10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (theHon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Yesterday I asked certain questions regarding the appointment of senior telegraphists. From information I have since received it appears that if effect were given to my suggestion it would probably interfere with the rights of men whohave seniority in the service and have been acting as senior telegraphists for a number of years. If that happened it would be a grave injustice to them. I assure the Postmaster-General that I have no desire to place at a disadvantage senior men who have given years of service to the department, and I trust that he will advise the Public Service Board that I asked the question under a misapprehension.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. In to-day’s Argus appears a report of a luncheon given to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and it contains this paragraph -
Mr. Rodgers, M.H.R., and Mr. C. E. Merrett supported the toast. Mr. Rodgers expressed the hope that the united efforts of Mr. Mann and those who, like him, considered the Federal Ministry’s present tariff to be an “ exhibition of fiscal madness,” would be successful in bringing the economic affairs of the Commonwealth to a healthier condition.
Apparently the report was contributed, because it appeared two days after the function. I made no such statement as is attributed to me. My only reference to the fiscal issue was a statement that I appeared to be amongst a body of fiscal opposites, but that I was a protectionist. I went to that luncheon at the invitation of a very old friend, Mr. Hagelthorn, andI was not aware that I was to be associated with any political body. I repudiate this portion of the report entirely.
Prime Minister’s Speech at Dandenong.
– Is the Prime Minister correctly reported in this morning’s press as having said at Dandenong last night that if the referendum proposals were not approved by the people, he would take the constitutional risk of introducing industrial and other legislation which he considered necessary for the welfare of Australia?
– If such a statement appears in the report of my speech it is not a true representation of what I said.
– The Treasurer stated yesterday that, if the House so desired, an opportunity would be afforded to discuss the new tariff schedule of duties on iron and steel. Will the Prime Minister state precisely when that opportunity will be given, so that honorable members may be able to take advantage of it?
– The new schedule of duties on importations of iron and steel from foreign countries is anemergency measure to safeguard the greatest of our basic secondary industries. Theschedule docs not purport to be the considered decision of the Government as to the action necessary in accordance with the investigations recently conducted by the Tariff Board into the iron and steel industry, and the Government does not propose to ask the House to agree to the schedule until honorable members have had an opportunity to read the Tariff Board’s reports - although they may, if they so desire, discuss it. In the meantime, Cabinet accepts responsibility for the introduction of a schedule relating solely to foreign importations.
– Of course the schedule will operate.
– Certainly. The reports of the Tariff Board, which deal exhaustively with every phase of the iron and steel industry, received full departmental consideration, and came before Cabinet only within the last few days. There is no possibility of the Government fully considering the reports and basing upon them matured tariff proposals for some weeks to come, but Ministers felt it imperative that action should be taken at once to guard an important Australian industry against foreign competition until the matter can be dealt with comprehensively.
Opening of Parliament House, Canberra
– I receive inquiries daily regarding invitations for heads of churches, municipal dignitaries and others to the opening of the Commonwealth Parliament House at Canberra. Is the Prime Minister able to indicate to the House what the arrangements for the ceremony will be?
– The arrangements for the opening of Parliament House at Canberra on the 9th May are in the hands of a committee comprising the President, Mr. Speaker, and certain members of the Cabinet. The number of guests to be invited will necessarily be limited. I hope that it will be possible to indicate at an early date the number of guests for whom accommodation will be available, butI advise honorable members not to hold out hope to people who desire to be present at Canberra on that occasion that they will be included amongst the very limited number of official guests.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is true that the publication of the historical records of Australia is to be discontinued ? If so, what action is to be taken in regard to the large quantity of valuable data that is in the possession of the late editor, Dr. Watson ?
– The publication of the historical records is controlled by the Library Committee, but if the honorable member will put a question on the noticepaper I shall endeavour to get a reply to it.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 3rd August I urged that the classification of the Public Service should be expedited, and I drew attention to various injustices and anomalies, mentioning particularly the assistants who take the place of fifth class clerks. The Treasurer promised to bring my remarks under the notice of the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement on the subject ?
– No; but I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know what the position is in regard to the classification.
– Can the Minister for Works and Railways tell the House when the permanent survey of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs will be completed, and when tenders for the construction of the line will be called ?
– I expect that the survey will be completed early in the new year, and that as soon as possible thereafter tenders will be called for the construction of the line. The department proposes to proceed with the construction of the line to a point 25 miles north of Oodnadatta, and there establish a railway camp.
– Can the Treasurer state the value of the concessions made by the Commonwealth to the States in regard to the land settlement of returned soldiers during the last three years? I refer particularly to interest concessions.
– The concessions granted by the Commonwealth to the States in regard to returned soldiers total about £10,000,000. I cannot give the honorable member the figures for the last three years without having a return prepared.
– Will the Prime Ministerafford time during to-day’s sittingfor the House to express an opinion regarding the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the HardyWilson collection of historical and architectural paintings ?
– Let us get on with the other business. Does the honorable member desire to shelve the Cotton Bounty Bill?
– It is urgent that the Parliament should come to a decision regarding this collection, because if will -be distributed about the 20th August unless we take action in the meantime to preserve it for the nation.
– As the honorable member is aware, several important measures must be passed before these sittings terminate, and I can give no undertaking that time will be found for the discussion of the Hardy Wilson collection until all other important business has been disposed of.
– As the House will not have an opportunity to discuss the proposal to acquire this collection of paintings of early colonial architecture and life, will the Treasurer give an assurance that the offer is not definitely rejected, and thus preserve the Commonwealth’s option over the collection until the House can discuss the matter next year?
– I cannot give the honorable member the assurance for which he asks. A motion relating to the subject is on the notice-paper.
– In the event of no opportunity being available to discuss this matter, will the Prime Minister make a declaration that the offer has not been definitely turned down, and so retain our option ?
– The offer has been considered by the Government, which did not see its way clear to acquiesce in the view expressed by the LibraryCommittee. I can see no way to keep the negotiations alive in the event of Parliament not having an opportunity to discuss the subject this session, but I am prepared to indicate now that the matter will be considered when Parliament meets again if the collection is then available.
– I wish to know if the Minister for Markets and Migration can give an undertaking to introduce a bill to enable those engaged in the pearlshell industry to dispose of their products without loss. This is a matter in which the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) and I have been interested for some time. It was mentioned last night in the debate on the estimates, and I understand that the Minister indicated that the necessary steps would be taken to safeguard the interests of those who are engaged in the industry.
– The position of the pearl-shell industry in Western Australia and Torres Strait was brought before the department of Markets and Migration, with a view to obtaining legislation to assist the exportation of pearl shell on a more satisfactory basis. A tentative scheme was drawn up, and has been submitted to the department of the Attorney-General for opinion as to the constitutionality of the proposals. . It would be impossible to introduce a measure this session; but the subject will be considered by the Government when the opinion of the Crown Law authorities has been received.
Transfer to Canberra
– I should like to know if the Prime Minister has yet received a report from the Public Service Board with regard to the allowances to be paid to public servants who will be transferred to the Federal Capital?
– That matter has been referred to the Public Service Board. I have not yet received a reply to the honorable member’s question.
-I ask the Prime Minister if he is in a position now to make an announcement concerning the decision arrived at yesterday in connexion with the claim made by the Performing Eights Association in relation to wireless broadcasting?
– I have already made a statement about the arrangement that has been come to between the Performing Rights Association and the “A” stations, which receive the bulk of the revenue obtained by the Commonwealth from listening-in licence-fees. Yesterday’s conference, towhich the honorable member refers, had relation to performing rights, and was not in any way connected with wireless broadcasting. I can make no statement about it, as I have no information as to what took place at that gathering. With regard to the conference regarding “A” class stations, a report, I understand, is being prepared for consideration in view of the altered charges which were agreed to.
– Is it not a fact that in the opinion of the Crown Law authorities the Performing Eights Association has no claim whatever against institutes unless they are being conducted for private profit? Is it not a fact also that an opinion has been given that country institutes, soldiers’ memorial halls, and Sunday schools are regarded as organizations that are not conducted for private profit?
– I have no knowledge of any opinion having been given by my distinguished predecessor in the office of Attorney-General; but I do not propose to give a legal opinion upon the subject myself. The honorable member’s question invites an expression of opinion, which is not one of the objects to which questions may be directed.
– In view of the feeling that injustice isbeing done, will the Postmaster-General give an undertaking that before the wireless regulations are finalized, honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the subject? Iunderstand that there are now about 150,000 listening-in licences, representing, I should say, about 500,000 persons. It is only right that the House should be allowed an opportunity to discuss the new regulations ?
– When the regulations applying to broadcasting throughout Australia are being dealt with, I shall see what can be done to meet the honorable member’s wishes. I cannot say more than that at the present moment.
” KANGAROO “ BRAND BUTTER.
– On the 5th August the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
– On the 5th August the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) asked the following question: -
What is the total amount of hosiery imported into the Commonwealth during the years 1924-25 and 1925-26; also the value imported from each country of origin for the years 1924-25 and 1925-26?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
As the Minister has stated that the Tariff Board cannot furnish its report on the tobaccogrowing industry before the House rises, and in view of the urgent necessity of the growers being informed as soon as possible of the board’s findings, can he inform the House on what approximate date the report will be available?
– In accordance with the invariable practice, the report of the Tariff Board will not be made public until it has been finally considered by the Government. I can assure the honorable member that the requirements of the industry he is interested in will be carefully considered.
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am advised by the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as follows: -
War Disabilities - Widows Pensions - Children’s Education
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will take into consideration the following matters in connexion with repatriation: -
The onus of proof in regard to war disability;
War pensions of widows, independent of earnings;
Educational facilities for children of blind soldiers?
Problem cases, i.e., case of soldiers who have become sub-efficient by reason of war service?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained from the Federal Capital Commission, and will be made available as soon as possible.
– On the 30th June, the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) asked the following questions : -
The chairman of the Expropriation Board has now furnished the following information in regard to the production of copra: -
The following papers were presented : -
High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom - Report for1925.
League of Nations - First Assembly, held at Geneva, November-December, 1920 - Report of the Commonwealth Representative, Senator the Honorable E. D. Millen.
Superannuation Act - Report of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, 1925-26.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. -
No. 26 of 1926 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 27 of 1926 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
British Phosphate Commission - Reports and Accounts for the year ended 30th June, 1925 (5th year).
DairyProduce Export Control Act - Statement by the Minister for Markets and Migration regarding the operation of the Act, together with the Report of the Dairy Produce Control Board for the year ended 30th June, 1926.
Norfolk Island Affairs- Report, together with Appendices, of the Royal Commission.
Railways Act- By-law No. 39.
– Several questions have been asked by honorable members as to the composition of the North Australia Commission; I am now in a position to state the names of the Commissioners who have been appointed. Mr. James Horsburgh, assistant general manager of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company, will be its chairman, and Mr.William Robert Easton, chairman of the Northern Territory Land Board, and Mr. George Alexander Hobler, chief engineer of Railway Construction, Commonwealth Railways, will , be the two other commissioners. The appointments are for a period of five years. The salary of the chairmanwill be £2,500 per annum, and that of the other members of the (commission £1,500 per annum. The commission as constituted will thus consist of a chairman who combines wide mining knowledge with proved capacity for management and organization and high executive ability; and two other members who are experts in land administration and railway engineering respectively.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 50 of the War Service Homes Act 1918-25.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
In Committee of. Supply (Consideration resumed from 11th August, vide page 5321) :
Proposed vote, £9,655,480 .
– In continuing my remarks from last night, I urge the Postmaster-General to give preference to motor vehicles when letting future contracts for the conveyance of country mails. It is of the’ utmost importance that mails should be carried quickly ; but that is not always possible in drought-time with horsedrawn vehicles. In these days of motor efficiency, motor transport is not more expensive than horse transport. The contractors are in a position to carry to carry out their contracts with greater certainty, and the travelling public benefit considerably by reaching their destinations more quickly. They also travel more, which is to the profit of the contractor. I trust that the policy which the. PostmasterGeneral hasbeen continuing with so much success of extending country mail services will still be pursued by him. People in country districts are subjected to great disabilities. Sometimes they do not get as many mails in a month as city dwellers get in a day, and yet they pay their full share of taxation. I realize that the Postmaster-General has a commendable desire to run his department as a business undertaking, and make the revenue balance the expenditure, but I would rather see twopence charged for conveying a letter weighing half an ounce, than have special: burdens placed on these people who desire country mail services. In view of the great support that the primary industries of Australia give to the secondary industries, it is only fair that they should receive assistance in the direction I have indicated I urge, too, that country telephone services should be given throughout the night without any special charge. It is not the fault of people living in a small country centre that there are not sufficient subscribers to make their telephone service pay, yet for many reasons they are entitled to an even better service than city dwellers. They are in danger of losing large numbers of stock through bush fires, during the periods of drought, and sometimes their homes, too, are in danger, while only too often lives are lost; but with an all-night telephone service it is possible to give warning of the approach of a bush fire, or to summon assistance.
The telephone also makes it possible, in an emergency, to obtain medical or surgical assistance.
I understand that it is the practice of the department to take a census twice a year on the amount of business done by each country mail service for the purpose of deciding whether the service should be extended, curtailed, or discontinued. The census is taken upon the quantity of mail carried during a short period, but it is a misleading test, and is by no means a reasonable criterion of the amount of business brought to the department. For the moment, I cannot suggest any alternative method, but the practice now adopted is open to at least one serious objection. If a station-owner living on one of the small mail routes writes a letter to his agent in the nearest postal town, telling him that he has, say, 10,000 ewes for sale, and the agent issues a thousand circulars advising his clients of the opportunity to buy these ewes, the postal town is credited with the handling pf these thousand circulars, whereas the real credit is due to the small outlying mail route, which merely gets credit for handling one letter. I urge the Postmaster-General to increase postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities in country districts further, and still further. I urge him if possible to connect by a copper wire the two important pastoral towns of Western Queensland - Winton and Longreach. The railway to connect the two places has reached Morella, 40 miles from Longreach, and the Queensland Government intends to complete the line at some indefinite date. The route has been permanently surveyed through level country, and as there are no engineering difficulties there is no reason to apprehend any deviation. It would be of great convenience to the people in this important district to have a telephone service immediately, instead of having to await the construction of the railway.
– A few days ago, I submitted some questions to the Postmaster-General asking whether more favorable treatment would be given to listeners-in who have crystal sets. These people, if they are within a certain zone, pay substantially big fees, just as much as is paid by the owners of more expensive sets; but I think the time has arrived- when an effort should be made to reduce those fees. I speak more particularly on behalf of Victorian listenersin. I think that practically half the listeners-in who pay fees to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department reside in Victoria. I understand that there are from 60,000 to 70,000 wireless sets in Victoria, a large number of which are crystal sets. I am not in any way condemning the action of the official at present in charge of the wireless branch of the Post and Telegraph Department. In my opinion he is a thoroughly competent officer. I have, however, received a number of complaints that the high power of the 3LO broadcasting station prevents listeners in from picking up the 3AE, station. The official reply to this complaint is that those who so desire can, without difficulty, pick up 3AR, but . I have been informed by quite a number that the power of 3LO is too great to enable them to do so. It is, of course, an easy matter for those possessing expensive valve sets to pick up almost any station in the Commonwealth, but further consideration should be given to the large number who possess only crystal’ sets, many of whom are comparatively poor people. I ask the Postmaster-General to make further inquiries into this matter. 1 believe that the Postmaster-General will admit that some of the engineers and mechanics employed in the ‘telephone workshops established in the capital cities of the Commonwealth axe performing important work, and have been responsible for the introduction of many improvements in telephonic equipment. I do not know, however, if any attempt has been made to enter into any arrangement with the patentees of certain equipment, whereby it could be manufactured in Australia by the payment of a royalty. If that were possible, it would lead to increased activity, provide additional employment, and the department would always be in a position to keep its mechanical equipment up to the highest standard. If there is delay in receiving imported appliances, important work is delayed, and men are thrown out of employment. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Postmaster-General on the capable manner in which the work of the department under his control is being conducted. He is always willing to listen : to advice, and some of the suggestions made have been adopted with advantage to the service.
The honorable member for Kennedy (‘Mr. Gr. Francis) referred to the need for continuous telephonic services in country districts, wherever possible, to provide a means of giving alarm in the event of fire, or of summoning medical assistance- Many of our country post offices are open only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and urgent telephone messages cannot be received or dispatched except between those hours. In’ some cases - I admit there are not many -the Postmaster-General has permitted a reputable subscriber to be connected with the exchange throughout the night. When that is done, telephone subscribers in the neighbourhood knew that by getting in touch with a subscriber so connected they will be able to communicate with many other subscribers throughout the State. I know of an instance in which, under this arrangement, a lady living on the Mornington peninsular, whose son was in hospital at Horsham, was able to obtain information concerning his condition. Perhaps the Postmaster-General will give consideration to the desirability of extending this practice in the interests of country residents, because there is no risk of loss of revenue, as the subscriber connected with the exchange is responsible for the collection of the fee.
In Melbourne, and, I understand, in the other capital cities, a large number of telephone mechanics have, in their own time, been manufacturing wireless equipment and installing it in hospitals and other charitable institutions for the benefit of patients, so that they may be. able to hear the musical .selections broadcast, and also items of public interest. I take this opportunity of expressing my gratification for the service thus rendered, which has been the means of providing amusement to many unfortunate persons.
It is true that the present PostmasterGeneral is carrying out a policy foreshadowed by the former occupant of the office, .but under his administration the department has done good work, and I hope that further improvements will be made. Some regard the Postal Department as a commercial’ activity, and say that it should pay its way; but as ife is. contributing largely to Australia’s development, I do not intend to be top critical, even if it should not be able to show a profit on its operations. I trust the Minister will pay some regard to the requests I have made, and that while he occupies his present position will endeavour to see that further facilities are provided, particularly in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth.
– A few days ago I made inquiries from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) concerning the revision of the wireless regulations, and urged that consideration should be given to a reduction in the fee charged to charitable institutions, schools, churches, &c, for one evening’s programme. Al present, I understand, the full licence-fee of 27s. 6d. is charged, which appears excessive. I have no idea of the revenue received by the broadcasting companies, but as it is doubtless considerable- it seems unjust to charge the full fee for such a short period. Demonstrations such as I have mentioned frequently result in the purchase of additional receiving sets, and the revenue thereby benefits.
Mr. WATKINS (Newcastle) f 11.59 1.On numerous occasions I have brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) the need for establishing a receiving and broadcasting, wireless station at the port of Newcastle to enable messages concerning the arrival of ships to be promptly received, and messages containing meteorological information dispatched to vessels approaching the port. In many instances considerable delay and loss has occurred owing to coal- from the Maitland field not being available at the wharf when colliers arrive. At present notification ‘of the approach of vessels has to filter through the main station at Sydney “ to the agents at Newcastle. While I appreciate the provision of broadcasting facilities, I submit that a transmitting and receiving station in such a location as I have described is absolutely essential for saving life. Seeing that the Commonwealth Government has the controlling .interest in Amalgamated Wireless Limited, it should take steps to provide this station, which would need only a limited radius. The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce has repeated its request for this station not simply -out of pique, but because it realizes the seriousness of the situation. I trust that the Minister will give the matter favorable consideration.
– I congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) on the excellent work that he has done since he has held his present portfolio ; but . as the ramifications of his department extend through the Commonwealth, it is natural that complaints should be made from time to time that the service rendered in a particular locality is unsatisfactory. In bringing two or three matters under notice this morning, I do not for a moment suggest that the PostmasterGeneral is to be held personally responsible for the thoughtlessness or even carelessness of the officers of his department.
Whenever persons resident in country districts desire to obtain telephone facilities they are obliged to deposit a certain amount of money with the department as evidence of their bona fides. Several complaints have been made to me that inordinate delays occur in providing the service that has been applied for, and that, although the department retains and uses the money so deposited, it never pays interest on it, though it may have the use of it for many months. I have no doubt that the amount held as deposits is, in the aggregate, very large. If some arrangement could be made by which the ruling rate of bank interest could be 1)aid on it, the people concerned would feel a little less incensed. I trust the Postmaster-General will give some consideration to this matter.
Another complaint that is worthy of consideration has relation to the delay that occurs in accepting tenders for mail contracts. Tenders for certain mail contracts in my division closed in November of last year, but were not settled until May of this year. This caused the contractors who were providing the services a good deal of inconvenience, if not actual loss, through their having no guarantee as to the future. I should be glad if the Postmaster-General would take steps to expedite decisions in matters of this kind.
A firm of merchants in Geelong has, for many years, been doing business, chiefly on the basis of telegrams which, of course, were subsequently confirmed by letter, with a firm in the north of Queensland. Some- time ago. the.. Geelong firm received by telegram an order for 10 tons of chaff, and some other goods. It dispatched the chaff only to find subsequently that 2 tons, and not 10, had been ordered. After some correspondence the department frankly admitted that a mistake had been made. The Geelong merchants authorized the Queensland firm to dispose of the surplus chaff under the best possible conditions, but considerable loss was incurred over the transaction. An effort to get the department to accept financial responsibility for its mistake failed, for the department sheltered itself behind a section of the act which freed it from such liability. In my opinion, that is a wrong principle, and it would not be tolerated as between two private firms. It should not be possible for the department to avoid its responsibility for official mistakes. The Postmaster-General is well acquainted with all the details of this matter, and I trust that he will take steps to see that justice is done. In my opinion, the department should make good the loss on the transaction. Merchants should not be left at the mercy of officers of the department.
.- Some time ago I received communications from the Bundaberg and Rockhampton Chambers of Commerce, intimating that ou their representations the PostmasterGeneral had agreed to use the slogan “ Always ask for Australian products,” as a postmark on all letters that passed through the- Post Office. In my opinion, the marking of letters in that way would be excellent propaganda for Australianmade goods, but so far I have not seen any envelopes with the stamp on them. I trust that the Postmaster-General will expedite this matter.
I have frequently made representations to the Postmaster-General in the interests of allowance postmasters and postmistresses, many of whom, although devoting the whole of their time to their postal duties, receive only from £80 to £120 per annum for the valuable. services they render to our out-back community. I know that it will be said that they are quite at liberty to accept other employment, but in the majority of cases no other suitable work is offering for them’ to take up.. It is not so easy to get a part time position out-back as it is in city areas. I nave had the case of one young lady brought under my notice who, although in receipt’ of only £100 per annum, is obliged to pay 30s. a week for board. I urge the Postmaster-General to reconsider this whole question, and to adopt some more equitable basis of remuneration for these officers.
– They are being paid on a proper basis.
– It is an unfair basis. They should be getting a living wage.
– If the department were obliged to pay them a living wage there would be 5,000 fewer post offices in Australia.
– These officers should not be asked to live on £100 per annum.
– They are not asked to do so ; they are quite at liberty to take up other work.
– It is all very well lo say that, but it is not easy to get part-time work in the backblocks of Queensland and New South Wales. If these officers were not rendering such good service the Government would have to appoint permanent officers in their place at £220 per annum. I urge the Postmaster-General to see that postmasters and postmistresses are paid adequate salaries.
A number of mail contracts are let by the department, but mostly to men who are forced to tender at a price which does not provide a living wage. In some cases ‘ the payment they receive does not cover horse feed. They devote a considerable portion of their time to carrying mails) to outback portions of Australia, for which work they are underpaid by the department.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the mail contractors submit unprofitable tenders?
– The tender system is unjust so far as the mail contracts are concerned. What would happen if we used the tender system for employment generally 1
– For instance, for members of Parliament.
– Under the. tender system, wealthy persons would be prepared to take seats in Parliament without payment. If there were 10,000 unemployed persons in Melbourne, and they were offered work on the tender system, rather than sleep in the open, many of them would work for £1 a week. The tender system in that case would soon reduce our standard of living.
I appreciate the large programme of telephone and telegraph line construction, but I . am not satisfied with it. The officer in charge of the Postal Department in Queensland is very capable, and so far as he is able, under the regulations, gives sympathetic consideration to all requests placed before him, but in many cases he is unable to comply with requests for telephonic, telegraphic, and postal facilities in the remote parts of the State, because the department has decided that the revenue from such services, if provided, would not be sufficient to maintain them. These facilities should not be considered from that viewpoint. We should give every possible facility to the people in the outback country, so as to make their lives more congenial, and to afford them at least some of the conveniences that are enjoyed by people living in populous areas. To encourage the opening up of our country we must be prepared, regardless of cost, to provide telephonic, telegraphic, and postal facilities in country districts. The provision of cheaply constructed telephone lines would not inflict a great burden on the department. The wealthy people should be taxed in order to raise moneys to provide facilities for those in the outback country. My electorate comprises 74,000 square miles, and the requests of many of my constituents for the provision of telephone exchanges, telephone and telegraph lines, and post offices are continually being refused by the department, on the ground’ that the revenue that would be derived from them if provided, would not be sufficient to maintain them. I ‘ask the Postmaster-General to be more generous to outback people.
Like myself, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has in this chamber referred to wireless crystal sets and licences. A few days ago I received a communication, portion of which reads -
The reply given to Mr. Fenton yesterday is all bunkum, .a/bout 3AR being available to crystal set owners. I say, to the pure crystal set, it is not available. There are a lot of liars in the wireless business. Why, some even say they can get interstate stations on a crystal set. That is the limit, and they are only out to “ skite.” 3LO is getting far” and away too much money for what it gives to licenceholders, and as it apparently has “ money to burn “ for ridiculous competition, it is high time that the fees should be reduced,, most certainly to crystal set holders. Fancy, as you said, paying about £1 for a set and 27s. (id. a year for a licence. Is it not the height of absurdity?
In my speech I pointed out to the PostmasterGeneral that a crystal set instrument costs about 7s. 6d., the head -phone 15s., and the aerial material about 2s. 6d., making a total of 25s., as against a licence-fee of 27s. 6d. I hope that the Postmaster-General will reconsider this matter and reduce the licence-fee to holders of pure crystal sets to at least £1 a year. I ask the Postmaster-General, also, to reconsider the existing wavelengths. Those who are responsible for fixing the wave-lengths have made numerous mistakes which they are not prepared to admit or rectify. I hope the Postmaster-General will investigate the matter with a view to removing all causes of complaint.
.-I wish to refer to the administration of the policy of the Government regarding preference to returned soldiers. I do not believe that the Postmaster-General himself realizes the way in which this policy is being carried out. I am quite convinced that the returned soldiers themselves do not appreciate the methods that are being employed at present to give effect to that policy. The policy of preference to returned soldiers which has been laid down is that when two men apply for one position, the returned soldier is appointed, other things beng equal; but thai is not the way in which the policy is being administered. Men- who have been temporary employees of the department for many years are to-day being discharged to make room for returned soldiers. Recently I asked the Postmaster-General whether that was so, and he replied, “ No.” That is confirmed by the following report which appeared in the press : -
Mr. SCULLIN (Victoria) .-Is it a fact that you are dismissing men who have been in your service for years in order to make room for returned soldiers?
The POSTMASTER-GENERAL.– No. The only entry into the department was as a telegraph messenger, but as an alternative returned soldiers were being taken into the department at considerable expense.
I have quite a long list of cases, and I shall mention one or two to the Postmaster-General to convince, him, as a reasonable man, that what is now being done by the department has not been asked for and is not approved by the returned soldiers themselves. In one case a man had been employed for fourteen years as lineman in the Postmaster-General’s Department. For ten years he worked 75 per cent, of his time, and for four years he worked continuously as lineman. His services have been dispensed with to make room for a returned soldier. He is a married man with a wife and four children. That is a shocking case. Another man had been employed in the line branch for three years. He was unable to enlist because of .his youth, and is at present only 24 years of age. His brother was killed at the war, and although he is married his services have been dispensed with. Another man had been a lineman for nineteen months, and he was displaced by a returned soldier who at the time was actually employed by the” Electricity Commission of Victoria. This man’s brother went to the war. Another man whose services were dispensed with had been employed as a lineman at Shepparton for two years. His only brother was at the war. The last case is the worst. A young employee who was a lad when war broke out has been discharged by the department. He had ‘been employed as lineman for some time at Shepparton. His father was killed at the war. He has a wife, and partly supports his widowed mother.
– It is a shame !
– It is a shame. In numerous cases, in pursuance of the general policy of preference to returned soldiers, the department has dispensed with the services of experienced employees who bear splendid characters and records. They are being thrown aside to make room for returned soldiers. I ask the Postmaster-General to investigate this matter, and if he does so, I am satisfied that he will not allow the present method of giving effect to this policy to continue.
.- I wish to draw the Postmaster-General’s attention to the now unsatisfactory nature of the broadcasting service throughout the western area of Victoria, including the Wimmera and West Wimmera districts. At one time the people there enjoyed an excellent service, but because of recent changes in the wave-length of 3LO night transmission is frequently weak and subject to bad distortion, and is really not worth listening to. I am quite certain that steps can be taken to rectify these defects, and I hope the Postmaster-General will make a definite statement for the benefit of the people in those districts.
.- I wish to protest against the neglect of Tasmania in the matter of new and improved postal accommodation. While provision is made for new post offices and alterations of existing post offices in the other States, nothing is proposed to be done in Tasmania.
– The Estimate! now before the committee cover only the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Works and buildings are provided for in the Estimates for the Works and Railways Department.
– I am sorry that 1 am not allowed to discuss this matter now. It is unreasonable to spend so much money in the other States while entirely neglecting Tasmania.
.- Several honorable members have mentioned the matter of semi-official postmasters, and I wish to amplify their remarks by reading two letters out of many I have received on the subject. The first letter, which deals with the business side of the question, is as follows : -
We feel sure if the matter was clearly stated as regards our position the Government would surely bring our conditions of employment into line with the awards made by the Arbitration Court for identically the same work done by official P.M.’s.
I will mention a few of our disadvantages as compared with official P.M.’s, whether permanent or temporary. We receive no increments, our salary is the same as that of a junior mail officer at 20 years of age, though we have ‘been from 20 to 30 years in the service, and are responsible for considerable sums of money. There is no provision for either sick leave or furlough, though the strain of the work ir as much, and, in some cases, more than in official offices, which are properly staffed, while we have to make the best of what assistance can be obtained locally.
Our annual leave is twelve days, and for that we must find relievers, and pay the expenses in excess of the £6 allowed. If superannuation benefits were made applicable to us it would enable those reaching the retiring age to re sign - under existing conditions there is -no retiring age for this class of officer, and none of us could provide for old age out of the salary we receive.
We must either apply for old-age pensions or continue in our offices past the age when good work is possible. Old-age pensions would not meet the case, as most of us have no homes, having been compelled to live at our offices, for which 10 per cent, rent for quarters is deducted from our salaries.
I feel sure that you will do what you can to, if necessary, get the act amended to admit us, as contributors, to the Superannuation Fund, or, failing that, that we be placed on the permanent staff and this class of office be abolished.
The second letter, which states the position from the personal point of view of the writer, reads -
For myself I can say that I am at my wits end to know what will become of me when I am too old to continue at the work, and my present allowance of £5 17s. 4d. per fortnight does not give me a chance to make any provision for my old age, and it would be a great relief to my mind if we semi-official P.M.’s could be granted a retiring allowance. T have been here for 26 years, and I assure you I have had to work hard and deny myself everything but the bare necessities of life. The allowance does not permit me to employ any one to do my household work, so that I have to attend to that myself after my office work is done; so you will believe me when I say that I have to work from twelve to sixteen hours every day.
I am sure that it is the desire of all in embers of this committee that our public servants should be adequately remunerated, and I ask the PostmasterGeneral, if at all possible, to make some allowance in such cases.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the payment of district allowances. The allowances paid by the department were fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator in August, 1923, but that does not get rid of the need for dealing with cases as we find them. The allowances paid to postal officials in my State are pitifully inadequate. The award made by Mr. Justice Starke in 1920 granted an allowance of £100 to officers at Broome, Derby, Onslow, Port Hedland, and Hamelin Pool. To-day, for grade 5 districts, the allowance for a married roan is £60, which is a reduction of £40 on the award rate, and for a single man £40. It is necessary for an officer in Broome to wear light clothing, such as is worn in the Dutch East Indies, India, and other tropical countries. The clothes have to be washed at least every two days, and the man who wishes to observe a reasonable standard of cleanliness must have them washed every day. Many persons in Java change their suits twice a day. The washing of a white suit is an expensive operation at Broome, so much so that it costs a man up to £1 a week to have a reasonably sanitary appearance. If the Minister for Markets and Migration were to land there, the price of butter, which is never below 3s. per lb., would make his heart rejoice, and potatoes and other requirements are also dear. The pearlers and government officials give the place an Indian atmosphere, and unless a public servant lives up to a certain social standard, he may as well be dead. In the circumstances, the pariahs of the community are the employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I have no more fault to find with the judicial arrangements for fixing the salaries of public servants than of other employees. I spent seventeen years in the Postal Department, and regard that part of my life as wasted ; and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has also spent many years in other government departments. The Postal Department is the last word in penuriousness. I wish that the PostmasterGeneral, as an act of selfdiscipline, would take a position in grade 5 at Broome with an allowance of £60 over the rate of salary paid in Melbourne. But there are worse places than Broome from the point of view of the allowance. An officer at Marble Bar receives an allowance of £80 a year if he is married, and £60 a year if he is single. For the last word in climatic discomfort recommend me to Marble Bar. It is the final test of human endurance, the last gasp, the hottest place in Australia. It vies with a certain place in Mesopotamia., which claims to be the hottest spot on earth. There is only one other place - which, according to the Good Book, if we are not careful, the majority of us will eventually reach - which claims to be hotter. At Marble Bar a single man receives ‘about £1 a week for the honour of representing the PostmasterGeneral, and operating that adjunct of civilization, the Postmaster-General’s Department, as a going concern. Wallal, which is in the same grade, has a beach 90 miles long under a tropical sun.
One of the postmasters spent his spare time going with the niggers into the sea at low tide to gather pearl shell to assist him to make ends meet. He developed quite a business in purchasing pearl shell from the natives and reselling it at higher prices. I have no doubt that the PostmasterGeneral will reply that district allowances are outside his purview. At Wyndham, which is in the sixth grade, a married man receives £80 a year. Owing to the difficulties of transportation, the members of that community are sometimes without butter, potatoes, and other necessaries of life for a month at a time. Postal officials in such places are expected to keep up their social status alongside bank officials, who receive £3 a week allowance, but do no more useful work.
New post offices are required at many places. Morawa,, Perinjori, Carnamah, Pithara, and Wongan Hills are in growing farming districts, and are prosperous centres of population. Wheat grown at Dalwallinu has been brought to Victoria by the Postmaster-General to sow on his own land. The Minister promised recently to satisfy me on these points, and I should like him to do so now. Unofficial offices are generally in a disgraceful condition. A deputation of 100 persons came from Carnamah and expressed their just indignation about the bad service there.
I wish now to deal with the subject of contract labour in the carrying out of work for the telephone branch. All that is insisted upon is that contractors shall pay those whom they employ the wage rates fixed by awards for the districts in which they work. The employees of the department are very anxious to do all this kind of work, and they rightly complain that they are placed at a disadvantage by the employment of contract labour. In the case of its own employees the department supplies equipment, provides for child endowment, and gives travelling and camping allowances as provided for in the awards secured by the Linesmen’s Union and by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. The private contractor competes with the department without having to provide any of these things, but he should be obliged to observe the same conditions as the department.
I have just a word to say about the fitting of transcontinental trains with wireless equipment. Has the PostmasterGeneral anything to do with this matter?
– Only to grant licences.
– I hope the honorable gentleman will use his influence with his colleague, the Minister for Works and Railways, to have this equipment provided on the transcontinental trains.
– It would be quite a good thing.
– The position of those who are in charge of allowance post offices has already been extensively dealt with, and I have only to say that there is no justification for the way in which they are sweated. As Sir John Gorst said 40 years ago, the Government should, be a model employer, but I regret to say that for a number of years the treatment of those in charge of allowance post offices has been the last thing in sweating. You could not get anything to equal it even in India.
– I wish to again direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the case of Mrs. Kelly, of Yergo. I trust that the honorable gentleman will hasten his decision in that case. Another matter to which .1 wish to refer is one that is viewed with concern by the people of the town of Mannum. For a number of years an efficient passenger and mail motor service, running twice daily, was conducted by the firm of Birdseye and Sons. It was a great convenience to the people of Mannum. The South Australian Railways Department has now established -a motor service with Mannum running once a day, and it has secured from the Postal Department the contract for the carriage of the mails. The object of the South Australian Railways Department is to run Birdseye and Sons off the road. As the firm never failed to deliver the mails up to time, and carried out its contract to the utmost satisfaction of the Postal Department and the people of Mannum, it was entitled to more consideration than it has received. I am glad to say that the firm is continuing its service, because the people of Mannum stand behind it. I hope that when the mail contract with the Railways Department expires, it will be given again to the firm that carried it out for so long to the -satisfaction of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I want to pay my tribute to the public spirit of those who are rendering such fine service to the country and the Postal Department in the much discussed allowance post offices. The work which these people do cannot be estimated in pounds, shillings, and pence, and were it npt for the services they render it would be quite impossible for the Postal Department to continue to carry on post offices at many places where allowance offices have been established. If the Postmaster-General would give sympathetic consideration to cases of hardship amongst these officers brought under his notice, he would remove the cause of much complaint. I should like to conclude with a grace after and before meat. For those things which we have received in my division - and many additional facilities have been provided within the last few .months - the electors and I are truly thankful to the Postmaster-General and his deputy in South Australia. For what we are about to receive I hope we may be also thankful.
.- 1 wish again to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General the unsatisfactory condition of the wireless service in the Hamilton district. It may be that in other parts of the Western District conditions are more satisfactory. I cannot better explain the position at Hamilton than by reading the following letter from the Hamilton District Radio Club, a public spirited body established in that town : -
Dear Sir, - We understand that there is likely to be a re-allocation of wave lengths for Australian broadcasting stations, and we would like to bring under your notice the unsatisfactory service provided for country licence holders since the last alteration to the wave length of 3L0. Since the change from 1,720 metres to 371, night transmission is subject to facing and bad distortion, and is really not worth listening to. You will, no doubt, have seen the large number of letters in the press lately from all over the State complaining of the same trouble, so that it is not confined to this district, and we would be pleased if you would bring the matter before the authorities or in Parliament, with a view to having this trouble remedied. No doubt you will be told that it is caused by natural condition in the atmosphere, but the interstate stations are not affected nearly -so badly, and were it not for these stations it would not be worth while holding a licence. On the old wave length transmission was almost perfect, and we think the interests of country listeners should be considered as well as those of the metropolitan area. If you take the matter up we will be pleased to give you a demonstration of the trouble, also any other information in our power.
I hope that on the re-allocation proposed thin district will be catered for, and the Postmaster-General will do all he can to make this modern aid to the rapid communication of Australian and world news to the country districts as effective as possible.
– In reply to the debate I propose only to say that the matters referred to by honorable members have been so varied and detailed that I shall get into communication with them, and let them have the departmental replies to the remarks they have made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1.58 to 2 p.m.
Proposed vote - £131,581.
– I make no apology for occupying the time of the committee in discussing the Estimates for the Northern Territory, because many months will elapse before I shall have another opportunity to draw attention to the shortcomings of the Administration in northern and central Australia. With many of the subjects to which I shall refer I have dealt fully on previous occasions, but reform comes very slowly, and, acting in accordance with the old truism that constant dripping will wear away the hardest stone, I return to these matters in the hope that in time the Government will become more alive to its responsibility for the development of the outback parts of the Commonwealth.
Under t the heading of “Charitable institutions “ £1,300 is provided for medical officers at Darwin. Having regard to the enormous area of northern and central Australia, there is something wrong with a system that places the only two doctors in those territories within a half-mile of each other, and leaves the pioneers in the interior entirely without medical attention. I do not say that two doctors are not required at Darwin, but ships carrying doctors visit that port at frequent intervals. I have known the mother in a pioneer family to be in urgent need of medical assistance, but a journey of 800 or 900 miles by road to the rail-head was beyond her physical strength and the financial resources of the husband. Repeatedly I have appealed for the appointment of at least two doctors for the inland areas - one ‘at Alice Springs and another at the rail-head.
The Commonwealth is about to embark on railway construction in the Territories, and it is a well-known fact that accidents, fever and other diseases follow in the wake of the construction gangs. It is the duty of the Government to provide for the medical needs of the workers on the line. In the south, the nearest doctor resides at Oodnadatta; there is not another in the two Territories, nearer than Darwin, which is 1,000 miles away. Health is a national matter, and should be the first concern of any government.
For destitutes and lepers, £3,500 appears on the Estimates. I again appeal on behalf of the lepers, many of whom are isolated on a low-lying island in Darwin Harbour’. One of the lepers is supposed to attend to- the medical requirements of his fellow unfortunates, but, being a half-caste, is more or less despised by the full-blooded blacks, ana they will not submit to his treatment. Not long ago one of the white pioneers died on this island. The conditions of this government lazarette are scandalous. Leprosy is curable, and the inmates of the lazarette should be given at least a dog’s chance of recovery. Various missionaries have offered to go on the island and see that proper treatment is given to the lepers, but those offers have not been accepted. The fact that the Bishop of Carpentaria refused to send a leper girl of eleven years of age to the station, because of the inhumane conditions existing there, is proof that something is radically wrong with it. The cost of maintaining a white attendant on the island would not be very great, and his services would mean much to the lepers. I again beseech the Government to establish more humane conditions in the lazarette.
There is an item of £1,000 for the maintenance of nursing homes. Three such homes have been established in north and central Australia by the Presbyterian Inland Mission. Whilst I shall always contend that the health of the community is the responsibility of the National Government, I applaud the great and humane work that this mission is doing in attending to the sick, and needy of the interior. These unselfish services, however, do not justify the Government in evading its obligations. The fact that the mission incurs big expenses in the erection of hospitals, and the provision of nurses does not lessen the responsibility of the Government. These hospitals are not run for profit. As soon as the cost of one has been met, and a surplus is available, a similar institution is established in some other part of the Territory. I understand that the Commonwealth Government contributed practically nothing to the cost of erecting the hospital recently opened at Alice Springs. As this institution will render valuable service to the residents of central Australia within a radius of hundreds of miles of Alice Springs, the Government should have contributed at least ?2,000 towardsthe cost of the buildings and equipment,I know that if that money were forthcoming, even now, it would be applied to the establishment of another hospital in some other part of the Territory.If it is too late to provide for such a grant in these Estimates, the Treasurer will be justified in making money available from his advance account. The hospitals are staffed by well-trained nurses, but they are not qualified to diagnose obscure ailments, or to perform serious surgical operations. Therefore, the Government should provide doctors for these medical centres and the surrounding hinterland. The least the Government can do for the man who undertakes the development of the out-back areas is to assure medical attention for him and his family. I urge the Government to consider seriously the granting of the subsidy to the Presbyterian Inland Mission in order to enable it to continue and extend its good work.
I notice that ?100 is provided for Government scholarships. That sum would hardly pay the fares of two scholars journeying to the south, apart from their maintenance at a college. Moreover, the scholarshipsare confined to the State schools. The activities of the Education Department of the Territory are limited to a few centres; fully four-fifths of the people of the Territory are without State educational facilities, and children can be taught only by governesses or correspondence. That being so, the scholarships should not be restricted to the State schools. I am not urging this change for any sectarian reason. By subsidizing the scholar, the Government does not subsidize the institution or church from which the child de rives its education. The institution or church will not benefit, except in so far as it enjoys reflected credit from the success of one of its scholars. Unfortunately the scholar of a private establishment cannot compete for these scholarships, and as State schools are few this Government aid is restricted to a small section of the community. The Government cannot afford to discriminate between the various educational agencies. It should be sufficient for the Minister that by this expenditure we may be developing the intellects of those who may in the future direct the affairs . of this great Commonwealth. I ask him, therefore, to make the scholarship open to all children, irrespective of where they gain their education, and to remember that in doing so he is subsidizing not the institution but the child.
For the development of the mining industry in the Northern Territory the sum of ?400 is provided on these Estimates.
– It seems to me that there has been a bit of a land slide there.
– There has been. It is a ridiculous provision, because ?400 would not finance one prospecting party, and on a ?1 for ?1 basis would not enable a shaft to be sunk below 33 feet.
– Under the provisions of the Precious Metals Prospecting Bill ?10,000 is provided for prospecting in the Northern Territory.
– That amount is to be spent on prospecting for precious metals. Lead, copper, antimony, and tin are base metals and some of the most flourishing mining communities in Australia are engaged in mining for these metals. In my opinion, the ?10,000 referred to by the Minister ought to be added to the ?400 provided on these Estimates and devoted to mining development generally. The Adelaide Daily Mail of the 7th August last contains an article headed -
Eyes on the Far North : Gold Lures
Prospectors : Many Companies Formed
It is a long article. It states that seven or eight prospecting parties have been formed in Adelaide for the purpose of exploring and prospecting Central Australia, and contains the following statement : -
Sir Douglas Mawson, eminent geologist, was asked to explain the mineral possibilities of the north. “There is no doubt,” he said, “that northern South Australia and Central Australia have been only lightly prospected, and have great possibilities as far as mineral wealth is concerned. Gold, wolfram, and mica have been mined on a commercial scale, and from time to time good specimens of lead, copper, and monazite have been brought to Adelaide.” ‘ Some of the country in Central Australia,” he continued, “ is constituted of rock formations of the same age as rich gold-bearing country in Western Australia.”
Every geologist who has been through that country has formed the same opinion. It is not altogether a question of prospecting. The deposits are known to exist, but they cannot be worked owing to the lack of transport facilities. Any one acquainted with “ gold-bearing country who visits Central Australia is impressed with the great probability of discovering gold there. A few weeks ago I saw specimens of gold ore obtained on the eastern side of Central Australia, and it is the matured opinion of all mining men who have visited this part of the Territory that shortly there will be a big development in that country. Nothing develops a place more quickly than mining does, and I think the Government should have provided for an expenditure more commensurate with the importance of the industry for whose development it is intended. No one seriously interested in the development of mining in’ the Northern Territory would think of providing the ridiculous amount of £400 for the purpose.
The other day the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) asked the Government to pay a subsidy to Mr. Bagot, so that it might be possible for people to traverse the Territory by motor car and realize the vastness of their own country. The honorable member is particularly anxious that members of the Commonwealth Legislature should see this country for themselves, and thus be in a position to discuss matters relating to its development more intelligently. Although I do not favour the suggestion of paying a subsidy to Mr. Bagot, I think that the Minister for Home and Territories and the Postmaster-General should subsidize a’ mail contractor to run a motor -mail service between Powell’s Creek and Alice Springs. At the present time there is a mall service, from Katherine River -fo Powell’s Creek, and also ah excel lent service from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, leaving the comparatively short distance of about 350 miles between Alice Springs and Powell’s Creek still to be covered. A through motor mail service would enable people ‘in Melbourne to reach Darwin in a very short time. The methods adopted by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the conveyance of mails in this country are appalling. When a fault occurs in the Overland Telegraph Line, which carries the whole of the eastern cable service, and is thus of great importance to Australia, it. takes men on horseback weeks to effect the necessary repairs, whereas by motor they could probably do the work in a day. From the stand-point of efficiency alone, a motor service along that route should be inaugurated. Honorable members would then be enabled to visit the Territory without any great loss of time, and glean something about the desirability of further expenditure to promote its development.
This morning the Prime Minister announced the personnel of the North Australia Commission. I should like to know what is to become of the Land Board, because we .were told by the Minister who introduced the Northern Australia Land Bill that the North Australia Commission would absorb the whole of the functions of land administration.
– Yes, and I think that Mr. Easton will prove to be an excellent member of the commission. I have watched his work closely, and knowing the conditions under which he has performed his duties, I think we have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon his appointment to the commission. The chairman of the commission is a mining expert of great ability, and I am sure that when he sees some of the mineral deposits of the Northern Territory he will not be satisfied until something practical has. been done to develop them. Although Mr. Hobler’s appointment may not be received with universal satisfaction, I must say, after fourteen years of intimate contact with him, that I ‘consider that he is one of the best railway; men in Australia. He has already rendered lengthy and excellent service to the Commonwealth and the States, but I believe that he has many years of useful activity in front of him.
Included in the Estimates is an amount of £5,500 for “subsidy for steamer service - passenger and cargo - between Melbourne and Darwin.” Transportation is a problem outback, and the Government should do everything possible to solve it. Last year Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company received in subsidies from the Commonwealth between £6,000 and £7,000, and two other steamship companies were also subsidized, the total amount involved being, I understand, about £18,000. The proposition was made to the Government some time ago by one shipping company that if the subsidy were increased by £2,000, making £20,000 in all instead of £18,000 as at present, it would reduce its freights from £3 to 35s. per ton, and its fares from- £25 firstclass single to £15, and from £16 secondclass single to £10, and would accept crude ore for shipment at 20s. per ton. In addition, it would undertake that, if its revenue from the service exceeded the amount of the subsidy, it would divide it on a fifty-fifty basis with the Commonwealth. If the Government .could have agreed to this proposition, it would have made all the difference . between profit and loss to a number of mining shows in the Territory. I should be glad if this whole matter could be reconsidered.
The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) gave a most disappointing reply last night to the requests made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), and myself, that more wells should be sunk on the stock routes in the Territory, and that those already there should be subject to more effective supervision. The Minister said in effect, that as the Government proposed to construct a railway through the country, it could not also sink wells. The suggestion was that if the stock routes were adequately supplied with water, the stock would not be put on the railway. It should be remembered, however, that the stock routes do not run right along the proposed route of the railway.
– - I was referring more particularly to the railway and stock route south of Alice Springs, and not north of it.
– Apart altogether from the necessity of providing water for stock, the Government will need to find water for its locomotives after the railway is constructed. The water in a number of the wells south of Alice Springs is altogether too salty for locomotive use. The provision of wells on stock routes in the Northern Territory is a national need, and I trust that the Minister for Works and Railways will influence the Minister for Home and Territories to supply that need.
.- I wish to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) respecting the hospitals of the Australian Inland Mission. The Estimates provide the amount of £1,000 for “Maintenance of nursing homes,” but nothing whatever to meet the needs of the Australian Inland Mission.
– Does not the line, “Assistance to Missions, £2,500,” cover the Australian Inland Mission?
– No ; it is solely for the purposes of the various aborigine mission stations in the Territory. Although the Australian Inland Mission is maintained by the Presbyterian church, it is entirely undenominational. It has already established three hospitals in the territory, as well as a number of nursing homes in other parts of the interior. Sir Neville Howse, who holds the portfolios of Defence and Health, has stated in this Chamber that the nursing homes of the Australian Inland Mission are model institutions, the equipment and staff of which were the very best, and that their establishment in the Northern Territory saves the Government and the country thousands of pounds. Within the last month .or so, I had an opportunity of conversing with the Reverend John Flynn, the superintendent of the mission, and he told me that the mission is only waiting for additional funds to establish another hospital. In addition to the three hospitals it has in the Northern Territory, it has others at
Birdsville, in Queensland, and Oodnadatta and Beltana, in South Australia. It also has nursing homes at Innamincka or Cordillo Downs, Lake Grace, in the south-western corner of Western Australia, Port Hedland, and Hall’s Creek in the north of Western Australia. A church should not have to build hospitals and nursing homes like this; but seeing that it has the Christian spirit to remedy the failure of Federal and State Governments to do so, I urge that an amount of £2,000 should be provided from “ Treasurer’s Advance,” to assist it in its splendid work.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the dingo pest. The present high cost of freight practically precludes settlers in the Northern Territory from fencing their land with dingo-proof netting. The amount provided, in the Estimates this year for the destruction of dingoes is £600, compared with £250 provided last year, but I do not think the Government realizes how difficult it is for settlers to collect the 5s. per scalp that they are entitled to. One settler told me that it did not pay him to carry the scalps several hundred miles to the receiving depot. I suggest that all police stations and post offices should be authorized to receive and pay for the scalps. The present arrangement may be quite right for settlers in other parts of Australia, who can consign their scalps by rail to the receiving depots; but it is useless to those who have to send them hundreds of miles by horse in the charge of a black boy, to the nearest receiving depot.
I have previously suggested that the track to Alice Springs should be declared a motor road. It has been badly cut up in many new places. The heavy waggons cut the track to such an extent that it cannot be used by motor cars, and, consequently, new country is broken into for other tracks, and these are again cut up by the heavier vehicles.
– As fast as the motor car makes a good track, the heavy vehicle cuts it up.
– If a motor road were declared, the waggons would keep to their own track. I suggest that at crossings at creeks and rivers a notice should be posted, notifying cattle-drovers to cross not on the main track, but 200 or 300 yards east or west of it. When travelling it is common to see cattle resting on the track, perhaps on the sandiest patch that can be found for a distance of 100 miles. A little thought on the part of the cattledrovers would enable it to be kept in excellent order. It has previously been suggested that the Government could facilitate transport by placing across creeks and river beds strips of metal about 18 inches wide as wheel tracks for cars. I do not know whether the Minister has inquired into this matter, but there should be plenty of old material obtainable at Port Augusta that could be removed to Oodnadatta at little expense. One gentleman, who is working on boring operations in the Territory, told the Minister for Home and Territories that, if that department would rail old scrap plate-iron to Oodnadatta, he would deliver it at every crossing on the track to Alice Springs. I ask the Minister to give his serious attention to these suggestions.
– I regret that the Government, in selecting the personnel of the North Australia Commission, has not appointed to it a representative of South Australia, which State I represent. I do not approach this matter from a purely State view-point, and I have no intention of making an attack on the qualifications of the gentlemen who have been appointed to that commission, because that would be a highly improper action for a member of this Parliament to take. We are all aware that great differences of opinion exist among the various States respecting the Northern Territory, and I do think that it would have been judicious to strengthen the personnel of the commission by appointing to it a representative from each of the States most interested in the Territory. Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland all adjoin the Northern Territory, and it would have been wise and shown forethought for the success of the commission had a representative been chosen from each of those States. My mind goes back over several decades when my own State was responsible for the administration of the Northern Territory. I do not forget the money that was poured out by South Australia to aid the development of the Northern Territory : I do not forget the overland telegraph line that was constructed by that State, under the supervision of Sir Charles Todd. I do not forget the work of exploration carried out by that State, nor the multitude of factors which have governed the Northern Territory, and led to the progress that it has made up to the present. In justice to South Australia, in view of what it has done for the Northern Territory, I think that, in the selection of the three representatives from the whole of Australia, at least one place should have been given to a suitable man from that State.
.- No one should object to the selection of three good Australians to control and administer the Northern Territory. In my opinion, the men chosen are well qualified for the position. Mr. Horsburgh is known throughout Australia as a firstclass mining engineer, who, for many years, was assistant general manager of the Mount Morgan mine. He has been to America on two or three occasions to investigate the latest mining methods. Mr. Hobler has had a lifelong experience in railway engineering, and Mr. Easton has for some time been president of the Land Board in the Northern Territory. On this commission we have a combination of three men with an expert knowledge of mining, railway construction, and land administration. Surely we are not so parochial as to suggest that any one of these appointments should have been specially made for State considerations. Two of these men have for years occupied high positions in the Public Service. Mr. Easton is a native of Western Australia, and I believe that he is a big Australian. For goodness sake let us get State boundaries out of our heads, and not cry because South Australia is not represented on the commission.
.- I deeply regret that in the personnel of the commission a conspicuous place has not been given to a man of wide pastoral experience. I believe, from what information I have been able to gather, that the chairman is a mining engineer of excellent reputation, in fact, a good allround business man; but it is quite as essential that we should have a pastoral representative on the commission. The two great possibilities of the Northern Territory are mining and pastoral. I take it that this commission will not interfere with that portion of the Territory which is now known as Central Australia.
It has been suggested that Western Australia should transfer the north-west portion of its territory to the North Australian Commission, and this possibly makes it all the more essential that there should be an expert on the commission capable of dealing with the pastoral industry, and particularly the export phase of it. Western Australia, considering its limited financial resources, has invested a tremendous amount of capital in its northwestern territory, but, despite the establishment of large freezing works there, little business is being done. In order to revive our meat export trade with the United Kingdom, the Government should have given a conspicuous place on the commission to one of the members of the Meat Export Council. We should have men on the . commission who are well known in Great Britain, and will inspire confidence in financial circles in London, so as to make easier the work of developing and settling, principally by means of migration, the vast areas of the Northern Territory. If British capital were invested in the Northern Territory in the form of a chartered company we should have in Britain a permanent advocate for Australian products in the British market. That would be worth paying for. The next development will probably be the appointment of an Administrator for Northern Australia.
– And also for Central Australia.
– We do not want a figurehead as Administrator, but a practical man who is not afraid to take off his coat. So far as railways are concerned, it is time that we realized that we cannot build Commonwealth Railways in Melbourne. Some time ago, at the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), Sir George Buchanan visited Australia to report on our harbours.
– He turned out to be a “ dud.”
– I do not say that; I have not yet seen his report. If he is the man described by the Prime Minister - and we must remember that he was. recommended by some of the best expert authorities in the Old Country - I do not object to the expense incurred in bringing him here. Sir George Buchanan might prove to have been the right man For the job. His report might be worth much more than its weight in gold. If it saves us from making in the Northern Territory the blunders which have -been made elsewhere, the expenditure will be well worth while.
– The great weakness of these imported experts is that they are not acquainted with local conditions.
– It would have been more practical to have obtained an expert to teach us how to build railways. Every man in the Northern Territory who occupies a responsible position should be a man of the right type. In connexion with railway construction, a man is needed who not only knows the latest methods of railway construction, but also has a strong, all-round personality.
– Have we not such a man now ?
– Above everything else, an organizer is required, a man who can control men and command the confidence of 90 per cent; of the employees; otherwise we shall have a repetition of v/hat occurred in connexion with the east-west railway. Much that occurred in connexion with the east-west railway is not pleasant to relate, but it is true. “We cannot afford to repeat that experience in connexion with the Northern Territory. I could say a great deal in connexion with Commonwealth railway administration, but it may be as well to bury the past. What did Mr. Webb do when appointed Chief Railways Commissioner in South Australia? Instead of centralizing the work of the department, he decentralized it; he cut the State into six divisions, appointed a responsible man in each, and gave him a staff. He then reduced the Central Office staff by a greater number of officers than he placed in the six divisional offices. He has compelled the admiration and affection of his staff, because of his just treatment of them. Since Mr. Webb, with his great capacity and strong personality, took charge of the South Australian railways, there has been less industrial trouble than formerly. If South Australia found that policy profitable, it should be more profitable in the larger Commonwealth sphere. To repeat in the Northern Territory the idiotic policy of attempting to build railways from Melbourne would be evidence of incapacity; it would be a burglary of the public funds. Unless a good man is placed in charge of the Northern Territory, more money will be wasted; and enough money has been wasted already. I sincerely hope that when an administrator is appointed to the Northern Territory a big man, in the true sense of the term, will be selected. I hope also that the Government will adhere to the promise made twice this week - once by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and again by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) - that the railway in the southern portion of the Northern Territory will be submitted to public tender. The Commonwealth ought not to proceed with the construction of 25 miles of railway before tenders are called, a course which, I understand, has been suggested. If that were done, it might happen that after tenders have been received, it would be contended that the Commonwealth was already committed to certain expenditure for rollingstock, &c, and that the work should be done departmentally. Honorable senators know what happened in connexion with the Kyogle-South Brisbane railway. After the work had been commenced, it was found that £500,000 above the original estimate was required.
– Before the work is completed, another £500,000 will be required.
– They will not get it.
– Plenty of additional half-millions were granted in connexion with the east-west railway. I’ favour the construction of a railway of standard gauge from Kyogle to South Brisbane. The sooner the work is done, the better. But what applies to that railway does not apply to railways in other portions of Australia.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway.
– I referred to it to point out what should be avoided in other parts of Australia. I want to issue a warning against the practice of “ tiddleywinking” with contractors, and then deciding to do the work departmentally. In connexion with the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway, no tender was accepted ; the work is to be carried out by the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. That means that the contractors are the Railways Commissioners, who are parties to the agreement, the States having two representatives and the Commonwealth one. Would any business man conduct his business in that way?
– I am waiting for the honorable member to connect his remarks with the proposed vote before the Chair.
– I shall do so by urging that a similar procedure be not followed in connexion with railways in the’ Northern Territory and at break-of -gauge stations.I hope the Government will call Parliament together again as soon as the Prime Minister returns from Great Britain. This House has a responsibility to check some things which are not in the interests of the country, and do not bear the hall mark of efficiency.
– I am perfectly sure that the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) will find their way through the pachydermatous hide of the Ministry, and receive due consideration. From an entirely different angle, I propose to say a few mild and not entirely unpleasing things about the Northern Territory. I speak as one who looks, as the Israelites of old did, upon the still far distant Promised Land, which I hope I shall visit in the fullness of time. This would be a convenient time for the honorable the Minister who has charge of this matter, to tell the committee something about the progress of the Government in regard to the appointment of the Northern Territory Commission.
– The right honorable the Prime Minister announced the personnel of the commission this morning.
– I am delighted to hear that. Unfortunately, I was not present. I am bound to say - and I say it without prejudice - that when I am in the House I hear a number of things that make me wish I was outside, and when I am outside, I miss revelations, compared with which the Revelation of St. John the Divine was as nothing. I ask the Minister to consider the remarks I have just made in the light of his most illuminating observation. I hope that the gentlemen who have been appointed to the commission, whose names are known to other honorable members but not to me, will prove capable. In my opinion, the present need in the Northern Territoryis roads. I say nothing about railways, for which roads are not a substitute. Roads may be regarded as’ a sort of economic John the Baptist, as they prepare the way for railways. I am credibly informed by gentlemen who have been through the Northern Territory that the making of a road from Oodnadatta to the northern railhead would present no difficulty, except at one or two points. I was told by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) that it was but once that his party, covered only 15 miles a day, which was when they had a difficult river to cross. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has told honorable members that, for a comparatively small expenditure per mile, a fair workable road can be made between the two railheads. It must take a long while to construct the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. In the meantime, many persons are becoming’ curious about the Northern Territory. I intend to go there to see what kind of a place it is. We have been assured from a hundred quite unbiased sources that it is no desert; that, on the whole, it is no morepatchy than many other parts of Australia which are more or less settled. There are bad parts and good parts, and some of the good parts, according to the evidence, are very much better than some parts of Australia that have been settled for the last 50 or 60 years. If the commission alone is to say whether there shall be roads, and the Government is not to reflect the opinion of Parliament and the country, the appointment of the commission is tantamount to the adoption of a policy of reaction.
– The commission can spend up to £25,000 without consulting Parliament.
– I do not criticize that provision; tout the commissioners ought not to have the power to say. whether there shall or shall not be roads in the Northern Territory. I object very strongly to bartering away our right to direct policy inthis national matter. In five years’ time, the number of motor cars in this country will probably be doubled. The motor car provides the most flexible means of transport available in the world to-day. It is almost impossible to predicate a road too bad for a motor car to travel if it is worth while, or necessity urges the motorist to negotiate it. The roads in the Northern Territory, except during the rainy season, can be made passable by the expenditure of very little money. There are two or three bad crossings, and bridges of some, kind will have to be made at those places. I do not suggest a huge expenditure. The Northern Territory is the hinterland of this continent, and the more people investigate it for themselves, the more assured will its future be. A good road through the Territory will pay for itself; the facility with which goods can be moved backwards and forwards will enormously decrease the cost of stores throughout the Territory, and will add to the value of land near the road. I was told by the honorable member for Bass that petrol cost 50s. a case at Alice Springs. It ought not to cost that amount, and would not if there was a reasonably good road from Oodnadatta. If the Government is prepared to incur an expenditure of £200,000 or £300,000, it can make a good track between the railheads and to the border of Queensland. I do not wish to labour this matter any more. I rose to emphasize only the one point. The commissioners may do good work, and about their ability to do it I shall not .say anything until I have had an opportunity to scan carefully their names and qualifications. What they have done in the past is of minor importance; our concern is as to what they will do in the future. We want not men with merely a pretentious past, but men who can do something now. I protest against the suggestion that we have parted with the right to direct policy in the Northern Territory. The commissioners may be able to carry out the work better than we can do it, but the elected representatives of the people must keep their fingers on the pulse, and be able at any moment to direct the movements of the ship of State. In view of the general desire of honorable members to have the Territory opened up by passable roads, with bridges over the rivers, I hope that the Government will put the work in hand at once. It can be done if the Ministry is in earnest about it. When we meet here in the new year, and are about to make our exodus to another place - God knows whether it will be a better or a worse place !’ - I hope that we shall be able to congratulate the Ministry on having done something practical to open up the Territory.
.- The Cabinet has, for a considerable time, been giving consideration to the provision of medical services, nursing homes, and other facilities provided in the Northern Territory at present by the Inland Mission. I have no doubt that, at an early date, the commission will be in a position to submit schemes for the development of the Northern Territory. Reference has been made to the personnel of the commission, which was announced by the Prime Minister this morning. The Government, in making the appointments, kept in mind the advisability of appointing men with proved experience in the mining and pastoral industries and in the provision of communications, and it made the appointments irrespective of the States from which the gentlemen might come. Our purpose was to get the three best men available. To this end, we have given the closest consideration to the subject during the last three or four months, and we believe that the appointments made will be entirely approved by the people. Mr. Horsburgh, the assistant general manager of the Mount Morgan Company, the chairman of the commission, is a man of proved mining ability.
– What will be his salary?
– His salary will be £2,500 a year. The second member of the commission is Mr. Easton, the chairman of the Northern Territory Land Board. It has been said that Mr. Easton is a Western Australian. As a matter of fact, he is a Queenslander, who was nominated by the Government of that State to advise the Western Australian Government as to the best means of developing its pastoral areas. Subsequently, the Commonwealth Government secured his services, and, on the nomination of the pastoralists, appointed him chairman of the Northern Territory Land Board. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) said just now that we wanted men who would inspire confidence in the London money market. I submit that we have secured them. Mr. Horsburgh unquestionably enjoys the confidence of financial circles in London. Tlie honorable member for Wakefield also said that no member of the commission was familiar with the Northern Territory pastoral problems. I remind him that the pastoralists of the Northern Territory placed their imprimatur upon Mr. Easton’s selection by nominating him. as a member of the Northern Territory Land Board. All the requirements from that point of view have been fully met. Mr. Hobler, the third member of the commission, has a record as a railway construction engineer of which he himself might well be proud. I feel sure that the people generally will have every confidence in the commission. The Government is satisfied that the three men selected will prove themselves worthy of the confidence that has been reposed in them, and will devise satisfactory schemes for the development of the Territory.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Federal Capital Territory
Proposed vote, £35,413.
– I shall deal as briefly as possible with a subject which I have been asked to bring before the committee. When the Federal Government took over the Federal Capital Territory, the provisions of the New South Wales law in force in 1912 were adopted and applied to the Territory. Since then the New South Wales law has been amended from time to time, but the amendments have not been applied to the Federal Capital Territory. Consequently, offenders against the law, who are dealt with at the Queanbeyan police courts, escape with varying punishments according to whether the offence was committed at Queanbeyan or Canberra. Because of this anomalous state of affairs, the police magistrate at Queanbeyan is obliged to keep two sets of law books. This is a serious matter for all concerned. The Government should take steps to rectify the anomaly. People living in Queanbeyan tell me that Canberra is a safe home for criminals from the other States. Since once they are within the Federal Territory, it is more difficult to extradite them than it is to bring a man back from Peru or Mexico. When building operations commenced in Canberra,
Queanbeyan was the only business centre, consequently a considerable amount of trade was done with the people living in Canberra, but Queanbeyan business people found that whilst they could get a verdict against a defaulter for debt, it was impossible to get an execution. The position is most unsatisfactory. The following letter, which I received from a business man in Queanbeyan, explains the position clearly -
I am wondering if you can do anything in the matter I am putting before you. I daresay you know that the people who live on the Federal Capital Territory have a lot of advantages in the way of laws, etc. We have found this out much to our sorrow. But before finding it, we gave a good bit of credit. Now we are told that we can get nothing out of the people living there, even after a summons has been issued and a judgment signed. One is not supposed to be able to go on to the Territory and carry out the execution of the order. The question is, What can we do in the matter ? A good many of these people are trading on the knowledge that nothing can be got out of them. It is not right, as they all get excellent pay, and a lot of other considerations that people outside the territory do not get. Of course, now that we had our lesson, we give credit only to good pays. But, before finding it out. we had quite a lot of money owing to us by people who are in good positions out there. Will you please let me know if anything can be done? I think you will see how unfair the whole thing is. There are thousands of people working at the Federal Capital, and a great many of them are out to get all they can and not pay for it.
I hope that the Government will give this matter careful consideration. We all wish to be proud of Canberra, but we should see to it that it does not become a paradise for law-breakers, and people who show an inclination to evade the payment of their just debts.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Papua, proposed vote, £67,158, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £10,000.
.- At present a number of expropriated properties in the Territory of New Guinea are for sale by tender, and rumours are current that certain Germans, who are ineligible, are really tendering through dummies for their purchase. I understand this applies particularly to some of the newer properties, tenders for which close in November next, and that to prevent them from securing an advantage an amendment of the Treaty of Peace regulations is necessary. At present the hands of the custodian are tied.I suggest, therefore, that the Minister should amend the regulations so that the custodian of expropriated properties, should he have any reasonable doubt, may require tenderers to prove their bona fides, and further, have authority to reject any tenders that, after investigation, are found to be not in conformity with the policy of the Government. In additon, the custodian should have power of revocation should later circumstances justify such action. Some extraordinary happenings have been reported. If necessary, I can supply the Minister with details of suspicious circumstances in connexion with the tendering. There is a general belief that the Germans are using dummies.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Norfolk Island, proposed vote, £3,500, agreed to.
Cost of Collection of Taxes, for the States.
Proposed vote, £85,477.
– I do not wish to detain the committee, but I desire to point out that these items are of special importance since they represent the greatest change which has yet been proposed in the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. We have been informed that the States Grants Bill, under which it was proposed to dispense with the capitation grants to the States, has been postponed. This item, I understand, embodies the arrangements which would have been legalized by that measure, and I notice that the capitation grants to the States are not provided for. The grants were enacted under the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910, and I presume they must be paid.
The Estimates now before the committee do not make provision for the payment of the per capita grants, and it will be a serious matter for the States if they are not paid. I presume that as they are provided for in the Surplus Revenue Act the Government cannot very well avoid paying them, until they are remitted by the action of this Parliament. I should like a definite assurance from the Treasurer that they will be paid as hitherto until this Parliament has taken action to abolish them. There is no provision made for them in these Estimates.
– They never were provided for in the Estimates. They are a statutory obligation.
– Then the Estimates for the current financial year must have been wrongly drawn up, because they are shown as if provided for in the Estimates submitted last year. . I wish only to be assured that the interests of the States shall be safeguarded. I was on the point of interviewing the Prime Minister and the Treasurer upon another matter, when it became necessary that I should speak, and I do not desire that those honorable gentlemen should feel that I am now unfairly introducing the matter, which I was discussing with them. Within the last half hour, I received from the Premier of Western Australia a telegram, referring to the position of that State in connexion with the special grant to meet its disabilities under the Federation. The Estimates provide for a special payment to Western Australia of £300,000 on this account, and a further amount of £150,000 contingent upon the Commonwealth taking over the northwestern portion of the State. I understood from the Treasurer at the interview I had with him a few moments ago, that this amount will not be paid to Western Australia this year, nor until a special appropriation bill is passed for the purpose, and it is impossible for the Government to bring down such a measure before the present session closes. In these circumstances, Western Australia will not be able to draw upon the provision promised to meet its disabilities until the Parliament meets again, possibly in Februarynext, to pass the necessary appropriation measure. I am aware that the payments might then be made retrospective, but the Premier of Western Australia asks in his telegram whether, if the Government cannot make provision for these payments without a special appropriation, payments might not be made on the basis of last year’s disabilities payments. I hope the Treasurer will say that something of the kind can be done to prevent serious dislocation of the finances of Western Australia. Would it not be possible even now for the Government to bring down an appropriation bill to provide for these payments? I trust that the Treasurer will make a definite statement, which will allay anxiety regarding the position in Western Australia.
– If the honorable member will look at page 3 of the Estimates he will find set out a total amount of £22,093,000. That is the amount to be included in the Appropriation Bill, which will be submitted to Parliament as soon as the Estimates are passed. It includes £85,000 for the collection of the taxes, but the per capita payments are something quite apart from the annual votes. In addition to the expenditure provided for in the annual votes a sum of £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 is paid in accordance with various statutes. These payments go on automatically and quite independently of the passage of the annual votes. The Surplus Revenue Act, which so far has not been repealed, provides for the payment of a certain sum per month to each of the States, and until the act is repealed those payments must be made. The State Governments have been informed of the position. With regard to the special grant, it must be provided for by a special appropriation. The Government has no power to make payments for which there has been no appropriation.
– Does the Government intend to bring down an appropriation bill for this purpose?
– That is not necessary, because of the understanding between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to finance. If a State Government requires loan moneys to carry on at. any time, it notifies the Loan Council and the money required may be obtained from other State Governments that have money available.
– But that will cost the State something for interest.
– Yes, but it cuts both ways, because the State saves interest also.
– Does this apply to grants?
– If the Western Australian Government finds that it is not in a position to pay out certain amounts per month for a particular service, it is able to secure temporary accommodation to enable it to carry on until an appropriation is made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Trade and Customs Department
Proposed . vote- £909,229 - on which Mr. Mann had moved by way of amendment -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
– Several questions have been raised in connexion with the items of this department. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) expressed the hope that some improvement had been made in recent years in the method of inspection, for which the Trade and Customs Department is responsible, of products for export. I have very much pleasure in informing the honorable gentleman that since he occupied the position which I now hold a good many improvements have been made, for which I personally take no credit. Only recently an expression of great appreciation of the method of examining our export meat was received from the medical officer of the Port of London. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that recently new regulations were devised for the examination of canned fruit for export, a matter of concern to those engaged in that industry. Honorable members will probably also recall the fact that some action has been taken to prevent the exportation from this country of apples affected with the black spot. I may, in the circumstances, saythat the desire expressed by the honorable member for Wannon has been met.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) criticized the accommodation for seamen at the picking-up shed in Newcastle. I promise the honorable member that the same conditions and facilities shall be provided at Newcastle as are provided at other ports of the Commonwealth.
The other question of importance that has been raised is that in connexion with which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has moved an amendment the carrying of which would have to be regarded as a vote of censure on the Government. Therefore, at the risk of wearying the committee, I must make some references to what the honorable member has said. He will remember that the difference between the Government, through the Sugar Board, and some of the retail grocers of Perth, has continued for a considerable time. I am sure that he will acknowledge that the Government was extremely patient in connexion with the negotiations that have been going on for almost twelve months, and it was more in sorrow than in anger that it took up a cer* lain position. A recapitulation of the history of the matter will, I think, confirm the reasonableness of the position taken up by the Government. The uniform wholesale and retail price principle was first communicated to the capital cities in March, 1920, when the Commonwealth introduced a wholesale price of £49 per ton and a retail price of 6d. per lb. At that time Fremantle, and not Perth, was regarded as the capital city of Western Australia “for this purpose. From March, 1920, to the 1st November, 1922, Western Australian grocers in Fremantle, and also in Perth, retailed sugar at 6d. per lb. On the 1st November, 1922, the wholesale price was reduced to £42 per ton, and the retail price to 5d. per lb., and 5d. per lb. was the price charged to the public by grocers in Fremantle and Perth. I ask the committee to note that when the wholesale price was fixed at £42 per ton, the retail price in Fremantle and Perth was 5d. per lb. On the 22nd October, 1923, the Common-, wealth transferred the sugar control to the Queensland Government, and the basic prices of sugar were reduced. The wholesale price of refined sugar fell from £42 to £37 6s. 8d. a ton, and the Prime Minister announced the retail price at 4½d. per lb. That price has been faithfully observed by grocers in all the capital cities with the exception of Perth and Fremantle, where, as a result of the combined action of the Grocers’ Association, the retail price was maintained at 5d. per lb., although the wholesale price of sugar had been reduced from £42 to £37 6s. 8d. a ton. Owing to the representations made by practically all the members from Western Australia, Perth was put upon the same basis with regard to deliveries, charges, “and prices as the other capital cities of Australia. Although retailers were put upon the same basis for the purpose of enabling sugar to be retailed to the consumers at 4½d. per lb. for cash, while the consumers in every other capital city in the Commonwealth have been receiving the benefit of this concession, it has been denied to consumers in Western Australia. I do not wish to labour the question. I have a great deal of information upon it which I might give to the committee, but I want only to say that the Consumers’ Vigilance Association of Western Australia is strongly behind the Government in its efforts to prevent the public from having to pay the extortionate prices charged by the Perth and Fremantle grocers.
– Who are they?
– The honorable member will probably find out later who they are. This association has asked that sugar be made available at concession rates to all grocers who agree to sell for 4½d. cash. The Trades Hall has preferred a similar request, and many individuals have written in support of the Government’s action. During the last few days, I have requested the Sugar Board in Queensland to make sugar available at concession prices to every retailer in Western Australia who will sell for 4d. per lb. cash. The Western Australian Grocers Association has made much capital out of the support it has received from the Western Australian Housewives Association. The honorable member for Perth did not mention either of these organizations yesterday, although he was repeatedly invited by interjection to do sp. The Consumers Vigilance Association declares emphatically that the Western Australian Housewives’ Association is not a representative body like its namesake in Victoria, and that the alleged mass meeting of citizens in Perth, which demanded the unconditional restoration of the concessions, was attended by only about 200 persons, of whom 150 were interested grocers. That is the sort of information I am receiving about the agitation in Western Australia against the alleged unfairness of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the distribution of sugar. The Cabinet has decided that the concession, made in order that the public may benefit by a reasonable retail price, shall be taken away if that price is not adhered to. From that decision, I, as the Minister controlling these activities, shall not recede, and I shall try to find time while Parliament is not sitting to visit Perth and state one side of the question which has not yet been fairly put to the people of Western Australia.
– A typewritten copy of the annual report of the Tariff Board has been laid on the table of the House. It is regrettable that, before being asked to discuss the Trade and Customs Department, we were not furnished with printed copies of that document. I see no reason why honorable members should not have had copies of it, and why every report of the board should not be placed before us. That body was appointed by Parliament to instruct and advise it, but only those reports which the Minister regards as important are made available to us. I have said, on previous occasions, that I believe that the board is constituted of earnest and honest men, who are doing their best; but there is always a tendency on the part of boards to overstep their jurisdiction, and I take exception to some features of the Tariff Board’s annual report. It draws attention to the fact that, following the increases of duties, unions approach the Arbitration Court for increases in wages and thus destroy the effectiveness of the tariff protection. The extent to which the. board is entitled to comment upon the work of the Arbitration Court is arguable, .but it has no justification for wrongfully attacking an industrial organization. I shall show that the board made an unwarranted attack upon the Textile Workers Union. I am not conversant with the facts concerning other unions, but I do know the conditions of the workers in the textile industry. The report says-
Immediately following upon the increases in the tariff in regard to woollen-piece goods passed by the House of Representatives, on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, with a view to relieving certain sections of the industry which were suffering detriment from external competition, the industrial union, embracing the operations in this industry, lodged an application before the Federal Arbitration Court for heavy increases in their wages.
No provision was made for an alteration in existing conditions governing wages.
That is not the board’s function.
– But the duties are based upon the difference between wages here and abroad.
– It is not the function of the board to award wages. If it were it would have that further duty, before recommending a duty, to ascertain whether the existing rate of wages was fair. If it exercised that jurisdiction, it would be practically an arbitration court. The reports proceeds -
This action of the Textile Workers Union seems to have been influenced by the judgment of Mr. Justice Powers, wherein it is laid down that his court could take no cognizance of the capacity of an industry to pay certain wages, but could fix what wages it thought necessary, and the industry would then have recourse to the Tariff Board, which had been created by the Federal Parliament to make recommendation for the granting of whatever protection was necessary.
There has not been an award in the textile trade since 1921. If there is one industry in which wages have been kept down because of foreign competition, it is this one. From time to time, the unions have approached the employers with a view to getting increased wages or bringing a cas.* before the Arbitration Court. They have been frankly met by the employers, many of whom agreed that the wages and conditions were not what they might ‘have been; but they pointed out the unsound conditions of the industry, due to foreign competition. With wonderful patience, the workers waited nearly six years for an increase of the tariff in order that their remuneration might be built up to what the court considered a living wage. Surely the blame for the delay in making the protective duties effective cannot be laid at the door of the union ; the responsibility rests with the Department of Trade and Customs, the Government, and probably the Tariff Board. The employers knew well that a demand would be made for increased wages if Parliament granted the increased protection they were seeking. In respect of some textiles, the duties were substantially increased, and as a result the industry has benefited very considerably. I dispute the contention that the workers in the industry are not to share in the benefits which flowed from the action of this Parliament. The only aspect of wages that the Tariff Board has a right to discuss is whether there has been an excessive demand or an excessive award.
The Arbitration Court has not given its award, and while the matter is still sub judice, the board has made a statement with a view to prejudicing the workers’ claim and preventing them from getting the increase to which they are entitled on the basis of the cost of living. The Arbitration Court takes no cognizance of the wages capacity of an industry; neither should it take cognizance of the tariff protection. Havingwaited so long for the industry to be relieved of the handicap of unfair foreign competition, the workers surely have a right to approach the Arbitration Court for-
– Their share of the loot.
– They have a right to ask the court to award a basic wage based on the cost of living, and to enjoy some share of the prosperity created by the tariff duties imposed by this Parliament.
– I agree with that.
– Thatbeing so, that increase in wages should not form the basis for a plea for more protection.
– The Arbitration Court examines all the conditions that affect the cost of living, and awards to the workers in an industry what it considers a living wage, plus a fair margin for skill. It is then the duty ofthe Tariff Board to so adjust the protective duties that the industry may be able to pay those wages, and yet withstand outside competition. The board has no right to condemn the act of a union, regardless of whether or not it is making a reasonabledemand or getting a fair wage. It is not for the board to interfere with the court’s opinion of what is a living wage in any industry. I ask the Minister to remind the board that its functions are clear and definite. It is entitled to examine industrial conditions and profits in an industry, but it has no right to urge that the employees shall be denied the right to approach the Arbitration Court with the request, “ Now that the industry can afford to pay a decent living wage, we ask for it “
. Probably more people are engaged in the textile industry in my electorate than in any other district in Victoria, and I know that both the manufacturers and theemployees are indebted to the Minister for
Trade and Customs for the policy he has adopted duringrecent months. The employees in an industry have a perfect right to participate in the benefits that accrue from the increased protection afforded to it by this Parliament ; but the textile industry would have been in a most critical position but for the kindly and practical help afforded to it by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). At my request, the Minister visited Geelong, where he interviewed both employers and employees, held conferences, and ascertained exactly where the shoe pinched; and, as a result of that minute investigation, he submitted to this Chamber proposals which have been of material assistance to the industry. I cannot, therefore, allow any criticism of his action to pass unchallenged. It was the Minister who put the industry on its feet at its most critical period.
– I did not criticize the action taken; I merely criticized the delay.
– The Minister can rightly claim some credit for having conferred a benefit on the textile industry of Australia. I heartily agree with the honorable member for Yarra that the conditions which obtained in the industry in years gone by should not exist to-day. It is perfectly true that the textile workers were not being as well paid as employees in other industries ; and now that there is some evidence that the textile industry is enjoying prosperity, I see no reason why the men and women who are responsible for earning the profits should not get their fair share of them. I have not seen the reportof the Tariff Board, but from what I have heard of its contents I do not think that the Board was justified in making the recommendation referred to by the honorable member for Yarra. In my opinion, the report of the board should have been made available to honorable members before being published in the press.
– It was laid on the table in the usual way.
– When a report is laid on the table it should at the same time be circulated among honorable members. I have asked for copies of the Tariff Board’s report, but I have been told that it is not yet out of the hands of the Government Printer. I would not deny to the press the right to access to reports laid on the table, but if the representatives of the newspapers enjoy the privilege of getting copies of a report, copies should at the same time be made available to honorable members. It is most unfortunate that a capable body of men like the members of the Tariff Board should have made the suggestion referred to, in view of the fact that the matter discussed by them is still before the Arbitration Court.
– I hope that honorable members will mark their disapproval of the reference by the Tariff Board to the action of employees in an industry in approaching the Arbitration Court with a claim for higher wages. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that he himself is opposed to any board or tribunal attempting to interfere when employees seek to have their wages and conditions fixed by an arbitration tribunal. We do not know where this sort of thing will lead us. It seems absurd also that honorable members should be called upon to transact business arising out of a report which has not yet been made available to them. I hope that some good will come out of this discussion. If the people agree to the proposed amendments of the Constitution, we shall havequite a number of tribunals in existence; but I hope that they will be told, as the Tariff Board ought to be told, to mind their own business. The Tariff Board’s action in referring to a matter which is still awaiting decision by the Arbitration Court is indefensible. When we increase the protective duties in order to allow our manufacturers to meet competition from overseas, surely the employees should also benefit. As a matter of fact, our tariff is framed with the idea of maintaining a high standard of wages in Australia.
.- Although the Minister for Trade and Customs may have followed the usual practice in laying the report of the Tariff Board on the table and moving that it be printed, here we are about to adjourn for several months, and we are asked to deal hastily with a new tariff schedule based on a Tariff Board’s report which has not yet been printed. Like the honorable member forCorio (Mr. Lister), I am entirely ignorant of the contents of the report, except for a few particulars published in the press. I think that the Minister should have had the report printed earlier, so that honorable members might have known its contents before he proceeded to take the action he took yesterday. I know that at this juncture I am not permitted to discuss the details of the tariff schedule he has brought down, but I may be permitted to point out that the schedule is based on a report of the board which has not yet been circulated among honorable members, and that it is impossible for Parliament to weigh the evidence which has guided the board in making its recommendations, or the Minister in proposing his new schedule of duties. It is, in my opinion, highly improper to do this on, the eve of a long adjournment of the House. This Parliament will not meet again until next year, but the new tariff schedule is in operation, and honorable members are powerless to do anything in regard to it. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has referred to the complaint made by the Tariff Board that the workers engaged in the textile industry have taken immediate advantage of the increased duties to rush to the Arbitration Court, but the honorable member is merely calling attention to something to which, hitherto, he has remained deaf. Over and over again, honorable members have called attention to the fact that Australia is living in a vicious circle of rising costs. First of all, organized manufacturers plead for increased duties and obtain them, and then organized labour demands higher wages and shorter hours. The representatives of the primary producers are the unfortunate victims of this process to a greater degree than any other section of the community. I have frequently asked, and I shall keep on asking, Where is it all to end?
– It will end when the competition from outside ends.
– The outside competition will never end, but the rising cost of production will keep increasing the local price. Frequent reference has been made to the position of the United States of America. If Australia had great oil wells a Mississippi river, and other natural advantages such as the United States of America possesses she would be able to prosper without a protective tariff. I trust that before the House rises an opportunity will be afforded honorable members ‘to discuss the new iron and steel duties.
.- I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). In reply to the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) I may say that, for my part, I should be willing to throw down our tariff wall tomorrow provided that wages and working conditions the world over could be standardized; but until that is done we must retain our protective duties. The report of the Tariff Board is inconsistent. It points out, on the one hand, that our iron and steel industry requires additional protection if it is successfully to meet competition from countries where low wages prevail; but, on the other hand, it suggests that the workers should not apply for increased wages immediately the duties affecting their industry are increased. The originators of the protective duties in the United States of America made it quite clear that their object was to make the standard of living in their new country far superior to that of the country they had left. That is what protectionists in Australia are seeking to do. The report of the Tariff Board points out that while Australian iron and steel workers are receiving 108s. per week, those in. Germany are receiving only 32s. weekly; those in France 34s., and those in Belgium 23s. In these circumstances, it is manifestly impossible for the Australian industry to carry on successfully without a considerable protective duty. But the Tariff Board was quite unfair in including in its report the statements to which the honorable member for Yarra has taken exception. We have set up our Arbitration Courts to control wages and conditions in this country, and the Tariff Board should recognize that and not step outside of its own domain.
.- I listened attentively to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). and I trust that the Government will accept his advice.
My object in rising is to deal with shipping. I regret to notice that our Navigation Department is estimated to involve us in an increased outlay this year of nearly £1,000. The Navigation Act, which came into force on the 1st July, 1921, was designed, so we were told, to assist and develop shipping on the Australian coast. Unfortunately, it has had a totally different effect. According to some interesting figures made available to me by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) on the 4th August, we had 33 passenger vessels trading on the Australian coast between 1914 and 1920, while atpresent we have only eight.
– -What was the size of the vessels ?
– The largest of the 33 vessels had a displacement of 9,735 tons, and the smallest of 684 tons. In the period between 1914 and 1920, we had the finest fleet of coastal steamers in the world.
– But the shipping combine has taken it from us.
– I shall tell the honorable member presently why it has been taken from us. The gross tonnage of the 33 vessels was 149,594 tons, while that of the eight vessels now operating is only 50,421 tons; so that since the Navigation Act has been in force our coastal tonnage has decreased by nearly 100,000 tons. I had the honour to be a member of the Navigation Royal Commission which, some time ago, travelled all over the Commonwealth in making exhaustive inquiries into the effect of the Navigation Act. Not a tittle of evidence was given by representatives of the shipping companies, tourists, business men, or primary producers to show that the act had done anything to develop the Commonwealth. The only persons who gave evidence to that effect were the secretary of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, the secretary of the Waterside Workers, Fremantle, and the secretary of the Seamen’s Union, Melbourne. As a matter of fact, these witnesses represented the only classes in the community which have benefited by the act. In these circumstances it is ridiculous that we should increase the vote to maintain the staff which it has brought into being. In Hobart we have an excellent officer in charge of the Navigation Department, and the staff under him is courteous and obliging; but as only one passenger steamer a fortnight leaves Hobart for Sydney, I submit that our expenditure in Tasmania could be reduced. The Government should adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Wannon, and cause an economic stocktaking to be made. The United States of America, with the aid of her most notable financiers, endeavoured for 53 years to build up a maritime monopoly, but in the end had to abandon the attempt.
– All the coastal trade of America is to-day conducted in American bottoms.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has also supplied me with interesting freight figures. I suppose that the officials of the department did their best to supply accurate information, but they did not say what ports the freights related to. No vessel trading on the Australian coast is making a profit, and the ship-owners would, be glad if the Navigation Act were repealed. Only two months ago the PostmasterGeneral allowed the Tasmanian Steamship Company, which, runs a service between Tasmania and Victoria, to raise its freights simply because it was losing over £30,000 a year on its operations. The freight on a bale of hops from Hobart to Melbourne is 13s. 2d., from Hobart to Fremantle 37s. 5d., and from Hobart to Liverpool 18s. 8d. It costs twice as much to send a bale of hops from Hobart to Fremantle as it does from Hobart to Liverpool. The freight on canned fruits and jams from Hobart to Brisbane direct is 43s. a ton, and, via Sydney, where transhipment takes place, 50s. a ton. The freight to Gladstone, a coastal town of Queensland, is 78s. a ton, to Rockhampton 66s. a ton, to Mackay 78s. a ton, to Townsville 71s. a ton, to Cairns Sis. a ton, to Port Douglas 99s. 8d. a ton, to Innisfail 102s. 2d., and to Mourilyan Harbour 104s. 2d. The freight from Hobart to Mourilyan Harbour is twice that from Hobart to Liverpool, and return. I have been pleased to learn that the Sydney Chamber of Commerce has invited the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce to assist it in its efforts to bring about an alteration of the Navigation Act. Tasmania has suffered more than any other State under that act. I am pleased that the larger States are getting their turn of lack of coastal shipping, because this will bring them to their senses. I should like to know whether the Government intends to delay taking action until the shipping is driven off the coast. I warn it that once the coastal shipping ceases, it will be difficult to restore it. It is not the Navigation Act, but the Arbitration Court, that is responsible for high freights, because that court fixes the rates of wages, and hours and conditions of labour. The act merely provides that the awards of the Arbitration Court mustbe carried out. The two measures are like the Siamese twins; one cannot be separated from the other. The operations of the Navigation Act has increased the cost of living. The high freights to the distant States - such as Western Australia and Queensland - increase the price of commodities shipped there. The freight from Hobart to Fremantle is 66s. a ton, to Perth 72s. per ton, to Bunbury 93s. a ton, to Geraldton 94s., and to Busselton 104s. a ton. It is cheaper to send goods from Hobart to Liverpool, and back to Fremantle, than to send them direct from Hobart to Fremantle. It is time that the Government reviewed the position. Unless it amends the Navigation Act, Australian shipping will be driven off the coast, and all inter-state trade will be carried on the railways at high freights. Business is failing to a great extent. The Minister has known what it is to be in business, and he must realize what the traders are up against. Numerous bounties are being paid to assist and encourage the primary industries of Australia, yet these are being greatly hampered by the high freights brought about by the Navigation Act. It is no wonder that our imports are increasing by leaps and bounds. Something is wrong when it costs considerably more to ship commodities from State to State than to ship them from here to America, or England. Timber can be brought from the Baltic, and landed in Melbourne, for 3s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, and Oregon can brought from America for 6s. per 100 super feet, but it costs 8s. per 100 super, feet to ship timber from Hobart to Adelaide. It is no wonder that the Australian sawmills are closing down. Out of 190 sawmills, 100 have ceased operations. This is a serious matter for Tasmania, because she is unable to trade in timber, even with her sister States. No Australian shipping company is paying its way. “When the Navigation Commission was sitting, a Commonwealth auditor examined the books of the shipping companies, and found that they were showing a profit of not more than 5 per cent, on their working capital. Although these companies are paying dividends of from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent., their profits are made, not from shipping, but from their investments in coal mines and investments in Government loans. When Australian shipping is being driven off the coast, it is remarkable that there should bo an increase of £1,000 in the estimated expenditure of the Navigation Branch.
– The fewer the ships the greater the cost of running them.
– That is so. When there were 33 ships on the coast, it cost less to run the department than it now costs when there are only eight passenger ships. The Navigation Act is hampering trade and causing industries to close down. I hope that the Minister will do something to solve this difficult problem. I know that it is like waving a red rag at a bull to speak of the Navigation Act to the Minister, although he was not responsible for it being placed on the statute-book. In fairness to the Minister, I ought to say that he has administered it as sympathetically as he can.
– I regret to have to complain that the Minister has not been quite fair to the timber industry, about which I approached him some time ago. I should like to know where he stands in that matter. I need not say how much the timber industry is suffering, for the facts were well ventilated when the. tariff was before the House, and again last week. The Minister knows the facts, perhaps, better than I do. The industry is in a deplorable condition, and in all the States timber mills are closing down for want of protection, although the Minister claims to be “ 100 per cent, protectionist.’’
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) blames the Navigation Act for the closing down of the timber mills in Tasmania.
– That opinion is peculiar to the honorable member for Franklin. He cannot escape from the Navigation Act. If the earth suddenly burst in a mighty convulsion, or left its orbit, the honorable member would blame the Navigation Act. He thinks that high wages are the greatest evil that can afflict a country. I doubt whether those views extend beyond the little circle in which he moves and has his being. We may leave him, as we would any other cave-dweller, in possession of his primitive ideas. Some time ago, I accompanied a deputation to the Minister for Trade and Customs. To that deputation a definite promise was made I am not speaking so strongly as I feel when I say that the Minister has not played the game, and has not lived up to his promise.
– I hope the honorable member will reserve his opinion until he has heard what I have to say.
– I shall not say more now; but if the Minister, in his reply, does not satisfy me, I shall have more to say later. I am told that a Mr. Yelland, president of the Hardwood Millers Association, who stated the case forcibly to the -Minister, was given a dofinite promise that the Tariff Board would visit Tasmania and New South Wales and hear what those in the industry had to say. I wrote to my constituents in New South Wales, who have never ceased to write to me on this subject, and told them of the Minister’s promise to allow them to state their case before the Tariff Board. I am told that when the tariff schedule was before the Senate, Mr. Yelland, or some one acting for him, saw the Minister, or some one in authority in the Customs Department, and was told not to press the matter of the timber duties while the Senate was dealing with the schedule. My information is that a majority of the members of the Senate was in favour of giving increased protection to the timber industry. It seems peculiar that the millers were asked to cease their agitation until the schedule had been passed. They did as they were requested on the understanding that they would be given the protection for which they were asking on shooks, at least in connexion with which their greatest disability arises. They were promised that every facility would be given tothem to place their case before the Tariff Board.
– Was that promise made by any one in authority?
– I am told that the promise came from a responsible authority connected with the Customs Department.
– In fairness to the Customs Department, those in the industry ought to say who made the promise, if it really was made.
– I agree with the Minister. I have been informed by a man acting for Mr. Yelland that Mr. Yelland claims that the promise was made to him.
– I deny any knowledge of it.
– Whoever made the promise ought to be prepared to stand by it.
– All I said was said in the presence of the honorable member at the deputation.
– Has not the Minister spoken of this matter since?
– Several times, and I shall inform the committee of what was said.
– Has the Minister been interviewed since?
– Has he gone back on any promise made to the deputation?
– Certainly not.
– CanI give those in the industry any reason to hope that their case will be heard by the Tariff Board?
– I shall make a statement in due course, if the honorable member will allow me.
– I do not think that the Minister is unsympathetic, or that he will refuse to give relief to the industry. If the sawmillers really thought that there was no hope of relief, they would close their mills to-morrow. Those I have communicated with are relying on my word that the Tariff Board will take evidence from them. I feel a sense of responsibility, because I advised them that they would be given relief. Their request is for increased tariff protection. I cannot state the case more forcibly than I did at the deputation, and all I ask is that the promise made to the deputation shall be fulfilled.
– I wish to join with those honorable members who have already protested against the manner in which reports by the Tariff Board are made available to honorable members. The annualreport of the board, which is an important report, was laid on the table of the House on Tuesday. I was somewhat surprised to see the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), while he was speaking, consult that report. I presume that it has not yet been sent to the printer, but is being used by honorable members for the purpose of reference. While this report has been passing from hand to hand among a certain number of honorable members, who have thus been able to make it a subject of discussion, it has not been available to all honorable members. That seems to me to be extremely wrong. We have had a discussion launched on the subject of that report, and the Tariff Board has been severely criticized. It has even been threatened, because of the line it has taken and the opinions it has expressed. It is not fair that a large proportion of the members of the committee should not be in a position to deal with the report on equal terms with those who have been supplied with it.
– My references were based upon a column, dealing with the report, published in the Argus.
– I saw that also, and for want of better material, am compelled to base my observations upon what appeared in the Argus, while the honorable member for Yarra, when he was addressing the committee, had the report in his hands. I do complain, not that any member has seen the report, but that all honorable members have not seen it. The board was appointed to advise and inform members of this Parliament. From what I gathered from the newspaper references to the report, the Tariff Board made a statement on the subject of the relation of wages to tariffs, and applied its’ statement specifically to the iron and steel industry, in connexion with which the tariff schedule was laid on the table of the House yesterday. We have been told that the iron and steel duties introduced by the Minister yesterday are based upon the Tariff Board’s report, but - and this is what I complain about - although the duties may be based upon the Tariff Board’s report, the conditions upon which it has specifically based its recommendation are not provided for in the schedule which the Minister has laid on the table. The newspapers said that the Tariff Board’s recommendations with respect to the duties were accompanied by another; that, if the duties were imposed, there should be an undertaking that wages in the industry would not be increased. One recommendation was dependent upon the other. That statement having appeared in the press, and the Minister for Trade and Customs having submitted his schedule last night, it was due to honorable members that he should have made some statement, giving the reasons why he rejected one part of the Tariff Board’s report and accepted the other, when the two were dependent upon each other. From one point of view, the report of the Tariff Board and the discussion which has taken place upon it to-day, is a source of considerable amusement. Only lately, the Board has been placed upon a very high pinnacle by certain honorable members. They have spoken as if everything it recommended should be adopted. They have expressed complete confidence in it, because they thought it could be relied upon at all times to recommend higher duties. Now the board is severely criticized by these honorable members, because it has laid down the economic conditions which should accompany its recommendation. When other members of the committee have, on previous occasions, raised objection to the reports of the Board, because it did not insist upon the consideration of economic conditions, they have been sneered at by those who thought that everything the board did was right, so long ‘ as it agreed with their views. Now the position is reversed, because, for the first time, the Tariff Board has apparently given serious consideration to economic conditions as the basis for its recommendation. Because it has heeded the warnings uttered by some honorable members for years past, has realized what any sane man must know, that it is no more possible to evade economic laws than it is to evade the law of gravitation, and has apparently tried to put a check upon the mad race which has been going on for a long time, between wages and duties, those who previously admired it meet it with threats and criticism. On the other hand, I am very glad to pay my tribute to the courage of the Tariff Board on this occasion. I venture to believe that the criticism which has been levelled at it in this chamber in the past has not been altogether without avail, as it has helped it to see both sides of questions, and to realize more fully a sense of its duty. That was the purpose for which previous criticism was offered. Now, when the board is up against hard facts, and realizes the soundness of the principles to which I knew it would have to give expression sooner or later, I am glad to pay my tribute to its common sense and courage. A board such as this should be independent, and should arrive at its decisions on grounds which can commend themselves to everybody. When recommendations are put forward on grounds which, on many points, are open to criticism, we have a right to criticize them. When the board is independent enough to put all its cards on the table and say, “ These recommendations are based on common sense and sound economic considerations,” it should receive nothing but support and approval from every fairminded man. That is apparently what the Tariff Board has done in this case. Some will say that it has made a very ridiculous recommendation when it claims that it is absurd to suppose that employers are to be given protection and their employees are to receive no benefit. I think that its last recommendation indicates the possession by the Tariff Board of a dry sense of humour. Of course, employers cannot have protection and their employees receive none. If it were otherwise, protection would stand out, in all its stark nakedness, as merely a means for increasing the profits of greedy manufacturers. It shows what I have tried to din into the ears of honorable members for a long time past. We have created two institutions - the Arbitration Court and the Tariff Board - which are supposed to preserve industrial peace and bring about economic stability; and now the fact, which has been reiterated again and again, is becoming patent that these two institutions cannot effect their object, but must be mutually destructive. If this is so, all the fantastic structure, which honorable members have been building upon unsound economic arguments andin contradiction of the experience of mankind for centuries past, must fall to the ground. It is going to fall to the ground. Although I have stood here alone and been sneered at for years by other honorable members, they are now beginning to see that there was some sense in my contentions after all. I have had the courage to persist in spite of the sneers of honorable members, because I have known that I was on the side of the facts and truth. However keenly I may have felt regarding the manner in which the amending tariff schedule was laid before us last night, I shall say nothing about that now, because I know that failure to play the game properly can only react upon him who does not obey its rules. To pile up duties, and proceed with this system beyond the bounds of reason and common sense, as this country has been doing, must hasten the catastrophe by which alone we. can be cured. Some honorable members have thought that I am a faddist and fanatic, and have sneered at me as a “ Free Trader.” They have thought it insulting to so describe me; but the time will come when people will understand these matters more fully, and it will be more an insult to be called a Protectionist than to be called a Free Trader.
– The honorable member has a long time to wait.
– Those who can look be yond their own city and their own State and realize the trend of world events, must see that the time is coming very fast. Although some of us have been sneered at as old-fashioned, it is these higher ideals of the relations of man to man and nation to nation that are responsible for the finest developments of modern times.
– I ask the honorable member not to further enlarge on that phase of the matter.
– I admit the justice of your rebuke, Sir. I was carried away, and I regret it. I wished to express my view on the method adopted for treating Tariff Board reports. I want to insist, as strongly as I can, upon the rights and privileges of honorable members being preserved better than they have been of late in this chamber. There has been a great tendency to ignore the rights and privileges of individual members. It appears to be thought that they must do just what they are told, and must take what is coming to them. We must put up with that to a certain extent, because, as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said, the individual member is largely powerless. But that condition of things cannot continue indefinitely. A change will, and must, come. I, for one, shall continue to insist that the rights and privileges of every honorable member shall be strictly and rigidly preserved, not only by those who control the proceedings of the House, but by Ministers who have charge of the conduct of its business.
In regard to the amendment I moved for the purpose of calling attention to sugar prices in Western Australia, the Minister has avoided rather than answered the main point of my protest, namely, that in judging whether the retailers are acting fairly to the public he must consider not merely the bare price but the net return. I advanced that argument as courteously and clearly as I could but the Minister has relied upon the old answer that the retailers are selling at one price in Western Australia and a different price in the eastern States. That statement does not touch the essence of the question. However, what I have said and he has said will be widely circulated in Western Australia, and I leave the people of that State to judge who is right and who has had a fair deal. For a long time I pressed my views upon the Minister by correspondence but in none of his replies did he meet the point I had raised. Therefore, in justice to my constituents, and in order to get a chance to fairly and fully state my case, I was obliged to make it the subject of an amendment to the Trade and Customs Estimates. Only by this means have I been able to get from the Minister even a partial and incomplete statement. Having done my duty by placing the facts before the committee and the public, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I desire to say a few words about the new schedule of duties on iron and steel.
– The honorable member may not discuss the schedule, but he may refer to the manner in which it was brought forward.
– That is what I propose to do. I approach the subject from a stand-point entirely different from that adopted by the honorable member for Wimmera. With him I agree that it is most u fortunate that the schedule should have been placed before honorable members at the end of the session, unaccompanied bv an explanatory schedule which would enable honorable members to compare the present duties with the alterations proposed, and when there is no opportunity for the adequate discussion of the subject. Cer.tainly the Minister explained the alterations, but it is not easy when listening to a Minister’s speech to grasp all the points involved. It is desirable, therefore, when dealing with an intricate subject involving many figures, that honorable members should have an opportunity to study the complete details. No report from the Tariff Board on this subject has been put before the committee in such a way as would enable honorable members to peruse it carefully and in detail. I am hot, theoretically, opposed to increasing the duties on iron and steel. Whilst I shall not be suspected of any desire to raise the tariff wall unduly, I have said during this session that there are certain secondary industries, as well as primary industries, that must “be given special and prior consideration. Therefore, I have no prejudice against the protection of the iron and steel industry, which, of all basic secondary industries, is probably the most essential. That being so, why was this schedule not presented to Parliament before last night? It was not altogether unheralded. For some time rumours had been current that foreign competition would necessitate the imposition of new duties on iron and steel. But only in the last hours of the session was the schedule introduced, and even then under conditions which did not permit of its adequate discussion. The new duties came into operation this morning at 9 o’clock, and will be collected for six months or more, pending parliamentary confirmation or rejection of the schedule. It is much more difficult to remove a duty already in operation than to deal with it in advance upon its merits. For the past year I have read in the press that the steel industry needs more tariff assistance; yet all we have before us is a short schedule which, admittedly, deals only with one phase of the industry, which may or may not be important. The committee is expected to agree to these duties without any discussion of their broad merits, and to defer consideration of the major question until Parliament re: assembles next year.
– Is it fair to introduce new duties when we have donned our pyjamas and are just ready to go to bed?
– The strain on honorable members at the end of a session is very great, and they should have at least 48 hours to study the details of a new tariff schedule. I recognize that the strain on Ministers is equally heavy, but I regret the procedure that has been adopted, because it is an injustice to the Parliament, which has much work to do, and to the iron and steel industry, whose claims deserve full consideration. The manner in which this schedule has been introduced may make people believe that full and adequate . consideration of the duties is not desired. Holding a view opposite to that expressed by the honorable member for Wimmera, I cannot refuse such increases of duties as may be necessary to keep the iron and steel industry alive. There is no need to be ashamed of proposing new duties if they are necessary. Moreover, any honorable member who holds an opposite view should not be denied an opportunity to express his opinion. I am prepared to accept the Minister’s statement last night as a bona fide exposition of his views; but can he reasonably expect the honorable member for Perth, who is a freetrader, to agree that what he said must be right? If the honorable member for Perth were at the head of the Customs Department, and gave to the committee an assurance that a certain schedule of duties was sound and just, would the honorable member for Martin accept his ipse dixit without having an opportunity to peruse the schedule and exercise his own judgment thereon?
– The Government proposes to afford that opportunity to honorable members.
– Next year. By that time the new duties will have been in operation for six or nine months, and their consideration will have been, to a certain extent, prejudiced. I have heard the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) vigorously attack the duties upon wire netting. During his absence in Western Australia, this schedule is introduced suddenly, and he is denied an opportunity to express his opinion of it. When the schedule was introduced last night, I resented so strongly the time and method of its presentation that I felt almost inclined to vote against it. Doubtless, if honorable members had time to look into the merits of the case, they would see that the Minister’s proposals are sound. The Minister has a great majority behind him.
– And in front of him, also.
- His majority for his new schedule is on both sides. His opponents can be counted on the fingers of his hands. In these circumstances, it is the duty of the Government to give its few opponents a fair chance to express their opinion upon a matter which, after all, is of considerable importance to the whole of Australia.
.- I agree with other honorable members that more time should be given for the perusal of the reports of the Tariff Board. Are we to understand that the board is a body to advise the Minister for Trade and Customs or to advise the Parliament ?
– It should be a board to advise the Parliament.
– I agree with the right honorable member.
– To achieve that, it will be necessary to amend the act.
– When the bill was introduced in 1921, we were told that the Tariff Board was to be a body of experts specially qualified to dig deeply into all the problems surrounding the industries of Australia, and to advise the Government and Parliament of the probable consequences of any increase in duties. The system of appointing tariff boards to report to Parliament has been adopted in the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, and, I believe, New Zealand. Our legislation, in this regard has been modelled on that of America. While I do not agree with all that is done by our Tariff Board, I think that it should be absolutely free to report on all questions submitted to it. A few days ago, I read of the appointment of a committee of five in the United States of America to investigate an alleged interference by President Coolidge with the activities of the Tariff Board there. It is quite evident that it is the intention of Congress that its Tariff Board shall be absolutely free to investigate and report on all questions submitted to it. I deplore the fact that the reports of our Tariff Board have not been made available to honorable members in sufficient time to enable them to study them before being asked to deliberate on the various proposals the Government has submitted to Parliament. When the last general tariff was under discussion, many of the reports of the board had almost to be dragged from the Minister for Trade and Customs before they were made available. It is quite true that it would be a costly matter to print all the reports of the board; but I do not think that should weigh with honorable members, in view of the fact that we are already spending £12,314 per annum on the board. By an amendment of the Tariff Board Act, all investigations by the board are held in public. This makes it all the more necessary to have its reports printed and published, so that the people may see what justification there is for the recommendations contained in them. Quite recently the Government brought down a tariff schedule increasing the duties on motor cars and chassis, but, after a great deal of criticism, the proposal was withdrawn. I want to know from the Minister whether the Tariff Board submitted a report on those duties, and, if so, what its recommendation was.
– I have given that information on several occasions recently.
– Possibly I was not in the chamber when the Minister did so. When the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was speaking on the Government’s proposal to increase the duties on motor car chassis and tires, he said that the increases were absolutely unnecessary. He said, “ As one interested in the tire industry, I say the duty is unnecessary.”
– The honorable member must not quote from this session’s Hansard.
– I am trying to show how necessary it is that the Tariff Board’s reports should be available to honorable members, and I am pointing out that, in the opinion of the right honorable member, who is chairman of the board of directors of the Barnet Glass Rubber Company, the increased duty on motor tires proposed by the Government was absoutely unnecessary. Yet the Government sought to double the duty.
– That is an inaccurate statement.
– The increase was so great that it practically amounted to doubling the existing duty.
– That is still inaccurate.
– I can give the Minister the figures.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member cannot discuss the tariff on these Estimates.
– I regret that the Standing Orders will not permit me to go into details to show that my statement is not inaccurate. Before the appointment of the Tariff Board, the Minister for Trade and Customs and his officials in the Department investigated claims for protective duties, and the Minister brought down to Parliament a schedule of increased duties embodying the result of his inquiries. But busy men like the Minister, or the Comptroller-General of Customs, have not sufficient time to investigate these matters thoroughly. “We know that it has taken the Tariff Board months and months, and a great deal of travelling, to carry out its investigations. I trust that the Minister will make the board’s reports available in ample time. There is one report in which I am particularly concerned, and which I think should be made available to honorable members in ample time to enable them to study it.
– If the honorable member is referring to the report of the board on cotton, honorable members should have at least six months to study it.
– I agree that honorable members should have ample opportunity to give thorough consideration to the re ports of the Tariff Board, so that they may do justice to the matters that are brought before them. The industry which I have in mind, and to which I think the Minister is not doing justice, is that of cotton-growing.
A little time ago I submitted some questions to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I asked him to have further inquiry made into the loss of the steamship Dorrigo off the Queensland coast. I was prompted to submit that request to the Minister because of representations made to me by people in Queensland, particularly in my own electorate. The Brisbane Trades and Labour Council has carried the following resolution in connexion with this matter: -
That special consideration be given by the Council at its next meeting to deal with the finding of the Marine Court of Inquiry regarding the Dorrigo disaster, and that the evidence of the Court be placed on the table for the consideration of the Council.
The Dorrigo foundered off the Queensland coast some time ago, and 22 lives were lost. The Marine Court held a sort of investigation, but, to experts, the proceedings were quite unsatisf actory. There were strong grounds for my request to the Minister that the matter should again be submitted for investigation by competent naval architects. On the assumption that ships are built to float and not to sag down wearily and roll over in comparatively smooth water, every precaution should be taken by the Government to see that the regulations are adhered to in connexion with all shipping. As both the master of the Dorrigo and the managing director of the company which owned the vessel remarked upon her good behaviour in a gale off Newcastle, the former pointing out that she was in light trim at the time, the difference between her behaviour when empty and in a gale, and when loaded and in comparatively calm weather, calls for comment. Until it can be shown that safety at sea increases as the weather gets bad, it is reasonable to accept the view that the bad loading was the dominant cause of the foundering of the vessel. It is important that the previous owners of the Dorrigo should be asked by a competent body of naval architects what ballast they found it necessary to carry, because no one would stand for men going to sea and risking their lives in vessels that are unseaworthy. The Seamen’s Union and several seafaring captains in Queensland have informed me that there is still reason for a thorough investigation into the sinking of the vessel. By experimenting with a model, it could easily be shown how much less deadly the Dorrigo would have been with 50 tons_of iron and stone ballast, together witE 16 tons of water ballast down in the bottom, than with no ballast of any kind there, and 35 to 40 tons of cargo on a deck 13 ft. 6 in. above the top of her ballast tanks. On the 24th June, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs a series of questions in regard to this matter, and his reply to one of them was -
Since the finding of the Court of Marine Inquiry into the loss of the Dorrigo, no evidence whatever has ‘been discovered, or fresh facts adduced, that would warrant the reopening of the inquiry.
I have no doubt that that reply was furnished by the department, but it is not in accordance with my information. Another reply that the Minister made to me on the same date was -
One of the principal matters investigated by the court was the disposition of the cargo in the vessel’s holds, but as the officers who had charge of the stowage in Brisbane were both lost with the ship,, the information obtained by the court on the distribution of weights in the vessel was presumably not sufficiently definite to enable any useful question as to the vessel’s stability being put to a naval architect.
Eight days after’ that statement was made, new regulations to govern the future carriage of deck cargo were promulgated, mainly with the object, so we were told, of ensuring “ the safety of the ship and of the persons on board.” Nobody could have slammed the stable door much sooner; but it should have been done earlier. Yet even these belated regulations do not deal with that most insidious of all shipping dangers, which is that ships may - and apparently do - pass into new hands without any information, or indication as to the degree in which their original stability has been interfered with by structural alterations. On this point I asked the Minister, also on the 24th June -
Will he ascertain whether proper scientific data regarding the stability of the Dorrigo was given by her former owners to her new owners when she changed hands in June, 1925? If the answer to the previous question is in the negative, will he cause such steps to be taken as will ensure the supply of such information or data to new owners being part of the formal business of transferring ship3 from one owner to another?
The Minister replied as follows: -
The evidence given at the inquiry showed that the new owners did not receive from the vendors any precise particulars regarding the stability of the vessel. The whole procedure in connexion with the sale and transfer of ships is governed entirely throughout the Empire by the Merchant Shipping Act of Great Britain. Under this act there is no power to require the supply by vendors of data regarding the stability of a vessel.
The Merchant Shipping Act of Great Britain, to which the Minister referred, was passed in 1854, three years after Victoria was proclaimed a State, five years before Queensland gained separation, 48 years before the Commonwealth Navigation Act was first thought of, and 69 years before the portion dealing with safety at sea became law. That portion of the Merchant Shipping Act which relates to the sale of ships obviously refers to the requirements to be observed in order to retain British registry, and, just as obviously, cannot be tinkered with by any of the Dominions. So that responsibility for the consequences of unseaworthiness might not pass on with a change of ownership, it was provided that the simple bargain and sale of a ship would not imply any contract that she was seaworthy, or in a serviceable condition. There is no need to tinker with that, but the inference to be gained from the reply of the Minister is that it is not competent for Australia to require, in order that Australian sailors may not be drowned, that certain data regarding the stability of a ship shall be produced before any change of ownership is registered. It is a beggarly suggestion, and one which, carried to its logical conclusion, would reduce the activities of honorable members of this Parliament to the simple business of drawing their salaries. Section 58 of the Queensland Navigation Act - which the Federal Navigation Act administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs superseded - made provision, so far as Queensland was concerned, for the limitation of deck cargoes. It was a bit vague and patchy, but it provided a penalty of £50 to give it stability, and commanded some respect. I could say a good deal more on this subject, but as I understand that the Minister is anxious to conclude the discussion, I shall content myself with this rather hasty statement of the case. I trust that another inquiry will be held into the *Dorrigo** disaster, for many seafaring men are extremely anxious that something should be done to put an end to these too frequent and mysterious happenings at sea. It is not good enough to put them down, as is so often done, to happenings over which no one bad control.
– I assure the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that I shall carefully read the Hansard report of his speech. I hope shortly to do something to amalgamate the control of lighthouses and certain other branches of the navigation service.
At a later date I shall have a little to say respecting the Tariff Board, but I am satisfied, from remarks that have been made, that some honorable members are not correctly informed on the subject. The Tariff Board is a statutory body. The last report it presented to me was its annual report, which I was. obliged to present to honorable members without comment within seven days of its receipt.
As to the timber industry, to which the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has referred, I made certain promises some little time ago to a deputation which waited upon one; but I also confined that promise to the effect that if any fresh evidence respecting the industry could be adduced I would again refer the matter to the Tariff Board. Since making that promise, Mr. Yelland, Chairman of the Victorian Sawmillers Association : Mr. Moore, representing the Tasmanian saw-millers and Mr. Bussman, have had interviews with the Tariff Board, which has submitted a report to me to the effect that no new evidence has been produced. However, I realize that some time has passed since the board previously reported, in an exhaustive way, upon the industry, and only to-day I arranged, at the request of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), and other honorable members who represent Tasmanian constituencies, for the Tariff Board, in the not distant future, to visit Tasmania and make another investigation there.
– Can the Minister also arrange for. the board to visit New South Wales?
– I think I can do so.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Resolution reported and adopted..
Resolution of ways and means founded on resolution of supply reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and ifr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
. I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes to amend section 50 of the War Service Homes Act, which reads -
The commissioner may, with the consent of the Governor-General, arrange with any State
Savings Bank or any other prescribed institution to provide homes for or make advances to eligible persons upon the same terms and conditions as are provided by this Act.
The amendment strikes out the words 1 ‘ the same terms and conditions as are provided by this Act “ and inserts in their stead the words “ such terms and conditions as are agreed upon not being terms and conditions which are, in the opinion of the Governor-General less favorable to eligible persons than those provided by this Act.” As honorable members know, war service homes have for. the last two or three years been built in Victoria by the State Savings Bank. A few weeks ago the bank authorities objected that some of the terms of the existing agreement were almost impracticable in ‘operation, and that they really could not carry out the work satisfactorily under the limitations of the Act, under which any agreement made with the bank must embody exactly the same terms as those applying in agreements entered into between the commission and applicants for bornes. It has been suggested that if the act is amended in the manner proposed it will allow of more elasticity in the terms and conditions under the agreement, but the ex-soldier will be safeguarded by the provision that no arrangement less favorable than an agreement under the act can be entered into. The bill will facilitate the conduct of negotiations with the State Savings Bank, and will not in any way prejudice returned soldiers who enter into agreements with the bank.
.- It would appear from the Prime Minister’s remarks that this bill provides for a necessary amendment of the War Service Homes Act, and will liberalize its provisions, to which there can be no opposition. Recently I inspected the war service homes at Hampton, near Melbourne, which, I understand, were built by the Victorian State Savings Bank. They are a credit to that institution. I have rightly criticized the war service homes administration in the past, but in respect of the homes at Hampton I have no complaint to make. The houses have been well constructed, the streets and footpaths are wide and well made, and the cost to the returned soldiers is reasonable.
– I wish to make sure that the omission of the words “ the same terms and conditions as are provided by this Act “ and the substitution of the words “ such terms and conditions as are agreed upon not being terms and conditions which are in the opinion of the Governor-General less favorable to eligible persons than those provided by this Act,” will not lessen the oversight of the Government after the agreement has been entered into. It should not, be possible for an agreement between a bank and the “ eligible person,” to deprive the latter of any rights that he at present enjoys, and of any protection that he at present has under the act. I, for one, have not such confidence in the commission as to believe that the applicant’s rights would be safeguarded merely by the fact that he might be regarded as a free contractor. His Safeguard in the past has been that the commission must keep within the four corners of the act, and I should like the Prime Minister to tell us how it will be determined that the terms and conditions are not less favorable to eligible persons than those provided by the act. Does it not appear that the check provided can come into play only after the con> tract has been entered into ? My experience of the War Service Homes administration is that it is not so sympathetic as as it might be, and often has taken advantage of the necessitous circumstances of the applicant to drive a hard bargain with him. Without raising any captious objection to the bill, I should like some assurance from the Prime Minister that it will not give greater freedom to the War Service Homes Commission by enabling it to impose more exacting terms on necessitous returned soldiers than are already insisted on.
– This bill -does not deal with arrangements between the War Service Homes Commission and an applicant for a home; it concerns arrangements that may be made with the State Savings Bank to undertake and carry out work on behalf of the commission. Such arrangements have been come to in South Australia, Western Australia, and Victoria, under an agreement entered into between the commission and the State Savings Banks. But it is necessary that a provision shall be inserted in the act to safeguard applicants against the commission making an arrangement with the bank without ensuring to them terms as favorable as those provided under the act. The amendment will enable negotiations to be carried on with the Victorian Savings Bank to determine the basis upon which it will carry out this work, with the overriding condition that the terms of the agreement must not be less favorable to the soldier applicant than those provided for in the act.
– The bill preserves the applicant’s rights.
– His rights must be preserved. The bill doe3 not affect the relation between the applicant and the commission.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Bill. Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill.
Shale Oil Bounty Bill. States Loan Bill.
– I move -
That, in pursuance of section 20 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-26, the Federal Capital Commission be authorized to borrow the sum of £2,650,000 for the purpose of the exercise of its powers under that act.
That the foregoing resolution be transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence.
In moving this motion, perhaps I should give the House some information regarding the general financial operations of the Federal Capital Commission. Under the Seat of Government Administration Act 1924, the Commission was given power to borrow moneys, in pursuance of resolutions passed by both Houses of Parliament, tosuch amount, in such manner, and on such terms as the Treasurer approved. Pending the borrowing of such moneys, however, the Treasurer was authorized to advance to the commission out of any moneys in the Commonwealth Public Account such amounts as he might think fit. These moneys were to bear interest at such rate as was fixed by the Treasurer, and were to be repayable to the Commonwealth from the proceeds of the first loan raised by the commission after the moneys had been advanced. No resolution has yet been passed by Parliament authorizing the commission to borrow, but up to the 30th June, 1926, a sum of £1,970,000 was advanced by the Treasurer out of the (Commonwealth Public Account to the commission, and further advances have been made since that date. The rates of interest charged to the commission on these moneys have been the nominal rates at which the Commonwealth from time “to time itself raised moneys on the market, A sum of £2,000,000 was included in the recent Commonwealth Loan Act 1926-27, for the Federal Capital Commission. This money, when raised, will, of course, under the Act be applied towards liquidation of the advances which have been made to the commission by the Treasurer. The remaining expenditure, which is covered by this motion, includes a sum of £2,000,000, which is required to cover the ordinary operations of the commission during this financial year. It is also proposed to provide for a sum of £300,000 being obtained by loan from the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of building residences in the Territory. A further amount of £350,000 is included so as to enable the commission to obtain temporary accommodation from the Commonwealth Bank if loan moneys are not, for the time being, available, and the Treasurer should find it inconvenient to provide the amount required by temporary advances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz. : - Sydney General Post Office - Installation ofMail-Handling Appliances.
With the object of making effective use of valuable floor space in the Sydney General Post Office, which is now being remodelled and extended, to further increase the capacity of the building for handling mails, and to obtain greater dispatch and efficiency, it is necessary that full use should be made of modern appliances for the handling of mails. The equipment will be a complete unit, designed to convey mail matter by mechanical means throughout the building, from the point of entry to the primary and final sorting sections, and ultimately to dispatch it. The mechanism will be similar to that of conveyors of proved suitability. Briefly, the equipment will consist of specially designed chutes from posting boxes, with belt conveyors and elevators to carry the mail matter to the point of treatment. Inward mails will be deposited on a platform on the third floor, from which they will be transferred by moving belts to opening bins, and thence to feeding troughs of primary sorting machines. Primary sorting will be into pigeon holes, mechanically cleared by the automatic opening, at intervals, of their respective doors, and the matter will be taken from there by conveyor to the final sorting positions. Outward mails, made up at the final sorting divisions, will be sent by chute to the basement, where they will be deposited on the platform or delivered direct into the waiting mail van. The approximate cost of the installation will be £40,000. I lay plans of the equipment on the table for the information of honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations : - The erection of cottages at Canberra.
As was explained when this matter was referred to the Public Works Committee, the Federal Capital Commission, being under the impression that the erection of cottages was not a work which would be subject to the Public Works Committee Act, has already let contracts. As soon as the matter was brought under notice, the necessary reference was made to the committee, which has now submitted its report. As private enterprise could not be relied upon to provide the considerable number of houses required immediately upon the transfer of the Seat of Government” to Canberra, the means of meeting the -situation was for the commission to call for tenders and let contracts. The Public Works Committee energetically pursued inquiry in the short time available for its investigations, and its report contains valuable suggestions, which will receive the most careful consideration. The committee indicates in its report that it recognizes the necessity for the construction of these cottages, and the Government asks the House to agree to the continuance of the arrangements which have already been made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5th August(vide page 4954), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am sorry that such an important bill as this has been brought forward in the closing hours of the session, because that makes it impossible for honorable mem bers to give to it the consideration that its importance demands. I was hopeful of having an opportunity to discuss it on Monday last, and in common with other honorable members who are interested in its proposals, I thought that we should have ample time to place our views before the House. In the dying hours of the session, when a number of honorable members have already left for their homes, and others are anxious to leave, the atmosphere is not right for a long discussion on such an important subject. I shall endeavour to condense my remarks as much as possible, so as to give other honorable members an opportunity to express their views. I hope to deal with the question from a purely non-party point of view; the subject is too big for either political party to use it as a means of gaining an advantage over the other party. I congratulate the Minister on introducing a bill that links up the growing of cotton and the spinning of cotton yarn - industries which are of great importance to Australia. When the motion for the appropriation was moved I made it known that I was not satisfied with the amount proposed, because although it does, to some extent, assist the industry, it does not go far enough. The right honorable the Prime Minister then said -
If the honorable member will allow the bill to be introduced, and give the Minister an opportunity to tell him what is in it, and if he can then convince me that the amount of the appropriation ought to be increased, I shall arrange for another message from the Governor-General to increase the appropriation. The honorable member will be given an opportunity to convince me.
The Prime Minister will not be here this evening, but the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has been deputed to listen to the arguments on his. behalf. I shall, therefore, endeavour to convince the Minister that instead of a bounty of l1/2d. per lb. for a period of five years, a bounty of 2d. per lb. should be paid. The Tariff Board recommended the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. for a period of six years, thereafter diminishing at the rate of1/4d. per lb. per year until the tenth year. The Government, after giving careful consideration to the recommendation, has brought down a bill providing for an inadequate bounty of l1/2d. for a period of five years. Some honorable -members are opposed to all bounties, chiefly on the ground that to provide artificial props for industries is to waste money. There is ample precedent in Commonwealth legislation for the payment of bounties. Bounties on iron and steel, shale oil, meat, sulphur, canned fruits, and the export of wine and cattle, amounting to a total of £1,550,000, have been paid since 1917. An advance of £200,000 was made to the growers of dried fruits to assist them in the production of their 1925 crop. The principle of granting bounties under the power given in the Constitution was approved by this Parliament long ago. A bounty on cotton can be justified by the economic advantages of developing the cotton-growing and cotton-manufacturing industries. The bill provides for a total expenditure of £900,000- £600,000 at the rate of £120,000 a year for five years, for the payment of a bounty of lid. per lb. on seed cotton; and £300,000, at the rate of £60,000 per annum for five years, for the payment of a bounty of one-third of a penny for No. 1 count, rising by thirds of a penny up to1s. for No. 36 count on cotton yarn. I appreciate the fact that a fairly large appropriation has been made available, and I submit to the Minister that he could, without increasing it, pay a bounty of 2d. per lb. for three years. The cotton-growers of Queensland, when they realized that there was no hope of obtaining what the Tariff Board recommended, modified their demand and asked for a bounty at the rate of 2d. per lb. for three years, and l1/2d. for the fourth, fifth and sixth years.
– Anything in order to get more.
– They rightly contend that a bounty at the rate of l1/2d. per1b. will not enable them to make a decent living out of the industry, but will strangle it at what is practically its birth. It will not enable the grower to make a profit, even if he improves the efficiency of his cultivation to the extent of producing 700 lb. to the acre. The average yield in Queensland over a six-year period has been 320 lb. per acre per annum. The recommendation of the Tariff Board was based on an assumed production of 700 lb. per acre. That estimate leaves much room for improvement of methods. I should like honorable members to bear in mind that growers in America do not, on the average, produce 700 lb. to the acre. I have been informed that last year they produced only 450 lb. to the acre. This afternoon I had an opportunity of glancing at a very interesting article in the Review of Reviews for July of this year dealing with the growing of cotton in America. In that article it is pointed out that for the five years from 1920 to 1924 the average annual cotton crop was 10,984,584 bales. As each bale contains 500 lb. this means that the average annual crop yielded 5,490,000,000 lb. of cotton. This crop was grown on an average of 35,580,000 acres, giving an average yield of 154 lb. to the acre. Yet the Tariff Board thinks that an efficiency of 700 lb. to the acre should be reached by the Queensland cotton growers. I am not criticizing the board on that score, but am pointing out that, assuming that the Government had accepted the board’s report, the cotton growers of Queensland, in order to make the industry pay, must become much more efficient than they are to-day and a great deal more efficient than are the cotton growers of America. According to the article in the Review of Reviews by E. E. Miller, editor of the Southern Agriculture Journal, the average annual crop produced by cotton growers in America during the five years for which the figures are given was only 154 lb. to the acre. The average yield in Queensland last year was 450 lb. tothe acre. I hope that the yield there will be brought up to 700 lb. per acre, but it will take some years to attain that degree of efficiency. Cotton growing is still in the experimental stages in Queensland. As time goes on improved methods of cultivation will be adopted, the growers will become more expert, and the cotton pickers more experienced in the handling of the crop. If the grower finds that he cannot make a profit he will go out of the industry. We cannot have a successful cotton spinning and weaving industry in Australia unless we have a successful cottongrowing industry. Owing to the fact that the industry has not been paying,the acreage under cotton cultivation in Queensland decreased from 50,000 acres in 1923-24 to 35,000 acres in 1924-25, and 25,000 acres for 1925-26, and up to the present only 12,000 acres have been registered for planting this season.
– My figures differ from those given by the honorable member.
– I obtained my figures from very reliable sources.
– In the first place, I am informed that there never were 50,000 acres under cotton in Queensland.
– I obtained my figures from the Queensland Registrar-General’s A. B.C. of Statistics, and also from a telegram I received from the Queensland Under-Secretary for Agriculture. The figures I have quoted show a great falling off in the acreage under cultivation with cotton, and that was at a price equal to 2d. per lb. bounty. The Minister gave certain figures of quantities of cotton grown up to the year 1924-25. which would lead one to believe that there had been wonderful progress. Figures of quantities are not so reliable as figures giving the acreage under crop and the number of planters. Seasonal conditions seriously change quantities, and are a poor indication of the average under crop. As the cotton-growing industry is not paying at the present time, I estimate that the acreage put under crop for the coming season will not. amount to more than 15,000 acres, or half the acreage under crop two years ago. I estimate that the crop will yield not more than 6,500,000 lb.
– The yield should be 6,750,000 lb. from 15,000 acres.
– It will be seen that because of the granting of a bounty of 1½d. per lb. the industry has fallen, back to what it was in 1921-22. I want to submit to the Minister the great importance of assisting the cotton-growing industry as one of national importance to the development of the country. If it is allowed to die out, many of those who were induced to go in for growing cotton, partly as the result of propaganda by the Federal and State Governments and by the British- Australian Cotton-growing Association, will lose everything they have put into it, and will have to start to make a living “in some other form of agriculture. With a falling off of 10,000 acres in the area under cultivation in twelve months, and an estimated yield of 6,000,000 lb. for the coming season, as against 16,721,000 lb. in 1924-25, when the guaranteed pricewas more than equivalent to the proposed bounty, how can the Minister expect that any progress will be made in the immedi ate future or over a period of years if a bounty of only 1½d. per lb. is paid? It is for the next two or three years that, I think, the continuance of the industry will be in danger. If it is assisted over those years I believe it will live with a bounty of 1½d. per lb. The real advance in the acreage under cotton took place in the years when the average guaranteed price was approximately 5½d. per lb. The drop in price was felt in 1923- 24. The reduction in the price was 4894d. per lb. upon the price paid in the previous year. There was a. record acreage under crop in the year I have mentioned, and in the next year a falling off of 15,186 acres. That was in 1924-25, but there was a slightly better yield that year because the season was better. It will be seen that the falling off in the acreage under crop occurred as soon as the guaranteed price dropped. The acreage under crop is a more reliable guide for the future than are the quantities produced. I have, after some trouble, been able to obtain the following figures taken from the Queensland Registrar-General’s A.B.C. of Statistics, and also from the Queensland Department of Agriculture : -
– What is regarded as a payable crop?
– A yield of 600 lb. per acre is considered a good crop. The Tariff Board says 700 lb. to the acre, and a bounty of 2d. would be payable. The average crop last year was 360 lb. to the acre. There are, of course, exceptional yields from small acreages under favoured conditions, and it is stated that, in some cases, a yield of 700 lb. to the acre and more has been obtained. As I have said, the average yield last year was 360 lb. to the acre, and in America over a period of five years the average was only 154 lb. to the acre.
– What is the value of the cotton?
– It has been sold at a guaranteed price of from 5£d. per lb. in 1919-20 down to an average price last year of 4Jd,. per lb.
– What is the average cost of production per lb. ?
– According to figures worked out by the accountant of the Trade and Customs Department for the Tariff Board it is 3.925d.
– Does that include the cost of the land ?
– Yes, a percentage of the cost of land, buildings and other property. I shall later supply percentages showing the cost of land, machinery, buildings, and so on. The delay in announcing the amount of the bounty and uncertainty as to the future of the industry are, no doubt, accountable to some extent for the reduction in the acreage likely to be planted in .the present year. At present the industry is not attractive to the farmers of Queensland. There has been a gradual shrinkage of the acreage placed under cotton because of uncertainty and doubt as to the future return from the industry. Some stimulus is required to increase the acreage under cultivation for the next year or two. I say that under the appropriation proposal to cover five years - £600,000 - the Minister could pay a bounty at the rate of 2d. per lb, for the next five years. With a yield in 1926-27 of 6,000,000 lb., a bounty of 2d. per lb. would amount to £50,000, and an estimated crop next year of 9,000,000 lb. would require £75,000 to pay the bounty of 2d. per lb. recommended by the Tariff Board. That would leave a carry-over balance of £120,000 after two years. The board’s recommendation was based on the assumption that the industry would become more efficient and that the growers would produce 700 lb. per acre. If, in the coming season, 6,000,000 lb. is grown; in the year 1927-28, 9,000,000 lb. : and in 1928-29, not more than 13,000,000 lb., the cost to the Government in the last-named year would not exceed £108,333. Even if the bounty of 2d. per lb. were paid over the period of five years, I estimate that the total expenditure by 1930-31 would not be more than £524,999, which would be less than the amount of the appropriation provided for in the bill. Therefore, the rate of bounty could be increased to 2d. per lb. We shall look forward to a production of 15,000,000 lb. in 1929-30, and of 20,000,000 lb. in 1930-31. On that production the bounty would cost, in 1929-30, £125,000, and, in 1930-31, £166,666.
– On what does the honorable member base his forecast?
– On the progress of the industry up to the present, when the return to the grower under the guarantee was better than it will be under the proposed bounty of lid. per lb. The average price realized in the season just closed, with the aid of the guarantee by the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments, was 4$d. per lb., and the bounty of 2d. recommended by the Tariff Board, would bring the return in the next season up to that figure. But the Minister seems to be afraid that an artificial prosperity will be created, and that the acreage under cotton will be considerably increased.
– That is what we want.
– Yes; but the bounty of lid. per lb. will not produce that increase. A bounty of 2d. per lb. would give the necessary impetus to the industry during the first three or four years, while the secondary industry is developing. It is futile for the Minister to say that the bounty on cotton yarn will immediately give a great fillip to the production of raw cotton.
– In any case, we can afford to give the industry a fillip, in order that it may supply the local demand.
– That is so. I am grateful for that interjection, because it reminds me that, in November last, the Leader of the Opposition definitely promised the growers that if he and his supporters were returned to power, a bounty of 2d. per lb. would be paid. Without that rate of bounty, the industry will languish; with its aid there will be a gradual extension of cultivation, but not the rapid and artificial expansion which the Minister seems to fear, and which he says would mulct the Treasury, because the bounty of 2d. recommended by the Tariff Board is based on a standard of efficiency not yet reached by the Australian growers. The Minister pointed out that the average assistance afforded the industry by the guaranteed prices over six years was equal to a bounty of 1.619d. per lb. His figure was arrived at by dividing the average loss on seed cotton each year over the six-year period, but his figures did not include the year 1925-26, when the production dropped from 16,000,000 lb. to 9,000,000 lb. The Tariff Board, with the assistance of an expert accountant, estimated, on a standard of efficiency represented by a yield of 700 lb. to the acre, that the cost of production would be 3.925d. per lb. In my opinion, that efficiency will not be reached by the growers in the next three or four years, but the accountant, on behalf of the Tariff Board, checked and found correct a statement by the British Australasian Cotton Association Limited that Australian lint, fetching an average price of l2d. per lb., when the Liverpool price of American middling was lOd. per lb., would give a maximum return to the grower, apart from the guaranteed price, of 2.4695d. per lb. If we deduct that realizable return from 3.925d., the maximum cost of production, we arrive at a loss of, approximately, l£d. per lb. On those figures of lOd. per lb. for American middling’ - it is a little less to-day - and a return from the Australian lint of 2d. more than the American article, the board recommended that at least £d. per lb. should be allowed to the grower as clear profit, and in order to permit of that profit the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. The net effect of that bounty would be that the efficient farmer would receive the average guaranteed price of 4£d. that he got last year - just that, and nothing more, for the immediate present on the current ruling ‘ prices. The Minister speculated’ as to what will happen in the future; but that will depend upon what the local market will be worth. A great deal of expenditure will be incurred by Australian spinners and weavers before they will be able to consume much more of the Australian cotton production. One of the managers of Bond and Company informed me that for certain types of yarns the high quality Australian cotton is unsuitable, and cheaper grades of cotton must be imported. This bill provides that the local manufacturers may import 50 per cent, of their total requirements without forfeiting their claim to the bounty on yarn. The Minister has no definite proof of what the value of the cotton-yarn industry will be to the grower during the next one or two years, which will be the crucial period for the producers. Will Australian spinners and weavers be able to buy all the cotton that is produced, much of which is not suitable for the inferior yarns which are spun to-day.
– What amount is allowed for the cost of production, including wages?
– It is all set out clearly in the Tariff Board’s calculations, and I shall give details later. Commenting upon the evidence and the figures prepared by its own accountant, the Tariff Board said -
We consider that at least ii. per lb. should be allowed to the grower as clear profit, and to enable this to be done a bounty of 2d. per lb. is necessary.
That 2d. per lb. would place the growers in no better position than they occupied under the guarantee of last year. The cotton industry concerns, not only Queensland, but Western Australia - particularly the north-west, where this crop could be grown very well - South Australia, Northern New South Wales, and the Northern Territory. It can become a truly Australian industry; but the Queensland climate has been proved to be preeminently suitable for the cultivation of this crop. Moreover, this is one of the few crops that can be produced on the smallfarm system without flooding an already overstocked market. I suggest that the Minister should at the committee stage substitute a bounty of 2d. for the proposed 1-Jd. per lb. He can do that without increasing the total appropriation. The thorough investigation by the Tariff Board should satisfy honorable members that its decision was not reached quickly and without mature consideration. The board is an independent authority composed of men who have had considerable experience in commerce and engineering and agriculture. The chairman, Mr. G. Hudson, had commercial experience before entering the Department of Trade and Customs, of which he is still an officer. I sought an interview with the board regarding the cotton industry, but the chairman and secretary, being good public servants, could not be induced to make any comment. As public servants I suppose they thought that they were not free to make any comment, but other members of the board were willing to tell me where they made their investigations, and the facts upon which they based their opinion. In conversation with these gentlemen I found that they were very much above the average in ability. Mr. Herbert Brookes, before accepting a position on the board, was associated with the Australian paper and pulp industry. He is Bachelor of Civil Engineering of the Melbourne University. He was chairman of directors of the Austral Otis Engineering Company, South Melbourne, and he was on several directorates of manufacturing and pastoral companies. He resigned all these positions to become a member of the Tariff Board, in the belief that he could do some good for his own country. Mr. W. Leitch, another member of the board, has been connected with engineering all his life. He was Director of Munitions during the war, and was associated with the BakerPerkins Engineering Company. In the course of his business pursuits he travelled extensively, visiting all the important countries of the world. He also accepted a position on the Tariff Board believing that he could do some good for the primary and secondary industries of Australia. When the board had been operating for some time the Country party demanded that the primary producers should be represented on it, and accordingly Mr. Masterton was appointed. He is a very experienced man. He was for years president of the Federal Viticultural Council. Before coming to Australia he was brought up in the jute industry in Scotland. He was also on several directorates connected with commerce and primary production, and he has had a varied experience in vine growing, the raising of stock, dairying, and agriculture. These are the men who inquired into the cotton industry, and they recommended what I am asking the Government to grant to the cotton growers. They did. not arrive at their recommendation without first having made further investigations. They visited Brisbane, where they took evidence from Senator Massy Greene, the representative of the British-Australian Cotton Association. They took evidence from Mr. Webster, Mr. Harding, Mr. Koets, and Mr. Frederick, all practical farmers, and from other representative men I could mention, all of whom had had considerable experience in agriculture or in growing cotton. The board had the assistance of Mr. Townsend, the accountant to the Department of Trade and Customs - a gentleman of the highest ability who was formerly secretary of the Sugar Board. Mr. Townsend went to Queensland and inquired into the cost of production, and as the board in its report places great reliance upon the figures prepared by him, I submit that the Minister should hesitate before turning down the requestfor a bounty of 2d. a lb. Mr. Townsend shows that the cost per acre in producing a crop of 700 lb. is as follows: - Cultivation, £4 3s. Id. ; distribution, £1 7s. 9d. ; and overhead charges, £1 10s. 8d., making a total of £7 ls. 6d. an acre, or 2.425d. per lb. The return per lb. at last year’s average price, 4.5d. per lb., would be gross profit, 2.075d., picking 1.5d., net profit, 5d. or id. per lb. If the grower, however, gets a return of 500 lb. an acre his gross yield would be worth £9 7s. 6d., at 4id. per lb. Deducting £7 ls. 6d. an acre for the cost of production, without making allowance for picking costs, the balance is £2 6s. an acre; but, estimating the cost of picking at 1½d. per lb., or £3 2s. 6d. an acre, the grower is left with a net loss of 16s. 6d. an acre. Thus if a grower reaches the standard of efficiency set up by the Tariff Board he will, according to the figures prepared for the board by Mr. Townsend, .make a profit of id. per lb. if he is given a bounty of 2d. That will be £1 9s. 2d. an acre; but if he cannot get a yield of more than 500 lb. an acre he will sustain a loss of 16s. 6d. an acre. Therefore, the Tariff Board’s recommendation, based on an efficiency of 700 lb. an acre, is conservative and will bring no great prosperity to the cotton industry, but will enable it to develop steadily. As a matter of fact, it will only make it possible for those engaged in growing cotton to carry on until, by improved methods of cultivation, they can secure better crops, and also get the advantages of the local market. It has been said that the cotton-growers, in estimating the cost of production, have included all the cost of their machinery, sheds, and other equipment, and charged it to cotton. Mr. Townsend has worked out the overhead charge on the following basis: - Depreciation on buildings, 2£ per cent, of total; fencing, 5 per cent.; horses, 25 per cent. ; implements, 10 per cent. ; and land, 6 per cent. If the farmer obtains the standard of efficiency set by the Tariff Board, he will, according to Mr. Townsend’s figures, make a profit of ½d. a lb., or £1 9s. 2d. an acre ; but if the efficiency does not exceed 500 lb. an acre he will sustain a loss of 16s. 6d. an acre. This should be borne in mind by the Minister.
– Does that not apply to other men on the land? They may have a good yield one year and a bad yield the next year.
– It is impossible for the cotton-growers to have a good year, because the Tariff Board’s report is based on an efficiency that they have not yet been able to reach. The standard set is 700 lb. an acre, whereas during the last five years in America the production has only been 154 lb. an acre. That shows the absolute necessity to grant the 2d. A Queensland farmer with 10 acres under cotton will make a profit - with the bounty of 2d.- of £14 lis. 8d. a year, but the average area under crop does not exceed 5 acres. No one, therefore, can say that the cotton-grower will make an abnormal profit. I do not ask that this bounty should be paid indefinitely, but it should be paid for a period of at least six years. An industry like this must be given assistance over the early stages of its development, after which it ought to stand on its own feet.
– How will the cotton industry stand on its own. feet?
– Because of the secondary industries that will flow out of it.
– Cotton growing is a primary industry which is really a basic industry.
– Yes; from cottongrowing will spring other industries. Cotton is used in the manufacture of cordite and motor tires. It is the raw material for hosiery and knitted underwear. It is used in woollen manufactures. It is the basis of artificial silk. The margarine and soap makers use its by-products. It provides a valuable food for dairy cattle and poultry. In Brisbane, already an up-to-date oil mill has been established which will provide numerous by-products of cotton, such as cotton-seed oil, used largely in the manufacture of margarine, cotton-seed oil used in the manufacture of soap-oil and acid-oil, cattle foods, and linters and motes from which upholsterers’ wadding is made. In America, in 1914 - a record year for the production of cotton - 6,000,000 tons of cotton seed produced 250,000,000 gallons of oil, 2,750,000 lb. of meal, and 200,000 tons of linters. These manufactured products were valued at £100,000,000, and yet 40 years ago the seed that is taken out in the ginnery was considered practically worthless. To-day America secures by-products valued at £100,000,000 a year from cotton seed. There are, indeed, wonderful possibilities in the development of the cotton-growing industry in Queensland. For the first year or two a bounty of 1½d. per lb. will not give the industry the fillip that it requires. A bounty of 2d. for at least three years is absolutely necessary. At the end of three years, the manufacture of cotton yarn would be developed to such an extent that benefits would accrue to the cotton-growers, but in the early stages of its manufacture, no appreciable advantage would be gained by them. A large number of persons have interested themselves in cotton-growing in Queensland in consequence of the circular that the Prime Minister sent to the State Pre’miers a couple of years ago to the effect that if people would engage in the industry, an era of great prosperity, would follow. The British Australian Cotton Association suggested that Queensland would, in a few short years, become a modern. Utopia if cotton-growing were undertaken on a big scale. Unfortunately, those who have engaged in the industry have not met with the success that they were led to expect. In the circumstances, I trust that the Minister will agree to strike out the words “ one penny half-penny,” in clause 6, and insert “ twopence “ in lieu thereof. He need not necessarily increase the appropriation, for he is protected by sub-clause 3 of clause 14, which provides that -
The Governor-General may make regulations …. for carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular -
I am sure that ample money is being appropriated to meet the 2d. bounty.
T have very little to say about the payment of a bounty on the production of cotton yarn. The first Australian spinning mills were established by Messrs. G. A. Bond and Company, at Wentworth, near Sydney, in September, 1923, and 540 employees are now engaged in connexion with the works. The gross annual wages bill there is £80,000, but 2,000 hands altogether are employed at a total cost of £300,000 per annum. ‘ The cotton yarn produced is worth £180,000 per annum, but this only provides, half the requirements of the firm’s own weaving and knitting factories. The need for the bounty is indicated by the fact that their yarn costs 6d. per lb. more than the imported yarn landed in warehouse. By using Australian instead of imported cotton yarn in their knitting and weaving factories, Messrs. Bond and Company lose £35,000 per annum ; but if they doubled their manufactured output, and produced sufficient yarn for their needs, their loss would be £70,000 per annum. Seeing that wages in Australia are 50 per cent, above those paid in the United Kingdom, it is obvious that some protection is necessary if the industry is to be developed. Messrs. Bond and Company have been endeavouring to get a bounty for eighteen months, but, so far, without success. Personally, I favour a bounty in preference to a tariff duty, for, in the circumstances, it is much more scientific. A duty would impose heavy penalties on the people of the Commonwealth, which, at this stage, is not warranted. The matter was referred to the Tariff Board in February, 1925, to investigate, and the board submitted its report to the Minister on the 20th July, 1925. It recommended a bounty of 6d. per lb., but the Minister instead of adopting its proposal, asked the House, in March, 1926, nearly twelve months after the report of the board was received to adopt an amendment to the tariff schedule which provided for deferred duties of 20 per cent., 30 per cent., and 35 per cent. Obviously, this was quite an impracticable method of assisting the production of cotton yarn, so the present proposal has been substituted. The great majority of manufactured cotton goods imported into the Commonwealth are admitted free of duty from Great Britain, and under a 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, duty from other countries. This, of course, is a substantial preference to Great Britain, but it costs the people of Australia about £200,000 per annum. In five years Australia pays approximately £1,000,000 in duty on manufactured cotton goods, but the proposed duty on cotton yarn will absorb ‘ in five years only £300,000. Unless the proposed bounty is paid, every Australian weaver of cotton tweed will be faced with a loss of 3d. per yard, if he uses Australian yarn. Messrs. Bond and Company, who manufacture cotton tweeds from 100 per cent. Australian yarn, are, owing to the high cost of producing yarn, losing 3d. per yard on every yard they produce. The position with regard to towels and towelling is similar, but Messrs. Bond and Company are using Australian yarn in manufacturing them. Since the deferred duty was imposed in September last, the price of towelling in Great Britain has been reduced by from 15 per cent, to 174 per cent. Unfortunately, the deferred duty on yarn has ‘ not helped the industry in any way, and is preventing any other weaving company from taking up the manufacture of towelling. If we grew all the raw cotton and manufactured in Australia all the cotton yarn and cotton goods that we needed, we could absorb very nearly 200,000 more people. Surely that is something to be desired ! Surely this is better than the adoption of a freetrade policy, which would simply provide employment for workers on the other side of the world. Our first duty is to Australia. The bill is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough towards meeting the needs of the cotton-growers. However, other honorable members from Queensland will have something to say upon it. I hope the Minister will agree to pay a bounty of 2d. a lb. on cotton seed for at least three years, for, as I have pointed out, he could do so without increasing the appropriation.
.- I am sorry that the introduction of this bill has been delayed until the dying hours of the session; but I must congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs and his officers upon having made such a thorough investigation into the industry. I regret, however, that the Government has not adopted the report of the Tariff Board. In the course of my speech on the budget I dealt at considerable length with the growth of the cotton industry and its possibilities, and I do not propose to cover that ground ‘again to-night. I. agree with the Government view that in the case of the cotton industry primary and secondary production should be dovetailed, for the success of one branch of the industry is undoubtedly dependent upon the success of the other. I have always held, and still hold, that the home market is the best for our producers. The Tariff Board recommended that a bounty of 2d. per lb. should be paid on the production of cotton yarn for six years; that it should be reduced by id. a year until after the tenth year it would be only Id. per Jb. But the Government has changed the whole basis of the scheme by proposing to pay a bounty of l£d. only for three years, and l£d. for the following two years, malting only a five-year period in which the industry is to be protected. In my opinion it would be quite possible, without increasing the amount proposed to be appropriated by this bill, to pay a bounty of 2d. a lb. on the cotton produced in the next three years, and 1½d. a lb. on that produced in the following two years. I think I shall be able to prove that the adoption of this proposal would still leave approximately £60,000 of the amount proposed to be appropriated unexpended at the end of the five-year period. In the last seven years we have produced in Australia 56,000,000 lb. of cotton, and I estimate that our production in the next five years will be 81,000,000 lb. On this basis a bounty of 2d. a lb. could easily be paid for three years, and a bounty of 1½d. a lb. for the following two years. This great national industry has developed from our experience during the war. “ It was found during those fateful years that one of the greatest problems of the Empire was how to get enough cotton; and the Cotton Spinners Association of Great Britain determined that in order to avoid the possibility of a similar experience in the future it would seek throughout the Empire for the best place in which to undertake the growing of superior cotton of long staple. After an exhaustive investigation it decided’ to concentrate its activities in the sub-tropical areas of Queensland, with the result that for the last five years Queensland has been producing wonderfully fine cotton. As a matter of fact 97 per cent, of her total production has been of A class. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) have advocated in numerous speeches that they have delivered throughout the Commonwealth in the last three or four years that every effort should be made to achieve the maximum of efficiency in our Australian industries. I challenge any one of them to name a single other Australian industry that has developed 97 per cent, of efficiency in only five years. I urge honorable members to give their hearty assent to the payment of a bounty for this industry, for without it it must utterly fail. The maximum area that has been under cotton crop at one time in Australia is 40,000 acres, but I regret to say that last year the area under cultivation decreased. The development of the cotton industry in Australia is long overdue. It is one of the few primary industries that oan be successfully developed in our sub-tropical lands. The strain of cotton seed grown has greater drought-resisting properties than any other crop that we have yet cultivated, and many farmers who have lost maize and other crops in drought times, and have been faced almost with ruin, have been able to carry on with the small returns they have received from their cotton crops. The fear of the Government that there will be over-production in this industry is not soundly based. We are producing to-day a type of cotton superior to any other in the world, for which we obtain a higher price than the best American cotton commands. The value of the cotton importations into Australia last year was £13,000,000. If the cotton industry is developed, as I anticipate, at least 200,000 persons will at no distant date be directly or indirectly employed in it. The Government has given effective protection to other primary and secondary industries in this country. As a result of the tariff laid on the table of the House last September, a great number of new industries have sprung up in this country. I am asking for the same protection for the basic and primary industry of cotton growing. The Government has acted wisely in combining under the bill the primary and secondary cotton industries, because the development of one will aid the other. I hope that it will see the wisdom of further protecting the industry during the transition period. A bounty of 2d. per lb. on seed cotton for the first three years is the least that is adequate. The sum of 41/2d. per lb. is needed to make cotton growing profitable to the grower, whereas under the present Government’s proposals he. would receive only 4d.
– The difference is nearly £1,000,000.
– That expenditure is certainly justified in the establishing of an industry of the importance and possibilities of development which this has, because once it has been established no further assistance will be needed. I am satisfied that at the end of five years this industry will rival the woollen industry, but unless it obtains adequate assistance it must fail. The Government has the choice of giving this valuable industry adequate protection, or of losing it to Australia. The Tariff Board apparently realized the value of the industry, because it recommended an adequate bounty for it. Last year, for various reasons, the Queensland cotton crop was the lowest on record. Owing to the delay in bringing this bill forward only 12,000 growers have this year made application to the Agricultural Department of Queensland for cotton seed.
– When does the planting take place?
– This month, and in the early part of next month. At the same period, last year, 34,000 applications for cotton seed had been made by the growers. The following comparative tables give the quantities of seed cotton produced, and the average price received : -
For the 1925 and 1926 seasons between 7,000 and 8,000 farmers supplied cotton to the ginneries, and the area cultivated was approximately 40,000 acres. The appropriation for the seed cotton bounty provided for in the bill is £600,000. The likely expenditure of the bounty at the rate of 2d. per lb. for the first two years, and at l1/2d. per lb. for the last three years, allowing for possible increases in production, would be within the appropriation. That is shown by the following table: -
The output for the first year is based on an area of 12,720 acres, for which seed for planting has already been applied for by farmers. The authorities do not consider that more than 15,000 acres will be planted this year. The estimated increase to 30,000 acres in the second year is unlikely to be exceeded, seeing that a bounty of 2d., plus not more than1/4d. - the advantage possible from cotton yarn bounty sources - will still return the grower1/4d. less than the average guaranteed price of 5d. per lb. obtaining when 38,000 acres - referred to by the Tariff Board as 40,000 - were under cultivation. The estimated acreage for the third, fourth, and fifth years is probably overstated, seeing that the bounty will then fall to l£d. Even if the larger plantings mentioned above are realized - and they are regarded as maxima - the total bounty would be £548,437, or nearly £52,000 less than the appropriation. In fact, 2d. could be paid for the third year at an additional cost of £37,500, which would still leave £15,000 surplus at the end of the period. For those reasons I again urge the Minister to provide a bounty of 2d. in the early years of the transition stage of the development of this important new industry. That table shows that each year the yield could increase considerably, and that at the end of the five years the bounty payment would be only £548,000, leaving £62,000 unexpended. By increasing the bounty to 2d. the success of this industry would be assured. The Minister, in opposing the increase, stated that the proposal represented 40 per cent, of the cost of production, which he regarded as something prohibitive. Let me tell him that he has assisted other industries to a far greater extent. The tariff protection on jam is 46 per cent.
– No bounty is given on jam.
-I am amazed that the new Labour member for Tasmania does not know as much about the jam industry as he professes- The cost of the production of jam is 6£d. a lb., and the tariff protection is 3d., or 46 per cent. The cost of production of canned fruits is 9s. a dozen tins, and the tariff protection is 8s. 6d. a dozen tins, or 94 per cent. The cost of production of raisins and lexias is 3$d. a lb., and the tariff protection is 3d. a lb., or 85 per cent. The cost of production of dried pears and apricots is 4d. a lb., and the tariff protection is 4d. a lb., or 100 per cent. The duty on hops is £112 a ton, which represents about 100 per cent, tariff protection.
– And even then the growers cannot make the industry pay.
– No one will say that the growing of hops is a national or basic industry. I wish success to all Tas manian industries, including the hop industry, but I ask that the same regard be paid to the cotton industry as is paid to that and other industries. An examination of the tariff schedule will show very many cases where even more than 50 per cent, protection is given to secondary industries. This industry must be fully assisted for the next two or three years, and I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of increasing the bounty to 2d., at least, for that period, and thus relieve honorable members of the necessity of moving amendments to the bill in committee. I have been informed that the manufacturers are satisfied with the proposed bounty on cotton yarn, but they consider that it should take effect straightway, and not as from the 1st September. I wish that section of the industry success, because if it is firmly established, it will in turn assist the cotton-growing industry. This industry, if developed, will prove of greatvalue to this country. If the Minister cannot see his way clear to increase the bounty, he will sound the death knell of this important industry. I trust that before the House rises we shall be able to say that we have endeavoured to establish a valuable industry in Australia by giving it an adequate bounty for the brief period necessary to tide it over its pioneering stage.
.- I wish to point out to the Minister the injustice that is being done to the spinners of cotton yarn by the proposal that this bill shall operate as from the 1st September. I recognize that so far as the cotton-growing industry is concerned, the operation of the bounty as from that date makes no difference to it, because the growers are only now planting the seed. The bounty on cotton yarn was recommended by the Tariff Board over twelve months ago. The Minister considered it last May, and gave an indication that the Government intended to do something in the matter. When the budget was introduced on the 8th July the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) indicated that a bounty was to be paid. The manufacturers of cotton yarn continued their operations really at a loss in anticipation of the bounty, believing that the Government recognized the urgent necessity for giving the bounty at once, on their production. As soon as an amended tariff schedule is brought down the increased duties become operative. Is it not possible to make this bounty effective in the same way ? The bounty was promised in the budget of the 8th July, and that promise should be honoured by giving the assistance from the beginning of the financial year. The Government has provided an amount of money which will fully meet the cost of the bounty, even if paid from the beginning of the financial year. In fairness to the persons engaged in the industry, the bounty ought to be paid as from the date when it was promised. The industry would never have been started but for the promise of the exMinister for Trade and Customs (Senator Massy Greene) that Government assistance would be given.’ For years the firm has carried on at a loss. Unless the bounty is paid from the beginning of the fianancial year, all the operations of the company since that date will have been conducted at a loss. I feel sure that the Minister does not wish the manufacturers to operate at a loss after the bounty has been promised. There is no difficulty in paying the bounty as from the 1st July. The Tariff Board has investigated the books of the manufacturers, has approved of their system of bookkeeping, and has said there will be no difficulty in assessing the amount of bounty payable. I am not suggesting a retrospective bounty, but simply urging that it be paid as from the date when it was promised. I hope that it will not be necessary for me to press this proposal, but that the Minister will see the fairness of my argument and adopt my suggestion. The payment of the bounty from the beginning of the financial year will be no more than a tardy measure of justice to an enterprising firm that has done much to promote this industry in Australia.
.- I congratulate the Minister on his recognition - though it is a tardy recognition - of the claims of this industry. I have been disappointed at the apathy shown by the Government in delaying to come to the assistance of this potentially great industry. The amounts provided - £600,000 for seed cotton and £300,000 for cotton yarn, over a period of five years - are a very fair start. Since the manufacturers first endeavoured two years ago to obtain some recognition from the Government, they have been losing large sums of money. The pioneer firm of cotton spinners started out to demonstrate that the industry could be established, and it relied upon the promised assistance of the Government. It commenced operations with no hope of making anything but a loss, unless the Government imposed substantial import duties or granted a bounty. About four or five years ago a definite promise of assistance to the industry was given by the then Minister for Trade and Customs, but that promise, unfortunately, was not honoured. The firm of Bond and Company started the industry before applying for assistance. That action is in striking contrast to the methods of a number of get-rich-quick companies that I have in mind, which obtain an option over a block of land, make inquiries about machinery, and then ask the Tariff Board for protection before starting to float a company. I regret the long delay in coming to the assistance of the industry, but I am thankful that the bill has been brought down before Parliament goes into recess. The Tariff Board investigated the circumstances of the industry, and made a report on the subject last year. It recommended that the Government should pay a bounty on all cotton yarn of 6d. per lb. That decision was arrived at after exhaustive investigation of all the facts connected with the industry, including even the investigation of the books of the company by an accountant under the supervision of the board. The books, vouchers and documents in the possession of the company were placed frankly and unreservedly, so far as I can judge from the board’s report, before the board. The Minister has refused to accept the board’s recommendation. The degrees of fineness mentioned in the schedule range from No. 1 count of 840 yards to the lb., on which a bounty of jd. will be paid, up to No. 41 count, of 34,000 yards to the lb., on which a bounty of ls. will be paid. I am informed that the cost of manufacturing No. 41 count is about ls. 9d., whereas the bounty provided is only ls. Obviously the bounty will discourage the spinning of the finer yarns. If the bounty were on the uniform basis of 6d. per lb. the manufacturers would spin the counts necessary for the Australian trade; but the so-called scientific ratio adopted in the bill will encourage the spinning of the coarser rather than the finer counts. I do not know who suggested the method adopted in the bill - it may have been put forward by a departmental officer, ox as a result of an investigation of the methods in America and England - but it will not operate in the best interests of the industry. If given a flat rate bounty of 6d. per lb. the company would, I am sure, manufacture all the finer qualities of linen and other materials required in Australia.
– The Government is trying to legislate for an industry, not for a company.
– I cannot see the difference. If there were six companies in Australia my arguments would apply just the same. At present one company is operating, and it is said that three or four other companies will commence operations next year. I should like to know the difference so far as the bounty is concerned between one company and four companies. However many companies there may be, they constitute the industry, and the problem to be faced remains the same. The Minister has apparently satisfied himself as to the wisdom of departing from the Tariff Board’s recommendation. I have no quarrel with him for doing that, but when he replies to the arguments put forward during this debate, I hope, as this is a new bounty and a departure from the board’s recommendation, that he will give an assurance that if, at the end of twelve months, it is not working satisfactorily, he will change its basis to a flat rate of 6d. per lb. The company has for many years been endeavouring . to obtain assistance from various governments. It has received many promises, but this is the first practical assistance that has been given. While there, is only one company operating to-day, employing some 600 employees, when other companies start they will probably employ an equally large number of employees if the Government sympathetically considers the claims of the industry to adequate protection. When we take into consideration the fact that cotton goods to the value of about £12,000,000 are imported annually into Australia, we can realize the great expansion of this industry which is possible with sympathetic administration and pro tection. The pioneering company is now operating at a loss of some £35,000 a year. It has been losing considerable sums of money from the beginning of its activities. In the circumstances, I cannot understand, why the Minister proposes in the bill that the bounty shall not come into operation until the 1st September. It should be a simple matter to take account of the cotton yarn produced since the 1st July last.
– The Tariff Board has said that there would be no difficulty in doing that.
– No factory could be successfully operated in these days without the adoption of a modern costing system to enable the proprietors to estimate their output month by month and week by week. The Minister may be able to give a satisfactory explanation of his refusal to consider the payment of the bounty from the 1st July, and, failing that, he should at least make it payable forthwith upon the passing of the bill. Only to-day we have had an example of the consideration given to the iron and steel industry. I admit that it is an important industry and necessary, as the cotton industry is, to the development of secondary and tertiary industries in this country. The Minister has himself stated that the cotton-spinning industry is necessary, not only for the production of cotton material for wear, but because the products of the industry find a place in chemistry. In view of the apathy displayed towards the cotton industry, the celerity with which the Government has moved to assist the iron and steel industry is incomprehensible to me. The Minister might explain why it is that one industry is given concessions which are not given to another. To-day the honorable gentleman laid on the table a schedule providing for adequate protection for the Australian iron and steel industry against foreign competition. It was not intended that that schedule should be discussed, but it will come at once into operation and remain in force until Parliament is given an opportunity to discuss it. I favour protection for the iron and steel industry, and I agree with the action taken by the Minister to protect it. I believe that it is not right that we should wait for six or twelve months to provide adequate protection for that industry. But if it is fair, merely by laying a tariff schedule on the table, without discussion, to give protection to the iron and steel industry, the industry now under consideration should be similarly treated. As the Minister has departed from the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which would have been more acceptable to the pioneer company in this industry, and has proposed instead a graduated scale of bounty, he might at least make the bounty payable from the date of the introduction of the measure. He might do a graceful thing and thus make up for some of the apathy and disregard for this industry shown by his predecessors, and I now appeal to him to make the payment of the bounty date from the 1st July.
.- I do not intend “ to discuss this bill at very great length. I offer my congratulations to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) upon the desire he has shown to assist the cotton industry. In common with other honorable members I listened with great interest to the honorable gentleman’s very able speech in presenting the bill: However, I frankly confess that I was disappointed to learn that the Tariff Board’s recommendation of a bounty of 2d. per lb. could not be accepted by the Government. I recognize that the Minister advanced some very logical arguments in explaining why the Government could not accept the Tariff Board’s recommendation. I do not concede to any one a greater interest than I have myself in the development of the cotton industry. I see in it a wonderful means of contributing to the development, not only of Queensland, but also of other States that are climatically suitable for the production of cotton, lt is beyond question that the cotton produced in Australia is of such excellence that it can find a ready sale in the markets of the world in competition with the best cotton produced in America, Egypt, or other countries. In explaining why the Government refused to adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board, I think the Minister logically contended that the board in making its recommendation did not take into consideration the proposal for payment of a bounty on cotton yarn. Still, I point out, as has been done already by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.
Forde), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), and other speakers, that the appropriation provided by the Government is sufficient to cover a bounty of 2d. per lb. If the Minister would advise the Government to pay a bounty at that rate from the appropriation proposed, that would meet the wishes of all concerned, and would give entire satisfaction without infringing the legal purport of the bill.
– The appropriation would provide enough and to spare for the purpose.
– That is so. If the bounty cannot be paid on a flat rate, as recommended by the Tariff Board, and it is found that the appropriation is more than sufficient for payment of bounty on the scale proposed by the Government, I make the suggestion that any balance might be distributed as a bonus to the growers. A question that is exercising my mind is :
To whom will the bounty be paid ? Will it be paid to the legitimate grower or the manufacturer, or is it to go to the cost of production? I have before me some figures which appeared in the’ Queensland Hansard, of 1921, when the question of the establishment of the industry was under discussion in the Queensland Parliament. In a long list of figures showing the cost of production, I find that it was not uncommon for the average net income per acre in 1921 to amount to £11 17s. 8d. At that time there was a guaranteed price paid for cotton. A bounty of 2d. per lb. would bring the price almost up to the guaranteed price; but it would not bring the average net income from cotton up to anything like £11 17s. 8d. per acre. I do not know what economic influences have been at work to account for the condition in which the industry is to-day. The figures before me make me wonder who will receive the proposed bounty of lid. per lb. I should like to know what is accountable for the fact that while in 1921 cotton grown in Queensland gave a net profit of £11 17s. 8d. per acre, the industry is to-day in such a struggling condition, that in order to save it from absolute ruin a bounty of not less than . 2d. per lb. is considered by the Tariff Board to be necessary.
– What explanation do the growers give?
– I do not know that any explanation has been offered. I have quoted figures that were supplied by a grower who adopted a systematic method of keeping records. They were advanced in the Queensland Parliament as a reason for fostering the industry, and to show that it offered considerable advantages for the settlement of migrants.
– Can the honorable member give the details of the balancesheet in which that profit was shown?
– The farmer thus detailed his expenses -
That appears to be a handsome profit for a rural industry, and I cannot understand bow the profit has dropped to £6 1s.10d. as the Tariff Board states. I desire to know who will get the benefit of the proposed bounty.
– The producer.
– I hope so, for that is the intention of the bill.
Mr.Fenton. - The bill provides for that.
– It provides for many things, but we have heard honorable members opposite openly and forcefully urge this afternoon that as soon as an industry receives a bounty, or an increase of tariff protection, the workers engaged in it should make immediate application for an advance in wages, and thus set up again the vicious circle of high duties followed by high cost of production, necessitating in turn still higher duties. What assurance have we that the whole of this bounty will not be filched from the growers, and paid over to people for whom it is not intended? I shall support the bill,but I regret that the Government has not seen fit to propose a bounty of 2d. per lb. However, I welcome the graduated scale for the bounty on cotton yarn. I do not agree with some honorable members in the contention that a flat rate would be more helpful, as I regard the fixation of bounty on a fractional basis, according to its application to the cotton yarn, as a scientific principle, which will conduce to the production of the best grade yarns. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister will not be adamant in refusing to allocate the money covered by the appropriation, over and above the bounty of l1/2d. per lb., but will listen to reason, and pay due regard to the representations of honorable members who are deeply interested in this question. All honorable members will agree that the Minister for Trade and Customs. (Mr. Pratten) shows an earnest and practical desire to support national industries, and I hope that he will be influenced by recommendations that are made in no party spirit; that he should set aside the annual excess from the appropriation to increase the bounty to 2d. Practical figures indicate that the amount appropriated will not be absorbed under the bonus of l1/2d. per lb. for seed cotton. That being so - and it appears indisputable - I contend that the amount not absorbed in each year should be paid to the grower, as it would in no way increase the amount appropriated, the whole of which, after all, will be allocated for the bounty.
– I endorse the advocacy of a bounty of 2d. per lb. for raw cotton. If a bounty of 11/2d. will merely prolong the existence of the industry, and not put it firmly on its feet, it will be more orless wasted. The country will benefit little from an industry that is kept in a struggling state. This Parliament will do well to give the cotton-growers a full measure of assistance until their enterprise is fully established. I am convinced that Parliament will not treat the industry in a stingy manner. In regard to the manufacture of cotton yarn, a large company in Sydney four years ago took the advice of the then Minister for Trade and Customs to instal a large plant for the manufacture of cotton yarn on the assurance that a bounty would be proposed to Parliament. During the last four years the company has been losing over £35,000 per annum, and now when the Government belatedly proposes a bounty, its operation is being deferred until 1st September. This is in marked contrast to a tariff duty, which is operative from the moment it is tabled in this chamber. The company read the statement in the Treasurer’s budget speech that a bounty would be recommended to Parliament, and naturally expected to receive it at once. The postponement of the payment until the 1st September is an injustice to a firm that has done splendid pioneering work. Parliament has passed an act for the creation of a commission to control development and migration and to expend a sum of £34,000,000 that is to be made available by the British Government. It cannot be denied that Bond and Company have been engaged in developmental work. They have spent £750,000 in the establishment of an industry which at present is employing over 600 hands. Men who have had the courage to invest their capital in a new and untried industry and make losses year after year should be recognized as the real industrial pioneers of Australia. The manufacturing industries are only in their infancy. I have a vivid recollection of the granting of the first bounty on the manufacture of wool tops. That assistance was continued for a few years, and to-day the industry is flourishing, supplying raw material for the knitting mills and employing a large number of people. I am sure that the Minister would have the support of honorable members if he would agree to make the bounty on cotton yarn payable from 1st July last. None of the primary industries to which bounties have been paid employ as many hands as will be engaged in the weaving and spinning industry. Australia annually imports £12,000,000 worth of goods that could be manufactured locally. Bond anA Company are model employers. Their factory is modern, healthy, and clean, and the girls employed in it are treated to morning, and afternoon tea, have a nurse to attend to their ailments, and enjoy many recreational advantages. The firm has a laudable ambition to extend its operation to other States. It is idle to talk of introducing more population until we increase secondary industries. The demand for Australian cotton yarn already exists. The Minister for Trade and Customs is animated by the highest ideals for the development of the national resources of the Commonwealth, and I thank him for having proposed this bounty, even at so late an hour of the session. I have pleasure in supporting the bill, which I hope will lead to a large increase in employment and promote the establishment of factories throughout Australia. This is a bounty, not for the benefit of one firm, but to establish a great primary industry, and I hope that public-spirited and adventurous men will not hesitate to invest their capital in it.
.- I had intended to speak at length upon this bill at the introductory stage, but owing to temporary ill health, I did not think it wise to do so, and I do not intend to dwell long on the subject to-night. The Minister for Trade and Customs has always proved himself regardful of the interests of the primary and secondary industries. The Prime Minister has often uttered the slogan, “ Produce, Produce. Produce,” and to give practical effect to that exhortation his colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, intends to encourage the production of cotton. But as a result of various deputations that I have introduced to the Prime Minister and to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and information that has reached me from other sources, I fear that some members of the Cabinet are not as keenly interested in the industry as we could wish. Queensland has a large area of cheap land suitable for cotton cultivation. The British Government is making available to the Commonwealth and the States £34,000,000 for development and migration, and the Federal Parliament has authorized the expenditure of £20,000,000 upon the construction of main roads. The cotton industry can be the means of settling tens of thousands of people upon the land. If it were protected until the men engaged in it became efficient in the art of picking, it would prosper, ‘and all we ask is that the grower shall be assisted by a bounty of 2d. a lb., in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. That board gave the matter a considerable amount of attention. It visited Queensland, and took a lot of evidence there, and subsequently recommended the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. I cannot see why the Government has reduced the bounty to 1½d. If £120,000 per annum is to bc set aside for the payment of this bounty, and the full amount is not likely to be absorbed,’ I trust that the unexpended balance will be utilized to make up the bounty to 2d. per lb. It is of vital importance to the Commonwealth that industries shall be established, and, when we have an opportunity such as is now presented to build up a new industry, we should not hesitate to afford it proper protection until it has become well established. Those engaged in cotton-growing cannot become efficient all at once. A man who has never picked cotton will not pick more than 50 or, perhaps, 70 lb. a day, whereas experienced cotton-pickers can pick’ from 200 to 220 lb. a day. Two ladies on the border between Capricornia and Wide Bay, who have made a study of cotton-picking, can pick 200 lb. a day each; but, generally speaking, it costs at least 2d. a lb. to pick cotton in Australia, whereas in America it can be picked at about Jd. a lb. The cost is low in America because the people engaged in the cotton-picking industry there have had ample opportunity to learn the art of cotton-picking, and, by picking large quantities, can earn a good wage which does not penalize the industry. I hope that the Government can see its way clear to increase the bounty for at least two or three years, so that the farmer may have some guarantee that the industry will be stabilized for that period. Afterwards I feel sure that he will be able to carry cn with a smaller bounty. I trust that we shall see in Australia a development of the cotton industries, primary and secondary, but we shall not have that development unless something more is done than has hitherto been attempted. Honorable members have compared the .quantity of cotton grown four years ago with last year’s reduced output, and I am afraid that the smaller number of applications for seed this year also indicates a small production. I regret that the bounty is not so large as I expected it to be, namely, the amount recommended by the Tariff Board, but I want to see this bill passed. I feel sure that whoever has been responsible for the reduction of the bounty will very soon regret it.
.- It appears to me that the Commonwealth Government has made only a half-hearted attempt to establish the cotton industry in Australia. The people who were induced to grow cotton, where formerly they grew other produce, were promised all sorts of assistance. They showed that cotton seed could be grown, samples of their output were pronounced by manufacturers in Great Britain to be the best they had received from any part of the world, and it was clearly demonstrated that good cotton could be grown in many parts in the north of Australia. The amount set aside for the payment of this bounty should be sufficient to give 2d. a lb. to the grower and still leave a balance. A bounty was promised to the gentleman who has pioneered cotton spinning in Australia, but I regret to learn that the payment of the bounty on cotton yarn is being delayed. I am sure that honorable members, by a large majority, would support the Government in giving the cotton-grower a bounty of 2d. per lb., and in advancing the date from which the bounty on cotton yarn is to be paid. It is useless to engage extensively in cottongrowing unless we try to develop our secondary industries, and I think the Minister would be well advised to date the payment of the bounty on cotton yarn from the end of the last financial year, as he promised would be done.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation . of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to amend section 6 of the Maternity Allowance Act 1912.
As the Maternity Allowance Act stands at present women who are Asiatics cannot receive maternity allowances. British nationality, whether inherent as natural born or acquired by naturalization, or by marriage to a British subject, does not overcome this disqualification. Consequently, it has hitherto been necessary to reject claims for maternity allowances by Asiatic mothers, even though these mothers may have been born in Australia, or may have been resident in the Commonwealth for many years. Syrian mothers, for instance, although naturalized British subjects, have not been eligible for maternity allowances because they are of Asiatic descent, whereas women who have emigrated from European countries to Australia have been eligible to receive maternity allowances even though they may not have been British subjects, and may have been resident in Australia for a few weeks only. The present bill proposes to remove the disqualification imposed on Asiatic mothers by virtue of their descent, and in lieu thereof to insert a new provision that maternity allowances shall not be paid to aliens. The result of this will be that Asiatic ‘ mothers, including Syrians, who are British subjects, will become eligible to receive maternity allowances provided, of course, that they comply with the ordinary requirements of the act. On the other hand, women of European descent who become resident in Australia, but who do not possess or acquire British nationality, will be debarred. The cost of ibis alteration will be small. During last year an amount of £680,855 was paid in maternity allowances. There are 1,400,000 women in Australia of child-bearing age, that is, between the ages of 15 and 45 years. The number of maternity allowances granted in 1925-26, which is taken as an average year, was 136,171. Statistics show that more than 99 per cent. of mothers claim maternity allowances. The proportion of maternity allowance claims paid to women of child-bearing age is, therefore, approximately one in ten. Information received from the Commonwealth Statistician shows that there are approximately 2,000 Asiatic women of child-bearing age in the Commonwealth, and applying to this number the proportion of one in ten, the maternity allowance claims received from Asiatic mothers should not be more than 200 per annum, involving an additional expenditure of £1,000 per annum. Of the 2,000 Asiatic women of child-bearing age in Australia, it is estimated that 700, or 35 per cent., are Syrian.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Hill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page ) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am pleased that the Treasurer has brought in this bill even at this late stage. My only regret is that Parliament has not, at an earlier stage, made this very necessary amendment, because for many years injustice has been done to very many mothers who were British subjects. Yesterday, I cited a case in which injustice has been done. A Syrian lady who came to Australia when she was a baby in arms married an Australian and took on British nationality, but because of her Asiatic birth she has been denied the maternity allowance. When she applied to the Home and Territories Department to be naturalized she was promptly told that she was already a British subject. The amendment now submitted will remove this anomaly, and every Australian mother who is a British subject will be entitled to the same consideration as any Australian-born woman.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That a tax be imposed on income derived from sources in Australia at the following amounts and rates, namely: -
– Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
For so much of the whole taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Threepence and three eight-hundredths of one penny where the taxable income is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable income by three eight-hundredths of one penny.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7.600 may be calculated from the following formula : -
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600 the rate of tax shall be Sixty pence.
-Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Property.
For such part of the taxable income as exceeds £546 but does not exceed £2,000, the additional tax for each additional pound of taxable income above £546 shall increase continuously with the increase of the taxable income in a curve of the second degree in such a manner that the increase of tax for One pound increase of taxable income shallbe
– Rates of Tax in respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property.
In addition to the tax payable under the preceding provisions, there shall be payable, in the case of incomes in respect of which the tax is calculated under Subdivision A,B or (J, an additional tax equal to twenty per centum ofthe amount of the tax so calculated.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions, where a person would apart from this provision, be liable to pay income taxor an amount less than One pound, the tax payable by that person shall be One pound.
-Rates of Tax payable by a Company. (a)For every pound sterling of the taxable incomeof a company, the rate of tax shallbe One shilling. (b)For every pound sterling of interest paid or credited by the company toany person who is anabsentee, in respect of debentures of the company or on money lodged at interest with the companybysuch person, the rate of tax shallbeOne shilling.
The rates of taxation set out in the motion are exactly those which prevailed last year.
Mr.Rodgers. - In view of the proposed alteration in the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and Statesis it intended to appropriate these moneys for the benefit of the States, or will the old arrangements continue?
– The tax will be collected as a whole, as usual. The appropriation to be made under the States
Grants. Bill will be dealt with in a separate motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and. Mr. Paterson do prepare andbring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
That the message be considered forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend section 5 of the Land tax Assessment Act. 1910-24.
This bill consists of two clauses. Its object is to amend section 5 of the principal act to increase the present remuneration of the Commissioner of Taxation from £1,500 per annum to £2,000 per annum ; and of the. Assistant Commissioner of Taxation from £1,100 to £1,500 per annum. During the debate on the Estimates, I stated that,, for the last eighteen months, the Government had intended to take this action, but had not been able to do so either because litigation was proceeding, or an election was pending. I intimated to the Leader of the Opposition that, as the salaries of various senior officers of the Public Service had been increased, the Government considered it proper that the salaries of the Commissioner of Taxation and the Assistant Commissioner, who have to discharge more complicated and difficult duties than any other public servants, should also be increased. The Government was also desirous of putting these officers on the same footing as the Auditor-General, and of providing for their salaries wholly by a statutory appropriation, instead of partly by that means and partly by an allowance on the Estimates. It is felt that the heads, of our Taxation Depart ment should not be even partly dependent for their remuneration on the Government in office for the time being. I suggested another course by which the Government could give effect to this intention, but the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who at that time was Acting Leader of the Opposition, considered that it would be more satisfactory if the business was dealt with in this way, and as he promised to do everything in his power to facilitate the passage of the bill, I undertook to fall in with his wishes. I am sure that, in view of the highly responsible and difficult duties in connexion with war-time profits and other taxation which the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of Taxation have been discharging within the last few years, this measure will meet with the unanimous approval of honorable members.
.- The Treasurer has adopted the right course in dealing with this matter in this way. It is proper also that the Commissioner of Taxation and the Assistant Commissioner should be placed on the same footing as other senior officers of the Public Service. The Commissioner has proved himself a most competent man, and has been diligent in discharging his duties, which, in my opinion, involve him in heavier responsibilities than those carried by any other public servant. In the circumstances,I consider he is entitled to the remuneration provided for in the bill.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Hill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry outthe foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 5416).
– Seeing that the speeches on this bill so far have been entirely favorable to it, my remarks will at least add variety to the debate. I do not intend to occupy very much time in submitting my views, for they are well known to my constituents and also to honorable members. When I spoke on the tariff earlier in the session I pointed out that if the Government provided a bounty on the production of cotton seed, the cotton industry in Australia would be protected in a two-fold way, first by the tariff on imported cotton goods, and secondly by the bounty on cotton seed. It now transpires that the industry is to have a threefold protection, for a bounty is to be paid on cotton yarn produced in Australia. In spite of the references of the honorable members for Moreton and Capricornia (Mr. J. Francis and Mr. Forde), to this “ new industry,” this is by no means the first effort that has been made to establishthe cotton industry in Australia. As long ago as 1799, King obtained a supply of seed from the Bahamas and the Isle of Bourbon, and endeavoured to grow cotton here; but in 1802 he reported that the climatic conditions near Sydney were unfavorable. I do not intend to traverse the whole history of cotton-growing in Australia, but I advise honorable members who are interested in this subject to read the article under “ Cotton “ in the Australian Encyclopaedia. They will there find that the attempts that have been made to grow cotton here during the last 125 years have invariably failed. Any attempt to grow cotton in Australia has invariably been a failure, whether inaugurated by individuals or corporations, Australian or otherwise. On the 23rd July the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) obtained from the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) a list of the bounties that are at present being paid to the primary and secondary industries of Australia. That list relates to four years ending on the 30th June, 1926, and according to it the total amount of bounty paid during that period was over £3,250,000, averaging over £800,000 per annum. The Commonwealth contribution towards the loss arising out of the guaranteed price to cotton-growers, according to the list, was £46,217 over the four years, the average loss per annum being a little over £11,500. I cannot quite understand these figures in view of those supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs when speaking on the second reading of the bill. According to his figures, which re lated to a slightly different four -year period, 1921-25, the loss was £273,000, which would have made the Commonwealth’s share about £136,500 instead of £46,217. The figures given by the Treasurer may, perhaps, be inaccurate - for my purpose I shall take them as being accurate. We are now proposing under the bill to increase the loss of £11,500 to £180,000 per annum, taking the sum of £900,000 ranging over five years. This will increase the total bounty paid by the Commonwealth by nearly a quarter, and multiply the loss on cotton by fifteen. What is Queensland’s position? Although the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) suggested that Queensland was not the only State growing cotton, we learn from the Minister that it is virtually the only State engaged in that industry. Regarding Queensland, I refer honorable members to the Tariff Board’s report on a bounty on seed cotton, on page 26 of which is this instructive reference -
The bounty on seed cotton is desired not only by cotton-growers and ginners, but by the Government of Queensland, which Government desires chiefly to avoid the present cost to it of the system of guaranteed prices, the expenditure in connexion with which has gradually increased from £5,317 in 1920-21 to £55,000 in 1924-25.
I do not criticize the Queensland Government for attempting to get out of its loss in respect of the cotton guarantee, but I suggest to this House that there is no reason at all why the Commonwealth should shoulder the whole loss on an industry, the development of which is to the interest of the State of Queensland. The very amount ofthe proposed bounty, £900,000, should make us hesitate. I do not look upon cotton-growing as an economic proposition for Australia, although it is likely that we can grow cotton equal to that produced in any other part of the world. But it is not an economic proposition for us, principally because we have to compete with the black-grown cotton ofthe Soudan, India, and Egypt. We know that in the Soudan and Egypt particularly immense strides have been made since the war in cotton-growing, and that a tremendous increase of production is looming ahead there. I do not wish to discuss the quality of the Australian article, because the only issue before us is whether the industry can be made payable. I do not believe that it can, and under those circumstances I fail to see why the Government should now bolster up an industry which is likely to be a failure and involve this country in an expenditure which at first would be £180,000, but considerably more later on. The honorable member for Moreton and others have suggested that a bounty of l£d. on seed cotton is insufficient, and would only .allow the industry to drag on, and finally to collapse. If the industry is going to collapse, what is the use of granting a bounty at all? I agree, of course, that some cotton should be grown for defence purposes, and this could be encouraged at a cost of considerably less than £900,000 spread over five years. Until the introduction of this bill, I had always understood that supporters claimed that the cotton industry could he made a payable proposition, and that even with our highly-paid white labour we could successfully compete with the low-paid black labour of other countries, in spite of our distance from the world’s market.
– What black-labour country is producing the cotton staple that we are?
– That is a minor issue. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, said that exportation of cotton was practically impossible.
– Without a bounty, that would be so.
– I read the Minister’s speech, and on four occasions he referred to this matter. The gist ‘of his remarks was that it was impossible to grow cotton in Australia for exportation, and that it would be grown for local use only, except the highest quality cotton. That class of cotton, I submit, would be limited. If we are to produce, cotton purely for local consumption, how on earth can we expect to adjust the supply to the demand and keep it there? If we bolster up this industry, knowing that we cannot export to compete in the world’s market, what will happen ? With the assistance of a bounty, the supply will eventually exceed the demand, and the surplus will have to be exported, possibly necessitating a levy on local sales in order to meet the loss overseas. The whole proposition is loading the taxpayer and the community generally, ana especially the producers of wool and wheat. This industry will, no doubt, be big in cost to the country, and eventually in the number of people employed, but it will never be big in progress and ultimate benefit to the community. The Government is proposing this bounty at a time when the Tariff Board, by its resent annual report, has shown that it is becoming alarmed with i he present position. I wish to place on record the following extract from its report on a bounty on seed cotton, page 26:-
Guarantee Against State Interference
In its consideration of this matter the Tariff Board was seized with the importance of making the payment of any bounty subject to such conditions as would ensure that any money paid by the Commonwealth Government in that direction shall actually be received by the growers of the seed cotton. . . .
The cotton-growing industry is at present practically exclusive to Queensland, and the probability is that the State named will always produce from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of the cotton grown in Australia. This, of course, means that the whole of the people of all States, if the bounty system is adopted, will be called upon to pay from £130,000 upwards each year to assist the industry of one particular State.
In the State of Queensland there are certain conditions operating which in the opinion of the Tariff Board make the qualification which it has suggested very necessary. . . .
The Tariff Board can foresee that in the event of a bounty being granted over a long period it is almost inevitable that the Queensland Government, if in its present mind, will bring the cotton industry under the Arbitration Act with a view to fixing increased wages. For example, judging by its past action, the Queensland Board of Trade and Arbitration would almost certainly fix 2d. per lb. as the minimum rate for picking seed cotton, seeing that the rate was first adopted and is strongly desired by the Australian Workers Union. At present in many districts cotton pickers will accept lid. per lb., and at that rate earn up to 18s. per day. Further, cotton-growers would probably be subjected to a variety of expensive restrictions such as are found in other .Queensland awards.
The effect of this obviously would be to . increase the costs of production with the result that the money paid as bounty by the Commonwealth Government, and which was intended to assist the growers, would go to meet the increased wages, and thus the object which the bounty was designed to achieve would be defeated.
For the reasons given the Tariff Board is of opinion that there should be attached to the payment of any bounty such a condition as will effectively prevent State interference with the cotton industry, either in the form of increased wages or railway freights, &c. (except any increase as may be the result of an alteration in the basic wage) during such period as the Commonwealth Government may be supplying funds, through the bounty system, to assist the industry to carry on and develop. In the opinion of the Tariff Board any such interference might vitally prejudice the successful operation of the bounty.
If provision for the suggested condition cannot by reason of legal difficulties be made in the Bounty Act or Regulations, the Tariff Board suggests that it be arranged by agreement between the Commonwealth Government and each State Government concerned, as has been done in the case of the Sugar Agreement.
I can find no provision in the bill for making the payment of the bounty dependent upon wages remaining at their present level. So far as I can see, that matter has been left entirely in the air although the board said that ‘ ‘ Any such interference might vitally prejudice the successful operation, of the bounty.” It may be that the honorable the Minister intends to communicate with the Queensland Government; but I suggest that if any arrangement is likely to be made with that government, it should be made before this bill becomes law. I think that, for the second time, I have made my position tolerably clear. I may be entirely wrong, but. I do not believe thatcottongrowing is a proposition on which the Government should’ pay a bounty. I have no prejudice against any one interested in the industry, but as I would not. put one penny of my own money into it; I do not feel justified in voting to spend £900,000 of public- money on it.
– I have come to the. conclusion, after listening to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), whom I congratulate on the attitude he has taken, and other honorable members, that those who advocate the growing of cotton areself -contradictory. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said that the industry could not succeed because of certain disabilities; but he did not proceed to say that the chief disability was the high cost of production. The honorablemember for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said that there were thousands of acres of cheap land in Queensland suitable for the growing of cotton, and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) said the industry was 97 per cent. efficient, and yet was a dying concern. When the representatives of cottongrowing districts make such contradictory statements, it is obvious that the bountyis being thrown away. The honorable members for Capricornia and Wide Bay have said that a bounty of l1/2d. a lb., representing, in the aggregate, nearly £1,000,000, is not enough. The principal trouble with this industry is the high cost of labour. It is impossible for it to succeed under the White Australia policy. Mr. Justice Higgins said that if an industry could not pay the rates of wages ruling in this country it ought to go out of existence. The firm of George Bond and Company, of Sydney, is asking tor this bounty, and says that it cannot succeed without it. Several honorable members have said that the firm is losing money.
– Only on the spinning of cotton yarn.
– The Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, of the 19th November, 1925, stated that the firm of Bond and Company, which is said to be doing such a wonderful lotfor Australia, made a net profit of £50,561 for the year ended on the previous 30th June. If a firm making enormous profits is losing a little money on cotton goods, it should go out of that line of business. There is a duty of 40 per cent. on knitted cotton goods, and yet the firm wants a bounty on cotton yarn.
– What is the duty on. hops ?
– The hop-growers started their industry without any kind of Government assistance. They produce enough, hops to supply the whole of Australia, and it was not until they had reached that point of efficiency that they asked for a duty. The cotton-spinners want a duty as well as a bounty. The bounty reminds me of the baby bonus. The firm wants the baby bonus now, but. it will want an old-age pension in a few years. We have other industries in Tasmania that have developed without government assistance. There is the small industry of raspberry-growing. It may cost. £100 an acre to clear land before raspberry canes can be planted; but the growers do not. come to the Government and ask for a bounty to enable them to grow raspberries. If the Government would pay them a bounty of1d. per lb. they would supply the world with raspberries. The people of Australia pay £3,000,000 as a bounty on sugar.
– No bounty is paid on sugar.
-Asthere is cheap land in Queensland, and every opportunity to make the cotton-growing industry 97 per cent. efficient, there is no need for the bounty. With that degree of efficiency it ought to be possible to grow cotton without a bounty. The bounty is required because of the high rates of wages. The raspberry-growers of Tasmania were dragged to the Arbitration Court by the rural workers, who asked for £1 a day and their keep forpicking raspberries. After the raspberries are picked they have to be carted asmuch as 15 miles tothe factory, where the grower receives 16s. per 100 lb. for them.
-The honorable member has said what the workers claimed. What are they paid?
-Eightshillings to 10s. per 100lb. Cotton-picking is similar to raspberry-picking. Most of the raspberries are picked by the growers and theirfamilies, and that must also bedone with cotton ifthe industry is to succeed. The growers must havesmallareas, and pickthe cotton with theaid of their families. On one occasion Iasked for some assistancefor the greatindustry of apple-growing.
-Does the honorable memberaskfor abounty on apples ?
-No; that has never beenasked for Large quantities of applesarebeingdried, and Iaskedthe Governmentforassistancetothe extent of1d. perlb., so that theapples could be sent to England to compete successfullyagainst American driedapples. The granting of that requestwouldhave cost the Government only £5,000, but it refused to find the money.Now we find that the Government is prepared to give nearly £1,000,000 to those engagedin growing cotton. Anything more unfair and unjust than the discrimination which has been shown in the. treatment of different industries could not beconceived. I hope this measure will not be passed. I shall vote against it.
.- It is unfortunatethatcotton grown in Australia isalmost entirelygrownin one State. Ifat weregrown inanumber of theStates honorablememberswould be almost unanimous in asserting thatthe cotton-growersshouldget somethingapproachingwhat they are asking for. I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes), who took up the time of the House in reading the whole of the conditions attached to the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I take it that the honorable member approved of those conditions or he would not have made the quotation.
– I invited the Minister to say why the Governmenthad ignored them.
– Havingread them, the honorable member shouldhave gone a little furtherand should have read the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
-Wehave been told what theyareoverandoveragain.
-They willhear further repetition. The Tariff Board said in its report -
After a careful review of all the evidence tendered at the public inquiries, and as the result of exhaustive independent investigations made, the Tariff Board makes the following recommendation:: -
That a bounty be granted in respect of seed cotton grown in Australia.
That the bounty beforaperiod of ten years from the date of coming into operationof the Bounty Act.
That during the firstsix years the bountybe at the rateof 2d.per lb. on allseed cotton otherthansuch seedas would, underthe present system ofgrading as carried out by the Australian ginneries for the purposeof paymentfor seed,begraded intogrades “D “or . XXX. 4.Thatduring thelast fouryears the bounty be on a gradually diminishing scale, andthattheratesforthe respectiveyearsbeasunder: -
Itseems to me that theGovernment’sproposalswill cease to have effect just when theTariff Board advises that the industry wall need assistance. No one will contend that theGovernment has as much information on the question as was possessed by the Tariff Board when it made its recommendations, after exhaustive inquiry. ThePrime Minister (Mr. Bruce.) specially askedthe cotton-growers of Queensland to improve their methods of production, soas to increasethe average yieldper acre, and also to improve the quality of the cotton.In the circumstances, the Government might well have listened to the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and the very strong representations made to it by the growers. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) made a very good point when he showed that if the Government paid a bounty of 2d. per lb. on cotton for the first three years, it would still have a credit balance left over from the £600,000 it proposes to devote to this purpose. Very strong representations have been made in this House this evening, and on previous occasions, to show that the growers believe that a bounty of 2d. per lb. is necessary for the first few years. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) has said that cotton-growers cannot possibly make a success of their industry. It is a matter for surprise if men remain in an industry believing that they cannot make a success of it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that at the end of the period fixed for the payment of the bounty the industry can continue to be carried on profitably without assistance?
– The cotton-growers believe that it can.
– They have believed that several times before.
– There is a number of other assisted industries of which the same might be said. Those engaged in them believed that they could make good, but adverse conditions have subsequently altered their outlook considerably. This is the first time the cotton-growers have asked for a bounty, and the only point in dispute is really whether the bounty paid should bc 1-Jd. or 2d. per lb., because, in any case, the Government is prepared to spend £600,000 in five years in this way. I cannot imagine that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) would wait until pressure was exercised by honorable members in this House to decide the action which would be taken by the Government, and I must therefore assume that the Government is adamant, and that the cotton-growers of Queensland are to be deprived of assistance just at the time when it would be most useful to them. The honorable member for Boothby said something about interference by the Queensland Government. I agree that the cotton industry is a family industry, and could not afford to pay arbitration award wages. When the report of the Tariff Board was issued, the growers made up their minds that they could depend upon a bounty of 2d. per lb., and they are no longer under control by the Queensland Government. The industry is now in the hands of the growers, and their only dealings are with the Commonwealth Government. Every one is aware that the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have been sharing the guarantee as to price of cotton for some years, but that arrangement has now come to an end. The bounty transactions will be entirely between the Commonwealth Government and the growers. In any case, the fact remains that Queensland is a part of’ the Commonwealth, and the cotton-growers of that State have as much right to look for assistance from the Commonwealth in the way of bounties as have those engaged in other industries in other States. I hope the Minister, in his reply to the debate, will get down to bedrock, and tell the House the real reason why a bounty of 2d. per lb. is not to be paid.
.- No one would be more pleased than I if it could be shown that cotton can be successfully grown in Queensland, but, like the Scotchman, I ‘ ‘ hae ma doots “ about it. I believe in primary production, and have no serious objection to the payment of a bounty on seed cotton. I have, however, very grave apprehensions about the wisdom of the Commonwealth paying a bounty on the production of cotton yarn. It appears, however, that just as on another occasion when I tried to defeat a proposal, earlier in this session, the numbers are up, and, when the doctor recommends a nasty medicine, the patient must take it and hope it will do him good. I could not follow the argument of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) in criticizing the action of the Minister in departing from the recommendation to pay bounty at a flat rate for cotton yarn. The honorable member suggested that the flat rate would encourage the spinning of the finer kinds of yarn. I handled cotton for 27 years, and I do not agree with the honorable member’s contention. Any one who buys a few reels of cotton thread will recognize that there is a great deal of difference between the spinning of fine and coarse cotton. I am very pleased to find that, in dealing with this question, certain honorable members have discovered a community of interest, and the gladiators of yesterday, the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) are now reconciled to each other, and everything in the garden is lovely. If we are to do what is proposed, we should do it properly. If the Government is going to pay a bounty to the grower of seed cotton, and another to the spinner of cotton yarn, it should go a step further and pay a bounty to the purchaser of the made-up cotton article. If that is done, and the wine bounty is continued, I shall be satisfied.
.- I have listened with perhaps more patience than usual to every honorable member who has spoken in this debate. I think that a very unconvincing case has been submitted for the establishment of the cotton industry on a permanent basis. I have never from the public platform, or anywhere else, urged people in this country to grow cotton, at any time, either when war-time prices ruled or post-war prices were ruling for cotton. But people certainly have been prompted and encouraged by the highest authorities in the land, as well as by other persons, to grow cotton in Australia. I regard the industry now as a great national experiment. It has reached such a stage that we cannot afford to leave the growers high and dry. There is an obligation to “try out” this industry, but I warn them not to be misled into it too far. The figures quoted by the honorable members for Capricornia, Herbert, and Moreton, showed a diminution in production, notwithstanding the benefactions of the Commonwealth and Queens land Governments. The latter, being on the spot, and having a greater knowledge of the industry than this National Parliament can have, has pulled out of it, and left the entire responsibility for the establishment of the industry to the Commonwealth. I do not object to this bounty on the ground that the industry to which it relates is in Queensland. This Parliament has to recognize that the climatic conditions of that State are such that if it is to be peopled and developed it must compete with many countries whose industries are carried on by lower grade and lower paid labour. This is an Australian problem, and a very difficult one, and I sympathize with Queensland in having to endow many of its industries. It is a magnificent State, as every visitor must recognize. The forecast of the honorable member for Capricornia of the cotton that would be grown in each year up to 1931 did not take into account seasonal conditions, although there is no State which is so subject to climatic vicissitudes as is Queensland. Viewed from every angle, this is a venturesome enterprise, but, having embarked upon it, we cannot, at this stage, abandon it. Every branch of the industry has been encouraged. I congratulate the Minister and the Government upon walking warily and not bribing other growers into the cotton-field by yielding to the request to increase the bounty from l£d. to 2d. This industry cannot be carried on, as in older countries, on concentrated cotton fields, and with cheap coloured labour. It must depend mainly on unpaid family child labour. If this Parliament is asked to give a bounty to enable the payment of current wages for adults, and the industry can be carried on only by that means, the blunder about to be made will be greater than I at present expect. If an attempt were made to conduct the dairying industry by the employment of labour at the basic wage, butter could not be sold for less than 5s. per lb. The dairying industry, like the cotton industry, can be carried on only by unpaid family labour. The proposal contained in tlie bill is an experiment to which I wish well. Where we have fairly reasonable proof that an industry is being launched on a sound basis-
– Have we that proof in this instance?
– No. If we have evidence that an industry is being launched on a sound basis, it is entitled to assistance in its early stages, but cotton cultivation, ginning, and yarn spinning are to be specially endowed, and I predict that when the finished article is produced, we shall be asked to vote a much more substantial measure of tariff protection. The whole scheme is on an unsound basis, but the country is committed to trying it out. I shall not, by my vote, induce people to go into an industry that I think is economically unsound, but I shall not block the proposals of the Government and the efforts of those who believe in them. Therefore, I shall not record my vote.
– The honorable member must shoulder his responsibility.
– I am discharging my duty as I see.it, and I accept full responsibility for my attitude. I shall not vote against my judgment, and conscience ; but, because the Government and the country are already committed to the cottongrowers, I shall not block the passage of the bill.
.-With much of what the last speaker said I heartily agree. I support this measure because I believe it will be the means of building up one of the best and biggest secondary industries in Australia. But cotton will have to be picked by juvenile labour., and I wish to place on record a warning .that, if any attempt is .made to force the grower to pay full adullt wages for a job that can be done by younger labour, I shall do all I can to see that the assistance in the industry is discontinued. Cotton-picking is a family job, and it cannot be economically done upon trade union conditions. One of the main defects of our economic system is that, in too many industries, adult wages are being paid for work that could be done by juniors. Honorable members must not infer that I do not believe in the payment of adequate wages. I have no desire to see child labour introduced into factories under worse conditions than those obtaining to-day - in fact, if I had the opportunity, I would make them much better- but I shall put forth my strongest endeavour to withdraw this bounty if an attempt is made to insist upon the payment of adult wages for cotton-picking. The remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) regarding the assistance which should be given to some Tasmanian industries were justified. As so many honorable members have said that the cotton-growers must be helped because their industry is just starting, I desire to know what the. Government is prepared to do for the several thousand apple-growers in Tasmania who are faced with ruin, and have, for the first time, asked the Commonwealth for assistance.
.- I am surprised at the opposition shown to this proposal for the payment of bounties on raw cotton and cotton yarn produced in
Australia. We should have more faith in our country and its ability to produce seed cotton, and an excellent quality of cotton yarn. I congratulate the Minister and the Government upon this attempt to encourage both the primary and secondary cotton industries.. Throughout my membership of this House, I have urged the local manufacture of Australian raw material. As I am anxious to see a greater percentage of raw wool converted locally into manufactured good?, so am I desirous that increased cotton production shall be attended by a greater output of secondary products. I am not satisfied with the rate of bounty that the bill proposes. The report of a responsible body like the Tariff Board, which is composed of specially selected men with wi le experience, should be received with due respect; and when that body recommends the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. on raw cotton, I feel bound to support it. We should do everything within our power to increase the cultivation of cotton. I am not concerned as to whether it is grown in Queensland or any other State. I approach the proposal from an Australian point of view, and I realize that, even if the’ whole of the bounty be spent in Queensland’ and New South Wales, the Commonwealth as a whole will benefit. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) said that cotton cultivation ‘ was started in Australia oyer 100 years ago. That is true of the flax industry also. But the governments of earlier days were not alive to the necessity for encouraging these enterprises. Lacking official help, various experimental crops were discontinued, and in the last few years Australia has had to start de novo to establish the cultivation of cotton. I predict that this bill will place that industry, in its primary and secondary phases, on a sound footing, and will lead to the establishment of both spinning and weaving mills. The bill proposes a total expenditure of £900,000, spread over a period of five years. Some honorable members seem to think that an unduly large price to pay for the establishment of the cotton industry; but, having regard to the fact that millions of pounds of cotton goods are imported annually, I regard an expenditure of less than £1,000,000 in five years as an insignificant amount to pay for the benefit that would be conferred upon the Commonwealth by the successful establishment of cotton-growing and manufacture. This proposal will benefit Australian industries. For many years past the cottonspinning industry of Great Britain has been in a bad way, and as it is certainly not in the interest of the British spinners to have the spinning industry established in Australia, I am very much inclined to think that during the last twelve months the wealthy spinners of Lancashire, together with the importers of cotton goods, have brought influence to bear on the Commonwealth Government to prevent it from submitting proposals that would bring about the establishment of the industry in Australia. Canada ‘already has 46 cotton mills, with 1,500,000 spindles, and China has 120 cotton mills, with 4,000,000 spindles, and realizing that it was time a serious attempt should be made to establish the industry here, ,an enterprising Sydney firm commenced to spin cotton yarn in September, 1923. It was willing to risk its money, and possibly incur loss, while gaining the necessary experience before making an application for tariff assistance; and did so for twelve months. It then submitted an application to the Tariff Board. Unfortunately, there has been a series of delays. A recommendation bv the board to the Minister was referred back for further inquiries. Had these delays not occurred, and had the assistance asked for been granted twelve months ago, it is more than likely that to-day three or four cotton mills would be in the course of erection. However, although the present proposal is belated, it will, no doubt, have the effect of attracting cotton spinners from overseas either to transfer their mills to Australia dr to put up new plants here. We can understand the spinners of Great Britain opposing any effort to help cotton spinning in Australia, because, whereas in 1912 the quantity of cotton yarn exported from England was 243,954,300 lb., by 1921 the amount exported had dropped to 145,904,.900 lb., while in the same period the exportation of cotton cloth had decreased by half. The pioneers of the industry in Australia have not been fairly treated, and I think that the Government would do the right thing by making the payment of the bounty date from September, 1925, when the last- tariff revision was submitted to Parliament. At that time many industries employing a comparatively small number of hands received assistance in the shape of Customs duties, yet the splendid industry of cotton spinning, which was brought into existence as a result of premises made by Mr. Massy Greene, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, and has suffered heavy losses, is asked to accept a bounty to date from the 1st September next. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden), in whose electorate the spinning mills are situated, suggests that the bounty should be paid from the 1st July last, and I agree with that proposition, although I think that the payment should commence’ as from the September of last year, when the last tariff division was submitted to Parliament. On that occasion new duties were tabled, which did not receive parliamentary approval until six months later, although they took effect from the date on which they - were tabled. Opposition will probably be offered by the Minister to any proposal to antedate the payment of the bounty, but a Government which was prepared, to bring in retrospective legislation providing for the remission of taxation on Crown leaseholds amounting to £1,300,000 over a period of six years should at least be willing to ante-date the payment of this bounty for a paltry five or six weeks. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr.. Seabrook) says that the hop growers of Australia started their industry without a bounty, and did not approach the Commonwealth for assistance until they were in a position to supply the whole of the requirements of Australia; but there is no analogy between the two industries. It is ridiculous to suggest that the cotton spinners should continue their activities and not seek assistance until they can supply the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth. Australia’s consumption of hops is exceedingly small compared with its cotton importations, which amount to over £11,000,000 per annum. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons), who is in favour, of giving a bounty on cotton-growing, is doubtful about giving a bounty on cotton yarn; but the honorable member is regarded as one who is always ready to encourage the production of raw materials, and refuse assistance to those who are endeavouring to turn those raw materials into manufactured goods. I do not think that it would have been advisable to pay n flat-rate bounty of 6d. a lb. on cotton yarn as recommended by the Tariff Board, because that would have encouraged mills to spin the coarsest yarns, as against the finer counts. I understand that the application for assistance was based on the spinning of No. 17 count; but under the schedule presented by the Minister, spinners who spin No. 17 count will be paid 5fd. per lb., which is materially different from the recommendation of the Tariff Board that the bounty should be 6d. per lb. The manufacture of No. 17 count entails the spinning of 14,000 yards of yarn to the pound. I think that the basis of the whole calculation is wrong, and that instead of being 33 it should be at least .35, which would make a material .difference as the counts progressively . rise. For instance, under the Minister’s schedule the payment for No. 41 count, or anything higher, is 12d. per lb. The spinner will thus require to spin over 34,00j0 yards to the pound of that particular count in order to get a bounty of ls. a lb., but, if the basis had been .35 instead of .33, the payment of bounty for count No. 41 would be 14.35d. The report of the Tariff Board, dated the 27th May, 1926, contains tho following:
The Tariff Board can affirm that a bounty of 6d. per lb. will scarcely cover loss in the present circumstances.
I am not in the same position as the Minister, and I am obliged to accept as my guide the report tendered by the Tariff Board ; but if the Minister cannot see his way to increase the rate of bounty, I trust that he will at least alter the date on which the bounty is to start from the 1st September to the 1st July. A Government which has introduced retrospective legislation remitting land taxation to the amount of £1,300,000 should be willing to ante-date the payment of the bounty on cotton yarn.
.- I am surprised to hear honorable members oppose the payment of a bounty on cotton-growing, but it is probably because they do not know sufficient- about the subject. The honorable member for
Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) expressed the hope that whatever this Government did it would not flood Queensland with a greatly increased number of cottongrowers. But this is not the start of a new industry. The cottongrowing industry is already in existence. It was first encouraged by the Government, of which the honorable member was a member, when in 1919 or 1920 that Government brought out certain nien from Lancashire, who toured Australia and gave great encouragement to the establishment of the industry in Queensland. I am afraid, however, that there was too much of a boom. People were led to think that there was a fortune in cotton-growing. When I came down to Melbourne in 1922-23 the Age and the Argus contained 10-in. double-column advertisements telling people to take up land in the Dawson Valley, and make a fortune growing cotton. It was said that as much as £40 or £50 an acre could be made by doing so. A large number of people began cotton growing in the boom period, because they were told that in a very short while it would make them independent. The extreme optimism that prevailed then is somewhat responsible for the pessimism with which some people now regard the industry. It was not the fault of these people, that they began cotton growing. They were encouraged to do so by the propaganda that was carried on. They were told that it would mean their financial salvation. Nor was the Queensland Government to blame, for it was guided by its advisers. A great mistake wa3 made in not attempting to establish the industry on a scientific basis. People were told that they could grow any cotton and get the price of first grade cotton for it. My opinion is that we cannot, in Australia,. grow inferior cotton in competition with cotton-growing countries where cheap labour is available; our most promising proposition is to grow superior cotton. As a matter of fact, our cotton has been bringing 3d. per lb. above the average price on the London market. But I do not think there is a future for Australian cotton as an exportable product. The present price of cotton is between 2 2-3d. per lb. and 2jd. per lb.; and it has been said that if we pay a bounty of 2d. per lb. on it we shall be paying practically four-fifths of its value ; but surely no one imagines that cotton will remain at its present abnormally low price. The object of the Government in introducing this measure is to encourage the production of cotton for the secondary industries that are being established here. I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs on having introduced the bill, and I am confident that it will have the effect that the Government intends. During the last five years the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have lost - from some points of view- £282,000 in consequence of having guaranteed a price for cotton; but the money has not been really lost, for it has led to the growers, after endless quarrels with the authorities, forming a cotton pool, and the growers themselves will now control the whole industry. They have learned the real art of growing by stern, practical experience. Hitherto the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have jointly borne the burden of encouraging the industry, but the Commonwealth Government has now intimated that in view of the excellent prospects of establishing valuable secondary industries in the Commonwealth, it is prepared to pay the whole of the bounty. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. <f. Francis) made a mistake in saying that the Queensland cotton-growing industry was 97 per cent, efficient. “What he really meant was that well over 90 per cent, of the Queensland cotton that has been marketed has been of the highest quality. It cannot be said that the industry is efficient until its average production per acre is satisfactory. I have met many men who took up cotton growing in the expectation that they would be able to produce from 1,000 to 1,200 lb. of cotton per acre ; but the average production at present is only 450 lb. per acre. It will be seen, therefore, that the industry is a long way from efficient. In spite of the guaranteed price that has ruled for the last few year?, there are now only about 2,000 cottongrowers in Australia, whereas a few years ago there were 10,000. At one time a lot of people in my division were growing cotton, but now the production is carried on almost exclusively in the divisions of Capricornia, Wide Bay, and Moreton. It has almost entirely ceased in my division because it was not yielding a satisfactory return. This, in my opinion, was chiefly due to poor seasons, although there are still a few who plant regularly. The country down below the ranges in the coastal districts of Capricornia, Wide Bay, and Moreton, where the rainfall is heavier and more regular than in Maranoa, is well suited for cotton growing; and during the last six years a type of cotton-grower has been evolved there, just as a type of wheat-grower or lucerne* grower has been evolved in other parts of the Commonwealth. One nf the main objects of this bounty is to enable these producers to carry on until the secondary industries which are being established in Australia have become sufficiently developed to consume all the raw cotton that is produced here. I feel sure that, in the comparatively near future, our cotton-growers will be able to obtain, on the local market, a price at least equal to that which they would be able to obtain abroad for their superior cotton, plus the usual overseas charges and Customs duties, if any. I should not be favorable to the payment of this bounty if I thought that it would be necessary to continue it indefinitely, for there is nothing to be gained by merely maintaining an industry on a bounty; but I favour it for the reason that it will ultimately - say in five or six years - build up the industry so that it will be able to carry on profitably without assistance. I do not expect the price of cotton to remain as low as it is to-day. I believe that, before very long, the Liverpool price will recover. It has been said that cottongrowing is a nigger industry, and that we should not take it up because we cannot hope to compete with niggers. I do not admit that it is a nigger industry; but, assuming, for the sake of argument, that it is, I do not think that it will always remain so. The American negroes, for instance, will not always remain in their present degraded position. In fact, they are improving their standard of living every year. The time will some when they will follow the example of the white people, and co-operate in this and a good many of their other activities. This will undoubtedly lead to an advance in the price of cotton, for they will refuse to “work for the wages that are paid to them at present. That will be to’ the advantage of Australia, for it will make the conditions in the two countries more even. I fully expect the local cotton-yarn manufacturers to be ready in a few years to absorb the whole of the high-grade cotton that we produce. The casual grower, through inexperience and bad seasons, has reduced the average cotton yield to 450 lbs.; but the expert growers will soon increase that. I agree with those who say that cotton-growing is not a plantation job, because cotton cannot be grown profitably in large areas. The average holding in my electorate is from 10 to 20 acres. One man, who thought he would make a fortune, cleared 1,000 acres for cotton cultivation. When the crop ripened it did not pay for the picking, and, as the result, the cotton is still blowing about the place and hanging to the trees. Cotton-growing can be used as a side line, particularly to dairying, which to-day is an unprofitable industry. It is a wonder to me that the dairymen in my electorate are able to live. They are dependent entirely upon the production of butter, and they slave from morning till night. The dairyman, by setting aside five, ten, or fifteen acres for cotton-growing, sufficient for his family to handle, would probably be returned £10 to £15 an acre. He cannot afford to employ labour under the present award rates, although it is absolutely necessary for him to do so. By putting a few acres under cotton , his return would be sufficient to pay for the labour required, and at the same time relieve his family of some of- the work in connexion with butter production. The bounty is not needed to bolster up the cotton industry as some honorable members have suggested, because it is already established. All that is required is a little assistance to enable the grower to exist until the manufacturing end has been properly* established and able. to consume our cotton production. During the past five years, the local mills have been too many for the cotton that we have produced. Under the bounty, the heavier the crop, the lower will be the average price. The cotton-growers are in a state of despondency. The optimism of a few years ago has turned to pessimism. People talk of the failure of the cotton industry, and it preys upon the minds of the ,growers who have invested their money in it. These men require a little encouragement, and so soon as the manufacturers are ready to bake their output they will be able to make the industry pay. The extra bounty of 2d. during the first couple of years, when the price is particularly low, will give new heart to the present growers who have stuck to the game, and will induce those who have gone out of the industry to come back. Then, with the spinning mills working to their full capacity, cotton-growing will be a profitable industry to the growers and the country. I thank the Minister and his Government for having the vision to see the vast possibilities for good, and bringing forward the first and best scheme for its complete development.
– I have been sitting in this chamber for nine hours to-day, thinking of the difficulties with which the Minister for Trade and Customs is faced. In the course of his duties he must touch upon practically everything that concerns trade, commerce, and the development of this country. Ho meets in this House all sorts of interests which view subjects from different angles. In this debate we have had speakers who do not believe in a bounty at all; some support the proposals of the Government, and others say that it has not gone far enough, and that ruin faces the cotton industry if the bounty is not increased to 2d. a lb. Summing up the position, we have three points to consider. First, whether this House agrees in principle with the payment of a bounty at all; secondly, what bounty shall be paid; and, thirdly, from what date shall it operate. My remarks on the last two points can be confined to the committee stage. I shall conclude the .seconds-reading debate by saying that in common with the Government, and with all reasonable persons, I believe that, in view of what has happened in Queensland and the promises made to the cotton-growers, the bounty as proposed should be paid.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.30 a.m.(Friday).
Friday13th, August 1926
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Appropriation)
– Can the Minister give me an assurance that the bounty will be distributed by the Queensland Cotton Pool Board, which is an elective body representing the growers? It was established under the Queensland Pools Act for the purpose of marketing and financing the whole of the Queensland cotton crop. It may sue and be sued. It has full statutory powers to finance, gin, and market crops. It is essential that the board should be given the additional status and prestige that will result from being charged with the duty of distributing this bounty. A suggestion has been made that the British Australian Cotton Association should distribute the bounty. The growers are striving to get control of the industry co-operatively; and, if proprietary companies make profits out of the growing of cotton and the by-products of the industry, the growers will never do much good. There is not enough in it for both. It is necessary that’ the growers should co-operatively control the whole industry, including the growing, ginning, and marketing. If the British Australian Cotton Association is given the distribution of the bounty, it will be able to interweave itself into the industry, which will make it very difficult for the growers in the future to become independent of the association. The growers are determined to purchase sufficient of the plant of the British Australian Cotton Association, or, alternatively, to purchase other plant, to do ginning co-operatively. The Cotton Pool Board intends to control, not only the ginning, but also the marketing of the crop. It is prepared to distribute the bounty without charging anything for distribution. If the cotton-growers had an opportunity to vote on this question, at least 98 per cent. of them would vote for the distribution of the bounty through their own pool board. In the early days of the sugar industry, large companies. like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company obtained control of the financial side of the business, and the growers have not been able entirely to throw them off. If the British Australian Cotton Association is allowed to control the bounty, an additional obstacle will be placed in the way of the growers co-operatively controlling the industry, and a serious blow will be struck at the prestige of the Queensland Cotton Pool Board. If necessary, it will employ the British Australian Cotton Association as ginners, and pay the association a certain price for ginning, but the control of the industry must be left to the board.
– The report of the Tariff Board recommends that the bounty be distributed through the British Australian Cotton Association in return for a payment of1/2 per cent. That proposal has given the growers in my constituency some concern, and I have received a number of telegrams on the matter. I shall read one telegram as typical of the rest -
Understand Federal Government proposes to make stipulation that offer of B.A.C.A. to make arrangements for distribution of bounty to growers of i per cent. will be accepted. Wish advise you board of growers’ representatives has been appointed under statute to control seed cotton, and this board is thebest body to utilize in distribution of bounty to ensure full amount reaching growers. Board will object to moneys being distributed through B.A.C.A., as well “as to proposed charge for distribution. My board can distribute without any deduction from bounty.
Secretary Queensland Cotton Board
I communicated wi’ h the board and urged it to forward to me a summary of its proposals for the distribution of the bounty. Here is the reply that I received : -
Your telegram 27th. My board will be able arrange for payment bounty by utilizing staff and equipment appointed for administration of Cotton Pool.
I urge the Minister to consider, seriously, the claims of the growers and their pool. If it is proposed to pay the Association for the distribution of the bounty, the same amount should be paid to the growers, if the Minister agrees to pay the bounty through the pool, who should not be asked to do the work for nothing.
.The distribution of the bounty is almost as important as the bounty itself. Although the Government does not follow the Tariff Board’s recommendation in one respect, it appears to be inclined to follow it in another. If the distribution of the bounty is done through the association, the growers will be shackled, and the British Australian Cotton Association will be insidiously placed in the position of federal agent in the cotton industry, and will exercise complete control over the business. The pool, clothed with full power, is elected by the growers, and is the right body through which to distribute the bounty.
– I agree with the honorable members who have spoken on this matter. If the bounty is distributed by the British Australian Cotton Association, the Commonwealth Government will have to pay i per cent, for its distribution; but if it is distributed by the growers’ board, the Government will be put to no such expense. I see no reason why we should saddle ourselves with expenses for distribution if the growers are willing to do the work for nothing. There is much to be said for the statement of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) that as much importance attaches to the distribution of the bounty as to the granting of it. The. introduction of an outside authority may cause friction with the growers, and in the end. no one may be satisfied. All the Minister has to do is to ensure that the interests of his department are safeguarded. Pool boards are usually composed of men who are anxious to look after their own interests, and I feel sure that the Cotton Pool Board would do the work satisfactorily to every one concerned.
.- The fact that the recommendation of the Tariff Board, that the British-Australian Cotton Association should distribute the bounty, has not been adopted, is proof that the matter has to be further considered. It is clear that with 5,000, 6,000, or 7,000 growers, .and from 10,000 to 15,000 accounts in a season, the department will have to prescribe authorities for the distribution of the bounty. The making of arrangements for the distribution is not urgent because the planting season is just commencing. I propose to go into this matter carefully, and to adopt whatever method of distribution I think will be most efficient and convenient. To what has been said by* honorable members I shall give the most serious consideration, but they will not expect me to commit myself, pending full inquiries as to the procedure which will be best in the interests of the growers.
I remind the Minister that the Cotton Pool Board is not an irresponsible body, but is clothed with statutory power. I have been told that the British Australian Cotton-growing Association is anxious to dispose of its assets to the pool, and if the Minister intends to consider this matter further, it might be as well for him to arrange directly with the Pool Board for the distribution of the bounty, because, apparently, he will have to depend upon that agency later.
– I suggest that this clause be postponed. The 1st September is mentioned in it, and the date of the commencement of the bounty may be altered by an amendment of the next clause.
Clause 4 -
The bounties under this act shall be payable in respect of -
– It is not fair to make this bounty payable from 1st September. At present only one company is engaged in the production of cotton yarn, but it is anticipated that others will enter the industry. Bond and Company has pioneered the manufacture of cotton yarn.
– Is that a wealthy company?
– On this branch of its business it is losing money.
– But it is paying big dividends.
– I am not concerned with the results of its other operations. Good luck to any firm that establishes industries which provide employment for our people ! Honorable members are inconsistent in complaining of the prosperity of Australian companies, and at the same time urging the bringing of more people to this country. How can we increase our population if we put obstacles in the way of companies that are struggling to develop basic industries? Do honorable members contend that because in one line of manufacture a company makes profits, it should not be assisted in respect of another line in which it is losing money? Up to the present, Bond and Company has played the part of a philanthropist.
– The Government is asked to pioneer too many industries.
– The fact is now well-known that when the Massy Greene tariff was under consideration this company was assured that if it would establish works for the spinning of cotton yarn the Government would come to its assistance.
– If the promise was made by a responsible Minister it should be honoured.
– Exactly. The promise was made by the then Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Doesthe honorable member propound the principle that each Government should honour the commitments of its predecessors?
– I shall show that some consideration was promised by the present Ministry also.
– If industries are launched on an undertaking given by one government, succeeding governments have some responsibility to give effect to it.
– Yes. If the honorable member for Fawkner were induced by a promise from a responsible man to pay £1,000,000 into an industry on the understanding that it would be protected, ho would expect that promise to be honoured.
– Expecting the promise of the then Minister for Trade and Customs to be honoured, this company spent large sums of money on the erection of new works. Subsequently, it was told that, if it added to those works, Parliament would come to its aid. The head of the company told me that he realized that protective duties at this stage of the industry would be unjust to the people, and he asked for the payment of a bounty until the development of the industry warrants the imposition of a duty. The Tariff Board recommended that form of assistance.
– I cannot see that the honorable member’s speech has any bearing on the clause.
– I intend to move an amendment that the bounty shall be payable from the 1st July, and I am stating reasons why that should be agreed to.
– Why July?
– The bill allocates £300,000 for the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn over a period of five years. The Tariff Board reported that a bounty at the rate of 6d. per lb. would amount to about £35,000 in the first year. It is evident that probably less than half the £60,000 available this year will be required. There is no reason, therefore, why the bounty should not be payable from the 1st July.
– Why should it be paid prior to parliamentary sanction ‘!
– If our assistance to the industry took the form of Customs duties, they would operate from the day on which the schedule was tabled in this Chamber, and long before Parliament could sanction it.
– The effect of the duties would be similar to the effect of a bounty.
– Yes. Retrospective legislation, which returned millions of pounds to wealthy leaseholders, was agreed to by honorable members opposite.
– That does not make retrospective legislation right. I opposed it.
– I recognize that. The amount of money involved in this instance is very small, probably not more than £6,000 or £7,000. If the bounty payment is expected to be only £35,000 for twelve months it cannot amount to a great deal for eight weeks.
– It amounts to about £6,000.
– That is not much. We have no need to quarrel over the amount.
– No, but there is room to quarrel over the principle.
– My proposal is to pay the bounty for the full period of the financial year, and not to omit payment for the first two months of it . There will be no need to increase the amount appropriated for the financial year. I move -
That the word “ September “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word July.”
– The amendment is out of order, as it would have the effect of increasing the appropriation.
– I submit, Mr. Mann, that you are not justified in ruling my amendment out of order. I have just shown that by making the bounty payable from the beginning of the financial year the appropriation for the year cannot possibly be increased.
– But the honorable member proposes to increase the expenditure.
– I do not propose to increase the appropriation for the financial year, and so long as the amendment does not increase the amount of appropriation recommended in the Go vernor-General’s message, I contend that it cannot .be ruled out of order.
– The honorable member’s proposal would simply diminish the sum remaining unexpended at the end of the financial year 1
– That i3 so. Actually it would not increase the appropriation. The same point was argued recently when Mr. Bayley was in the chair, and Mr. Bayley said that if the Minister would give an assurance that the amendment then proposed would increase the amount of appropriation he would be obliged to rule it out of order. Yet you, Mr. Mann, have ruled my amendment out of order although no point of order has been taken. I suggest that by ante-dating the payment of the bounty to the 1st July, the amount appropriated by the bill will not be exceeded. I think that instead of abruptly ruling my amendment out of order you should have followed the example set by Mr. Bayley, and first obtained from the Minister an assurance that the amendment would increase the appropriation.
– There are two points to which I wish to draw your attention, Mr. Mann. First of all I submit that you are right in your ruling, inasmuch as the appropriation recommended is based on an estimate of the department of the amount required for the bounty for a full term, and it is not competent for any honorable member not furnished with details supplied by the Minister or the department to say that the amount appropriated by the bill is more than is required for the purpose. Otherwise a surplus appropriation has been sprung on the committee. The other point is that the Leader of the Opposition is asking that the character of the bill should be altered and that a bounty should be paid, not on yarn yet to be manufactured, but on yarn already manufactured by persons who were well aware of the risk they were taking.
– That is not the point of order.
– I know that it is not.
– I should like the honorable member to keep to the point of order. Mr. Rodgers. - I submit, Mr. Mann, that you are perfectly right in your ruling, otherwise the- Minister has been guilty of asking this committee for an appropriation in excess of requirements.
– If any discussion is to take place on the ruling I have given it must be done on a definite motion of dissent.
– I rise to a point of order. It is quite customary for honorable members to discuss a ruling before challenging it, and I understood that you, Mr. Mann, were allowing such a discussion,; because I take it that the Chairman has always the right to inform his mind by permitting the committee to discuss a ruling.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I do not quite see the point of order the honorable member is trying to make.
– I was trying to show why you should reconsider your ruling.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already pointed out that I have given my ruling, and that any discussion on it must take place on a definite motion; of dissent.
– I move -
That the ruling of the Temporary Chairman be dissented from.
The bounty is to be paid for five years, and the amount appropriated is not increased if the five years commence from the 1st July instead of the 1st September.
– It all depends upon the season.
– The seasons do not affect cotton-spinning. There is a regular annual output of yarn, and on that basis the appropriation is estimated tobe a certain amount over a period of five years.
– When does the year commence ?
– It does not matter when the year commences, because if it commences in July, which is two months earlier than is provided in the bill, it will end two months earlier than is provided in the bill, and conseq ently the appropriation cannot be exceeded.
– The bill does not provide for a yearly amount.
– it provides £300,000 for five years; but it cannot be argued that the appropriation is increased by changing the date provided in the bill for the commencement of the five-year period.
The amount appropriateddoes not fix the date in the bill, and surely it is within the power of this committee to fix the date when the bounty shall first apply. The point raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) as to whether the bounty is to be paid on yarn already produced or yarn yet to be produced was quite irrelevant, as the honorable member himself admitted. The other point he raised was that there was no knowledge that there would be asudplus. I am not; taking either of those points. My point is that the bill appropriates a certain sum of money for a period of five years, and that there is nothing to limit the first dateof the payment of the bounty to the 1st September instead of the 1st July. There is nothing to show that the appropriation will be exceeded by putting forward the date for the commencement of the bounty. If the proposal was to add two months to the five years’ period the appropriation would be increased.
– That is exactly the effect of the amendment.
– If that is so, then your ruling, Mr. Mann, is correct. But the difficulty could be overcome by a consequential amendment. You must take into consideration the intention of the amendment, and should not be browbeaten by the Minister or the honorable member for Wannon.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order. The Chair can only accept a motion in the form in which it is submitted.
– Perhaps I can clear the air a little. The Leader of the Opposition was probably acting on the assumption that I intended, to some extent, to meet the wishes that some honorable members expressed during the second-reading debate. I cannot, from a departmental standpoint, agree to make thisbounty retrospective.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister is not discussing the motion before the Chair. I may say that when the Leader of the Opposition moved his amendment I did not understand him to give any indication that he proposed subsequently to move to alter September to July.
– I admit thatthat is so; although Ithought that everybody understood that he did intend to do so. In the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I desire to deal fairly with Messrs. Bond and Company, and therefore I must inform the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) that the firm is making no profits whatever at present from spinning cotton yarn. The Government has proposed the payment of this bounty in order that the industry may be put on a sound footing. I have been subject to a good deal of criticism during the debate, because of my alleged dilatoriness in introducing this measure. I should like to say that the first report I received from the Tariff Board in regard to the payment of a bounty on. cotton yarn was dated the 2lst July, 1925. I considered it. necessary to again refer the matter to the Tariff Board, for further investigation and minuted this on the 2nd October, 1925. Shortly after that, an election was held, but so soon afterwards as my departmental duties permitted, I again took this matter up with the Comptroller-General of Customs, and on the 21st January, 1926, the Tariff Board was asked to supply still further information. The next report I received from it was dated the 31st May. Honorable members will realize, therefore, that I have not been responsible for any delay. I sympathize with the firm, and I wish to do all that I can to meet the position fairly, but I hope honorable members will not force me to agree to make the bounty retrospective, for I should have no proof of the amount of yarn that has been manufactured from Australian cotton and I should probably be unable to satisfy the special officers authorized to inquire into matters of this kind, that the money was properly paid. In order to meet the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition, I am quite willing to make the bounty payable from next Monday, if that will be acceptable to them. I could put an officer in charge of the matter at once. This will involve an alteration in clause 4 in each case in which the 1st September is mentioned, and also involve a consequential alteration in clause 3. I move -
That the words “ first day of September “ first occurring be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ sixteenth day of August.”
– I made a technical error in not intimating that I intended, in my amendment, to move for the alteration of September, second occurring, to June; but what I proposed was in principle, exactly what the Minister has now moved. There is a good deal to be said in favour of his statement that he would find it difficult to check, as far back as five or six weeks, the amount of yarn made from Australian cotton. I am prepared to accept the amendment.
– In introducing this matter on the 2nd July last, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) said -
With the present output there would thus be provided a local market for 1,000,000 lb. of Australian cotton lint, or 3,000,000 lb. of Australian seed cotton, one-fourth of last year’s crop. Australian cotton lint sold in the Australian market at world’s parity would realize more to the grower than if exported and sold on the world’s market, and this would further assist the Australian grower of seed cotton.
In my opinion that indicated that the bounty on cotton yarn was supposed to assist the cotton-growers as well as the cotton spinners; but, clearly, the growers will not receive any benefit in respect of the cotton they produced last year, al- though the spinners will. This is all the more reason why the Government should now agree to pay the growers a bounty of 2d. at least for the first three years.
– From the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton, it appears that the cotton-growers are not yet satisfied. It must be remembered that the growers have not yet planted their cotton for this season, and doubtless the treatment that is meted out to them in this bill will have an influence on the area that they will put under crop. I think that a fair thing has been done for the cotton-growers. There will not be the slightest difficulty experienced by the Customs officers in ascertaining the amount of yarn that has been produced since the 1st July, if they desire to do so. Bond and Company have been only too anxious to produce their books for inspection, and their records show exactly the amount of Australian cotton used in their yarns. The Minister has done what he thinks best for the manufacturers, and the committee must accept his proposals, because half a loaf is better than no bread,
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden referred to thepercentage of Australian cotton that has to be used in the manufacture of cotton yarn in order to obtain the bounty. As a representative of a cotton-growing district, I wish to make perfectly clear my attitude towards Bond and Company, and other companies manufacturing cotton yarn. They have a right to expect a fair deal, and I do not say that the bounty should be withheld from them if they cannot procure Queensland cotton for, say, a number of months. But I want the Minister to provide against giving preference to black-labour cotton from the islands, New Caledonia, India orother places at a low price, and thus jeopardizing the local cotton-growing industry.
– Bond and Company has been a very good customer of the cottongrower.
– I have nothing but the greatest praise for the company, because it has always acted honorably ; but there are other companies entering the cottonmanufacturing field, and the Minister should provide against the importation of black-grown cotton in large quantities to the detriment of our own industry. Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 reads -
No bounty shall be authorized to be paid in respect of seed cotton to any person other than the grower of the seed cotton, nor unless the grower furnishes proof to the satisfaction of the Minister that the requirements of this act and the regulations have been complied with.
I intended to move that after the word “ with “ these words be added, “ Such bounty shall be paid through the Queensland Cotton Pool Board acting as an agent.” I shall not press that amendment if the Minister will assure me that the Queensland Cotton Pool Board will have an opportunity of placing its views before the Minister.
– I give the honorable member that assurance.
– I do not know whether the Minister agrees with the suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) that the cotton-growers want the bounty both ways. I take it that the object of the Government is to give a bounty to the manufacturers of cotton yarn to enable them to pay a better price for the locallygrown cotton; but the yarn that is being manufactured now is from cotton that has been purchased at a lower price than will have to be paid in future.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 3 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) The rate of bounty payable under this act on seed cotton delivered to an appointed place shall be-
.- This is really the crucial clause of the bill, and before the committee discusses it I wish to say a few words that I would have liked to say on the second reading of the bill. The Government sees no reason to alter its proposal in view of the debate that has taken place. A good deal has been said regarding the acreage planted with cotton, and figures have been supplied by Mr. Webster, who, I think, has been mentioned as a prominent man in the cotton industry, and is a member of the Queensland Council of Agriculture. According to that authority, in 1921, there were planted in Queensland 1,967 acres; in 1922, 8,176 acres; in 1923, 28,695 acres; and in 1924, 35,373 acres. The departmental information is that 38,000 acres were planted in 1925, and the estimate given by the Commonwealth Statistician for 1926 is 38,750 acres.
– What does he know about the subject?
– I suppose that the Commonwealth Statistician can make an estimate as well as any other authority.
– Seed for only 12,000 acres has been applied for.
– I wishto refute the statement that the acreage under cotton in Queensland has diminished seriously, if at all, and to draw the attention of the committee to the fact that the figures that Igave of the production of cotton in Queensland show an increase until this year, and that the best estimate that I can give of the production this year - a year of drought and misfortune to the cotton-growers - is 12,000,000 lb. But until that misfortune occurred cotton production had increased to nearly 18,000,000 lb. The payment of the bounty, and the extra price which the growers will obtain in consequence of the cotton yarn bounty, more than makes up the difference between the guaranteed price and the actual price over a series of developmental years. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has said that there were good yields of cotton last season.; that good headway had been made in the accompanying dairying industry; and that heavy orders had been given for agricultural machinery. Since a great number of the settlers are paying cash for their requirements, it is evident that they must be prosperous.
– That was chiefly due to maize-growing.
– The honorable member also said -
Many of the early pioneers had to cut their farms out of the scrub, and they received no financial assistance such as that offered to present-daysettlers. I have ascertained from a number of men who have taken up land in that district - the Upper Burnett - that they have done well out of cotton and maize., and I have been informed by a man who visited the district a few months ago that a number of them have cleared up to £600 and £1,000 a year from these crops.
– They were growing maize, chiefly, and exceptionally high prices were ruling.
– There was no qualificationin the honorable member’s speech. As there has been no serious diminution of acreage planted under cotton, it is clear that the growers have been thriving reasonably well. The Government will not recede from the proposal to pay11/2d. as a bounty.
– The Minister has been tearing afew words from the context of my speeches.
That is a rather mean way of trying to discredit my representations on behalf of the men on the land in Queensland. It is true that, in the course of a speech I made regarding the value of the Northern Burnet land settlement scheme, I said that many of the farmers there were doing well. I was speaking in reply to criticisms from the other side of the House, and I repeat now that, owing to the high prices that were being paid for maize in Queensland - prices that were due mainly to the fact that stock-owners had to buy maize to feed sheep in drought-stricken areas - many farmers in the Northern Burnet were making large profits out of growing maize. They were also growing cotton. I have to-night quoted ample evidence to show that they were making the profits, not out of. cotton, but out of maize. Some of them were from ten to fifteen miles from a railhead, and were making from £400 to £500 a year by growing maize. The Minister has quoted my statement that they were doing well as evidence that the cotton-farmers were doing well. That is not a worthy way to try to refute the irrefutable arguments that have been advanced in favour of increasing the bounty to 2d. per lb. The Minister did not quote from the speech that I delivered on the 23rd June, 1926, in which I pointed out that the guaranteed price was insufficient. The Commonwealth Government laid down prices ranging from 21/2d. to 5d. for the last season, and the cotton growers found that they could not make the industry pay. An increase of 1d. was asked for, and the Queensland Government said it would be willing to pay half of that1d. The Federal Government refused to agree to that proposal, and the Queensland Government paid the id. I said -
Unfortunately, the Government did not guarantee a sufficiently high price for the season just closed; the growers requested an additional1d. per lb.
When referring to the condition of the industry on the 18th March, I said -
The total annual value of the product is now £300,000
The TEMPORAY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Mann). - The honorable member is not permitted to quote from the Hansard report of debates in this chamber during the present session.-
– I am not quoting from Hansard. On the 18th March I said-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member heard what I said. He must not quote from the report of a speech delivered in this House during 1926.
– You allowed the Minister for Trade and Customs to quote from a speech I made this year, and I am endeavouring to refute the most unfair inference he drew from my remarks. I said -
At the incept/ion of the period for which the price has been guaranteed the basis laid down was 54d. per lb. for all cotton; but, owing to the setting up of grade standards, after the first two years this basis was destroyed, thus causing intense disappointment to the growers, which is evidenced in the decreased area being; put under crop this year. Since the departure from the spirit of the guarantee is responsible for the decrease in the acreage being planted this year, I am of opinion that the Federal Government should have reviewed the present guaranteed price with a view to resuscitating the industry. The losses on the guarantee are comparatively small when the services that the industry has rendered to the community are taken into account. The depreciated overseas market should not affect the guaranteed prices during the defined period, because the growers have accepted the conditions outlined at the outset, and have laid themselves out to produce cotton on a large scale. In many instances they have- increased their liabilities by purchasing additional implements, and more especially ‘have they responded to the appeal to grow cotton of a high quality. The prices now guaranteed by the Federal Government are inadequate.
– The honorable member is distinctly evading the ruling of the Chair. He may quote from memory speeches delivered in this chamber this year, but he is not entitled to read from the Hansard reports of those speeches.
– It is impossible for me to quote from memory exactly what I said eight or nine months ago. If F attempted to do so honorable members would say that I was not quoting correctly. I intend to move an amendment to increase the bounty to 2d. per lb. That will not involve an increase in the appropriation, which is sufficient to meet a bounty of 2d. If 2d. per lb. had been paid on cotton grown in Queensland during the past five years- a total of 55,980,000 lb. - the cost to the Government would have been £466,000. During the next five years the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. would not necessitate an increase of the appropriation of £600,000. The figures quoted by the
Minister were not correct. – iHe repeated what Mr. Bob. “Webster, a .Queensland farmer,’ gave as the acreage grown. Mr. Webster is a practical cotton-farmer ; but I obtained my figures from a more authoritative source - the Queensland Statistician. My figures show a falling off in the acreage of cotton during the last four years. The figures given to me were: 1921-22, 8,716 acres; 1922-23, 40,821 acres; 1923-24, 50,186 acres; 1924- 25, 35,000 acres; 1925-26, 25,000 acres, 1926-27, estimated, 15,000 acres. There ha3 also been a falling off in the number of growers. The number of growers was 10,500 in 1923-24, but was only 4,700 in 1925-26. The honorable member for Herbert quoted some figures from the Producers’ Review of the 10th October, 1921, purporting to show the cost of producing a cotton crop.
– I did not quote any figures from the Producers’ Review
– The figures were published in the Queensland Producers’ Beview of the 10th October. Mr. Hoffman gave his actual cost of production and showed a net average return per acre of £11 17s. Sd. That was due to .a phenomenal crop of 998 lb. to the acre. Not only is he a very efficient farmer, but the rain in that year fell at the right time. The exceptional figures he mentioned do not represent the average for the industry, and the honorable member for Herbert did a great disservice to the Queensland cotton-growers when he quoted that crop as an average one. Possibly one crop in 5,000 will show a profit of £11 17s. 8d. per acre, but I draw the attention of the committee to the true figures as to the profit per acre, and I base my calculations on the figures as to costs which the Minister quoted.
Honorable .members will see that in the year in which Hoffman’s return was £11 17s. 8d., the average profit was only £2 15s. 7d. The farmer with a holding of 7 acres and making a net return of £1 15s. per acre - the average for 1924- 25 - cannot be said to be making a substantial return. The Minister stated that a deputation from the growers asked the Prime Minister in May, 1925, for a bounty of l£d. for a period of ten years, and he used that as an argument to show that the bounty proposed in the bill is sufficient. He further stated, in reply to my interjection, that he was under the impression that the price of American middling cotton on the Liverpool market was not materially less now than it was in May last. According to cotton quotations I have extracted from Skinner’s Cotton Trade Directory of the World, 1925- 26, the American middling price on the Liverpool market was 13.37d. on the 6th March, 1925, 13.72d. on the 3rd April, and 12.98d. on the 1st May. It was as high as 13.92d. on the 17th July, 1925, and 14.08d. on the 24th of the same month. The present price, according to the Minister’s figures, is 9.99d. per lb., whereas when the growers asked for a bounty of l£d. per lb., the price was 13d. and over on the Liverpool market. It is wrong of the Minister to make use of representations to the Government over twelve months ago as an argument that a bounty of l£d. per lb. is sufficient. I move -
That the words “ one penny halfpenny “ he struck out, and the word “’ twopence “ he inserted in lieu thereof.
I submit that this amendment, if agreed to, would not increase the appropriation of £120,000 per annum, and, therefore, cannot be ruled .out of order.
– I rule that the amendment is .not in order, inasmuch as it would increase the appropriation.
.Many honorable members are straining a point to vote for this bill, which they know to be unpopular in their constituencies, because they do not wish to see the cotton industry fail until it has had another chance. Responsible people have said that the British-Australian Cottongrowing Association is trying to unload its assets. The honorable member for Capricornia is doing the” worst possible service to Queensland by his attitude to-night.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– I and some other honorable members are answerable to many people who are bitterly opposed to this proposal. The Ministry is proposing to treat the cotton industry handsomely, and the attitude of the honorable member for Capricornia is calculated to poison the minds of many people. If there is one State that has been treated generously by this and previous Federal Ministries it is Queensland; and I beg of the honorable member for Capricornia, out of consideration to honorable members who are straining a point to help him and his State, not to make this bounty a miserable political question.
– I am surprised at the tone of the last speaker. The honorable member for Capricornia is doing yeoman service for Queensland and Australia. The cotton industry interests not only Queensland but the whole of the Commonwealth - some day that crop may be grown in several of the States, and even in the Northern Territory. There, is no more painstaking and hard-working member in this House than the honorable member for Capricornia; he is a credit to his constituency and to this Parliament, and it is a pity that other representative men do not pay as much attention to their duties as he Hoes. I have always contended that, if the cotton industry is to make good, it must have a bounty of more than 1½d. per lb. Prior to the last election, I said that the growers should receive at least 2d. per lb. If that payment was warranted twelve months ago, it is much more warranted to-day, when the competition of American cotton is so much keener. If the industry can be successfully established in both its primary and secondary phases, the possibilities ahead of Australia are unlimited. We should do everything- possible to develop this country and make provision for the absorption of additional population.
– I wish the Government would do something for my State.
– I advise the honorable member to take a broader view; at present, his vision seems to be limited by the somewhat narrow boundaries of his State. I desire to help industries in all parts of Australia, andthe cotton industry is one to which all honorable members should give the mostfavorable consideration.
– We are supporting it.
– I am complaining of the statements made by the honorable members for Wakefield and Franklin. According to the Minister’s figures, for the five years ending 1923-24 the average price for lint cotton was a little over1s. 3d. per lb., but by the following year, 1924-25, the price had dropped to1s. 11/2d. According to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) the price in America is 9.99d.
– That is it for American middling.
– Our cotton brings a slightly higher price.
– A bounty of l1/2d. per lb. on seed cotton is equal to 41/2d. per lb. on lint.
– But the price received last year was considerably less than was received for the previous five years. Consequently, with a bounty of l1/2d. per lb. the grower will not be any better off than he was in the five-year period prior to 1924-25, when cottongrowing was not a payable proposition. It will probably require a bounty of 2d. per lb. to enable the industry to survive. All I am concerned in is the survival of, the industry. It would be exceedingly unfortunate if it should languish, and it is, therefore, our duty to do all we can in its early stages to give it assistance. In time, no doubt, with improved implements and greater knowledge, the farmers may do better than they can do to-day. Science may come to their assistance, and cotton-growing may become a most important industry, not only from the stand-point of the cottongrowers, but also because of the great amount of employment it may afford in secondary industries. Some day, perhaps, establishments like the spinning mills at Sydney may spring up in different States. We can only make our country prosperous in that way. It is idle to contend that because we can purchase articles more cheaply overseas we should do so. If we adopt that policy we can never hope to develop Australia properly. I think the Minister will agree that the full amount of the bounty will not be absorbed this year, and that there would be a surplus available even if the bounty were paid at the rate of 2d. per lb. I support honorable members from Queensland who assert that the industry requires adequate assistance, and I doubt very much whether the bounty proposed will be sufficient. If we increase the bounty to 2d. per lb. and find, later on, that we have given too much assistance to the industry, we can correct our mistake, but let us not make the mistake of being too miserly at the outset and running the risk of driving people out of the industry. Another1/2d. a lb. may make all the difference between success and failure”, and as we are all anxious that the industry shall be a success the extra 1/2d. per lb. should be granted. I think that the ruling of the Temporary Chairman is quite correct, but I regret that honorable members who endeavoured to get an increase in the bounty have not succeeded. I trust, however, that in the near future if the Minister finds that he has made a mistake, he will take steps to rectify it and see that the people who are growing cotton will achieve a measure of success commensurate with the objectthey have in view.
.- In fairness to myself I should like to rebut a statement made by thehonorablemember for Capricornia (Mr. For de) in his peroration. He stated that I had done a disservice to the cotton-growers by quoting figures relating to the guaranteed price which the honorable member himself gave in the State House.
– That was in 1921.
– Yes. The honorable member was speaking about cotton and he quoted the figures I used to-night, and, furthermore, in the preface to his remarks, he said that he was giving the information, not for the benefit of honorable members, but for the benefit of the outside electorate. It is unfortunate that the honorable member should talk so much for political effect, because that is the sort of thing that recoils, as pointed out by the Minister, to the disadvantage of the grower, whom I honestly believe the honorable member is anxious to serve.
: -I regret that the Minister has decided to turn down the representations I have made on behalf of the cotton-growers. I contend that the case I have put up for these growers more than justifies the granting of a bounty of 2d. in the early stages of development. I hope that we are wrong, and not the Minister, because I am particularly anxious for the success of the cottongrowing industry. I am afraid that the action of the Minister will not give the industry the assistance it should have, but I hope that the growers will do all they can to keep it going, and make up for what has been done to-night, so that at the end of the first twelve months’ test of the bounty scheme they will not need to come to the Government and ask for what has been denied to them tonight.
– I am surprised at the utterance of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). Any one who has listened to my speeches since this bill has been introduced willadmit that I have not introduced party politics into them. I said that I would deal with the question on national lines, and anything I have said on behalf of the cotton-growers has been said as one of their representatives in this Parliament, and not as a party man. I am justified in the stand I have taken. It is regrettable that the honorable member for Wakefield, who is opposed to the bounty system, should infer that I have said anything to secure a political advantage. Nothing has been further from my mind. I regret that this bill has had to be discussed at such a late hour, but that is not my fault. The Government could have brought this bounty proposal forward a week ago, and provided ample opportunity for its discussion. On reconsidering the matter, I feel sure that the honorable member for Wakefield will to-morrow agree that his criticism of me was unfair and unjust. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) has taken exception to something I said in reference to a quotation he made from the Queensland Hansard. It was most unfortunate that at a time when we were trying to secure a bounty of 2d. a lb. on seed cotton the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) should havequoted remarks that I made in the Queensland Parliament in 1921 regarding the phenomenal profits made by a cotton grower in an exceptional season as to the profits made. I should like to know what object the honorable member had in doing so. This quotation does not help the growers in their present request for 2d. per lb. bounty.
– I was merely seeking for information. I wished to know why, if under a guaranteed price in 1921 a cotton grower could make a profit of £400 a year he cannot do so now.
– I must ask honorable members not to make any further references to second-reading speeches delivered on this bill.
– My references to this matter were made at the committee stage. The remarks that I made in the Queensland Parliament on that occasion were intended to influence the Queensland Government to establish a ginnery in Central Queensland. I quoted from the Queensland Producer, the official organ of the Queensland Farmers Union, a statement to the effect that a Mr. E. A. Hoffman had netted £11 17s. 8d. per acre from his cotton crop. But his yield for that particular season averaged 998 lb. to the acre, whereas the average to the acre last year in Queensland was only 477 lb. This case was an exceptional one. I regret that the honorable member for Herbert should have introduced the matter at this stage of the proceedings, for it did not in any way help the cottongrowers in their present efforts to geta fair deal.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 14 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Appropriation Bill 1926-27.
Income Tax Bill.
Land Tax Assessment Bill.
Maternity Allowance Bill.
War Service Homes Bill.
Message reported from the Senate intimating that it had concurred in the House of Representatives’ resolution giving the Commission authority, to borrow moneys.
Sitting suspended from 2.40 a.m. to 2 p.m.(Friday).
– I desire to make a personal explanation regarding the following paragraph published in the Argus of today
The statement of Mr. Mann; M.H.R.,. that his severance from the Nationalist party had been endorsed by the United party of Western Australia was questioned yesterday by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce), who is one of the representatives of Western Australia in the Senate. Senator Pearce said that he had telegraphed to the acting-president of the United, party, Mr. Davy, M.L.A., for confirmation, and. he had been informed in reply that Mr. Mann’s action had’ not up to the present been officially discussed by the United party..
When I read that paragraph I was at a loss to understand to what it referred, as I had not made the statement, attributed to me. Upon inquiry, I found that it probably referred to a report in the Argus of the 12th August of a complimentary dinner tendered to me on the 10th August. In that report the following statement, which I had not previously read with care, appeared -
Mr. Mann expressed regret at having found it necessary to sever his connexion with the Nationalist party, with which lie had worked since his election to Parliament, but to have continued longer in that association, he said, would have become unbearable. His action had been endorsed by the United party of Western Australia, a party composed of Nationalists, farmers, andLabour supporters, who had united to effect a reduction in the Customs tariff which was strangling the progress and business enterprise of all the States, especially Western Australia.
That report, which was apparently the basis of this morning’s paragraph, is quite incorrect. I did not, and could not, say that I had seceded from the Nationalist party, because that would not be true. In my communication to the Prime Minister, I stated that I was withdrawing from the meetingsof the party of which he is the leader. Although, for convenience of reference, that body is referred to as the Nationalist party, it is really a composite party.
– It is not.
– Nothing of. the kind.
– Order! I ask the. honorable member to confine his remarksto a personal explanation.
– I am doing so, and I shall justify the statement I have just, made. I did not take my seat inthis Parliament as a Nationalist member. My nomination was endorsed, and I was supported by, not the Nationalist party of Western Australia - there is no such party in existence there - but the United party, which, I explained at the luncheon, is, a fusion of the previously existing Nationalist party, the Nationalist Labour party, and certain sections of the previously existing Country party. As a representative of the United party I contested and won the Perth seat Senator Pearce who, apparently has criticized my attitude, stood for election on exactly the same basis, and subscribed to a programme which definitely included a plank for the reduction of the tariff. I admit that I was for the time being supporting the Ministry, but it was only as a matter of convenience that the word “ Nationalist “ was applied to the party. I have been described as a Nationalist member, apparently through lack of understanding of the political position in Western Australia. But, so far as I am aware, there is no need for my action to be discussed or endorsed by the United party as, up to the present I have been entirely loyal to the principles upon which I stood for election under the aegis of that party.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion by (Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Motion by (Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by. telegram or letter.
– On 9th August the honorable member for Denison (Sir John Gellibrand) asked how much money was expended during 1924-25 on staff tours and regimental exercises, and I replied that the information would be obtained as soon as possible. I now desire to inform the honorable member that £482 was expended on staff tours and £637 on regimental exercises during that year.
– I regret that when laying upon the table of the Library certain information with reference to the Air Force, I omitted the report of the inquiry into the recent fatal flying accident near Geelong. I have added that document to the papers already placed in the library.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of the debate upon motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Library Committee’s Report
Debate resumed from 11th August (vide page 5298), on motion by Mr. Bowden -
That the report be printed. .
.- When this matter was previously before the House, I drew attention to the fact that the Library Committee had brought under the notice of honorable members the desirability of acquiring the Hardy Wilson collection of drawings of old colonial architecture. Mr. Hardy Wilson, who is a leading Sydney architect, has made a special study of the early Georgian architecture of New South Wales and Tasmania. For over ten years he has visited all ports of out-of-the-way places in both States to obtain the most typical examples of the buildings erected during this important period in the history of Australia, and he is to-day, perhaps, the bestinformed man in Australia on the subject. Recently he published a work containing 100 pencil and crayon drawings and water-colour sketches of different houses erected during the Georgian period, and in many cases these sketches are accompanied by detailed architecturaldrawings and plans. This work having been published, question arose as to what was to be done with the original sketches and drawings. Three of the sketches were sold privately in Sydney. One was purchased, for 100 guineas, by Mr. Arthur Allen, of Messrs. Allen, Allen, and Hemsley, Sydney. A second was s1d for 75 guineas, and a third for 65 guineas. I mention this to show the market value of the work that Mr. Wilson has done. In the domestic architecture of Sydney, Mr. Wilson has displayed his ability as an artist, by reproducing many of the old style of buildings in a modern setting. The preceding Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Committee was offered the whole of this valuable collection of sketches and dr wings for £3,500. The offer was referred to the special Art Committee, consisting of Mr. Mann, chairman of the Sydney National Art Gallery trustees, and Mr. William Ashton and Mr. McNally, both well-known artists. That committee unanimously recommended that for artistic and historical reasons, it was desirable that Mr. Wilson’s collection should be acquired and preserved intact. Acting on that advice, the Library Committee made a recommendation to the Government that the collection should be acquired by the Commonwealth. The collection consists of 100 pencil and crayon drawings of the best examples of colonial buildings in New South Wales and Tasmania, erected between the years 1790 and 1840, together with 50 large sheets of measured line drawings and architectural plans. I have already explained that Mr. Wilson devoted ten years to the making of this collection, and searched over 20,000 square miles of country for the best types of buildings to depict. Several of these buildings, including some of the finest examples of their period, have since been demolished, while others, such as Burdekin House and Governor Macquarie’s Barracks, Sydney, are now doomed. Indeed, it can safely be said that in a few yearswe shall have but few examples left of what is regarded by authorities as the most interesting and important architectural style that Australia has produced. When the committee of artists made its recommendation to the Library Committee, it was suggested that the price might be reduced. Mr. Wilson, who is very anxious that the collection should be kept together, offered to reduce the price of the whole collection to £3,000, provided that it was acquired for the nation. As a matter of fact, he could do better by selling the sketches separately. The matter was considered by the Government, but it came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to purchase the collection. The present Library Committee endorsed the recommendation of its predecessor, that the collection should be acquired, and the chairman approached the Treasurer with the request that the purchase should be made. His representations, however, were unsuccessful. On 17th April last, the committee again referred the matter to Cabinet, but its recommendation was not approved, although Cabinet expressed its willingness to consider the purchase of ten typical drawings of Australian Georgian architecture. That would be an expensive procedure. The pictures would have to be bought at auction, and, as the Commonwealth would naturally acquire only the best specimens, they would cost, at least, 100 guineas each, involving a total expenditure of over £1,000. The Library Committee replied to Cabinet, pointing out, not only that the value of the collection consisted in its completeness, but also that the price that would have to be paid for a selection would be out of all pr. portion to that at which the whole collection could be acquired. It repeated its request that Cabinet should review its decision. Despite the overwhelming support given to the proposal by architects, historians, and artists, and notwithstanding an offer by two prominent citizens of Melbourne to contribute £250 each so that the collection might be preserved to the nation, the Cabinet in reply to this second appeal re-affirmed its former decision. The library Committee had obtained several opinions before finally deciding upon the course it should recommend - opinions as to both its artistic and its historical value. Professor Ernest Scott, Professor of History at the Melbourne University, stated -
I am not entitled to speak about the artistic merits of Hardy Wilson’s drawings of Georgian architecture in Australia, but about the historical value of them there can be no question … A century hence those drawings will be absolutely priceless.
Mr. C. H. Bertie, past president and Fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and principal librarian of the municipal library, Sydney, said -
From historical and artistic points the Wilson pictures of early architecture are the most valuable records I know of.
The Journal of the Royal Colonial Institute, London, wrote as follows on the same point -
The drawings are not only merely delightful in themselves, but they are a real contribution to history, and particularly to the great name of Governor Macquarie.
Dealing with the architectural value of the collection, Mr. J. S. Murdoch, the chief architect of the Commonwealth Works and Railways Department, stated -
As in the old colonial buildings of America, the examples in Australia of adaptation to new conditions of the” design of Georgian buildings is amongst the most interesting features of English renaissance architecture. … 1 understand that Mr. Wilson’s drawings are available for acquisition by a public library, and I think that is where they ought to be.
Subsequently, he wrote -
At a meeting yesterday of the Council of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, 1 happened to ask the members how they would view a suggestion to have the Hardy Wilson drawings made available for reference in a public library. . . . Unanimous and very sincere opinions in favour of this idea were expressed by the council.
The Architectural Review, London, considers that the drawings - speak wonderfully of a past we had almost forgotten Australia had; and they have forgotten it, too.
The artistic value of the pictures waa discussed by Mr. L. Bernard Hall, director of the National Art Gallery, Melbourne, in the following terms -
Mr. Hardy Wilson’s drawings of old colonial architecture, I should say, are quite the ‘best thing of their kind done here. . . . They are both valuable as records and beautiful as drawings, and, I should say, are universally admired by artists.
The committee also obtained a number of other authoritative opinions as to the value of the collection. It is strongly desirous that it should be secured for the National. Library at Canberra, and despite the adverse decision of the Government, the committee felt that it would deserve severe criticism from honorable members if it did not do its best to have the matter discussed, in the House.
– I am sure that, all honorable members desire to hear from the Treasurer the reasons which actuated the Government in declining to purchase this collection, so that we may discuss them, and show, perhaps, that they are not sufficiently weighty to justify that decision. Except for two or three Ministers, the House, I think, is unanimously of the opinion that it would be a reflection upon our good taste and patriotism to allow this valuable collection to be broken up, or to go into private hands. I am. prepared personally to contribute towards the cost of purchasing the collection for the National Library, though I do not think that private citizens should be placed in the position of having to do that. The Government has plenty of money which it could properly expend in . this way. The passing of every year will make these pictures, like the Sibyl’s books, more and more valuable. As has been pointed out, such eminent gentlemen as Professor Scott, Professor of History at the Melbourne University; Mr. J. S. Murdoch, our own Chief Architect, and Mr. J. S. MacDonald have declared the artistic and historical value of this collection. It has been suggested that we should purchase only ten of the pictures,, but I point out that that would impair the value of the. series. That would be just as reasonable as to buy for a class of medical students instead of a whole skeleton, say, four ribs, a femur, and a tibia. Of what value would such a partial collection of bones be to those desirous of studying the structure of the human framework?
brought it under my notice when he was . Speaker, and I went with him. and a couple of art critics, one of whom was a member of the board of the Melbourne Art Gallery, to inspect it. Although the artistic merit of the pictures was freely admitted, I think the gentlemen who were with me felt as I did, that it would not be desirable to acquire the whole collection for the national library,, because there was not sufficient variety in it. The value of the collection consists in its architectural rather than in its artistic worth, except perhaps, with regard to the two or three paintings that it is suggested we should purchase. However, if this architectural collection is of immediate value to Australia, then it should be acquired and made accessible not in Canberra,, which for many years will not be a large city, but in one of the large capital cities of Australia, where it would be available for the use of architectural students from the various universities. For that reason I think that the proper course is, as has been suggested, to secure those drawings that are a fair representation of a period of architecture whose monuments are fast passing away, and to permit the others to be acquired by such an institution as the Mitchell Library.
– lt is seldom that we have an opportunity of rising superior, to those severely material matters with which we are concerned from day to day, to consider, on the broad basis of national ideals, and free from party politics, a subject- of this kind, which has immense artistic and historical significance. - I take a little pride in the fact that on the occasion to which the Treasurer, has referred it was my privilege to support the purchase of the Rowan collection, and I am glad that the views I then expressed were shared by other honorable members of this Chamber. I do not think that we should cavil at theprice of this collection. Some of the drawings may have, from an architectural point of view, greater artistic merit and value than others. But each is part of a complete whole, which, if we arc to be guided by the experts, represents an historical epoch. If there is one thing more than another that is calculated to excite reverence and regard for the Federal Capital in the days to come, it is the existence in its archives of collections of this kind that are wrapped about and associated with our national ideals. Long after this generation has passed away these drawings will have, not only the interest that they have for us to-day, but a greatly added interest, and their value, will increase from year to year. As to their architectural value, there, appears to be no argument. T have the honour to be a member of the Library Committee, and I am glad that it is unanimously in favour of the nation acquiring these drawings. It is not a collection that we can acquire too hurriedly. As to its value, we have the opinions of men whose judgment is entitled to the very highest respect. I think that I speak for a unanimous party, although I am not actually authorized to do so, when I express the sincere hope that the attitude of the Government is not so much one of opposition to the purchase-
– The Government is not opposing the purchase of this collection ; the question is merely whether we should buy the whole or part of it.
– I take it that the desire of the Government is to leave that question to the decision of the House. I sincerely hope that no honorable member who finds himself likely to be opposed to the Government on this motion will allow that fact to deter him from recording an independent vote. - I am anxious that we should purchase this col lection now that we are about to proceed to our new parliamentary building. It would be churlish and niggardly on the part of the Government and the nation to refuse to accept this excellent opportunity of acquiring a collection of artistic works of the highest merit.
.:- I desire to say a word or two on the motion, because it fell to my lot, as chairman of the Library Committee, to conduct the negotiations up to the stage when you, Mr. Speaker, took them over. I must confess that I was sceptical about the value and excellence of this collection when representations were first made to the Library authorities for its purchase by the Commonwealth. I had it sent to Melbourne, and placed there in the Fine Arts Gallery for several weeks. During that time it was seen by practically the most competent judges, artistic and architectural, in this part of Australia, and the chorus ..if unanimous approval that came to the Library Committee as the result of that inspection convinced me that any lay views that I might have had respecting the value of the pictures were altogether wrong. Since then the mass of complimentary testimony which thi Library committee has had, in most cases voluntarily, submitted to it, has convinced every member of it, chosen from both Houses and from all parties, that the chance of acquiring this collection ought not to be let slip. There are only a few days left in which we can purchase the collection. Sick with hope deferred Mr. Hardy Wilson has been urged to have the collection auctioned, and it is to be offered on the 20th of this month. Therefore, if we desire to acquire it, we must act at once. I understand that Mr. Hardy Wilson wishes that his pictures and drawings, 100 in number, should be purchased by the nation because of their historical and artistic value. If he studied his commercial interests, and not his reputation as an architect and artist - he is both - he could obtain more for the paintings by public sale than the price at which he is offering the collection to tho Commonwealth. ‘Chat may not have been true of the Mrs. Rowan collection, about which I do not say a word, except that th<» two cases are not parallel. I commend that fact particularly to the Treasurer. It is theoretically possible that all the work done by Mrs. Rowan could, if she were alive and well, be done again, because the things that she painted are st:ll in Australia; but these pictures are mementoes of monuments of a great period of British architecture which have either perished or are fast being lost to Australia. One has only to look at these magnificent specimens of Georgian architecture, and note the artistry with which they are portrayed, to feel that by ull means, whether we love art or records, we should have them preserved in some suitable repository for the use and enjoyment of future generations. The immediate value of the pictures is that they can be lent to the galleries of Australia in the principal capital cities, in sections, or as a complete collection, so that the. architects of Australia, who are so anxious to get in actual touch with them, can do so. The more one travels through the cities and country districts of Australia, the more one is convinced, especially if he has been privileged to see the architecture of the older lands, that the tonic effect of these pictures on the architecture of this Commonwealth will :ie almost incalculable, and of enduring benefit. Later they could repose in the public gallery at Canberra, and be always available for loan in the chief urban centres to the trustees of public art galleries and museums, for the education of the architectural profession of Australia. The Government refused, I think mistakenly, to purchase this collection. The Treasurer could not then have felt conscious that he possessed the untold millions which have since been disclosed. “We have provided £20,000,000 for roads, and a huge sum to assist the cotton industry. Compared Avith that expenditure, this payment for the acquisition of a collection which, from the higher stand-point of life, is as important as almost anything upon which public money is being spent, is a mere thimbleful of silver. As one who has been Treasurer, and now and again found himself fallible, I ask the Treasurer to bow to the opinion throughout Australia of those who are most competent to judge, and of honorable members generally. If we carry this motion, let us do so unanimously. Personally, honorable members have nothing to gain in this matter. Not one out of ten of us knows Mr. Hardy “Wilson. For my own part, I have never met him, and know nothing about him except his outstanding record in his profession, and his artistic reputation. We should let him know that we are unanimous in this matter, on high public grounds. The Library Committee is the executive of both Houses of Parliament in these concerns. It is representative of all parties, and I have never known it to be unanimous before. I presided over that committee for three years. Its members do their duty critically, even microscopically; but on this subject their decision was unanimous. Parliament should trust the committee, and the Government should honour that trust. From a technical, as well as a national stand-point, it is advisable to allow this motion to be carried nem. con., and to purchase immediately this collection before it can be brought under the hammer at public auction.
.- I desire to add a few words to what has already been said on this subject by other honorable members. The collection, part of which I have inspected, is beautiful, and would be exceedingly valuable to the Commonwealth as containing examples of early colonial architecture. The drawings are beautiful and artistic, and many artists have pronounced favorably upon them. In addition, architectural societies, and many persons throughout Australia, have expressed themselves enthusiastically about the value of the collection. I wish to place on record a few of those opinions. Professor Ernest Scott, professor of history at the Melbourne University, has said -
I am not entitled to speak about the artistic merits of Hardy Wilson’s drawings of Georgian architecture in Australia; but about the historical value of them there can be no question. . . A century hence these drawings will be absolutely priceless.
Mr. C. H. Bertie, past president and Fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and principal librarian of the Municipal Library, Sydney, has stated -
From -historical and artistic points, the Wilson pictures of early architecture are the most valuable records I know of.
Mr. J. S. Murdoch, chief architect in the Works and Railways Department of the Commonwealth, a man eminent in the architectural world, whom most honorable members know, and whose judgment they respect, has made the following comment : -
As in the old colonial buildings of America, the examples in Australia of adaptation to new conditions of the design of Georgian buildings is amongst the most interesting features of English Renaissance architecture. … I understand that Mr. Wilson’s drawings are available for acquisition by a public library, and I think that is where they ought to be.
In another communication Mr. Murdoch mentioned this interesting incident -
At a meeting of the Council of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, I happened to ask the members how they would view a suggestion to have the Hardy Wilson drawings made available for reference in a public library. .’ . Unanimous and very sincere opinions in favour of this idea were expressed by the council.
Mr. L. Bernard Hall, who is a prominent figure in artistic circles in Australia, has said -
Mr. Hardy Wilson’s drawings of old colonial architecture, I should say, are quite the best things of their kind done here. . . . They are both valuable as records and beautiful as drawings, and, I should say, are universally admired by artists.
The journal Art in Australia has published the following comment: -
The original drawings should certainly be bought and retained in this country. This is a matter that should be immediately considered by the trustees of the Felton Bequest or by the Commonwealth Government. No record, such as this lias ever been made, and it is unlikely that it will ever be attempted again. ‘
Mr. J. S. MacDonald, artist and art critic, has expressed himself as follows: -
I fervently hope that the Hardy Wilson drawings of old colonial houses wit! he acquired by the Commonwealth. It would be a calamity if it should go, piecemeal, to private buyers. . . They should be kept together as a whole. As records, they are invaluable, and their educational worth is very great. I would like to see them permanently housed in Canberra; a certain number of them in an appropriate room, and thu rest circulated for the benefit of our architects and artists. In that way, they would do inestimable good, and be one of our finest aesthetic possessions.
Next year the Seat of Government will be transferred to Canberra, where numerous records of early Australia will be gathered together. We* already possess wonderful and valuable works in the Petherick and Rowan collections. We have a responsibility to the generations that will follow us, and I feel sure that if we procure this collection for them they will appreciate it, and will be grateful to this generation for preserving such a rare and artistic collection. Students and lovers of the beautiful will enjoy this collection just as we, who have seen it, have enjoyed it. I hope that the Treasurer will accept the suggestion of the right honorable member for Balaclava and allow the House to carry the motion unanimously. That will be a graceful tribute to the great and beautiful work of **Mr. Hardy Wilson, and will result in a valuable addition to our already considerable artistic collection.
– I was greatly astonished and- profoundly disappointed at the decision of the Government to reject the recommendation of the Library Committee regarding the purchase of this valuable collection. Before making the recommendation the Library Committee held many meetings on the subject, obtained the opinions of the best experts available, and investigated the whole matter thoroughly. All the evidence enthusiastically supported the view that the Commonwealth, or some public institution, should acquire the collection rather than allow it to be sold to private buyers and scattered over the earth. In view of the statement that the Government is prepared to acquire some fifteen of its best examples, it should be stated” that it is not a collection of a few excellent and many indifferent drawings. ‘Every one of the drawings in this collection . is architecturally and artistically excellent. It would be the greatest pity in the world if- such a collection were broken up and disposed of in piecemeal fashion. It has already been pointed out that if an attempt were made to acquire, in public competition, the best of the drawings, they would very likely cost more than the Government is being asked to pay to secure the whole collection. The cost to the Government has now been reduced to about £2,500, as a result of the fact that two wealthy and public-spirited citizens have expressed their willingness to contribute £250 each to relieve the Government of a portion of the cost of the collection. It seems absurd to speak of the burden of the cost to the present Government of acquiring this magnificent collection of drawings at a remarkably low price when we know that it is prepared to spend tens of thousands of pounds for purposes which perhaps can not he so well defended.
– That is the way we “ fell in “ over the purchase of the Rowan collection.
– We did not “ fall in “ in connexion with the purchase of the Rowan collection. Those pictures were not purchased as an artistic collection.’ No one claimed that they represented very high artistic achievement. The Rowan collection was purchased because of ‘its value as an educative medium for the benefit of present and future generations of Australian students. I venture to say that it will take as important a place as a rare and valuable record of the flora and fauna of Australia as Gould’s Birds does at the present time in our Universities and other educational institutions for the study of the bird life of Australia. In my view, the purchase of the Rowan collection was one of the best investments made by a Commonwealth Government. The collection now under consideration is of the highest artistic and architectural excellence. I believe that no more valuable collection for the study of the architecture of the period between 1790 and 1840 could be secured in Australia, or anywhere else. I have examined personally nearly all of the drawings, and were I able to acquire them I should be very proud indeed to be the possessor of so valuable a collection. We have recently been spending tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds on things which are, at least, of doubtful value to the community, and none of which is of more value in relation to the matter to which it applies than the Hardy Wilson collection to the study of the architecture of the period with which it deals. I agree with everything that has been said by other honorable members in support of the acquisition of this collection. Before recommending that it should be purchased, the Library Committee went very carefully into the whole matter. The honorable member for Balaclava, who was chairman of the committee for three years, has already said that although in connexion with other matters the members of the committee were often divided, they were all so impressed with the importance of acquiring these drawings that the committee’s re commendation that/ they should be purchased was unanimous. A later Library Committee endorsed this recommendation of its predecessor, and it was very disappointing to learn that the Government had decided to turn down the recommendation. I understand that the Government is now prepared to let this House come to a decision upon the’ matter, and will accept its decision. I hope that the motion will be carried without dissent, and that it will not be necessary to take a division on it.
– In view of the debate which has taken place on the motion, it is fortunate that the Government was able to find time for its consideration. The position was admirably stated by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) in his concluding remarks. The Government has, of course, certain responsibilities in connexion with the laying of the foundations of a national library at the Federal Capital. While it is prepared to stand very firmly by the principle that with ordinary questions of government it is the most competent body to deal with them in the establishment of a national library there may be other people who know as much about the subject as it does. Consequently this question is left to the House to decide, and in view of the remarks of honorable members who have spoken on the motion it seems quite clear that it is the desire of the House that these drawings should be purchased. The Government is quite prepared to acquiesce in that*. I have no doubt that the Hardy Wilson drawings are of historic value, and it will be of great advantage to the architects of the Commonwealth if they can be made available to them. Ministers are willing that the motion should be carried unanimously.
.- I congratulate the Government upon its prompt acceptance of the evident wish of the House. Possibly the only objection that a casual observer might take to the motion is that these excellent drawings are to be buried at Canberra. In this connexion, I should like to refer to the list which has been drawn up of our splendid artistic possessions, which I am glad to learn the Printing Committee has decided to publish. From this list particulars can be obtained of every work purchased by or presented to the Commonwealth, and if municipalities or public institutions desire to exhibit any of these works, they have only to send for the list, from which they can make a selection. If they wish to exhibit any they have only to insure it against loss or damage and pay the freight, when it will be sent forward. To remove any objection which a casual observer may have to the purchase of these works, we should make out as complete a list of the drawings as possible for distribution amongst the architectural associations of the Commonwealth, and by that means ascertain the particular drawings which architects and students desire to study. I wish to thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) for the assurance he has given to the House, and also to thank honorable members for the interest they have taken in the purchase of this valuable collection. As the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) said, the Ellis Rowan collection is unique, portraying as it does the wonders and beauties of the flowers, birds, fruit and fish of Australia and New Guinea. It will be remembered that the bust representing Bellona, the Goddess of War, which is erected on the steps of this building, was left in a cellar in this building for over eighteen months before it was placed in position, and before the donor, one of the greatest sculptors Australia has produced, was even thanked. When I brought it under the notice of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was Prime Minister at the time, he immediately dispatched a cablegram, and then a letter, expressing to the artist the thanks of the Australian people. I thank him for what he did on that occasion. When an artist honours his country by presenting a work of art, he wishes it to see the light of day, not that he may be honoured, but that others may see the wonders and beauties that he has endeavoured to depict.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
. (By leave). - On. 15th July last, a deputation, representing apple growers in each State, waited on me and requested that the Commonwealth should grant financial assistance to those growers who sustained losses on the apples produced by them this year, because of the low prices realized in Great Britain as a result of the strike. It was estimated that the amount required from the Commonwealth would be £300,000. The Australian production of apples during 1926 was approximately 7,250,000 cases, of which 3,176,600 cases- 44 per cent, of the total production - were exported, and 4,073,400 - 56 per cent. - were sold in Australia. Of the export quota, about 2,960,000 cases - 40 per cent, of the total production - were exported to the United Kingdom, a small proportion of which was sold on the Continent. So far as can be ascertained at present, the position in each State is somewhat as follows: -
New South Wales sold 98 per cent, of its production of 650,000 cases in Australia and exported 2 per cent.
Victoria sold 78 per cent, of its production of 2,000,000 cases in Australia, and exported 22 per cent.
South Australia sold 64 per cent, of its production of 900,000 cases in Australia and exported the remaining 36 per cent.
Western Australia sold 43 per cent, of its production of 500,000 cases in Australia and exported the remaining 57 per cent.
Tasmania sold 34 per cent, of its record production of 3,200,000 cases in Australia, and exported the remaining 66 per cent.
With the exception of Tasmania, each State appears to have sold the bulk of the fruit exported at f.o.b. prices, which leaves a margin of profit to the grower. Of Tasmania’s total export, probably only from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, was sold f.o.b. It is said that many growers, particularly in Tasmania, because of the adverse position in Great Britain, arc now unable to secure finance to purchase fertilizers and other materials necessary to cultivate the coming Reason’s crop. Whilst very much regretting that such a position has arisen, the Commonwealth Government cannot compensate growers for losses sustained during the past season. Its policy is to assist a primary industry such as that of applegrowing to hold and develop its oversea market, provided the industry is thoroughly organized, and can show that its products are. sold in a regular and orderly manner and in the best interests of the grower. Only the other day, it was reported in the press that those intimately connected with the importation of apples into Great Britain had stated that “ even if the strike had not occurred, it would not have been possible to obtain satisfactory prices for the huge quantity of apples shipped from Australiaand New Zealand, amounting to over three and three-quarter million cases this year.” It is evident that the time has arrived for the establishment of an organization on a Commonwealth basis to ensure that the increasing surplus of apples is marketed abroad in a way that will secure the highest possible returns for growers. It might also be of advantage to the industry if concerted action was taken to increase the demand and improve the distributionwithin the Commonwealth.I propose to ask the recognized organizations in each State to convene meetings of apple-growers in order that they may discuss the proposals for a scheme of control of export and oversea marketing which were recently drawn up by representatives of Victorian and Tasmanian growers. Growers will also be requested to select one representative from each State to meet me in Melbourne in September next, to consider these proposals, or any other proposals that may be suggested for the formation of an organization which will be thoroughly representative of the growers throughout Australia, and which will be in a position to control the oversea distribution of the surplus apples produced in Australia each year.
Among the matters which might be considered by the conference when it meets in Melbourne are -
Spahlinger Treatment for Tubercu losis - Navigation Act: Effect on Australian Shipping - Tasmanian Apple Growers - Western Australian Disabilities - Gold Bonus - Singapore Naval Base - British Films - Pacific Island Steam-ship Service - Parliamentary Employees - Leave for Postmasters - Wine Bounty - Corky Scab - Textile and Naval Training Schools, Geelong.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to express my appreciation - in which I am sure every honorable member joins - of those who have rendered us assistance during a long and somewhat trying series of sittings. This is not the end of the Parliament, nor even of the session; it is merely a longer adjournment of the House than that which is customary. Consequently this is not an occasion for expressing appreciation of the services that have been rendered by the presiding officers and others who are associated with the Parliament. But I think that the House would wish me, on their behalf, to express appreciation of the services that have been rendered by those who have recorded the proceedings of the Parliament, and the attendants, who invariably display towards members the greatest possible courtesy, and do much to lighten their arduous duties. On my own behalf, I express appreciation of the manner in which honorable members have assisted the Government to transact the business of the country. I, of course, recognize that it is not the function of some honorable members to assist us, when they consider that our measures ought to be resisted. During this session, however, there has been in the Parliament a real desire and determination to facilitate the business of government and the operation of the functions that we were returned to Parliament to fulfil. It is to our creditthat we have not had a single all-night sitting.
.- I draw the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Minister for Health (Sir Neville Howse) to a statement which appeared in the press to-day, in which Dr. Sinclair, a reputable medical man in New South “Wales, is reported as having said’ that he is very much impressed with the Spahlinger treatment for tuberculosis, and thinks that some action ought to be taken to make the serum available in Australia. In view of that additional testimony to the value of the serum the Government should seriously consider whether it cannot take steps to save Mr. Spahlinger from financial ruin so that he may benefit suffering humanity.
I associate myself with the remarks of the right honorable the Prime Minister in appreciation of the dignified and impartial manner in which you, Mr. Speaker, have conducted the proceedings of this Parliament. The Chairman of Committees also has performed. his duties very ably. Our officers always carry out their work excellently, and there is a great deal for which we have to thank them. We owe a very great debt to Mr. Robinson and his competent staff. The officers of the House are a fine body of men.
.- The right honorable the Prime Minister will shortly, be proceeding to England to attend the Imperial Conference. If this Parliament is not competent to alter the provisions of the Navigation Act, which has had such a damaging effect upon Australian trade, will he, whilst there, have the matter considered by the Conference ? Six years ago the passenger steamers on the Australian coast numbered 33, but to-day there are only eight. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has admitted that the Navigation Act is partly responsible for that.
The Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) has read a statement relating to the request that financial assistance be given to the apple growers of Australia. The Government has adopted a very unfair attitude, against which I enter an emphatic protest. The apple industry has been built up at the expense of the apple growers of Tasmania, and the export trade is on a very satisfactory basis. The Government does not realize the seriousness of the position in which the unfortunate growers have been placed because of the strike which occurred in England just after they had shipped practically the whole of their crop. Many of them will be driven off the land if the Government does not go to their assistance. The crop last year was a record one, and the shipment overseas the largest that has ever been sent. The strike which occurred in England practically ruined a large number of the growers. The Government has advanced millions of pounds to assist a number of other industries, yet it has turned down the request of thi* industry. This is the first time, in the last forty years that the apple industry has sought assistance, and the Government should have acceded to its request for the comparatively small sum of £250,000. Many orchardists might have been saved from ruin, but since the Government has refused help, they will have to leave the laud. The industry has been scandalously treated.
.- I have received a telegram from the Premier of Western Australia, as follows : -
Does Government intend introduce special bill provide grant account this State’s disabilities before Parliament adjourns? Strongly urge this course, even if basis last year’s act adopted. Public opinion hero very definite. Advise me fully of position.”
The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) stated in the budget speech, that it’ was proposed that Western Australia and Queensland should receive assistance to the extent of £450,000 and £378,000, respectively, on account of special difficulties and disadvantages. Those disabilities remain, and although it is not reasonable at this stage, of the session to ask the Prime Minister to introduce a bill providing for a special grant to Western Australia, 1 hope that the Government will bring down a measure for that purpose during the sittings that will begin in February next.
I should like the Prime Minister to indicate what action he proposes to take regarding the inquiry into the subject of a ‘ bounty to assist gold- production. I hope that the body to be entrusted with that investigation will have at .least one member who is familiar with conditions in the mining industry.
.- Having foregone my opportunity to speak on the motion relating to the Imperial Conference agenda, in order that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) might bring forward the matter of the purchase of a valuable collection of etchings, I propose now to brine under the notice of the . Prime Minister the vital subject of the Singapore base, and the matter of picture film production, both of which will be di8- cussed at the Imperial Conference. I regret to say that the former proposal was referred to only by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) will, no doubt, have to determine Australia’s attitude, and I think that the time has come when the Prime Minister should have an indication of the opinion of this House. I, at all events, intend to make my views known. It is generally agreed in Australia that the construction of the dock should be proceeded with. I was the first member in this House to advocate it. I think that I stated, three years ago, that Australia should .subscribe £2,000,000 towards the cost of the work, but since then we have adopted a defence programme involving an expenditure of £7,500,000, and we cannot burn the candle at both ends. I have no idea as to what are the views of the Minister for Defence.
– They are the same as those of the honorable member.
– I am glad to hear that.The opinion I have formed from conferences that I have had with Admiralty officials in London is that Great Britain is prepared to find the money for the Singapore base if Australia will continue its naval development programme. If we do not subscribe to the Singapore project, we should proceed, later on, to lay down a third cruiser ; but we cannot build another cruiser or more submarines, or such other ships as the Admiralty may advise, and, at the same time, bear a share of the cost of the work at Singapore. I know how keenly the Admiralty appreciates our naval programme as it now stands, and it does not expect us to subscribe to the cost of the dock, although’ we favour its construction.
No doubt the Prime Minister will be asked at the Imperial Conference for his views on the subject of the manufacture of British moving picture films. Not a word has been said in this Chamber on this important matter, although in the other branch of the legislature, Senator Guthrie made an attack upon American films. With what he said, I do not entirely agree. I admit that the posters relating to American films are not what they should be, but the film industry is one of the greatest in the world. In Australia, moving pictures are witnessed by nearly 100,000,000 persons annually, A committee recently investigated this subject in London, and I noticed by the press yesterday an announcement that no solution had been found of the problem of providing more British-produced films for display throughout the Empire. Only 5 per cent of the pictures now shown are of British production; the rest are American. I desire the Prime Minister to tell the people of Great Britain that he is authorized by the film distributors and picture showmen of Australia to say that they welcome British films, and will show as many of them as they can obtain. The only way in which they can be successfuly produced is by the formation of a great company in Great Britain, subsidized by the Government.
I trust that on the subject of the Singapore base the Prime Minister will have a heart to heart talk with the Minister for Defence. This is a momentous question, and we must come to a quick decision. To-day’s Sun Pictorial contains a warning by Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, M.P., Warden of New College, Oxford, regarding conditions in Europe -
Considering the powers of armament firms, the barbaric circumstances of many nations, and the widespread interest in the technical art of destruction, we do not feel confident that better times are in store for posterity.
Australia should decide what part she will take. In my opinion, Australia should concentrate on building up her Navy, and should leave the Singapore Naval Base to the British Government.
.- In his report on the administration of Norfolk Island, the Royal Commissioner, M.r. Whysall, made some strong remarks regarding the shipping service with the island. Lord Howe Island is on the same steamer route. Some time ago, when I made inquiries into the steamship services to the Pacific Islands. I was informed that a new contract, embodying different conditions, would be entered into; but later, on my return from Queensland, I made further inquiries, only to find that the terms of the old contract had bom again adopted. The conditions of seven or eight years aso in relation to the st ‘Amer sp’-vine to the Pacific Islands still exist, i hope that something will be done soon to remedy the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs.
.- I desire to support the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) regarding the necessity for assisting the Tasmanian apple industry. Ten minutes before the House was expected to rise, the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) made a statement about this matter. Tasmanian members who have interested themselves in it have not been given sufficient time to discuss it. All that we can do is to register a protest, and draw attention to the Government’s inconsistency in relation to different industries. When legislation to benefit other States has been before the House,the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has urged Tasmanian members to view at nationally. No honorable member san say that we have done otherwise. Only this morning we supported a bill to grant assistance to the cotton industry. Although considerable risk is associated with that enterprise, we were prepared to assist it. I ask honorable members to compare the attitude of the Government towards the cotton industry with its treatment of the Tasmanian timber industry. Because of the enterprise of those engaged in it, the timber industry in Tasmania has been carried on with some measure of success for many years; this is the first occasion on which it has sought assistance. I submit that an industry which has been self-supporting for many years, and. is now passing through a temporary period of difficulty, should receive assistance in preference to a new industry not yet established. All that we ask is that applegrowers of Tasmania shall be granted assistance to enable them to carryon until next season.
.- Had the rules governing the conduct of business in this Chamber permitted, it was my intention to ask you, Mr. Speaker, the following questions when the House met this afternoon: -
Will Mr. Speaker be good enough to have prepared -
If you can see you way clear to have that information prepared before we meet again, I shall be grateful.
– I desire to draw attention to the position of those postmasters who came to the assistance of the department some years ago by continuing to work when they should have been enjoying their leave. They were led to believe that, in the circumstances, their leave would accumulate, and be available to them later. Indeed, that was the position for a number of years; many of them were granted leave; but recently some brilliant genius in the office of the Public Service Board discovered that they were not legally entitled to that leave. Consequently, leave has since been refused to them. I addressed a series of questions to the Prime Minister on this subject, asking him to inquire into the matter, with a view to remedying an obvious injustice to these men, who possess unblemished records. I am very much dissatisfied with the answers which, presumably, have been supplied by the Public Service Board to questions which I submitted to the Prime Minister. The board appears to be determined to stand upon its. legal rights regardless of the moral claims of the officers concerned, and will not grant them the leave which they had been allowed to imagine all along was theirs by right. Whilst I have very much respect for the chairman of the board, and those associated with him, their action in this matter seems to be bordering closely on what might be termed sharp practice, or something very like it. It may be that the gentlemen concerned have no legal right to their leave, but certainly they have a moral right.
– They had a legal right, but agreed to surrender it.
– Not exactly. They surrendered their right pro tem, because it would have put the department to a certain amount of inconvenience had they stood upon their legal right and gone away on leave at the time, relying on the good faith of their employers that they would get their leave later. Therefore, the matter should now be taken into consideration. If the Public Service Board is not prepared to meet them, I appeal to the Prime Minister to consider whether something cannot be done to recompense them for the loss of their accumulated annual leave. These acts of administration, in taking petty, mean legal points, are irritating, and create a feeling of dissatisfaction in the Service, which would not be there if, instead of so much red tape and standing on legal rights, we had a little more of the human element imported into the administration. They are not creditable to the administration or to the country. I hope that the Prime Minister will give this subject careful consideration, and if the board still remains adamant in persisting in this injustice, that he will devise some scheme to indemnify the officers concerned.
– I direct attention to the position of the wine industry throughout Australia. Notwithstanding representations that have been made, I have not yet been able to impress the Government with the seriousness of the position. The answer which I received from the Prime Minister the other day was to the effect that, as the bounty period does not expire until August of next year, there is no immediate need to take action.
– That was not the answer which I gave the other day. I was referring to the necessity for legislation, but made no announcement of the policy of the Government. That is a totally different, matter.
– If I can get an assurance from the Prime Minister that something will be done before the end of the year I shall be satisfied. If action is taken as I suggest, the growers will be able to make more satisfactory arrangements with the wine-makers for the disposal of their vintage. Most of the wine-makers deal fairly by the growers, but unfortunately there are Shylocks in every business, who take advantage of their position if they have the big end of the stick, so it is advisable to strengthen the position of the growers wherever possible. The wages bill for the cultivation of an acre of vines is about £10, and as there are about 45,000 acres under cultivation for grapes in Australia, with an additional 6,000 acres coming into crop, the industry pays out about £500,000 in wages every year. Therefore, it should have every consideration at the hands of the Government.
.- Recently I was privileged to introduce to the Minister for Health a deputation of potato-growers to direct attention to the menace of the threatened introduction pf the disease know as corky scab. The case was fully put to the Minister. I do not propose to traverse the ground now. My purpose is to ask the Minister if he will make a statement giving an assurance to the potato-growers, that the disease will not be allowed to come in. If the Minister is not prepared to reply immediately, an announcement in the press will suit my purpose.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), concerning the position of the apple industry in Tasmania. I regret very much that up to the present, nothing has been done to assist the growers, many of whom are facing ruin.
.- I have been waiting for an answer to a question which I put to the Ministry with regard to the proposed textile school at Geelong, which was referred to the Board of Trade for report. I should like to know if a report has been received from the board; if so, what is the nature of its recommendations; and if anything is likely to be done . shortly. I wish also to refer to the proposed establishment of the naval training school at Osborne House, Geelong. That property was handed over to the Defence Department under certain conditions, which have not been complied with. It is capable of accommodating about 240 naval ratings, and the people of Geelong, naturally are anxious to know whether or not it is the intention of the department to use it for that purpose.
– Many subjects have been mentioned by those honorable members who have spoken on the motion for the adjournment of the House. ‘ I shall be as brief as possible in my reply. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), mentioned the position with regard to States grants and particularly emphasized the financial difficulties of Western Australia. That matter has been embodied in the financial policy of the Government, and it is dealt with in the bill which was before this Chamber a few weeks ago. “When Parliament re-assembles, consideration of that measure will be proceeded with, and as soon as it has been passed, the money will be made available to Western Australia.
– The same position arises in Tasmania.
– Exactly. In regard to the announcement I made a few days ago of a proposed inquiry into the goldmining industry, I have been in communication with the chairman of the Development and Migration Commission, and arrangements for the holding of the inquiry should be completed iu the course of a few weeks. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie need have no anxiety as to the competence, from a milling point of view, of the investigators.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to the Imperial Conference, the Singapore Naval Base, and the film industry. I dealt fairly fully with the Singapore Base In a statement I made to the House recently, and honorable members are in little doubt as to the attitude which the Government and I shall adopt towards it. The film industry is on the agenda of thi- Imperial Conference. I did not think it necessary for me to invite an expression of opinion from the House on that subject, because I assumed that honorable members are unanimous in desiring to see a greater proportion of British films exhibited in foreign, as .well as British, countries, because the film is to-day one of the greatest propaganda agencies throughout the world.
The shipping services to lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, of which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) spoke, are under the consideration of the Government. In connexion with any further negotiations, the views of the honorable member will receive attention.
The postmasters to whom the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) referred are under the control of the Public Service Board, and the reply I gave to a question asked by the honorable member was based on information supplied by the board. However, I shall look further into the matter with a view te removing any injustice that may have been done to (hose men.
In regard to the wine bounty, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) made it clear that he did not understand an answer I gave to him on a previous occasion. I certaintly did not say that, because the present bounty will not expire until September, 1927. an announcement by the Government as to its future policy is not urgent. What I did say was that, after the report of the Tariff Board had been received, an announcement of the Government’s intentions could be made, whether Parliament was sitting or in recess, and, as the bounty would not expire for twelve months, there was no urgent necessity to bring down legislation. The Government recognises that it is important that the industry, particularly the grape-growers whom ihe bounty is designed to benefit, shall know what the policy of the Government will be after the period of the present bounty has expired. But a report by the Tariff Board is a condition precedent to any decision by Cabinet, and I said that ibr Government would make an announcement as early as possible after that report had been received and considered.
The establishment of a textile schorl at Geelong, to which the honorable member for Corio (Mr. lister) referred, l.tis been the subject of correspondence between the Commonwealth and State Governments, but no final decision has been reached as to what action, if any, shall be taken.
– I desire to express my thanks for the kind sentiments . expressed towards me by .the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Their good wishes I heartily reciprocate. The officers and attendants of the House arc grateful for the appreciative references to their services. Honorable members are leaving the very arduous duties nf legislation for, perhaps, more arduous and difficult work in their constituencies. I join with the staff in wishing them good health in the execution of their duties, and trust that, when the referendum campaign is over, they will enjoy a happy recess.
Question resolved in th« affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.SS p.m. (Friday) until a date to be fixed.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260812_reps_10_114/>.