10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Markets and Migration aware of the serious comments made in at least two States in regard to convictions recorded against recent arrivals in Australia? Will he have a return prepared showing the number of new arrivals convicted during the last three months?
– I have not seen the comments towhich the honorable member has referred ; but the immigration of undesirables is being inquired into..
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House of the present position of the reciprocal trade treaty with Canada?
– I have no information to give the House, beyond the fact that the item of preference for Australian dried fruits is, I understand, being rectified. In regard to butter, further inquiries are being made by the Canadian Government, but no definite decision has been communicated to the Commonwealth Government.
– Has the Minister for Markets and Migration seen a statement by Mr. Dunn, a member of the New South Wales Ministry, regarding the unsatisfactory packing and grading of Australian exports ? If so, will the honorable gentleman bring that criticism under the notice of exporters?
– I have not read Mr. Dunn’s statement,but I shall do so, and consider what action, if any, should be taken thereon.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that there are 111 members in both Houses of the Federal Parliament who are elected by the various States of the Commonwealth, and who frequently are required to sign documents before a notary public or a commissioner for the particular State to which the member belongs, the Prime Minister will, for the greater convenience of senators and members of the House of Representatives, cause negotiations to be made with the Premiers of the various States with a view to the appointment of at least one member from each State to be competent to take such affidavits?
– The suggestion will receive consideration.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information asked for by the honorable member is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Imports and Exports-alcoholic Liquors.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What was the total value of all imports into and exports from the Australian Mandated Territories during last year -
What are the quantities and values of alcoholic liquors included in the above returns!
– The particulars asked for are being obtained from the Administrator of New Guinea, and will be made available as soon as possible.
Rail Conveyance of Staff Officers and Men
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he furnish the cost of conveyance by the railways of. staff officers and- men from Melbourne to -Sydney, and Sydney to Melbourne, for the year 1924-25 and to June, 1926?
– The information will be obtained, and the honorable member will be informed as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer lay upon the table of the Library all the papers relating to the compassionate allowance granted to Mr. R. Senholm, formerly lift attendant at Federal Parliament House!
– It is not considered advisable to lay papers of this nature on the Library table. I shall be glad, however, to make the necessary arrangements for the honorable member to peruse the file at his convenience, if he so desires.
Number of Men in Training.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the sessional order governing the order of business be suspended for this day, and that Government business be given precedence over general business for this sitting until after the delivery ofthe budget statement, and that general business be proceeded with this evening forin additional time equivalent to that occupied by the delivery of the budget statement.
.- I do not object to the general terms of the motion respecting the delivering of the budget speech., but I want some information. The motion orders that general business shall be proceeded with this evening for an additional time equivalent to that occupied by the delivery of the budget statement. Providing that we have the assurance of the Prime Minister that that is all the motion entails, I shall have no objection to it. But if it is intended that a certain honorable membershall have an undue amount of time allotted to him for the discussion of a motion on the notice-paper in his name, I shall certainly object. No honorable member should be given an advantage over other honorable members. There are on the notice-paper to-day notices of motion in the names of several honorable members. It is freely rumoured, however, that the Government intends to allow the honorable member in whose name the first notice of motion stands to have practically unlimited time for its discussion. I strongly protest against that, because it is a distinct invasion of the rights of other honorable members who have placed notices of motion upon the business-paper. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has two important motions on the noticepaper, and he has been long waiting for an opportunity to discuss them. The Government should not deprive that honorable member of his right to discuss those matters to-day. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has standing in his name an important motion which, if carried, will have a farreaching effect upon the general welfare of Australia. I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the honorable member for Wimmera is to be deprived of his right to discuss his motion to-day? We wish to allow the budget speech to be delivered, but, time and again, the Prime Minister has done things distinctly contravening the Standing Orders. I can site many instances in which similar motions have been moved, but only by leave of the House, and that, as honorable members know, requires the unanimous approval of the whole of those present. Standing Order No. 119 clearly sets out that a motion can be discussed only for two hours after the opening of Parliament. After the expiry of that time orders of the day have to be called upon, The Prime Minister now proposes nob to suspend that standing order, but to violate the procedure of Parliament. I am prepared to agree to that, on the understanding that the Prime Minister will assure this House that the whole of the time allotted for the discussion of private members’ business will not be taken up by one honorable member. I state frankly that if the Prime Minister is not prepared to give that assurance, we shall use our rights, as members of this chamber, to see that the proceedings are carried out in accordance with the Standing Orders. I say that not as a threat, but as one who believes in upholding the rights and privileges of members of this House.
.- I protest against the motion of the Prime Minister.
– The motion is all right, but, as the honorable member for Dalley says, what does it mean?
– The effect of the motion is to whittle away certain privileges of Parliament.Recently the period set apart for the discussion of private members’ business was curtailed to give more time for the discussion of government business. I have no objection to that. What I object to is the whittling away of institutions that are worth preserving. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is ambitious to create a record. Since the year’s accounts have closed, he has been working day and night to be able to present the budget to this House within the shortest time known in the history of Australian politics. I do not know that the creating of this record warrants the postponement of private members’ business. There was really nothing to prevent the delivery of the budget to-morrow morning; but apparently the budget was not prepared until half-past 3 this morning, and the Treasurer is seizing the first opportunity to present it, by taking from an hour and a half to two hours of the time given by the Standing Orders to private members’ business. Many of the subjects listed for discussion by private members are important, and are interesting not only to honorable members, but also to the public, as witness the crowded state of the galleries at the present moment.
– May I remind honorable members of the actual words of the motion. Attaching to them their ordinary meaning, the effect of carrying it will be to give precedence to the budget statement of the Treasurer, and to preserve to honorable members after its delivery their privileges in regard to the discussion of private notices of motion and orders of the day, without any curtailment of time.
– I am loath to prevent the Treasurer from making his budget statement. The difficulty that has arisen could be overcome by the Prime Minister in a second.. I am anxious to preserve the rights of private members; but I am more anxious to hear the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) on the Domesday Book, than the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson).
– I rise to a point of order. I regret that my beloved friend pronounces the word “Domesday” wrongly. It is not “Doomsday” but “Domesday”; from the Latin domus, a house.
– That is not a point of order.
– When using the word in future I shall endeavour to give it the proper dictionary pronunciation. I am afraid that the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne will be “ doomed “ if we allow the motion of the Prime Minister to be carried. Will the Prime Minister say that the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne will not be prejudiced if the discussion of the first motion by a private member occupies two hours?
– The motion before the House merely allows the budget statement to be made before private members’ business is proceeded with.
– That statement by the Prime Minister gives rise to a very grave suspicion. Can he not say frankly that he has no intention of depriving any private member who has a motion on the business-paper from proceeding with it just as if the budget statement was not being made? Are we to understand that that is the position?
– I cannot follow the honorable member.
– If the budget statement was not being made, a certain length of time would be allowed for the first motion, and we should then proceed automatically to discuss the motion relating to the Domesday Book.
– That is always the position. It is for the House to decide whether the discussion of a motion shall be continued or not.
– After the budget statement has been made, the Prime Minister may take steps to give to one honorable member privileges that are not extended to others. The motion is very cleverly worded. The right honorable gentleman ‘has not moved the suspension of the Standing Orders, which could be prevented by the objection of one honorable member; but he has moved that Government business take precedence, and that private members’ business be called on later. I protest against any honorable member being given a preference oer other honorable members.
– That point surely does not arise now. It would arise if there were a motion to extend the time allowed for the discussion of a motion.
– I want an assurance from the Prime Minister that he will not move an extension of time for the discussion of a private member’s motion. I protest against his lack of candour. He could easily tell us what his intentions are. Does he intend, when an honorable member has occupied two hours, to move for an extension of time?
– Will the honorable member tell rae how I can answer that question, seeing that a motion may be disposed of in an hour?
– There is not much probability of that. I want to make sure that every honorable member who has a notice of motion on the businesspaper shall be given an opportunity to discuss it.
.- This is probably the last private members’ day of this session. It has been stated that the session will close early in August, and if the budget statement is made now, the Government, during the next week or two, will be pressing on with the estimates. It is a fair inference that after this week private members’ day will be eliminated. If one honorable member, who happens to have his motion first on the list of notices of motion, is given all the time allowed to-day for the discussion of private members’ business, no other motion can be discussed this session. It would be a simple matter for the Prime Minister to say that the motion would only have the effect that its words indicate, that is, that after the budget has been delivered the time allowed for the consideration of private members’ business will be extended by a period equal to that taken up in the delivery of the budget speech. If the ordinary procedure is to be followed, all honorable members will be satisfied ; but it would be a distinct violation of their rights and privileges if one honorable member were granted an extension of time to the exclusion of the consideration, or other private members’ motions.
– The honorable member is now wasting time.
– The Prime Minister would have saved a good deal of time if he had “ played the game,” but his reply to every interjection confirms the suspicions of honorable members on this side of the chamber that he intends to do what we fear he will. I protest against any interference with the rights of private members. All honorable members should be concerned about the preservation of their privileges. Private members have few enough privileges at the present time, particularly since the present Government uses its brute majority on every possible occasion. If these are not carefully guarded, they will be taken away from, us one by one, and the time will come when we shall have none.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) T3.31. - I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members opposite. The motion merely provides for the postponement of private members’ business until after the delivery of the budget statement, and that there shall be added to the period ordinarily available for the discussion of private members’ business a period equal to that occupied by the Treasurer’s speech. The objection to the motion seems to be due to anxiety felt regarding a notice of motion dealing with the recommendation of the House Committee that there shall be a liquor bar in the Federal Parliament House at Canberra. The question whether an extension of time should or should not be granted for the consideration of that matter does not arise now, and will have to be decided bv the House when the time allowed for the consideration of the motion has expired. The matter will be. in the hands of honorable members themselves.
– But the House is in the Prime Minister’s charge. Whatever he wishes done will be done ; the views of the Opposition will carry no weight.
– The motion referred to is private members’ business. If any honorable member chose to move that the time for its discussion be. extended, it would be for the House, and not for the Government to determine the matter.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the motion of the Prime Minister should not have been moved without the leave of the House. Either notice of it should have been given, or leave to move it should have been obtained. I have looked into the records, and I find that time after time rulings to that effect have been given. I noticed in the press this morning a statement, evidently inspired, that the Government had entered into an arrangement to allow the honorable member for Lang: CSir Elliot Johnson’) unlimited time for the consideration of his motion.
– That was the first I knew of it, at any rate.
– What is the reason for all this anxiety ? Does not the honorable member for Dalley desire the motion of which the honorable member for Lang has given notice to be discussed ?
– I want the Prime Minister to be frank wth the House. If he has entered into a private arrangement with a particular honorable member to allow him undue time for the consideration of any motion, he has done wrong.
– Order ! . The honorable member is now entering upon another matter.
– Owing, I am afraid, to the interjection by the Prime Minister. The Votes and Proceedings show that the Prime Minister on several other occasions has submitted motions in almost identical terms, but he has only done so by leave of the House.
– Notice of the intention to move this motion was not required, as it deals only with the ordinary business of the House. For motions of a formal and non-contentious nature, relating to the business of the House, neither notice nor leave is required. The original order of the House providing for the discussion of private members’ business on Thursdays was in these words -
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall, on .each day of sitting, have precedence of all other business, except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of Standing Order No. 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.” On such Thursday General Business shall have precedence of Government Business until 9 o’clock P.m
The House is now asked to “ otherwise order.” The motion is in order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Messages reported, transmitting estimates of revenue and expenditure, and estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1927, andi recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply.
– I have the honour of bringing down a fourth consecutive Budget statement. On this occasion the financial proposals of the Government are placed before honorable members within the first eight days of the financial year.
It has been my aim always to present the Budget as early as possible, and thus give the Parliament full opportunity to exercise its. control of the finances. This assists the stabilization of finance generally. The commercial, trading, and industrial community is then able at the earliest moment to make its arrangements conform with the demands which will be made by taxation. The operations of the States and of large numbers of private persons are also influenced by the scheme of Commonwealth expenditure.
Hitherto it has been regarded as impossible to deliver the Budget speech until about the end of July, as only then were figures available showing, in detail, the previous year’s expenditure. I- found, however, that the Treasury always knew under many heads, about the first day of July, what the revenue and expenditure had been during the previous financial year. The information obtainable at that early date seemed to me quite sufficient in detail for the purposes of a Budget. This early presentation will be of great value to honorable members this year in discussing the important legislation dealing with the adjustment of the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States which is before Parliament. I trust it will become the established Commonwealth practice. The decision to dispense with the less important details is supported by the practice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The British House of Commons deals with estimates which show the estimated expenditure of the current year, the estimated expenditure of the previous year, and the actual expenditure of the year before that.
Although the information now included in the estimates of the revenue and expenditure under general heads is, in my opinion, sufficient to enable the Committee to deal with the Budget, I propose, as early as possible, to present to the Committee that detailed information which it has been the practice to supply in the past.
Since assuming the office of Treasurer, my attention has been directed to presenting the accounts to Parliament in such a form as would enable the exact position of the several sections to be readily ascertained. Last year the division of the Estimates into three parts showed at a glance the result arising from the ordinary administrative activities of the Government, the surplus or deficit on business undertakings, and the cost to the Commonwealth of administering the territories under its control.
Part I. - Departments and Services - other than business undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth. expenditure.
The chief increases in the actual expenditure 1925-26 over the estimate art as follow: -
The main increases in the expenditure on war services are in connexion with interest on war loans and war pensions. The estimated interest was based on the assumption that, on the conversion of the £67,000,000 war loan in December last, only one-half year’s interest at the increased rate would fall due for payment within the year. The conversion loan, however, was floated with the right of contributors of new money to receive interest from the date of their subscriptions. War pensions exceeded the estimate by £143,664.
The estimate for invalid and old-age pensions expenditure was calculated on Ihe basis that the increased pension of 2s. 6d. per week would come into operation in January, but it operated from last September.
The effect of the wine export bounty, together with preference granted by Great Britain, enabled Australian manufacturers to compete with continental wines even more successfully than was anticipated. The bounty actually paid, due to the increased export, was therefore £172,109 in excess of the estimate. An unanticipated amount of £26,992 was paid to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries -Limited in accordance with the Oil Agreement Act 1926, which was passed after the budget had. been prepared. The balance of the increase under bounties and other special appropriations is made up of iron and steel products bounty, £31,005, and sundry other increases and decreases.
Of the increase in Treasury expenditure, £38,183 is for minting silver coin to replace British coin withdrawn from circulation. The actual coinage receipts due to the profit on replacement were £207,036, in excess of the Estimates. A sum of £25,466 was provided for science and industry investigations, whereas when the budget was framed it was contemplated that this amount would be paid from a trust account. In the discussion on the Estimates, Ministers will furnish explanations of the remaining increases, if desired by honorable members.
The increased interest on loans raised for the States results from the estimated loan raisings being exceeded. This money is recovered from the States. surplus for year.
In addition to the expenditure set out above, the following moneys not provided for in the budget of 1925-26 were paid to the trust fund in anticipation of a surplus in the accounts of the year : -
There remained at the close of the year a surplus of £286,944, which it is proposed to set aside f or -
The chief increases in the revenue were -
In estimating receipts from Customs and excise, the contemplated reduction in duties was taken into consideration. Reductions in duties do not operate until the amended tariff is passed by Parliament. As the tariff was not passed before the 30th June, the reduction in duties did not become operative last year.
The increase in direct taxation arises almost wholly from income tax. The normal rate of growth of the taxable incomes - 6 per cent. - was considerably exceeded, and the position in regard to arrears has improved.
Part II. - Business Undertakings.
The receipts and expenditure of business undertakings do not show any considerable variation from the estimate.
The actual expenditure of the Post Office was £10,654,880, being £38,445 in excess of the estimate, whilst the revenue was £105,251 in excess of the estimate, the actual receipts being £10,815,251.
The cost ofworking the Commonwealth railways was £897,122, or £3,985 below the estimate, and the actual revenue was £20,345 less than the amount estimated.
Part III. - Territories of the Commonwealth.
The actual expenditure on the Territories of the Commonwealth was £46,537 less than the estimate. An amount of £50,000 was provided for the transfer of staffs and office equipment to the Federal Capital; the general transfer was not commenced as was anticipated.
The budget for 1926-27 is framed in accordance with the Government’s proposals for the re-adjustment of the finances as between Commonwealth and States.
Mr.Watt. - The budget is framed on the assumption that the Government’s proposals will be accepted?
– Yes. More particular reference to these proposals will be made at a later stage.
When considering the expenditure to be provided for it is necessary to divide the amount into capital expenditure which is chargeable against loan and annually recurring expenditure which is correctly payable out of revenue.
It is anticipated that not more than £10,000,000 of this total will be required.
Provision is also made for £3,400,000 for loans for the States for migration, and £2,000,000 for loans for the Federal Capital Commission.
In the budget speech of last year I made a general statement indicating the part the Commonwealth had taken in the matter of soldier land settlement. The
Commonwealth had undertaken to lend the required moneys to the States, at rates of interest corresponding to the cost to the Commonwealth. For the first five years of each loan to a State, the Commonwealth granted a rebate of interest at the rate of 2½ per cent. per annum. The interest concession made on the Commonwealth loans, and on certain moneys raised by the States themselves amounted to £4,740,099. In addition, the Commonwealth paid sustenance allowances, amounting to over £500,000, pending productivity of farms.
In view of the fact that the losses by the States would be greater than was at first anticipated, the Government decided to write off from the loans to the States the sum of £5,000,000, to enable the States to deal fairly with the settlers.
The total contribution by the Commonwealth towards losses amounted to more than £10,000,000. In addition, . it was decided to reduce the rate of interest payable by the States to 5 per cent. after 31st December, 1930.
Formal agreements have now been signed by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurers of the several States, covering the whole of the arrangements between the Governments in regard to soldier land settlement. The agreements are subject to ratification by the several Parliaments, and will shortly be submitted to this Parliament.
In accordance with the decision that Parliament shall open at Canberra in May, 1927, the commission has adjusted its activities with the object of completing the necessary buildings by that date. Provision is made in the loan estimates for raising a loan of £2,000,000 on behalf of the commission.
Various public buildings are nearly completed; the Government Printing Office has been erected and its machinery is now being installed. The construction of 500 houses, in addition to those already in existence, is being arranged for.
Four hostels are provided for in the building scheme and contracts have been let for four large guest-houses.
Roads, water supply, sewerage, tree planting, and other services are proceeding.
The amount of £252,500 has been placed on the Estimates as the Commonwealth Government’s contribution for works during the year. Each of the three contracting State Governments is to provide a similar amount. Three completed weirs and locks are in operation. It is expected that, during the year, three further weirs and locks will be completed. The total expenditure to date amounts to £4,230,000.
With a view to increasing the carrying capacity of our pastoral areas and assisting the State Governments to extend their schemes for providing settlers wi.th material for vermin-proof fences, the Commonwealth Government last year undertook to lend £3,000,000, at the rate of £500,000 a year for six years, at concession rates of interest. The proposals of the. Commonwealth having recently been agreed to by several States, the Government will shortly bring down a bill to give effect to its promise.
Though the rate of natural increase in Australia compares more than favorably with that of other countries, the Government desires to supplement it by the gradual absorption of desirable settlers from overseas, more particularly from Great Britain. A combined effort by Great Britain and Australia is being made through the migration agreement to achieve this result.
With the exception of New South Wales, all the States have accepted the terms of the agreement which contemplates an expenditure of £34,000,000 and the absorption of 450,000 migrants in ten years. To examine and report upon the schemes submitted, to frame and submit proposals for other undertakings, to consider the best means of developing our resources, to investigate the condition of existing industries, and the possibilities of establishing new ones, the Government proposes to appoint an expert commission:
The outstanding feature of the national debt operations in recent years is the systematic reduction ofthe war debt. Aus tralia has £28,500,000 less war debt to-day than four years ago.
Though new borrowing is increasing the amount of the gross debt, the Commonwealth has, since the war, practically limited its loan expenditure to developmental and reproductive works which provide revenue-producing assets to offset the new debt created.
The gross debt at 30th June, 1926,was -
To ascertain the net debt there may be deducted -
On the same basis, the gross debt at the 30th June, 1922, was-
As the population in this four-year period increased by 481,855, the net debt of the Commonwealth is now £4 19s. 6d. per head less than in 1922.
These statements show clearly the improvement in the position of the Commonwealth:
Of the gross debt at the 30th June, 1926, £287,148,652 is redeemable in Australia, £86,865,882 is due to the Government of the United Kingdom, £69,017,616 is redeemable in London, and £15,411,487 in -New York.
The gross debt at the beginning of the financial year 1925-26 was £430,948,062, the increase during the year being £27,495,575. Of this amount, £14,543,564 was raised by the Commonwealth for the States. The gross debt also includes the recent London loan of £6,000,000, practically all of which will be available for works to be carried out in the financial year now commencing.
Substantial contributions were again made last year for the redemption of the public debt of the Commonwealth.
The contributions from revenue were : -
Since the establishment of the Nacional Debt Sinking Fund, less than three years ago, a total of £20,067,046 has been applied to the redemption of debt.
Before a systematic effort was made to pay off our debt, it was sometimes said that the provision of a sinking fund was inconsistent with regular new borrowing. The reasoning seems to have been that any moneys which could be raised for paying off the public debt would better be applied to the construction of new works. Thus the new borrowing would be so much less than that which would be necessary if the moneys available were devoted to a sinking fund. What really happened was that our public debt went on increasing year after year, and efforts towards its repayment were indefinitely postponed.
Under the arrangements we have now made, the Treasurer is compelled to find revenue for payment into the Sinking Fund at such a rate as will repay all the debt existing at the formation of the fund in not more than 50 years from that time; also he must provide revenue moneys to repay all new borrowings within not more than 50 years after the year in which the new borrowing occurs.
The use of sinking fund moneys in repurchasing our securities on the market has a beneficial effect in maintaining their price. In this way our credit is improved, and future loans will be floated at a rate of interest lower than that which would in other circumstances be obtainable.
Debts of the States.
The latest particulars available of the public debt of the States are those for the 30th June, 1925, when the debts were : -
These amounts represent the gross debts, without any deduction for the substantial revenue-producing assets constructed by the States with the loan moneys raised. In Australia, most public utilities are provided by the. State Governments,whereas, in other countries, these services are, in a much larger measure, provided by private enterprise. For this reason, the public debts of the Australian States are of a nature quite different from those of most other countries. In 1924-25, the State undertakings in Australia produced a net revenue of £19,460,080, which represents the earnings available for the payment of interest on the debt.
The State sinking funds total £18,630,951. On all loans now raised by the Commonwealth for the States an annual sinking fund payment of 10s. per cent. is made by the States to the National Debt Sinking Fund of the Commonwealth.
The gross debt of Australia per head of population is £166.
The loan operations of the Commonwealth and of the States other than New South Wales were undertaken during the past year in accordance with plans made by the Loan Council, which was formed in order that the loan business of the various Governments might be carried on without clash or competition. Experience has shown that the Treasurers, acting in concert, can secure better terms than if they acted independently. No decision of the Loan Council binds any Treasurer until his Government has consented.
The general policy of the Loan Council is -
The Commonwealth floated four loans last year. The first of the series was the simultaneous borrowing of £15,000,000 in New York and £5,000,000 in London, and was dealt with in my last budget speech.
The second was the conversion of the £67,000,000 of war loans which matured on 15th December, 1925, and proved an unqualified success, though it was the greatest financial operation ever attempted in Australia. In some quarters there were doubts regarding the result. It was pointed out that, during the previous year, the Commonwealth had to pay as much as £6 7s. per cent, for loans, and some thought that the rate of 5£ per cent, offered was too low. The Treasury never wavered in its expectation of success, however, and the result showed that it had accurately gauged the proper rate of interest.
Following the conversion, a new Commonwealth Loan on behalf of the States was announced. The rate of interest offered was 5i per cent”, or i per cent, below the rate of the conversion loan. This operation also was successful, the loan being over subscribed.
The rate of 5J per cent, is well established, sales of Commonwealth stocks now taking place freely in the open market on a basis yielding about 5£ per cent. Within the last few weeks the Commonwealth has, by private negotiation,, raised a local loan of £1,600,000 on behalf of the States at this rate.
During last month the Commonwealth floated a loan in London of £6,000,000, the interest being 5 per cent, and the price of issue £99 10s. This price was £1 better than that which was secured by New Zealand and Victoria on loans issued within the last few weeks, and £1 10s. better than that at which New South Wales raised a London loan of £4,000,000 in March of this year.
The Commonwealth Bank, which was founded in 1912 and given central banking functions and a board of directors in 1924, is intimately associated with the loan operations of the Commonwealth Government.
During the first two and a half years of the bank’s working it earned no profit. The transactions undertaken by the bank for the Government during the war and the immediate post-war periods enabled great profits to be made, which amounted in one year to as much as £847,000. Since that time, Treasury balances have come back to normal, with a consequent decline in the earnings of the bank. The profits of the last three years, namely: -
show that the bank is making progress under normal conditions and under the new management.
The Savings Bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank shows remarkable expansion. In June, 1915, the deposits amounted to £7,400,000; in June, 1920, they were £18j000,000 ; and in the next six months they increased to £35,300,000, chiefly as a result of the taking over of the State Savings Bank in Queensland. On the 31st December last the deposits amounted to nearly £44,000,000.
These details show satisfactory progress and are a cheering indication of successful management. The real value of the bank to the community, however, is to be tested by the way in which it handles its central banking functions. No examination of its figures alone will indicate the efficiency or the importance of the management of the central bank. The success of its efforts in exercising a general control over finance is to be gauged by the absence of crises rather than in its handling of any crisis which may arise. As a central institution it must take steps to maintain the currency on such a basis that public and private finance can be carried on without undue disturbance. Stability of finance is of the highest importance in securing the welfare of the individual and assisting general development. Nothing could be more injurious to employment and to economic progress than violent alternations of monetary stringency and ease. Australia is enjoying a period of good finance to which the management, of the Commonwealth Bank has largely contributed.
In 1924 Australia passed through a very serious monetary crisis. The central bank under a board of directors had just been established and was faced with a seriously threatened hold-up of the sales of wool and other primary produce. Itwas estimated that, during the following months, Australian products of the value of £140,000,000 would be available for sales overseas. Already primary producers were being compelled to accept £95 in Australia in respect of every £100 secured oversea by the sale of their goods, and in some cases exporters were buying exchange forward, receiving only £93 5s. for each £100 in London. In addition, they lost interest amounting to a considerable sum because they received the money in Australia two or three months before they could use it. The difficulties of exchange had become so acute that a temporary stoppage of sales seemed imminent. If this had occurred, not only would prices have slumped, but producers would have been compelled, even on their lower returns, to submit to an exchange charge of about 10 per cent. This serious position was averted by the decision of the new directors to lend notes to the other banks up to £15,000,000 to enable them to finance exports. This action immediately enabled sales of produce to be continued. The saving to the community arising out of the wise handling of the situation by the Commonwealth Bank can scarcely, be indicated in figures. There is no doubt that it amounted to many millions of pounds.
The action of the bank in the crisis of 1924 has sometimes been criticized by those who have not realized the gravity or the complexity of the situation. They appear to think that the Commonwealth Bank itself could have dealt directly with the producers, instead of promising assistance to the other banks. Such a course was impracticable. To give one reason only, it may be pointed out that, to prevent inflation which might have been permanent, with the consequent lessening of the purchasing power of money, it was necessary that the advances be repaid within a definite short period. This repayment could not have been depended upon in the case of individual advances to producers, but the banks could be so depended upon.
The banks did not avail themselves of their full rights under the arrangement. Actually they borrowed sums which at no time exceeded £2,800,000. They paid interest to the Commonwealth Bank at the Bank of England rate of the day, and they repaid all the advances within a. few months.
The rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank is passing safely through its initial stages. Already it is handling wheat, frozen eggs, dried fruits, wines and osmiridium. Allegations that the rural credits department has been unable to function in particular cases have been found on investigation to be based upon instances in which no proper security for advances could be given. The act requires that the produce on which advances may be made shall be placed under the legal control of the bank. This legal control may be given either by way of debenture or by placing the produce in a store or on a ship, and by handing the covering documents to the bank. In every case there must, of course, be a sufficient margin between the value of the produce and the advance. No good purpose would be served in taking uncommercial risks. It is in the interests of the primary producers themselves that the rural credits business shall be conducted on a sound basis.
During the period of the war, Australian paper money was not convertible into gold. Thus the automatic control of the amount of the paper circulation was removed. Under war conditions an overissue occurred. The value of the paper pound fell until it was, at its lowest, worth in gold only, about two-thirds of its face value. Owing to many influences our pound was ultimately restored to gold value. The restoration was the result, in a large measure, of the refusal of the Notes Board to issue additional notes. It has been said that the board’s policy of deflation was carried rather far. The fact remains that the policy was well based. The value of the paper pound, in the early part of 1925, reached a value of slightly more than a sovereign. In these circumstances, the banks began to import gold.
The Commonwealth Bank Board had for some time favoured a return to the gold standard, and after discussion with the Imperial authorities the Government felt justified in removing the embargo upon the export of gold in April, 1925. Simultaneously the Commonwealth Bank began to provide gold in redemption of notes in cases where the gold was required for export. Gold is not in domestic circulation, but in this respeet Australia is in exactly the same position as the Mother Country. No detriment is being suffered by any interest owing to the lack of gold for internal use.
After more than a year’s experience, it can be said that the return to the gold standard was effected in Australia without financial disturbance, and the free export of gold has been maintained without any difficulty. Exactly the same facilities and advantages as those which were in existence before the war are now being enjoyed. Our currency being thus maintained on a gold basis, exporters are bringing the proceeds of their sales back to Australia practically at par, there being a charge for exchange of only a few shillings in each £100. Importers have no difficulty in meeting their requirements. The consuming public benefits by the fact that prices are not disturbed by vagaries of exchange.
An important result of the return to gold standard is that money borrowed abroad may be brought to Australia without excessive cost for exchange. This condition enables the governments to keep their local borrowing within the limits of the amount which can be raised locally without interfering with the legitimate demands of industry. By 6his limitation of amount, interest rates are kept in check and are maintained at a rough approximation with the rates paid for oversea money.
The question of the housing of the people affects the comfort and well-being of the individual, and the efficiency of the individual is necessary to the national welfare and progress.
In accordance with the policy announced prior to the last election, the Government in consultation with the Board of the Commonwealth Bank is preparing the details of a scheme to be submitted to Parliament to enable the Commonwealth Savings Bank to assist in the provision of homes for the people, both by new construction and by purchase. For this purpose funds up to £20,000,000 in all will be provided.
The intention is that advances shall be made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank up to amounts which, consistent with safety, shall be a high percentage of the total cost. It is desired also to keep interest rates down to a minimum.
The Commonwealth has already provided 28,813 war service homes, and this has assisted to meet the acute shortage of houses. It might here be mentioned that since the War Service Homes Department was re-organized in 1923 no losses have occurred .
There is immense work yet to be done to meet the demand for good housing and the desire for individual ownership. The Government’s intention is to assist and supplement the existing activities, both State and private. Since the Commonwealth Government’s housing scheme was announced notable changes have oc curred in the liberality with which the existing institutions are viewing the demands of home-seekers.
Part I. - Departments and Services other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
I now come to expenditure out of revenue for 1926-27-
From these decreases it will be necessary to deduct the following increases : -
increases of Commonwealth expenditure are almost wholly a result of a policy which meets the legitimate demands of the people - as in the case of old-age pensions and defence.
The contention that the Commonwealth Government can substantially reduce the cost of administration of the several departments may be considered in the light of the details now. appearing in the budget. The expenditure under the ordinary votes of the departments during the last six years is as follows : -
In this period the annual expenditure has been reduced by £158,334, notwithstanding that in the meantime the population hasincreased by approximately 600,000, and despite the fact that arbitration awards have consistently increased salaries and. other costs in all the departments. In 1921-22, the cost of the Commonwealth Departments per head of population was 10s. 9d. ; in 1926-27 it will be 9s. 2d. If the expenditure in 1926-27 were made at the per capita rate of 1921-22 the expenditure would be £3,290,951, or an increase of £496;810 over that contemplated.
This comparison indicates clearly that the strictest supervision is being maintained over expenditure, while at the same time the Government is seeking policies, such as the amalgamation of the Commonwealth and State Income Tax Departments, which will reduce duplication and permit of substantial savings. The proposed adjustment of Commonwealth and State finance will probably result in administrative savings to the people of Australia of nearly £100,000 per annum unnecessarily spent under the present duplication.
The cost of war pensions is still increasing owing to the birth of children to pensioners and to liberalizing the conditions under which pensions are granted.
No immediate reduction in the numbers applying for medical attention is anticipated. Certain factors such as increased age, progress of disease and complications of war disabilities withthe ordinary diseases of civil life are likely to cause the numbers to be maintained throughout the ensuing financial year.
The five-year programme announced in the budget of 1924 to improve the Army, the Navy, and the Air Services, and to enlarge the organization of a munitions supply, is being actively pursued. The building of two 10,000-ton cruisers, two submarines, and a seaplane-carrier is proceeding.
The Government has agreed to make a payment to the New South Wales Government of £135,000 as a subsidy towards the cost - of a floating dock at Newcastle, on the understanding that the dock will be capable of accommodating the new cruisers.
During the past financial year a satisfactory advance was made with the developmental services, including the enlistment of personnel for the cruisers and submarines, the extension of oil fuel facilities, training of Royal Australian Naval Reserves, purchase of munitions, artillery equipment, &c. There has been substantial progress in the building of munition factories, and in Air Force buildings, at Point Cook, Laverton, and Richmond.
Additional personnel will be enlisted during 1926-27 to provide for the manning of the submarines, the cruisers and the seaplane-carrier, and for the establishment of a new Air Craft Squadron.. The training of an additional quota of Royal Australian Naval Reserves and Citizen Air Force training will continue.
Provision is being made for the building and filling of an oil tank.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
The hope that the researches of the Royal Commission on National Insurance would be sufficiently advanced to enable the Government to bring down, during last financial year, a national insurance scheme in connexion with old age and sickness, unfortunately, has not been realized. Accordingly in September the Government obtained legislative authority for an increase in the rate of pensions from 17s. 6d. to 20s. a week in anticipation of the adoption of national insurance. In addition the statutory limit of income plus pension was increased from 30s. to 32s. 6d. a week. This increase was additional to the previous. increase of 5s. a fortnight made under the present Government in September, 1923.
The large number of new claims which have been received shows that the increase of pensions to £1 per week has been greatly appreciated by the old and infirm. In the nine months from October, 1925, when the increase to £1 a week began to operate, more than 21,000 new pensions have been granted. This slightly exceeds the total number of grants for the whole of the preceding twelve months. The number of pensions at present in force is approximately 176,000, an increase of more than 13,000 during the year after allowing for deaths. The amount paid in pensions during 1925- 26 was £8,252,382. It is estimated that an amount of £9,000,000 will be required for pension purposes during 1926- 27.
These figures afford a convincing proof that the Commonwealth realizes its obligations to the aged and invalid . members of the community. The Government is still of opinion that the present method of providing relief does not fulfil all requirements. It is looking forward to the time when, as a result of the inquiries of the National Insurance Commission, it will be in a position to present to Parliament a national scheme for old age, sickness, and unemployment.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission on Health, which reported during the last financial year, have been taken earnestly into consideration by the Government. It will not be practicable immediately to bring into operation the extensive programme included in the recommendations, but the Government has made provision to give effect to these recommendations so far as is possible.
A conference between the Commonwealth and State Ministers of Health is being held during the present month to agree on the best methods to this end.
The Institute of Science and Industry, has been re-organized under the name of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
A sum of £250,000 has been paid to its credit in a trust account to enable’ it to function effectively.
As a first step investigations will be made into the following main groups of problems: -
Animal pests and diseases; plant pests and diseases; food problems, especially cold storage; fuel problems, especially liquid fuels; and forest products.
A sum of £100,000 has been set aside as an endowment, the income from which is to be used to provide assistance -
The work of the council will be carried on in close co-operation with the scientific and technical departments of the State Governments, the universities and other scientific bodies throughout the Commonwealth. Existing institutions will be used to the fullest extent practicable. The council will co-operate with the British Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
During the year 1925-26 important progress was made in the work of the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association. The association had published 28 standard specifications, 28 specifications have been approved for issue and 72 are in course of preparation. There are in operation 13 sectional committees, with 54 sub-committee’s and 26 panels. Ah international standards conference was held in New York in April, 1926, when definite proposals were made for the creation of an international standards committee. The Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association has tentatively decided in favour of affiliation.
The organization of the power survey committee and panels has been completed. Reports on certain special subjects will be available for publication almost immediately.
For some years the Commonwealth Government has joined with the cottongrowing States in guaranteeing prices for seed cotton. This method of assisting the growing of Australian cotton, however, has not been wholly satisfactory, and the’
Commonwealth Government, after full consideration, has come to the conclusion that this industry can best be assisted by means of a bounty. The Government believes it to be a sound economic policy not only to encourage the growing of cotton, but also the spinning of cotton yarn and manufacture of cotton goods in Australia. There does not appear to be any reason why eventually the whole of the Australian crop should not be manufactured into cotton goods in Australia. The Government, accordingly, proposes to ash Parliament to grant, as a first step towards this objective, a bounty on seed cotton and on the spinning of cotton yarns. The bounties are estimated to total £150,000.
After the suspension of wool sales in March, 1925, selling was resumed in July, and continued without interruption thereafter. The whole of the 1925-26 clip has now been disposed of, and the “carry over” from the previous season of about 500,000 bales has been sold. Competition, chiefly from French buyers, raised prices slightly till November, when the demand from that quarter fell off to some extent, with the result that a slight fall marked later sales. The market seems to have steadied at prices that may be considered fairly remunerative to growers, and, as far as they can be estimated, the prospects for the new season, which will open in August next, are encouraging. The recent general strike in England had the effect of reducing theconsumption of wool, and the continuance of the coal strike must retard the operations of manufacturers resuming normal proportions. The financial disorders on the continent of Europe may also have an adverse effect on the market. Stocks are believed to be light in all consuming centres, so that it is not an unreasonable expectation that a ready outlet will be found for the growing clip at fair prices.
Owing to a rather dry winter and spring, the wheat harvest was not up to expectations. Prices, however, were satisfactory. It is forecast that the area under wheat in the present season will constitute a record, and, as early rains have enabled seeding operations to be conducted under the best conditions, there is every possibility that a big harvest will result. I am advised that good prices are likely to be realized for the new wheat.
During the year the Export Control Board has saved the industry nearly £20,000 per annum by obtaining a reduction in marine insurance, has regulated the export of butter to Great Britain, and, in co-operation with its London agency, has been able to prevent violent fluctuation in prices.
The improvement in quality brought about by pasteurization, the standardization of the product under the national “ Kangaroo “ brand, and orderly marketing, have resulted in bringing the London prices of Australian butter to the New Zealand level and almost to the Danish. The Paterson scheme has at the same time assisted to maintain local prices.
Trade with the East in butter, cheese, and other dairy produce has expanded.
The Government has approached the States with a view to the encouragement of fodder production and conservation, to the better education of butter and cheese factory managers and employees, and to the establishment of dairy colleges.
The 1926 pack of canned fruits almost equalled the record of last season. The sale of the export surplus was assisted by a subsidy granted for apricots and clingstone peaches.
Last year the export of apples amounted to 3,100,000 cases, of which about twothirds ‘ were Tasmanian. Unfortunately the dislocation caused by the strike in Great Britain affected prices.
On 1st September, 1925, a three years’ agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments commenced to operate.
The agreement secured for consumers additional concessions estimated at £282,000 per annum, including £124,000 for reduced prices of sugar for the processing of fruit products.
The 1925-26 season produced approximately 520,000 tons. The surplus of 213,094 tons was exported. 198,313 tons sent to Great Britain enjoyed the Empire preference duty of £4 5s. 7d. per ton. 14,781 tons sent to Canada secured there a preference of £4 12s. per ton.
The bounty paid on the export of sweet wine, together with the preference given hi Great Britain, has enabled Australian wines to compete with the products of continental countries, 977,000 gallons of Australian sweet wine having been exported to Great Britain.
The annual value of the production of eggs is now approximately £10,000,000. An encouraging export trade has been developed, and regulations will shortly be issued prescribing the grades and standards for export. The expansion of this industry should provide opportunities for the settlement of large numbers of people. The Department of Markets is assisting various organizations to improve the system of oversea marketing.
Advertising Australian Products in Great Britain.
In co-operation with the Dairy Produce Control Board, the Dried Fruits Control Board, and the Australian Fruit Canners Association, the Government is subsidizing a scheme of trade publicity in the United Kingdom on a £1 for £1 basis, the Commonwealth liability being limited to £50,000.
Another subsidized scheme of publicity has for some time been carried on in Great Britain in relation to Australian apples.
During the year the concessions of duty resulting from the preference granted by Great Britain to Australian products have amounted to: -
The reciprocal tariff treaty with Canada has already been of advantage to producers of Australian butter and canned fruits. There are also prospects of a good market for Australian dried, fruits.
In 1925-26 bounties totalling £498,582 were paid on primary and secondary products. £242,005 was paid on galvanized sheets, fencing wire, wire netting, and tractors. The bounties on wine totalled £217,109. No bounty was paid to an exporter unless a guarantee was furnished to the effect that he bought, or would buy, his doradillo grapes at not less than £5 per ton and his spirit at 5s. per proof gallon, the latter price being fixed to enable the distiller to pay £5 per ton for his doradillo grapes. £38,549 was paid under the Sulphur Bounty Act 1923 and £10,962 under the Canned Fruit Bounty Act 1924.
The payments under the Export Guarantee Act, which was passed to assist the oversea marketing of primary produce, amounted to £53,000. This assistance included £24,540 to the hop industry of Tasmania, £17,417 to doradillo grape growers, £8,927 to exporters of canned fruits, and £1,842 to growers of ohanez grapes, broom millet and oranges.
From 1st January, 1927, under the Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act, encouragement will be given to Territory growers of cocoa beans, fibres, sago, vanilla beans, bamboos and rattans, spices and kapok imported into the Commonwealth.
As the Estimates and the budget papers contain full details of the estimated expenditure of the year, further detail is here unnecessary. The several Ministers will give any necessary explanations when the items come up for approval.
Into Part I. of the Estimates there are brought the deficiencies of the other three parts, as these must be met out of General Receipts. Before examining the resources available to meet the total expenditure, I shall give a statement of the position of Parts II., III., and IV. of the Estimates to indicate how their balances are made up.
Part II. - Business Undertakings.
The estimated revenue and expenditure of business undertakings for 1926-27 are as follow: -
It will be noticed that in providing these public utilities the Government is not using them as a means of raising revenue. The Post Office can in no way be characterized as a taxing machine, whilst the loss on Commonwealth railways is provided out of general taxation.
It is estimated that the revenue from all sources for 1926-27 will be £11,441,000, which is £625,749 greater than that for 1925-26, and represents an increase of 6 per cent.
Owing to the liberal programme of capital construction, the charges for interest and sinking fund have grown by £188,312, leaving an increase of £451,688 in the ordinary working and administrative costs of the department. Arbitration awards have greatly increased the expenditure, and with an extension of postal, telephonic and telegraphic facilities, further increases must be looked for. These, however, are offset by an increase in the earnings of the department. In the estimates for 1926-27 it has been necessary to provide £177,000 to cover increased salaries of postal employees payable under the Public Service Regulations and the Public Service Arbitrator’s awards.
When the additional assets, now being provided by loan expenditure, reach their full earning capacity, it is expected that the increase in working costs will be more than provided for from the additional revenue earned..
During 1925-26 approximately 41,000 additional telephones were connected, of which 18,210 were in the metropolitan areas. Tt is anticipated that, in 1926-27, 46,000 additional telephones will be installed, of which 25,000 will be in the country areas.
The number of telephones in use throughout the Commonwealth now exceeds 400,000, nearly seven for each 100 of population. Australia now stands seventh on the list of countries from the stand-pointof telephone development. The United States is first, with fifteen telephones per 100 of population; then follow Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and Norway.
The policy of the Government is to provide, in the interests of national efficiency, the funds necessary for the expansion of the telephone system.
The Government’s progressive policy has resulted during the past two and a half years in the addition of 100,000 telephones.
The expenditure for 1925-26 approximated £5,050,000. For 1926-27 a sum of £4,500,000 is provided.
In recent years no increases have been made in the telegraph and telephone tariffs, but on the contrary a number of concessions have been granted. The present tariffs are amongst the lowest in the world, and, as a result of increased costs of labour and material, many services are now being operated at a loss. The anticipated revenue for 1926-27 would be increased by £3,580,000 if the American rates operated in Australia.
Owing to difficulties beyond the control of the Commonwealth Government, the beam services to England and Canada have not vet commenced, but are expected to function in January next.
The broadcasting services have now become a recognized feature in the life of the community, and are contributing in no small degree to mitigate the sense of isolation in sparsely-populated areas. The regulations are now being reviewed to determine whether any changes are necessaryin the interests of the multitude of listeners, who now number over 118,000.
Wireless stations at Wave Hill and Camooweal were opened during the year and have already proved their utility.
Tr ans- Australian Railway.
The extension of the uniform gauge into Adelaide has been recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and will considerably increase the traffic on the transAustralian railway, as the breaks of gauge at Kalgoorlie, Port Augusta and Terowie have greatly hampered and restricted business on the railway.
The working expenses of this railway, including interest and sinking fund, are estimated at £192,800, being an increase of £30,506 over the actual expenditure of the previous year. The estimated receipts are £76,000 for the current year, being an increase of £37,121 over the actual receipts of the previous year, leaving a deficit of £6,615 less than in 1925- 26.
For the first half-year, that is to 31st December, 19SJ5, the railway was operated on behalf of the Commonwealth by the South Australian Railways Commissioners, and lor the second half of the year by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
The total loss for the twelve months, not including interest and sinking fund, is made i:p as follows: -
It is anticipated for the year 1926-27 the loss cn the working of this railway will be very much reduced.
The cost of working this railway is estimated at £14,236, and the revenue is estimated at £22,500, thus showing a surplus of £8,264. The surplus in the previous year was only £2,434. The improvement m the position can be attributed to the greater activity in connexion with the establishment of the Federal Capital.
As indicated earlier, the working of the Commonwealth railways shows a loss of £464,368.
PART III - Territories of the Commonwealth.
The actual expenditure for 1925-26 was £385,224. The estimated expenditure for 1926-27 is £435,539, being an increase of £50,315. The chief item of increase is in the Federal Capital Territory, where it is expected that the expenditure will be £34,818 in excess of the amount expended in the last financial year. This increase is almost wholly due to the tost of transferring, during the current financial year, portion of the Central Office staffs to Canberra, together with official records.
An increase of £32,729 is found in the expenditure for additions, new works, and buildings. This additional expenditure is provided in connexion with the administration of the Northern Australia Act, which was recently passed by Parliament.
The estimated expenditure on Papua is £22,187 less than that of the previous year, and the estimated expenditure on New Guinea shows an increase of £4,293.
The “ Mandate for the German Possessions in the Pacific Ocean, situated south of the equator, other than German Samoa and Nauru,” issued by the Council of the League of Nations on 17th December, 1920, gave to the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia full powers of administration and legislation over the Territory subject to the mandate, as an integral portion of the Commonwealth. All ex-enemy property, rights, and interests within the Territories of Papua and New Guinea were expropriated in order that the net proceeds of the sale or liquidation should be applied in the reduction of the reparation debt.
Owing to the slump in the copra market, and the undeveloped state of the plantations, an immediate realization of the properties could not be made at satisfactory prices, so the development of the plantations was continued under the management of the Expropriation Board.
The wisdom of this policy is shown by the results recently achieved when the first group of ex-enemy properties, officially valued at £422,443, was sold for £504,468, many to returned soldiers.
It is hoped that practically the whole of the expropriated interests in the mandated territory will be liquidated at satisfactory prices.
Part IV. - Payments to or for the States.
The reason for showing the payments to the States as a separate section of the budget has already been explained. These payments can in no way be regarded as expenditure of the Commonwealth.
With the modern development of internal combustion engines, road transportation has become an essential factor in the commercial and social life of the community. A systematic development of Australian roads of a standard suitable for motor traffic is demanded. Those benefiting should specially contribute in some measure for these facilities. The State Governments, lacking the power to impose Customs duties, are unable to effectively reach all road users. The Commonwealth, therefore, is co-operating with the States in a national roads policy, and will impose special Customs duties which will be hypothecated for road construction. The imposition of these duties at the source will ultimately result in the road users paying this special tax proportionately to their use of the roads.
In 1923, the Commonwealth granted £500,000 to the States on a poundforpound basis for the construction of main developmental roads, and in the subsequent years, sums of £500,000 and £750,000 were provided on a similar basis. The results of these expenditures have been so satisfactory that the Government, in conference with the States, recently evolved a scheme of national road development contemplating an expenditure of £35,000,000 in a period of ten years.
Of this sum, £20,000,000 will be contributed by the Commonwealth, £5,000,000 being from existing sources of its revenue, and £15,000,000 will be obtained from additional collections of revenue from road users through the Customs. The taxes for this purpose will be levied on petroleum and shale oil, rubber tires and tubes, and motor-car chassis. The duties on petroleum and shale oil are to be increased by 2d. per gallon. The duties on the heavier pneumatic tires and tubes by 6d. per lb. On all other tires and tubes the duty will be 15 per cent, higher than at present. On unassembled and assembled chassis the duties are to be 2½ per cent. higher than at present. Full details of these duties will be placed before the House by the Minister for Trade and Customs later in the day. The Commonwealth will distribute its contribution on a basis of area and population, three-fifths according to population and two-fifths on area.
The States’ contribution of £15,000,000 may be derived either from revenue or from loan. Where the State contribution is from loan, a 3 per cent. sinking fund is being arranged to ensure that, at the end of twenty years after completion of a road, it will be free from debt. Provision is made for the permanent maintenance and upkeep of roads constructed or reconstructed under the scheme.
The roads included in the scheme are -
This will, in effect, be the first instalment and form the basis of a national roads scheme. When completed, it will be capable of extension in such a manner that the whole of our future roads construction will dovetail into the works now proposed.
In taking this step, Australia is putting herself into line with what has been done in America and Britain, where road-users for many years have contributed a very substantial part of the cost of road construction and upkeep.
On the 4th June I explained to the Housethe Commonwealth proposals for a more satisfactory adjustment of the financial relationships of the Commonwealth and the States based upon the true Federal principle that the States should be financially independent of the Commonwealth so far as this is possible. The Government is proposing legislation for the withdrawal of the present capitation payments, which are paid from year to year. At the same time, it proposes to discontinue the imposition of certain Commonwealth taxes. This will enable the State Governments to recoup them- selves for the loss of the capitation payments by raising equivalent funds by their own taxation methods in the surrendered fields. Out of the remaining revenues of the Commonwealth, special grants, amounting to £600,000, are to be paid to the Slates in the first year. It it proposed, further, that Western Australia and Tasmania should receive assistance to the extent of £450,000 and £378,000 respectively on account of special difficulties and disadvantages.
The principle underlying the proposals is that, as far as possible, the authority which expends money shall have the responsibility tor raising it. Departure from that principle has led to the costly duplication of existing agencies, which collect similar taxes from the same people under different laws. Under the newscheme this waste of administration will be eliminated, with the saving of approximately i 100,000 to the taxpayers of Australia.
Practically every argument advanced by the State Governments in regard to these proposals ignores the vital effect of the war on Federal finances. If the war had occurred before federation, the Commonwealth would clearly have required an amount greater than the Customs and excise revenue te meet its war and other obligations. In such circumstances, it would have been idle to argue that the Commonwealth should pay a share of the Customs revenue to the State Governments and at the same time raise direct taxes similar to those raised by the State Governments, simply for the purpose of paying Moneys over for expenditure by those governments.
The present system df uniform capitation payments to each State is palpably on a wrong basis, because two States already have been forced to apply for special grants, which practically means the adoption ot a graduated scale of capitation payments. At the present time, if Commonwealth policy should stimulate the development of one State and retard development m another, that State which is benefited has its industries enlarged, its population increased, and receives an additional payment by reason of that fact. In the State which is not stimulated in the same way, population may remain stationary or decline, and its payments may become both ‘ relatively and absolutely less. If any payments are to be made, and if there is to be balanced development in the Commonwealth, it is evident that just as for special industries there need to be special tariffs, so, to meet the conditions of each State, there must ‘be differential and not uniform payments. In all the payments made by the Commonwealth to the States, except the capitation payments, some basis other than that of population has been adopted. No other federation has adopted a system of uniform capitation payments to ite constituent States.
In the field of direct taxation being vacated, the Commonwealth has been collecting sums of money in excess of the capitation payments actually made. Including the special payments to the States, and on the hypothesis that, the State Governments will raise in the vacated field only as much revenue as the Commonwealth now pays them, the State taxpayers will be better off to the extent of £1,527,852. This amount of relief to the taxpayers is at the disposal of the parliaments of the States, and the proposed adjustment of the finances does not require that it should be withheld.
The Government has given very careful and earnest attention te the various objections mu.de by the State Governments to the Commonwealth proposals. It, however, is firmly convinced that these proposals are sound in principle and should be translated into statute form. To meet the objection, however, that the States have not sufficient time to put the required machinery in motion for 1926-27, the Government has decided to ask Parliament to pass such legislation as will enable the Commonwealth to operate the scheme during the first year, instead ‘,f. leaving the arrangements to be made by the State Governments. This will give to the State Governments and Parliaments an additional period of twelve months in which to formulate their plans for raising the necessary revenue.
In the States Grants Bill a clause will be inserted to enable the Commonwealth to pay over to the State Governments land tax, entertainments tax, and estate duty for the year 1926-27, collected at the rates which existed in 1925-26; also 40 per cent, of the income tax at last year’s Federal rates.
Bills vill be submitted to Parliament for the repeal, as from the end of the year 1926-27, of the Land Tax Act, the Entertainments Tax Act and the Estate Duty Act. For the year 1927-28 the Commonwealth will abandon 40 per cent, of its income tax.
The arrears of taxes imposed by the Commonwealth in respect of years prior to 1926-27 will belong to the Commonwealth, but a?l the taxes imposed by the Commonwealth for the States, whether collected m i926-27 or ‘ in subsequent years, will belong to the State Governments. If the taxes actually collected by the Commonwealth for the State Governments in 1926-27 do not reach the total which would have been payable to the State .Governments in 1926-27 on a capitation basis under the Surplus Revenue Act, the Commonwealth will make good the difference during 1926-27 by advancing the shortage to the State Governments this year in anticipation of the collection of the arrears.
In the case of Western Australia, a special addition to capitation payments was provided for in section 5 of the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910. That special addition to the capitation payment is included in the special relief of £450,000 now to be given to Western Australia, and consequently the payment to Western Australia in 1926-27 out of the special taxes will not include this amount.
The result will be that, in 1926-27, the State Governments will receive at least as much as would have been payable to them this year as capitation payments under a continuation of the Surplus Revenue Act.
No change of State taxation laws will be necessary until 1927-28. The States Will thus have a full year to consider how they will adjust their taxation, and during that year they will be guaranteed against any loss under the new proposals.
It has been suggested that, when the State Governments have re-adjusted their taxation laws, they may experience some little difficulty in collecting, before the close of the year, a full year’s, revenue in respect of the taxes they impose to replace the discontinued Federal taxes. Any shortage of their own collections in 1927-28 will, however, be fully compensated for by the arrears which they will receive in that year in respect of the Federal taxes imposed on their behalf. The States of Queensland, South . Aus- tralia, West Australia, and Tasmania will also receive in 1927-28 the adjusting grants, totalling £600,000, originally proposed in the States’ Grant Bill in respect of 1926-27.
Thus the Commonwealth, by operating the new scheme for one year in the manner proposed, will overcome the most pressing difficulty under which the State Governments felt they would suffer. The State Governments will have time for a re-adjustment, a guarantee against loss in the meantime, and arrears to make good any shortage of tax collections when they commence to collect the taxes.
Doubts have been expressed by the State Governments as to the accuracy of the Commonwealth estimate of the yield of the direct taxes to be surrendered. The actual collections of these taxes for the year just closed show that the Commonwealth somewhat under-estimated the amounts, and should entirely dispel the fears of the State Governments.
Estimated Revenue for. the New Year.
Having shown the expenditure of the Commonwealth, it is now necessary to consider the sources from which the re? venue to meet that expenditure can be obtained. The expenditure for which revenue is required is the minimum amount necessary for carrying out the ordinary services of government and giving, effect to policies approved by the people.
– Yes; but the amounts to be collected will not be those for which assessments will be issued. Certain arrears will be coming in, of which a certain proportion belongs to the States, and the rest to the Commonwealth.
It would be convenient at this stage to bring together for the information of honorable members the total direct taxation which it is proposed to collect during the current year, including the special taxes to be raised for payment to the States. The comparison of these taxes with 1925-26 is as follows: -
The Customs and Excise revenue for 1926-27 is estimated at £40,500,000, being £1,301,117 in excess of the actual receipts of the previous year. This estimate is made in view of the experience of recent years, combined with the excellent seasonal prospects and anticipated good prices for the bulk of our exports.
In the budget speech last year a detailed history of the variations of Federal income taxation was given. Income tax was first collected in the year 1915-16, and the rates were increased from time to time until the peak was reached in 1921. Reductions of more than 10 per cent, were made in each of the years 1922-23 and 1924-25 ; the exemption was raised, and last year a further reduction of per cent, was made. The income tax has in these ways been reduced by 47 per cent, per head since 1921-22.
During the current year it is anticipated that £6,450,000 will be collected for Commonwealth purposes, and £4,056,000 for payment to the States, making a total in all of £10,506,000. The income tax to be raised for Commonwealth expenditure represents £1 ls. Id. per head of the population, and the tax to be collected for expenditure by the States, 13s. 3d. per head.
The estimated revenue from land tax in 1926-27 is £200,000. The Commonwealth will raise, in addition, £2,111,000 on ordinary land tax assessments during the year. This amount will be paid to the States.
The revenue to be collected in 1926-27 on estate duties ‘ and entertainments tax is estimated at £100,000. This amount arises wholly from arrears of assessments for the previous year. In addition, £1,620,000 will be collected in respect of assessments of the current year and handed over to the States.
The war-time profits tax does not apply to profits derived after the 30th June, 1919, and transactions under this head are purely adjustments of old assessments. During the year, it is expected that the refunds of tax will exceed the collections by £20,000.
The position of the year 1926-27 may be summarized as follows : -
Review of the Budget.
Having explained in considerable detail the finances of the Commonwealth, and having given honorable members some account of those activities which come intimately into contact with the life and interests of individual members of the public, I propose to survey the budget briefly.
Part I. of the Estimates is really the heart , of the Commonwealth budget. It shows that the interest and sinking fund on the war debt, together with war pensions, repatriation, and defence services, amount . to no less than £34,019,906, which, together with £9,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions, exceed the whole of the Customs and excise revenue of £40,500,000 by £2,519,906.
Part II. covers the business undertakings of the Government. It is unfortunate that, although the PostmasterGeneral’s ‘ Department is able to pay its way, and in fact yields a small surplus, yet the various railways; with the exception of the Queanbeyan-Canberra railway, impose on the taxpayers a deadweight burden which must be provided from general taxation. The public has, however, demanded these railways, and the accounts as presented show clearly the loss on the working which the taxpayer has to shoulder.
Part III. sets out the demands made upon the Treasury to maintain the territories of the Commonwealth.
The fact that more than the whole of the Customs and excise revenue is consumed by war expenditure, adequate development of the national defences and invalid and old-age pensions, obligations which were imposed on the Commonwealth long after the Constitution was framed, is of itself sufficient to show the wisdom of the Government’s action in placing the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States on a more satisfactory basis, and is an effective reply to the claim of the State Governments that they have a moral right to a share of the Customs and excise revenue.
The necessity for such action, and the unsoundness of such claim, however, become all the more clear when it is recognized that the Commonwealth is not only forced into the field of direct taxation to provide for grants to the States, but also to provide for the ordinary services of government, for losses on railways” and territories, and for special payments to States requiring financial assistance to raise their development to the general standard.
The Commonwealth Government must raise revenues to meet the three lastmentioned obligations. The State Governments, themselves, should also raise the revenues necessary to meet their obligations, and thus become financially independent of the Commonwealth. To facilitate this action on the part of the States, the Commonwealth proposes to vacate fields of taxation more than sufficient to yield the present capitation payments. The Commonwealth Government’s policy is ultimately to vacate the whole field of direct taxation. It will still pursue its’ programme of strict economy and tax reduction, thus giving the States a continually widening scope to ileal with their problems.
During the last three years the Government has made reductions in taxation and. postal charges of an annually recurring amount of £5,690,000. It has also substantially reduced the wai debt, has instituted a progressive defence policy, paid £1,250,000 in bounties to stimulate industries, and improved, at an increased annual cost of £3,600,000, the lot of the old and the infirm. Under the Commonwealth’s financial proposals the State Governments, when imposing taxation in the field vacated by the Commonwealth, will have the opportunity of giving further relief to taxpayers totalling £1.527,852.
The financial proposals of the Government have now been unfolded. Its policy since its accession to office has been to secure the balanced development of Australia. Its actions have been directed to strengthen the financial position both of the Commonwealth and the States. The redemption of war debt in Australia, Commonwealth abstention from raising new loans for its own purposes in the Australian market, Commonwealth cooperation with regard to migration, Commonwealth concessions regarding soldier land settlement, bounties to stimulate industries in various parts of Australia, Commonwealth assistance for the unification of railway gauges and national main road construction, national efforts to improve marketing conditions, assistance to trade, commerce, and production by the provision of better facilities for postal and telephonic communication, and reduction of direct taxation - all have tended to make the States’ financial position stronger than it otherwise would have been.
The policy of the Government has undoubtedly strengthened the Commonwealth’s financial position, and enabled it to deal effectively with the problems consequent on the war.
The principal stages of economic reconstruction after the war have been recognized to be -
Provision for repayment of war debt;
Balancing of the budget;
Stabilization of currency;
Re-organization of industry.
The first four of these have now been definitely secured in Australia. The Government is steadily aiding, by means of a progressive policy, the re-organization of industry with the object of enabling Australia to compete on level terms with other nations, and to enjoy increasing progress and prosperity. I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “The President, £1,300,”be agreed to.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That the consideration of the general Estimates foe postponed until after the consideration of the Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
– I move -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1926 be amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the ninth day of July, 1926, at 9 o’clock in the forenoon, Victorian time, duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs tariff as so amended.
That, excepting by mutual agreement or until after six months’ notice has been given to the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, nothing in this resolution shall affect any goods entering the Commonwealth of Australia from the Dominion of New Zealand.
The motion is a necessary corollary to the Government’s policy to provide £20,000,000 for the States, spread over a period of ten years, to expedite the construction and development of good roads throughout Australia. This is in addition to the £15,000,000 to be provided by the State Governments over the same period for the same purpose. The Prime Minister has announced, as a matter of Government policy, that of the £2,000,000 per annum to be provided by the Commonwealth £500,000 will be taken from the ordinary revenue, and £1,500,000 will be raised as special revenue, as far as possible, from the road users. Honorable members will, I am sure, agree that a comprehensive road policy is necessary in this motor transport age. They will also agree that, as we are not blessed with large waterways similar to those with which so many other countries are favoured, it is of national importance, in the interests of development, that the construction of roads in Australia should be a responsibility of both Commonwealth and State authorities. The road policy of the Government will be fully explained at an early date by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill). The method of raising the Commonwealth’s share’ of the extra revenue required has been fully and well considered. The only source of taxation available to the Commonwealth Government to meet this is Customs taxation. I have dissected the various vehicular items in the tariff, and find that the value of imported road vehicles, other than motors, is small. It is not proposed, therefore, to increase the duties on them. But there are three main items of imports the duties upon which it is proposed to increase.. The motion proposes an increase of 2d. per gallon all round on the petrol sub-item of tho tariff; 6d. per lb. on rubber tires; and 15 per cent, in the British and foreign duties on other tire items. It is proposed also to add 2J per cent, all round to the duties on motor chassis, which will also cover motor chassis parts classified under the chassis item, but not chassis parts included under other items of the tariff. I submit for the information of the committee the following table of imports of petrol, motor chassis and parts, and rubber tires and tubes for the years 1922-23 to 1925-26 inclusive: -
It will be seen from those figures that if the imports for the financial year 1926-27 are the same as those in the financial year just closed, the extra 2d. per gallon on 118,000,000 gallons of petrol will produce an additional revenue of £983,000; an all round increase of 2$ per cent, in the duties on motor chassis and parts of a value of nearly £11,000,000, will produce about £270,000; the extra 6d. per lb. on the 10,300,000 lb. of tires and tubes will produce £260,000; whilst the extra 15 per cent, duty on the smaller sizes of tires and tubes and solid tires, which last year were valued at £326,000, should yield £48,900. The total revenue to be collected under this schedule will, on the basis of the imports for the last financial year, amount to about £1,560,000. It may be that owing to further developments of tire manufacture within the Commonwealth, the duty on tires will not produce the estimated amount, but, on the other hand, the consumption of petrol is increasing at a very rapid rate, and although further production in Australia is expected, the new duty on this item will be for some years the principal source of the revenue required to pay for the development of our roads. With all transportation the users should pay by fares, rates of freight, canal dues, or in other ways, for the cost and upkeep of the track. It is considered equitable, therefore, that the main users of the roads should contribute towards the cost of making and maintaining them. Without good roads motor traffic would be almost impossible, and the Government considers that the extra money to be expended by the Commonwealth on road development should be obtained through the Customs Department by means of increased duties on the principal imports used by motorists. Petrol, tires, and chassis are used by motorists only, both for touring and trading, and they are the people who will receive the greatest benefits from the Government’s road policy. This scheme of road improvement is a great advance in the projected development of the valuable assets of the Continent, and it is hoped that by this means large areas of undeveloped country will be made accessible, and that the arterial communications between towns will be vastly improved. The inland transportation of the future will be principally by motor traffic, and we must have roads fit to carry it. This schedule of new duties is part of the effort which Parliament is asked to make towards that end. I submit the motion to the committee with the utmost confidence. It is in accordance with the publicly announced policy of the Government, and has been endorsed by the electors. I remind honorable members that the making of roads will provide a considerable amount of employment, the whole of the money to be expended will be retained and circulated in the Commonwealth, and such expenditure cannot be regarded as lost to the community, as it would be if it were spent overseas.
– The tariff motion was part of the budget proposals, and it was necessary that the Minister for Trade and Customs should lay the new schedule upon the table to-day and submit a resolution in order that the revenue might be protected.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senators Sampson and Thompson had been appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Law and Procedure, vice Senators Payne and Plain, discharged.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the remaining Government business be postponed until after the consideration of general business.
– I should like to know just what is happening. The Minister for Trade and Customs tallied confidentially to himself for some time, but such fragments of his speech as I managed to overhear were absolutely appalling. Apparently, the procedure this afternoon is part of some lodge mystery into which only two or three Ministers have been initiated.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the right honorable member in order, upon a motion relating to the order of business, in discussing in the House a matter that was dealt with by the Committee of Ways and Means?
-The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is not discussing the proceedings of the Committee of Ways and Means. I understand that he is inquiring as to the procedure that will be followed if the Prime Minister’s motion is agreed to.
– I am glad that you, sir, at any rate, can appreciate the point I am endeavouring to make. My one purpose in rising is to inquire when the tariff schedule will be again under discussion. Although born of poor but respectable parents, I happen to be, quite incidentally, a motorist, and when the tariff schedule is again before the committee I wish to be present in order to say a few things which I think require to be said. I wish to be informed definitely when the consideration of the schedule will be resumed : I do not want vague statements about “ some day,” but on what day and at what hour, we shall have a chance to give vent to our outraged feelings. When the Minister for Trade and Customs rides forth again, I wish to be present.
– The tariff motion is part of the budget proposals, and I assure the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mrr Hughes) that he will be given ample notice of the resumption of the discussion of both.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this House disagrees with that portion of the report of the Joint House Committee which advocates the retention of the refreshment bar for Federal Parliament House, at Canberra, and considers that it should be subject to the same conditions as to the sale of intoxicants which apply to the Federal Territory generally.
I desire first to make a personal explanation. The assertion that some private arrangement has been come to between the Prime Minister and myself under which I am to monopolize all the time allotted for private members’ business has no foundation whatever. I have had no consultation at all with the Prime Minister on the subject. Moreover, the Standing Orders would preclude suchan arrangement.
– Will the honorable member deny that there is an arrangement to give unlimited time to the consideration of the motion ?
– So far as I am aware there is no such arrangement. I desire above all things to have a vote on the motion as early as possible, and to that end I do not intend to occupy the time of the House at any great length. It will be within the recollection of honor able members that under the Seat of Government Administration Act of 1910 an ordinance was gazetted on the 24th December of that year, providing that no licence to sell intoxicating liquor in the Federal Territory was to be granted.
– Who signed the ordinance ?
– The Honorable King O’Malley, the then Minister for Home Affairs, was responsible for tho ordinance, at the instance of a few earnest temperance advocates in this House, including myself, who were very anxious to. prevent the legalization of the sale of intoxicants in the Federal Capital Territory and in other Commonwealth terri-. tories. We did the same thing in regard to Papua and Norfolk Island, and also in connexion with prohibition of tho opium traffic in Australia. There was. an opportunity at that time, had honorable members so desired, to object to the ordinance, which had to lie on the table for the usual statutory 30 days. Within fifteen days of it being laid on the table any honorable member could have objected to the ordinance, and had this been done its provisions would have been rendered practically ineffective. No objection having then been taken to the ordinance, it can be assumed that it had the entire concurrence of the whole of the members of the Parliament. It has now been in force for about fifteen and a half years, and has been found to be generally satisfactory. Recently a report by the Joint House Committee was laid upon the table of this House, stating that in connexion with the refreshment room the committee had decided by a vote of eight as against three in favour of arrangements being made for the retention of the bar after the transfer of Parliament to Canberra. This is calculated to set an extremely bad example to the fine community now resident at. Canberra. There will probably be some thousands of people living there in the not far-distant future. It will be seen from the motion that 1 am raising no other question except that relating to the bar at Federal Parliament House. This has been done purposely, because I do not want to confuse the issue in any way. We have already established a dry area at Canberra by ordinance under the authority of the Seat of Government Administration Act. That ordinance has the force of law, and has operated satisfactorily for the past fifteen and a half years, and I am satisfied to leave it at that. Even had no such ordinance existed. I consider that no apology would have Deen necessary, and certainly none would have been offered by me had occasion arisen at any subsequent period, for attempting to prevent the legalization of the sale of intoxicants within the Federal Capital Territory. We have an opportunity there to set a fine example, not only to Australia, but also to the rest of the world, whose eyes probably will be upon us in respect of this matter. For this reason we should not depart from the custom that we have followed for the last fifteen and a half years. I have no desire whatever to reflectin any way upon the sobriety of members of either branch of the legislature. Everybody recognizes that in respect of sobriety the Commonwealth Parliament compares favorably with the other parliaments of the world. For nearly a quarter of a century I have enjoyed the privilege of being a member of this House, and during that time few cases of overindulgence in intoxicants have come under my notice. I was principally responsible for the selection of the YassCanberra area for the Federal Capital Territory, notwithstanding the misleading statements that have been made regarding the fathering of Canberra by pressmen and others; and one of the reasons that guided me in. selecting that area, apart from its salubrious climate and altitude, its health-giving and invigorating atmosphere, and its abundant supply of water, was the unique advantage of no public house being within the territory. We have a fine opportunity to keep the Federal Capital free from the drink traffic, that has done so much to bring ruin, desolation, poverty, disease, and death to countless homes. It has been asserted that, notwithstanding the existence of this ordinance, Canberra to-day is not a dry area. It has also been asserted that motor cars are employed bringing liquor from Queanbeyan to the Federal Territory for local consumption, that a special service of buses is running to take workmen from Canberra to Queanbeyan, and that in consequence that town is converted into a veritable saturnalia every week-end. Those statements may, or may not, be true; I have not visited Queanbeyan at week ends, so am not in a position to verify them. But those statements do not constitute an argument why we should do the same thing with Canberra.
– The honorable member is using extravagant language.
– I am, in calm, temperate language, replying to assertions made by those who are opposing my action, in moving this motion. I have been told that there are four hotels in Queanbeyan, and in them something like £1,200 is expended on liquor every Saturday. If that is so, .1 would sooner see that sum spent in Queanbeyan than in any part of the Federal Capital Territory, if it is so spent. That a vice may exist in Queanbeyan is no reason for providing facilities for the. same vice at Canberra. We legislate against crime, but that does not entirely prevent murders or robberies from being committed. Because these things occur, will anybody say that the legislation dealing with crimes should be abolished. If liquor is illegally sold at Canberra as alleged, it implies that there is laxity of supervision by the administration. If the assertions are true that an abundance of liquor is imported into and sold in the Federal Capital area, and over-indulgence is just as rife there as anywhere else, then those responsible for the administration of the ordinance would seem to-be lacking in their duty to the community. It is a matter of administration, and faulty administration may nuilify the best of laws. I. draw the attention of honorable members to what Adam Smith has said in his Wealth of Nations regarding the effect of the liquor traffic on labour : -
The labour employed in producing strong drinks is utterly unproductive. The labour expended on them adds nothing to the wealth of ‘.ho community, to the means of subsistence, or the sources of true enjoyment; but, on the contrary, it produces what is positively injurious to all the interests of humanity.
Any one who has had experience of places vvhere large works are in operation,’ and has observed the number of hotels existing there, cannot but endorse Adam Smith’s view. One significant fact to which we cannot shut our eyes is that alcohol weakens our power of self control. That is well expressed in the adage, “ When the wine is in, the wit is out.” It also destroys our self-respect, mars our sense of responsibility, and blunts our moral and ethical outlook. One of the greatest captains of industry, Henry Ford, has realized that, for he does not encourage his employees to take alcoholic stimulants. “When he was preparing to erect works near Geelong, one of the first things he did was to purchase a large area of land on which stood the only hotel in the vicinity. Having acquired that hotel, and all the land suitable for the erection of other hotels near his works, he promptly closed it. That action indicates what he thinks of the effect of alcohol on the productivity, responsibility, and efficiency of his workmen. There can be no doubt that alcohol, whatever else it may 01 may not do, does not add to the efficiency of individuals who have recourse to it. The return in wages to the worker, in the liquor trade provides another strong argument against the liquor traffic as a satisfactory national business. The number employed is from three to five times fewer than is required to supply other classes of goods, and the proportion of wages to the value of output is from two to five times less than in other industries. Breweries and distilleries are always the lowest on the list in that respect; they pay only from 2s. 7d. to 3s. in wages per £1 value of output, while other industries pay from 5s. to 14s. per £1 value of output. Regarding statements as to the ineffectiveness of prohibition in America, and the amount of bootlegging and insobriety there, and the contention that more liquor is now consumed there than was consumed before the enactment of prohibition, I should like to quote some statements emanating from an authoritative source. I have a small book called The Menace of Alcohol; it isa compilation of addresses, letters, and articles by prominent persons interested in the movement, and it may be taken for granted that the statements in the book were verified before publication. I com-‘ mend its perusal to honorable members. In 1920 prohibition of the manufacture, importation, sale, and transportation of liquor became the law operating over the whole territory of the United States of America. It is an attempt by national law to find a national remedy for a national evil, and while the enforcement of the law has been met by many serious internal and external difficulties, which have perpetuated the worse features of such an evil traffic, the consensus of opinion is that the policy has accomplished more in a few years than all other methods have accomplished, or were ever likely to do. A statement by Mr. Guy Hayler of London, who is president of the World’s Prohibition Federation, summarizes the results of six years’ experience of national prohibition- in the United States of America.
– But he is not impartial.
– It is almost impossible to find an impartial authority on this matter. Every one must either drink alcohol or not drink it, and on the score of reliability, I prefer to rely on the person who does not drink it. Mr. Guy Hayler says -
On 16th January, 1920 (six years ago), the United States of America placed prohibition in its National Constitution. By this act 177,000 saloons, 1,000 breweries, and 236 distilleries were closed down; and the making, selling, importing, exporting, and transporting of intoxicating liquors as a beverage was made illegal throughout that great country. Despite evasions of the law - and what law is not violated somewhere at some time? - prohibition lias fully vindicated the declaration of its promoters. The general death rate has been considerably lowered, and tens of thousands of little children have been saved from premature death. The home life of the common people has been enhanced in many ways; the worker and his family are better fed, better clothed, better cared for, and better educated. There is a marked improvement in all these directions as compared with the old wet days. From the point of view of the employer, it is asserted that there is a greater efficiency in factory, mine, and workshops, coupled with a conspicuous improvement in regularity. This has meant an increased output and a bigger wage for the worker, and we see the result in an enormous growth in the number of folks who now own houses, motor cars, telephone equipment, &c. In fact, there is a decided change for the better in the whole ramification of the social life of the nation. Charity organizations report lessened charges upon their funds and hospitality. Trade booms, and unemployment is practically unknown. Labour “ temples “ are being built all over the States, and they take the place of the saloon which once was the shelter for union meetings. The larger trade unions are opening their own banks, where money once passed over the saloon counter - is now deposited. The “ rainy day “ preparation is now a practical proposition. The six years’ prohibition enforcement m the United States of America, in spite of all bootlegging and smuggling in which not a few nations have indulged, continues to prove of inestimable value to the whole of the community.
That statement is by an authority who cannot be lightly impugned, and whose statements of fact have so far not been gainsaid. At Canberra, where the drink traffic has not yet raised its ugly, destructive, mischievous, death-dealing, and diseasedisseminating head, we have an opportunity to keep it out, no matter how many other areas there may be where it rears its ugly head unashamed and works havoc among the community. Let us not be responsible for introducing the use of alcoholic beverages into that area, but let us make Canberra a healthy, clean, bright and wholesome place for the rearing of the children of the present and future generations. Let us see that the children are not reared under the conditions prevailing in older countries, which have suffered from the terrible scourge, drink. We have the opportunity now to keep the Capital Territory dry, and future generations will curse us if we do not take full advantage of it. The question, however, happily does not arise on my motion, which is based on the all important fact that we already have prohibition in the area; and I hope that it will continue there for all time. The only thing I am now concerned with is that, in spite of the existence of the licence prohibition ordinance, the Joint Parliamentary House Committee has decided that arrangements should be made for a bar at Parliament House, Canberra. That is, in myview, a morally indefensible decision.
– The honorable member is making gross misstatements of fact. He is grossly exaggerating and misstating the position.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement, which implies that the honorable member for Lang is maliciously misrepresenting facts.
– I withdraw what I said, but I insist that he is grossly misrepresenting the position.
– The honorable member must not suggest that another honorable member is intentionally misrepresenting facts.
– The effect of the decision of the House Committee was to place members of Parliament on a different plane from the rest of the community, so far as the “ dry “ ordinance at Canberra was concerned.
– The honorable member has privileges that no other honorable member receives.
– I ask the honorable member for Ballarat not to interject. The honorable member for Lang is entitled to state his case in his own way.
– But he has greater privileges than any other honorable member.
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling had no right to make that statement.
– The report laid upon the table of the House states that the committee decided, on a vote of eight “ Ayes “ and three “ Noes,” in favour of arrangements being made for the retention of the bar after the transfer of the Parliament to Canberra. I ask whether I am not stating the truth when I say that that decision would accord honorable members an opportunity to purchase liquor not enjoyed by the rest of the community at Canberra, who would be under the ban of the “no licence” ordinance ?
– The honorable member knows that a liquor bar at Parliament House would mean licences for the Territory.
– Then the honorable member for Darling has supplied the strongest possible reason for opposing the proposal. The object of the ordinance was to prevent the sale of intoxicants throughout the Federal Capital Territory. So far as Parliament is concerned, it is true that no licence is required for a liquor bar; but the moral effect that the establishment of such a bar would have on the rest of the community in the Capital has to be considered.
– Rather, the immoral effect.
– Yes ; I thank the Minister for that correction. Whether honorable members are fond of a glass of liquor or are total abstainers, they should set an example to the rest of the people by observance of the ordinance.
– But Canberra is not “ dry “ now.
– This Government has made it a sly grog-shop.
– If that is so, the administration, somewhere, has been faulty, and the Government should see that that state of affairs is altered. But is that any reason why we should set aside the ordinance, and permit the issue of licences and so directly encourage intemperance throughout the Territory? Such an argument will not bear investigation. I cast no reflection upon honorable members in submitting the motion. I have distinctly stated that I pay tribute to their sobriety. There have been very few instances of overindulgence by them in alcoholic stimulants; but, if we have a barat Parliament House,an agitationwouldsoon arise, with such an argument to back itup for the removalof theprohibitionaffecting the rest of the community, thatour attitude would reactprejudicially upon ourselves as membersof agreat national Parliament. I make no apology for submittingthemotion, andI askforits earnest consideration.
– I second the motion.
– Ihavebeen asked to indicate atwhat time the period allowed forthe consideration of privatemembers motions will terminate. In the ordinary way. the discussion of private motions would have closed at 4.30 p.m., in complance with the standing order ; but to-day the House orderedthe postponementofprivatemembers’ business untilafter the financial statement, and thatusuallyallottedonThursdaystoprivatebusiness.Ifindthatthetimeso occupied,includingthattakenupbythe speechoftheMinisterforTradeand Customs,amounttoanhourandforty minutes,and,therefore,Ipropose,with theconcurrenceofhonorablemembers,to allowthediscussionof private members’ motions to continue until 6.30 p.m., and to call on private members’ orders of the day at 8 p.m., after the dinner adjournment.
Honorable Members. - Let some one on this side speak next.
– I rise to a. point of order. The honorable member for Parramatta. (Mr. Bowden), by rising, indicated that he seconded the motion, and then resumed his seat. I respectfully suggest that the usual practice in all parliaments is to regard that procedureasa reservation of the fright to speak.
– It was impossible for me tostate thequestion to the House until the motion had been formally seconded, but the honorablemember for Parramatta is entitled now to speak, if he wishes todo so, as I intervened to make astatementas to the business.
– I have no objection to allowing the honorable member for Ballarat(Mr. McGrath) to continue thedebate,reserving myrightto speak later.
.- I do not think that the advocates of a “ dry” Canberra could have chosen a worse champion of their cause than the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson),. He should be the last to talk about the privileges of honorable members,, since no other honorable member has had the privileges that he has enjoyed. I have no fault to find with those who desire the Federal Capital Territorytobe kept “ dry “ ; they are entitled to their opinions. I should be in a very awkward position if ‘this motion came to a vote, because Ido not intend to vote for the retention of abar at Parliament House, ifno liquor licence is to be granted in any other part of the Territory. In order to meet the situation and make the issue clear, I have circulated an amendment among honorable members.
– Move it formally now.
– I may as well doso. It reads -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted - “ this House agrees with that portion of the report of the Joint House Committee which advocatesthe retention of tha refreshmentbar for Federal Parliament House at Canberra, and considers that licences should be issued to hostels under the controlof the Government in Canberra.”
– Ona point of order I submit that the honorable member’s amendment is outoforder,onthe grounds that the first part of it simply negatives the motion; and the second part refers to a matter which is not before the House.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) read his amendment, but I did not (understand that he had formally moved it.
– The honorablemember’s words were “ I may as well move it now “. I submitthat the question before the House is whether the report of the Joint House Committee shall be approved orotherwise. The amendment raises the question of the sale of intoxicating liquorswithin theFederal Capital Territory generally.
-That is also raised by the motion.
– I submit that it is not; and that it is extraneous.
– I understood the honorable member for Ballaarat to intimate that he intended to move hisamendment; but in any case it is not formally before the House until it has been seconded.
– I shall formally move it at the end of my speech. I resent the aspersions cast by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) onthesobriety of the Australian people. I believe ours is the most sober race on earth. Drunkenness is notrife among us.
– I did not say that itwas.
– If conditions now were similar tothose thatobtained when the right ‘honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and I were both members of the Victorian Parliament, there mighthave been some justification for the honorable member’s remarks. When the late Sir Thomas Bent brought in hisbill for the appointment of the LicenceReduction Board he did splendid service for Victoria. During the period that the board has been operating hundreds of hotels, which were maintained by peculiar methods, have been closed; andrespectable hotelkeepers have been enabled to live underdecent conditions. I have visited Canberra and have seen alittle of what goeson there. I assert, knowing my statement to be true, that : at least £2,000 a week is spent on liquor in Queanbeyan, which is taken into the Federal Capital Territory to be consumed, and our adoption of the motion would not stop that. There might be some justification for theintroduction of the motion if NewSouth Wales were a dry State, but it is not. Queanbeyan, which is practically the front gate to the Federal Capital Territory, has four hotels, and it is only 8 miles from the Capital; and Tass, which is only 50 miles away, has about seven hotels. In these circumstances it is rank hypocrisy for us to talk of preventing the sale of liquor there. The ordinance does not prohibit the taking of liquor into the Federal Capital Territory. When we were at Canberra a few weeks ago a party of polo players was sitting at a reserved table at Hotel Canberra, on which I will guarantee there were 20bottles of champagne. The honorable member for Lang does not propose to deal with that situation. People who have plenyof money and can afford bo purchase liquor by the bottle may bring in asmuchas they please, andkeep their locker suppliedwithoutanyrestriction whatever. Amoment’s considerationwould convince any unbiased person that, under present conditions, it is possiblef or moreliquor to be consumed atCanberra than would : be likely tobe consumedif half a dozen licenced hotels wereopen there. Many people who take a bottle or two of whisky home with them are not satisfied until they have drunk it all.I venture to say that, if a hotel were properly conducted atCanberra, less liquor would be consumed there. The brewers and distillers,apparently, are indifferent about thefate of the ordinance, for they havenot circularized honorable members. That has been left to the temperance organizations.
Mr.Parsons. - I have received letters from both sides.
– I do notthink many honorable members have.
– All the members from South Australia have had letters from both parties.
– I was not aware of that. The brewers, generally speaking, are not worried, for they know that their profits will not be affected whether the ordinance is repealed or not. The honorable member for Lang quoted a statement by Adam Smith, who has ibeen dead more than 100 years.
– In Adam Smith’s timeeven theparsons used to drink to excess.
– I am sure that we are allglad that those days have passed. Drunkennessiscertainly not desirable in the community. Honorable members who are opposed to the motion are not actuated by any desire to support the liquor traffic, but they wish to be fair. A few honorable members of this Parliament have hold their seats since the Inceptionof feneration, and some others havebeen inParliament for many ‘years, but I willundertake that any one of them could count on the fingers of his two hands the cases of insobriety that have occurred among members during that period.
– The expenditure on liquor at the refreshment bar in this House averages only 4½d. per member per week.
– That is so; and that includes liquor consumed by the friends of honorable members and all teetotal drinks, and officers of the House. Against the quotation from Adam Smith that the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) read, I wish to quote the statement of the Bishop of Goulburn, Dr. Radford, which was published in the Argus this morning. I think honorable members will agree that Dr. Radford is not likely to act in the interests of the brewers «-nd distillers, and is above suspicion. He lives near the Federal Capital Territory, and many of his parishioners actually reside in it. The newspaper extract reads -
The Anglican Archbishop of Goulburn ‘ (Dr. Radford) has made a statement in which he refuses the request of prohibition campaigners to take action in defence of the “ dry “ ordinance at Canberra. Dr. Radford, whose diocese includes Canberra, says that the “dry” ordinance was imposed by administrative authority upon a community that was mainly a constructional camp.
That was the position when Mr. King O ‘Malley issued the ordinance, but circumstances have entirely changed since then. Many people are now permanently settled in Canberra. The extract proceeds -
Canberra was now becoming more and more an ordinary civil community, which might fairly resent the retention of a disciplinary restriction that was no longer necessary or appropriate. He added that the “ dry “ ordinance had failed. The place had been kept “ dry,” but nor. the people. Queanbeyan had been Canberra’s hotel. “ The retention of this ‘dry ‘ ordinance,” he said. ‘’ means that one group of Australian citizens is kept by arbitrary authority under a law upon which they have had no opportunity of expressing their opinions. The capital city area is at present in an anomalous and obviously transient position. Its citizens have no franchise and no representation. Their civil and political position is clearly due for adjustment. It would be a fair thing to ask for an ordinance giving the settled residents of the capital city the right to decide their wishes by a plebiscite.” 1 submit that- we should not disregard the opinion of such a responsible gentleman.
– The Bishop of Goulburn is highly respected by all sections of the community.
– I think all the bishops are highly respected. Dr. Radford has had personal experience of the working of the ordinance, and I have no doubt that he has had frequent reports on the matter from his clergy. I wonder whether honorable members know that in addition to hotelkeepers at Queanbeyan making huge fortunes through the enforcement of this ordinance, at least five persons have acquired motor cars, and are making big money every week by carting liquor into Canberra and selling it in a semi- wholesale way. However good prohibition may be as a general principle, it is impossible to make Canberra a dry area under the present circumstances ; and this partial application of the principle is useless. In adopting this attitude I am not breaking any platform promises. During the election campaign a reverend gentleman asked me at one of my» meetings whether I would vote to keep Canberra dry, and to prevent a bar being established at Parliament House. I replied that if he visited me at the Federal Parliament House I should be glad to take him into the refreshment room for a cup of tea; but if the gentleman sitting alongside of him also visited me there, and desired refreshment stronger than tea, I should be glad to provide it for him, and I should not think that I had done him an injury by doing so. The Labour party is trying to remove from the retailing of alcohol the incentive of profit. We believe that that is the principal evil of the traffic. Men behind the bar may look only to the profits, regardless of the injury suffered by their customers through over-indulgence in alcohol. The solution of the liquor problem lies in national control. A time will come when nobody will think of going into an hotel for alcohol, but that state of mind cannot be created artificially. We must inculcate in the rising generation new ideas regard ing the virtue of sobriety, and we must place hotels under national or municipal control, so that the men behind the bars will be paid for the hours they work, and not according to the number of drinks they sell each day. Hotels thus controlled will sell only the best quality of drinks, and will be kept clean and orderly. They will not be places where men and women will congregate in their leisure time, or into which young people will be encouraged to go. Gradually the number of people frequenting public-houses will become less, and in 25 or 50 years prohibition may come about automatically. We know that when prohibition is enforced upon an unwilling community, especially when the numbers of prohibitionists and their opponents are approximately even, those men who for many years have been accustomed to take alcohol, and are suddenly denied it, indulge in habits that arc infinitely worse than drinking. In America to-day, a big section of the community - a minority, it is true - demands alcohol or drugs. I appeal to honorable members not to be intimidated by any outside organizations. Let us think for ourselves. Men of all political parties have been associated in this Parliament for many years, and insobriety amongst us is practically unknown. If the motion of the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) is agreed to, drinking at Canberra will be increased rather than decreased. I have some startling information in regard to what is happening in America to-day. It shows that members of Parliament, whilst pretending to advocate prohibition, are yet amongst the heaviest drinkers in the community. I quote from an American journal -
The situation in Washington has been a matter of comment indeed to all Washington residents, and most visitors, we are told, but it remains for Representative Upshaw, of Georgia, to call the nation’s attention to what so many people knew, but believed in keeping secret. There seems to have been a kind of conspiracy of silence, especially amongst those law makers who do notvote as they drink. Representative Upshaw’s frank revelation, by calling the nation’s attention to hypocrites in high places who talk dry, but live wet, has been the greatest factor in stimulating tho authorities to do something. Too many of these officials are striking a posture, and calling upon people with tears in their eyes to respect and honour the laws of their nation, and then going out backwards, and buying blindtiger bootleg liquor for their own consumption
That statement seems quite applicable to Canberra. Not one honorable member sincerely believes that the carrying of the motion proposed by the honorable member for Lang will diminish drinking. Canberra is surrounded by places that offer every facility for obtaining alcohol, and it will be taken to Parliament House, as it is taken to the hostels to-day.
– Is not that a reflection upon the law-abiding character of the people ?
– It is not. The people are allowed to take to Canberra as much drink as they require, provided they buy it outside the Federal Capital
Territory. The motion does not propose that they should be prevented from taking liquor to Canberra. All it provides is that alcohol shall not be sold at Parliament House. I agree with the mover that members of Parliament should not enjoy a privilege that is denied to other residents in the Federal Capital Territory.
– That is the meaning of the motion.
– I am not to be sidetracked by that statement. My amendment proposes that facilities for obtaining liquor shall be provided at Parliament House, and that the Governmentowned hostels shall be licensed so that the liquor trade in Canberra may be controlled. Not one of the temperance advocates has said one word in condemnation of the present traffic in liquor at Canberra. Wealthy people are carrying into the Territory cases of spirits, and in so doing they commit no breach of the law. The ordinance merely prohibits the sale of liquor within the Federal Capital Territory, but at the very front door of Canberra is Queanbeyan with four hotels, and in an opposite direction, Yass, which offers every facility for drinking. Do honorable members think that the liquor traffio will be seriously diminished by voting against the provision of a bar at Parliament House?
– Why should the public servants be denied a drink?
– In addition to the public servants, thousands of other workersare employed at the Federal Capital, and shall we be so narrowminded as to declare that the men who are engaged in hard manual toil should not have a glass of beer? Alcohol may not be beneficial to their health, but if we were to regard all the prohibitions that the doctors impose, we should die of starvation. The workers in Sydney can get all the drink they require within reason, but their fellows who live in the Federal Capital Territory will be denied a glass of ale or stout. It is nonsense to say that if Canberra is dry the health of the community will be improved. Practically almost every house will have its bottle of liquor. In Melbourne are thousands of homes in which liquor is never kept, because the breadwinner, if he needs it, can get it at the hotel. Whatever injury the alcohol does finishes there: but if men are denied the opportunity to go to a hotel, drink and its attendant evils will be introduced into homes to which at present they are str angers .
– All the facts are against the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Adelaide may quote statistics in regard to America, but circumstances there are entirely different from those obtaining at Canberra. In the United States of America trafficking in drink is a crime, but in Canberra it will notbe a crime so long as the liquor is bought outside the Federal Territory. I am told that the railway from Queanbeyan to Canberra derives considerable revenue from the carriage of liquor to the Federal Capital, andI have not heard any honorable member object to the use of the railway for the carriage of whisky and beer. Let us adopt a sane policy. If prohibition is to be introduced, let the’ whole countrybe dry. Any attempt to enforce prohibition in one area that is surrounded by non-prohibition towns will be absolutely futile. We have been chosen bv the men and women of Australia to legislate for them in the Federal Parliament, and are we to pass a vote of no-confidence in ourselves by declaring that weare not fit to be trusted with a bar lest we might abuse it? I know of no agitation for the abolition of. the existing bars in the State Parliament House. Twenty or 30 years ago some legislators did drink to excess, and disorderly scenes in Parliament were of frequent occurrence. Such things do not occur to-day. Listening to the honorable member for Lang, one would think that our race is- deteriorating, and is less sober than it was. The contrary is. the case. At one time the phrase, “ As drunk as a lord “ was in common use. It was a point of honour with the wealthyclasses never to rise from the table sober… Fifty years ago public men were often, seen under the influence of drink. Legislators to-day dare not show signs of intoxication, because the community will not tolerate insobriety in its public men. That shows that the community is advancing rapidly.
– And. the less drink it can obtain the better the community willi
– I believe that;, but I shall not attempt to foist my opinions, upon others. If some people- think that anoccasional glass of whisky will do them good,, who am I that I should deny it to them ? There are some people so bigoted that they would even forbid the smoking of tobacco. They declare that the smoking habit shortens life, robs children of the necessaries- of life, and is responsible for all the woes that afflict society. The same class of people predict that with the advent of prohibition poverty will disappear from the face of the earth. I remind those gentlemen who use that argument that most of the people of India are forbidden by their religion to touch alcohol, but nowhere is poverty more in evidence than in that country. We heard little talk of prohibition during the war. A drop of rum was a great boon to the men in the trenches. It was a tonic to the men, and, therefore, a factor in winning the war. I have heard no objection to the practice of issuing, rum to men in the trenches. Somehonorable members seem to think that prohibition is the remedy for all the evils that afflict society, but I refer themto China, whose people are sober, but greatly impoverished.. Some of the countries in which large quantities of liquor are consumed, lead the world to-day scientifically, industrially, and socially. Prohibition is no solution of industrial problems. The Australian community is rapidly becoming more sober, and I am afraid that if we attempt to enforce prohibition in the Federal Capital area we shall do more harm than good. Some of the magnificent buildings at Canberra are admirably suited for the sale of liquor, and there would be no difficulty whatever in granting half a dozen licences to sell liquor to meet the requirements of those who live there. It is rumoured that a member of the Royal family is to open the first session of the Federal Parliament at Canberra, and who would’ deny him a drink if he desired one? The legalizing of the sale of liquor at Canberra will do less harm than the sly-grog selling that is taking place there to-day. The Bishop of Goulburn states that the residents of the territory are not being denied facilities for obtaining drink - that they are getting what they want at Queanbeyan. We know that it is impossible to prevent any section of a community from obtaining drink if it is determined to get. it. America to-day is havingendless troubles because of its policy of pro hibition. It has been officially stated that the bootleggers there have made 36,000,000 dollars by smuggling liquor into that country. Fortunes are also being made by the four or five persons who control the hotel premises at Queanbeyan, and quite a number of persons are becoming wealthy by hawking liquor through tho territory. Liquor should be sold there under proper conditions, and any accruing profit added to the revenue of the Commonwealth. Many extravagant statements have been made by both prohibitionists and anti-prohibitionists: regarding the state of affairs in America, and we should not be influenced by them. The people of Australia have, through various local options, decided that the liquor trade should be properly regulated. It would be wrong to keep the Federal Capital area dry when the people of Australia favour the continuation of the liquor trade.
– This is tedious repetition.
– The honorable member has no reason for making that offensive and insulting remark.
– I rise toa point of order. I said that the honorable’ member’s speech was a tedious repetition, which. I consider is not an insulting remark.
– The honorable member, if he wishes to object to the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat, must do so, not by making observations, but by raising a definite point of order.
– The Bishop of Goulburn has; suggested the taking of a poll of the residents of the Federal Capital Territory to ascertain whether they desire the legalization of the sale of intoxicants in that area. Surely there can be nothing wrong with that suggestion. The advocates of prohibition in Australia have always adopted the attitude that the people should decide this question for themselves, and they have contended that instead of a two-thirds or a threefifths majority being required for prohibition a bare majority should suffice. We, on this side, join with the Bishop of Goulburn. We are quite prepared to allow a poll to be taken of the residents of Canberra to decide this question. If the motion and my amendment are’ both defeated, I hope that we shall have an opportunity of deciding whether the residents of Canberra shall have a say in the. granting of liquor licences in the Territory. Hundreds of public servants are to be transferred to Canberra, which is practically a desert. There might be a justification for declaring some cities dry, but God help those who go to Canberra if it is to be a dry area. It will be without picture shows and theatres. Nearly every honorable member views with apprehension the transfer of the seat of government there.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) in order in making a direct attack upon this Parliament’s selection of the Capital site by alluding to it in disparaging terms. I. object strongly to his remarks, and I consider them to be out of order.
– I did not understand the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr McGrath) to reflect upon anyCommonwealth statute or. decisionof this. House. I understood him to refer to. a portion of Australia.
– Many honorable members voted with their tongues in their cheeks for the selection of the Federal Capital site.
– The honorable member must not suggest that members of this House voted other than according to their conscience.
– I withdraw that remark.. No honorable member is anxious to go to Canberra, because even with liquor licences and the parliamentary bar, life there will not be too pleasant. No harm can be done by having licensed premises at Canberra, providing that they are properly controlled.We are rapidly becoming a sober nation, largely because State Governments have introduced legislation under which many of the disreputable hotels that did a flourishing trade 20 or 30 years ago have been delicensed. If. the prohibitionists desire sobriety in the Australia race, they must first alter our social conditions. Thirty years ago shearers were working under disgraceful conditions. They received from 10s. to 12s. per 100 sheep, and the country between Melbourne and the Riverina was dotted with disreputable hotels. The shearer, when he was treated inhumanly, lost his love of home, and forgot his wife and little children. He did not take home the cheque he had earned, but cashed it and spent the proceeds in one of the many disreputable taverns that existed in the Riverina in those days. But, with an alteration in his social condition, he can now go to work in a motor car or on a motor bicycle, and those taverns have ceased to exist. He is now treated not like a pig in a sty, but like a human being, with the result that his one ambition, as soon as he receives his cheque, is to go “back to the wife and kids.” If the prohibitionists and churchmen who have been so busy sending circulars to honorable members would devote a little of their enthusiasm and energy to the improvement of the social conditions of the people, they would be doing something to promote sobriety in the community. Where men receive low wages, where they are treated badly, and where their homes are not comfortable, insobriety exists. I wish I could infuse into some of my church friends a little of the enthusiasm for the improvement of social conditions that I often see exhibited by members of this party. ‘We, who may not regularly go to church, and do not often stand on prohibition platforms, have to accept abuse from churchgoers, whose attitude is generally the result of ignorance. I wish I could imbue them with the idea that, to make men and women better, the conditions under which they work and live must be altered. The seamen of ten years hence, as a result of the improved conditions they now enjoy, will be a greatly improved class of men. We all know how inhumanly they have been treated in tha past; and, knowing the hours and conditions of their work, can we wonder that they fly to drink when they get a few minutes off duty? I went 2,500 feet down the Star of the East mine. When the inspector was on his rounds in that mine, the air-cocks were turned on to divert the air into one drive, so that his test would show a good result. The men worked in the quartz stopes, in an ill-ventilated atmosphere, and almost without clothing. Occasionally hoses were played on them to keep them cool. Is it any wonder that the public-house near the mine did a lucrative business? Sometimes we on this side doubt the sincerity of some of the advocates of these reforms. When we asked that the Mines Act should be improved, and that the miners should work under better conditions, with proper ventilation, we received little support from the churches. During many a political battle that I fought for tributers who were receiving 10s.. a week, members of my own church denounced me from the pulpit for seeking to improve the social conditions of the men. The great Labour movement may see eye to eye with the churches in their objective, but it differs greatly from them in its methods of attack. We want our race to be a sober race, but it is of no use talking sobriety to men who are herded together in a factory like pigs in a sty, or to miners who are working 1,000 feet below ground, in conditions that no human being ought to be called upon to endure. In this twentieth century we ought to have more important questions than this to discuss. The Government proposes to spend £20,000,000 on housing reform. That was one of the inducements held out to the electors before the last election. Decent homes are necessary in order to make the people sober, and because we stand for sobriety we say that the slums must disappear.
– In view of the great interest taken in this debate by a large number of my constituents, I ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to move that the time allowed for the debate be extended.
– The honorable member cannot move a motion in the middle of the speech of another honorable member.
– If the honorable member, whose electorate surrounds Canberra, is anxious to state his views on this matter, I have no objection to his doing so some other day. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
– I object.
– I ask for a division on that question. Two honorable members called for a division that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) have leave to continue his remarks.
– An honorable member can have leave to continue his remarks only by the unanimous concurrence of honorable members. One objection is sufficient to prevent leave from being granted.
– Some time in the future, when the Government asks for the suspension . of the Standing Orders, one voice may be raised in opposition. Honorable members on this side have been exceedingly generous to the Ministry; we have never taken advantage of our position to embarrass the Government. I am anxious that there should be a full discussion of this motion, so that honorable members on both sides may voice their opinions.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Inadvertently, I have been guilty, to a certain degree, of discourtesy to the House. When we met this afternoon I meant to make an announcement regarding the’ dates chosen for the issue of the writs, the polling, and the return of the writs for the referendum on the proposed alterations of the Constitution; but I admit quite frankly that I forgot to do so. Consequently, the announcement that I am now about to make will not be made concurrently with that in the other branch of the legislature. I offer my apology to the House, and now inform honorable members that the writs will be issued on the 26th July, the polling will take place on the 4th September, and the writs will be returnable on or before the 12th October.
Debate resumed from 24th June (vide page 3517), on motion by Mr. Manning -
That it is essential for the proper development of Northern Australia that a railway be constructed from Bourke, New South Wales, through Central Queensland towards Cloncurry, and thence across the Barkly Tablelands to a point on the North-South Railway in the Northern Territory - the carrying of this resolution to be taken as an instruction from this House to the Government to approach the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland with a view of apportioning the expense of constructing this line between the Commonwealth and the States mentioned.
Upon which Mr. Gregory had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the words “ constructed from “ up to and inclusive of the words “ Northern Territory “ be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ Broome or Derby starting in an easterly direction up to its junction with the North-South Railway at or about Newcastle Waters, thence south of east to Camooweal.”
.- The development of the Northern Territory has cost the Commonwealth up to the present time a sum approaching £7,000,000, and the annual expenditure in future, particularly on account of the institution of control by a commission, will be a great deal heavier than in the past. Personally, I have always favoured the extension of one of the western lines of New South Wales into that part of Australia, and I think that Bourke would be the most favorable starting point. The line should link up with the various Queensland railways, and be extended through Camooweal, across the Barkly Tablelands, and to the existing Northern Territory railway. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who has submitted an amendment to the motion, desires to link up Broome, Derby, and Wyndham. I believe that ultimately the transcontinental line suggested by him will be constructed, and will be extended from Broome down to Geraldton. Such a railway would be of inestimable benefit to the Commonwealth. A line from Bourke to Camooweal would serve essentially pastoral country, and would be of great economic value, particularly in such a season as is now being experienced in western Queensland. Owing to cycles of drought, we find that in some seasons there is plenty of feed for stock in New South Wales, while dry conditions prevail in Queensland, and both sheep and cattle die because” of the lack of railway facilities. Five or six years ago, stock in the western pastoral areas of New South Wales were suffering severely from drought, although in Queensland there were ample supplies of feed. This year, again, another tragedy is being enacted. In western Queensland extremely dry conditions are being experienced, but in western New South Wales there is enough feed for all the stock in the northern State if they could be brought to it. Every pound of wool and meat that Australia can export is a national asset, and, therefore, for economic reasons alone, a railway such as I have suggested would be invaluable, and would enable the Northern
Territory to be developed in a natural direction. The various Governments of Queensland have adopted a far-sighted policy; they have completely decentralized that State, which, in my opinion, will ultimately produce more wealth than any other two States combined. It has a rich coastal belt, and then a long strip of tableland which is suitable for dairying, mixed farming, and the production of maize and other cereals. Behind that is excellent pastoral country, extending to the border of the Northern Territory. Queensland has been developed from its natural ports, with the result that tho western and north-western portions of the State have been effectively settled. Although the Queensland Labour Governments have undoubtedly enacted wise legislation, the successful decentralization of that State is due to the general policy of its governments for the last 30 years of developing the hinterland from its natural ports. Problems that have worried this Parliament ever since it took over the control of the Northern Territory have been successfully solved by Queensland in the pastoral country adjoining that Territory. The Commonwealth Government might well offer to make sufficient money available to Queensland to enable it to extend its railways across the Barkly Tablelands, and, possibly, in conjunction with the Western Australia- Government, a transcontinental line could be constructed to some point in the north-western portion of Western Australia, first to Wyndham and later to- Broome. Travelling round the northern coast of Australia, one finds a more or less- barren coastal belt that mainly produces malaria and mosquitoes. This coastal belt extends more or less as far as. Geraldton, and the cultivation of suitable grasses and herbs alone will be the: solution of the problem of its successful development. I am convinced that a railway from Bourke to Camooweal, and across- the Barkly Tablelands would eventually return fourfold on. the outlay to the constructing: authorities. The Chief Commissioner, of Railways in- New SouthWales’ (Mr. James Fraser), has on several occasions been asked his opinion as to the natural way to develop that area, and he strongly contends- that a route such as I have indicated would be the best one to adopt. The Commonwealth should have taken this matter in hand many years ago. If it had assisted the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland to build railwaysinto the Northern Territory, instead of throwing its money into an apparently bottomless sink, for which it got nothing but scandals, it would not b e confronted to-day with many of the problems that it is being called upon to face.
.- At this,, the eleventh, hour it might have been expected that honorable members who are opposed to the construction of the direct north-south railway would cease putting obstacles in the way of its consummation. . Ever since 1907, the building of this railway has been, more or less, a burning question with the people of South Australia. They hoped that, soon after the Northern Territory Acceptance Act was passed by this Parliament in 1910, something would be done in the matter; but their hopes have not yet been realized. In these circumstances, I feel it my duty to oppose every move that may add to the delay, and I regard this motion as such. The schedule of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act contains the agreement made between the. Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government, which sets out, inter alia, that the Commonwealth shall -
South Australia has carried out every undertaking that she gave in that agreement, but the Commonwealth has not. It is regrettable that some honorable members who represent the other States lose no opportunity of trying to gain an advantage for their State at the expense of
South Australia. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) moved this motion to try to advantage his own State, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) moved the amendment with the same object.
– My amendment does not touch the question of building the north-south railway.
– In my opinion it does. I submit that this Parliament ought to provide for the- completion of the northsouth line before it consents to the construction of- an.v other railway in the Northern Territory. South Australia surrendered all her right in the Northern Territory in the belief that immediate steps would bc taken to develop it; but, unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government has not fulfilled, its obligations. Our first business is undoubtedly to complete the north-south, line. When that is done, it will be time enough for us to talk about building branch lines to feed it. I believe that long before that time comes motor transport will have made such great strides that we shall be giving our attention to constructing good roads to act as feeders to it, and not to building branch railway lines: Honorable members who have recently visited the Northern Territory have stated, in private conversation, that motor- transportation is already am important developmental factor there. Many King’s Counsel and other eminent members of the legal profession have at different times since 1910 stated their opinion of the meaning of the terms of, the agreement made between the- Commonwealth and South- Australian Governments-. Early this year an honorable senator,, speaking on this matter in another place, quoted the following opinion given by the late Mr. C. J.. Dashwood,, K.C. : -
In my opinion, the reference- in the- provision . . makes, it clear that what was. covenanted for by the’ earlier provision is a. line to- be built wholly within the Northern- Territory. Moreover, the agreement is made’ between the’ Commonwealth of Australia and the State of South Australia, and it cannot, it appears to me, have been- the intention of the parties that the railway should go outside of the Northern. Territory, and traverse land belonging to another State. If the possibility of such a course had been contemplated, one would expect some reference to arrangements to> be made with the- other- State- or States through, whose territory, the1 line, waa: to run. T am of opinion, therefore, that, the transcontinental railway from Port Darwin’ southwards to a point on the Port Augusta, rail way must, under the agreement and the Sur: render Act, be constructed entirely through the- Northern Territory and South Australia proper,.
The framers of the agreement unquestionably endeavoured to state as clearly as; possible that- the railway should be built direct north and south. Later Mr. Dashwood was asked to reconsider the’ matter, and this is what he said -
Since giving the above opinion I have had the advantage of a conference. . . . On the’ whole) however, and with- great deference, 1 adhere to the view, as expressed in my opinion, that the true construction of the act and the agreement is that the transcontinental railwayline is to be constructed wholly in South Australia and the Northern Territory,, and, as above stated, I. do not think that the bill’ before the- Commonwealth Parliament conflicts withthis construction. l! could quote many similar legal opinions on the matter.
– Did not Sir- Josiah Symon give an opinion?,
– He did;. So did the Honorable P. McMahon Glynn, K.C., but I shall not state his opinion, for it might’: be said’ that, as he at one time represented a South Australian constituency in this House, hia opinion might be1 biased. But Sir Edward Mitchell,. K.C., an eminent Victorian lawyer,, was’ asked- for an opinion when the agreement; was before the Federal Parliament, and he- stated - ‘
In. my opinion, upon the true construction of the agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of South Australia, the transcontinental railway cannot be diverted out of the- Northern Territory so- as to be built partly in a State other than South Australia.. There can’ be no reason why this agreement should not be construed according to the ordinary canons of interpretation, and, taking the1 natural meaning of the words used, and reacting the agreement as a. whole, and having regard to the subject-matter with which it is dealing, I fee! no d’oubt that the intention of the contracting parties was that the northernpart of the railway should be made wholly within the Northern Territory to some point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper, and the southern part should be made from some- point on the Port Augusta’ railway to the same point on such) northern railway.
The present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham)’ stated! in this House in the session before last,, when he was a private member, that, on the’ merits and the facts disclosed, he was1 against the construction of the line, but having gone very carefully into the; agreement, he found that there was a definite’ legal obligation upon; the- Commonwealth to’, construct: itf..
Therefore, he was bound to support the proposal. I could quote many similar opinions by gentlemen eminent in public life. Following upon an agreement between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premier of South Australia, a bill was passed by this Parliament for the construction of a section of the north-south railway. The surveys of the route are now made, and I hope that, in the near future, construction will commence. If those advocates of the eastern deviation are sincere in their professed desire to develop the northern part of South Australia, I hope they will support the construction of the direct north-south railway. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) stated that if the line proposed in the motion were constructed, stock could be removed during drought periods from the Northern Territory to more favoured parts of Australia, and vice versa. The same argument can be advanced in support of the direct route. Many years ago, when the Northern Territory was enjoying a prosperous season, a severe drought swept over South Australia. Stock was removed from the dry areas in the south to the Territory, and South Australian pastoralists and farmers were thus spared enormous losses. If at any time a drought occurred in the Northern Territory, and South Australia were not afflicted, stock could be brought southwards by the direct railway. There is, therefore, no need for any other line to ensure stock-owners in the Territory against the consequences of drought. That province will, in a few years, I hope, contain some of the wealthiest mineral fields in Australia, and the advantages which accrue from that development should go to South Australia, and not to other States, which were not parties to the agreement made between the Commonwealth and South Australia. If it had been the intention of those who framed the agreement that other States should derive benefits from it, they would have been specifically mentioned; but South Australia, while providing for the development of the Northern Territory, was careful to conserve its own rights. I hope that this motion will be defeated, and that the direct north-south line will be completed with the greatest expedi- tion. If, subsequently, further aids to development are necessary, we can consider the construction of spur lines and developmental roads.
, - The opponents of this motion have suggested that those honorable members who are supporting it are animated by a narrow and parochial desire to secure a benefit for the States they represent. I propose to state briefly my reasons for supporting the motion. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) is to be congratulated upon having submitted such a proposal to this Parliament. He did not claim that it was new, and that he had originated it, but he showed that he had a sound knowledge of the conditions existing in the areas through which the suggested line would pass. The motion sets out that it is essential for the proper development of northern Australia that this railway be constructed. Whilst we all can appreciate the great economic value of such a line in saving stock during times of drought, and also in bringing meat from the northern pastures to the markets in the south, the main object of the proposal is to assist in the development of the great empty north. I was taken to Western Queensland when I was only three months’ old, and my life-long experience of that country has convinced me that it is almost impossible to estimate correctly the tremendous saving which would result in times of drought if the necessary rail facilities were available for moving stock from one area to another. It has been truly said that the occasions are very rare when all parts of even one State are in a droughtstricken condition. At the present time the southern portions of Queensland are enjoying bounteous rains, but the Central West is experiencing one of the most disastrous droughts in the history of the State, and it is estimated that over 5,000,000 sheep have been lost already. Had railway facilities been available for removing stock during the past few months to areas where grass and water were plentiful, many millions of sheep and thousands of cattle would have been saved. The importance of linking up Darwin with the eastern portions of the Continent cannot be overestimated. From a. defence point of view, it is unquestionable that the proposed railway would be of greater strategical value than the direct north-south line. Under existing conditions, Darwin need not be seriously considered from the national defence stand-point. An enemy could land a raiding party there, but it is highly improbable that the landing of a large force would be considered, owing to the isolated position of the port. As Darwin becomes more important from the naval stand-point - and no doubt it must - a small garrison will have to be maintained there, and in the event of actual hostilities, it would necessarily require to be greatly augmented. If it were dependent on the direct north-south line for all supplies of ammunition, &c, I doubt if more than 250 troops could be maintained at Darwin. While command of the seas was maintained by the British and Australian navies, troops could be transported by sea from Townsville or Cairns to Darwin much more expeditiously than by the north-south railway. Obviously the line proposed in the motion would greatly increase the facilities for the concentration of troops in the north. It would have direct communication with all the large centres of Queensland and New South Wales, and the principal ports of those States. This proposal has been under consideration for very many years. On the 28th of June, 1883, Sir Thomas Mcllwraith introduced a bill in the Queensland Parliament for the construction of a “land grant railway” for the purpose of opening up Western Queensland. The bill provided that the line should be built by a syndicate under a system of land grants, at the rate of 10,000 acres per mile of railway for a certain distance. The estimated area of land to be received by the syndicate was 12)000,000 acres, and the cost of construction was computed to be about £3,260,000. That proposal was defeated by 27 votes to 16. Had the project been completed, and the railway built from Charleville to Cloncurry, much of the enormous stock losses that were suffered in the late nineties, the early years of the present century, and periodically since, would have been avoided. In 1891, the sheep in Queensland numbered 21,750.000, but by 1902, the total had dwindled to 7,250,000. In the same period, cattle decreased from over 7,000,000 to 2,481,000. In 1910, the Kidston Government introduced the Great Western Railway Bill, which was claimed to be a more comprehensive proposal than the earlier one by Sir Thomas Mcllwraith. That line was to cross Western Queensland and connect with the existing southern, central, and northern railways. Its total length was to be about 1,282 miles. It was almost identical with the line suggested by Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, except that it did not involve large grants of land. It was commonly called “ the gridiron railway ‘project.” The bill was approved by the Queensland Parliament. I quite appreciate the fact that the Commonwealth Government may be reluctant to accept this motion, but the proposed Development and Migration Commission, which we hope will shortly be constituted, is not likely to be called upon to consider any proposal of greater value for the development of Australia than this railway. I urge the Government to approach the Government of Queensland, which is already a party to the migration agreement, and the Government of New South Wales, which I hope will become a party to it, with a view to discussing the advisability ->f constructing this railway under that agreement. The agreement provides that money may be used to enable suitable areas of land to be made available for settlement, or to enable such public works to be carried out as would tend to develop and expand the settlement area, and to increase the capacity of already settled areas to carry a greater population. The work of constructing and equipping developmental railways, tramways, &c, which will directly conduce to new settlement, but not main trunk railways, may be carried out under the agreement. Not long ago the Minister for Railways in Queensland stated that his Government appreciated the importance of this railway, and it would be considered when the next railway programme was being planned. This, then, . appears to be an opportune time for the Commonwealth Government, should it hesitate to undertake the construction of the proposed railway, to submit it, as a developmental proposition, to the Migration and Development Commission, which is to be appointed.
– The motion raises a question of some importance. Itwould appear, from what the honorable member for Gray (Mr. Lacey)said, that it is likely to be considered other thanon its merits, because some of the South Australian members look upon the proposedrailwayasa substitute for the north-south railway. As a representative of New South Wales, I may claim to view thematter impartially, and to me it does not appear that the line should be so regarded. The motion not merely affirms the desireableness of certain railway construction, but raises the question how best may communication be given to the vast areawhich would be tapped by it. The mind of man is prone to look at the world through the spectacles of his ancestors. Our forefathers were unable to conceive of a country gridironed with railway lines, and this generation has becomeso habituated to railways as a means of speedy communication, that it is unable to realize that the day of the railroad has gone, or is passing. In the principal cities of Australia, and their environs, there is already fierce competition between the railways and motor vehicles. It may be said that, in the opening up of the vast and remote interior, we have a problem different in kind from that of the transport of goods in the thickly settled districts; but I do not think so. The question that we have to consider is : Which is cheaper, to build - roads or railways ? If it ischeaper to build roads, we must ask whether motor transport has reached the pitch of perfection,or, if not,can itbe developed to take the place of railways for nearly all purposes? The answer is that the motor vehicle can do very nearly everything that the train does. For long haulages, and particularly through thickly settled parts, where the traffic is heavy, the railroad has certain advantages, but, for short haulage andfor tapping sparsely settled districts, the motor vehicle has equally obvious advantages. Consider the problemab initio. An undeveloped country has to be opened up, and various districts brought into close touch with eachother, by the economical and speedy transportation of passengers, goods, and stock. The motor vehicle requires what is merely a primitive road by comparison with the expensive railroad track. The Aberdeen derailment has shown that the slightest irregularity in the permanent way may cause the derailmentoftrains, whereas motor vehicles can travel, speedily and effectively, along roads thatareappalling. There is no comparison betweenthefirst cost of theseutilities. It maybe fairly assumed that in the country which we are considering roads onwhichmotor vehicles could run regularlycould be constructed for one-tenth the cost of a railway. In the beginning, verycheap roads would serve well enough, and asdevelopment proceeded and trafficbecame more regular and heavier, they could be improved. But if a railway were made, although there might be a saving in ballast, inother respects it would have to be as costly for an undeveloped district as for a developed one. Further, the train is a cumbersome and clumsy instrument for transport where the quantity of goods offering is irregular and small. On the east-west railway, forexample, the same train has to run whether the passengers are fewor many.
– And a train travels on an arbitrary route.
– That is so. Any one who is familiar with the story of the construction of railways in this country knows that some freakish mentality in those who preceded us has almost invariably caused our railways to follow extremely difficult and unprofitable routes. For example, the line from Sydney to Newcastle travels through much rocky, barren, and almostuseless country. It necessitated the construction of one of the greatest railway bridges in the world, imposing for all time upon the future generations of New South Wales an unnecessary burden of interest. That railway shouldhave gone through Windsor andRichmond. We have seen the zig-zags of the Blue Mountains, which were regarded as monuments of engineering ingenuity, abandoned, and new routes adopted. A motor vehicle can make its own track if need be. and can diverge to the left or the right, as circumstances demand. Further, goods must be taken to a railway, but the motor can go where goods are offering. This is the day of the internal combustion engine, and the motor vehicle is the future means of transport, particularly for the development of the great interior of Australia. This country, over some of which I have travelled. is capable of great things. Probably right up to Adavale to-day there is plenty of grass and water. Beyond that there is a .drought. With good motor roads there would be no necessity whatever for .sheep inside that .area to perish. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D.. Cameron) told me that he anticipated that 4,000,0.00 to 5,000,000 sheep would perish ki that area. With a properly organized system of motor transport, all these , Could be saved. The problem of taking food to sheep or sheep to food, is well within the capacity of efficient motor transport. I speak not of concrete roads, or of the roads of perfection, but of roads along which it is possible for motor traffic to pass. If for some months of the year this country is under water, then no railways .could be built through it under a cost of £20,000 a mile. If .this country is within thear.ea in which the tropical waters of Queensland pour down, then for some weeks or months, as the case may be, the railway would be subject to the same disabilities as the roads. We know that in New South Wales quite recently, for example, places like Wagga, Canberra, Queanbeyan, and Goulburn were all cut off by flood waters, but that would hap- ‘ pen perhaps in one week out of 52, or perhaps one week in four or five years. This cannot be guarded against, and it would be as futile to contemplate constructing a road or railway that would be perfect under all circumstances, as to build houses for the people in the tropics, that would be proof against rain, and the most severe typhoon or tornado. It may be said, of course, that roads will not carry the. traffic for pastoral areas, but those who hold that view cannot possibly have given any consideration to the transport problems which confronted the military authorities in Prance during the war. ‘Millions upon millions of men were transported -from one place to another. ‘Great waggon-loads of ammunition were carried along the Napoleonic roads. It is true that the roads, although not concrete, were properly made. The roads to Messines, Pozieres, Peronne, and Calais were all better after years of war and shelling than the road from Melbourne to Albury is to-day. The road to Messines was shelled badly, but, .apart from .the shell-holes, the road was in good condition after .carrying an amount of traffic, compared with which the traffic between here and Albury is as nothing. In drought-stricken areas sheep can be transported in road motor vehicles.
– The introduction of the crude-oil engine will revolutionize motor transport.
– I join in the prayers of the honorable member that the crudeoil engine will come; but, whether it comes or not, the petrol engine is here, and is as near perfection as we can make it. It is a wonderful engine, which stands up to hard work under conditions that would put a steam engine out of action. The Commonwealth is acting the part of mother bountiful to the people of thi3 country, and is supplying them with the means of constructing roads. What the people of Australia need is vision. Let us look upon the problem of transport as it ought to be regarded to-day. The railway systems are struggling desperately, and, in my opinion, vainly, to hold their own, and, if they were not vested interests, hedged about by prejudice and huge investments of public money they would not have a dog’s chance. It is only because we have put hundreds of millions of pounds into them that they are still being carried on. The tramways - as they are to-day, at all events - will also have to go. If it were not for sentiment, and the fact that we have put our money into electric trams, efficient motor transport would easily beat them. For peak loads, for occasions like race meetings and holidays, the trams are able to do remarkable work; but for normal traffic they are not as efficient as motor vehicles. W.e are not seeking to put the trams off the roads; but now that we are starting de .novo in this new country we should remember, from the start, that we are living in the twentieth, not the eighteenth or nineteenth, century. I trust that, whatever is done, we shall not spend another penny unnecessarily in constructing railways, but, like men who realize the tremendous possibilities of motor transport, will build roads to improve .the country. As the country is improved, we .shall be .able to make the roads better able to carry all the pastoral traffic, ‘and if, in the fullness of time, railways are warranted to carry heavier loads for longer hauls, we shall be able to provide them. But, clearly, the obvious thing to do now is to make roads for motor transport.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [9.4].- I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as to the value of motor transport for some classes of traffic over short distances, but the day is far distant when we shall be able to say that our railways and electric trams are of no further use. I look forward to the day when electrification will play an even greater part in the life of the people of Australia. With the electrification of the railways we shall remove many of the disabilities of steam traction. I admit that road motor vehicles are convenient for transporting stock comparatively short distances. The late Mr. Jim Page, when speaking to me about conditions in a part of Queensland, said that a small grazier, a friend of his, came to him in great distress, and said he. believed that he would lose all his sheep because there was no feed left for them, and they were in such a low condition that they could not be driven to another locality. Mr. Page said, “ We have a number of Ford motor trucks between us, and we. will use them to move the sheep.” In a few days the sheep had been transported to the valleys where there were water and food. That incident shows that motor transport, in an emergency, may be of great value.
– That could not be done with cattle.
– I have read of several head of cattle being moved in motor trucks, ramps being provided for them to walk up; but I admit that large numbers of cattle cannot be transported in that way. I mentioned the other night that electric power undertakings in this country had developed to a greater extent than many honorable members realize. From Warrnambool, in the south of Victoria, to Brisbane, in Queensland, there will be in a few months, I understand, an almost continuous chain of electric power lines. Electrical engineers in the different States have been co-operating with Commonwealth engineers, and the different schemes are satisfactorily co-ordinated. Thev have tackled the problem from the broad, Australian stand-point. Members of the Labour party in the Victorian Parliament are critical of the Victorian Electricity Commission, but it must be con ceded that the members of the commission have had to solve many great engineering problems, which were quite new to this country. Although mistakes may have been made, I believe the under taking will prove to be one of the finest ever launched in Australia. I was glad to hear the right honorable member for North Sydney, and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), say they were not averse to carrying out the contract entered into with South Australia for the construction of the North-South railway. There have been indications, at times, of a movement to deviate the line into New South Wales and Queensland. In the early part of my political career I was in this Parliament when the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, which was assented to in 1910,. was passed. Previously an agreement had been drafted by Mr. Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister, and Mr. Thomas Price, Premier of South Australia, and that agreement was ratified by the act, which provided also for the Commonwealth taking over the Northern Territory. I do not accuse honorable members from New South Wales or Queensland of seeking to evade the agreement, but if the route of the line is diverted unnecessarily out of the State of South Australia or the Northern. Territory, the agreement will be broken. The obligation of the Commonwealth is expressed in no ambiguous terms. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) quoted a number of legal authorities who had been consulted on this matter by members of the South Australian Ministry, because doubt existed in their minds of the intentions of certain members of this House. Among those consulted were Sir Edward Mitchell, who is one of our leading lawyers, and is consulted by persons in all the States; Sir Josiah Symon, whose ability as a lawyer and an interpreter of acts of parliament and legal documents no one will question ; Mr. P. McM. Glynn, Mr. C. J. Dashwood, and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). All those eminent authorities have expressed the same opinion of the agreement and the act, and to depart from their views by deviating the line would be to commit an immoral act.
– There is no suggestion of this Government doing that.
– In order to clearly define the route of the line, these four definitions were placed at the end of the agreement - “ The Northern Territory “ means so much of the State of South Australia as lies to the northward of the twenty-sixth parallel of south latitude and between the one hundred and twenty-ninth and one hundred and thirtyeighth degrees of east longitude, together with the bays and gulfs therein and all and every one of the islands adjacent to any part of the mainland within such limits as aforesaid, with their rights, members, and appurtenances. “ The Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway “ means the railway authorized to be made and maintained pursuant to the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway Act 1883. “ The Port Augusta Railway “ means the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, authorized to be made and maintained pursuant to Acts No. 26 of 1876, No. ‘226 of 1881, No. 281 of 1883, and No. 413 of 1887. “ South Australia Proper “ means South Australia, not including the Northern Territory.
Those references to latitude and longitude indicate that no territory outside South Australia and the Northern Territory is to be tapped by the line. “When the act was passed the understanding of Parliament was that the line would be constructed north and south. I am not surprised at the action of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in proposing a line across Western Australia, but I agree with the honorable member for Grey that to develop Central Australia we must have a line running north and south, with branch lines of road motors or railways connecting with it. I have unbounded faith in the future of this country. I do not feel inclined to describe any part of Australia as desert or waterless country, because artesian or subartesian water is available practically throughout the continent. There are also great mineral deposits. From the Broken Hill district, which is said to be anything but a fertile area from an agricultural or pastoral point of view, wonderful mineral wealth has been extracted. Then, on the western side we have Kalgoorlie, and who is to say that between that point and Broken Hill there are not boundless stores of hidden mineral wealth? There is no “ dead heart “ of Australia. We should adhere as closely as possible to the route agreed to when the Northern Territory was handed over to the Commonwealth. The people of South Australia need not be apprehensive as to the result of the carrying of the present motion. Although governments are sometimes influenced by resolutions of this character, they are not mandatory. One of the finest specimens of Australian manhood I ever saw hailed from the Barkly Tablelands, and he characterized that country as some of the best in the Commonwealth. While I admit that it should be served by a railway, one of our first duties is to honour the bond entered into with South Australia. For my part, I shall always stand by it, hoping that, when the north-south line has been completed, the necessary spur lines will be constructed. Just as the discovery of gold led to a great influx of population in Victoria, so the opening up of the mineral belt in Central Australia by means of a railway may result in the successful settlement of that vast area.
.- I entirely endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). It is refreshing to hear an honorable member declare that he is prepared to honour the agreement that was made when South Australia handed the Northern Territory over to the Commonwealth. It has been decided to extend the line northward from Oodnadatta as far as Alice Springs; but that is only carrying out half the undertaking. When the railway has been built from south to north, it will be time to consider the construction of spur lines.
– The object of my amendment is to secure preference to the line I have suggested over that recommended by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning).
– All the connecting lines should be considered as part of a complete scheme. I believe that the Victoria River country is excellent grazing land, and so are the Barkly Tablelands. There may be more latent wealth in what has been erroneously termed the “ dead heart “ of Australia than there is in the rich pastoral and agricultural areas. It is strange that we have never attempted to properly exploit the possibilities of the tropical portions of Australia. Probably three-fourths of this continent has not been tested for development as it should have been, and that cannot be done until railway transport is provided. This may be the motor age, but motor transport is not sufficiently permanent or regular for the development of a great country such as the Northern Territory. Motor railway carriages are now being used extensively in the various States, and they are proving highly satisfactory. I believe that South Australia has 30 or 40 of them. A. railway motor takes the place of an engine and several heavy coaches, and it can do trips more rapidly and more frequently than ordinary trains. This form of railway transport could be economically employed on the north-south line, and would help materially in the development of the country, because the settlers would not feel completely isolated. The two proposals before the House would entail too heavy an expense, and should not be adopted before the more important northsouth line is completed. It is regrettable that South Australia did not build the transcontinental railway when the overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin was constructed. Had it done so, there would have been a different story to tell to-day regarding the development of the Northern Territory. It was said at one time that -Queensland could only be developed by means of black labour. That theory has long since been abandoned, and this afternoon the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) expressed the opinion that that State would ultimately produce probably more wealth than any other two States combined. No doubt the possibilities of the Northern Territory are comparable with those of Queensland. Settlers cannot ordinarily undertake the expense now involved in going on the land in the empty north in the absence of railway facilities; but a railway would make the work of development comparatively easy, and the settlers could return periodically to the south to recuperate in health. By building a line right through this country we should consummate the hopes of many eminent South Australians who have given the best part of their lives to the advocacy of it. Mr. Simpson Newland died honoured and respected everywhere for his work in the interests of the Northern Territory. He was an ardent advocate of the direct north-south route. I am glad that the railway is to be constructed as far as Alice Springs, but I am sorry that the Government had not a wider vision. It should have undertaken the complete work.
– One step at a time is a good policy.
– I might be content to take one step at a time if I had any guarantee that subsequent steps would b<i taken, but the personnel of this Parliament might alter in a few years. The railway terminus may remain at Alice Springs as long at it did at Oodnadatta. I congratulate the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) on his broad Australian outlook. When we remember the beginning of Australian history we must marvel at the wonderful progress that has been made. Some of our first British settlers, as I remarked on a former occasion, were sent here through mistakes of the best judges in England, but they did not sit down and bewail their misfortune; they set to work to develop the country of their enforced adoption with such success that our history reads like fiction. Surely we cannot help but continue, the work of the pioneers. I am well aware that railways to Port Hedland, Port Onslow, Broome, Derby, and other places in the north may be advisable in the years to come, but our first duty is to complete the construction of the north-south line, and, incidentally, to honour the agreement that was made with the South Australian people. Tho Government has won considerable praise for undertaking the construction of the line to Alice Springs, but I trust that it will go all the way. I must oppose this motion, for I am afraid that if it is agreed to the Government will be loaded with an impossible programme, and might be tempted to construct subsidiary lines before building the main line.
.- At the risk of honorable members and the members of the general public who read Hansard concluding that I can think <.f nothing but the Northern Territory, I must again make a few observations about it. I do not regard the. introduction of this motion as a direct - attack upon the north-south railway, but I fear that its adoption might delay the completion of the line. I listened with interest to the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) on out-back transportation. The right honorable member said that the day of railways had gone, and that roads were cheaper than rails. The other day 1 made an inquiry into some road construction work that is going on in South Australia, and I learned that roads designed to carry heavy traffic, and to last ten years without attention, cost about £6,000 a mile. But though they were designed to stand up to hard wear for ten years, some of them needed attention after they had been down about twelve months. The right honorable member said that roads cost only a sixth as much as railways. I think ohe right honorable member will admit that railroads last a great deal longer than ten years. Railways would in my opinion, be much cheaper in the long run than roads, intended to last ten years, at £6,000 a mile. The figures quoted by the right honorable member will not bear investigation. To a certain extent his statement that the motor car makes its own tracks is true. I have travelled in passenger motor cars over excellent natural roads, but later I have seen the. same roads, after motor lorries have been over them, when they have been almost impassable. Honorable members, seeing passenger motor cars tearing along roads that run parallel with the railway lines, may think that there is a good deal in the suggestion that motor transport is superseding rail transport; but a little consideration must surely correct that error. In many cases the prosperity of the motorist is much more apparent -than real. Plenty of people who have saved £200 or £300 invest it in a motor car or lorry, and foi a few months, or even for a year ur two, they seem to do very well; but it is often discovered that they have only paid a deposit on their car or lorry, and, finding the burden of meeting their periodical instalments and the running costs too great for them, they surrender the vehicle to the agent from whom they bought it. Their position then is that they have lost their capital as well as their motor, and the. agents are often untrue to place the vehicle elsewhere. In the city areas there may be a certain amount of successful motor competition with railways, but I am sure that in the Northern Territory, where the regular journeys would not be 5, 10, 20, or 100 miles, as in the settled areas, but thousands of miles, through country that is almost impassable for motor cars, railway transport is absolutely necessary. If, instead of describ ing motor transportation in France, the right honorable member had told us how our troops were transported across the desert to Palestine during the war, that part of his contribution to the debate would have been much more valuable. Motor vehicles were useless for crossing the desert; railways had to be laid. As a matter of fact, while the right honorable member’s speech was interesting as a city dweller’s contribution to the debate, it was nob oi much practical use. I do not profess to have that intimate acquaintance with the Northern Territory that many other honorable members have, but I have sufficient knowledge of conditions outback to know that this country must have railways at once, and the first duty of the Commonwealth is to honour its’ obligation to South Australia in regard to the north-south line. Some time ago, when this motion was first proposed in this House, the Bulletin made a very interesting comment, in the course of which it described the motion as an attempt to foist on the Commonwealth another railway through a desert. It said also that this proposal was not fair to South Australia. With that I agree, but I am not so unpatriotic an Australian as to believe that either the north-south line or that which is proposed in th: motion will pass through a desert. By and large, the north-south line will pass through better country than the eastern deviation proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie.
– Rubbish !
– Of course, the honorable member, as a Queensland representative, is entitled to put up a case for his own State.
– But why blink facts?
– I am not blinking facts. Throughout the history of the Northern Territory too many people have been over-ready to condemn it. It is time that the people of Australia awakened to the fact that the Northern Territory is the finest country on God’s earth, and that Little Australians ceased to cry stinking fish whenever that area is mentioned. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) mentioned, the Territory is enormously rich in mineral resources. . I have a pamphlet which contains a record of the impressions of many prospectors who have travelled through the country, and every one has emphasized its wonderful mineral possibilities. Many years ago a very rich deposit of gold was discovered at Arltunga, near Alice Springs, but even the richest of mines cannot be developed at a distance of 300 miles from a railhead, which, in its turn, is 688 miles from the seaboard.- Those are the conditions that hinder the development of the Northern Territory. I have been informed that in the Macdonnell Ranges is a site for a natural water reservoir; at comparatively small cost the narrow opening between two high bluffs could be closed, and enormous quantities of water impounded. With an assured supply of fresh water, the developmental possibilities of the surrounding country would be unbounded. There is in Central Australia plenty of good land for the raising of sheep and cattle, and every tropical product in the world has been tried successfully in the Northern Territory.
– What does the honorable member mean by tropical products ?
– Most of the oil plants, peanuts, date and sago palms, fibres, cotton, kapok, hemp, arrowroot, cassava, tobacco, spices, medicinal plants, the carob bean, sorghum, broom corn, rice, tea, cocoa, coffee, tapioca, and rubber are amongst the plants which have been grown successfully in various parts of the Northern Territory. Rice has generally been regarded as a crop that can be grown only by coloured labour; but, only recently, I was told by Mr. Alexis Holtz, son of the late Dr. Holtz, who was for many years curator of the Adelaide Botanical Gardens, that in America rice is grown by white labour in country similar to the Northern Territory, with the aid. of a very ingenious machine. One of the obstacles to the growing of swamp rice by white labour is that continuous work in the mud and water is injurious to health, but this new apparatus is driven by one man, and as it drills the holes, two attendants sitting at the rear feed the seed into them. Mr. Nicholas Holtz grew half-acre and acre plots in the Northern Territory, of swamp and hill rice, and proved that rice could be produced there commercially.
– Did he transport the rice to market?
– Yes, and it was as superior to imported rices as Australian wheat is superior to the wheats of all other countries. I am sorry that owing to Mr. Holtz being absent on holidays certain information he promised to me has not come to hand. I am not opposed to the building of the eastern railway at the proper time.
– When will be the proper time?
– The Commonwealth must first build the north-south railway. A galaxy of legal talent, including- Sir Josiah Symon, Mr. Justice Dashwood, Mr. Glynn, and Sir Edward Mitchell, has been quoted in proof of the obligation resting upon the Commonwealth to build that line. There is little doubt that if South Australia were to insist upon its legal rights, it could force the Commonwealth to perform its contract, but it does not wish to do that, and I am glad indeed that at long last, portion of the promised line has been sanctioned by this Parliament.
– It is to swing to the west instead of to the east.
– Lest there should be any doubt as to what was meant by the Commonwealth and South Australia when the agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory was made, I produce a map showing the route of the railway that was proposed, for many years, by South Australia. That is the route which the contracting parties had in mind when the agreement was made, and which I am sure the present Commonwealth Government intends that the railway shall follow. If it had been intended that the line that South Australia insisted upon as one of the conditions of the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth should be constructed through New South Wales and Queensland, and the trade of the Territory diverted to those States, why did South Australia stipulate that the line should be built? It is obvious that South Australia expected that the line mentioned in the agreement would confer some benefit upon her. ,
– The trouble with all South Australians is that they cannot look beyond South Australia.
– The folly of South Australians has been that they have always trusted others to give them a fair deal, and it seems as if some people are not prepared to do justice. The interjections that are made by some honorable members representing New South Wales and Queensland, prove that this apparently innocent motion, which was submitted ostensibly for national reasons, is an attempt to kill the north-south railway, and to get for those States, by the back door, something they could not get at the front door.
Mr.R. Green. - Was not South Australia delighted to get rid of the Northern Territory ?
– No. The greatest mistake the State ever made was in parting with that glorious heritage.
– South Australia could have the Northern Territory back at any time.
– I do not think that the Commonwealth would ever consent to hand it back. Only one railway for the development of the Northern Territory can be contemplated by the Commonwealth at the present time. The majority , of honorable members are convinced that South Australia has a right to look to the Commonwealth Government to complete its contract. I believe that it fully recognizes its obligations. I admit that during the war the state of its finances did not permit of the construction of the north-south railway. Honorable members representing Western Australia must realize that if South Australia had adopted a doginthemanger attitude, and had insisted upon the construction of the northsouth line before making land available for the construction of the east-west line from Port Augusta to the border, the north-south line would perhaps have been constructed many years ago. There is no excuse to put forward other railway projects, especially . as the Government has alreadystated that it is unable to expend more than £1,700,000 on the construction of the railway as far as Alice Springs. When that line has been constructed, the Commonwealth should immediately proceed to connect it with the northern terminus. South Australia in the early eighties completed the line as far as Oodnadatta, 688 miles from. Adelaide. It also built 147 miles of railway from Darwin to Pine Creek. Considering the wealth and population of South Australia at that time, it was a tremendous undertaking, vastly larger in comparison than the work of completing the northsouth railway. South Australia’s population at that time was about onetwentieth of the population of the Commonwealth to-day, and possibly her wealth was in less proportion. Yet that State was not afraid to tackle the problem of bridging the continent. When the north-south line has been completed it should be the duty of the Commonwealth Government to build spurs from it east and west to the borders of the various States, and the governments of which, if they thought fit, could link up with them. What obligation is there on the Commonwealth to assist New South Wales and Queensland to develop their territories? The purpose of the north-south railway is for the development, not of South Australia, but of the Northern Territory, and it is being built under agreement. It is therefore not on all-fours with the railway, projects of other States. To talk of building lines to link up with the north-south railway, which has not yet been completed, is like trying to get branches on a tree before it has grown. It will be time to talk of connecting railways from other States when the north-south line has been completed. I regret that some honorable members have discussed this motion from a parochial view-point. Australia is greatly imperilled by the rapid expansion of the Chinese and Japanese races. We must develop and populate this country before we can establish a moral right to it. We have fiddled with the development of the Northern Territory.
– Rome was not built in a day.
– But the Northern Territory has retrogressed. In the eighties it was more prosperous than it is to-day. People have been too prone to decry it, and to see its disabilities rather than to speak of its natural advantages. I hope that the motion and the proposed amendment of it, will he defeated, not because I am opposed to them as the ultimate policy of this country, hut because they are too visionary to be seriously contemplated now. The building of the north-south line has been long delayed. Some honorable members have, by their speeches and interjections, shown that they are not in sympathy with the agreement between South Australia and the
Commonwealth. We are justified in our suspicions, and they can be removed only by the Commonwealth playing the game, and completing the north-south railway.
– I disagree entirely with the views expressed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) as to the advisableness of constructing a railway from Bourke, in New South Wales, to the Northern Territory; but I do not think that the honorable member had the slightest intention of challenging the prior claim of South Australia for the construction of the north-south line. However, it is as well that on occasions this chamber should discuss other proposals for railway communication to develop remote portionsof the Commonwealth. South Australia’s claim to the north-south line is clearly defined in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, which stipulates that the Commonwealth shall construct,or cause to be constructed, a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern border of South Australia proper, and’ construct or cause to be constructed, as part of the transcontinental railway, a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connectwith the other part of the transcontinental railway at a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper. This will give the connexion with Darwin. The time for discussing the merits of that line has passed. It is the bounden duty of the Commonwealth Government to carry out that work. We come now to the proposal made by the honorable member for Macquarie. I disagree with the route, which he proposes, and base my objections on a comparison of that country and its rainfall with another portion of Australia which I consider has greater claims to railway construction. According to a map publishedin the CommonwealthYearBook for 1923, page 72, the bulk of the country to be traversed by the honorable member’s proposed railway line has a 10-in. rainfall. Mr. G. A.. Hobler, Engineer of Ways and Works for the Commonwealth railways, in 1920 was deputed by the then Minister for Works and Railways (now Sir Littleton Groom), and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to make an examination of the country in the uorth-west with a view to making re commendations for railway schemes. His investigations covered a period of three months, April, May and June, and his report furnished to the Government in the latter part of that year contained recommendations for railway construction, which it was impossible for the Commonwealth at the time to undertake. One was on the lines of the proposal made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in the amendment to this motion, namely, that a railway should be constructed from Broome or Derby through to Newcastle Waters, and thence south-east to Camooweal. This would link up the whole of the tropical portion of northern Australia with the railway system of Queensland. I admit so far as the southern railway system in Western Australia is concerned, that for the time being, at all events, there will he no connexion with the north, but I say frankly that if we are to develop Australia we should take a broad national view of all proposals, and approve of the most practical scheme. No doubt later there will be a railway north from the present railhead at Meekatharra to connect ultimately with Broome.
– That is what Lord Kitchener recommended.
– That is so. The route suggested by the honorable member for Swan would, in part, he through country with a rainfall of from 40 to 60 inches. In no part would the rainfall be less than from 20 to 30 inches. As regards the character of the country, whilst the whole of the Kimberleys may not be as good as the Atherton Tableland in Queensland, there is no doubt that with railway communication it should be capable of carrying a very large population. It may not be known generally that the East and West Kimberleys to-day carry more stock than the Northern Territory. Official figures show that there are 577,000 head of cattle and 43,000 sheep in the Northern Territory, compared with 632,000 head of cattle and 188,000 sheep in the East and West Kimberleys, notwithstanding that there is not a foot of railway in the latter country. Some of the best pastoral areas in Australia lie to the east; I refer to the Ord River and Wave Hill country.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) and Senator Newlands made inquiries regarding the possibilities of that country, and spoke very highly of it.
Mr. Hobler further reported ; .
The Kimberley division ‘ contains 132,700 square miles (84,928,000 acres) ; 71,087* square miles (45,496,000 acres) are held under lease from the Crown without option of purchase, practically all for grazing purposes. .Of the land not yet leased, the greater portion, so far as can be ascertained, is suitable for grazing purposes, and no doubt would, with proper development of the country generally, ultimately all be occupied.
At the present time settlers in the interior of Kimberley have to pay from ?18 to ?25 a ton for freight. If I had sufficient time at my disposal I could quote the prices of commodities at Hall’s Creek to show the great disabilities under which the settlers labour. Mr. Hobler went on to say -
From Derby to Fitzroy Crossing (197 miles from Derby) route travelled for greater part of its distance lay ‘ within country subject to inundation by high floods in the Fitzroy River, and consisted principally of light and red sandy loam and chocolate soil flats along the valley of the river, running back into ridges and hills. The flats and low ridges are covered with heavy growths of rich grasses and some edible shrubs and bushes. The ridges or higher country above flood (called locally Pindan country) carries good grass, buck spinifex, and soft spinifex. The latter is good feed, either for sheep or cattle, and is a good stand-by in dry seasons. In addition to the grass add soft spinifex, there is a good deal of top feed, such as peach bush, blue bush’, coongoora, &c.
Mitchell grass waa noticed on some of the chocolate soil flats on Noonkanbah leases, also good patches of this grass on Quanban Downs and Jubilee leases.
After leaving Fitzroy River Crossing, which is about 200 feet above sea-level, the route followed ran along south side of Margaret River for about 36 miles, ‘ then turned up Louisa River, crossing samo at 242) miles from Derby, and following this river to a point about 253 miles from Derby. The country passed through from Fitzroy Crossing to the 253 miles consists of well-grassed rich-soil flats along Margaret and Louisa rivers, with a good deal of flooded country extending some distance back from these rivers on both sides, and intersected by several deep creeks and isolated rocky hills and ridges.
From 270 miles the route traversed turns up the Margaret River and follows approximately its course to a point about 340 miles from Derby. The country, along river consists of rich-soil flats, well grassed. This country extend* back for some distance from river on each Bide, being intersected with numerous creeks, and a number of isolated rock hills and ridges covered with buck and soft spinifex.
From 340 miles the route travelled runs through more open country, across the Moola Bulla State Government Station property, to about 373 miles from Derby. The country between 340 miles and 373 miles consists of large, open, chocolate plains covered with Mitchell and other grasses, and intersected with isolated hills and isolated short ranges of hills. Timber on the ridges consists principally of stunted ridge gum and stunted bloodwood, with white and red gum in creek channels. The chocolate soil plains are generally bare of timber.
From Moola Bulla Head station (360 miles from Derby), following route generally along telegraph line te Wyndham, the country, as far as about 377 miles from Derby (Carrington Creek) is undulating, with granite outcrops in places, good rich soil, well grassed, and good growth of top feed, and well watered for portion nl the year. This country is suitable for both sheep and cattle.
From 0 miles (Wyndham) to Ivanhoe Head station (50j miles from Wyndham) the country is almost all well-grassed plains along- and well back from, both banks of the Ord River. The. soil is rich sandy loam, and lightly timbered with box, bloodwood, and coolibah.
The report is most informative and could be quoted advantageously at greater length. There are many rivers that could be utilized for water conservation. 1 should be lacking in ray. duty if I did not support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Swan. An exhaustive inquiry would have to be made before the construction of the line proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie could be authorized. There is not a mile of railway at the present time in the Kimberley district, and the opening up of - that country would be a most desirable undertaking.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lister) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
The Budget 1926-27- Papers (Preliminary issue) presented by the Honorable Earle Page, M.P., for the information of honor- - able members on the occasion of opening ‘ the Budget of 1926-27.
Ordered to be printed.
Canberra - Proposal by the Commonwealth to acquire the Melbourne homes of certain officers about to be transferred to Canberra.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260708_reps_10_114/>.