity of learning why certain proposals had been turned down. Will the Government table all the reports of the commission ?
– It is not proposed to insert a provision in the bill under which it will be necessary °to table every report made by the commission. The reports of the commission may contain fair but candid criticism, and it may not be desirable to table all of them. The honorable member can rest assured that where the’ Government has supported the commission, the Government will strengthen its position by tabling the report.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That the words “unless it has” be left out, and the words “which has not” be inserted.
That the following sub-clause be added at the end of the clause: - “ (2) The Commonwealth may approve of any such undertaking or scheme if each House of the Parliament hy resolution approves of the undertaking or scheme.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Engagement of experts).
.- This clause gives the commission power to engage experts for such purposes as it thinks fit. That is a very wide power to give to a commission whose investigations will cover the whole gamut of our national life. All the States have in their employment tried experts, and I doubt whether there will be at the disposal of a new body experts who will have anything like the accumulated knowledge of the departmental experts. Experts appointed by the commission may become permanent employees, so that this investigatory body may become a huge expensive department of state. If I did not know the value of the chairman to be appointed to the commission, I should take great exception to the remuneration provided. I regard the gentleman I have named as an outstanding figure in the scientific world, and if we are going to man this new department on the same scale, we shall set a standard for the whole of the Public Service, although the officers of this department will not be subject to Public Service conditions. The salary of the chairman will be larger than that of the manager of the Commonwealth Bank, and twice as large as that of the Prime Minister. Thus the commission may involve the country in great expenditure at a time when economy is being demanded by the taxpayers.I should like an assurance from the Leader of the Government that the commission will not be given a free hand to appoint experts whenever it feels that it needs special information.
– Under clause 15, the commission cannot appoint an expert at a salary of more than £500.
– If the commission requests the appointment of an expert at a higher salary than £500 a year, it then becomes a matter for the Government. The power of direct appointment is’ limited to a salary of £500; but there is a possibility of a large array of experts being appointed in an almost limitless field of investigation.
– I give the honorable member the assurance that the commission will not run wild in the appointment of experts; but a much better safeguard against such a thing happening is the need to get the approval of Parliament for the commission’s expenditure. Only the salaries of the commissioners themselves will be specially appropriated ; they will have no money to spend other than that voted for them by Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 19 agreed to.
.I move -
That the following new clause be inserted- “ (20) This Act shall remain in force for a period of seven years.”
No one has the slightest idea how successful this commission will be. If it proves to be as valuable as some honorable members expect, this Parliament will have no objection six years hence to agreeing to a motion by the Minister to repeal the proposed new clause 20, or to continue the commission for a further specified number of years. I feel sure that it is not the Prime Minister’s idea that the commission shall be interminable. The chairman will be appointed for seven years, and therefore I propose that the operation of the bill be limited to that period. Some members of the commission will be appointed for five years, and at the end of that period they may be appointed for another five years. That would give that portion of the commission a life of ten years. At the end of seven years the chairman may be appointed for another seven years, which would give him a life of fourteen years. There may be no effective work for the commission to do at the end of eight or ten years.
, - The honorable member wishes to set up a sort of danger signal; but I think it would be unwise to limit the possible existence of the commission in the manner proposed. It might be that, at the end of the term the honorable member desires to fix, Parliament would say, “ whether the commission is doing harm or doing good, we will give it another run.” It would be better, however, to leave the matter entirely to future Governments and Parliaments. ‘ If the commission were found not to he doing useful work, the act could he repealed.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– In your absence, Mr. Speaker, we have laboured arduously to make the bill a perfect measure; but, owing to its fundamental defects, members of the Opposition have been unable to achieve their purpose. We do not believe in this method of subsidized immigration at the present time, and in the present circumstances. We consider that, wrapped up in this proposal, is a scheme for promiscuous migration for which there has been no adequate preparation. Although in some particulars the Opposition has improved the bill, it must not be considered that, in its present form, we approve of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 12.14 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260706_reps_10_114/>.