10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Supply of Uniforms
– It has been reported to me that there is a shortage of uniforms for those who have to undergo compulsory military training.Will the Minister for Defence look into the matter, and see if something can he done so that the trainees may not be obliged to wear their own clothes while in camp and undergoing training?
– Ishall look into the matter.
Mr.FENTON.- Has the Prime Minister yet received a report from Sir Arthur Robinson about his inquiry into the Phosphates Commission, and is the right honorable gentleman in a position tomakea statement to the House on the subject ? If not, will he make a statement on the subject before the close of the session ?
– The report of Sir Arthur Robinson has been received by the Government, and I am in negotiation at the present time with the governments of Great Britain and New Zealand on the subject. I hope to be in a position to make a statement on the matter to-morrow, and shall certainly do so before the close of the session.
-.In view of the fact that the report of the Tariff Board on the proposed extension of the wine bounty will not be ready before the close of the session, will the Prime Minister, before Parliament rises, or. before he leaves for England, give some indication of what is to be done in the matter, so that the people concerned may know, before the next vintage, what to expect?
– The operation of the Wine Bounty Act will not expire until the 31st August of next year. Recently requests were received by the Government for a continuation of the bounty, and in accordance with the law the matter has been referred to the Tariff Board for consideration and report. The board’s report has not yet been received, and when it has been the Government will give consideration to the whole question, and will indicate what its policy is with regard to the payment of a bounty. The necessity for anysuch declaration is determined by the circumstances of the particular industry, and the policy of the Government can be announced whether Parliament is sitting or not. Even if the report of the Tariff Board had been received, and the continuation of the bounty were contemplated, it is not probable that legislation would be introduced this session, seeing that the bounty will not terminate until the end of August next.
-With regard to the Prime Minister’s election promise, that his Government would have a housing scheme carried out at acost of £20,000,000, will the right honorable gentleman say when the Government proposes to start the scheme; whether any negotiations have yet been carried on with the Commonwealth Bank in reference to the matter; and, if so, with what result?
– The honorable member cannot listen very carefully to the answers I give in this Chamber. I have been asked the same questions within the last few days, and, in reply, intimated that the Government is at the present time in negotiation with the directors of the Commonwealth Bank with a view to the formulation of a scheme whereby the proposals announced at the last elections, might be given effect.
– Some fifteen months ago the Prime Minister promised a deputation from those engaged in the dried fruits industry that a thorough inquiry would be made into its condition. Some months ago, in reply to a question asked by me, the right honorable gentleman stated that this was one of the matters which he hoped to put before the
Development and Migration Commission. In view of the relation of the industry to the very large expenditure of public money on the River Murray Waters scheme, its great importance, and its connexion with trade negotiations with the Mother Country and with Canada, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to have his promise fulfilled?
– I recognize the im portance of having the inquiry referred to made at the earliest possible date. The settlements up and down the Murray River are settlements of the best type f or Australia, because they are upon small areas, and represent closer settlement in the true sense of the word. In view of that fact, and because a great deal of money is invested in the dried fruits industry in the Murray valley, I shall ask the Development and Migration Commission to make the inquiry at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether, during his forthcoming visit to Great Britain, he will make full inquiries into the work of Mr. Henry Spahlinger, with the object of ascertaining what progress, if any, has been made in connexion with his treatment since the Minister’s personal investigation at Geneva in 1923?
– Since making my report on the cure and prevention of tubercular disease by the Spahlinger treatment, I have kept in close touch with the British Minister for Health and some of the able clinicians in England who are studying the effects of the treatment; but so far no evidence whatever has been produced to make me vary the report I brought to the House in 1921. Whilst abroad on this occasion I shall make further inquiries, and if any changes have occurred I shall report them to the House on my return.
asked the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– I hope to be in a position to make a statement on this matter before the House rises.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
What actionhas been taken in connexion with the resolution carried at the Geneva Conference regarding the abolition of night work in bakeries?
– The honorable member presumably refers to the draft convention concerning night work in bakeries, which was adopted at the seventh session of the International Labour Conference. This draft convention, which deals with a matter within the’ jurisdiction of the States, was referred to the State Governments on the 29th October, 1925, for any legislative or other action they Blight deem it desirable to take.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total reduction during the past four financial years of -
Probate and succession duties?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Recently the honorable the Leader of the Opposition brought under my notice the position of certain unemployed migrants in the South Maitland coal-fields, and I promised to look into the matter. I have been advised by the Commonwealth immigration authorities that a report received from the State Immigration Department, Sydney, indicates that many of the men employed in the South Maitland coal-fields are migrants who arrived in New South Wales during the past six months, and that it is, unfortunately, a fact that the majority of those who are unemployed at Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Weston, and other centres are migrants. These persons, it is stated, have been nominated by relatives or friends fairly recently. It is necessary to point out that assisted passages to New South Wales are only granted to farm lads, domestics, and persons nominated by relatives or friends, and that all nominations must first be approved by the New South Wales State Immigration Department before the Commonwealth can grant assisted passages to the persons so nominated. While this unemployment is much to be deplored, it is felt that, as . the State Immigration Department of New South Wales originally approved of the nominations, any responsibility for the relief of such unemployed persons must rest upon it. The matter has accordingly been brought under the notice of the State authorities for any action which may be necessary.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 9th August, vide page 5089) :
Clause 2 (Execution of agreement authorized).
.- I cannot allow the main clause of this bill to pass without saying something about the terms of the agreement it authorizes. On the second reading, honorable members discussed the propriety of the Commonwealth invading the area of the States in making roads, and the method by which revenue was to be raised for road construction; but I shall not deal with either of those matters in the few remarks I propose to make upon this clause. I wish to direct attention again to the unjust method by which the money is to be allocated. Not one principle of justice has been applied to the allocation of the money. Even if we agree that it is a proper function of the Commonwealth to undertake a national roads scheme, and that the method by which the necessary revenue is to be raised is sound, or, at any rate, that there is nothing objectionable in it - I dispute both of those points - still there is a decided objection to the ratification of the agreement because of the unjust method of allocating the money. Even at the risk of repeating something that has already been said, I think honorable members should concentrate attention on this clause, and protest against its unsoundness and injustice. The first objection that occurs to one’s mind is the obvious one that was emphasized on the second reading - that the Government should proceed with an agreement like this while three States, whose population represents nearly three-fourths of the population of the Commonwealth, are not participating in it. That the Commonwealth should collect money by means of a special tax on the whole of the people of Australia, and distribute it among States with a population of a little more than a quarter of the population of the Commonwealth, is an indefensible and impossible proposition. It would be so manifestly unjust to the other States that I cannot conceive of the Government proceeding with it. Last night, Government supporters freely interjected that the Ministry was not to blame for the fact that the agreement had not been ratified by several of the States. Assuming that to be true, to my mind the Government is nevertheless to blame for persisting in going on with an agreement that has not been ratified by all the States, knowing full well that, unless all the .States participate, there cannot be an equitable allocation of the money. It is the unjust method of allocating the money that has- justified the States in refusing to enter into the agreement; and now that the non-participating States are to be called upon to contribute towards this expenditure, and will not get a penny out of it, the injustice of the proposal is more than ever apparent.
– All the States were parties to the draft agreement.
– I do not dispute that fact, but they were not made aware of the method by which the money was to be raised. There is probably some reason for sympathy with the Federal Government because of the fact that certain States have failed to keep- their promise to ratify the agreement; but making due allowance for that, we have still to face the fact that three States have not subscribed to the agreement, and their people ought not to be penalized by being required to subscribe considerable sums of money in the distribution of which they will not participate. Sneers were uttered last night at the attitude of the Victorian members, but those of us who are protesting against the unjust allocation of this money were not the first to raise considerations associated with State boundaries. I would that we could consider all things regardless of State boundaries, but this agreement is based on State boundaries. It provides that the money shall be collected on a national basis and distributed on a State basis. It involves an unjust discrimination be-, tween States and parts of States. I do not say that we should have unquestioning reverence for the Constitution that was framed nearly 30 years ago; I recognize that it requires radical alteration in many respects, but the provision that the Federal authority, in the exercise of its powers, should not unjustly discriminate between people of the Commonwealth because of the different portions of Australia in which they reside - that it should not discriminate between the States as such - is based upon elementary justice, and should be observed in both the letter and spirit. In that regard, this bill violates both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. One section of the Constitution permits of assistance being given to necessitous States; without asking for charity, a State may represent to the Federal Parliament that it has suffered disabilities as a result of Federation, and ask to be indemnified, and all honorable members will agree that if a just claim is established the Commonwealth should pay. Indeed, this Parliament has given practical recognition to that principle for the ‘last fifteen years. But it is not pretended that these road grants will be a form of assistance to necessitous States; it is not pretended that this bill is an attempt to adjust disabilities suffered by any State as a result of Federation.
– But the Attorney-General said that this proposal was made under section 96 of the Constitution.
– He did, and I think he was wrong. If this proposal can be legally justified under section 96 - that I think is doubtful - it is at any rate a violation of the spirit of that provision. No ground of necessity or disability is offered in justification of this proposal; it has. not even this warrant, that the Commonwealth, having taken from the taxpayers more money than it requires, is handing back some of it.
– The agreement provides that it shall have no force or effect until all the States have agreed to it.
– That condition is not expressed in the- agreement, but there is no doubt that that was the intention of the framers. The agreement is based on co-operation of the Commonwealth and States, and the Attorney-General’s statement at Adelaide bears out that interpretation of it. Surely the basis of all taxation should be service. But this is a proposal to tax for road purposes without handing back proportionately the money taken from the different parts of the Commonwealth. In an attempt to justify this scheme, some honorable members have reminded us that this Parliament grants a bounty on exported wine, and the whole of the money is paid to South Australia. The answer to that contention is that South Australia receives the bulk of the money, not as the State of South Australia, but as the portion of the Commonwealth which produces most wine. If the bulk of the cotton bounty should go to Queensland, it will not be a bounty to Queensland, but a bounty to cotton producers, regardless of geographical considerations.
– But we know where the cotton is grown.
– We endeavour to encourage the industry wherever it can prosper, but as road construction is common to all the States the distribution should be based on the amount collected in each State.
– The agreement distinctly diverts the destination of substantial sums of money.
– Yes, and thereby violates a principle of the Constitution, and provides a situation which the framers of the Constitution endeavoured to prevent. In the matter of taxation we have not the power to-day, and I hope we never shall have, to discriminate between States or parts of States as such, but surely the agreement provides for discrimination in the distribu tion of money to be raised. Not only does it discriminate between the States, but when it also provides that three States which are not parties to the agreement shall contribute, and shall not benefit, the discrimination becomes intensified. There is discrimination not only between States, but also between parts of States, and persons in the cities and towns cannot benefit by the money to be raised for road construction. Although I represent a city electorate I have always said, even to my constituents, that if I lean one way more than another it is towards the country interests, because the development of the country is in the interest of the cities. If the State of Victoria were a party to the agreement 70 per cent. of the money raised would come from the metropolitan area, but not one penny of it would be spent in the area in which it was collected. That is an unjust discrimination which I cannot possibly support.
– Does the honorable member deny that the cities and towns will derive benefit?
– No; nor do I deny that the country interests benefit by the works undertaken in the cities. City and country interests are interdependent. The wheat and wool producers in the country are dependent upon the consumers in the city, and the industries in the metropolitan areas are engaged in manufacturing machinery and general equipment for those in the country. They exchange commodities one. with another, and mutually benefit. Country railways feed the cities, and assist in increasing city land values. These are economic questions which we have discussed for years, but the fact still remains that the problem of road construction in our cities to-day is more acute owing to the growth of motor transport and the concentration of traffic than it has ever been before. I understand that to-day suburban councils are spending from 20s. to 25s. a yard in constructing reinforced concrete roads, which, owing to the concentration of traffic, are necessary. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said - if I misrepresent the honorable member he can correct me - that to rectify the anomaly the outer suburbs should be included in the proposed grant. In my opinion that would only accentuate the injustice, because under his proposal the roads in the inner suburbs, which have to carry the country and outer suburban traffic as well, would be eliminated.
Mr.Mann. - I think the honorable member for Henty referred to the outer parts of the metropolitan area.
– Yes, the outer suburbs. The arterial roads running east through the electorate which I represent, such as Victoria-street, Bridge-road, and Swan-street, are all of concrete, and cost one municipality £60,000. This work has been undertaken to carry the enormous traffic which is not local, but which comes from the eastern suburbs, and includes the heavy traffic of market gardeners from the outer suburban area. This and other problems have to be confronted when huge sums of money are to be spent in road construction. The explanation was given by one Minister - so many Ministers have spoken that I do not know which one it was - that the country roads will be used by persons resident in the cities or in the suburbs. It is true that country roads will be used by city motorists, but they will not be used by thousands of the workers in the metropolitan areas, who pay rates of 2s. 6d. in the £1 on very high valuations. During the last four years 20,000 new houses have been erected and new streets formed in the metropolitan area of Melbourne at enormous cost, and the rates now imposed are nearing the highest that can be levied. The valuations are also high. The average rate imposed in the city is 2s. 5¼d. in the £1, whereas that in the Victorian shires is only1s. 2d. in the £1.
– Is that on the improved value?
– Yes; there are very few local governing bodies assessing on the unimproved value. In the city the values have reached the maximum.
– Also in the country.
– In the shires they have not reached the maximum, and there are many landholders who would be very much aggrieved if they were asked to sell their properties at the valuation placed upon them for rating purposes. The proposed method of discrimination between States and parts of States cannot be justified by any argument. I have brought these points forward, not with the idea of setting city against country in terests, but to show that under a proposal to raise taxation for road construction there should be no discrimination between States or parts of States. I am, as I have said, leaving out of consideration altogether the question whether the action of the Government is constitutional, or whether the method of raising the necessary revenue is desirable, both of which I have condemned. If it is decided that the course proposed shall be followed, the principle still stands, but the agreement which has been entered into should not be allowed to pass unchallenged.
.- I should not like the interesting argument opened up by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to pass without some inforcement. The honorable member has done well to avoid any discussion of the principle of granting Commonwealth aid to the States for road construction, which was settled by the vote last night, but the details of the scheme in many respects have yet to be considered. The principle to which the honorable member refers seems to me as more vital than any other embodied in the bill or the agreement which it covers. Two forms of discrimination are evidenced in the agreement with regard to the distribution of this money : that between municipalities within a State, and that between States. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that, whether a man represents a city or a country electorate, he should be able to take a mutual view, and consider a matter of this kind as it affects the nation. None of us are fit to speak for the people we represent unless we can take into account the incidence of a proposal as it affects the country dweller as well as the town man. This I have always endeavoured to do. As to the discrimination between municipalities within a State : so far as I can guess at the consumption of petrol in this country, at least two-thirds of the money raised by this taxation will come from the users of urban roads. But, assuming that only half of it will be paid by them, and in view of the heavy commercial use to which motors are put in big urban centres, we are perfectly safe in doing that -
– Two-thirds is more nearly correct.
– My information is that 70 per cent, will be paid by the road users in the big centres.
– My own opinion is that two-thirds is probably correct; but, to be perfectly sure that we are on the right side, let us assume that only half the money that is to be raised in Victoria will come from the metropolitan and chief urban areas. None of it, however, is to be spent there. That needs much more defence than the mere statement that the cities are indebted for their subsistence to the primary producers in the country districts. I admit that.
– The cities get good value from the country.
– They may get good value, but they do not get anything like an approximation of the real value of these contributions to road expenditure. The sum to be raised in this State is estimated at £5,600,000 for the ten years. If only half of that, let us say £3,000,000, is contributed by the city consumers of petrol, and spent on country roads exclusively, I take leave to say that the dis- . tribution is not fair. I admit that the case is arguable, and that we must endeavour to appraise all reciprocal compensations; but the Government, in putting a ring fence around cities and towns containing more than 5,000 people, is acting in a way which is arbitrary and unfair to the town dwellers. It is acting unfairly, not merely to the petrol users, but also to the ratepayers of those towns. In many places in this State - and I speak of it because I am most familiar with it - a heavy and increasingly concentrated traffic is coming over the arterial roads of the urban municipalities almost entirely from the country, but in respect to that traffic the municipalities collect nothing whatever in rates. The problem that faces these municipalities to-day is a big one. I know of some in this city which had, five or six years ago, well nigh perfect roads, but are now unable, in spite of their ever-increasing rates and valuations, to keep their reputation or their roads sound. I could give several definite instances.
– In some cases that applies to the country districts also.
– The country districts have not increased their rates and valuations to anything like the same degree.
– That is incorrect.
– It is correct. I can give instances of land purchased in this State, and not far from this city, for closer settlement purposes at £13 an acre, which was valued by the shires for rating purposes at only £3 an acre. Wherever closer settlement purchases were made in this State during the land settlement period of demobilization, the same tendency was discovered. Rarely was the shire valuation half as high as the price for which the land sold in the market. This may not have been equally true of all shires, but it was certainly true of a great number of them. I presume that what is true of this State is true also of other States. Victorian Governments have in the past been faced with the duty of making road grants to various shires, and the government with which I was associated determined that it would not grant money to any shire the rate of which was not at least1s. in the £1. At that time the average rate of the municipalities in the cities was nearly 2s. It is now much higher than that. Shires in the country districts were always rated lower and valued lower proportionately than the city municipalities.
I leave the matter as between municipalities in particular States just there, and pass to the interstate relationship established by this bill. The theory of the bill is that we pay according to our petrol consumption, but the distribution is on the three-fifths and twofifths principle set out in the agreement. The effect of that, so far as I can discover from the figures I have been able to obtain - again speaking for this State, with which I am most familiar - is that this State, which is calculated to provide £5,600,000 by means of this tax, will have spent within its boundaries in the ten years only £3,600,000. I mistrust the calculations, although I do not mistrust the honesty of motive in the compiling of them. I do not think the curve of rise in petrol consumption has been anything like adequately allowed for. I believe that the petrol consumption figures will have doubled in five years, and will probably have trebled in ten years. ‘ But taking the figures as they are given, it is provided that £2,000,000 of the money that will be paid in petrol tax in this State shall be taken from it and distributed in certain other States. This has been going on in regard to our general revenue, without indentification or visibility, ever since the consummation of federation, but under altogether different conditions from those now proposed. This scheme provides for raising by special taxation money which will be ear-marked and placed in a trust fund, and it is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that such a proposal has been made. In these circumstances, as I stated in my second-reading speech, the proposal needs every explanation and justification. The Government should intimate quite clearly to the petrol users in this State, for instance, the exact reasons why £2,000,000 of the money that they will pay in direct taxation under this scheme is to be spe/it elsewhere. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), with his wide country knowledge, interjected when the honorable member- for Yarra was speaking, that city motorists use country roads. Within given States that may be more or less true.
– They benefit by good roads.
– From the intra-state point of view that is more or less so, but is not true of 1 mile in 10,000 of interstate roads. What Victorian motordrivers, for instance, make use of the roads in Western Australia? That is a specific case which will enable us to fix my point. Practically no Victorian motor drivers use Western Australian roads, yet five-fourteenths of the tax our petrol consumers pay will be spent in other States on roads which they seldom or never use. This phase of the matter needs much more vivid exemplification than the intrastate relationship, and I think that the Government should give more consideration to it. The scheme can still go on if some of the States accept it, but this particular phase of the agreement could, and should, be altered. We must not gloss this point over too easily with the generality that it is impossible to deal out microscopic justice in a business scheme of this kind. I admit that we cannot meet every possible objection, but we could approximate much more nearly to justice than this crude and clumsy attempt does. I leave the matter there. The method of the distribution of this money should be considered either under this clause, or under the schedule; and the scheme should be altered so that the people who will have to pay this money will . at least realize that - elementary justice is being meted out to them, and that the interests of both the payers and beneficiaries had been taken into account: by the Government with more understanding than has been the case so far.
.- I cannot understand how honorable members who oppose this proposal can argue that it is a taxation measure. Municipal rating to raise funds for the same purpose is not regarded as taxation, because the improvement of roads, and the providing of public services such as lighting and street improvements, return an equivalent to the owners of the. properties rated. In that part of the City of Sydney in which I live, we have a system of rating on unimproved land values. I own a small block of land which I purchased eight or nine years ago, and which was then rated at £200. Recently, its value was raised to £470. My daughter also owns a block of land in the suburbs, the value of which has been similarly increased. I deprecate any display of provincialism in the debate on this measure. I took some part in the initiation of the league that made Federation possible, and I take some pride in the thought that we imbued the people with the idea that this country could never become a great nation, except through Federation. Imaginary geographical boundaries must not be considered. Adequate safeguards have been included in the agreement. Section 12 of it reads -
The Commonwealth will establish a Board to be known as the Federal Aid Roads Board, consisting of the Minister and a Minister representing each of the different States to which any money is made available in pursuance of the hereinbefore recited proposal of the Commonwealth. The said Board shall meet in the month of April of each year, and at such other times as the Minister considers necessary for the purpose pf discussing any matters iri connexion with the carrying out of the works.
What better safeguard could we have than that? It ensures complete control of the work by the responsible Ministers. If certain of the States do not join in the scheme, the money raised under this proposal will be paid to a trust fund and be used for a specific purpose. I do not like the idea of earmarking revenue for any particular object, but in this case there is no alternative. I hope that as the Federal spirit grows we shall not have any references made to the interests of individual States, but that we shall deal with all measures in a truly national spirit. I have some sympathy with those municipalities which are responsible for the maintenance of roads that are largely used by people living outside their boundaries, but which will receive no financial assistance under this scheme for their maintenance. We must not forget, however, that as the result of a large expenditure of public money on main roads, land values in municipalities will be on the upgrade. Consequently, those local governing bodies should be able to command a higher revenue from their rating system. This measure is an attempt by the Commonwealth Government to provide good roads for the carrying on of commerce and industry. It is a step in the right direction. I do not pretend that it is a perfect bill, but I approve of it as a scheme for the socialization of our highways in the interests of the whole of the people. The people are beginning to realize that this Government is laying down the foundations of socialism upon which the Labour party, in future, will build. As the State Ministers referred the draft agreement to their law officers, it is superfluous for us now to discuss the constitutionality of the bill. The legality of it was, no doubt, exhaustively considered by the States themselves. Whether we nationalize the land or not, we must nationalize the roads.
– I feel that the division taken last night on the second reading of this bill determines the fate of it. It affords this committee no opportunity to review or alter a single line of the agreement. This Parliament may reject or accept the agreement in toto, but it may not alter it. Honorable members are denied a voice in determining the conditions governing a grant of £20,000,000 to the States. That is a position in which this Parliament and this country ought not to be placed. Honorable members are drawn from every part of the Commonwealth, and they know all the conditions governing road usage; but their accumulated wisdom on the subject is to count for nothing. It has often been said that this Government would restore responsible government to this Parliament, so that every honorable member would have his full say in the expenditure of public money.
– The honorable member must know that this committee can vary the agreement in any way it may desire.
– The Minister is talking rubbish.
– The committee may reject the agreement entirely, if it desires to do so.
– I have already said that; but it cannot vary the agreement. If the Minister has no more enlightening interjection to make than that, I wish he would let me continue, for such an interjection does not assist honorable members. Every honorable member knows, and the Minister best of all, that the agreement is to be ratified by three of the States, and, as the House ratified it last night, the matter is practically determined. The bill does not provide for even a review of the agreement during the whole period of ten years over which it will operate. There is no provision for a State, if it desires to do so, to contract itself out of the agreement, or for the classification of the roads to be altered. Clause 5 of the agreement reads -
For the purposes of this agreement the following classes of roads shall be deemed to be Federal Aid Roads : -
Main roads which open up and develop new country ;
Trunk roads between important towns; and
Arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental, main, trunk, and other roads.
Those roads are to benefit, and those only, from the expenditure of £35,000,000. I take exception to the exclusion, of other kinds of roads. It is wrong in principle, from a business point of view, that so many roads will not benefit during the next ten years. Many of the roads defined in clause 5 run side by side with railways, and, while they will benefit, not one penny of the £20,000,000 to be provided by the Commonwealth, or of the £15,000,000 to be provided by the States, will be spent on feeder roads in the back country. Many recent subdivisions will not benefit - for example, almost all the soldier settlements. In many of those settlements new roads have been surveyed and created, and some of them are on virgin soil that has not had £1 spent on it in any form of construction. I know that it is desirable to have good roads; but the question is, how much money should we spend on three classes of roads to the complete exclusion of all other roads? Many of the roads that are excluded count for much in the early days of settlement, when men are struggling to make good, for they have to carry heavy loads between the selection and the station.
– Newly settled areas and closer settlements are specially provided for under the heading of developmental roads.
– But those are not main roads.
– They may be main roads leading to those areas.
– I cannot understand the Minister’s interjections. I regret to say that apparently he has not studied the bill in all its aspects. No chain-roads, as opposed to 2-chain and 3-chain roads, will be built under- this scheme.
– We have mostly chain roads in my State.
– I am referring to the chain roads in the backblocks of Victoria. We are living in luxurious times, and the man with money at his command can travel by railway or motor car; but what about the settlers who have to use bad roads in the back country ? Not a penny of this grant will be spent on them.
– Yet those people will be taxed to assist in raising the money. .
– Yes. We are faced with the fact that the ‘agreement will stand unalterable for ten years. An expenditure of £35,000,000 is involved, and not a penny of it will be used to assist the struggling settler to reach the main roads.
– That is a remarkable statement.
– But it is true.
– Absolutely no !
– The Minister appears to be unable to offer one practical suggestion, or throw one ray of light upon the subject.
– Almost the whole of the money will be spent on chain roads, be cause there are very few other roads in: Victoria, except the ordinary stock routes, which are 3 chains wide.
– I am afraid that if the Minister proceeds on those lines he will induce me to use stronger language than I have already employed. The first class of roads deemed under the bill to be federal aid roads are “ main roads which open up and develop new country.” Will any honorable member say that ordinary chain roads in the back country come under that category, since they merely lead to main roads? The second class comprises “ trunk roads between important towns.” Are they chain roads?
– Frequently so.
– Can the Minister name one ?
– Any road that a State selects as being a main trunk road between important towns. There are a number of them, but they are not all chain roads.
– Why is the Minister not candid? The third class enumerated in the schedule is “ arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental, main, trunk, and other roads.” Are those the back roads, the by-roads, the chain roads? They are not. So, by a process of elimination, we find that the care of the chain roads is left entirely to the local governing bodies and the land-holders, who must find the money for their construction and maintenance.
– And no part of the State’s contributions can go to the construction and reconstruction of those roads.
– Of course not. That is a fatal objection to the scheme. One of my greatest objections to the bill, however, is that in a great national expenditure of £35,000,000, extending over a period of ten years, councillors and municipal engineers have not been called into consultation, although many of them know ten times, and perhaps 50 times, as much about the subject as State Ministers do. I can see no justification for the fact that the wise old councillors - the members of boroughs and shires - who know the physical features of the country, and have closely studied road requirements in the back-blocks as well as in other parts of the States, have not been consulted.
This Parliament is committed to an expenditure of £20,000,000 without a single honorable member having an opportunity to offer a practical suggestion for the improvement of the measure. The rights of honorable members, in their representative capacity, have been ignored. It is indeed a bad practice for a government to introduce ready-made legislation of this nature.
– And slop-made, too!
– That is a most apt interjection. The bill certainly seems to be a misfit. On slight investigation, however, it is easy to understand why three States have accepted the scheme, and the other three have rejected it. Those who have accepted it will contribute £6,450,000 during the ten-years period, but will receive in return £8,600,000. The bait, of course, was too tempting to be rejected. I hold no brief for a State Government that deliberately makes a contract, and then repudiates it. But I do not consider that that State is, therefore, bound to the agreement.
– That was the fault of the Victorian State Parliament.
– Not the Parliament, but the Government, of that State.
– That is so. As soon as the light of day was thrown upon the agreement, some of the States that had. accepted it realized its true character.
– Their views were changed by what the public said.
– Have not the public the right to express their views ?
– The State Governments represented the public when they accepted the agreement.
– This agreement, providing for Commonwealth expenditure of £20,000,000, was entered into outside this Chamber. No honorable member has an opportunity of altering one letter of it. It must be either accepted in toto or rejected in toto.
– The Minister has stated that Parliament could vary the agreement.
– I take no notice of the Minister’s interjections.
– If Parliament could vary the agreement, the whole scheme would be brought to the ground.
– Now that the Prime Minister is here, I should like some information from him. I have endeavoured to gain information from the Minister, but he either cannot give it or has deliberately withheld it.
– The honorable member has not asked me a single question.
– I leave that to the committee to decide. I strongly object to an agreement for the expenditure of £20,000,000 of Federal money being made outside this Chamber, which has in it 76 members representing rural and urban constituencies throughout the Commonwealth. Their opinions respecting the terms of the agreement are to count for nothing.
– The honorable member will agree that it would be almost impracticable to thresh out an agreement in this Parliament and the State Parliaments. We must have a definite starting point.
– This Chamber has a right to mould the shape of any legislation before being committed to it. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) as a private member, often eloquently, clearly, and rightly demanded the restoration of what he called the principle of responsible government - that this Parliament should be the master of the purse, and that it alone should determine under what terms and conditions Federal moneys should be spent. This bill deprives this Parliament and the Federal authorities of the power to exercise supervision, not only over the expenditure of £20,000,000 but over the maintenance of the roads to which we are so largely to contribute. I regret exceedingly that we should be placed in such a position. It is easy to understand why three States have accepted the agreement, since they are to contribute under it £6,450,000 and receive in return £8,600,000. It is also easy to understand why, when this agreement received the light of day, and was carefully examined by the members of the Commonwealth and State Legislatures, by the press, and by the public generally, a feeling was engendered against it.
– The terms of this agreement were published as far back as March last.
– But they were not examined. It was only when the taxation proposals of the Government were disclosed that there was a general examination of the scheme. The Prime Minister the other night- spoke of how the public feeling against the bill had been engendered; but I venture to suggest good ground for it. The opposition to the agreement started in this Chamber and in the press of the country, because there is a deep-rooted objection among the people to the Commonwealth undertaking State activities. Nowhere in section 51 of the Constitution will be found any reference to roads and bridges being a Federal function. There is in it a clear border line between Commonwealth and State duties. Throughout history, border lines have been the cause of the most fruitful quarrels in the world. Border lines between nations, between races, between State and Commonwealth, and between individuals, when improperly invaded, whether in war or in carrying out every day functions or duties, invariably lead to infringements of respective rights.
– There was no opposition to the scheme when the Commonwealth Government’s policy was announced, nor when the agreement was disclosed.- It came about only when the tax was levied.
– I agree to some extent with the Prime Minister, because it was at that stage that the people awakened. I do not think that there was a clear or proper understanding of this proposal until the tax was levied. I did not mention in my second-reading speech, nor at any other time, the attitude of the oil companies respecting the petrol tax. No oil interests in Australia, either local or foreign, have ever approached me in connexion with the bill, nor have their representatives influenced me either directly or indirectly. I believe the agreement to be an unnecessary and uncalled for intrusion by the Commonwealth into the province of the States. They could not be said to have been in need of financial assistance. The Commonwealth simply submitted its proposals to the States, and said, “ What about £20,000,000 for your roads?” The State Governments naturally accepted the offer with alacrity. An announcement was then made that a certain section of the people were to be taxed to raise the moneys for road construction, and then the State Governments and the press began to wake up. The Prime Minister has asked us to believe that the oil companies have been responsible for this awakening, but my imagination cannot go that far. They certainly did not wake me. Whatever consideration I have given to this measure has been entirely off my own bat, and unaided by the influence of any oil company or supplier of petrol.
– After all, it does not matter who was responsible for the awakening. We are concerned with what we have seen since the awakening.
– I had intended to move for the insertion of a new clause, to provide that the amounts collected from the non-participating States should not go into the trust fund; but I now understand that, although all the money will go into the Consolidated Revenue, only the amount from the participating States will go into the trust fund.
– The money will all- go into the Consolidated Revenue. Into the trust fund will be paid an amount sufficient to meet the obligations under each respective agreement.
– The money will all go into the Consolidated Revenue, but only the allocation will go into the trust fund.
– I suggest that the amounts collected from the nonparticipating States should not go into the trust fund. If the bill is proceeded with, I realize that no discrimination can ibo made between States ; but I ask the Prime Minister to return to the nonparticipating States the amount collected from those States. Although it will be impossible to devise machinery by which the money paid will be returned to those who pay it, there is nothing to prevent it from being returned to the States from which it will be drawn. They could then carry out their own roads policy in their own way.
– Does the honorable member refer to the amounts to be collected from the non-participating States, or to the amounts proposed to be allocated to them?
– I was referring to the amounts which will be collected from those States.
– In that case very little money would remain in the trust fund
– Parliament should not collect revenue from a State for a specific purpose, and allow it to accumulate in a trust fund in the hope that public opinion in that State will force the State Government to accept it. That would be an entirely wrong attitude to adopt. I have too high an opinion of the Prime Minister to think that he would pursue such a policy. When he has time to think clearly and calmly, when all this ferment has died down, he will see the inequity of levying taxes upon people who are not prepared voluntarily to accept the scheme. There should be no compulsion in what is supposed to be a voluntary scheme.
– Might not the honorable member himself change his mind ?
– For me, as an individual, to change my mind would not make much difference to a State acceptance. As’ a rule, I make up my mind slowly, and if I change it I do so only after very careful consideration. I am not prepared to compromise my principles merely because some of this money will be expended in my constituency. I have made my protest; last night I registered my vote; I can go no further. I accept last night’s decision as final, so far as this Chamber is concerned. I shall offer no further criticism, except to repeat that this Parliament has been given no say in the expenditure of £20,000,000. The agreement must either be accepted or rejected as a whole.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I am in agreement with the views expressed by the honorable member ‘for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) regarding the right of those taxpayers living in the urban districts of the State to a share in this vote. The majority of honorable members in this Chamber represent urban constituencies, and they consider that, if their constituencies are not to participate in this vote, some special concession should be granted to them. The Municipal Directory for Victoria supports the honorable member’s contention. It shows that many of the municipalities in Victoria have levied rates of 2s. 6d. in the £1 on the improved value of the land comprised therein, while 20 shires have levied rates ranging from1s. 3d. to 1s. 9d. in the £1.
– The average rate in shires is1s. 2d. in the £1, and in the cities 2s. 5¼d.
– The Bendigo municipality, for instance, has levied a rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1 on the improved value of the land within its borders, yet not one penny of the money to be provided by this bill will be spent on the roads in that municipality.
– Bendigo will benefit materially from the roads leading into that city, which will be constructed under this vote.
– The Minister must know that a patch of bad road 1 mile in length determines the load which can be carried over the whole road, no matter how good the rest of it may be. Many of the . outer municipalities, such as Sandringham and Brighton, have levied rates amounting to 2s. 6d. in the £1 ; the rate at Ballarat is, I understand, 2s. 9d. in the £1. The Ballarat and Geelong roads pass through the Footscray municipality, yet although under this legislation the people of that municipality will be heavy contributors they will not benefit from it to the extent of one penny. While honorable members on this side of the House, if required to decide between granting assistance to the country and to the city, would declare in ‘favour of the country, they nevertheless contend that it is inequitable that the metropolitan municipalities should not participate in this vote. I hope that before thisbillis passed the Prime Minister will give us some assurance that, in some way, the municipalities will be assisted to provide good roads right into the cities. My vote last night showed that I believe that this legislation is on the right lines. I believe in a national roads policy for Australia. In some New South Wales municipalities rates are levied on the unimproved value of land. In this State that has been done by the Essendon municipality. I have to pay 6d. in the £1 on the unimproved value of my property, which represents a greater sum. than I would be called upon to pay if the rating were on the improved value.
– I have not received one protest from any motorist or municipality in my electorate.
– The ratepayers in our municipalities are hard put to it to provide sufficient money for their local needs. We do not expect or ask that our city areas should be given as much assistance as is given to country areas, but we do say that when 70 per cent, of the tax is to be provided by them it is a fair thing that a certain sum should be allocated to their needs. The Melbourne City Council and the Sydney City Council are wealthy corporations, and do not require assistance. I can travel along a splendid asphalt track for 40 miles on the Point Nepean-road, but about 200 yards this side of the Moorabbin railway gates bogholes are encountered, and a number of deviations must be made to reach decent roads on which to travel to the city. I urge the Government to give consideration to this matter.
.- I am in thorough sympathy with the general principles of this measure. I believe that it is within the province of the Commonwealth Government to embark upon a scheme for giving assistance in the matter of road construction. Adequate means of communication are vital to not only local districts, but also the nation as a whole, whether they be provided by airways, railways, or main roads, and the Government is quite justified in spending money in those directions. It ought to give greater assistance in the construction of main roads than it has given in the past. That work can be carried out effectively only when the central government comes to the assistance of the States. That has been, and still is, the practice in the United States of America. Stress has been laid on certain clauses of the agreement, and the arguments which have been advanced cannot be lightly brushed aside. The Government ought to take cognizance of the facts that have been placed before it. The limitations that are imposed by restricting the expenditure under the agreement to three classes, of roads will have the effect of confining the expenditure to certain specific roads. In consequence, settlers in many country districts will not receive the full measure of assistance. In my electorate fruit-growers have provided for them a good main road, but the side roads that lead to their selections are in a dreadful condition. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was quite right when he said that a load is limited by the quality of the worst portion of the road over which it must travel. When bad roads are encountered in my electorate, the fruitgrowers halve their loads, and convey them to the main road in two journeys.
Previously, when the Commonwealth gave assistance under an’ agreement, it was possible to have the agreement varied to - meet the requirements of any particular State. That will not be possible under this agreement; we shall’ have an iron-bound agreement for at least ten years, with no possibility of the variation of a single clause. Reference, has been made to clause 7 of the agreement. That will bear particularly hardly upon several municipalities in my electorate, through which every trunk road from Sydney runs. It is impossible in many cases for municipalities controlling towns that have even as many as 5,000 inhabitants to maintain their portions of main trunk roads as well as their local roads. I have in mind the position of the municipality of Liverpool in my electorate. Financially that is a poor municipality. Under a previous agreement, the main western road was constructed, but it- stopped about a mile from the boundary of the municipality on each side. At very great inconvenience, and by the straining of- their financial resources, Liverpool managed to construct the road through its own area about four years ago. It is now beginning to break up, although the sinking fund established in connexion with the loan provides for redemption in 20 years. It is impossible for that municipality to maintain the southern road through its territory, because of the tremendous traffic that it carries. It is not the local traffic which creates the difficulty. Farmers, orchardists, and other settlers from outside the municipality use heavy lorries on it to send their produce to the Sydney markets, and it is used also by tourists. I was hoping that some provision would be included in the bill giving the- Minister the power to vary the rigidity of clause 7 of the agreement, under arrangement with the State Ministers concerned. There is no such provision in the measure. Clause 7 must operate for the whole ten years covered by the agreement, it will greatly militate against the effectiveness of the scheme, and will curtail the advantage to be derived from the proposed expenditure. I may refer in this connexion also to the northern road passing through the Parramatta and Macquarie electorates. It is in good order to the boundary of the
Macquarie electorate, but requires attention from there on through the municipality of Windsor which is another of the small outer-suburban municipalities without much revenue. The traffic on this road is so great that it is impossible for the Windsor municipal council to maintain it. The Commonwealth is itself concerned in this case, because much of the heavy traffic on the road at the present time is that of heavily laden lorries travelling to the Richmond aerodrome. Perhaps before the consideration of the bill has been completed in committee, the Minister may be able to introduce a proviso to enable the rigid terms of clause 7 of the agreement to be varied in specific instances such as I have referred to.
– The Parliament cannot alter the agreement in any way.
– I am aware of that, and it is very awkward that we must either accept or reject the agreement as a whole. I hope that the Government will be able to do something in the directions I have indicated.
.- I have followed the debate on this bill with a, great deal of interest, and I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin):, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and particularly the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). Those who regard themselves as responsible representatives of the people must consider as anomalous the position created by the agreement which is the schedule to this b3l. We are being asked to consider legislation based upon an agreement which we have no power to amend. We have already had proof of the inadvisability of continuing such a practice. The unsatisfactory position created by such agreements between the Commonwealth and other authorities has engaged the attention of this House on previous occasions. I trust that even if the Government persists with this measure, it will in future refrain from committing the Parliament to the terms of agreements which it is not given an opportunity to consider. The statements made this morning by the honorable member for Yarra deserve an answer from the Minister in charge of the bill. Even from my limited experience as a member of a civic authority, I am convinced of the undesirability of discrimination in dealing with such a matter as the construction of roads. Under the Con stitution the State Governments are the authorities responsible for this class of public activity, but under the Government’s proposal they will really not be masters of their own business. The roads problem has certainly become increasingly difficult and more national in its aspect, but the construction of main roads should be provided for in a proper and constitutional manner. I personally am of opinion that the Commonwealth should have the power to deal with the construction and maintenance of national highways, and I hope the day will come when in such matters’ it will be supreme, but tinder the Constitution, as it at present stands, the proposal of the Government is an intrusion into a domain which does not belong to it. The discrimination provided for in the measure is the more undesirable when we realize that there is not unanimity amongst the States. If there were a common agreement amongst the States on this question, there would be some argument for the Commonwealth lending its assistance, and proposing collection of taxation for road construction. There have been no demands by the States that it should do so, and even those that have accepted the agreement have done so practically under duress. The powers of the Commonwealth are being exercised tyrannically against States that desire to deal with their roads problem in their own way. In South Australia we have had a very efficient and progressive roads policy in operation during the last three years, and the Government’s proposal has caused uncertainty and confusion in the carrying on of that policy.
– It should not have done so.
– That is for the Minister to explain. It is possible that in the future a State authority may be unable to expend money upon roads that will require construction and maintenance, as a result of the obligations entered into in co-operation with the Commonwealth authority for the construction of the roads mentioned in the agreement.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– Even in those States which have formally accepted the agreement, the legislatures have, passed resolutions expressing opposition to the Commonwealth proposals, and deprecating the intrusion of the Federal authority into this realm of governmental activity. Therefore, even such acceptances cannot be regarded by the Government with any satisfaction, because the scheme is unpopular with the majority of taxpayers, and few of the States have any desire to co-operate with the Commonwealth in carrying it out. Another feature to which I object is the discrimination between different classes of roads, with a result that those districts which should be the first to benefit by any general scheme of national roadways will be deprived of the benefits of the bill. For that reason the proposal must be condemned by representatives of both metropolitan and country constituencies. There is further inequitable discrimination between the users of the roads, and I cannot approve of a scheme which enables one person, by using a certain brand of petrol, to escape payment of the petrol tax. The Government would be well advised to recognize that the construction and maintenance of roads is essentially a State function which the States have a right to discharge as they think fit. If it be contended that roads are a national concern, let us endeavour to secure from the people authority for the Commonwealth Parliament to take charge of them. I would agree to such a course, but I cannot approve of the Government’s attempt to defeat the laudable desire of the States to initiate and control their own progressive schemes of road-making. The State of South Australia has put in hand a scheme of permanent roads.
– But South Australia has subscribed to this agreement.
– Under duress. The State had arranged to raise money for road-making by a tax of 3d. per gallon on petrol used on the roads. One company, aided and abetted by the Commonwealth, refused to pay to South Australia the amounts which it had received from the users of a certain brand of petrol.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the clause.
– I am sorry if I have transgressed. I was about to show how South Australia, at the instance of the Commonwealth Government, had been deliberately deprived of a source of revenue, and obliged to abandon its own scheme of road construction, and accept the federal proposal. By intruding in matters of purely domestic concern the Commonwealth is looking for trouble. Both the House of Assembly and the Council in South Australia have passed resolutions in opposition to the agreement.
– Does the honorable member understand that the Commonwealth allocation to South Australia will bo £228,000 from the proceeds of the duty of 2d. per gallon, whereas the State tax of 3d. per gallon on sales of petrol yields only £120,000 per annum.
– That does not affect the principle. The Commonwealth is proposing to control the expenditure of the grant in a way that means improper interference with State jurisdiction.
– The States are allowed to select all roads to be constructed within the scope of this legislation, and they offered no opposition to that principle at the conference with Commonwealth Ministers.
– By confining the expenditure within certain limits the Commonwealth is depriving the States of a power that rightly belongs to them. I suggest that the Government should withdraw this proposal, and substitute a scheme which would be more acceptable to the States, and would permit them to evolve their own roads policies. I hope that the Committee will reject the clause, and thereby instruct the Government not to proceed further with this scheme.
.- Having regard to the large number of members who voted for the second reading of the bill last night, a discussion of its details is mere waste of time. Those who supported the second reading committed themselves to the agreement, and any modification of it, the alteration of even a single clause, would disturb the whole scheme, and necessitate the reopening of negotiations with the States de novo. In those circumstances those who are opposed to the bill, and the principle it contains, should throw the whole of the responsibility for it upon those who voted for the second reading.. The statement made last night by the honorable and genial member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) that he was clutching with both hands at the dividend to be paid to his State out of the funds to be provided by the petrol duty, was a striking illustration of the truth of the statement made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in the course of a speech on the Roads Grant Bill in 1923-
Matters of principle are not particularly attractive when there are obvious advantages to be gained by placing a particular measure upon the statute-book.
That cynical remark explains a good many of the votes in favour of this bill. The advantages to be gained by certain States from the placing of this measure on the statute-book are so obvious that I am afraid certain members who voted for the measure entirely disregarded the principle involved. However, as those who voted for the second reading committed themselves to the agreement as it stands, we who are opposed to it must recognize the futility of protesting further.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
For the purposes of this act there shall be a trust account, known as the Federal aid roads trust account, which shall be kept in the books of the Treasury.
The account established in pursuance of this section shallbe a trust account within the meaning of section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1926.
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, into the trust account established in pursuance of this section, such amount as is necessary for the purposes of each agreement executed by the Commonwealth in pursuance of this act.
– I should like to have two questions in connexion with this clause cleared up. The special taxation to be imposed will be paid into Consolidated Revenue, from which such “ amount as is necessary for the purposes of each agreement executed by the Commonwealth” will be paid into a trust account. Assuming that only three States make agreements with the Commonwealth, will the amount paid into the trust account be only that which is necessary to provide the requirements of those three States?
– It will ; all the money will go into Consolidated Revenue, and only some of it will come out.
– That is a point which I desire to have explained.
– Is it not only a bookkeeping matter?
– It is a little more than that. I gather from the clause that, if only three States enter into agreements with the Commonwealth under the provisions of the bill, the amount paid into the trust account will be only such as is neces- . sary to meet their needs.
– Supposing that the Government imagines that other States will enter into agreements with it subsequently?
– I do not think the Government has power to transfer money because it may imagine that certain things will happen.
– The clause says that the money shall be paid into the trust account only “ for the purposes of each agreement.”
– That is so. I take it that the Government could not pay money from Consolidated Revenue into a trust account for the purposes of an agreement which it merely assumes will be made.
The next question is : Assuming that only three States make agreements with the Commonwealth, will the balance of the money collected, after their needs are supplied, be permanently taken into Consolidated Revenue, or what will be done with it ?
– The points raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) are of great importance. The Commonwealth has undertaken to give financial assistance to all the States, under certain conditions, for the purposes of road construction. It can only give this assistance out of Consolidated Revenue, and it can only obtain revenue by the taxation that it levies upon the people. It is contemplated in the bill that the financial assistance which will be afforded to the States. shall be paid from Consolidated Revenue into a trust account, established in accordance with the provisions of the Audit Act, in respect of each agreement that is entered into, subject to the agreement, in each case, being ratified by the State Parliament. The honorable member for Yarra is right in indicating that only such moneys will be paid into the trust account as are necessary to meet the obligations which the Government has definitely entered into with specific States. Assuming that the parliaments of only .three States ratify agreements with the Commonwealth, the amount that will be paid into the trust account will be only . such as is necessary to meet their needs. The point that is concerning honorable members is that although this Parliament has the power to levy any form of taxation, and- to pay the proceeds of it into the Consolidated Revenue, the Government, in indicating its financial policy, stated that it proposed to levy a new form of taxation for the purpose of providing certain financial assistance for the States. Obviously, if all the States do not participate in the scheme, the Commonwealth will ‘not require so much revenue to meet its obligations. That fact was made clear the other night, when it was indicated that the Government, which had proposed to levy three taxes for” the purpose of increasing .the revenue of the Commonwealth, would collect only two of them, because the revenue from the three would not be required. The duties proposed to be levied on tires and chassis will not be levied, and the revenue expected from that source will not be received. The tax on petrol will be retained, and the proceeds of it will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue and used for general purposes. It will be for Parliament to determine, when it meets next session, whether the revenue is sufficient to meet the Commonwealth’s obligations under such agreements as will by then have been entered into, whether it is necessary to continue the taxation on the basis now laid down, whether more revenue should be raised to meet additional obligations that may arise, by reason of other States coming into the agreement, or whether taxation should be reduced because the Consolidated Revenue Ls more than sufficient to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth. This tax, it has been indicated, is being levied so that the Consolidated Revenue may be sufficient to meet certain obligations; but if the additional taxation makes the Consolidated Revenue exceed the amount required, it will then be within the power, and will possibly be the desire, of Parliament to appropriate the difference, and devote it to any purpose it thinks fit. It might conceivably devote it to objects similar to those contemplated in this bill.
.- I assure the Minister that in my remarks on clause 2, I had no desire to cast any reflection on him personally. I am sorry if he has construed my remarks in that way. I have previously raised the point mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin. I should like a more definite assurance from the Prime Minister than that which he has just given. Three of the States are faced with the necessity of continuing their own road policies. This Parliament will be in recess for six months, when half the financial year of the States will have passed. During that six months the States will have to levy taxation for road construction and maintenance, and the Commonwealth will also be levying taxation for a similar purpose. That is a condition into which we ought not to force the non-participant States. If, before the meeting of this House again, the non-participant States come into this agreement, will the revenue raised in those States, and paid into the Consolidated Revenue, be restored to them? If the Prime Minister would make a statement to that effect, it would be an assurance to the taxpayers of those States that they would not be levied upon twice for the same purpose. In fairness bo the States and the taxpayers, the position should not be left where it is.
.- We are having still another proof of the confusion created by this bill. After listening intently to the Prime Minister, I confess that I do not know what the position is. Do I understand that the users of petrol in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia - the non-participant States - will be taxed, and the revenue contributed by them handed over to the participant States for the purpose of building roads?
– As much of it as is required for that purpose.
– The difference will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue. What will be the effect if, after twelve months, some of the non-participant States join the scheme? Will they lose all the advantage of the money collected from them ? Apparently, the money will not be paid into a trust fund for them; it can be paid into a trust fund on behalf only of the States that sign the agreement. The Government is deliberately taxing the petrol users of Victoria and the other non-participant States, and paying the proceeds into the Consolidated Revenue, upon which it will draw for a trust fund for the other States.
– Is not that point covered by clause 9 of the agreement ?
– I hope that the honorable member will not ask me to explain the agreement, for I do not understand it, and I do not think that many other people understand it. I ask the Prime “ Minister, in all seriousness, whether he intends to proceed with a proposal that will tax the people of Victoria to obtain revenue to spend in the other States?
.- Provided there is no more co-operation by the States than appears likely at present, is it the intention of the Government to defer giving effect to the bill until Parliament meets again next session ? In spite of what the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) said in Adelaide, will the Prime Minister say whether it’ is constitutional for the Government to proceed with the scheme in the absence of the concurrence of all the States? This is a very serious matter, that concerns honorable members as well as the Government. If the agreement is to be carried out piecemeal it may cause serious trouble before Parliament meets again. It will mean a big conflict, such as has not been known since the beginning of federation, between the Commonwealth and the six States. I, once again, in the interests of proper co-operation and harmonious working with the States, plead with the Prime Minister not to place honorable members, and particularly those who have faithfully supported this Government, in the position in which we shall find ourselves if this proposal is adopted.
– Action under this bill, of course, will not be . postponed until all the States accept the agreement. I thought that I made that clear during the secondreading debate, and that was largely the point at issue. The Government has been advised that it has the necessary constitutional power, and, on that advice, it is proceeding. I may not have .made myself clear to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) regarding the trust fund provided for in clause 3 of the bill, and, for his information, I stress the point again. The Commonwealth Parliament, having the power to raise revenue in such ways as it thinks fit, has been asked to . impose a petrol tax, the proceeds of which will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue and used to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth. Collections in any particular State will not be set aside, and, therefore, if not utilized for the purpose of this bill, will not be available for return to that State. The money paid into the trust fund will not be raised in any specific way; it will come out of the general Consolidated Revenue, and will be the proceeds of taxation levied by this Parliament. I indicated that it is competent for Parliament to determine the difference between the obligations of the Commonwealth under this agreement, and the revenues of the Commonwealth, and, if there is a surplus, to devote it to a purpose analogous to that set out in the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4’ agreed to.
.- Under sub-clause 2 of clause 4 of the schedule, the Commonwealth will, in each year of the ten years, contribute to the sinking fund an amount equal to £3 per centum per annum, and under sub-clause 3 the participant States will contribute similarly to the sinking fund. I see nothing in the agreement to give the Commonwealth power over the States in the event of them not carrying out their obligation. I do not know what precautions the Prime Minister proposes to take. The Commonwealth will, of course, carry out its part of the bargain, but if the States do. not carry out their obligation throughout the ten - and what I regard as critical - years, what power will the Commonwealth have to compel them to do so?
– In the event of any of the participant States failing to contribute their proportion to the Commonwealth Sinking Fund, it will be necessary to withhold any further payments due to them. In respect of the States’ obligation to maintain and repair roads, the agreement distinctly and specifically provides for the withholding of moneys and their utilization by the Commonwealth, but in this case I agree with the right honorable member that a definite and specific provision is not included in the agreement. I think that the right honorable member will agree that it is not at all likely that any difficulty will arise respecting the constant payments to the Commonwealth, and the retention of the necessary amount to provide a sinking fund. The procedure in that case is obvious.
.- Clause 5 of the schedule relates to Federal aid roads. When discussing clause 2 of the bill I indicated to the committee that clause 5 of the schedule placed a definite limitation upon the joint roads policy of the Commonwealth and the States, because it excluded from the agreement an enormous number of feeders to main roads, particularly in new territory and settlement, including soldier :settlement. Is there anything to prevent :the Commonwealth and the States, after twelve months’ operation of the agreement, from varying its terms by mutual consent to enable some of the expenditure of £35,000,000 to be used for roads that are feeders to main roads? If the States are forced to find the additional money for constructing and reconstructing such roads, their capacity to provide money for new developmental roads will be greatly limited. Feeder roads are part of the developmental policy. I have dealt fully with the three types of roads set out in clause 5 of the schedule, many of which will, after all, run parallel to the railway lines, and give double facilities to the people using them. There are many other roads over which it is difficult for vehicles to pass, some of which being totally unmade, and I should like to know if it is possible for the terms of the agreement to be varied to take in such roads.
, - I am sure that the Prime Minister will admit that there rests upon the Commonwealth the responsibility of providing good roads within its own territory; but this bill does not touch upon that matter at all. It is obvious that, in a restricted territory like ours - I speak, of course, of the Federal Capital Territory - it is vital to have good roads, with good approaches to them. The road that I referred to last night is one about which I am well qualified to speak, and it is impossible to regard its condition other than as a reflection upon the State of New South Wales, and, in a measure, upon the Commonwealth, too. We are spending a great deal of money at Canberra, and a portion of it is rightly being used to make roads in the Territory. I ask the Prime Minister what is the position respecting the approaches to the Federal Territory, seeing that New South Wales has rejected the agreement? Canberra is approached, from one side, by the Goulburn road, which serves Cooma and Bombala, and, from the other, by the Yass-Canberra road. The road from Goulburn is tolerable, and could be kept in good repair by the expenditure of a little money to provide suitable culverts. Any one who travels along that road knows that at about every mile or 2 miles there are sharp culverts, which prevent speedy and comfortable locomotion. The road from Canberra to Yass is, for about 7 miles of its length, in Federal Territory, and, for the remaining 32 or 33 miles, in the territory of New South “Wales. What does the Prime Minister propose to do respecting that road? We cannot leave it as it is. We are literally expending millions of pounds upon the Federal Capital, and the expenditure is increasing. If the State of New South Wales does not ratify the agreement, we may be in a worse position than we were before, as it is quite likely that the State Government will be irritated because the Commonwealth Government has seen fit to proceed with its measure regardless of its views. It may, therefore, decline positively to do anything to keep that road in a good state of repair. As I said last night, the Government has some power of direct action regarding the approaches to its own territory, arising out of the agreement with the .States in connexion with the Federal Capital Territory. The State Government of New South Wales could not be permitted, to bring about a state of affairs which would in any way isolate the Federal Territory ; and I am sure that any court would agree with me. I am not in any way criticizing the measure now. We cannot contemplate the opening ceremony at Canberra on the 9th May of next year with the roads in their present condition. Something must be done to improve them. The creeks axe impassable during heavy rains, and they ought to be bridged. Some parts of the roads are in an appalling condition. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister has given any consideration to this subject, and what he conceives to be the policy that ought to be pursued.
– I would inform the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that at any time it is open for the Commonwealth and the States to reconsider the basis of the agreement, to alter it, and to provide new conditions. It is contemplated that the programme of works will be for five years. The original suggestion was a ten-year programme, but it was thought desirable to alter it. The agreement is always open to revision and reconsideration, provided that we do not transgress its principles. The agreement is de signed to provide a national roads scheme, the Commonwealth assisting in the construction of major roads for the opening up of country and the facilitating of interstate commerce throughout Australia. . I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the entrances to and exits from the Federal Capital are of great importance and require immediate attention. We have, first, to deal with the pressing problem of providing reasonable transport facilities for a great number of visitors to the Federal Capital Territory on the occasion of the ceremony of opening the Commonwealth Parliament at Canberra. That matter has been occupying the consideration of the Government, and will be the subject of negotiation with the States, quite apart from any other action that may be taken for future development and provision of facilities there. Had the State of New South Wales been prepared to ratify this agreement, the construction and reconstruction of approaches to the Federal Territory could have been carried out as part of the general roads policy of that State; but, under existing circumstances, that is not possible. The Commonwealth Government should be able to negotiate with the .State Government of New South Wales, quite apart from any general policy for the construction of main roads, for the construction and maintenance of essential roads, in order to provide proper means of communication between the Capital City and other parts of the Commonwealth. I cannot conceive of any State Government, even if it does not ratify the agreement, refusing to negotiate with the Commonwealth for the provision of proper facilities for visiting the Federal Capital Territory, particularly in view of the fact that under any such arrangement the Commonwealth would have to offer generous assistance to that State.
– I would remind the right honorable gentleman that this is an. urgent matter.
– I have said that negotiations have already taken place with the New South Wales Government to meet the immediate and pressing problem associated with the ceremony of the opening of the Parliament at Canberra. The Goulburn-Canberra road is already beingdealt with. It is proposed that that road,. at all events, shall he put in a state for the carriage of traffic without the disadvantages to which the right honorable gentleman has referred. The absolute refusal of cooperation by the States to provide facilities to reach the Federal Capital, thus involving the situation of isolation suggested by the right honorable gentleman is conceivable; but, in that event the Common wealth would, I think, have all the powers necessary to deal with the situation, because the Capital is the heart of the whole nation. I do not think that it would involve any stretching of the defence power of the Commonwealth to claim that it is necessary for defence purposes that proper roads should be constructed to the Federal Capital. If an entirely antagonistic attitude were taken up by the State, I think the difficulty could be overcome by the Commonwealth.
– As the ten years’ period is to be divided into two periods of five years, will each period be entirely independent of the other? If at the close of the first period it is found that the whole proposal is unsatisfactory, will the Commonwealth be compelled to give effect to it for the whole period of ten years ?
– It will be a matter for negotiation and discussion with the States. The original idea was to provide for a tenyears’ construction programme. I cannot explain the whole of what was proposed; but I can say that with regard to Victoria the proposal was that five great arterial roads going right to the borders of the adjoining States should be constructed. The objective would be to bring those roads to a certain point within a certain time. The first part of a road upon which there was heavy traffic would be so constructed that it might almost be described as the concrete road suggested by the right honorable member for North Sydney, or something equivalent to such a road. As the traffic diminished the road would not be so constructed in so substantial a manner, but the foundation for a substantial road would be laid, and when the national highway was constructed throughout it might be made into a firstclass road with a minimum of additional expense. The objective was to secure a first-class road running to a certain point; but as circumstances might completely change, and a tremendous development of traffic might occur, it might possibly be necessary to run the first-class section of a road for 50 miles further than was originally contemplated. A general scheme covering ten v ears’ construction is in the minds of the State authorities accepting the agreement, but it is now considered preferable to deal with the matter by dividing the programme of construction into two periods of five years.
. -I should like to have an assurance from the Prime Minister that the shires surrounding Canberra will not be shut out from future participation in Commonwealth grants. The shire councils surrounding that area are particularly interested in this measure. During last week a big meeting attended by some 40 or 50 persons took place in the district, and carried a resolution to the effect that it was disappointed that the New South Wales Government had not signed the roads agreement.
– We are getting the shire council atmosphere now.
– It. is not the shire council atmosphere but the national atmosphere. To my way of thinking, it is those who oppose the Government’s scheme who take a parochial view of the matter. I claim to express the national view. When the opponents of this measure assemble at Canberra it is possible that they also will begin to take a national outlook upon affairs. Although every person at the meeting to which I have referred was a motorist, they were all prepared to pay the proposed duty of 2d. per gallon on petrol, and unanimously carried a resolution affirming that they were prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government. At the meeting the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who is member for the district in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and a late colleague of mine, expressed his surprise that the New south Wales Government had turned down the agreement. He had not previously heard of its refusal to sign the agreement, and the matter had not been brought before the New South Wales Parliament in any shape or form. I should like an assurance from the Prime Minister that the district in which Canberra is situated will not be neglected.
.- If the New South Wales Government refuses to co-operate, no seh me for Federal assistance towards a national system of roads can be given effect in New South Wales. If it is found that there can be no co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales regarding roads providing entrance to and exit from the Federal Capital, then the Commonwealth Government will require to make the necessary provision.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Debate resumed from 8th July (vide page 3957), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
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, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six, at nine 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 before the committee is that which I moved on the 8th July last, in connexion with what was generally considered to be the roads proposal. A schedule was submitted to the committee con taining three items - one covering increased duties on petrol, another increased duties on tires, and a third increased duties on motor chassis. In accordance with what is now common knowledge I intend to submit an amendment in connexion with the first item dealing with petrol, and, in due course, shall move that the other two items be struck out. I therefore move -
That item 229 be amended by adding the following : - “ And on and after 11th August, 1926-
(1) Petroleum and shale, viz. : - Naphtha, benzine, benzoline, gasoline, pentane, petrol, and other petroleum or shale spirit, n.e.i., per gallon - British, 2½d. ; intermediate, 3d.; general, 3d.
Petroleum and shale, viz. : - Naphtha, benzine, benzoline, gasoline, pentane, petrol, and other petroleum or shale spirit, for purposes other than for use in motor-driven vehicles, cycles, tractors, road rollers and similar appliances using public roads, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, per gallon - British,½d. ; intermediate, 1d.; general,1d.
Turpentine substitutes, per gallon - British,½d.; intermediate,1d.; general,1d.”
At this juncture I shall not say any more than that there will be some trouble in the collection of the proposed duties; but if the committee so wills it, they can and will be collected in the form in which I have now submitted them.
.- It would have been more satisfactory to the committee if the Minister had explained how the Trade and Customs Department is to give effect to the discrimination he proposes to make in the collection of these duties. The amendment submitted is on the lines for which we have been contending, but the Minister anticipates some difficulties ingiving effect to it. We should know, in a general way, what the difficulties are.
– And how the department proposes to overcome them?
– Yes. We should know what machinery is to be used to exempt from the tax petrol that will not be used on the roads. It would be of no use for the Minister to come back to us later and say that Parliament had set the department an impossible task. We want to know what the task is. The amendment is intended to meet some of the criticism levied against the original proposal.
– It would never have been submitted except at the point of the bayonet.
– The Government would not have submitted the amendment but for the criticism of the original proposal from various parts of the Chamber. If it can be shown that it is impossible to do justice to those who use petrol for other purposesthan road transport without considerable difficulty and expense in administration, that will, in itself, be a strong argument against the whole proposition. Honorable members want to know whatwill be the difficulties confronting officers of the Trade and Customs Department in administering the amended schedule. It is easy to collect a duty on imports of petrol, but to a layman it seems difficult, however desirable, to separate petrol used on the roads from petrol used for other purposes, and this committee is entitled to know what machinery the department will adopt in order effectively to exempt certain users of petrol, and whether such machinery can be operated without considerable trouble and expense to the department.
– In South Australia, difficulty was experienced in only six or seven cases.
– So far as I can ascertain, the administration of the petrol tax in South Australia has been very effective, but does the Department of Trade and Customs propose to utilize the same machinery, namely, the vendors or distributors of petrol ? That is very different from collecting a duty at the Customs House, and making refunds to those people who use petrol for other than road purposes.
– Many motorists in the country will require a good deal of spirit for creameries and sawmills.
– Yes, and I am afraid same users will require a very active conscience if the revenue is to be protected. .
– As a matter of fact, many people in the country aremotorists as well as users of exempted machines.
– Yes; a man may own a motor car and a tractor. Presumably he will require to state how much petrol he is using for each machine, and his statement will need to be compiled very carefully to ensure that none of the exempted petrol is used for the motor car.
– I, and many other settlers in the Mallee, cut chaff with machinery operated by a motor car.
– If that is so, I am afraid that the consumption of petrol for chaff cutting will increase. This proposal opens wide the door for evasion of the duty. Legislation should be so framed as not to encourage evasion of taxation or fraud. I am opposed to a petrol duty levied for the specific purpose stated by the Government. A tax cannot be imposed on road users equitably and effectively by the methods the Minister is adopting. The Government is making an attempt to meet the objection tothe duty on the ground that it will be inequitable; it has still to meet the charge that it will not be effective. If this impost were declared by the Minister for Trade and Customs to protect Australian industries, I would support it, but there is no pretence that that is its purpose. It is admitted to be merely a revenue duty. The Prime Minister’s criticism of the oil trusts that are wringing profits from the Australian people is beside the question. On many previous occasions the Labour party has drawn attention to the operation of these and other trusts, and not a finger has been lifted to curb their rapacity. If we are to deal with them now let us do it straightforwardly and directly and not by a subterfuge. In any case, the principle of revenue duties is unsound. Nothing is more calculated to bring the policy of protection into disrepute than the imposition of purely revenue duties. As a protectionist, I protest against any policy that piles up the Customs revenue unwarrantably, and shifts the task of revenue raising from direct to indirect taxation. The Treasurer introduced a States Grants Bill to withdraw the per capita payments to the States, and he proposed by way of compensation to abandon to them certain fields of taxation. The net result of this re-arrangement would be, he said, that the States would benefit to the extent of £1,500,000. a year. Then the Government submitted a proposal in connexion with its roads policy to raise £1,500,000 by revenue duties, which would exactly balance the amount it. estimates to lose by the readjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. Wow the Minister for Trade and Customs proposes the abandonment of the duties on motor -chassis and tires, thus surrendering approximately £500,000, but retaining the £990,000 which he expects to receive from the duty on petrol. But the States Grants
Bill is indefinitely postponed. “We shall deal with it no more this session, and after this week the House will not meet again for probably six months. The greater part of the financial year will have expired without effect having been given to the proposals for the withdrawal of the per capita payments and the reduction of Federal taxation. Thus the £1,500,000, less the special payments to “Western Australia and Tasmania, which the Treasurer was so generously surrendering to the States, will be retained by the Commonwealth. If the States Grants Bill is abandoned, as I hope it will be, the Treasurer will have, on his own showing, sufficient money to carry out the modified roads policy without imposing any extra taxation. Therefore, there is no justification for the . revenue duty on petrol. That statement can be disproved only by the Treasurer disavowing the figures in his budget statement. The petrol duty is estimated to yield £990,000, and the payment to the three States which have signed the roads agreement, will be approximately £860,000. Thus the Treasurer will have a surplus, even if there be no increase in the consumption of petrol. But we know that that consumption has increased during the last five years at the rate of more than 30 per cent, per annum; and there is nothing to indicate that it has reached the peak. Therefore, the estimate of £990,000 from the petrol duties, based on present importations, is very low. The present Minister for Trade and Customs is an advocate of protection as a principle and not as an expedient, and he is the last man I expected to propose a revenue duty which would stultify the whole system of Customs taxation. If he were to declare that the duty of 2d. a gallon was a. penalty imposed upon the oil trusts, because of their unjust exactions from the people of Australia, that would be a frank and straightforward proposal which could be examined on its merits. I believe that the Commonwealth has already power, but not sufficient, to deal with monopolies ; the carrying of the referendum proposals will give it a large measure of the . additional authority it requires, and if the Prime Minister, instead of attacking the oil combines in connexion with a roads policy, would use those same arguments in justification of the referenda proposals, the people would cheer his sentiments. But by endeavouring to hit at a monopoly because the companies concerned object to paying a tax for roads construction the Government is drawing public attention from the real issue. I oppose the petrol duty because the money it will yield is not required, and I cannot support it; even as amended, because I fear that the endeavour to discriminate between petrol used on the road and elsewhere will cause confusion in administration. -
.- This bill is the corollary to the one we have just passed; and, as I am completely opposed to the Government’s Federal aid roads scheme, I intend to vote against it. The super tax that it seeks to impose is, in my opinion, entirely unwarranted. I regard the whole scheme as an intrusion by the Commonwealth into a field that belongs entirely to the States. I oppose the measure, also, because I believe that it will . increase the cost of living by increasing the cost of production, and bring odium upon the Government. It is regrettable that it should be said of honorable members who are against the Government’s road construction scheme, that they are opposed to motor users and owners being called upon to contribute to the cost of road-making. It is quite wrong to put us in that position. I believe that if the motor owners were called upon by the States to contribute to a proper scheme of road construction they would willingly do so. We are opposed to this tax because it is not being equitably applied. The only portion of the bill that ‘I favour is that which provides for certain exemptions. I am glad to be able to congratulate the Government upon having given tardy recognition to the equity of the argument submitted by myself and other honorable members that petrol consumers who are nonroad users should not be taxed. The committee is entitled to some explanation by the Minister as to how he proposes to administer this tax. I can conceive of him experiencing a wealth of trouble departmentally, but that will be infinitesimal compared with the trouble that, he will experience at the consumers’ end. A pretty circus will be witnessed there ! I wish the Minister joy in the whole business. I oppose the bill, not because I think the road users should be relieved of the obligation to contribute to the cost of , road construction, but because the scheme of which it is part is inequitable and unworthy. We have no authority to embark on a road construction policy in State- territory. If the Government desires to take up road work, let it do so in the Northern Territory, or in the Federal Capital Territory, where there is plenty of room for it to exert itself legitimately. In regard to the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), on the subject of interstate roads, all I wish to say at the moment is that extreme difficulty will face any authority which sets out to define at what point they become interstate roads. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) need have no fear that the roads and bridges needed in the Federal Capital Territory will not -be constructed. The Government has a perfect right to undertake any work of that kind there, but it has no right to do so in State territory.
– I do not know why this bill should be opposed, except that I suppose it is the fight, in the last ditch, of the twelve or thirteen members who voted against the Federal Aid Roads Bill. As to the administration of the measure, I presume that the Customs Department will provide a form of statutory declaration for signature by users of petrol for other than road purposes. That is what is done in South Australia, and I have heard from my constituents that the arrangement works well. As a matter of fact, the amount of petrol that is consumed in stationary engines, &c, is so small that very few statutory declarations for rebates are received. It is a little late for honorable members to argue that the Commonwealth should not assist the States to construct roads, for it has been doing so with admirable results for the last three years. I do not think for a moment that any of the States which to-day are arguing against the constitutionality of these proposals would dream of handing back the Commonwealth money that they have spent on road work. Personally, I have not the slightest doubt that the good sense of the South Australian people will ultimately be demonstrated, and that behind the smoke-screen of misrepresentation - I think I am entitled to so describe it - we shall find the hard-headed business people there, among whom is a preponderance of Scots, demanding that the Government shall participate in a scheme which will be to the advantage of the State to the extent of £570,000.
.- The honorable member for Angas suggests that the question arises as to whether the States which have participated in the Commonwealth roads scheme, under the provisions of the various main roads development acts that have been passed, but are contesting the constitutionality of this new road policy, should refund the Commonwealth money that has been spent within their borders. My reply is that it has been argued over and over again since these proposals have been before us that there are fundamental differences between this policy and that which has hitherto been in operation. The Commonwealth money needed under the old arrangement was provided from the general revenue collected from the whole of the people; but three-quarters of the amount necessary under this new proposal will be collected from a particular class.
– Who use the roads !
– Not alone from those who use the roads, and therein lies one of my objections to it. The Government is endeavouring to force those who are antagonistic to its road proposals into the position of opposing the construction of good roads in the country ; but I refuse to be placed in that position. I object, not to good roads, but to the method by which the Government is seeking to provide them. The debate on the Federal Aid Roads Bill was surely sufficient to show any impartial person that the Government’s road policy is unfair and inequitable, and strays in important details from the line of equal justice. That is another objection I have to it. Still another is that I object to the imposition of additional Customs duties upon our people. Some little time since, the Minister for Customs comforted a gathering of Sydney manufacturers who were disappointed that they had not been able to pick any plums out of our last fiscal pudding, by telling them that amendments to the. schedule would be introduced from time to time. He is keeping his promise.
– I do not regard this as in any way a fulfilment of that promise.
– The Minister has said that he intends it to be so regarded. He is reported to have said in Sydney that this tax would have a protective incidence.
– But the Prime Minister has said the reverse.
– What the Prime Minister said was that the protectionist effect of this tax would be merely incidental.
– That is a new interpretation of the Prime Minister’s statement. But it is clearly shown that the tax will have a protective effect.
– Is it not all the better for that?
– But what is its purpose? If it is intended to protect an Australian industry, let the Government say so; but, if it is intended to promote the construction of good roads, then let the Government give effect to the intention in some less clumsy way. I regard this taxation as a further instalment of protection under the guise of a national roads policy. For the benefit of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons), who has sneeringly referred to the “ noble thirteen,” I may say that there are some honorable members who have not abandoned that very excellent practice of thinking for themselves, and who, having thought for themselves, are not afraid to cast their votes as they think fit, irrespective of whether they are supporting or opposing the Government. The honorable member might take a leaf out of their book, and do a little independent thinking for himself. The Government has been belaboured because of its proposals, but not more than it deserves. To my mind it has been let down very lightly considering how obnoxious this legislation is to honorable members. I realize the necessity for good roads - few realize it more than I do - but I object to money being raised by further protection under the guise of a roads policy. I think the Minister should tell us how he proposes to exempt the petrol which is not used on roads.
– I cannot quite understand what the Government has in view in dropping the taxes on motor chassis and tires, whilst retaining the full duty of 2d. a gallon on petrol. By dropping the taxes on motor chassis and tires it will not have enough money to take into the scheme those States which have now decided to stand out, should they change their minds and want to come in; yet it will have far too much money to meet the requirements of the three States participating. In the first place it proposes to provide £500,000 out’ of ordinary revenue, and it is estimated that a duty of 2d. a gallon on petrol will bring in a revenue of slightly under £1,000,000, making, in all about £1,500,000, whereas the requirements of Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania will not exceed £850,000. The Government will, therefore, find itself with a surplus of upwards of £500,000 if the other States do not come into the scheme. But if they do decide to come in, they cannot be accommodated if the duties on motor chassis and tires are dropped. Apparently the Government is not hopeful that they will come in - at any rate, it is making no provision for them to do SO - and, in the circumstances, I think that the duty on petrol could very will be reduced to Id. a gallon, which rate should be ample to provide sufficient revenue to meet the requirements of the three States participating in the scheme.
– Several very interesting points have cropped up in this debate. The honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) are particularly anxious to know whether sub-item o (2) can be properly administered. Various honorable members have named some use for petrol other than on roads. Aviation has been mentioned. There will be no difficulty in exercising reasonable Customs supervision over the use of petrol for aviation. It has also been said that a duty on petrol will make a considerable difference to manufacturers. There should be only minor difficulties in exercising Customs supervision over motor spirit used by manufacturers.
– How would it be done?
– By exercising supervision, and by expecting the manufacturer to keep correct books, as he is required to do in connexion with other items in the tariff. Reference has also been made to motor boats and agricultural machinery in which petrol is used. I have consulted the Comptroller-General of Customs, and have put to him the pertinent question that has been put to me by the honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and, I think, also by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). He tells me that the policy to be pursued would not be easy, but could be similar to that which at present operates in regard to many similar provisions in the tariff. Already provision is made for certain goods to be free of duty provided they are used for a specific purpose. The person using the goods is obliged to keep a record of what is used by him, and periodically he makes an application to the department for a refund of duty or for the cancellation of the security he has given, that the goods will be used in such a way as to free them from duty. It is obvious that the Customs Department can control importations for a specific purpose by obtaining security from an importer to ensure that the goods are used for that purpose. An application for a refund of duty in these circumstances must be accompanied by a statutory declaration setting out the facts, justifying either the refund asked for or the cancellation of the security held by the department. For instance, certain piece goods ordinarily dutiable are, after entry through the Customs, used for a certain purpose, and on such use being made of them the user puts in his claim for a refund, supporting it by a statutory declaration. On any suspicious occasion an officer of the department makes an inquiry to see whether the claim is justified. In regard to the matter now under consideration the department will require to be furnished with certain particulars by any person submitting a claim made for a refund of duty. A form will be devised and used for this purpose, and no refund will be made except on the particulars desired by the department being set out. Of course we must use our special officers in regard to these rebates just as we use them in regard to other rebates. It may mean the employment of three or four additional supervising officers to deal with applications for refunds of duty, and although every applicant, particularly if he is f. small user, may not have his claim checked, all large users of petrol will be subject to supervision.We shall provide by regulation for the imposition of a penalty where wrong information is given. Any unusual claim will certainly receive attention. In view of what I have said I think the committee will acknowledge that the Government has given some consideration to the points that have been raised by honorable members. There may be, I admit, small leakages, but on the whole I do not think it will be worth any one’s while to try to defraud the department once its organization is in full operation.
– Would the owner of a farm who has a small electric lighting plant, which supplies the power to run his separator and other machinery, be able to get a rebate without any unnecessary trouble ?
– If this amendment is carried, will it affirm the increased petrol duty as well as the rebate to the farmers ?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The amendment of the honorable the Minister for Trade and Customs covers the duty on petrol as well as the rebate.
– While I am in favour of the exemption as proposed, I am opposed to a petrol duty at all. As the amendment of the Minister was not circulated, we had no opportunity to peruse it, and, consequently, considerable confusion has been created.
– Would it not be desirable to put the amendment first, and then the principal question?
– I was about to make the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). If the amendment is put as a whole, honorable members will find themselves in an unfair position. We agree that the schedule should be amended ; but some of us are opposed to the petrol tax even in its amended form, and, at least, we ought not to be forced into the position of voting against the amendment of the schedule.
– The Government would have no objection to a vote being taken separately on the three sections of the amendment.
– If you, Mr. Chairman, make it clear that we are voting noton the original schedule, but on an amended schedule, there will be no further objection.
– The best way out of the difficulty will be for the amendment to be put to the vote in three portions, and with the consent of the committee I shall do that. The question is -
That paragraph 1 of the amendment be agreed to.
Question - That paragraph 1 of the amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the whole of this item be omitted from the schedule.
This second item of road duties is No. 333 relating to tires. Should the committee agree to the motion no more duties under the item will be collected, and all additional duties on tires and tubes collected will be refunded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the whole of sub-item (D) (4) be omitted from the schedule.
This third item of road duties is No. 359 relating to chassis. This motion, if passed, will automatically re-impose the old duties, and no further duties under this item will be collected on motor chassis, and all additional duties collected will be refunded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pratten and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pratten, and passed through all its stages . without amendment or debate.
The following bills were returned by the Senate without amendment or request.
Canned Fruits Export Control Bill.
Canned Fruit Export Charges Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropria tion Bill.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from the 5th August, vide page 4984) :
Proposed vote, £130,265, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £290,000, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,800,000.
.- I wish to refer to the Victoria Barracks, Sydney. For a number ofyears the citizens in the eastern suburbs of Sydney have endeavoured to have the Victoria Barracks removed from its existing site. The military authorities have always opposed the proposal, ‘and at present a great deal of dissatisfaction exists amongst those living in that locality. The barracks is one of the most unsightly buildings in Aus tralia. It is occupying a very valuable site of 40½ acres, which if the barracks were demolished, could be utilized for better and more profitable purposes. This land was transferred to the Commonwealth Government at federation, and in the agreement of transfer provision was made for the payment of interest. The interest payment on that land amounts to £8,000 per annum, and since federation totals £200,000. I believe the barracks accommodate 25 to 30 soldiers, and there is a sentry on guard in a pigeon-box near the gate. The building was built by convict labour; it has stone walls round it as though it were a jail, and, in view of its appearance, it might well have been transferred from the Port Arthur convict settlement. The citizens of Sydney are determined that these unsightly buildings shall be removed and the land handed back to the State in order that it may be used to relieve the congestion of Sydney. When I have previously spoken of the unsuitability of this property for military purposes, the Prime Minister has concluded that, as a member for the district, I was stretching my imagination, but he changed his mind when he visited the place. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) can bear out everything I have said concerning it. The department suggests the surrender of the Oxford-street frontage and the retention of the other part of the property, but that would be merely playing with the matter. . The people of Sydney seem to have come to the conclusion that this matter, which has now been under consideration for ten or fifteen years, will not be settled until there is a change of Government. At Liverpool, the Defence Department holds hundreds of acres of land very suitable for military purposes. It was the home of the soldiers prior to their departure for the Great War, and there is there a number of buildings totally unsuited for the work of the department. I find the officers of this department the most stupid and blundering lot of people I have to deal with. They seem to have made up their minds that nothing will prevent them from keeping this block of land, which is urgently required for the expansion of the City of Sydney. I again enter my protest against the retention of this property by the Defence
Department. No other course is left open to me, as the people whom I represent are determined upon having these unsightly buildings removed.
It is probable that I shall startle honorable members by my references to the next item with which I propose to deal; I refer to the Royal Naval College at Jervis Bay. I propose to deal with its cost and upkeep, and the principles upon which the college is conducted. The capital cost of the building at Jervis Bay was £286,273. The college was established for the purpose of training boys to become midshipmen for the Australian Navy. Boys are received at the college at the tender age of thirteen years. I am certain that, if I had had a son thirteen years of age, and wished him to enter the Navy, his toother would never have allowed him to be removed from -her care and attention at such an age, to be trained as a naval officer. The principles upon which the establishment is conducted were probably laid down when Julius Caesar was alive, or not later than the days of Lord Nelson. Our ideas of the proper method of training boys to become good citizens have, since that time, materially changed. The purpose in adoping such methods of education is to create class distinctions in the Navy, and to ensure that no officer shall in any way be connected with the under section. The boys are trained to believe that those who do not belong to a particular circle are unworthy of any consideration. For the years 1912-13 to 1923-24, the Jervis Bay establishment cost the Commonwealth £633,526; for the year 1925-26, the cost was £62,000, and the estimated cost for 1926-27 is also £62,000, or a total, since” 1912, of £757,520. Up to 1924, the number of boys entering the college was 285; of these 127 were serving in 1924, and to this number 10 were added between 1924 and 1926, making a total of 137. The boys are trained at the college from thirteen years of age to seventeen years of age, before they become midshipmen. The cost of training each of these boys to become a midshipman amounted to £5,675 per annum. Twelve boys, last year, cost the country £5,165 each; so that the training of each of these boys, from thirteen years of age to seventeen years of age, to become a midshipman, costs £20,770.
– If one of them turns out to be a Nelson, he will be cheap at the money.
– The honorable member is including the capital cost of the college in his calculations.
– No. Five per cent, of the capital cost would amount to £11,303, which could be added, and I have not included that in my calculation of the cost of producing a midshipman. In my opinion, it is cruel to take a boy away from his mother, brothers and sisters at thirteen years of age, and deprive him of the early home training and surroundings which should go to fit him for after life. In Germany, and other continental countries, and in America, it is not thought right that boys should be removed from the care of their mothers until they are at least sixteen years of age. I know that, although I was but a mechanic, I kept my children with me as long as 1 could, because my heart and soul was in making them good men and women. No boy is able at thirteen years of age to determine the vocation for which he is fitted. A much sounder system would be to educate the boys at the public schools and high Schools until they were sixteen years of age. By that time, they would be more fitted to judge whether they would like to go to sea. Alternatively, the boys might be trained on the Tingira, and those of a studious nature who were likely to qualify for appointment as officers,, could be sent on to Jervis Bay for a technical course extending over, say, two years. The graduates of the college are merely midshipmen, and must serve for four years at sea before they attain the rank of sub-lieutenant. There is not much of a career in the Australian Navy for our boys, because all the higher positions are given to officers from the British Navy. I do not wonder that the navy does not attract the Australian boy; he will not be bound down to a life that keeps him under strict discipline and out of touch with the world. It costs this country £4,152 a year to teach twelve boys at the College what could be taught in any ordinary high school. The results do not justify this expenditure. The present system is unsuitable to Australian conditions. I am entirely opposed to the maintenance of class distinctions between the officers and those who do the actual work on a warship. A naval officer should be approachable and affable to the men under him. I remember singing, when a boy, a ditty which included the sentiment that we cannot all be officers in the battle of life; some must be sailors. In the Australian Navy every man cannot be an officer, but there is no justification for the introduction of a class bias that is so evident in the navies of older and less democratic countries. In Nelson’s time, the first thing a cadet saw when he went on board a ship was the cat-o’-nine tails hanging above the cabin door. The fact that of 285 boys entered up to 1924, only 127 completed their course of training indicates that they either left the college of their own volition, or were withdrawn because their parents realized that the life was not suitable for them. Do honorable members know that the boys, of Jervis Bay get no training at sea ? Their only knowledge of ships is what they gain from viewing passing vessels through a telescope. The result is that when they graduate, they are still land-lubbers, and are not even proof against sea-sickness.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- If there is one thing of which we Australians may justly be proud, it is the results we have obtained from the Military College at Duntroon, and the Naval College at Jervis Bay. The graduates from Jervis Bay have more than held their own in competitive examinations in special subjects in England. Admittedly the cost of £1,200 for the training of one student at the Naval College is very high, but the number of boys there is very limited, and the overhead charges per student are consequently heavy. Welltrained officers for the army and the navy are essential to any defence scheme. The Duntroon graduates are superior to those of Sandhurst, and if one of them joins the British Army, he immediately takes two years’ seniority of graduates from Sandhurst, and other English military academies. That fact speaks for itself. The honorable member for East Sydney referred to the high capital cost of the Jervis Bay establishment, but we have a college that is worthy of Australia, and. we have no reason to regret the expenditure upon the training of officers for the naval and military forces. The hon- orable member’s statement that the Jervis Bay. students get no sea training is incorrect. Annually the Fleet goes to Jervis Bay for manoeuvres, and the cadets join the ships, and have a certain period at sea each year.
There is one matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Defence. - Some time ago the Public Accounts Committee submitted a report in regard to cottages for the civilian staff. When the college was established, cottages which were intended to be temporary were built, but they have been continuously in use, and are a disgrace to the institution. When I was Minister for Defence, an amount was put on the Estimates for the building of the first instalment of cottages to take the place of the old huts and tenements. The intention at that time was to continue the erection of new cottages’ until five or six were completed, but I understand that only two or three have so far been erected, and apparently no provision is made in these Estimates for the work to be continued. The old cottages should be pulled down, and the civilians resident at the college given decent housing.
I regret that, apparently, our five-year developmental programme in the Defence Department has almost entirely gone by the board - at the present rate of progress it will take eight years to complete. The reason for that is partly that money to meet the increase in the ordinary expenditure of the department is being taken from the £1,000,000 which was intended purely for developmental purposes. The various activities of the department are involving an increased expenditure, and instead of money being voted for it in the ordinary departmental estimates, this expenditure is being met out of the special vote, which is intended to be applied to the services included in the five years’ programme.
The work on the naval side is being carried out more effectively than in other arms of the service. The construction of the new cruisers, submarines, seaplane carrier, and floating dock is being proceeded with, but I was hoping for some indication from the Government that, in the near future, steps would be taken to build another cruiser. The Brisbane and the Adelaide are obsolescent, and in a few years will be quite obsolete. We should not wait until then to take steps to replace them, but should have sufficient foresight to prepare for the contingency. We should, without delay, take the preliminary steps to replace the Brisbane. Our Navy must necessarily be small, but it should be maintained as efficiently as possible. I believe that the Adelaide has been converted to oil burning, but the Brisbane is still consuming coal. We should replace both these vessels.
I regret that so much delay has occurred in constructing the five oil tanks at Darwin. The original scheme provided for the construction of one tank each year, and that in the second, third, fourth and fifth year a tank was to be filled. At the present rate of progress we cannot anticipate that at the end of the five year period there will be five tanks at Darwin, four of which will be filled each with 8,000 tons of oil, for we are now in the third year of the programme and only one tank has been constructed, and that has not been filled. I believe that provision is being made in these Estimates for it to be filled. At our present rate of progress we shall have nothing like the oil reserve on the north coast of Australia at the end of the five year period that was anticipated.
Our expenditure on the military arm of the service has been not nearly sufficient to provide all that was intended. The programme aimed at our having at the end of the five year period, five divisions, properly equipped and armed and able to take the field. I understand that anything from £250,000 to £500,000- it is difficult to tell from the figures exactly what the amount is - is being spent annually in providing the munitions of war ; but so far as I have been able to ascertain we have not yet made any provision for tanks, nor anti-aircraft guns, both of which are absolutely essential in modern warfare. We must face providing such requisites as these. At our present rate of progress our munitions at the end of the five year period will be quite inadequate for five divisions. On this side of our defence programme it appears to be quite certain, that the five year programme will take at least eight years to fulfil.
Regrettable delay has also occurred in giving effect to our Air Force programme. It was expected that the aerodrome at
Richmond, New South Wales, would be completed within five years, but I have given up any hope of that. Two and a half years have passed since the work was approved, and the only thing that has been done to take this first step in enlarging our Air Force for the defence of the Commonwealth has been to put in the foundations of the buildings. The structure cannot ‘be completed, I think, before 1930. It was proposed that a seaplane base should be established on Sydney Harbour, which would make possible a measure of co-operation between the naval forces and air forces of the Commonwealth. Originally it was suggested that a hangar for seaplanes should be established at Rushcutters’ Bay, but the aristocrats in that locality were disturbed at the possibility of the project being approved, and took steps to have the hangar transferred to Botany Bay or the Hawkesbury River. Evidently they feared that their 8 o’clock snooze would be disturbed by the seaplanes. In all seriousness, however, I trust that something will speedily be done to give effect to the proposal. If Rushcutters’ Bay is the only suitable place for establishing the hangar, the protests of the residents in that vicinity should be disregarded in the interests of the defence of Sydney.
The only work that seems to be progressing at anything like a satisfactory rate, and even that is not up to schedule, is that being done by the Munitions Department. Its operations are confidential, and its proposals need not be referred to the Public Works Committ.ee for approval ; but reasonable progress is being made.
The solution of the whole problem that is raised by the delay in carrying out our five-year programme is undoubtedly in providing additional money to meet the ordinary expenses of the Defence Department. There is no doubt whatever that if the department’s efficiency is to be maintained the ordinary vote must be increased. An attempt. has been made to confine ordinary outlay to the amount expended in 1922-23, and to provide £1,000,000 annually for additional works ; but that policy has proved to be quite unsatisfactory. With every additional service provided, the annual expenditure has been increased. As an example, we may take the 10,000-ton cruisers.
It stands to reason that as these new cruisers that the being constructed to replace the Sydney and Melbourne will require more men than the old ones, and that this must be reckoned as part of the ordinary expenditure of the department, we must provide more money for the purpose. We hope to see these vessels manned by Australian ratings, and we must make sufficient provision for that. The additional amount necessary should not be taken from the £1,000,000, which was intended to give effect to the five-year policy.
I have been astonished and rather alarmed by the suggestion that the department should discontinue training boys for our Navy on the Tingira or elsewhere. If we discontinue this training, we shall commit a fatal error in our naval administration. Men need to be trained for the Navy just as officers need to be trained for it, and if we are to maintain the traditions of our own Navy, to say nothing of those of the British Navy, we must, either on the Tingira or at Geelong, have a training establishment for boys. I disagree with the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) in this connexion. No difficulty has been experienced in securing boys for Jervis Bay. On the other hand, there are between 200 and 300 applications every year for the eighteen vacancies that occur. I admit that in the old days when we sent our boys to England to be trained, it was a serious thing to take a lad from his home at thirteen years of age and send him to a British college for four, five or six years; but the boys at Jervis Bay are no more away from their homes than they would be if they were at a boarding school. So that they may go to their homes during their vacations the Commonwealth Government pays their fares, whether it be to north Queensland or Western Australia. . No boarding school does that for its students.
– Are not some of these naval students on board ship at sea all the time?
– No; they are trained in the college at Jervis Bay, but they get a certain amount of training on board ship when the fleet goes to Jervis Bay for its annual manoeuvres. At the end of four years, they go to England and serve two years as midshipmen in the Royal Navy. Having served as midship men for the full period they become sublieutenants, and they rise by seniority until they become lieutenant commanders, after which ‘ promotion is by merit only.. Our Naval College, and in fact our navalservice, should become more popular now that an arrangement has been made for the interchange of officers between the Royal’ Navy and the Australian Navy. The Australian Fleet is now treated for this purpose as part of the Royal Navy, so that an officer - of the Australian Navy who has the. ability to do so may rise to the highest command in the Royal Navy, and is nolonger confined to the few positions that, are offering in the Australian naval forces.
– Do the other ratings go to sea when they are young?
– They do not go to sea young. They are about eighteen yean old when they finish their training on the Tingira.
I rose to emphasize the necessity for increasing the amount allotted to the ordinary expenditure of the department, without which we cannot have an adequate defence system for Australia. I regret that the five years’ programme which was to have been Australia’s minimum defence effort cannot be completed under, at any rate’, eight years. I regret that no provision has been made for the replacement of the other two cruisers which are becoming obsolete. To carry out these undertakings would, of course, necessitate a considerable increase in the defence cost, but that is essential in the interests of Australia The primary duty of the’ Commonwealth is to provide for the adequate defence of Australia. I trust that the Minister will see that when the next Estimates are .being prepared an increased amount is allotted for this ordinary expenditure of the department, and I hope that the Treasurer will not tie him down to the. amount on this year’s Estimates. A line which constantly occurs in the Estimates is “ estimated not to be expended during the year.” That is a practice that should be discontinued. Parliament votes a specific sum of money for specific items, which it believes will be expended by the departments, and although the Treasurer may say that in the ordinary course of events the full amount cannot be expended, as soon as the Appropriation Act is passed, the Minister controlling the department is asked where he proposes to cut down his expenditure by the £200,000 or whatever the amount may be that he is not expected to spend during the year. Estimates are constantly cut down in that way, and I think it is a very undesirable practice. When Parliament agrees to estimates of expenditure it should know exactly what it is voting, and the amount voted should stand to the credit of the departments for expenditure during the current year.
.- In July last, H.M.A.S. Marguerite visited Launceston, and took away 90 boys for the usual annual training, and if the Minister for Defence had been in Launceston at that time he would have heard some very nasty remarks about the methods of the Naval Department. Most of the trouble that occurred then could have been avoided. It should not be necessary to take boys from, a place like Launceston for training at sea in the depth of winter. The parents of the lads are not anxious that they should dodge the naval training which they know has to be done. As a matter of fact, they are desirous of helping the Department as much as possible, but their recent experience has had the effect of curing quite a number of lads of the desire to become naval officers, or, of joining the Navy. If those who are in charge of the arrangements would choose a. warmer time of the year for the annual training of the Tas.manian boys, they would do something to make a naval career more attractive’ to these boys than it is likely to be if they are trained during the rough weather usually experienced in July. Owing to the roughness of the weather the Marguerite could not leave the Tamar for several days, and when she eventually cleared the heads, and made for Geelong, the people of Launceston had no notification of her arrival in Port Phillip. One gentleman a few days after the departure of the Marguerite saw in the Melbourne press a notification of the vessel’s arrival at Geelong ; but I am assured that 90 families in Launceston were considerably worried because no notification of the fact was given to the Launceston newspapers. They were all the more anxious because it was rumoured that the Marguerite was not seaworthy. I pay no attention to that rumour because I have sufficient confidence in the Navy Department to believe that it would not send out a vessel if there was the slightest risk that she might be unseaworthy, but the fear of the parents of these boys was that the Marguerite was unseaworthy, and that it was a serious matter to take her out in such rough weather. It caused them no end of worry. I am also informed that there was only one bath available for the 90 boys undergoing training, and the members of the crew, and that there were four bathrooms available for twelve officers. If that be true - I think some alteration should be made to give these lads a little more comfort than they are now able to get. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) was anxious to learn the motto “of the Navy. If the things that I speak of are true I suggest that its motto must be. “ Catch ‘em young and treat ‘em rough.” If one is anxious to ascertain the itinerary of the Australian Fleet one has only to look at the programme of race carnivals in the various States. On a number of occasions the request has been made that one of the vessels of the fleet should visit Launceston at the time of the annual regatta. It is my firm belief that wherever it is possible to take a war vessel in Australian waters it should be taken, but, year after year, Launceston has been put off on the ground that February is an unsuitable month for a visit to the Tamar River. The usual excuse is that gunnery practice must be carried out. It is remarkable, however, that the whole fleet can stay at Hobart for the racing carnival and regatta. Whenever vessels can safely go up a river like the Tamar to Launceston - not the big cruisers, but the gun-boats - they should pay a visit at least once a year. Other places like Devonport and Burnie should also receive visits. I hope that the Minister will take my rer marks as an early intimation that Launceston would like a war vessel at its annual regatta next February, and I trust that he will see that the visit is made.
.- I spoke at great length in the Chamber the other day on the proposed abandonment of the training ship Tingira, and I wish again to place on record my opinion that this will be an absolute tragedy if the establishment of a naval training school at Geelong is not taken in hand. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has very wisely asked, by interjection, how high a man on the lower deck can reach. He must be caught young. At present lads go into the Tingira at fourteen or fifteen years of age, whereas the new proposal is to recruit them and send them to Flinders for training at seventeen years of age. There is a big gap to be covered in some way. By the abolition of the Tingira course of training there will be no more cadetships to Jervis Bay for Tingira boys. A democratic principle for which this House stands is that opportunity should be given to those in the lower ranks of the service to rise to the highest commands; but there will be no more Tingira-trained lads to become officers. At present, a Tingira boy can rise to be a leading seaman, petty officer, mate, lieutenantcommander, captain, and admiral. That advancement is open to any seaman who obtains the commissioned rank of mate before reaching the age of 25 years. The Minister, in reply to me, said that in 1928, if necessary, boys might be trained at Geelong; but what will happen during the next three years? There will be a gap of three years in the training, during which the commissioned ranks will not be filled. The men who will be promoted will not enter at fourteen, but at seventeen, eighteen, or perhaps nineteen years of age. How will our .naval ratings trained under a scheme which has in it a gap of three years, compete with British naval ratings? They will be at a great disadvantage, which they will feel when our ships or men are exchanged for ships or men of the Royal Navy. I know that the Minister is not to blame. The rejection of the proposal to establish a training school at Geelong was against the wishes of the Minister’s advisers. The Treasurer came down with an axe and said, “ I will not give you the establishment “ ; but the Treasurer is not a naval or military man, and his thoughts do not run in that direction. We are spending £7,500,000 on new ships, but we shall have a deficiency of men for them. I desire to put on record my emphatic protest against the policy adopted. When the Minister reaches London he will discover that the Admiralty disapproves of what has been done. England, notwithstanding the economies she has had to make in naval expenditure, has not altered her training scheme, except to bring her training schools from the sea to the shore - a change which is better for every one concerned. Australia, on the other hand, is spending £7,500,000 on new ships, and cutting down expenditure where it should not do so - in the training of men. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) referred to boys - “children,” he called them - at Jervis Bay being put in their baths. I have a “ baby boy “ who is a cadet midshipman at Jervis Bay. He is fourteen years of age, 5 ft, 11£ in. in height, and is no child. Most of the cadets are not children. In all these matters, we must take the advice of men who have given their lives to the business. I would rather follow men like Nelson, whose words have come down to us, Rodney, aud men of the present generation like Beatty, Jellicoe, and Madden, than the honorable member for East Sydney. The dictum in the Navy is “ Catch them young.” A Navy man must have a highly technical training. One slip by the officer in charge on the bridge might send hundreds or thousands of men to the bottom of the sca. As the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) pointed out, no hardship is inflicted on the boys. They have a fortnight’s holiday periodically, and six weeks’ holiday at Christmas. The other day they were given two days off to see a football match. The officers, as well as the men, must have proper training.
I am greatly concerned about another matter, which I have already brought under the notice of the Minister. It is futile to mention it now, but I must place my protest on record. Certain officers up to the rank of captain in the Navy have received notice of retirement. I am not concerned about the reasons for their retirement, for I assume that there must have been some reasons; but I am concerned about the fate of the men. They will be retired next year at an age younger than mine, while they are still physically active. They will have their naval training, plus deferred pay, which, in some cases, will amount to £1,500; but they will be quite unfit for any ordinary occupation. It is not right to throw them out without giving them a gratuity, pension, or bonus.
– They have deferred pay saved out of their salary.
– Every one knows what the salary of a naval officer is. No man can put. 1118 boy into the Navy unless he is prepared to augment his pay out of his own pocket. The practice in the Royal Navy is to give a pension of a little over £300 a year to officers who are retired. I understand that naval authorities in Australia favour the payment of pensions, but their proposal has been rejected. I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter. Why should we not follow the lead of the Royal Navy? Not many men are being retired, and therewill not be any more in the future. Boys trained at Jervis Bay will step up and take the vacant positions. The remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney were ridiculous. He seems not to be aware of the fact that boys from Jervis Bay College have topped the list in competition with those from the Royal Navy itself. In one year boys from that college were first, second, and third on the list. Admiral Sir George Hope, president of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, who was in charge of the Queen Elizabeth at the Dardanelles, told me that our boys were second to none. We ought to be proud of that college, instead of condemning it and besmirching its reputation.
I, and I think other honorable members on this side, read with regret in today’s newspapers that our esteemed friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has had an unpleasant experience at a packed conference in Sydney, for which a man “named “ Jock “ Garden was largely responsible. This man is no friend of the people of Australia. I have warned the House before that the man Garden is secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney, to which the shipbuilding unions belong, and that we are, therefore, building our’ seaplane carrier under his direction. I object to that arrangement. The Leader of the Opposition has had a taste of what “ Jock “ Garden can do. We know his views on this and other important questions affecting the welfare of this country. He told us before- of the election of the number of delegates to the Trade and Labour Council, and of his power over them. I trust that some honorable members of the Opposition will join me in my protest, and perhaps the events at the recent conference in Sydney will induce them do so.
Can the Minister state what it is proposed to do in the direction of providing new flying machines at Point Cook, The reconditioned machines at Point Cook are about worn out, and they must be replaced if we are to keep the establishment up to date. Aeroplanes cost a lot of money, and I see no provision in the Estimates for them. The Minister will have an excellent opportunity when he goes to England to ascertain the views of the authorities there. I am delighted that he is going, for a far-seeing man like him, when he comes into contact with the naval, military, and air force experts of Great Britain, will become even better fitted for the position he occupies. For that reason alone Australia will benefit by his visit.
In other matters I am generally satisfied with the provision that is being made for defence. Our naval and air programmes are good, apart from the neglect of training, which is almost a tragedy. We are building up units at sea and in the air that can at any time join up with the forces of the Motherland. That, in fact, is all that we can hope to achieve. The Minister has said more than once that if we were to spend £50,000,000 a year on the defence of Australia, it would, by itself, achieve nothing. All we can do is to provide an adequate, efficient force in the air and on the sea to join up with the Imperial naval and air forces in case of necessity. We cannot, with our financial limitations, do more than that. In that respect I congratulate the Minister, and ask him again to reconsider the matters I have mentioned, particularly that of the payment of an honorarium or pension to the officers who are being retired.
– A few days ago I asked the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) a question relating to Jervis Bay College. I did not ask it because I had any personal knowledge of the facts. My visits to that centre were made before I was connected with the Federal Parliament, when I was, not very observant of its conditions. Persons living in the neighbourhood have asked me questions concerning matters raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). It is stated that the Government has provided an excellent college that is not availed of to any great extent: that the college is capable of training three times the number of cadets that are there; and that for every cadet there seems to be Wo officers. Judging by the answer given to me by the Minister the other day, those statements are not true. I should like the Minister to repeat his answer, and to give more details about the- college, so that when I meet my constituents again, I shall be a little more enlightened regarding this sphere of Commonwealth activities. It is said that the shortage of cadets is accounted for by the high standard set at the entrance examination, which makes it impossible for more than a small percentage of the boys who sit for the examinatino to pass it. I should like to hear the Minister contradict that statement. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West”) instanced the cost of training cadets at Jervis Bay College, but it is quite possible that his figures are excessive.
– My figures are based on an examination by the Public Accounts Committee.
– We have no opportnity of comparing the cost of that establishment with that of others elsewhere. I hope that the Minister, on this occasion, will not dismiss my query as he did the other day by saying that the number of cadets in training at Jervis Bay College was quite sufficient for our naval purposes, because that answer does not enable me to place the true position before those who approached me on the matter. Jervis Bay is within the boundaries of my electorate, but the residents there, as at Canberra, have not a vote. I am informed that when the cadets visit the neighbouring towns their conduct causes favourable comment among the residents. At one time it was suggested that the Duntroon Military College and the Jervis Bay Naval College should be amalgamated.
– The Public Accounts Committee reported against that.
– I regret that the naval college is not being put to its full use. The connexion of the Jervis Bay institution with Duntroon by rail way has been referred to. I believe that the proposal was mooted at the time the Commonwealth took over, the Federal Territory, and that, for this purpose, a stretch of land was made available for resumption. I do not know whether there is any likelihood of that connexion being made, although I believe that a survey of the route has been made.
– It is not likely, considering that the stretch of country in question comprises SO miles of very difficult country-
– I should like to know how far the project has developed. It is possible that once the capital is established, consideration will be given to the construction of such a railway to the coast. I ask the Minister to give the committee the true position regarding the Jervis Bay Naval College.
– I intend to confine by remarks to expenditure on military defence. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said that apart from the Government’s action regarding the Tingira, all was well with the naval and air forces; but he did not say as much for the army. Personally, I am doubtful whether all is well with the army. A few weeks ago, during the general debate on the budget, I referred to the report of the InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces (Sir Harry Chauvel) tabled in this House. It states definitely that it is not possible with funds now available to place the Australian Army in a reasonable state of preparedness. At that time I appealed to the Government to do everything in its power to carry out the military defence policy of 1924, which provided for the maintenance of nucleus divisional formations, for the training of the necessary officers and noncommissioned officers, and for an adequate supply of munitions to enable the army, if necessary, to take the field. Sir Harry Chauvel’s report discloses that sufficient funds have not been made available to enable us to carry out that very modest programme. The present position should not be allowed to continue. That report also showed that our citizen forces were not receiving sufficient encouragement. This country is, and always will be, entirely dependent on a citizen army. The record of the Australian Imperial Force during the war stands as a lasting tribute to the old citizen forces. I regret that our present citizen forces are receiving scant encouragement. I do not blame the Minister for this, because, as the honorable member for Wentworth has said, it is really a matter of ‘ whether funds are available. It seems to me that thu first duty of the National Government, irrespective of the fact that we are a peace-loving people, is to make adequate provision for defence by giving effect to the modest programme of land defence that I have referred to. I understand that this year’s Estimates do not provide for an increased vote for this purpose, and, therefore, the situation today is exactly as it was when Sir Harry Chauvel made his report. I shall be satisfied if the Minister assures me that the Government fully recognizes the need for carrying out the modest military programme of 1924. because, by giving effect to it, we shall greatly encourage the citizen forces of this country, and ‘ give the people of the Commonwealth the assurance that we recognize our first great obligation to be the provision of national defence.
I am sorry that the Minister is hot able to outline certain proposed extensions of the existing air services and routes. These, I understand, are under consideration but not sufficiently far advanced to permit of a definite statement. I sincerely trust that the Minister wl1 make the intentions of the Government known as early as possible.
.- I should like the Minister to make a definite and favorable announcement regarding the establishment of an aerial service between Derby and Wyndham, a total distance of 472 miles. In 1923, FlightLieutenant Cobby, in the interests of the department^ flew over the proposed route. Representations were first made in this matter in 1921. Some time ago, Colonel Brinsmead, the Director of Civil Aviation, determined to make inquiries, and, to that end, flew over the route. He subsequently submitted estimates of costs far in excess of those of Flight-Lieutenant Cobby. Colonel Brinsmead’s estimate, in February, 1925, comprised a subsidy of £9,820 per annum, and an expenditure of £3,200 for the provision of landing grounds. Since that estimate was made, more efficient aeroplanes have been brought into use, and I am reliably informed that the placing of £5,000 on the Estimates would go a long way towards providing this service. Colonel Brinsmead recommended an aerial service between Derby and Wyndham, on these three grounds -
This route would serve the Kimberley district, which is now beyond the ken of the Minister for Defence or, indeed, of the Commonwealth Government itself. As I have often stated, the Malay boats denude the north-west of its pearl shell, and carry on trepang fishing without let or hindrance so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. We have been informed by many military authorities that Australia is menaced from the north, and I contend that the defence of the north-west Or Kimberley coast, which is now unguarded, would, in the event of war, depend largely upon the air force. Therefore, from a strategic point of view, the establishment of an aerial route from Derby to Wyndham, is a vital necessity. At present, the Kim’berley district receives a mail once every two months, although, at certain times of the year, the service is uncertain. An aerial service would be of great benefit to that district, and, had one been in existence in the past, many lives would have been saved by the fact that medical attention would have been more readily available. The Minister is shortly to leave for the Old Country, and I wish him God-speed, but before he departs; I trust that he will adopt the boyscouts’ motto of doing one good deed a day, and make his good deed of to-day thegiving of the assurance to this committee that this aerial service will be established in the near future.
Sitting suspended, from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- Speaking on the Defence Estimates this afternoon, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) stated that it was reported that H.M.A.S. Marguerite is in an unseaworthy condition. I happen to know something about this ship. I have a brother-in-law aboard the sloop, and because of a matter which is both private and personal, and which I should not be justified in mentioning in this Chamber, I know for a fact that the Marguerite i3 not unseaworthy. I have risen because the parents of my brother-in-law are both enjoying the evening of their lives in one of the suburbs of Adelaide. Neither is in the very best state of health, and the appearance in the Adelaide newspapers to-morrow morning of the statement that the vessel on which their only surviving son lives most of his time is in an unseaworthy condition might lead to fatal results. As there may be included in the complement of the ship many others who have aged relatives not in the best of health, I consider it right that I should enter my protest against the publication of such a statement. I ask the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) to supplement my statement, and give the country the assurance that H.M.A.S. Marguerite is perfectly seaworthy, and that the lives of those serving on the vessel are in no way endangered.
– I have only a few words to say on the Defence estimates. I should like to mention first of all that I consider that- the Inspector-General’s report was, in a sense, alarming. It showed that as the man supposed to have his finger on the pulse of the military department he considers that the service is being starved. I quite agree with him. I have found that to be the case so far as the First Australian Division, which I have the honour to command, is concerned. I can assure the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) that we have not enough money to carry out sufficient training for the cavalry arm of the service, which is the chief arm, especially in a country like Australia, with its wide spaces. If ever it became necessary to defend Australia against an enemy that had secured a landing in this country, it is to the mobile forces, the light horse and the cavalry that we should have to look for our defence. It is criminal that the service should be starved to such an extent that we are unable to give these forces sufficient training. I rise to make a suggestion to the Minister which I have made several times before. I am very keen on the training of our cavalry soldiers. If the Minister will- permit the twelve days’ training, which it is incumbent upon our men to have at the present time - eight days in camp and four days divided into half-day parades - to be combined and allow the men to put in the time in one continuous camp of training, that would increase the efficiency by 50 per cent, and decrease the expense by 50 per cent. I have had 25 years’ experience of the training of the cavalry arm of the service, and I say that the half-day parades are a farce. I have often been disgusted and disheartened when a troop of 20 or 30 men has been notified that a certain afternoon is set aside for a half-day parade to find that only seven or eight have turned up for training. What on earth can one do with seven or eight mounted men? You give them “ Sections right “ and “ Sections left,” and that is all you can do. It is an absolute farce. A man rides a good horse 15, 20, or 30 miles to attend a half-day parade, and, finding that no one has turned up, rides back to where he came from. I am making my suggestion as applying to the cavalry arm only. I have mentioned the matter to military authorities associated with the compulsory training for other, arms of the service, and they feel that, with only one camp a year, the trainees might lose touch with their work. The members of the cavalry force are militia men, and provide their own horses, and they could, with advantage, attend a continuous twelve days’ training in camp. Another difficulty is that, under existing conditions, we get only a regimental camp, and there is no means of training officers of the higher ranks who require training as well as the men. We have no training for brigadiers or divisional commanders. If we had brigade camps in the city centres, to which men could be brought once a year and given the full twelve days’ training continuously, we should increase efficiency and reduce expense.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer, and I shall do so now, as it arises under the Department of Health, over which the same Minister presides.
– The honorable member will not be in order in referring now to a matter connected with the Health Department.
– Then, I shall reserve what I have to say regarding the quarantine station at M’anly until the estimates of the Health Department are before the committee. In the meantime, I ask the Minister to put on his considering cap and be ready for some pertinent things I have to say to him concerning his refusal to take any notice of my repeated requests to have that quarantine station removed. I shall have something to say also about the man Cumpston, who is at the head of the Health Department, and who never can be got to agree to anything.
– The honorable member must not disobey my ruling.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, and will deal with this matter when we come to the Health Department’s estimates. ‘ I should like to know whether, since yesterday, the Minister for Defence has given any consideration to the question I asked him .concerning the veterans’ association. It is a scandal that men, some of whom have served as soldiers for 48 years, should be turned out of the service in a condition of absolute penury. These men could save nothing from the wages they earned during the time they were in the service, and through the accident of dates they have been deprived of any benefits under the superannuation scheme or the scheme under which other men were given, on retirement from the service, one month’s pay for every year of service. I understand that the Minister has taken this matter to the Cabinet more than once, and that the Cabinet has turned down the request for consideration for these old soldiers. I now ask that the Cabinet may yet see its way to do something for these poor old fellows. I know of some very hard cases amongst these men who served the country well and faithfully. It is not fair that the country should now say to them, “ You shift for yourselves.” Some of these old soldiers are having a very hard time, and I again ask the Minister to see whether something cannot be done for them.
– I have been unable to find in the budget papers any statement of the operations of the various factories associated with the Defence Department. I know that very good work was being done at the acetate of lime factory in Brisbane. At that factory, power alcohol was being extracted from molasses. Is it a fact that the Government has ceased operations at that factory? If it is, the committee would be interested to know the reason. Only a year or two ago, we were boasting in this House that, whilst we had established some of the munition factories on what was described as a nucleus basis, the acetate of lime factory was being run in a business fashion, and the post office and other Government departments were being supplied by that factory with power alcohol, which, mixed with Broken Hill benzol and some other liquid, made a very satisfactory motor spirit. One reason given for the production of power alcohol at the acetate of lime factory was that it enabled the staff to be kept together, and the machinery to be kept in order. Possibly the reason why the Government has ceased operations for the manufacture of power alcohol at this factory is that some of the sugar mills of Queensland, in conjunction with the big distillery company that is going to undertake the manufacture of power alcohol in that State, have decided that their molasses is required by the distillery company. The small arms factory at Lithgow is not only manufacturing rifles and other implements of war, but has done a considerable amount of work for private firms. Some of the engineering experts were able to do work for private enterprise that could not be done in any other factory in the Commonwealth, and in that way the Lithgow establishment has proved a valuable adjunct to Australian industries. I should like the Minister to- tell the committee whether there has been any limitation of those activities. The clothing factory is one of the few retained by this Government. We hear very little about it, but according to the latest ‘figures I have seen it is making uniforms for the naval, military and air forces, and the postal department, and is making a handsome profit every year.
– Is there a private buyer for the factory yet?
– I do not know. If there is, surely the Minister will announce the fact to the committee. But one is sceptical regarding the Government’s attitude to these establishments, in view of the fact that the acetate of lime factory, which had been producing power alcohol for the various departments, was discontinued without any prior intimation to this Parliament. At one time governments were proclaiming to the world the valuable work that was being done by various Commonwealth factories, but since the sale of the woollen mills and the saddlery factory, we hear very little about these establishments that were brought into existence by a Labour Government, and were the means of saving to this country hundreds of thousands and probably millions of pounds during and since the war. In addition the Government was in the happy position of having in its employ experts who could give valuable advice on technical subjects. Unfortunately some of the factories have been sold to private enterprise and others are gradually going out of business. On page 179 of the Estimates is a special defence provision of £1,000,000 for provision of increased personnel,arms, armament, munitions, air-craft equipment, storage or other accommodation, and for the general development of the defences of the Commonwealth.” I ask the Minister to supply the committee with details of that large item. I am particularly concerned in the munition factories established by the Government. One form of defence in which all parties believe is the establishment and complete equipment of munition factories, so that in time of emergency the Commonwealth may be to some extent self-contained.
– There is more wisdom in establishing such factories than in building more cruisers.
– I agree with the honorable member. Adequate local supplies of munitions are the basis of any defence system, and unless such supplies are assured, Australia will be helpless if our overseas communications are severed. I ask the Minister to explain what further expenditure is contemplated, and how Australia will stand in regard to munition supplies if war should develop. Whilst the main purpose of the factories is the production of munitions of war, each one is doing something to help the industries carried on by private enterprise. I could quote instances of how the experts at the cordite factory at Maribyrnong have been able to assist people engaged in various industries throughout the Commonwealth. I extend a cordial invitation to honorable members to visit the munition factories in my electorate to see what is being done there. Whilst we may differ from the Government’s policy in regard to the construction of cruisers and other defence measures which are costing the country millions of pounds, I believe that all parties are agreed that the insuring of adequate munition supplies is the real basis of defence.
– There is a considerable amount of truth in the old saying that those who really know something about the defence of their country should be chary of expressing an opinion, because if they talk sense they let their possible opponents know as much as they themselves know, and if they talk nonsense they are as likely to mislead their own people as they are to mislead their potential enemies. Therefore, 1 shall not deal with the efficiency of the land forces at the present time, beyond expressing my conviction that they are well capable of doing the work which the nation expects of them. I am referring to the Citizen Forces, not as they exist now, but as they would be expanded, should it unfortunately be necessary for them to take the field. The belief that all is well to-day does not necessarily give comfort for the future, andI remind the committee of what happened in 1914. When Australia set about the organization of the Australian Imperial Force it had, thanks to the voluntary system and the then recent innovation of compulsory military training, a large number of well-trained men. Because of this, and particularly because of the long period of preliminary training, the First Division, including the 4th Brigade and the mounted units, started with every conceivable advantage. Almost every trained man in Australia was included in the First Division ; they were given considerable intensive training in Egypt, and when they came under fire they did credit to Australia and set a standard for Australian troops for the remainder of the war. When it became necessary to expand the Australian force, the fullest use was made of the trained men in the First Division. The Fourth and Fifth Divisions were formed by splitting, and it is common knowledge to those who served with the Australian Imperial Force that they were able to take their place in the field in a minimum of time owing to the fact that they contained many trained men and proved leaders. The ‘Second Division was raised as a complete unit in Australia, and, after a short training in Egypt, was pushed into the front line at Gallipoli. Not until two years after the division was formed did it have an opportunity to receive any real training.’ Although it established a record that is a credit to itself and Australia, it paid a terrible price for it, because it had not the same proportion of trained leaders and men as had the other divisions. The Third Division, which also was raised as a completely new unit, had the great advantage of long training in England before it took the field, and its performances bespoke the value of adequate preliminary preparation. In the light of the lessons taught by the war, one asks whether the training given to our land forces at the present time is sufficient to assure to them a fair chance of success in the field. . I have said that for the present I am satisfied; but, looking to the future, I feel bound to question the nature of the training given to our officers. They cannot be trained with the men, because, owing to financial reasons, the period of field training has been reduced to a minimum. But leaders and specialists can be trained by staff rides, regimental tours, and skeleton exercises which do not require the attendance of the troops. I asked a question the other day as to what proportion of the training grant was spent on these exercises, and I am surprised that I have not been able to get the information in time to make use of it to-night.. I must, therefore, content myself with saying that I am strongly of the opinion that the amount of money spent on the training of leaders and specialists is not sufficient to ensure their efficiency. Speaking from the purely personal point of view, I would say that if I were offered the command of absolutely untrained Australians, I would accept it joyfully and without the slightest hesitation, provided that I had officers and specialists on whom I could rely; but it would be a crime to lead into action untrained men with insufficient trained leaders and specialists to support them. I think I am expressing the sentiment of officers generally when I say that at the beginning of the campaign, and during the first two or three years of it, nothing causes1 more real anxiety than the replacement of leaders after casualties. I am perfectly well aware that there is a common feeling abroad that on active service the place of leaders is in the rear ; but I assure honorable members that that principle was never acted upon in the Australian forces. Indeed, had its application been attempted, it would have been ended by the troops themselves. It would be impossible for any man to command Australians and take up the attitude that his life, his security, his brains even, were of more importance than’ those of his men, and justified him in ensuring his own safety while the troops risked theirs. In the last war Australian officers led the way in not asking their men to do that which they were not prepared to do, or to go where they were not prepared to go. An eloquent testimony is paid by the Inspector-General of the Military Forces, Sir Harry Chauvel, in his report to the patriotic spirit and the professional zeal of our. officers and specialists in undertaking voluntary work. I heartily endorse his sentiments in that respect. But there is a limit to the extent to which this voluntary effort can be carried. If men are asked, year in and year out, to bear the expense of their own training, the time eventually comes when they have a feeling of satiety, or take up the attitude that, having done so much for” their country, it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to do something. I understand that at present the officer establishment of the citizen forces is 28 per cent, less than it should be, and 6 per cent, less than it was last year. That points to the fact that there is a slackening in good effort, and thatthe number of recruits coming forward to undertake these arduous responsibilities and duties is not sufficient to meet the requirements. This is largely due, I think, to the lack of monetary assistance granted to the work by the Commonwealth. To expect men to go on, year after year, doing the same exercises over the same old ground is a little too much;, the men feel that they must get away to some new ground. But that means expense. A large proportion of the money that is now being spent on this kind of training comes from the pockets of officers and non-commissioned officers who are gratuitously giving their time and service to their country. I have no reason for believing that the position of the specialists is any different from that of the officers and non-commissioned officers. It is only too probable that their efficiency is also declining owing to the inadequacy of the present training grant. One remark made by the Minister recently seemed to me to give assent to the altogether undesirable principle that hew works, which, apparently, are considered necessary, must be delayed in order that necessary repairs may be carried out to existing buildings. Such a principle is bard indeed to justify. If the old buildings are worth anything,’ they should be worth keeping in repair without trenching upon the money provided for new works.
Looking at the more active side of our defence programme for a moment, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the work of his survey section. Calculating on a statement in the report of the Inspector-General, I estimate that it will take something like 3,000 years, at the present rate of progress, to complete our survey of Australia - at any rate it will take more than 2,000 years. It is quite conceivable to me that we may be obliged actively to defend Australia before that period elapses, and it would be an undesirable disadvantage for our troops to have to pass over country concerning which they had no reliable maps. At present, sixteen men are engaged in mapping out about 1,600 square miles of country annually. They are working at the rate of 100 square miles per man per annum. Even if the rate at which the work is being done were trebled, I should consider it to be rather unsatisfactory.
The last matter to which I wish to refer has reference to engagement clasps for active service medals. Speaking purely as a soldier, I feel that there is no merit whatever in wearing a bare medal. The whole merit of the distinction lies in it bearing witness to the fact that its owner has been in action. In the Old Country, it would be necessary to examine 7,000,000 claims, down to ten clasps in some cases, to ascertain the clasps to which ex-soldiers wore entitled, and the authorities have decided that they are unable to undertake such an enormous task. But that does not apply to our Australian troops. In view of their comparatively small number, it should be easily possible to prove the claims of our men to engagement clasps, and to allow to the men who took part in the war the distinctions to which they are justly entitled.
– I feel at a disadvantage in following the distinguished officer who has preceded me in this debate, but I wish to congratulate him on his speech, as I congratulate the Parliament on having among its members so distinguished a soldier.
My object in participating in the debate is simply to make an acknowledgment. For two years while on the Estimates I have publicly requested the Minister for Defence to put into proper order a drain which passed through the grounds of the military headquarters, Keswick, South Australia. Its unsatisfactory condition had been a matter of complaint for many years. The work was originally done by the State authorities for the Commonwealth, and, although I do not suggest that a bad job was done deliberately, the fact of the matter is that the drain was insufficient to carry away flood waters. After every heavy rain storm, it overflowed into the adjacent houses of exsoldiers and soldiers’ widows. The late member for Hindmarsh, Mr. Archibald, and the present member for Hindmarsh, Mr. Makin, both unsuccessfully endeavoured to get the department to reconstruct the drain; but I am glad to say that I was able to gain the sympathy of the present Minister for Defence, and that, after about fifteen years, this obviously necessary work has been done. No longer will my constituents who reside in that district be obliged to go out into. the cold and rain whenever a storm occurs, and come back to find their homes mouldy and damp. It is frequently necessary, even for Government supporters, to complain and to criticize Ministers, and I have had to do so during the last two years on this very matter; but I am glad now to acknowledge that this work, after being left undone for so many years, has been finished.
– During some friendly criticism of the Defence Department, which has extended over the last few months, and which culminated in that regarding the unfortunate aviation accidents that have occurred recently, I promised, as early as possible, to make a general statement to the honorable members on defence matters. I propose to do so to-night. It will be remembered that, for many years, the defence forces of Australia, composed of three different arms, were regarded as separate units. It was decided two or three years ago, for the purposes of economy, to bring them under one roof, and the hope was then expressed that this would lead to their becoming one force. That hope has not been realized, for today we still have our navy, army, and air forces. Within the last few weeks, I have received from the Inspector-General of the Military Forces his criticism of our army organization. I assure honorable members that it is always difficult for a Minister to apportion to the various arms of the defence forces under his control what the different departmental heads consider a fair allocation of the money that Parliament votes for defence purposes. In Great Britain, America, and most European countries, there is a ministerial head for each arm of the defence forces, who has a budgeting officer to assist him in preparing his estimates of expenditure; and each Minister personally submits to his colleagues in Cabinet the amount that his departmental officer considers is essential to maintain the particular service in which he is interested. In Australia we have a Minister in charge of the three branches of the service, and he has difficulty in allocating the amount of money to be given to each.
Under a policy which it initiated in 1923-24, the Government set aside’ a definite amount for a defence programme which was to be completed in 1928-29. It was a very effective programme in view of the amount of money at the disposal of the Government. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) has some doubt about the possibility of completing it within the five years, but I can assure him that it is very much in advance of what was thought possible in 1924-25, so far as two branches of the service are concerned. The Prime Minister, a few’ days ago; pointed out that the per capita contribution of Australia to defence has been increasing at a greater rate during the last three or four years. In 1925-26 it amounted to 27s. 2d. per head, a greater contribution than is made by any other portion of the Empire with the exception of Great Britain itself. I have made a definite effort for the sake of economy to co-ordinate or co-relate certain of the activities of the Defence Department, and I believe that it will be possible, by the appointment of a board to assist the Minister, to make an easier allocation of the money available than is possible under the present system. The report of the InspectorGeneral is rather condemnatory of the Government, but it must be remembered that it deals only with one of the smaller branches of defence. Our principal line of defence is the Navy, combined with the Air Force, and these two branches of the service have made strides far beyond what was contemplated in 1924-25. The amount appropriated for naval construction during the last three years is £4,500,000. Air development has also proceeded in advance of the programme, to be completed in 1928-29.
It is impossible for me to answer all the questions that have been put to me by honorable, members, but I shall refer to a few of them. The honorable member for Parramatta regrets that certain cottages have not been built at Jervis Bay. Definite action has been taken to have those cottages erected. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) laments the fact that the Commonwealth has not handed over the Victoria Barracks, Paddington, to the State Government; But the Prime Minster has just come to an arrangement with the Premier of New South Wales to surrender the whole of the barracks frontage to the State Government.
Several honorable members have mentioned the necessity for training boys for the navy. Owing to our extensive construction policy it has been found necessary to curtail the naval expenditure in certain directions; and the whole matter of naval training must remain in abeyance until the end of 1928, when the construction programme, which is being paid for out of revenue, will be completed. The Commonwealth is spending £7,250,000 on this programme. Of this amount £1,300,000 will be spent in Australia in building the sea-plane-carrier.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has referred to the rumour that the Marguerite is unseaworthy, and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) has asked me to relieve the anxiety of some of his constituents who have lads on board that vessel. The Marguerite was lately overhauled, and is absolutely seaworthy. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Navy would allow a boat to go to sea with 80 or 90 young lads on her if she were not seaworthy.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins) would like some information about the naval college at Jervis Bay. There are 4’8 cadets at the college undergoing training for four years at a cost of £1,500 each. The record of the Jervis Bay cadets is extraordinarily good, not only in Australia, but overseas. When they visit England to undergo two or three years’ training “ there, at the end of their four years’ course at Jervis Bay, they nearly always take high positions among their comrades who intend to join the British service, and in one or two years have taken first and second places in competition with all the cadets of the Empire.
The fears of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) that there will not be sufficient personnel te man. the cruisers when built have absolutely no foundation. The percentage of Australians among the crews of our fleet is gradually increasing, and it is anticipated that, by 1928, when the two new ‘ cruisers, the two submarines, and the seaplane carrier, will require to be manned, there will, be 90 per cent, of Australians in the crews. We cannot expect the higher commands in the Australian Navy to be filled by Australians now, because Jervis Bay has not been open for more than ten or twelve years, but the senior graduates from Jervis Bay, I say without hesitation, will be fitted to take those commands within a few years.
That brings me to the point referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth - the scrapping of men at the age of 45 years, or, as an honorable senator in another , place said, “ the policy of throwing .out good Australians to replace them by Englishmen who are receiving pensions.” The honorable senator has not stated the position correctly. It is clearly recognized that only a certain number of men can attain high commands, not because of their places of birth, but because there are too many available to fill the few positions offering in Australia. Only those who have shown remarkable ability are selected to fill such positions. For the first time a Royal Australian naval officer is now in command of the Australian Fleet, but within twenty years every position, senior and junior, should be held by Australians, who by training will also be fitted to carry out exchange work with the Royal Navy. In every profession, it is necessary for men to see what is going on in other parts of the world, and the system of exchange now existing between the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Navy bids fair to be of extraordinary advantage, not only to our own navy, but also to the navy of the Motherland, by introducing into the latter the element of initiative possessed by young Australians.
The honorable members for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) and Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) appear to be most anxious about the future supply of officers for our army. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Denison (Sir John Gellibrand) take part in the debate. He was able to give honorable members an extraordinarily valuable description of our forces as he saw them in 1914, and from then on until 1919. No one is more competent to give us a clear opinion on the subject than the honorable member, and I was very pleased to hear him raise his voice in the chamber.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) is always anxious about the progress of munition-making in Australia. He recognizes that it is ridiculous to spend money in training men unless they can be equipped. ‘ I am often asked by persons who are not conversant with defence matters why the department does not take notice of the statements made by Sir John Monash and Sir Brudenell White concerning the condition of our defence forces, and my reply is that our defence system of to-day is based on a scheme propounded in 1923-24 by Sir John Monash, Sir Brudenel White, and others. These gentlemen laid it down clearly that the first requirement was trained officers, that the next requirement was to be able to clothe and equip an army, and the third requirement to have sufficient personnel. Every one admits that men cannot be sent into the field under the conditions of modern warfare unless they are properly equipped. I am not one of those who believe that Australians can successfully carry on a war without being trained. It was clearly demonstrated during the late war that only those troops which had efficient training could maintain their positions and escape the huge sacrifices that occurred amongst men who were led by untrained officers. Whatever our necessity may be in the future, to-day, we have available the services of from 300,000 to 400,000 men who have been through the trial of war, and have shown that they are able to hold their own with any other troops in the world; but we must remember that eight or nine years have already passed since the war, and in another decade most of these men will not be able to render the same service that they couldgive if they were called upon to-day.
– Could they render the same service to-day that they rendered during the war?
– Even to-day, eight years after the war, they would not be as valuable as they were during the war; but we are fairly safe for some years to come. The criticism of the Government to which I have referred is grossly unfair, because the whole of the defence services must be taken into consideration. The Army, the Navy, and the Air Force are no longer separate entities in water-tight compartments. I have already commenced to co-relate certain branches of the service, and within the next few months other branches, such as the medical and the intelligence services, will also be corelated. Later on, I hope to have an advisory board, consisting of the senior naval, military and air officers to assist me in allocating the money available for defence.
I rose particularly to-night because the honorable members for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and Perth (Mr. Mann) asked me to give some account of the condition of the defence services, and also because there has been a great deal of anxiety expressed by honorable senators in regard to the condition of our air services. Our Air Forces have grown rapidly, because, since the Avar, it has been shown that the extent of air force services necessary to co-operate with the navy and army is very much greater than was at one time thought essential. The air service is the eyes of both the Navy and the Army. It would be unthinkable to-day for a navy or an army to move against an enemy unless there had first been a definite reconnaissanceby air forces. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said that we had nearly reached the end of the life of our reconditioned planes. I remind him that a few weeks ago an appropriation bill for £250,000 was passed for the purpose of acquiring planes or in other ways developing and maintaining the efficiency of the Air Force.
I should like to read the findings of the board that inquired into the unfortunate air accidents that have occurred during the last five or six months. I gave instructions that the board should consist of men of experience who had lately been through a course of training in the Royal Air Force. I asked them to take all kinds of evidence from men in and outside the service, and I promised to place the report of that evidence, and the find: ings of the board, on the table of the Library, so that honorable members could see whether the findings were in accordance with the evidence. There is no desire by me, or by officers of the Defence Department, to shirk any responsibility; but there is a desire on my part that the relatives of the unfortunate officers and men who have lost their lives shall not be told day after day that the reason for accidents is that the Government is using only obsolete, old, reconditioned, and dangerous planes. I should like honorable members who are interested in the subject to read, not only the findings, but also the evidence. Nothing has been removed from the file. The board consisted of Group Captain R. Williams, Squadron Leader R. Brown, and Squadron Leader L. J. Wackett. They took all the matters referred to them into consideration, and thoroughly considered the evidence available, and their findings were as follow : -
These developments are still in the experimental stage, and have not been embodied by the Air Ministry in England in other than experimental machines, up to the present.
The Air “Board is kept informed of the progress of such developments by its liaison officer at the Air Ministry.
The types of aeroplanes in use in the
Royal Australian Air Force, although not of modern design, are thoroughly airworthy, are by no means unsafe, and are quite suitable for the purposes for which they are employed.
The following are. the chief “reasons for the reconditioning of these aeroplanes before being taken into use: -
To make good damage done while the machine has been stored, or de terioration which has taken place in the more perishable parts of the machine during storage.
I do not apologize to the committee for the time I have occupied in reading those findings. I believe that they were formulated after mature consideration, and ‘ a thorough investigation in accordance with ministerial . instructions. Although I am not able to quote the statistics of accidents in other countries, I have found, after examining them, that the number of accidents in this country is not greater, in proportion to the number ofhours spenti n the air, than the number of accidents in England or America. The report of the board clearly shows that reconditioned planes are not less efficient, but are safer than those that have not been modified. The human factor is the vital matter.I am often asked why the civil air services in Western Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland can be carried onwith fewer’ accidents than we have with military aeroplanes. The first reason is that safer machines are used. Not one of the machines in- the air services in this country - the DH.50 is the safest, and is practically the same as Cobham is using - would be of the slightest value in war, except behind the lines. They are not service machines. The type of machine that can fly quickly, that is capable of performing stunts, that can protect itself against the enemy and defeat the enemy in the air, must be a service machine that is more dangerous to manage than the ordinary touring machine. Further, in all civil aviation only trained pilots are used ; but in the military service we have men who have had no training. Every care is taken in examining them, not only- before, but also after they have been in the air. Unfortunately, we have to dispense with a large number of brilliant young men- because we find, after a certain amount of training, that they are not able to withstand the enormous strain to which they are subjected. While I do not resent criticism, I suggest that honorable ‘members ought to take into consideration the number of hours that military machines are in the air, and recognize that until stalling has been overcome accidents cannot humanly be prevented. I admit that accidents are extremely unfortunate, but, notwithstanding . all that has occurred, the general public -is satisfied that the greatest possible care is exercised. That is shown by the number of letters I receive from the parents of pupils, and from the fact that if I had a thousand more instructors, they would not be able to train all the applicants for service. That alone would not exonerate a minister unless it was clearly shown that he had taken every opportunity, first, of ascertaining the safety, and secondly, of maintaining the con.dition of the machines. There should be at least that assurance to the relatives of the men who are anxious to continue in what is going to be one of the great defence services of Australia. The Australian has proved to be a highly efficient airman, and possibly that small element of extra courage, or perhaps failure to recognize danger, causes him to take unnecessary risks by flying at low altitudes.
– It is impossible to have super-airmen that are not daring.
– And until stabilization of the machines has been obtained we cannot have a good flying corps without a certain number of accidents.
– It is a pity they cannot do it without killing other people.
– They are not the only persons who kill others, for even the profession to which I belong has been unworthily accused of destroying life, and that not with as much justification as exists in time of war.
, - I regret that I must intrude in this general survey of the affairs of the Defence Department with a matter relating to an individual. I do so because the circumstances warrant it. I have several times brought under the notice of the Minister the case of an ex-soldier constituent of mine named Frank H. Needham. Because the circumstances surrounding this case are in a measure typical of the treatment to which many ex-soldiers have unfortunately been subjected, it needs no apology from me for bringing it before the committee, and directing the attention of the Minister once more to it. The facts are very simple, and not in dispute. This ex-soldier, according to the statement of the department itself, was a trooper who served in Egypt at the front for three years. He was taken ill, and when he went before the medical officers in Egypt it was found that he was suffering from amebic dysentery. From this he apparently recovered, was invalided home, and discharged in April, 1919. Subsequently, on the 19th July, 1919, he was taken ill, became suddenly worse, and was delirious. His wife was greatly concerned respecting the nature and extent of hi3 seizure. A medical man was called in, and he recommended the ex-soldier’s immediate removal to a private hospital. This was done. He remained -in the private hospital for over a fortnight, during which time, as at the time of his removal from home, he was unconscious, or, at all events, delirious. He was then examined by Dr. Jarvie Hood, who considered that an immediate operation was necessary. Sir Alexander MacCormick was called in.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The right honorable member should deal with that subject when the Repatriation Department, and not the Defence Department, is under discussion.
– I am criticizing the Defence Department. The Repatriation Department refused to deal with this case, contending that it concerned the Defence Department alone. It is because this unfortunate man has been humbugged, and sent from pillar to post - from one department to another - that I seek on his behalf to get justice. Sir Alexander MacCormick operated, and the operation was successful. In due course the patient left the hospital, and subsequently was asked to pay a bill of £222. He was in straitened circumstances, and had it not been for some assistance from his parents he would have been unable to pay this considerable sum. He approached the Repatriation Department and asked for a refund of the fees paid for the operation and for medical attention. It has never been denied that his was a war disability, but that excuse not being open to the department another one was found. So that there can be no suspicion of suppression of facts, I shall read the reply that I received from the Minister. It reads -
With reference to your letter of the 19th January, 1926, under cover of which you referred a communication received by you from the above-named ex-member in regard to his claim for medical and hospital fees, I have to advise as follows : -
When this ex-soldier went before the Medical Board on arrival from overseas there was nothing to lead the medical officers to suspect amoebic dysentery, and the ex-soldier went so far at the time as to sign a statement that he had “ No disability.” Under these circumstances the Board took the only course in recommending his discharge, which was dated 21/4/1919.
On the 19th July, 1919, Mr. Needham was taken seriously ill at his home, and became unconscious. His wife called in the local doctor, with the result that he was taken to a private hospital and operated on for “ abscess on liver.”
The total cost incurred by the soldier for medical treatment and maintenance at “ Netherleigh “ Private Hospital,Randwick, was £225 18s. 3d., and application was made by Mr. Needham for a refund of this amount.
His claim was carefully considered, but payment of the full amount claimed could not be approved in view of the fact that treatment was available at an adjacent military hospital, which fact was we’ll known to the ex-member, and probably to those acting on his behalf, at the time of his illness. In this connexion it is pointed out that Colonel Sir Alexander MacCormick, who performed the operation, and Hon. Lieut. -Colonel Sir A. Jarvie Hood and Captain F. Stanley Booth, the other medical officers engaged on the case, were all the time on the staff of No. 4 A.G.H. (Randwick) Military Hospital.
As he was entitled to medical treatment in a military hospital for a complaint which was a recrudescence of illness arising from military service, it was approved as an act of grace that he should receive payment of a sum equal to the cost of such treatment for the period of his illness had same been received at a military hospital, and on this basis a sum of £20 was paid to him on 10th June, 1921, as being approximately the sum so payable. From further recent investigation of the hospital returns, however, it appears that the actual paymentshould have been £22 16s. 7d., and steps are accordingly being taken to pay to Mr. Needham a further sum of £2 16s. 7d.
It is regretted that in view of the foregoing no further payment other than the £2 16s. 7d. referred to in the preceding paragraph can be made.
– Sir Neville Howse.
– As Minister for Defence?
– I could not say. The Minister may believe me or not, but I am not going to be buffeted about between the two departments over which he presides. I donot care a rap whether he signed the letter as Minister for Repatriation or as Minister for Defence. I intend to have justice done to this man. It is not denied that he was a soldier, and that he suffered from amebic dysentery. The disability is a recurrence of the disease. That his illness in July, 1919, was a recurrence of the disease ought to have been well known to those who gave him his discharge, because the fact that he had suffered from . it was set out on his documents. The Minister stated in his letter that this man actually went so far as to say he had no disability. I ask of what value is the opinion of a layman as to whether he has a disability. A man may go ‘into a doctor’s surgery and say, “ My heart is all right but an examination may ‘prove otherwise. Would a man seeking to enlist be free from examinationon his mere statement that he was. all right ? This was a cowardly way of seeking to evade a just liability. Even if the man did say that he had no disability, it was ; the duty of the examining doctor to verify his statement. It was stated Clearly on his documents that he had suffered from amebic dysentery. Withinfour months of his discharge there was a recrudescence of this complaint and he became delirious. He knew nothing. His young wife, as was natural in the circumstances, was greatly perturbed and sent for the doctor. The man was taken to the hospital. He could not say, “ I mustbe taken to the military hospital,” because he was delirious. His wife did not know that his illness was a recrudescence of his war disability. How could she? He remained unconscious from the time that he was taken from his home until afterthe had been operated on. At what moment should he have said, “ Take me to the military hospital”? Yet what does the letter from the Minister say on this point? - His claim was carefully considered, but payment of the full amount claimed could not be approved, in view of the fact that treatment was obtainable at an adjoining military hospital, which fact was well known to the ex-member, and probably to those acting on his behalf at the time of his illness.
What an act of ineffable meanness! This man was unconscious when removed to the hospital ; how could’ that fact be well known to him? His wife didnot know that he was suffering from amebic dysentery, which was a war disability. Yet this unconscious soldier and ‘his distracted wife are treated to this contemptible sneer. This ex-soldier fought, suffered, and nearly died at the front, and although he incurred a liability of £222 for medical expenses the department offered him £20 as an act of grace. Then to put the coping-stone on the edifice of its contemptible meanness a further £2 16s. 7d. is offered to him. That is not the spirit of the Australian Imperial Force, nor is it the way to encourage men to fight for their country. When, as Prime Minister, I asked men to defend Australia, that is not the return I promised them. Is there a soldier in this country who will stand for the way this man has been treated?
It is truethat he is not a poor, miserable creature in the gutter. He has parents and friends, and they have come to his aid; but it is the Government ofthis country that owes that man £200, and it shall pay it.
– The doctors owe him something.
– I am not going to say anything about Dr. MacCormick. He is a great man.
– And a good man, too.
– He has charged a soldier £220 for an operation.
– I am not saying anything about that. The doctors do not come into this matter at all. This man, on the advice of his own medical man, was taken to the nearest hospital. Where else, in such circumstances, would a man be taken to? He could not be hawked about. He was his wife’s most precious possession, and the poor woman naturally had him taken to the nearest hospital. There he lay unconscious. No one could say what was the matter with him until Dr. Jarvie Hood said that he was suffering from amebic dysentery, or from an abscess on the liver, which, I suppose, is a secondary consequence of the disease; and then Dr. MacCormick was called in and operated upon him. The Repatriation Department washes its hands of liability in this matter. It says that the liability rests upon the Defence Department. The man was suffering from a war disability, although he said he was not, and I say that upon the Defence Department, and not the Repatriation Department, rests the whole responsibility. Let that Department pay this man what it owes him.
.- At an earlier stage, the Minister did me the . honour of mentioning my name in connexion with the defence estimates, and said that I had asked for a full statement of some matter in connexion with his department. I was at first a little puzzled to account for the honour done me, but, on cudgelling my brains, I recalled that a month or two ago, when certain proposals were before the House for the allocation of money for defence purposes, I raised questions which the Minister promised at a later stage to completely satisfy. So far as I know, up to the present, the honorable gentleman has not answered those questions.
They were of considerable moment and interest to the public, and I should like the Minister, before he concludes his remarks on his estimates, to answer them. The first was as to the hitherto unexplained circumstances accounting for the fact that a seaplane carrier, estimated to cost £800,000, is now expected to cost from £1,250,000 to £1,300,000. The other question was as to the progress being made at. the present time towards the completion of the programme of cruiser construction approved by this House; to what extent the contracts had been fulfilled; was the construction up to time; and, above all, how far did the cost of construction, up to the present, come within the estimate approved by this House.
– Referring to the impassioned address delivered by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), let me say that it is quite easy to bring up cases here ; but if he will put the case to me calmly, I shall again look into it. So far as I remember it, the man was suffering from a disability due to war service. The right honorable gentleman denied what I said, and contradicted me when I told him it was a repatriation matter. It has nothing to do with defence. No one is trying to evade the facts connected with the case, but I point out that we have provided definite hospitals and staffed them with the best men to be found in each large city. The right honorable member read out the names of the staff in Sydney, two of them being men employed by the returned soldier at a cost of £220. I remind the right honorable gentleman that it is impossible for the Repatriation Department to provide hospitals and staffs to treat these cases if the men are to be at liberty to go to any one they please. It would be quite impossible for the Government to pay fees for treatment on the basis of the extraordinary fee that Mr. Needham, the member of the Australian Imperial Force referred to, was charged.
– The honorable gentleman admits that the fee was extraordinary?
– It was an extraordinary fee. I do not understand it at all. Sir Alexander MacCormick, the surgeon referred to, not only bears the first name in Australia, but is equal to. any surgeon in the world.
– He is one of the best men in Australia.
– I never before heard his name mentioned in connexion with such a fee as £220 for an operation.
– I know of many cases in which he has operated for nothing.
– So do I. I shall not attempt now to answer the case put up by the right honorable member for North Sydney.
I regret that I overlooked the questions mentioned by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). The second of those questions is very easy to answer. One of the submarines, the Oxley, is already launched, and the construction of the second is up to time. The construction of the two cruisers that are being built in the United Kingdom is also nearly up to time. There has been a little delay owing to the strike, but at most it will not amount to more than two months, and up to the present the cost has not exceeded the estimate except for an item which we added in requiring that Australian woods should be used in the interior decoration of’ the ships instead of English timbers. The decorations are to be carried out with Tasmanian timbers or Queensland maple. Referring to the seaplane carrier, the first estimate of cost, £835,000, was a purely tentative one. It was subsequently found that it was necessary to make additions which account for a good deal of the increased cost. There has been increased cost owing to the shorter working week of 44 hours. The actual amount of increase due to this and to the increased cost of insurance. I supplied in an answer to a question asked in another place, and to-morrow or the next day I shall officially supply the information to the honorable member for Perth.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me particularly to give my attention to the question of civil aviation. I have devoted a good deal of time to that subject. He specially referred to the service between Derby and Wyndham, and exhorted me to deal with this small item involving an expenditure of perhaps £12,000. He has said that it would be a good thing if I carried out the boy scouts’ rule, and did one gooddeed each day. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) asked me for a small item amounting to £117,000. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) asked for another small item amounting to £100,000. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked me for two cruisers to be supplied at an early date to replace two obsolescent vessels, a request involving another £4,000,000, and there is a small matter referred to by the honorable member forCapricornia involving a paltry £2,000.
– If the honorable member cut out the’ cruisers under construction he could comply with all those reasonable requests.
– The cruisers are absolutely necessary, and the honorable member overlooks the fact that the contract for their construction has been let.
– The Minister should not be diverted from the real issue.
– I shall give the honorable member’s request further consideration, and see if it can possibly be complied with.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Special Defence Provision to cover Developmental Programme (£1,000,000), agreed to.
Proposed vote, £909,229.
.- After the war, when the British Government surrendered the control of foodstuffs, and, on the advice of the Board of Trade, decided to sell the balance of the accumulated stocks, large quantities of Australian meat, butter, and other primary products, the residue of war contracts, some of which’ had not been too faithfully performed by Australian suppliers, were liberatedin bulk, with the result that the British market was considerably depressed, and Australia’s reputation as a producer suffered. The problem of finding profitable markets for the new season’s products became very acute, and exercised the brains, of not only the Department of Trade and Customs, but also the best producers’ organizations in Australia. The department of which I was then in charge started an uplift movement, and in order that the producers might co-operate, we appointed various committees to advise the Commonwealth. They had no executive power, but by gazettal they’ were given official recognition. They sat with the departmental technical officers to review the regulations, and make recommendations for their improvement. I wish to know from the Minister if that policy has been continued, and if he still has the cooperation’ of those committees. If he has not enlarged their activities, I urge him to co-operate with the Minister for Markets and Migration to that end, because the enlargement of them must result in raising the standard of Australian exports, and educating the primary producer to a realization of the fact that nothing but the best is good enough to’ send to the markets overseas. Upon the advice of these organizations, we arranged that certain products should bear a hall-mark - the Kangaroo brand on butter, for instance - indicating high standard and Australian origin, so that they should not lose their identity on the other side of the world, and, if of poor quality, be sold as Australian produce, and, if of high quality, be sold as the product of some other country. I urge the Minister to extend that policy in other directions. He will find it one of the best means of keeping Australian products in the highest repute on the British market.
The report of the Tariff Board which was laid upon the table of the House today contains the statement that the Board recognizes that the attempt to give effective protection to Australian industries is undermined by the passing on of the benefactions of the tariff. Here is a frank and wholesome declaration that the economic conditions of many of the secondary industries are such that whatever increased protection Parliament grants is passed on by the Arbitration Court until it ceases to be effective.
Mr.Foster. - It is a very valuable report.
– It is one which neither the Minister nor Parliament can afford to ignore. The Minister cannot alone set right the unsound economic conditions that surround many of the secondary and primary industries, but this report contains a warning to the nation that we cannot by merely increasing duties solve economic problems that are deep-seated. However keen protectionist members may be, we must face these facts. It is not within the province of the board to tell the Arbitration Court what it should do, but we are bound to treat very seriously such a report. The. Arbitration Court may not be influenced by the opinion of the Tariff Board, but it is apparent that the one authority is undoing the work of the other. It is not my province to say whether the Tariff Board is right or wrong in declaring that wages are too high ; nor do I intend to-night to discuss the merits of the increases awarded by the Arbitration Court; but we have to recognize that the increase of duties, plus the in-“ crease of wages and improved working conditions, is raising the cost of production to such an extent that Australia cannot sell its secondary products in the markets of the world in competition with the goods of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium or France, or protect its own industries without increasing “the cost of living to an unbearable extent. A warning to that effect has previously been uttered in this House by me, and passed unheeded, but its corroboration by the Tariff Board should aTrest the attention of the nation. This trouble’ is accentuated by the fact that Australia borrows extensively abroad and imports foreign goods as the only means by which it can use its foreign loan credits. The position is fraught with such serious possibilities that I hope the Government will give the earliest and closest possible attention to a sound stock-taking of our economic resources, and a thorough analysis of the financial position, industrial legislation, and the basis and methods of production. ‘ Every protectionist is bound to admit that in order that the protective policy may be effective there must be a fund from which the duties can be paid; In the main, protection is the contribution which the primary producing industries make in order that the secondary industries may succeed and give employment to our people.’ But we must examine the condition of the’ primary industries whose exportable surplus provides the wealth of the nation. We are trying to establish many new primary industries which must depend on other primary industries for their existence. For instance, this Parliament is to levy upon the successful primary industries to the amount of nearly £1,000,000, in order to establish the cotton industry in Australia. I wish well to the cotton industry ? but I have some doubt in regard to it. The production of butter is surrounded by such economic conditions that a bounty is levied on every 1 lb. exported in order that a profitable return may be assured to the producer. In respect of dried and canned fruit exports, we pay a bounty at this end, and the British Go,vernment grants a small preference at their end. The meat industry is in a very bad way. Wool and wheat production are practically the only primary industries that can stand alone. The warning given by the Tariff Board is timely, and I know of nothing more important to the welfare of the country than a complete economic stocktaking, and the discontinuance of foreign borrowing for all sorts of wild cat schemes. We are proposing this year to spend £76,000,000 from revenue and £47,000,000 from loan- £12,000,000 of which is for the Commonwealth, and £35,000,000 of which is an estimate of the States loan requirements. But we are going on merrily, piling up the public debt and our other obligations. The cumulative effect of all these circumstances is that industry is in a parlous condition. I do not wish to be regarded as a pessimist, for temperamentally I am sanguine; but I can no longer look at the financial and economic position of this nation without the gravest forebodings. Unless we put our house in order, the pressure of economic conditions, together with a bad season or two, will pull us up abruptly.
.- The committee is under a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) for the timely speech he has just delivered. I venture to say that the conclusions contained in the report of the Tariff Board, to which he referred, should have been reached long ago by men who were specially set apart to study and report upon such matters. But, belated as it is, this report is the most valuable that we have yet received from the board, and it is one of the most valuable that has ever been presented to honorable members. I sincerely trust that the Government and the country generally will heed the warning that it utters, and call a halt.
My chief purpose in participating in this debate is to direct the attention of the Government to the unfair position in which Western’ Australia has been placed in regard to her sugar supplies, and I do so in the hope that something will be done to remedy it. At the moment I am not attacking either the sugar industry or the sugar agreement. I regret, in a way, that the Prime Minister is not in the chamber, for the matter to which I refer is administrative more than legislative. Until 1922 -Western Australian sugar consumers were- in a different position from those in the other States. They were obliged to pay the f.o.b. Adelaide price for their sugar; but in 1922 they were put on the same basis as consumers in the other States, except that their sugar was delivered at Fremantle, and not at their capital city, as in the other States. Honorable members will probably be surprised to know that it cost over £1 a ton to transport sugar from Fremantle to Perth.
– Does the honorable member say that the cartage was £1 a ton from Fremantle to Perth?
– ‘The actual cartage was 13s. a ton; but other charges, involved in the question of the area within which sugar could be delivered free, mulcted the Perth consumers in fi ls. 8d. per ton more than consumers in the other capitals had to pay. This placed confectionery and other manufacturers in Western Australia who used sugar in a most unfavorable position, and rendered difficult competition on their own market against the manufacturers of the eastern States. Representations were made to the Minister for Trade and Customs to allow sugar to be delivered in Perth at the price for which it was delivered in the other capital cities, and I joined with the representatives of Western Australian manufacturers in seeking to impress upon the Minister the equity of such an “ arrangement. The new sugar agreement, made in 1925, provided that sugar should be delivered in Perth at the flat rate which ruled for the other capital cities. I asked the Minister in March of this year to lay the agreement upon the table of the House, but, for some reason which he has not explained, he has so far declined to do so.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs have both referred to the .m’atter from time to time, and certain press comments have been made on it, but we have not yet been told what the agreement specifically ‘provides. The previous agreement set out that sugar should be retailed throughout Australia at a flat rate of 4½d. per lb.; but experience proved that, such a provision was impracticable. All that we have been told of the provisions of the new agreement in that regard is that no attempt had been made in it to oblige retailers to sell sugar for a flat rate throughout the Commonwealth, though the prices fixed would enable it to be sold for 4£d. per lb. in the principal centres of distribution. Naturally, the price varies according to the size of the parcel purchased. A few pounds could not be retailed at the same price that one would pay for a large wholesale lot. But it has been stated in general terms- that the price of sugar in the eastern States is 4-id. whereas in Western Australia it is 5d. There have been complaints about that difference, but the statement is not strictly correct, because, although it may be true that in some cases sugar has been sold by the retailers at 5d. a lb., it is also equally true that according to the size of the lot purchased, the price has been as low as 44d. I could quote the prices for different-sized lots, but I do not wish to weary the committee with a mass of figures. Although there have been complaints from Western Australia about the price of sugar, the principal complaints refer to the sugar agreement itself. Whether they are right or wrong is a matter I do not wish to discuss at the present moment, but, briefly, I can say that the terms of the agreement are the cause of most of the complaints heard in Western Australia. I. was very much astonished to receive on the 12th December last a letter from the Minister for Trade and Customs stating that owing to the fact that the grocers of Western Australia were not selling their sugar at the price charged by grocers in eastern Australia, the Sugar Board had recommended that the special flat rate concession, which had been given to the State, equally with other States, should be withdrawn. Of course, I took up the matter immediately, but in -spite of all arguments advanced, and all the facts placed before the Minister, that concession has been withdrawn, and to-day Western Australia is supplied with sugar at a higher price than is charged in the other States. It is said unfairly, that this action has been taken because of the higher price charged by the Western Australian grocers. Much obloquy has been cast on the grocers of Western Australia. They have been accused of being grasping bloodsuckers. They are said to be greedy and avaricious, because in some cases they have charged more for sugar than is charged by grocers in the eastern States. But the bare price paid by the consumers is not a fair basis of comparison. A proper basis is the gross return obtained by the grocer. In 1918 a Commonwealth Prices Commission reported that grocers in their business required from to 21 per cent, on their turnover to cover expenses. The facts placed before the Minister for Trade and Customs showed that Western Australian grocers got a return of only 15.7 per cent, on their turnover. I may be asked: “Why then do they charge more than grocers in the eastern States?” The facts which the Minister should have taken into consideration, instead of jumping to the conclusion that the grocers of Western Australia were taking an advantage of the public, are that, apart from sugar, groceries generally are cheaper in Western Australia than in the other States. The general grocery business is more remunerative in the other States. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, groceries which are sold in Victoria and New South Wales at a cost of 20s., are sold in Western Australia for only 17s. 6d. From the same source, we learn that recent statistics show that Western Australia is the only State with a reduction in the prices nf groceries, whereas in New South Wales they show an increase of 8 per cent. While the Western Australian grocers consented, although unwillingly, to sell their sugar at a specially low rate, being compelled largely to do so by the conditions under which they purchased it. they were really selling below what the Prices Commission showed was a fair percentage to cover cost. But they felt that they could not continue’ to cut their losses on sugar and make them upon other lines.; and that they had got down to a limit below which they could not go. Therefore, when the Minister withdrew the flat rate concession, they were compelled to put up their prices. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), who is much more familiar with these matters than I am, can bear me out in that respect. On the 8th October, 1923, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), speaking on the sugar question, said in. effect that “There was some doubt as to whether the grocers would be able to retail at 4£d. a lb., that if the Commonwealth Government ceased controlling the sugar the industry would not enforce a retail price of 4£d., that the price would be governed by trade conditions solely, and that some retailers might sell at 4½d. merely as a trade lever, while others might charge 5d., according to the conditions.” That is just what has taken place, and to-day the whole of the people of Western Australia are required to pay a higher price foi sugar because the Minister for Trade and Customs has withdrawn the flat rate concession. It has been urged upon him iti every possible way that he should not take this step. I appealed to him over and over again only to be refused. In July last I appealed to the Prime Minister, and was put off with the following reply, obviously dictated by the Minister : -
Your telegram fifth July. Minister Customs has not withdrawn freight concessions on sugar for Western Australia.
How he could make such a statement, I do not know. The concession has been withdrawn, and that cannot be denied. The telegram proceeded -
Position is that freight concessions were originally granted at request Western Australian interests, who claimed that concessions which enabled grocers to buy sugar at exactly same price obtaining in capital cities eastern States would enable grocers to sell to public at eastern price, namely, 4½d. per lb.
That statement, again, is not correct. The representations in favour of the reduction in price were made on behalf of the manufacturers, as is well known to the Minister. His files contain letters from manufacturers who claimed that reductions should be made. If, incidentally, it was stated that the public was complaining about the price of sugar, it was also pointed out that the freight rate concession could not reduce the price to the consumers generally, but would benefit only the manufacturers.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Minister tried to mislead him ?
– The Prime Minister could not have made these statements without reference to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I do not like to say that the Minister deliberately misled me, but I do say that his statements were misleading. Whatever he thinks as to their truth, they are certainly not correct. There is more in this matter than the question of retail price. I admit that for some time there was a quarrel in Western Australia between the grocers and the consumers. A heated controversy took place in the press ; but when the grocers laid before the consumers a statement of the full particulars of their profits, the consumers, as represented in this case by the Housewives’ Association, agreed that the charges were not unreasonable, nor the profits extortionate. The Minister, in his communications to me, has quoted another organization, of which, apparently, he does not understand either the strength or the importance. He probably estimates its importance from the length of its name. 1 assure him that if he relies on that organization, he will be relying on a very small body, which does not compare in influence, extent, or numbers, with the Housewives’ Association.
– To what organization is the honorable member referring ?
– To one whose views have been quoted to me by the Minister. The name does not matter much. The Minister has quoted one organization against me, and has ignored the representations of a much larger organization.
– But why all this mystery ?
– There is no mystery. Honorable members would not be interested in the name; but the fact is that an organization of about a dozen members has communicated with the Minister, for what reason I do not know, and he has misrepresented the case to me. The organization is not situated in Perth, but in one of the suburbs of that city. It is not fair to throw upon the grocers, who are simply trading under normal conditions the responsibility for a rise in prices caused by the discriminating action of the Minister.
– At what price are the grocers in Western Australia selling sugar now? Will the honorable member deny that some of them have increased the price to 5½d. ?
– I should not be at all surprised at that; but, again, the Minister is not treating the matter fairly. The price varies according to the quantity sold. Previously the grocers were selling at 5d. for small lots, and similar lots have now been advanced to 5½d. Other lots which they formerly sold at 4½d. have been advanced to 5d. The Minister’s interjection seems to show that he has waved aside my contention, which should have had greater weight with him, that he should consider not the price per pound, but the gross profits made. He has published statements in’ the press as to the gross profits made, but they have been qualified by such words as “ about “ and “ approximately.” That is not a fair way to state the case. I do not know the Minister’s. source of information; but he has apparently estimated the costs, and has thus arrived at the gross profits. I suggest that he should have a proper inquiry made into the matter instead of accepting ex parte statements. I appeal to the right honorable the Prime Minister and the Minister to avoid action which is tantamount to discriminating against one State. The Prime Minister has admitted that it would be unfair to compel grocers to sell at 4½d. a lb., and yetr because they are not selling at 4½d., the Minister is discriminating against the State of Western Australia. A “full inquiry should have been held, and all the facts should have been ascertained, before action was taken. Unfortunately, many of the facts submitted to the Minister have been disclosed at private interviews, and have not been made public. I ask the Minister to withdraw the discrimination against Western Australia until an independent inquiry has been held, not as to the retail price per pound, but as to the gross receipts on the turnoverin the trade. I want to bring this matter to an issue. I have not, so far, received any satisfaction, and, therefore, in order to test the feeling of the committee, I move -
That the item be reduced by £1.
If the amendment is carried, I wish it to be taken as an indication to the Government that, in the opinion of this committee, the differential treatment of Western Australia, in the matter of sugar supplies, should be discontinued. Ihope that honorable members will support me, unless the Minister gives a definite promise that the discrimination will be withdrawn and a proper inquiry held.
.- I wish to draw the Minister’s attention to the need for providing a shelter for seamen at Newcastle as a picking-up place under the Navigation Act. At present the men assemble in an old shed, and recently they went to the expense’ of purchasing a stove to keep themselves reasonably warm while awaiting a call to man a vessel. I understand that the men at one time assembled at the Sailors’ Home at Newcastle,but, owing to circumstances over which they had no control, the use of that building has been denied them. I ask the Minister to look into the matter with a view to providing proper accommodation for these men.
The following paper was presented : -
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 18 of 1926 - Crown Lands.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That this House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260810_reps_10_114/>.