10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MACKAY, as Chairman, brought up the report of the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of Commonwealth Offices, Sydney.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the tenth annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation for 1925-26 has yet been placed before Parliament ?
– The report is at present in the hands of the printer, but I hope to be able to lay it on the table before the House rises.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed in this morning’s press ti cablegram in which it is stated that, in the opinion of Mr. Anguin, tthe new Agent-General for Western Australia, there ia nothing impressive about the Australian Commissioner’s offices in New York, and they are unworthy of the Commonwealth? If the right honorable gentleman, who , vas recently in New York is of the same opinion as Mr.
Anguin, will he see that Australia is properly represented in that great city and properly advertised there?
– I have not seen the comments by Mr. Anguin to which the honorable members refers. When in New York I went into the whole question of the accommodation of the Australian Commissioner there with the Commissioner. As a result of the consideration then given to the matter, action is being taken to remove the offices of the Commissioner in New York to another building which will be more suitable.
Accommodation in MELBOURNE fob Federal Members.
– Can the Prime Minister say when it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall vacate these premises? Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to tell us what provision, if any, is to be made in Melbourne for the use of South Australian, Victorian, and Western Australian members of this Parliament. who have a great deal of business to discharge before the Seat of Government is transferred to. Canberra ?
– The Commonwealth Parliament will probably vacate these premises about the 1st of July. After Parliament ceases to sit in Melbourne, it will, of course, be necessary to carry out a good deal of repair work in order that this building may be returned to. the Government of Victoria in proper condition. With regard to the accommodation of federal members in Melbourne after the Seat of Government has been removed to Canberra, an arrangement has been made with the Victorian Government to provide accommodation in this building for federal members until September of the present year. After that date it is proposed to provide accommodation in Commonwealth Government offices.
– In the Treasury Gardens! That is no place to ask members to go ; it is out of the way.
– No decision has yet been come to as to the office to be selected.
– In view of the need for good roads to the Federal Capital, will the Prime Minister sympathetically consider action in co-operation with the respective State Governments for taking over and conditioning of the SydneyCanberra, Melbourne-Canberra, YassCanberra, and Coast-Canberra roads?
– The roads mentioned, so far as they are outside the Federal Territory, will be a subject-matter! of arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State Governments concerned under the Federal Aid Roads Act passed by this Parliament. The condition of the roads within the Federal Territory will be a matter for consideration by the Commonwealth Government.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received any official confirmation of tlie press report as to the success of the beam wireless system?
– Unofficially, I understand that the tests of the system were very satisfactory, and that the British Government has accepted the service; but I have not yet received any official communication to that effect from the British Government.
High Court Decisions
– Notice of a question to be put by me appears on the businesspaper for to-day, but it has occurred to me that I might better explain the information I seek in the interests of the people of Australia, and ask the question in another form. Is the Prime Minister aware that various decisions by the High Court have recently been reversed, and this has left the people in the awkward position that they do not know what the High Court’s decisions really are. The matter is of great importance to the commercial section of the community, and the State Governments offer no opposition, and I should like to know whether the Government will take upon itself the re sponsibility of passing a Companies Act which will be suitable for Australia?
– I am afraid that I am in as great confusion as to exactly what it is the honorable member requires an answer to, as he appears to be concerning interpretations of the law by the High Court. He has placed a question on the notice-paper to which I shall reply later. If he desires to frame his question in some other way, he should put it on the notice-paper for to-morrow.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the different opinions expressed in decisions of the High Court of Australia with reference to its powers under the Constitution in regard to company law, will the Government bring in a bill to. deal with this matter.
– The Government obtained the assent of Parliament to a proposed amendment of the Constitution to deal with this matter, but it was rejected at the referendum. No act passed by Parliament can extend the constitutional powers of the Parliament, and it is not proposed to attempt to legislate upon the subject of company law.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to announce whether any definite action has been taken by the countries interested in regard to the unsatisfactory social conditions under the condominium in the New Hebrides ?
– This subject was fully considered at the recent Imperial Conference, and after unsuccessful negotiations with the Government of France, the Governments of Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand decided to appoint a royal commission to visit tho New Hebrides, investigate the conditions obtaining there, and prepare a report. The commission is composed of the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, representing Great Britain ; General’ Griffiths, representing Australia; and the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of Samoa, representing New Zealand. The commission will probably meet in the New Hebrides next month, and a report should reach the three governments concerned soon afterwards.
– Is the Prime Minister yet able to announce the name of the :gentleman selected to succeed Sir Joseph Cook as High Commissioner in London?
– I hope to be able to do so at an early date.
– Having regard to the advanced state of development at Canberra, and the considerably increased populations at Queanbeyan and Yass, will the Prime Minister again refer to the Public Works Committee the proposal for the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra?
– The honorable gentleman’s suggestion will receive consideration by the Government.
– During the latter half of last year, I submitted a motion m favour of the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the subject of wireless communication between Australia and the Old World. Although the motion had the unanimous support of members of the Opposition, it was, if not curtly, certainly emphatically, rejected. I ask the Prime Minister what influences have been at work, either above or below ground-
-Order ! I ask the honorable member not to suggest improper influences.
– I ask the Prime Minister what causes have moved the Government to appoint a royal commission after it had refused the unanimous request of the Opposition for such an inquiry six months ago.
– ‘The royal commission to investigate the subject of wireless in Australia was appointed by the Government because, after full consideration, it considered such an inquiry desirable. There is no connexion between that appointment and the action taken by the honorable member for Batman last year.
– Last year I asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the difficulties experienced by honorable members in getting attested signatures to documents relating to their States, he would request the State Govenments that a certain number of Federal members should be appointed commissioners for taking affidavits for each State. In Melbourne such commissioners can be found with some difficulty, but at Canberra the need for the convenience I have suggested will be much greater.
– I am not in a position to state now what action was taken in regard to the honorable member’s suggestion, but I shall furnish him with an answer to his inquiry as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether the Navy Department has been advised from Great Britain that the beam wireless system is practically useless for naval purposes.
– The department has not received advice to that effect.
– Has the .Government given consideration to the advisability of exercising this Parliament’s constitutional power to enact a uniform divorce law for Australia?
– It is not usual for announcements of Government policy to be made in the form of answers to questions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will the Government ascertain from the commission why -
Will the Government arrange with the commission -
– The Minister is in communication with the Federal Capital Commission in regard to these matters, and the honorable member will be advised as soon as the necessary information is available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are -
Date, number, and successful tenderers - 28th August, 1925, 2, Hodge and Dose, Sydney. 19th November, 1925, 1, Aero Engineering and Construction Company, Melbourne. 23rd June, 1926, 4, Hodge and Dose, Sydney. 26th February, 1927, 4, Hodge and Dose, Sydney.
– On the 3rd March, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr West) asked the following questions: -
I replied to question No. 1, and promised to obtain the information required in question No. 2. The amounts paid in capitation fees to schoolmasters in each State since . the inauguration of the scheme in 1923 are as follow: -
Motion (by Mr. Hill) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an Act relating to sections 18, 18a, 21, and 28a of the War Service Homes Act1918-1926.
Bill presented by Mr. Hill and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1926, and for other purposes.
In committee (consideration resumed from 18th March, vide page 699) :
Uponwhich Mr. Charlton had moved, by way of amendment -
That part 2, Prime Minister’s Department, £76,710, be reduced by £1.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), as a protest against the action of another place in disallowing an award of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator relating to an extension of child allowance. The Government’s action was wrong in principle and wrong in method. Taking the second point first, I do not. for one moment, say that Parliament has not an inherent right to disallow any award of the arbitrator.What is being challenged is not that right of Parliament, but the right of one House, without specific power being given to it under the Act, to disallow an award. Only one condition is laid down, giving the right to one House to disallow an award, and that is when the award conflicts with a Commonwealth law or regulation. Tho responsibility rests on the Government to prove that the award of the arbitrator is not in accord with either Commonwealth law or Commonwealth regulation. If it cannot establish that, then the award cannot be disallowed by one House. Both houses of the Parliament should decide whether an award is to be disallowed, and this House should see that the rights of Parliament are preserved. The only reason given for the action that has been taken is that the award conflicts with the policy of the Government, or of Parliament, as laid down in 1920. I submit to the Attorney-General that the Government cannot have this matter both ways. Either the award conflicts with Commonwealth law or regulation, or it does not. If it does so conflict, it is the duty of the AttorneyGeneral to show us how it conflicts. It was the duty of the representative of the Government in the Senate to prove that to honorable senators there; but no attempt was made to prove that the award conflicted with a Commonwealth law or regulation. That is why I say that the Government has acted wrongly. The Government’s only excuse was policy. Parliament alone has the right to disallow an award of the arbitrator. Sub-section 2 of section 22 of the Arbitration Public Service Act 1920, provides, in effect, that the arbitrator may submit, with his determination, a statement of the laws or regulations with which his determination is not, or may not be, in accord. Subsection 4 provides that if the AttorneyGeneral advises that the determination is not in accord with any law or regulation, his opinion, together with the determination, shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament.
– Either the statement of the Arbitrator or the opinion of the Attorney-General is necessary to operate that section.
– But when an opinion is offered it has to be an opinion, and the opinion of the Attorney-General is asked as to whether a determination is not in accord with a Commonwealth law or regulation. There is no latitude allowed him under that section. Under the section the Arbitrator may use the terms “is not” or “may not “ ; but under sub-section 4 the Attorney-General, if he acts, must say whether the determination “ is not in accord with a law or regulation.” If that opinion is given, either House of the Parliament may disallow the determination. But what is the Attorney-General’s opinion?With respect to award No. 47, he referred to sub-section 3, section 90, of the Public Service Act, and to Public Service Regulation No. 86. The terms used by the honorable gentleman are strange terms for an Attorney-General to use in giving a legal opinion. He said, “ I am of opinion that the determinations are not, or may not be, in accord with certain provisions.” Under the secton he is not given thelatitude to say “may not be,” but is bound to express a definite opinion; he has to make up his mind and advise the Government and the Parliament. He, however, did not do that. He proceeded to quote subsection 3, section 90, of the Public Service Act, which, he indicated, conflicted with the determination of the Arbitrator. I submit that that subsection has nothing to do with the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, for it deals with payments under the Public Service Act, not the Arbitration Public Service Act. It provides that payments to officers, other than those for salary or prescribed allowances, shall be made only on the authority of the board. Such payments would be for special work, or for work performed under special circumstances. It makes no reference to payments under the Arbitration Public Service Act. Even if it does apply to an award under the Arbitration Public Service Act, the board has given authority for the payments, so therefore the point does not arise. Another point raised by the Attorney-General was in reference to regulation 86. He may be able to put forward a technical, legal argument to support his view, but I point out to him that the regulation providing for child allowances was made under the Public Service Act in 1920, and in 1921 the Public Service Arbitrator embodied it in his award. When he extended, the child allowances to officers in receipt of salaries between £500 and £600, he did not alter a regulation, but merely amended his own determination of 1921. Therefore, the new determination is an amendment of a previous award, and not an amendment of a regulation. The regulation did not apply to the clerical officers, but the award of 1921 provided for child allowances to be. paid to clerical officers.
– That followed the original regulation of 1920.
– It followed it, and embodied it. The High Court has held, in the postal linesmen’s case, that when a regulation is embodied in an award the Public Service Commissioners cannot alter it. The original Public Service regulation has no force as a regulation once it has been embodied in an award. The determination does not conflict, in substance at any rate, with any regulation under the Public Service Act. It merely deleted clause 5 of the 1921 award, and substituted a new clause for it. The determination, which has been disallowed on the ground that it conflicts with a regulation-
– That is not the ground for disallowing it. The honorable member must be aware that at least twenty determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator that are inconsistent with some law or regulation have been laid on the table of this House during the present session.
– Then the ground of objection is that the determination is in conflict with Government policy.
– As explained by the Prime Minister.
– The AttorneyGeneral has made my path easy and smooth. He has now stated that the ground on which the determination was disallowed was not that it conflicted with an award, as provided for in the act, but that it conflicted with a policy in the mind of the present Government, or of the Government that existed in 1920. There is only one way in which an award of the Arbitrator can be disallowed on the ground of policy, and that is by an amendment of the act passed by this Parliament, and the Government has no authority to transfer that right to one House of the Parliament. The Government has taken the wrong course to do a wrong thing, and I am glad of the Attorney-General’s interjection, because it relieves me of any further responsibility of pursuing the other line of argument. I ask the Attorney-General to show whence he, or the Government, derives any authority to disallow an award of the Arbitrator on the ground of policy. This is the first arbitration award that has been disallowed in the history of Public Service arbitration.For sixteen years awards affecting the Public Service have been made by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court and the Public Service Arbitrator. We are now told by the Attorney-General, as we have been told by the Prime Minister, and as the members of another place were told by the Leader of the Government there, that this is a question of policy. I ask them, “What policy?” Is it the policy of the Government of 1920, or the probable policy of this Government, which is not yet announced, and is not likely to be announced? The Prime Minister stressed the view on Friday that the determination conflicted with the policy of the Parliament of 1920, and that the Arbitrator had no right to alter that policy. I submit that he has every right to alter it. In determination No. 10 of 1921, the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Atlee Hunt, quoted the Prime Minister of that day, (he Right Hon. W. M. Hughes-
The Prime Minister said on the 11th December, 1020 last, as regards the child endowment, “ It is not suggested that the sum proposed represents the whole cost of maintenance of dependent children”; and went on to emphasize what he has said previously that those proposals were provisional only, and that anything further should be left to the Public Service Arbitrator, who at that time had not been appointed.
The policy of the Parliament at that time is quite easily stated. It agreed to a tentative regulation of the matter, but left the final decision to the Public Service Arbitrator. I submit that his determinations can be altered only by an act of Parliament, and not by a motion introduced in one House of the Parliament. The Prime Minister disputed the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the officers pay this allowance. I reaffirm what the Leader of the Opposition said. The officers pay the allowance, first of all, in a reduced salary. When child allowance was first granted the basic wage payable to the Service was reduced by £11, and upon the basis that was then ‘fixed, namely, £204, instead of £215, the salaries of all the different grades of the Service up to £600 were fixed. The position at present is that all the officers within the salary range of £600 are receiving a reduced wage because child allowance is paid.
– Does the honorable member say that this determination reduces the salaries of officers?
– What I say is that when it was first decided to pay child allowance, a reduction in the basic wage of the Service was made, and that officers on a higher salary range were automatically obliged to accept a reduced wage.
– Up to the £500 level; but, in so far as there is a child allowance payment now up to £600, it must follow that the basis has been varied.
– The AttorneyGeneral is quite wrong. The arbitrator has fixed £600 as the limit of salary in the Service affected by basic wage considerations, and that has been practically admitted by the Public Service Board. Not only do the officers of the Service pay child allowance because of the reduction of the basic wage, but the reduced basic wage has reduced the payment for overtime and travelling allowances. It was pointed out quite clearly to the arbitrator that officers up to the £600 basis at any rate were suffering, and for that reason he deliberately raised the bar from £500 to £600. The arbitrator said quite definitely that “ child allowance is a supplement to the basic wage” allowed to officers up to the £600 level. Let me give one or two illustrations to show how the bar at £500 adversely affected certain officers. Take the case of a third class officer with three children, whose salary was £460. He was allowed £39 as child allowance. He was granted an increment of £20, which made his salary £480. With full child allowance he should have received £519; but as his salary could not exceed £500 with child allowance, he received only £20 in child allowance instead of £39. That is an anomaly. Take the case of a third class officer in receipt of a salary of £4S9 per annum and £11 child allowance. He was advanced to the second class, with a salary of £509 per annum.. He lost his child allowance through his advancement, so his increase was really only £9 per annum. It must be apparent to honorable members from these illustrations that the bar of £500 was a great injustice. It has been argued that there will still be injustices if the bar remains at £600. As a matter of fact, the officers’ claim was that it should be abolished altogether. But take the argument that there would be some amount of injustice with the bar at £600. On that point the arbitrator, Mr. Atlee Hunt, in making his award, observed -
If one draws an arbitrary line anywhere, difficulties of this kind are bound to arise.
The number of such difficulties, however, de creases, and their importance is diminished the higher one places that line.
But the board itselfhas now decided that the basic wage affects salaries up to £600 per annum.
I wish now to emphasize the point made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the Public Service Board approved of the arbitrator’s award almost as soon as it was made, and extended the benefits of it to the whole Service. So that honorable members may be quite clear on this matter, may I point out to them that the award applied only to the clerical officers, who constitute about 25 per cent. of the Service. But the board, recognizing the justice of it, amended its regulation to make it applicable to the whole Service. Theamended regulation was approved at a meeting of the Executive Council, which must consist of at least two Cabinet Ministers, with the Governor-General or the Vice-President of the Executive Council as chairman. The result has been that child allowance has actually been paid to officers up to the £600 salary range since last December, except in one case, and in that case it has been paid since the 2nd. January. The Prime Minister was asked how it comes about that two and a half months after the Executive Council passed the amended regulatiou the Government has moved in Parliament to have it disallowed. His reply was one of the most astounding that has been heard on the floor of this chamber, and indicates that members of the Cabinet are acting in a seriously irresponsible manner. The Prime Minister said that the regulation was passed by the Executive Council owing to the inadvertence of a public officer in not drawing attention to the magnitude of the amendment. Surely it is the duty of the Executive Council to satisfy itself that amendments proposed to regulations are justifiable before it sanctions them. That it did not do so in this case demonstrates that this is a rubber-stamp Ministry with a vengeance.
– The honorable member has forgotten to mention that the whole of the regulations are being consolidated. It was not a matter of one regulation, but of dozens.
– That does not alter the position. The suggestion now is that the Government could read one re gulation but not a number of them. It is a poor excuse, and the Prime Minister’s explanation makes the matter worse, because I may take it that the whole of the consolidated regulations were approved without attention being drawn to their significance. The point is that the extra money is being paid to the clerical officers, and also to the officers ofother sections of the Service. The approval of the Executive Council to the regulation caused the Public Service Board to assume that approval to the award would be given automatically. Whether rightly or wrongly, the board has, under the award, paid the money for two and a half months, and the Prime Minister was in error in saying that it has not. Does the Government intend to ask these officers to refund the extra payment ?
– No. Where it has been paid under the regulation there will be no request for a refund.
– It has been paid under the award.
– Under the regulation.
– Under both.
– Ministers will have their attention drawn to the fact that the money has been paid under the award as well as under the regulation, and it has been done through the board acting on the assumption that the laying of the regulation on the table of Parliament was only a matter of form, since the Executive had agreed to it in regard to the rest of the Service. Will the officers who have received the payment under the award be compelled to refund it?
– It cannot be legally paid to any officer under the award.
– But I am assured that officers have received it since December last, and that the action has been taken by the board. Evidently there is something wrong. Since the question of Government policy was not raised before the Arbitrator, and the claimants had no opportunity to argue that matter before him, I suggest that an injustice was done to them. Why did not Ministers attend and raise that question, giving the officers an opportunity to argue the merits of the case, instead of going quietly to the Senate and moving i;o have the determination disallowed? The Public Service Board has extended the benefit of the award to every other section of the Service, and lias power to continue the payment of the allowance, although the Government may ask it not to do so. The Government should repeal the resolution, and allow the Arbitrator’s award to stand.
– The points raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) regarding the statute call for a reply from me. The Arbitration Public Service Act 1920 embodies the policy of tho Parliament as a whole. That policy is that either House of Parliament shall, in the case of members of the Public Service, have the right to disallow a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. That that is so becomes obvious on the slightest consideration of the statute. What the legislature determined was that in any case where a determination was “ not in accord “ - to use the words of the statute - with a law of the Commonwealth or a regulation under it, Parliament could not make an alternative determination, but veto the particular determination. Either House may take that action, and the other branch of the Legislature has under the Statute the same rights in this respect as this House possesses. Such action may be taken upon a statement of the Public Service Arbitrator that the award may not be in accord with a law of the Commonwealth, or a regulation under it, even if no opinion has been expressed by the Attorney-General; it may be taken where there is both a statement by the Arbitrator and an opinion by the AttorneyGeneral, as in this case; or it may be taken on the presentation of the opinion of the Attorney-General alone. There was here a statement by the Arbitrator specifying the law - namely, section 90, sub-section 3 of the Public Service Act, and regulation 86 - with which the determination is not in accord. Subsection 5 of section 22 of the Arbitration Public Service Act says -
If, in the case of a determination, accompanied by such a statement of the Arbitrator, or opinion of the Attorney-General, as is above referred to, either House of the Parliament, within thirty days after the deter mination with the statement or opinion bus been laid before both Houses, passes a resolution disapproving the determination, the determination shall not come into operation.
That provides a form of veto, not a power of substitution, and either House has the power to prevent a determination from coming into operation. As honorable members are aware, a resolution disallowing this determination has been passed in another place. Therefore, th>: determination is not in operation, neve” has been, and cannot now come into operation. It is, of course, open to honorable members of the Opposition, or any others, to object to the Government inviting either House to pass a particular resolution, but honorable members should understand that owing to the action which has already been taken in another place, which has equal rights with this Chamber in the matter, the determination is not in operation, and cannot be brought into operation.
The ground upon which the control of Parliament is invited in this case is not, as .1 ventured to interject when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking, the mere fact that the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator was inconsistent with some law or regulation. If honorable members will refer to the records of the House they will find that as soon as it met a considerable number of determinations were laid upon the table - 21 I am informed - and in all but four cases they were accompanied by a statement by the Arbitrator and an opinion of the Attorney-General that they were not in accord with some law or regulation of the Commonwealth. It is a common thing for that to be done; in almost every case a determination altering existing conditions is accompanied with a statement and certificate of the kind I have referred to.
– Does the Government propose to disallow all that are inconsistent ? .
– No; that is the point I am making. The mere fact that determinations are inconsistent with laws or regulations of the Commonwealth is very little regarded. The records make it plain that that is the practice which has been followed ever since the Public Service Arbitrator commenced his work.
Almost every determination is inconsistent with a law or regulation. But the act under which the arbitrator functions contemplates that the Parliament should have and exercise, in regard to the Public Service, a responsibility which is not provided for in regard to arbitration decisions generally. If an award were made drastically reducing payments to the Public Service, would any honorable member contend that both Houses of this Parliament must necessarily accept the Public Service Arbitrator’s determinations? The honorable member for Yarra suggested that determinations of the arbitrator should be accepted without question-
– I did not.
– And that it was wrong for the Government to ask either House to set aside such a determination on a question of policy.
– Hear, hear! It is for Parliament, and not for one House of the Parliament, to do that.
– The honorable member’s objection is an objection to the statute, which says that either House may pass a resolution disallowing a determination, and thereupon the determination shall not come into operation.
– Not on a question of policy; that is my point.
– The statute provides that if a certain condition is fulfilled, namely, the accompaniment of a determination by a statement of the arbitrator, or an opinion of the Attorney-General, either House of the Parliament may take action to disallow a determination.
– This may be in accord with a policy not yet divulged.
– The Prime Minister has stated the reasons.
– The reasons should be decided by the Parliament and not by one chamber.
– The statute provides that either House may act. If honorable members think that the statute should be altered, it is open to them to take the necessary action to secure its amendment, and provide that a resolution disapproving a determination must bo passed in both Houses. That, however, is not the law as it stands. The honorable member for Yarra suggested, I thought, in no very convincing manner, that the arbitrator and myself, as Attor ney-General, were wrong in thinking that there is an inconsistency between the award and sub-section 3 of section 90 of the Public Service Act and Regulation No. 86. It would be wasting the time of the committee to spend very much time in considering that point, because, in view of the fulfillment of the conditions precedent, the existence of the statement and the opinion, another place was undoubtedly entitled to take the action it did. If honorable members will turn to sub-section 3 of section 90 of the Public Service Act they will find that it provides that -
Payments of money to officers, other than for salary, or prescribed transfer or travelling allowances or expenses, or other prescribed allowances, shall be made only on the authority of the board.
The Public Service Act states that all payments to officers other than those specifically referred to in the sub-section quoted shall be made under the authority of the board and not under any other authority. This award authorizes the payment of child allowance to officers who were not previously entitled to such an allowance. Accordingly, I go so far as to say that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the determination of the arbitrator, in authorizing payments under the award, was not in accord with the Public Service Act, which says that, except in certain cases, all payments to officers must be authorized by the board, and in those specified cases child allowances are not included.
– An award may be inconsistent with the act.
– Practically every award is inconsistent with this section, but some are not. Some, for example, which alter the conditions of employment without having any effect upon the salaries or wages paid, would not be in conflict with the section. The honorable member for Yarra said very little about Regulation No. 86; but plainly the award is not in accord with that regulation, because it authorizes the payment of child allowance, with £600 as the salary limit, and so authorizes the payment of the allowance to officers who do not come within Regulation No. 86. which provides a limit of £500. An award does not alter any regulation. The original regulations, if they have not been affected by subsequent amendment or repeal, still remain. There are regulations still subsisting with, which many awards are not in accord. The making of an award inconsistent with a regulation does not repeal the regulation. For example, to make my point plain, I will suppose tha’t a regulation authorizes a certain man to receive 15s. a day. An award is subsequently made which says that he is to receive 16s. a day. It is then the duty of the Public Service Arbitrator to state - and the right of the Attorney-General to inform the House - that the award is not in accord with the 15s. a day regulation. Suppose, then, that a further award were made altering the 16s. per day to 17s. per day. That, again, would not be in accord with the original regulation fixing 15s. per’ day; and once again it would be the duty of the arbitrator, and the opportunity of the Attorney-General, to inform the House that an award had been made which was not consistent with what the Parliament had elected to adopt as either the law of the country directly expressed in a statute or as a regulation made under a statute. The object of the legislation is to ensure that Parliament is informed as to changes made from time to time in statutes and regulations in their application to members of the Public Service. The statutes aud regulations still remain, but the House has an opportunity of considering what it will do in the case of an award that is not iu accord with then,. The honorable member for Yarra said that any objection ought to have been taken before the Public Service Arbitrator. But if the honorable member looks at the report he will find that it says -
The board object to the granting of the claim. In their former answer they stated that no justification exists for altering the salary limit of £500 in respect of the payment of child endowment, this limit being sufficiently removed from the basic wage to warrant its retention.
There is an objection on the ground of general policy which, however, the Government do not take on this occasion. As the Prime Minister has said, the reason for action being taken to disallow this award is that the child allowance having originally been introduced by the Government and not by the arbitrator is an act of policy, and in view of the fact that the Government has invited the State Government to a conference upon the whole question of child endow-
A/r. Latham. ment, it is most undesirable that anything should be done at the present stage to prejudice the consideration of so important a question as the limit of salary within, which child allowance should be paid. The Prime Minister has not expressed any opinion, as the Public Service Board has done, as to what the limit ought to be, but has asked that the matter should be considered at a conference which should shortly take place, free from the atmosphere of prejudgment, which would undoubtedly surround it if it could be represented at that conference that the Commonwealth Parliament had accepted £600 as an appropriate limit of salary for the payment of such an allowance. Honorable members aire doubtless aware that on many occasions, and not altogether without justification, it has been said, that all the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator’s awards have received the approval of Parliament and have been accepted by it. In fact what happens is merely that they have not been disallowed by Parliament. Honorable members must recognize that at such a time as this, if such a proposal were allowed to pass, it might readily be represented that it was the decision of this Parliament that an appropriate limit for the payment of child endowment allowance is £600 a year. That would certainly make it much more difficult to approach the matter in a conference on this important subject. I hope I have made it plain that, while the whole matter was discussed before the Public Service Arbitrator, and a general objection was taken on the grounds of the statute, the Government is not going to commit itself in .the matter by saying that £500 or £600 a year is the salary which should be the limit. By allowing the determination to stand, it could be represented as approving of £600 a year as the limit of salary carrying the payment of child allowance. Honorable members, I hope, will appreciate that if that were considered to be the attitude of the Commonwealth Parliament it might go very far to prejudice the proper consideration of the question at the proposed conference. For these reasons only action has been taken in accordance with statute to prevent the award from operating. The honorable member foi’ Yarra admitted that the marginal cases to which he referred must exist, no matter what limit is imposed. Whether the amount be £100, £200, or any other figure, the principle will remain unchanged.
– If we can reduce the injustice, we should do it.
– The injustice would bc removed entirely if the limit were made £5,000.
– That is carrying the argument to absurd lengths.
– As the honorable member remarks, that is the reductio ad absurdum of the argument of the honorable member for Yarra.
– It is the Arbitrator’s award that the Attorney-General is trying to reduce to an absurdity.
– I have said nothing about the Arbitrator’s award in that sense. The honorable member for Yarra referred to the marginal cases, which must exist whatever the limit may be.
– And the Arbitrator pointed out that their number would be reduced if the salary limit were increased to £600.
– And it could be reduced still further if the salary limit were made £1,000. Having regard to the nature and object of child allowance, that is an argument that can have very little weight with this House. As to the contention that the child allowance is paid by the officers themselves, the Arbitrator was not as sure as the honorable member for Yarra on that point. The contention having been raised that the child allowance imposed no burden on the Commonwealth finances, as it was in reality paid from a fund to which all officers contributed, the Arbitrator said, “ I am not quite sure that the reference to all officers is strictly correct.”
– That was in reply to the contention that the limit should be removed entirely.
– When the child allowance was first paid to officers in receipt of salaries up to £500, the basic wage was re-adjusted in accordance with that limit. When the limit was increased to £600, and the determination did not affect the basic wage, or overtime rates, or travelling allowance, it is clear that the increased amount would not be pro dded by the officers. The result would be that a larger sum would have to be paid by the Commonwealth under thp. determination, and no counterbalancing reduction would be made in the basic wage payments to Commonwealth officers as was done when the allowance was originally introduced. However, that is a comparatively small point. The reasons for the Government’s action in having the regulation disallowed are that from the beginning child allowance has beeu treated as a matter to be determined by Parliament rather than by the Arbitrator, and, more particularly, because this is a most inopportune time for Parliament to suggest casually and inferentially that it has arrived at a determination as to the wage limit to which the child allowance should apply.
.- A great deal of surprise and disgust will be created in the electorates generally when there is a clear understanding of the Government’s insidious attempt to undermine the principle of conciliation and arbitration. The general question of child endowment is not affected by this step, so that when the Attorney-General speaks of the considered policy of the Government he is, of course, surveying at leisure and in distant prospect the Government policy in regard to the whole broad area of child allowance. Because at some remote period - and, judging by the relationship of performances to promises in the past, it will be very remote - the Government proposes to tackle the big problem of child endowment generally, it proceeds to destroy the meagre measure of that policy already applied by the Public Service Arbitrator to a particular class. In that connexion the Government has a good deal to explain. The Attorney-General proved that the ground of interference is not a conflict of laws. The real reason is that the Arbitrator’s determination conflicts with Government policy. We had been led to believe that arbitration was part of the Government’s policy, and I remind the committee that I took a good deal of trouble in connexion with the referendum last year to support that plank of the ministerial platform which has long been Labour’s policy. The Labour party believes in arbitration, but not as something to be asserted and approved as an abstract principle, and as soon as it begins to pinch one or another, including the Government as employer, to be rejected and dishonoured. That is why we regard the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition as one of very grave importance and involving a principle to which industrialists throughout the continent should give close attention. Regulation 86 is in these terms -
Tn addition to the rates of salary fixed by these regulations or under any determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service Act) 1020, there shall be payable to each officer who is married or a widower, or a widow, and who is the father or step-father or mother or step-mother of dependent children under the age of fourteen years, and who is in receipt of salary at a rate less than £600 per annum - an allowance of £13 per annum in respect of each such child so dependent. A similar allowance may, on tlie approval of the board, lie granted to any officers in respect to orphan or adopted children under the age of fourteen years who are dependent upon and maintained by that officer:
Provided that the total sum per annum paid to any officer under this sub-regulation shall not exceed the amount by which the salary of tlie officer per annum falls short of £600.
That is the regulation as adopted by the Arbitrator and amended by him by increasing £500 to £600 as part of the award. A very large proportion of the clerical workers in the Public Service hoped to enjoy immediately the fruits of the award, and, because it was an award of the Arbitrator in accordance with law, it was generally assumed that it would receive in due course the imprimatur of Parliament. The Attorney-General admitted that that would be- the ordinary and natural course, because he said that a considerable number of the awards of the Arbitrator are in conflict with, or not in accord with, some law or regulation of the Commonwealth, but that that fact had not inspired any previous Government to move for their disallowance. In the past, effect has been given to the policy of arbitration, and the act or regulation with which an award has been technically in conflict, has remained a dead letter, and the award has been the real and living thing. This Government has adopted a new procedure. Taking advantage of section 22 of the Arbitration Public Service Act, the AttorneyGeneral has woven an attenuated legal argument in justification of the Government’s determination to destroy the award
Mr. Brennan. increasing the child allowance limit to £600. That section reads -
The Arbitrator may make a determination which is not in accord with an award or order of the court, but, except as provided in this section, is not empowered to make any determination which is not in accord with the laws of the Commonwealth and the regulations made thereunder.
That is to say, the Public Service Arbitrator may make an award which is inconsistent with some general award applying to others who are not public servants, but. if it is in conflict with a law or regulation of the Commonwealth, it can only be made as hereunder provided -
I understand that pursuant to that authority the great majority of the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator are accompanied by this very certificate, that it is not or may not be in accord with a law or regulation of the Commonwealth referring to salaries, &c. The section continues -
The wording of the act is clear, and its intention is equally clear. The act means that any award which is made in a regular manner by the Public Service Arbitrator is lawful, unless there is some clear antagonism between its terms and the expressed intention of this Parliament which made and passed this act, which could be done only by its being originated in this chamber, passed through three readings, transmitted to another place, and there being again passed through the same three stages. By no other process can that act and its intention be defeated. The Attorney-General does not pretend that there is any real conflict between the expressed will of this Parliament and the determination of the Arbitrator. He does not even profess that that is the reason for the action of another place in disallowing the award. I myself had viewed the act from a strictly legal and technical point of view, and I concluded that by torturing its language and taking into consideration its history, it was possible to argue that the Attorney-General had moved within the terms of the section by deciding that, at least, the award was out of harmony with an existing though practically inoperative regulation. But that tortured argument was not acceptable to the Attorney-General. His contention that the award interferes with the Government’s policy, and that the Government is against arbitration in this form, is a deliberate declaration of war upon the court. I ask the public al,1 honorable members of this chamber to realize that. The Attorney-General says, in effect, that it would be most inopportune at present to accept an award which in advance sets out the basis upon which childhood endowment may be paid. Child endowment is not new. The basis of its payment had already been adopted by the Public Service Arbitrator. It has been extended, and it is upon its extension that the Government has elected to make this attack. Perhaps this is the thin end of the wedge. Perhaps the Government, smarting under its recent defeat at the referendum, is beginning to unsay all that it has said in regard to its policy of arbitration. The Labour party stand’s for arbitration. It stands in opposition to this attempt to wrench from certain members of the Public Service a just award which they have received under a tribunal established by this Parliament. The Labour party will not allow this Government to “ put it over “ either the Parliament or the public by saying that on account of its policy it is justified in making an insidious attack upon the very foundation of our arbitration system.
.- This subject is very complicated and difficult to follow, but it appears to me that the Government’s action in disallowing an award of the Arbitrator is quite proper. At the same time, I think that the question of advisability is being very much overlooked. An award of the Arbitrator can be disallowed by the House only under section 22 of the act. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that there was no doubt that the House could disallow any award of the Arbitrator; but that does not appear to me to be strictly accurate, except in the case of the House actually amending the act.
– The disallowance of an award already laid upon the table of the House is not provided for in the act except under section 22. We may take it for granted that, only when the Arbitrator’s determination is not in accord with the existing act or regulation, is either House justified in disallowing it. That has been clearly done in this case, because the Arbitrator himself attached to his determination a statement that he thought that it was not in accord with the provisions of the law. It is evident, therefore, that in this cause either House would be justified in disallowing the award. It is perfectly true that this has not been done before now, and, therefore, the grounds for the Government’s action require careful examination. A precedent has been set. We must not regard that power as being dormant merely because it has not hitherto been exercised. Of course, such an award can be disallowed only on a motion of the Government or by a private member. In this case it was done on a motion of the Government. The Government has said that it moved to disallow the award because it was contrary to policy. A great deal has been said- about this question of policy, . and it seems to me that some misunderstanding has been introduced into the debate. I take it that, when an act or regulation is in force it must be recognized as the expression of the policy of the country or of the Government for the time being, but, to my mind, a prospective policy could not be taken as a ground for asking either House of Parliament to disallow an award. I consider that the Government would be justified in saying to either House, “ This determination is at variance with the act and regulations which at present represent the policy of this country, and we ask you not to agree to it, because we do not want that policy altered at present.” That, I think, would be right. If the Government brought forward reasons which commend themselves to honorable members for not altering that policy, the House would be justified in disallowing the determination. The reason put forward by the Government for its action is that an extension of this policy is not desirable at the present time, because of the proposed conference. That is not a sound reason. Provided that the conference is held, and that an agreement is reached - of which we may have grave doubts - it is very improbable, as indicated by the Prime Minister, that the limit of salary to which child endowment applies will be raised as high as £600. It is doubtful whether, in any general scheme, it will be even as high as £500. Therefore, I suggest that the argument about the probable results of the conference is equally applicable to a salary limit of £500 a year as to a salary limit of £600 a year. There would be a much sounder ground for objection if it had been said that the scheme of child endowment -was concocted on the basis of a maximum salary of £500, because it is obvious that the basic wage determination, on which the system rests, was made in accordance with a scheme embodying a £500 limit, and it cannot, justly and fairly, be applied beyond that. It is clear that at the hearing before the arbitrator, the Public Service Board took that view. The board contended that if the limit was extended to £600 it would entail a diminution of the salaries of the lower-paid officers. In fact, if the system was fairly and logically constructed, with a. limit of £600, it would mean that, if the system is self- contained, the reduction of the salaries of the lower-paid officers will have to make up the extra child endowment, the basic wage being lowered accordingly. As a matter of fact, the arbitrator has not, in a proper sense, introduced an extension of the scheme; he has merely recommended increases of salary to officers receiving between £500 and £600 a year without dovetailing them into the child endowment scheme. It has been clearly stated, over and over again, that the Service it’ self pays for the child endowment. I doubt whether it is possible for any member of this committee to say whether that is so or not. It is quite probable that when the scheme was inaugurated, the number of officers, their salaries, and whether they were married or single, were taken into, account. But no one can say to-day that the proportion of married to single, or of high-salaried to low-salaried officers, is such that the extension of the child endowment scheme would not require further contributions from the Consolidated Revenue. However, the present situation may have arisen, there can be no doubt that a grave injustice has been done to a section of the Service by the regulation issued by the Public Service Commissioners providing for the payment of the allowance to certain other officers outside the award. That regulation cannot now be altered. If it be true, as the honorable member for Yarra (Ma-. Scullin) has said, that officers under the award, who are receiving this extra pay, will have it withheld, it is obvious that a grave injustice will be done to them, as compared with other members of the Service who are paid under the Public Service regulation. I hope tha<t consideration of that injustice will induce the Government not to press for the disallowance of the determination. Surely the Public Service Commissioners must have been negligent in their work. They should not have issued the regulation before the determination had come into force, for there is no doubt that the regulation was based on the determination. It has been said that determinations have been lodged so often without being disallowed, that the commissioners took it for granted that this determination would not be disallowed. Because Parliament did not meet, and because the determination had, by default, not been formally approved, the commissioners assumed that it would be approved.
– The commissioners have power to pass a regulation whether an award is approved or not.
– That is true, but we know that the regulation was based on the award.
– To be fair to the board, the honorable member must admit that the board did not make the regulation until the Executive Council had given its approval of the determination.
– I know that, and it raises some interesting questions. When the determination of the arbitrator was first submitted to the Government, did the arbitrator communicate to the Government the fact that it was not in accordance with the existing law and regulations? If he did that, it is certainly extraordinary that the matter should have been overlooked. I certainly think that there is much blame attaching to the Public Service Commissioners for submitting a large batch of consolidated regulations for approval, as if they were redrafts of existing regulations, without drawing attention to such an important matter as this.
– Practically every determination of the arbitrator is accompanied by a statement that it is not, or may not be, in accord with some act or regulation.
– The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) must agree that many of the regulations submitted for approval are insignificant when compared with that we are discussing. In the circumstances, I do not feel that I can vote for the amendment. The award of the arbitrator is unsound, because he aid not take into account the whole system of child endowment, and the Public Service Commissioners are somewhat to blame- for having created an anomalous position, for which the Government, unfortunately, must take the responsibility, although it could not very well act otherwise than it has acted. If the conference with the representatives of* the States does not result iu a general scheme of child endowment being adopted, will the Prime Minister then take into consideration the restitution of the payments provided for in the determination, so that members of the Public Service shall not suffer for the faults of those who are supposed to look into these matters ?
.- The reason advanced by the Government for disallowing the determination of the Public .Service Arbitrator is public policy, but public policy is undoubtedly overshadowed by the principle involved in interfering with an arbitration award made after the fullest possible investigation of the facts. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) discussed the merits of the action of the arbitrator and the Public Service Board, but I remind the committee that that question has been very exhaustively considered. The board put forward long arguments in reply to the claims of the organization, and the arbitrator fully considered the views of both sides before arriving at his determination. I submit that the committee is not greatly concerned with that aspect of the matter; but we are concerned with the action of a government which, for the first time in the history of arbitration in the Public Service, has taken steps to disallow an award, without even presenting to the House a full statement of the reasons for its action. The only reason we have had is that the award is not in accord with government policy. The AttorneyGeneral, in defending the legality of the Government’s action, referred to the effect of the words’ “ may not be “ in section 22 of the Arbitration Public Service Act. Evidently, from the line of his argument, he suggests that “may not be” may be construed to mean “ may not in the future be,” because, at the present time, the Government has no policy of child endowment. The Government has had eighteen months in which to promulgate a policy, and has now given the vague undertaking that a conference will be held shortly to discuss the matter. In the circumstances, and in the absence of any definite action by the Government to introduce a general scheme, I cannot see that there is either moral or legal justification, in the broad sense, for the Government’s action in another place. In any case, there is no true basis of comparison between child endowment as applied to. the Public Service and to the community generally. If that were the argument advanced by the Government in opposition to the extension of the scheme to include those in receipt of .-£600 a year, it would apply with equal force to the previous limit of £500 a year, and, in fact, to any limit that could be prescribed in a Public Service award or by regulation. Members of the Public Service pay for their child endowment scheme. The basic wage in the Service is assessed on a lower scale than is applicable outside the Service. Each member of the Service pays £11 a year, the basic wage being reduced by that amount. In the determination of the child endowment scheme the children of all the officers employed in the Service were taken into consideration, so that it can undoubtedly be said that every officer contributes towards the scheme. The Public Service puts forward the argument that, even if the Government adopted a more generous policy, and did not disallow the award, there would be no increase in the expenditure by the Government. In other words, the increase of the maximum salary in respect of which child endowment is paid from £500 to £600 is, in a sense, being paid at present from Commonwealth funds ; but this is largely compensated for, because the Service basic wage is lower than the Harvester equivalent. If the Service wage were adjusted to the nearest £1 it would be slightly higher than it. actually is. For these and other reasons clearly stated during the hearing of the case, the arbitrator decided that the Government would not be unduly burdened by the small amount involved in the increase. I am advised that the total extra expenditure would be only about £8,000 a year. But the principle at stake is important. In my opinion no Government is justified in interfering with an award of the arbitrator. If we permit this Government to interfere on this occasion without the strongest protest, it seems to me that a precedent will be established, which will undoubtedly undermine the confidence of the Service in the principle of arbitration. If this award is jettisoned I can see no reason why other awards should not be upset. If it may be said with acceptance that this award must be upset, because it is not in accord with the Government’s child endowment policy, I see no reason why the argument should not be accepted that basic wage awards should be upset because they do not coincide with what the Government considers should be the basic wage. The Commonwealth superannuation scheme might be assailed by similar arguments when the Government comes to consider national insurance. In fact, I cannot see the end of argument along those lines. Upon information supplied to me recently from a reliable source, it appears that the Commonwealth Government has benefited considerably by reason of the Service basic wage being lower than the Commonwealth basic wage. The Service basic wage is lower only because of this child allowance scheme. If the scheme were abolished and the Service basic wage adjusted to the outside rate the Government would be considerably worse off than at present. The Public Service Board did not consider that any vital principle had been departed from by the arbitrator, but approved of the extra payments being made, without even waiting for the determination to be tabled in Parliament. It is remarkable that the Government should have adopted its present attitude, for a few months ago, when we were debating certain proposed amendments of the Constitution, the Prime Minister and his supporters maintained strongly, in spite of our vigorous opposition, that Parliament should not be vested with any legislative authority to control industrial authorities. It appears that it desires a measure of control now which it did not desire last year. Action of this kind will unquestionably cause a great deal of unrest in the Public Service. The arbitrator, after careful inquiry, came to the conclusion that an injustice was being done to officers in receipt of salaries between £500 and £600, and he endeavoured to remedy it. I point out that £600 per annum is about the maximum salary payable to the rank and file of the clerical division of the Service, and is the maximum affected by basic wage increases. Very few officers, except those in executive and administrative positions, receive more than £600 per annum. In all the circumstances I enter my emphatic protest against the action of the Government, and I trust the amendment will be carried.
. - A few minutes ago the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) urged that if the award of the arbitrator were allowed to stand it might unduly influence a conference which we are told will be held a few months hence to discuss a general policy of child endowment for the Commonwealth. I do not see how we can take any notice of an argument like that, for the Government has no child endowment policy. If it had, I could understand the Attorney-General using that argument, and askingus to give weight to it. I was opposed to the appointment of a Public Service arbitrator, but since he has been appointed we should unquestionably respect his awards. I wonder what the attitude of the Government would be if this decision had been given by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? It would hardly have taken this stand, because had it done so it would have received deserved rebuke from the bench. The regulation to which reference has been made was approved by the Executive Council on the 22nd December. Does the Government intend to influence the Public Service Board to withdraw it? Unless it is withdrawn, the only effect of our failure to pass theamendment will be that child allowance will be paid to 75 per cent. of the officers in the Service in receipt of salaries between £500 and £600 per annum, and will not be paid to the other 25 per cent. of them. I hope that the Public Service Board will stand its ground and refuse to withdraw the amended regulation. If it does so, the Government will be in a peculiar position. Our whole object in appointing the first Public Service Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan, and the commissioner who succeeded him, and in later constituting a board of commissioners, was to remove the Public Service entirely from political control. It will be deplorable if the Government does anything to defeat that object. I expect the Public Service Board to stand to its guns. Subregulation 86 of the amended regulation provides that child allowance shall be paid to certain officers -
Provided that the total sum per annum paid to any officer under this sub-regulation shall not exceed the amount by which the salary per annum of the officer falls short of £600.
That is fair and reasonable, and the Public Service Board should stand by it.
The regulation bears the signature of the chairman of the board, and Mr. J. P. McGlinn. The Executive Council approval of it is signed as follows : - “ Stonehaven, Governor-General. By His Excellency’s command, G. F. Pearce, for Acting Prime Minister.” I urge honorable members, irrespective of their political views, to vote for the amendment, and so indicate that they support theprinciple of arbitration. If the Public Service Board does not maintain the stand that it has taken it should be instantly dismissed as unworthy of its position. It can defy the Government in this matter, and it should do so.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Charlton’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The committee is entitled to an explanation from the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) regarding his management - or, possibly, I should say mismanagement - of loan funds. Last year certain loans at interest rates of 4-J and 5 per cent, were converted, although they were not due until December next. The tendency to charge high rates for gilt-edged securities is detrimental to the commercial and industrial life of the community. In about 1924 a. large loan conversion took place, and bonds issued at £98 10s. carried as much as 6 per cent, interest free from Federal income tax. The public realizes that Government securities furnish the easiest and safest means of investing money, and the interest is credited to the investor’s banking account without putting him to the expense of a receipt stamp. He is freed, too, even from all the disabilities associated with money lent on mortgage. The Treasurer should explain the reason for the recent increase in the interest rate from 4£ to 5^ per cent. Some of the loans have 30 years to run, and the increased interest is responsible for additional taxation to the extent of nearly £800,000 a year. High financial authorities in Great Britain are pointing out that the high rates of interest obtainable on gilt-edged loans are making it increasingly difficult to obtain cheap money for industrial and commercial enterprises. It must be recognized that the greatest needs of any country are cheap money and cheap land. Probably another heavy loan will be floated in June next, and I hope that the Government will not attempt to place it on the London market. Every effort should be made to raise the money in Australia. A considerable time has elapsed since a local loan was last raised. Never in the history of Great Britain has there been such a need as there now is for it to husband its own finances, and Australia would be ill-advised in making any unnecessary drain upon the London market. The Government appears to have drifted into a slipshod method of finance; the Treasurer seems to do as he chooses. No explanation has been made of his course of action in regard to the flotation of the last loan. Mr. J. R. Collins, the late Secretary to the Treasury, speaking hi Adelaide at one time, strongly deprecated the high rate of interest paid on gilt-edged securities. The Treasurer will tell us that he has acted upon advice. I do not know whose advice it was, but it was bad advice. I know how difficult it is for the honorable gentleman to get out of his groove. Unfortunately for Australia, he does not possess the courage necessary for a gentleman occupying his position. He should boldly tell the people from whom we raise money that we refuse to pay such high interest as that which is now being charged for our loans. It is pretty generally known that the Government intends to go upon the money market for a heavy loan in June next, but before it does so, it should exhaust the market in Australia. It is a long time since the Commonwealth Government raised a loan in Australia. If I had my way, I should convert all our war loans into consols, in very short time. The amount of money which the Commonwealth has to pay in the shape of interest is enormous, and if a very serious drought should come upon us, we would have no reserve to fall back upon as in previous years. ‘No one can say that calamities will not happen, and if we were statesmen, we should look ahead and make preparation for all emergencies. Men who do not look ahead are unfit to be Ministers of the Crown. Perhaps the remarks I have made will induce the Treasurer to let the people know what is going to be done in connexion with our loans. There must be a limitation to them. I seek information as to the reason which actuated the Government in practically raising the interest upon £60,000,000 from 4$ to 5£ per cent. When that money was originally borrowed, the country was at war. We did not know where we were, and were bound to drain our resources to the last in defence of the Commonwealth. No one would condemn the Government for doing that. But it is eight years since the war was over, and the interest being charged upon our loans is now higher than that charged upon loans floated during the war. When I say that our loans should be converted into consols, I am merely making a suggestion for the adoption of a practice followed by such men as Goschen, Gladstone, and Walpole, who made a study of financial questions in the interests of the British nation. We shall be compelled to adopt a similar policy. The redemption by the Government would mean money put in circulation. We have had loans floated with a currency of from five years to 30 years, and if they were converted into consols, they could be redeemed at any time the Government had a surplus. In this way, it would be possible to reduce the enormous burden of interest which Australia is called upon to bear on our war loans. It should be remembered that the war loans give no rft urn. Loans raised for public utilities give returns in profits from the undertakings upon which they are spent, and these assist to meet the interest charges upon them. In the case of a war loan we may pay in interest as much as £700,000 on a loan of £1,000,000, and at the end of the period of its currency, the £1,000,000 will still remain to be paid. I believe that the people would be prepared to assist the Government to reduce our debts. I made no special preparation for these remarks, but I have given considerable study to this question, and my knowledge of the subject is revived whenever the Treasurer presents a financial statement. The honorable gentleman should take the committee into his confidence and should take some steps to prevent the increase of interest on existing loans, even if he cannot redeem any of them. He has the power of conversion under an act passed by this Parliament. I was very pleased to see that act passed, and, no doubt, took part in the discussion upon it. It would be strange if I had not done so. We are told that some of the States are going to America for money, and the Treasurer may find himself in a similar position.
– As a loan bill will be submitted almost immediately, and that will afford the most appropriate opportunity to deal fully with the honorable member’s remarks, I shall defer my reply to them until that bill is introduced.
.- A notice of a question in my name appears on the business-paper for to-day regarding the alteration of the company law, but it is not in the form in which I submitted it. I understand that there is some practice under which questions must be framed in a particular way, but as mv question now appears it could- not elicit the information which I seek. The question which I put to the Prime Minister this afternoon was based upon the fact that, owing to recent reversals of previous decisions of the High Court, the people are left in doubt as to what view the High Court may take of any matter. I knew Chief Justice Griffith and Mr. Justice Barton many years before they were appointed to the High Court, and when the Court was first established it gave interpretations of the Constitution which differ greatly from interpretations since put upon it by the present High Court Bench. As the personnel of the High Court Bench has altered, so its interpretation of the law has altered. I am satisfied that, with the exception, perhaps, of the Victorian Government, the State Governments would be prepared to assist the Commonwealth Government in the passing of a companies act. There would not be such opposition to the passing of such legislation as the Prime Minister seems to fear. The Victorian Companies Act is the best in the Commonwealth, and there can be very little doubt that if the Commonwealth Government undertook the framing of a companies law, very many of the provisions of the Victorian act would be included in it. The Queensland and New South Wales acts have not been found to operate beneficially to traders. In the last few months there have been prosecutions in Sydney because persons had been deprived of large sums of money by bogus companies, the formation of which the New South Wales law did not prevent. In view of the diverse opinions expressed by the High Court, and of the fact that the State Governments generally would be in favour of an alteration of the company law, I think such a measure should be introduced in this Parliament. Then, if the High Court did not regard the measure as constitutional, it could be submitted to the people by way of referendum. In this connexion, let me say that, in taking a referendum the question submitted to the people should be one which they can readily understand. It is of no use to frame proposed constitutional amendments in language which the general public do not understand. If the High Court decided that a company law passed by this Parliament was not iu accordance with the Constitution, it could be submitted to the people. I have no doubt that they would consider that, as its provisions were due to the wisdom of the Australian Parliaments, they should accept it. Constitutional questions have been submitted to the people in the past in a form which they have been unable to comprehend. We know that in Switzerland some questions have been submitted to the people four or five times before they have been carried and converted into law. When the last federal referendum was taken we had just had under consideration the amendment of the Immigration Act providing for deportation, and it presented an insuperable obstacle to the acceptance of the constitutional reforms desired, in view of the fact that it was asked that further powers should be given to the Government responsible for the deportation provisions of the Immigration Act. The Government proposals for the discontinuance of the per capita payments to the States, and also the action of this Parliament in increasing the number of arbitration judges, and appointing them for life, would prejudice the success of any application to the people for a general increase in the powers of this Parliament. I quite understand that the Arbitration Court judges were appointed for life in accordance with constitutional requirements, but the people do not understand this, and the last referendum was put to them so hurriedly that there was little opportunity to inform their minds. Owing to frequent divergent judgments by the High Court, we have no real knowledge of what the Constitution means. The High Court of the United States of America is continually altering the interpretation of the Constitution, mainly in the direction of liberalizing it. Mere abstract proposals for a general enlargement of Commonwealth powers will never be sufficiently understood by the people to be accepted ; but if definite and specific issues are put to them, they will understand in what direction greater legislative authority is needed by the Federal Parliament. I know that there is a great demand throughout Australia for a uniform company law, and the President of the New South Wales Chamber of Com- merce, Mr. Paxton, has frequently urged the desirability of this Parliament taking action in that direction. I hope that when we meet in the rarefied atmosphere of our permanent Federal Capital at Canberra, the Parliament and the people will take a broader national view of the big problems that have to be solved.
– I ask the Government to give careful consideration to the request I have made on behalf of limbless soldiers, that they should be provided with small motor cars, or motor cycles with sidecars, or some other means of mechanical transport. There are some men in my electorate who have lost both legs, and as they are unable to move about, life is a misery to them. It would not cost the Commonwealth a great deal to provide these people with some means of locomotion, and so add materially to their comfort for the remainder of their lives. I notice in this schedule an item of £50,000 for the Air Force. I have had the pleasure of visiting the workshops at Randwick, where there is an excellent plant, a competent staff, and complete dies for the making of aeroplane parts. It is desirable that that establishment should be encouraged, and I desire to know- whether the amount provided in this bill is to be spent in organizing for the manufacture of planes within the Commonwealth, or is to be sent overseas for the purchase of foreign machines f
T5.55].- The amount of £50,000 is for the pay of the personnel at Randwick. The works established there are for experimenting with timbers and other materials likely to be suitable for the construction of aeroplanes. Unfortunately, Australia is not yet able to produce an aeroplane engine, which, of course, is the most vital and expensive part of the machine. We hope, however, that some of the larger British companies will establish aeroplane factories in Australia for the supply of the whole of our aircraft requirements. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney that the workshops at Randwick are well equipped and competently staffed, and are doing good work.
.- I and a member of another place have sought in vain from the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) a. definite pronouncement as to the date upon which the con- struction of the railway from Port Augusta to Redhill will be commenced. When asking a question of the Minister on the 2nd March, I emphasized the extensive unemployment in South Australia. The Minister stated that the survey had been completed, and he hoped, if time permitted, to introduce during this short session a bill to authorize the construction of the line. This week the House will be adjourning for several months, and I am concerned to know whether that bill will be brought forward immediately. The unemployment in South Australia is no myth. It is particularly ,acute in the northern part of the State, and on Tuesday last I saw 400 men applying for 50 vacancies. I do not wish it to be understood that the South Australian Government is not pushing forward with a vigorous public works policy. On the contrary, many more men are employed on public works in South Australia than in previous years, but the construction of the north-south railway, and the projected commencement of the Port Augusta to Redhill line, have induced labourers to migrate to South Australia from all parts of the Commonwealth. Whatever be the causes, the fact is only too plain that unemployment is general, and when winter comes, and many seasonal occupations al’/ discontinued, the problem will become more acute. The Port Augusta to Redhill railway project was referred to the Public Works Committee in February of last year for investigation and report, and I, as a member of the committee, considered it necessary to expedite the inquiry as much as possible. On the 24th April last, the committee presented its report to Parliament. The construction of the line from Port Augusta to Red Hill would not only relieve unemployment, but also reduce by nine hours the time taken by the transcontinental train on its journey from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie. This line would confer other advantages. It is approximately 90 miles in length, and for 60 males it will travel .through good wheat areas. Some of the farmers there are now carting wheat 23 miles ,to a railway; but, with the construction of this line, if sidings were placed at the most advantageous points, the maximum cartage would be only a few miles. I urge the Minister, before Par liament adjourns at the end of this week, to introduce a bill authorizing the construction of this railway. Other inquiries undertaken by the Public Works Committee since this inquiry have been, or are being, attended to. Only the other day the Postmaster-General, in reply to a question, said that the telegraph line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie would be opened within the next month. Because of the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia, the line from Red Hill to Port Augusta must eventually be constructed, and if this work were put in hand immediately it would relieve much of the unemployment that now exists in South Australia.
I wish now to refer to the type of cattle-truck used on the railway from Quorn to Oodnadatta. The other day I asked the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) whether he had received requests for the alteration of the design of the Commonwealth truck; whether it was a fact that seventeen cattle of a consignment of 44 vans from Oodnadatta had died in transport, and whether he would alter the truck to the design suggested by the pastoralists of the Northern Territory. The Minister replied that apparently the truckers on the Oodnadatta railway, being accustomed to the .South Australian cattle-truck, had not yet realized the advantages of the Commonwealth design, which was new to them, and that the record showed that no more deaths occurred in the Commonwealth truck than in the old design of truck. That statement is not in accordance with fact, as is shown by the following letter from a pastoralist at Macumba station : -
On the 17th January last I loaded 44 vans from Mr Dutton. The weather was very hot, and between lft. Dutton and Terowie we lost seventeen hoad, all these being lost in ‘ thu Commonwealth vans, which speaks for itself. The trains were .made up of State and Commonwealth vans, and, as nil the losses were in the latter, it speaks for itself. Losing this seventeen was a big loss to us, seeing that they were a fine mob, and the whole mob averaged £15 0s. Sci. in the Adelaide market. This is only one instance, and I could quote several. I would suggest that the Commonwealth vans be as near as the letter enclosed. This appeared in the News of the 4th February, 1927, and was written by a man, Mr. Pratt, who had years of experience travelling on cattle trains, looking after stock in transit. I can candidly say that it would cost the Commonwealth little to make the vans to the style of the State L vans; and, if they would, it would be better for all concerned. As it is, stock-owners are losing a big lot of stock, beside the unnecessary cruelty on the stock. I would be glad if you would fight to have those vans made more humane, and that Mr. Hill will see he has made a mistake. I claim to have enough experience to have a voice on this subject, as for years 1 have been the biggest trucker of stock in this district, and since the 13th October, 1926, up to now have loaded 4.000 cattle from Mr Button and Warrina South.
Ever since the Commonwealth trucks were constructed the pastoralists have protested against their use. They have been a cause for complaint at almost every meeting of the Pastoralists’ Association of South Australia. The Minister, in his reply the other day, suggested that experiments would be made to decide which was the more suitable type of truck. The Commonwealth truck has no roof and is boarded from top to bottom, the boards being an inch or two apart. The pastoralists ask that the Commonwealth truck be altered to the design of the truck used on the South Australian railways. The following is a copy of a letter that appeared in the Adelaide News on the 4th January last: - “Cattle Not Tortured.” My attention has just been called to a paragraph under the above caption appearing in your issue of the 29th ult. With all due respect to Mr. N. G. Bell’s views on tlie subject of cattle-trucks, I claim to have had as much experience of railing cuttle as lie has, and 1 say, without fear of contradiction by any cattle man, that the South Australian, Victorian, and New South Wales van is far superior to that adopted by the Commonwealth Bail ways Department.
Firstly, the absence of a roof to the Commonwealth truck leads to much suffering, especially in hot weather, aa the sun strikes down direct on the animals. Further, sparks and cinders from the engine cannot be prevented from falling into the trucks, and cattle frequently come to hand showing unmistakable signs of having been burnt.
Secondly, the State trucks arc partitioned so that eight or nine beasts are carried on each side of the partition, and it should be quite obvious that there is only one-half the risk of cattle getting down and being trampled on by other occupants of the truck if there are only eight or nine on the floor instead of, say, double the number. The trouble in this respect is caused during shunting operations or at the starting or stopping of the train. The cattle are then forced to one end of the truck, and obviously, where eighteen are in one compartment, there is double the risk of bruising us against eight or nine in a compartment. Further, if a beast goes down at the truck end, the other seventeen are forced on to and over him, and frequently he is trampled to death.
Thirdly, the State trucks have ventilation between each sideboard, and are completely open from about tlie height of the beast up to the roof. The animal naturally stands with his head to the opening, and so gets tlie full benefit of the air. In the Commonwealth truck just the reverse is the case; the ventilation is at the lowest part of the truck, and the top half is closely boarded up. The only place the beast can look out is at tlie bottom of the van; he therefore travels with his head down, and so increases the risk of being knocked over.
Fourthly, men are invariably engaged to look after cattle on long journeys such as from Oodnadatta to Adelaide. It is reasonably easy for them to get a fallen beast on to his feet in a State truck, but in the Commonwealth vehicle the job has to be tackled from the top of the van, and becomes very difficult. If Mr. Bell has any doubts on this score, he might ask the opinion of stockmen employed on this class of work. 1 would recommend him to travel incognito on one of his trains, say from Oodnadatta to Terowie, when, I feel sure, he would see and hear enough to cause him to change his opinion.
As to the absence of complaints about the condition of cattle after their journey to market, I know from my own personal experience that during the present summer many cattle have had to be taken off and left along the line on account of injuries incurred in the trucks, and the greater number of accidents have occurred in Commonwealth trucks. The cry is all for standardization of railway gauges: then why not, wherever possible, have a standard rolling-stock? Why introduce to South Australia vans that are said to have been successful in Queensland, but which, in the opinion of local cattlemen, are far excelled by vans in use in this and neighbouring States, and against which no complaints have been lodged? The cost of converting the Commonwealth vans to a type similar to the South Australian would surely not be very great. Some of the timber not necessary on the sides could be utilized in the construction of a roof or a partition.
If the Commonwealth trucks were altered as suggested in that letter, the departmental expense would be little, but the benefit to the pastoralists’ would be exceedingly great. When the writer of the letter waited on me, I would have asked the Minister to grant him an interview but for the fact that our party was leaving Oodnadatta in a few minutes. He said that if he were given a sledge hammer or an axe he could, by knocking off a few boards, make the trucks satisfactory in a few minutes. I suggest that in this matter the Commissioner has made a mistake, and he ought, in the interests of the railway users, to admit it, and alter the trucks to make them conform to the wishes of those who use them. The complaint about the trucks has been heard for so long from all the users of them that there can be no doubt as ia their unsuitability, and the opinions given in the letter quoted are those of men with years of experience. All our railway systems have to compete with road transport, and what will happen in the Northern Territory if alterations in the trucks are not made will bc that the owners of cattle will not truck their beasts any farther than they can help. When feed is good, they will drove them as far as they can, and put them on the railways only when they are forced to do so. In that way they will be able to place their cattle on the Adelaide market without the heavy losses that they suffer in transit to-day. At Quorn they can place them on the South Australian railways. I suggest that the Minister should take into consideration the matters I have mentioned.
.- The Government is committed to a large expenditure in connexion with the Kyogle to South Brisbane, Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and Katherine River to Daly Waters railways. After the Loan Council has met, and it has been ascertained what is necessary to provide for the requirements of the Commonwealth and the States if money is available I hone to bring down a bill early next session to provide for the construction of the railway mentioned by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). I have told the- honorable member on several occasions that it is intended to introduce a bill authorizing the construction of the line at an early date. I am sorry that I shall not be able to introduce it this session, but I hope to be able to do so early next session.
I have seen the cattle trucks referred to by the honorable member, and it occurred to me that they were too closely boarded. I therefore gave instructions that a number of them should be altered so as to provide more ventilation. The commissioner is now having the work carried out, and I hope that any cause for complaint in the future will be removed. There seems to be a considerable bias against these trucks by those who use them. Similar trucks have been in use in Queensland almost since the trucking of cattle commenced, and Sir Sidney Kid man has said on many occasions that he is quite satisfied with the conditions under which live stock are carried in that State. Similar trucks are employed on the East-West and North-South railways, and I am, therefore, at a loss to know why there is so much agitation against the Commissioner in respect of this particular section. I am satisfied that the service to the people using the line will eventually be better than they have been accustomed to through the medium of the South Australian Railway Department. I shall follow up the matter closely, and shall see what improvement, if any, is made in these trucks after the alterations have been carried out. If it can be proved that the wider spacing of the boards is desirable, the honorable member may rest assured that most, if not all of the trucks, will be altered.
.-I wish to direct attention to an important matter that came under my notice during a recent trip to the East. I made inquiries as to the opportunities for trade there, with a view to ascertaining whether we were getting our fair share of it. I found, generally, t] at Australian goods were of the best quality, although traders have to conform to certain standards, which arc somewhat different from Australian standards, in order to compete with foreign suppliers. But on my return lo Australia I stated in newspaper articles, and in an address delivered in Sydney, that in shipping butter sharp practice bad been indulged !in by a proprietary canning company in Victoria. Australia does nearly 100 per cent, of the trade in butter to the East, and it is essential that steps should !>o taken to prevent any . firm from besmirching our good name there. The traveller of the firm to which i referred approached a large Chinese importing firm at Weltevreden, Java, and produced excellent samples of Kangaroo butter. When the butter was delivered, it was found that the tins, instead of containing 24 oz. and 60 oz., contained only 22 oz. and 55 oz. The smaller tins should contain two nominal pounds, and the larger tins five nominal pounds. A nominal pound is 12 oz. The firm, by giving short weight, was able to undercut other Australian firms, and thus obtained the order. The importer drew my attention to the ‘shortness of weight, and suggested that it was a matter that concerned the Commonwealth Government. I said I could hardly see how the Government could step in between buyer and seller. Ho urged that such transactions were certainly the concern of the Australian Government, for Australia’s commercial honour was at stake. I suggest to the Minister that our reputation for honorable trading overseas is of concern, not only to his department and to him, but also to every one in this country. My object in drawing attention to this matter was, to deter, if possible, other traders who might feel tempted to obtain business by resorting to similar dishonest practices. A meeting of merchants to whom I mentioned the matter in Sydney saw the danger to Australia of allowing even one firm to trade dishonestly. I have no doubt that the firm did it wilfully, and thus lowered Australia’s commercial prestige abroad. Australia has a good name at present, and does not want to lose it. As a jresu.lt of the lecture I delivered in Sydney, which must have been reported in the Melbourne press next morning, the Sydney evening newspapers published a reply to my statement by Mr. P. J. Carroll, Commonwealth Supervisor of Dairy Exports. Mr. Carroll said, “ If such a thing had happened it would be very damaging to Australian trade, but it is so utterly absurd that it is dangerous not to reply to it.” He then said exactly what I had said in my lecture, and concluded by saying, “ The whole thing is ridiculous.” The complaint should have concerned Mr. Carroll. Short-weight butter had been sent overseas, and his job is the supervision of exports. He said that short-weight butter could not, as alleged by me, have got past his department. My reply to him is that it did get past his department, and the fact was revealed to me by the importer. In order to cover up a dereliction of duty by his department, Mr. Carroll dodged the issue by saying that my statements were “ utterly ridiculous “ and “ absurd.” Such a reply is not becoming as from a departmental officer to a member of Parliament. I should like to know whether the Minister intends to overlook the matter.
– When I read in the press the statement made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), I replied to it at the earliest possible moment, and noticed after doing so that I had been preceded by an officer of my department. I agree with the honorable member to the extent that it is desirable that criticism levelled at officers of the department by a member of Parliament should be replied to by the Minister rather than by an officer; but I cannot agree with him when he says that Mr. Carroll’s object in replying was to cover up a dereliction of duty. That officer is particularly painstaking in carrying out his duties, and is keen on doing his work in the most efficient way. The fact that Australia has obtained 95 per cent, of the butter trade with the East shows that straight dealing is, at any rate, the rule, and that the matter to which the honorable member draws attention is an exception, an isolated instance which may have escaped the vigilance of the inspecting staff.
– I wish to make a complaint about the erection of the post office in Williamstreet, Sydney, but my remarks apply also to other post offices in this country. The new post office in William-street was designed and the contract let without reference to me, the member for the district, and I knew nothing about it until I received complaints from the public about its design, particularly the construction of the interior from the point of view of sanitation and the comfort of the employees. When I complained about the design I was told that it had been approved by Sir Charles Rosenthal. I have much practical knowledge of sanitation, and if the design had been shown to me I might have been able to give some useful advice. The conditions in post offices encourage the propagation of diseases, and, therefore, matters of sanitation should receive punctilious attention. I advocated “ ironite “ floors, and it was not until they had been tried in the temporary office and found satisfactory that the department agreed that I was right.
One portion of the building has been attended to, but the whole of the floors should be properly covered, so that they may be easily cleaned. At the Oxford-street post office, which is leased from the City Council, the flooring is of unplaned hardwood, and it is impossible for any woman to clean so rough a floor. The department has refused to cover it with linoleum, and I am tired of receiving complaints about its dirty condition. If ironite were used for the floors of the William-street office, a permanent job could be effected, and the cost of linoleum could be avoided. I speak on this matter as a practical man, and I know the good results that would follow to the department and the post office staffs from the adoption of my suggestions. I do not know whether it is intended to use hardwood or cypress pine for the Williamstreet office. Cypress pine is the only timber that is proof against the white ant, but it would not be suitable for flooring for a public building. There are many architects and other professional men residing in the Darlinghurst section of Sydney, and they may be under the impression that nothing is done in this matter because I am on a different side in politics. Many of the new buildings in Sydney and its suburbs have concrete floors, with a covering of ironite, and, coloured as it is in some cases, it looks very nice. This flooring could be easily kept clean by sweeping alone.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.40 to 8.5 p.m.
In committee - (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) .
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Gibson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page and read a first and second time.
In committee -
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Authority to borrow £2,000,000).
– The purpose of this bill is to enable loan works to be carried out during the first three months of the next financial year, pending a full loan programme for 1927-28 being brought forward with the next budget. When the last loan bill was submitted to Parliament on the 14th July,1926, it covered the full programme for the year 1926-27. Until then it had been the practice to allow unused loan appropriations to remain effective after the lapse of a financial year. As that practice caused large accumulations of “live” loan appropriations, many of which could not be used, provision was made in that bill for appropriations under previous Loan Acts to lapse at the 30th June, 1926. It was then stated that it was proposed to continue this practice so that each year’s loan programme could be dealt with as a whole by Parliament when the annual loan bill was under consideration. When introducing the Supply Bill for ordinary services for the first three months of next year, I referred to the fact that the transfer to Canberra prevented the usual routine being observed in the presentation of ordinary estimates of expenditure for next year. I stated that the disorganization of departments resulting from the transfer would be at its height at the end of the financial year, and in the early months of the new year. I also said that before Parliament resumed its sittings, it was highly desirable that the departments should be properly settled down, and it seemed quite likely that this would take three months. For these reasons it is not possible to observe the usual procedure in connexion with the Loan Estimates for next year. Therefore, as I have said, the full programme of loan works for 1927-28 will be submitted to Parliament when the budget is brought down next year. In the meantime it will be necessary to carry on works and services in progress at 30th June next, and this bill contains provision for those works and services to be continued for three months. No new services are included in the bill. The amounts are based on the appropriations contained in the Loan Act for 1926-27. The bill totals £2,000,000, which represents less than one-fourth of the corresponding sums appropriated by Parliament for the present year. For the information of honorable members I submit herewith a statement showing the chief items included in the measure, together with a comparison of the corresponding amounts appropriated by Parliament for the present financial year -
This comparison makes it clear that no new commitments are being entered into, and that the amounts for which approval is now sought are well within the appropriations made by Parliament for 1926-27. Immediately after Parlia-resum.es at Canberra the full loan programme for 1927-28 will be submitted for approval. There are certain loan services for which provision is not made in this bill, namely: - (i) the Grafton to South Brisbane railway; (ii) Migration . loans for the States; (iii) the federal Capital Commission. Special loan appropriations have already been made by Parliament for the Grafton to South Brisbane railway and Migration loans to the States. In the case of the Federal Capital Commission, there is provision under the Seat of Government Administration Act 1924-1926 for the Treasurer to make advances from the Commonwealth Public Account, pending the borrowing of moneys either by the Commission itself or by the Treasurer on behalf of the Commission. It is proposed that the requirements of the commission during the .first three months of next year shall be met by advances from the Commonwealth Public Account.
– Can the commission raise loans without the consent of Parliament?
– No. Authority has already been given for raising more money than the commission so far needs. The three services to which I have referred will be fully dealt with when the budget and loan estimates for 1927-28 are submitted. Clause 2 of this bill gives authority to borrow £2,100,000. The difference between that amount and the appropriation of £2,000,000 is required to cover the expenses of borrowing.
– Will this money be raised in Australia?
– I cannot say yet where it will be raised. Clause 5 of the bill provides that any expended balances of moneys appropriated by the Loan Act for 1926-27 shall lapse on the 30th June, 1927. This is in keeping with the arrangement that the programme for each year should be dealt with separately. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) referred to several matters relative to the raising of money which I propose to deal with under a later bill.
– I regret that honorable members have been asked to deal with this bill at such short notice. The measure contains important items which the Treasurer has not attempted to explain. I notice, for instance, that £70,000 is provided for immigration. Has this anything to do with the £34,000,000 migration loan, or is it additional ? The Treasurer has not said anything about it. We have had reason to complain of the entry into Australia- of numerous Southern European migrants. ‘ 1
– This money will not be used to assist them.
– Then who is it to assist, or for what purpose is it to be used ?
– It is to assist in providing passage money.
– For whom?
– Only British migrants are assisted.
– Why did not the Treasurer explain this! when he spoke a moment ago ? It is time we had a definite declaration of migration policy from the Government. Has it agreed to accept the £34,000,000 loan from the British Government ?
– We have accepted it, and we are now trying to get the States to accept it.
– Does it now lie with the States ?
– We accepted the scheme, and we are endeavouring to secure the agreement of the States. As an extra inducement to them, we . have offered an additional rebate of interest.
– It is time we had a full statement on this matter. Apparently, the Government has no definite settled migration policy.
– Ob, yes; it has a very definite one.
– It seems to me that as it has a majority behind it the Government just goes forward and does as it likes. Otherwise we should not be asked - to spend more than £2,000,000 in this haphazard way. I should like an explanation of the line, “Naval bases, works and establishments, £30,000.” On which naval base is that amount to be spent ?
– On Flinders Naval Base.
– I notice that not much money is ever spent in New South Wales. Almost every Loan Bill that is introduced provides money for naval base purposes. I should like a description of the work that is to be done.
-Part of the £30,000 is to be spent at Flinders Naval Base, and part is to be spent on the new wharf at Garden Island.
– I am glad to know that. Another line in the bill which’ I should like to have explained is, “ Federal Territory Railway, £2,000.” That is an enormous sum for the Government to spend on railway work in one year ! I must say that I deeply sympathize with honorable members who represent Victorian and South Australian constituencies in consequence of the discomfort that they will have to suffer in travelling to and from Canberra. It is not fair that they should be in such a disadvantageous position. A proposal for the construction of a direct line from Yass to Canberra was referred some time ago to the Public Works Committee; but that body reported against it, and suggested as an alternative that a better road be made. Was it expected that the members of this Parliament should tramp over that section of the journey ? Many thousands of people will be present at the opening of Parliament House, Canberra, in May next, and the sum of £2,000 is, no doubt, inadequate for the work required on the line from Queanbeyan to Canberra. The station at the Federal Capital has no platform. A substantial sum should be placed on the Estimates for the erection of suitable station accommodation there.
– The consideration of the proposal for a direct railway from Yass to Canberra, should be revived. The Constitution contemplates the provision of railway communication with the Federal Capital, and I anticipate that great inconvenience will be experienced by the public who make Canberra their Mecca in May, and go there by rail. From the south the route through Queanbeyan is a roundabout one, and does not do justice to the Capital. The lack of adequate railway facilities is due, no doubt, to the antagonism to the construction of a so-called bush capital ; but it should be realized that only a direct service through Yass will provide the facilities which the capital deserves. One member of the Public Works Committed stated that so long as he was connected with that body he would see that Canberra never had direct railway communication from the main interstate line. I hope that the Government will take early steps to have the subject reinvestigated. Another project that is well worthy of consideration is a line from Bombala to Orbost. The construction of a comparatively short length of line from Kyogle to South Brisbane has provided communication on the 4-ft. 8½in. gauge from Albury to the Queensland capital.
The construction of about 100 miles of line from Bombala to Orbost would provide a new route between Sydney and Melbourne which could also be on a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, thus relieving the Victorian north-eastern line, and the southern line of New South Wales. This railway would open up new country which would be valuable from a timber-getting, if not from an agricultural, stand-point. ]t would also be useful for defence and tourist purposes. From a commercial stand-point, I regard the construction of the line as essential.
It is regrettable that the lake scheme at Canberra has not been put in hand. If the low-lying land in front of Parliament House had been covered by ornamental lakes, visitors on the occasion of the opening ceremony in May would have gained a more favorable impression of the city than will now be the case.
– That is another proposal that the Public Works Committee burned down.
– Yes; but I could not understand the reason for its attitude, as it was favoured by the Capital Commission and engineers. I houe that in the near future the lake scheme will be carried out.
The post-office buildings in New South Wales have been considerably improved of late years, and my electorate has shared in those benefits. In one or two instances, however, the buildings are wholly inadequate for the requirements of the public. Owing to the development at Canberra the population at Queanbeyan has increased in the last few years from 1,300 to about 6,000, and although houses are being erected there by the score every month, the local post office has not been improved. When I was at Queanbeyan on Saturday, I noticed great congestion in the building, and much inconvenience was caused to business people and others. The opinion of the residents is that as development proceeds at Canberra progress at Queanbeyan will continue. The present office should be considerably enlarged. It was provided to supply the needs of a population of about 1.000, and it cannot in its present condition meet the requirements of six times that population.
The important town of Bega also needs a more up-to-date post office. The building is undoubtedly a substantial one; but had it belonged to a bank or a private person it would have been modernized to enable it to cope with, the business transacted there. It has been described to me as one of the most substantial post offices to be seen, and at the same time one of the most unsuitable for the ‘ requirements of the people using it. When requests have been made for its improvement, the answer has been given that the building meets present needs. It meets them no better than the present office at Queanbeyan.
At Gerringong, on the south coast, the local authorities are very progressive, and the town is making rapid headway; but there, too, the post office has outgrown the requirements of the locality. The local municipal council is anxious for the erection of an up-to-date building.
.- When I look at this bill my mind carries me back to the time when the Labour party went to the country in 1910. The Nationalist party then proposed to borrow £3,000,000 for naval defence; but the Labour party, on assuming office, raised the whole of the money from revenue. I notice that it is proposed to purchase military medals and clasps out of loan money on which the public will have to pay 5 per cent. I regard such a policy as mean and paltry. There is another item in the schedule relating to works costing not less than £300. This probably refers to weatherboard buildings, which, like telegraph poles, constructed of pine, will be eaten by white ants. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) directed attention to an item in this bill of £70,000 for immigration. The really national government that was in office from 1910 to 1913, and knew how to administer the affairs of the country, paid for bringing people to Australia out of revenue. In this way in one year they brought out 84,000, and in another, year 89,000 people. The present Government proposes to borrow money for immigration, and when the immigrants have arrived, what will we have to show for the money?
– It may surprise the honorable member to learn that the bulk of the money paid in connexion with immigration is recovered within a year.
– But the loan still remains, and interest has to be paid upon it. No provision is made for its redemp- tion but the abortion of a scheme for which the present Government is responsible. Under that scheme they reduce our loan indebtedness by £5,000,000, whilst they borrow £25,000,000 a year. No business could be conducted on such a. system.
– Has the honorable member never heard of a company increasing its capital?
– Yes, with reason and common sense; but there is neither reason nor common sense in what the Treasurer proposes. Imagine borrowing money for work on vessels engaged in carrying materials required by lighthouses! I do not think the Treasurer can know what is in the bill. The people on the other side of the world are not fools. They look into these things. Since the Prime Minister’s last visit to the Old Country, people there, we are told, have been made aware of the fact that there is such a place as Australia; but I trust that none of them will see the loan proposals submitted by the Government. It is my duty, as a member of the Opposition and a critic of the Government, to refer to these things. An amount is included in this bill for the construction of hangars for the Air Force. These buildings are about the flimsiest constructions that could be imagined. They are not likely to last more than five years, and yet the Treasurer proposes to ask people abroad to lend money on the security of buildings like these. There are several items in this bill which should be paid for out of revenue. The Treasurer has been very fortunate to have occupied his position for two or three years without having to report a deficit. He has been able to establish trust funds, and he should have made provision for financing many of the items contained in this bill out of revenue. No doubt the honorable gentleman is looking forward to the next federal election. He expects to be able to tell the people how he has succeeded in reducing taxation. He will invite them to believe that he is a heaven-born financier, and the children will, no doubt, sing “ God save Earle Page.” If the Government expects to be able to report a surplus by the passage of items such as those contained in this bill, then I say that Australia does not want a surplus under such conditions.
The Labour Administration that did so much for the life of Australia, and put the country on its feet, met the expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department from revenue, and not from loan. Labour Governments have often been criticized for the way in which they spent money; but it is far better that these things should be paid for out of revenue than that our children and grandchildren should have to carry a heavy burden of interest and refund the loan. If we were confronted with a serious flood or drought, or some other visitation of Providence, bringing with it destruction and devastation, we could understand such proposals as these to restore the country to its previous position. But we have experienced glorious seasons. Our wool has brought prices unparalleled in the history of the Commonwealth. Our wheat has sold at prices that have surprised all who have had anything to do with it. In such a period of prosperity we ought to live within our means. If I had my way I would put a match to this bill, and tell the Treasurer to administer the affairs of Australia as they ought to be administered. Outsiders, whether friends or foes, reading some of the items contained in this bill, can only conclude that it is not creditable to the Government, especially in the present circumstances of Australia. I hope that honorable members will let the people know what the actual position of Australia is. I have done my best to direct attention to it. I have exhausted the opportunities afforded me to bring what is going on under the notice of the public. The Government proposes that we should borrow money to provide food for men occupying lighthouses.
– There is no money provided for that purpose in the bill. The item is for the upkeep of vessels supplying the lighthouses.
– That is just as bad. If one of these vessels requires a wooden plug, a screw in a door hinge, a coat of paint, or the polishing of a knocker, we are to borrow the money to pay for it. One does not need training as a clown to be able to make fun of the things that are contained in this bill. A vote is included for “ sundry offices “ in Western Australia.
– No; offices in every State.
– That only makes it worse. The Government should be thankful to me for pointing out its mistakes. The time must come when all these things will be paid for out ot revenue. No Labour government ever presented a loan bill like this.
– The Labour Government never put in telephones as the present Government has done. This Government has put in telephones at a cost of £5,000,000 a year.
– I have not said one word about telephones; but I will say now that some of the material used for the undergrounding of telephone wires will not have a sufficiently long life to justify paying for it out of loan moneys. The insulation is by no means perfect, and I think that half the fires that take place in our big cities may be due to the fact that electrical appliances are not properly controlled. I could not object to the extension of telephones to people in the country districts. They are entitled to that consideration, which helps them to put up with the disadvantages of country life. I suppose the item for military stores includes tobacco and clay pipes for the soldiers ! Small wonder that the British moneylender asks for an account of how we utilize our loan money. If the Labour party came into power this policy of spending money upon temporary and non-productive works would cease. Barracks and drill halls are not fit subjects for loan expenditure. Galvanized iron drill halls are often built with very poor material and have a limited life. I have no objection to the spending of loan funds for the purpose of rifle ranges, because if the land is judiciously bought, it will prove a safe and even profitable asset.
.- I am glad to see the provision in the bill for further expenditure from loan funds by the Postal Department. A few years ago necessary services were starved because of a short-sighted policy, and the failure of past parliaments to recognize the wisdom of borrowing for the provision of increased postal, telegraphic, and telephonic needs We all appreciate the verygood work that has been done by this department during recent years, es pecially as we know that by means of a special sinking fund these loans will be repaid within the life of the works upon which they are expended. I protest against the manner in which the Postal Department overrides the building regulations of local authorities. The town of Katoomba has a commendable civic pride, and it has made by-laws regulating the style of buildings to be erected in different quarters. The post office, one of the first buildings reconstructed in my electorate during the regime of the present Postmaster-General, is a spacious, well-ventilated, and comfortable edifice, satisfying to the public, and the employees alike, but behind it the Town Clerk showed me a corrugated iron garage that no private individual would be allowed to erect in that portion of the town. I suppose the Commonwealth Government is legally empowered to ignore the regulations made by the local authority, but I see no justification for doing that, and I ask the Post master-General to see that in future buildings erected by his department shall conform to the local by-laws. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Perkins) in regard to the desirability of constructing a railway from Yass to Canberra. After the Public Works Committee reported against the construction of that line, I moved a motionaffirming that theline should be built. notwithstan ding the recommendation of the committee.
– And the motion was carried.
– With only one dissentient.
– I voted against it.
– Yes; and I am quite sure that when the honorable member has had some experience of Canberra he will realize that the Federal Capital territory cannot be developed until that railway has been built. When we are discussing the estimates at Canberra later in the year, honorable members will see the justice of the claim put forward by honorable members who know that locality well.
.- I understand that this bill provides for aloan appropriation on account of the financial year, 1927-28, and that every item in the schedule is based on items in last year’s Appropriation Works and Buildings Act. I notice an item of £100,000 foradvances to States and the Administrator of the Northern Territory for the purchase of wire and wire netting. Was there a corresponding amount in last year’s estimates ?
– This item seems to have been inserted in anticipation of the passage of a bill to provide for such advances.
– If the honorable member will refer to the last Loan Estimates he will find that £500,000 was set down for this purpose.
– That being the case, I take no exception to the item. As this bill proposes an appropriation on account of the next financial year, and is a departure from the usual practice in Commonwealth finance, the Treasurer might have informed the committee whether he intends next year to ask for an appropriation in advance on account of the succeeding financial year?
– Not in regard to loans. This appropriation is asked for purely because of the unusual circumstances that will prevail at the end of this financial year.
– Will the Treasurer not be in the same difficulty at the end of the next financial year if Parliament goes into recess early in the New Year with no intention of re-assembling until three months after the commencement of the following financial year? The Treasurer should inform the committee whether the Government has decided to ask Parliament to assemble early in the financial year or later.With regard to the details of the schedule, honorable members will take no exception to the disclosure of the maximum amount of information regarding a loan appropriation. The more light that is thrown on a loan appropriation the better. The suggestion was made in London financial circles recently that more details should be embodied in the prospectuses of Australian loans on that market. I do not know the Treasurer’s opinion on this subject, but it is clear to me that the practice of past years, indicating generally the main purpose of the loan without entering into details, was wise. A prospectus including the details mentioned in this schedule would appear very ridiculous in London, although every item may be regarded by honorable members as appropriately chargeable against loan funds. Indeed, if this appropriation is based upon last year’s Loan Estimates, it is evident that Parliament considered that these were reasonable charges against loan funds, and did, in fact, appropriate for these purposes four or five times the amounts mentioned in this bill. This measure authorizes the Treasurer to raise £2,100,000 for the purpose of the works referred to in the schedule. He has not indicated, and I suppose is not able to indicate, how the Commonwealth proposes to raise that money, but I call attention to the manner in which the last Commonwealth loan in America was floated. The Government placed on the New York market a joint loan of $75,000,000, part of which was intended for the use of the Commonwealth and the remainder for the use of the States. In my opinion, the Government managed that transaction in a very unbusinesslike way. The loan was negotiated entirely from London.
– Conjointly by London and New York houses.
– Part of it was issued in London and part in New York. Two loans were issued by separate groups in the two markets.
– The two portions of the loan were raised simultaneously in London and New York.
– Yes ; and the New York portion was negotiated through London. If Australia is to get the best terms on the New York market, or any overseas market other than London, it must negotiate directly in that market. There can be no justification for negotiating a New York loan through London; on the contrary, there are distinct disadvantages in that procedure. We must guard against the tendency to create in New York a close corporation for the handling of Australian loans in that market. A close corporation practically controls all Australian issues in London. All Australian Government flotations are underwritten by the firm of Robert Nivison and Company, of which Lord Glendyne is the chairman. He determined the amount, terms, and date of issue of the last Commonwealth loan in New York. There is no excuse for that procedure, and if it is followed in future, injury to the Commonwealth Treasury will result, for we shall get less favorable terms. ‘It is easy in the present circumstances for the Australian Government* to negotiate these borrowings directly in New York with the firms that do business of that sort. Some of the large underwriting houses of New York are already represented ‘in Australia, and they can be directly approached. There are in New York, handling foreign issues on that market, six or eight large banking institutions, which are only too willing to discuss the terms of an Australian loan. I know that four or five of those institutions have in the last year or two been directly represented in Australia, or have made representations to Australian Governments, offering to handle loans for them on the New York market. It may be somewhat difficult to conduct negotiations between Australia and New York by cable direct with the financial houses concerned, on account of the difficulty of getting, in that way, exact information about the price of money, and precise information concerning the prevailing conditions in that market, and it, therefore, may be necessary for us to have direct representation in New York. We have a Trade Commissioner there, who could act as financial adviser to the Commonwealth. He could carry on negotiations with financial houses there, and keep the Treasurer informed of the fluctuations of the money market. As we are now commencing in New York, not an old-established business, but quite a new business for us, we should not fall into the errors that have occurred in the past in regard to borrowing on the London market. Some may say that the present conditions in London regarding Australian loans are satisfactory, even though one firm monopolizes the underwriting. No Australian State has even a remote chance of getting on the London money market except through that firm of underwriters. The Commonwealth Government itself has not dared to approach the London market except through that firm. Any attempt to obtain a loan through another firm of London brokers would undoubtedly fail. That is a large power to place in the hands of one firm. I have no criticism to offer of that institution, or of its methods of conducting its business. It is a strong financial institution, and has given sound advice to Australian Treasurers in the past: but it is a disadvantage for Australian governments to be dependent solely upon one firm, and practically upon one man, in matters of this kind. The position in London can easily be repeated in New York unless we are very careful at this stage of our borrowing history in that market. We can avoid it by entering into negotiations with and obtaining quotations from more than one house for any loan that we are contemplating in New York. The Commonwealth Government, in regard to the last loan of §75,000,000.00 issued in New York, did not attempt to obtain quotations from competing houses there, but allowed the business to be conducted through London, thus confining the negotiations to one principal house in New York. Of course, the underwriting was divided among a number of houses there, but the terms of the loan were settled by one firm.
– That is the first time on .record that New York quotations a’, ere better than London quotations.
– That does not justify the action of the Treasurer in negotiating the loan through London. There has been an easing of conditions in the New York money market with respect to Australian loans. It is becoming easier each month, and indeed a loan recently floated by the City of Brisbane was obtained on better terms than the Commonwealth loan floated some little time ago in New York.
– Page. - That is not so; the terms were nothing like as good as ours. We borrowed at £99 10s. for 30 years at 5 per cent.
– That may be so, but the Commonwealth loan very soon was at a discount. and the price at that time did not compare so favorably with the Brisbane loan. The money market in New York fluctuates as it does everywhere else, and there is now an easier tendency. If money is cheaper in New York than in London, it is simply because the situation in New York has become easier, and not because the Commonwealth Government negotiated its loan through London. I think it is beyond doubt that the Commonwealth Government, by directly negotiating with New York, can get the most favorable terms offering there, but if negotiationsare made through London, the best terms will not be obtained. There is a danger in creating a monopoly of underwriting of Australian loans in New York, and that danger should certainly be avoided. It is unfortunate that Australian Governments have no alternative but to place their loans on the London market through one particular firm.
– Nivison and Son know how to charge.
– The charges made by that firm of underwriters are not at all unreasonable, and I have no complaint to make about them on that score. The underwriting charge on Australian loans in London is 25s. per cent., of which the principal underwriters get 5s. per cent., the other 20s. per cent. being divided amongst the sub-underwriters. There may be 500 or 600 sub-underwriters participating in a loan of £5,000,000. The terms for underwriting are cheaper in London than in New York. We have to get the best conditions that we can in any market that is offering. I am pleased to find that the objection to borrowing in New York is gradually breaking down.
– The honorable member led the van.
– I had the good fortune among Australian Treasurers, of having the first opportunity of placing a loan in New York. My action was drastically criticized at the time, and was thought to be unpatriotic. Some even regarded it as disloyal, but a good many other people are now following the good example that was set by the Queensland Government at that time.
Mr.Fenton. - The British Government advised the Commonwealth Government to go on the New York market for £15,000,000 last year.
– All reformers are punished.
– We obtained our loan on good terms, and the result was that the credit and reputation of the Queensland Government was considerably enhanced. Other Governments have approached the
New York market for money, so the example set by the Queensland Government has been beneficial. The more markets that we open up for Australia, whether through establishing credit, borrowing money, or placing our goods, the better it will be for this country.
I wish now to refer to immigration. The announcement has been made in the press that the Commonwealth Government intends to invite a British delegation of leading business men to come to Australia to investigate immigration problems and to advise upon them. I regard that action as extraordinary. Our immigration problems have been under the consideration of the Commonwealth and State Governments for many years past. The Commonwealth Government, during the last three or four years, has given intense consideration to immigration, and has set up sundry commissions, boards, and authorities to investigate and report upon land settlement and immigration. It has also established elaborate and costly machinery for the solution of this problem. First an organization was established here and in London, consisting of highly-paid officials, for the purpose of controlling and advising upon immigration questions. Then the Government invited peregrinating Empire politicians and delegations to explore the subject and to report upon it. Last year, as a sort of climax, it appointed the Development and Migration Commission, consisting of gentlemen supposed to be the most highly qualified in Australia, to take control of immigration on behalf of the Government and to administer the new agreement entered into between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government, with the State Governments as parties thereto. The Prime Minister has now announced that the best business brains of the United Kingdom, represented by heads of business concerns, are to be invited to Australia to investigate land settlement and the immigration absorption capacity of Australia. The newspapers recently announced that Lord Lovat was to be the head of that delegation. I regard that action as extraordinary from one or two aspects. Eirst of all, it is extraordinary that the Government has made no announcement to Parliament this session of its intention to invite a delegation to Australia; secondly, that the Government should have decided on such action so soon after the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission, which has not had sufficient time to show what it can do to increase the absorption powers of Australia; and, thirdly, that the Government should have decided to bring out what it regards as the best brains of the United Kingdom to advise our Ministers, our departments, and our officers concerned with immigration problems, how to carry out their work. That the Commonwealth Government expects to get guidance from what it calls the best brains of the United Kingdom upon a purely Australian problem is beyond my comprehension. What can the most efficient and” eminent men of the United Kingdom in business, science, or social life, teach us in Australia regarding the development of our own industries, the quality of our soil, the opening up of land for settlement, the application of irrigation to land and other problems which primarily concern the Development and Migration Commission? Of what value will their opinions be to Australia? They are to be invited here, not to advise upon the selection of immigrants, or the mode of their transportation - which advice might be of some value - but to advise upon the question of increasing Australia’s absorption capacity, so that Australia may be able to accommodate an increased number of migrants. On that matter . the best brains of the United Kingdom, or of any other country in the world outside Australia, is of no greater value to us than the best brains we have in Australia. Let us hope that we have sufficient brains in this country to solve these problems for ourselves. Personally, I regard the Government’s action as a reflection on the capacity of Australians, who are quite well able to do jobs of that kind; and certainly it is a declaration of incompetence on the part of Ministers, who are throwing their responsibility in problems of that sort on the supposedly “ best brains “ of other countries. I regard the whole business as savouring of burlesque. If the Government is serious in desiring to increase the capacity of Australia to absorb more people, Commonwealth Ministers ought to apply themselves more closely to the problems that have to be solved.
They have shown a tendency to pass on their responsibilities to commissions, boards, select committees, or delegations. No Government has so bad a record as this one in. that respect. Hardly anything arises that calls for action but the Government settles it in masterly fashion by appointing a commission or inviting a delegation. Ministers themselves have definite responsibilities. They have had this matter under their personal consideration for years. Nearly three years ago negotiations were opened with the Imperial Government upon the agreement which is now operative, and in the carrying out of which the States are invited to co-operate. A Labour administration was then in office in England. So far nothing has been done under that agreement, except a great deal of talking by Federal Ministers.
– That is not so. Definite projects have actually been undertaken both in Victoria and Western Australia.
– I admit that something has been done in the way of considering projects.
– I said that projects had actually been undertaken.
– That means that projects in hand by the States are being fathered by the Commonwealth. Those projects were in the hands of the State Governments before the migration agreement was signed.
– They are new projects.
– I should like to know the Treasurer’s definition of new projects, for those to which he refers have been under consideration for many years, and have been investigated exhaustively by the State Governments. In some cases they may have been held up by the State Governments because of lack of funds, and all the Commonwealth is now doing is to assist in providing funds.
– The provision by the Commonwealth of more favorable terms has enabled schemes to be undertaken that would not otherwise have been undertaken.
– I do not deny that. My point is that nothing has yet been accomplished under the scheme, the negotiations for which were commenced nearly three years ago. The projects which the Treasurer says have been undertaken were either under way or settled aas to their details before the Commonwealth scheme was launched. I know of projects that are now being investigated by the Development and Migration Committee that have been for years in the hands of the State Governments, who planned all their details, and had everything ready. The Treasurer does something if he assists the States to finance their schemes; but the Commonwealth does not need elaborate machinery for doing that. There is no necessity for an enormous organization, for setting up commission after commission, for entering into a most complex arrangement with the British Government or for the British Government having representatives in Australia to meddle in the matter. All that is unnecessary to enable the States to carry out schemes they previously had in hand. Allowing that the States are carrying out these projects under the provisions of the new agreement, to what extent has the flow of migrants to Australia been increased ? It cannot be claimed that it has increased at all. As a special inducement the Commonwealth has held it out to the States that even if the flow does not increase, the States will be entitled to the money in respect of migrants that would normally come here. I am not sure that the British Government would regard that as a very honest kind of arrangement.
– The British Government approved of it. It knew exactly what the position was, and not only that, but it said that the agreement could be made retrospective for three years in respect of migrants already here.
– That was very generous, but millions of pounds may be spent’ under that scheme without increasing the number of migrants by a single person. That is the effect of that interpretation of the agreement. I am not among those who declare against tha need for more people for Australia. 1 realize the need for having more people in this country, as I think all honorable members do; but we have to be careful that we do not adopt schemes which lead to the dumping of ship loads of migrants’ into this country in circumstances tthat may serious.,/ affect the conditions of the people already here, or may place the newcomers in severe distress. Those possible effects must be carefully considered. The idea of increasing the absorption capacity of the country by opening land for settlement, by extending secondary industries, and by creating avenues for employment is good, and in those circumstances a flow of migrants would not injure, bub possibly benefit this country.
.- This bill provides for alterations and additions to post offices, and for new post offices, in all the States. In New South Wales provision is made for about 40 alterations and additions, and 37 new buildings; in Victoria, 40 alterations and additions, and 33 new buildings; in Queensland, S alterations and additions, and IS new buildings; in South Australia, 19 alterations and additions, and 20 new buildings ; in Western Australia, 5 alterations and additions, and 9 new buildings. I have nothing to say in opposition to that expenditure! but I enter my emphatic protest al the scandalous way in which Tasmania has been treated. There are items relating to alterations and additions to Hobart Post Office - I do not know whether that refers to the new building - and to a new building for Port Cygnet. The Port Cygnet Post Office is a matter of four years’ standing, and the building has been completed and occupied for twelve months. Such items in the schedule are most misleading. Practically the only money to be spent in Tasmania is to be spent on a lineyard at Smithton. No one knows better than members of the Government that Tasmania is losing population, and that most of those who are leaving the State are artisans. No time is better than the present for getting work done cheaply in that State, and yet almost no provision is made for postal work there. I have been trying for a considerable time to obtain a new post office at Huonville in my electorate. That township is the centre of a district which includes Ranelagh, Judbury, Port Cygnet, Glenhuon, and Cradoc. The existing office is old fashioned, and has been there for 40 years. There is a residence attached, and the office accommodation is not half so large as it should be to meet the requirements of the district. There is no mention of Huonville in the schedule. Four years ago the Government bought land for a post office at Sorell, but there is no mention in the schedule of a post office for that place. The small allowance office there is a disgrace to the town. I fail to understand why the Government has treated Tasmania so badly. It could get the work done more cheaply now than later. I hope that it will agree to bring down a supplementary estimate to provide a few thousand pounds for work in Tasmania. It is not fair to Tasmania that no money should be spent there.
– The. Federal Parliament has occupied these buildings since the 9th May, 1901, without paying a penny piece of rent. Victoria has been wonderfully hospitable during those 26 years. I was informed some time ago, in reply to a question I asked the Prime Minister, that had we paid rent for these buildings on the basis of 5 per cent, of their capital value, we should have paid away considerably more than £1,000,000 in the years we have been in occupation of them. How do we propose to recognize what Victoria has done for us? It is true that we have laid a few new carpets, and that the old carpets will make the homes of a number of poor people a little more comfortable; but we ought to do more than that. I have a suggestion to make. We have allowed one of the principal buildings in this city - the Elizabethstreet Post Office - to remain in a disgraceful condition. Every honorable member knows that the Post Office-place corner of that building is occupied by a galvanized iron shed. It is like a tin can tied to a dog’s tail. It was understood for some time that the reason that no permanent structure was placed on the site was that the title to the land was not clear; but I understand now that the title is perfect.
– That is so.
– Then I ask the Commonwealth Government to complete the Elizabeth-street Post Office according to the architect’s original design. That would be a small acknowledgement of Victoria’s generosity to the Common wealth. Sydney has a magnificent post office in Martin-place. All honour to her. The Sydney people deserve great credit for having made Martin-place one of the finest ‘ streets in the world for its size. I am quite sure that had the Elizabethstreet Post Office eyesore been in Sydney instead of in Melbourne, firm pressure would have been brought to bear upon the Government to remove it. The State of Victoria has saved the Commonwealth the equivalent of 7£ tons of sovereigns in rent by permitting this Parliament to meet here for 26 years rent free. Is it too much to ask that, as an acknowledgement, the Elizabeth-street Post Office building should be completed? I trust not.
I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) respecting loans; but as long as I have a vote in this Parliament I shall use it to prevent the flotation of foreign loans. Every Australian man and woman should realize that for each 20s. we borrow from abroad we have to import 20s. worth of goods. That undermines the secondary industries of Australia, prevents the country from employing more people, and altogether is harmful to it. I am not at all upset by the aggregation of people in cities. I do not regard it as a cancer on the body politic. I remember the wonderful inventions of modern times. To-day one man is able to reap, clean and bag more wheat in one day than 100 men could clean and bag 150 years ago. In many of the older countries of the world the products of the land are still garnered by the same methods that were in use in Jacob’s time. Seventy years ago it was considered good work for a man to reap with a reaping hook one acre of wheat and tie it up in a day of ten hours. I used the old reaping hook in Gippsland in the days gone by, when I planted little patches of oats and wheat between the tree stumps. Methods have changed greatly in the last few years, and we need not fear very much because people are gathering in the big cities. We grow more wheat and wool than we can possibly use ourselves; but we are foolishly allowing our wool to. be sent abroad in a greasy condition, instead of extracting from it that most valuable by-product, lanoline, which is retailed for ls. 6d. a small tube. We should be manufacturing our woollen, goods here. Any man who wants better cloth than Australian tweed and serge is hard to please. No one can call himself a patriotic Australian who buys foreign goods in preference to Australian goods. I am a protectionist up to the hilt. I know of no country in the world that has become great through a free trade policy. The greatest nations of modern times developed under a policy of protection. In the olden days cities were protected by walls, and tradesmen were protected by guilds. It was only because Germany had an effective protectionist policy that she was able for so long to stand four square against the world, and heap up the money she spent on her cursed army and navy. I can well remember when everything colonial was regarded by the British people as rubbish. Colonial wines were not looked at, nor were colonial boots and shoes. It is a disgrace, in my opinion, that some Australians prefer imported boots and shoes to those made here. Some women are prepared to pay three times as much for American shoes as for those made in Australia. Unfortunately, certain business houses in all our big cities go as far as putting American brands on Australian products. That is disgraceful. If I had it in my power I should imprison people who did that kind of thing. Our men who went abroad on active service during the war know very well that the English soldiers were prepared to pay a big price for Australian boots and blankets, for they were so much better than the articles issued to them in England. There is no reason why we should borrow money from abroad and import manufactured goods. Let us raise locally all the money we need. Not a nation in Europe is as well able as we are to provide local money for its public works. The history of borrowing in Australia should surely create confidence in the country. Honorable members know that, in the terrible war years, when the Commonwealth Bank was a bank - it is not a nation’s bank now - it was able to float loans in Australia at $ per cent., and money always costs more in war time than it does in peace time. The Commonwealth Bank in those days was able to keep the bank rate for overdrafts down to 6 per cent. If the Government would re-organize the bank on the lines laid down by its founder, Mr. King O’Malley, it would have no difficulty whatever in raising money locally.
– The public had confidence in the Government in those days.
– It is often said that the Labour party is opposed to migration. That is not the truth. I am the son of an English mother, and I love the stock from which I sprang. I am prepared to welcome Irishmen, Englishmen, Scotchmen or Welshmen bo Australia provided that I can be sure that there is a living here for them; but I am not prepared to allow them to come here to cut down wages. For the same reason I am not prepared to open our doors to an influx of Asiatics, who could live well on what would be insufficient to keep an Australian’s body and soul together. When, instead of having 1,400 applications for five blocks of land, as we had in New South Wales not long ago, wchave more blocks .of land than we have applicants for, I shall welcome any one from the United Kingdom who cares to come. ‘ Australia grows more wool than can be utilized in the country; but we should export the surplus in the form of splendid tweeds, serges, and other fabrics. Thus we should save double freights on our own requirements, and provide increased employment in secondary industries. Australia, with its ideal climate, is a splendid country for the establishment in primary a.nd secondary industries of large numbers of people of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic races.
– I was impressed by the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), and I hope thai the Postmaster-General will be able to give a satisfactory explanation why there is no provision in the bill for Tasmania. It is the smallest State, and I should like it to receive as fair a deal as any other part of the Commonwealth.
I had occasion some time ago to apply to the Minister for a post office in my electorate. He received me with the greatest courtesy, and gave the request every attention, but ended with a negative reply. I am under the impression that there is a slight inclination for the department to favour the country as against the city in the granting of postal facilities. I am in no way jealous of the country people iin this respect, and I am not suggesting that they should not be extremely well treated. I realize to what a great extent they are dependent upon those facilities, and I know that in the past few years these have been wisely extended under the regime of the present Postmaster-General. But ‘ a glance through the names of the places at which postal works are to be constructed shows that the huge majority are in country districts. I think that the time has come when the balance should be adjusted. The capital city of my State, for instance, contains over 50 per cent, of the population of South Australia. Personally, I regard that as most undesirable; but surely it is reasonable that a city should receive increased facilities in proportion to the growth of its population. I understand that the system adopted by the department is to refuse to grant new post offices within certain radii. Consequently, in many cases the facilities remain as they were many years ago. A post office is generally regarded as only second in importance to a town hall, and it gives a suburb a certain status. Naturally, I was anxious to get a proper post office for a part of my district which had gone ahead tremendously. When I was unsuccessful in my efforts, I suggested that it might be possible for the department to provide an additional allowance post office; but that request, also, was refused. When districts double in population, it is not unreasonable to hope that new post offices, and, perhaps, a number of additional allowance post offices, will be provided. When travelling about the country, one often sees a post office serving a small community in which there are not more than 50 houses. Scores of small country towns have their own post offices, whereas in a city area probably 5,000 electors may not have a post office within a reasonable distance.
.- I emphasize the protest of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), and it is surprising that honorable members opposite do not make a similar complaint. Although we have an overflowing treasury, it is proposed to raise loan money for defence purposes. The Australia, the Sydney, the Melbourne, the Brisbane, and certain destroyers were paid for entirely out of revenue. I believe that the East-West railway was built without the expenditure of borrowed money; but in the bill now before the committee is an item of £27,000 for ballasting that Une. I am not concerned whether a post office shows a satisfactory credit balance or not at the end of every year, so long as the provision of facilities of this nature helps to develop Australia; but there should be no need to spend loan money for defence purposes while the Treasurer possesses a large and bulging purse. The question whether we should borrow abroad is a most difficult one. I know that when the Fisher Government came into power there was a strong protest against borrowing locally for defence purposes. The Opposition, in objecting to a loan bill involving a few million pounds, said at that time that it was almost impossible to raise money in the country, because to do so would cripple industry. The fact remains that Australia raised many millions of pounds locally, and is much richer than it would have been if the money had been borrowed abroad. The country is sufficiently wealthy to meet its own financial needs. Many millions are sent overseas annually to meet our interest bill, and we should stop that leakage as far as possible. I am not so optimistic as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) in regard to borrowing. I was very glad when the honorable member, as Premier of Queensland, was successful in his financial mission to the United States of America. When the Commonwealth required £20,000,000^ Great Britain was prepared to advance only £5,000,000. The balance was obtained from the United States of America, and, consequently, there has been a great increase in our imports from that country, which has supplied us with the bulk of our requirements in petrol and motor cars. Various other kinds of goods are being imported from America. Since we began to borrow from that country our imports from the United States have increased by leaps and bounds. At the present time we import goods to the value of about £60,000,000 from Great Britain, and to the value of about £40,000,000 from the United States of America. If our imports of goods from America continue to increase at the present rate we shall very soon be importing more from that country than from any other. Borrowing outside of Australia leads to a great increase in the volume of our imports. If the Treasurer obtains the £2,100,000 mentioned in this bill from outside Australia, he will be doing a great dis-service to the Commonwealth. I think that in connexion with the flotation of the last £20,000,000 loan there was some evidence of unity of action between two great financial houses, one in New York and the other in London. I shall not be at all surprised if in future, whether we go to New York or to London for money we shall find a fixed rate of interest insisted upon. There will probably be such an understanding between financial, houses that the rate of interest which Australia and other countries will be called on to pay for borrowed money will be the same whether the money is obtained in London or in New York. I have no doubt that the Treasurer is well advised in regard to many things, but in view of our increased revenue from Customs, and from other sources he should see whether it is not possible to borrow in Australia all the money we require. When we borrow money on the other side of the world the interest we pay upon it is sent out of Australia, and finds work for people elsewhere in the manufacture of products that are sent to this country. If we borrow £50,000,000 abroad goods to the same value have to be imported to Australia. That is most undesirable. I protest against the Treasurer, with the ample funds at his disposal, continuing to borrow money for defence purposes. We have to-day an immense interest bill to meet, but our revenue is also immense as compared with what it was in’ past years. It is safe to say that our revenue to-day is three times what it was in the days when the Fisher Government paid for our cruisers and the battle-ship Australia out of revenue. In connexion with expenditure on reproductive works we had a great deal of leeway to make up after the war. The present Postmaster-General is controlling his department under a very fortunate set of circumstances, but he seems to me to be applying himself with zeal and wisdom to malting up the leeway due to the war time. The honorable gentleman is, I think, doing very well with the money obtained both from revenue and from loan. For reproductive works there is not the same objection to the use of borrowed money. If we had borrowed the money to build the Australia, the Melbourne, the Sydney, and our other cruisers we should find ourselves in a very difficult position. To-day the Australia is at the bottom of the sea; it is proposed to scrap the Sydney, and a little later the Melbourne, the Brisbane, and the Adelaide will also be scrapped. If we had borrowed money for the construction of these vessels the loans would continue after the vessels had been destroyed and for years it would be necessary to pay interest on those loans. The same thing may be said of the £8,000,000 . spent on the East- West railway, and it is a fortunate thing for us to-day that it was built out of revenue. I again express the hope that the Treasurer will not borrow from abroad for defence works.
– I shall not occupy much time in making a few explanations of matters referred to by honorable members. Whilst the building programme of the post office has been praised, practically nothing has been said regarding; the services that department renders. Quite a good deal has been said of post offices that might be built in different centres. I agree it is a fine thing to note the civic pride which the people take in their towns and districts. The first thing the department sets out to do is to give service to the public. Wherever possible, the department is prepared to do that. The honorable member for East Sydney made reference to the Williamstreet post office in Sydney. That is a very fine building, and of a fine type of architecture. It is probably not so tall as some of the buildings that surround it, but it is worthy of a Sydney thoroughfare, and is satisfactory from the departmental point of view. He also said that before 3 post office is built in any locality the plans should be submitted to the local authorities. If that course were followed there would have been very few post office? built in Australia within two or three years. We have at the present time in course of construction a post office at Port Adelaide which it has taken thirteen years to complete simply because of the difficulty of arriving at a decision which would be mutually satisfactory to the postal and the local authorities.
– I guarantee that if the honorable gentleman proposes to increase the accommodation at the Rozelle post office it will not take as long as that to finalize the matter.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) referred to a post office that is being erected at Katoomba, which he said is unsightly. A garage is being erected in connexion with it which will be fireproof, but which, I understand from the honorable member, will not comply with the regulations of the local authorities. The Postal Department endeavours, at all times to comply with the regulations of local authorities, and I shall look into the matter referred to by the honorable member and see what the exact position is. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) made some reference to the amount of money to be spent in Tasmania. ‘ The argument used by the honorable member was the worst he could use for his purpose. He said that people are leaving Tasmania, and we should build post offices in that State to find employment for them. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) supported the honorable member for Franklin in the contention that Tasmania is not being fairly treated by the Government in the matter of expenditure. It was given its fair quota last year, and the people were quite satisfied with the amount of money to be expended there. The amount set out in the estimates here is based on the amount voted last year, and the appropriation in this bill is merely to ensure continuity of employment on postal works until September. I am sure the honorable member will recognize that Tasmania was well served last year. No stated sum is set down in this bill for that State, but the provision will be in proportion to last year’s expenditure.
– How did the Postmaster-General know that Tasmania was satisfied ?
– That is a fair inference from the fact that no complaint was made. I am surprised that the honorable member should complain that the expenditure in country districts was too great in proportion to the expenditure in the . cities. If we look at the postal buildings in the capital cities, we find that Adelaide has a very fine general post office, upon which a tremendous amount of money has been expended, and two or three additions to it have been made during the last few years. Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Melbourne may say, Melbourne is extremely fortunate in having a handsome central post office in Bourkestreet, and a commodious general post office in Spencer-street. Upon the Sydney General Post Office, a very imposing edifice, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent by the Commonwealth. I am sorry that I have not been able to expend more money on the Brisbane General Post Office. I would gladly do so, but I have difficulty in finding sufficient money to give buildings which the public is demanding throughout Australia. The first essential is service, and when that has been provided it will be time enough to consider the erection of post offices throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth.
– What are the proportions of postal expenditure in city and country ?
– The proportion is 56 ner cent, in the country and 44 per cent, in the cities but until about three years ago the proportions were reversed, being 56 per cent, in the cities and 44 percent, in the country. I would say a balance has now been arrived at. The expenditure on buildings has increased from £336,000 in 1922-23 to £424.162 in 1923-24; £553,286 in 1924-25; and £472,835 in 1925-26; and will be approximately £600,000 in the present financial year. That is a vast amount of money to spend on buildings only, but, in addition, the expenditure on telephones, telegraphs, &c, increased from £2,173,000 in 1922-23, to over £5,000,000 last year. The department is merely meeting the demand for telephone services throughout the country, and if it could find the money to increase the trunk-line system, so that the people could be given quicker service, it would get a great deal more revenue from the traffic that would be offering. But that would mean a capital outlay of two or three million pounds. Another complaint by the honorable member for Boothby was that the radius allowed for telephone calls by subscribers to city exchanges was not sufficient. The radius in Australian city telephone circuits is greater than in capital cities in any other part of the world. A 20-mile call from an Australian capital city costs 4d. ; in Britain the charge is 7d., and in New York lOd. The people of Australia have the cheapest telephone service in the world, with the possible exception of Scandinavia; and, of course, the vast distances in Australia and the sparseness of the population make the difficulties and . costs greater than in more settled countries. If we were to apply the telephone rates charged in the United States of America to the traffic that is offering to-day, our telephone system would make a net profit of £3,000,000 per annum.
– I propose to reply briefly to some of the points raised by honorable members. The small amount set down for the expeditionary forces under war and repatriation services are war charges, and as such are charged to loan as was the bulk of the war expenditure. Not merely is there a sinking fund to wipe out the whole of the war indebtedness inside 50 years, but any surplus revenue in the possession of the Commonwealth at the end of the financial year is applied to the redemption of the war debts - to this purpose £1,000,000 was applied last year - and to naval construction. As the Commonwealth is spending on defence £5,382,000 from revenue, the other capital expenditure to which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) has referred is properly chargeable to loan, because it is creating a definite asset.
The net amount set down for migration this year was about £350,000. Most of the money is required for advancing the passage money of migrants. A proportion of the passage money is paid by the Commonwealth as a means of encouraging migration to Australia - the British Government also pays its share, and the migrants themselves repay a big proportion. In fact, of the £830,000 expended by the Commonwealth last year on passage money, more than two-thirds was returned to the Treasury. With regard to the comments by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) as to the amount of information that should be given on loan prospectuses, I am of opinion that general details are all that are required. The money-lenders in London and New York are concerned, not 30 much with the actual works upon which the money is to be expended, as with the general assets of the country and the character of the Australian people; our taxes and revenues are the real assets at which they will look, and so long as we continue the policy of restricting loan expenditure to permanent and reproductive works - there is a sinking fund of 30s. per cent, for the redemption of expenditure on postal works - the lender abroad may feel fairly secure.
There is room for difference of opinion in regard to the wisdom or otherwise of borrowing conjointly in London and New York. This question is receiving the consideration of the Government and the Loan Council. I wish to join issue with the honorable member respecting his suggestion that, because the 1925 loan of £20,000,000 was carried out jointly in London and New York, the Commonwealth Government was placed at a disadvantage. For the first time in the history of those two places, loans which were simultaneously placed for a similar object showed a better net return for the Commonwealth from New York than from London. The loan in New York was issued at £99 10s., for 30 years, at the interest rate of 5 per cent. The loan in London was issued at £99 10s., for 50 years, at the interest rate of 5 per cent. ; but there was a bonus of £1 in London which was not given in New York, and, although the expenses there were a little greater than in London, yet the net result, as regards the effective interest rate over the whole period, was 6d. or 8d. per cent.” better in respect of New York. It has to be remembered, in connexion with operating in New York and in London, that there must be a certain measure of coordination in borrowing, especially for a country which, like Australia, is developing so rapidly and needs a great deal of capital to enable its developmental work to be carried out. Without co-ordination, it is quite possible that, if money were borrowed in New York independently of London, the New York loan might ‘find its way to a great extent to London, and thus seriously embarrass the position when another loan was floated. Whatever is done in the future, steps must be taken to secure that co-ordination in order to prevent the position in one market from interfering with the flotation of a loan in another. I think that our joint flotation in London and New York compares favorably with the separate loans made by South Australia and New South Wales - which can be said to have approximately the same credit - in London and New York respectively. The South Australian loan was floated in London at a price which was about £2 7s. 6d. net per £100 better than the price in New York for the New South Wales loan. The effective rate of interest was something like 4s.1d. per eent. better for South Australia in London than for New South Wales in New York.
– Certain factors operated against New South Wales.
– The two operations were carried out independently, and, from the point of view of New South Wales, the New York loan was not wonderfully successful. Still, the honorable member has raised a very important point. Unquestionably, we should not allow the whole of our operations to become the preserve of a close monopoly. When we last borrowed money in New York, I think that eight or nine separate institutions combined to deal with the flotation of the loan. The whole range of financial borrowing will receive the closest attention, both of the Government and of the Loan Council.
– What is the proposal regarding the financial year?
– That will be considered . at Canberra. Honorable members, after a brief sojourn there, will be able to decide that question for themselves.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee (consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising of moneys to be loaned to the States, and for other purposes.
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.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure simply extends for a further year the States Loan Act of 1925, and gives to the Commonwealth Government power to borrow on behalf of the States moneys that they require for the ensuing year. The bill is being introduced in accordance with a resolution passed by the Loan Council on 10th and 11th February of this year, asking the Commonwealth Government to carry out all its borrowings in Australia and overseas, excepting in England. It is quite unnecessary for me to speak at any length in commending this bill for the acceptance of honorable members, because they are fully aware that for the last three years the loan operations of the Commonwealth and the States have been conducted in accordance with the agreement arrived at and the resolution passed by the Loan Council. We all regret that at present New South Wales is not a member of the Loan Council, because that body can best function only when all the Governments which borrow in Australia are acting together. We are not without hope that New South Wales will come in, not merely for its own sake, but for the sake of every taxpayer and every government in Australia.
– Has the Loan Council any control over borrowing by local bodies ?
– At the present time, the only control we can exercise is through the State governments. The matter has been discussed, and the State governments are endeavouring to provide that the local governing bodies and special authorities that have been created, such as the Board of Works in Victoria, shall conduct their borrowing in a co-ordinated way. The Mayor of Brisbane, quite recently, raised that matter, and is attempting to secure a general agreement throughout Australia, so that all borrowing shall be done through and in co-operation with the Loan Council. If that can be brought about, it will be very satisfactory. The value of the amount of co-ordination that has already been obtained is amply demonstrated by the reduction of interest charges. The interest rate at the end of 1923 went up to over 6 per cent. for taxfree loans, as the result of suicidal competition among the States, but that rate has now been reduced to 51/4 per cent., subject to Commonwealth tax, which was paid for the last loan. The general policy of the Loan Council was set out in my budget speech of July last, and is as follows : -
As regards borrowing for the States under the authority given by Parliament for the present financial year, I may mention that a loan of £6,000,000 was floated in Australia in November last. This amount, however, included £1,000,000 for the Federal Capital Commission, authority to borrow which was included in the Commonwealth Loan Act for 1926-27. This loan was raised at an interest rate of 51/4 per cent., and lenders had the option of lending their money for either six, eleven, or fifteen years. I am pleased to say that this loan was a complete success, and that, in common with other loans raised by the Commonwealth for the States, it was oversubscribed, the total subscriptions being £6,515,130. This, I think, is further eloquent testimony to the wisdom of there being one central authority to arrange the terms of the issue, such as the rate of interest, the amount to be borrowed, and the right time to go upon the market for the raising of the moneys. When that loan was being raised, it was thought to be a favorable opportunity for conversion. There is a £70,000,000 taxfree loan falling due in December. That is a solid undertaking to deal with. We had the good fortune in 1925 to convert £67,000,000 satisfactorily at 51/2 per cent., but it was a herculean transaction. It took the combined efforts of the whole of the treasury staff for many months to carry it through. So, when the loan was being floated on behalf of the States in November last, we took advantage of it to offer conversion terms to holders, and said that Ave were prepared to give similar terms to those offering new money for the States. I am glad to say that £25,000,000 of that loan was converted, and other amounts were taken up by the sinking fund. The rate at which we were able to renew that loan was not really very greatly different from the rate at which the money was borrowed. In the one case it was 41/2 per cent tax free, and in the other 51/4 per cent. taxable. That the big holders did not consider our offer very generous is shown by the fact that over £40,000,000 was not converted. The bill now before the House contains no authority for the Commonwealth to raise moneys for its own purposes; that will be contained in other legislative authority, which will be asked for later and considered on its merits. Since 1921 the Loan Council has tried to leave the Australian market free to the States, and we have endeavoured as best we could, by discussion with the State Treasurers and financial authorities, including the board of the Commonwealth Bank, to ascertain the amount that could be taken from the Australian market without interfering with private industry or unnecessarily boosting the rate for overdrafts and other private requirements. We have borrowed in different years sums which have varied from £10,000,000 to £13,000,000, which seem to be the amounts that can be taken from the savings of the people without embarrassing private enterprise, restricting development, or causing unemployment. For that reason, the Commonwealth has also been compelled to borrow overseas. All borrowing in Australia since 1921 has been on behalf of the States, with the exception of the money raised for the Federal Capital Commission. The Government felt that the Federal Capital of Australia should be developed by money raised in Australia, and with that sentiment, I think, honorable members will generally agree.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of the Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act relating to the export of pearl shell and for other purposes.
Standing orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Paterson and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of the Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the export of fresh fruits and for other purposes.
Standing orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Paterson and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That a charge at the rate of one-eighth of a penny for each pound be imposed on all dried currants, dried sultanas, or dried lexias exported from the Commonwealth, after a date fixed by proclamation, under the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act 1924, as amended by the act passed to give effect to this resolution, subject to a lower rate being prescribed by regulations made under that act as so amended in respect of any of the three kinds of dried fruits to which that act applies.
That the charge imposed in pursuance of this resolution shall cease to be imposed upon a date fixed by proclamation, under the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act 1924, as so amended, as the date upon which that act shall cease to be in force.
Standing orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Paterson and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
The following paper was presented : -
Ordered to be printed.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19270321_reps_10_115/>.