10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton. Groom) took the chair at 10 a.m. and read prayers.
Wharfage Facilities at Darwin.
Mr. MACKAY presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committeeon PublicWorks, together with minutesof evidence and plans, relating to the proposed provision of wharfage facilities. at Darwin.
Ordered to be printed.
– Having regard to the drought conditions prevailing in different parts of the Commonwealth, will the Prime Minister furnish the House with any information in his possession regarding the extent of the rainfall during the last two days?
– I endeavoured yesterday to obtain from the meteorological office, Melbourne, information as to the extent of the rainfall. The statistics furnished, although by no means complete, were extremely gratifying as they appeared to indicate that the rainfall has been general. Further information will be obtained this morning if possible, and made available to honorable members.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether there is any good reason why the head Meteorological office should not be transferred to Canberra. If such a transfer is not practicable, will the Minister see that honorable members receive, at least a daily weather report. Rain has been falling for two days, and honorable members are not able to ascertain whether their own districts have benefited.
– Arrangements will be made immediately for the weather reports to be posted in this building. If necessary the information will be obtained each day by telegram. The head Meteorological office will be transferred to Canberra as soon as office accommodation is available, but I do not anticipate that the change can be made within six months.
– Will the Minister provide; not only for the posting of telegraphic weather reports in this building, but also for such reports to be made available to hotels and business houses in Canberra on the same terms and conditions as in the State capitals?
– Towards the end of the last brief session in Melbourne the Government, in order to expedite business, considerably curtailed the privileges of honorable members by limiting their opportunities to bring before the House private business, and also by the use of the contingent notice of motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable all stages of a bill to be taken on one day. The effect of this has been to place the whole business of the House under the control of the Prime Minister.
Will the right honorable gentleman see that the ordinary privileges of private members are restored?
– The only way in which the rights of private members were affected was by the limitation of the time usually available for private members’ business which ordinarily takes precedence of government business on Thursdays. Towards the end of the session that curtailment is necessary and inevitable. At ordinary times all the privileges and rights of private members will be preserved.
– Having regard to the fact that theFederal Territory is in the centre of the State of New South Wales, will the Prime Minister arrange that Monday next, which will be Eight Hours’ Day in that State, shall be geneally observed in the Territory?
– Public holidays are controlledby the Public Service Commission, and I understand that arrangements have been made for Monday next to be observed as a public holiday in the Territory. However, I shall look into the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House of the number of unoccupied houses in Canberra? Are public servants reluctant to occupy them because of the high cost?
– The transfer of officers from Melbourne to Canberra is still in progress, and we hope to transfer six other departments in the second or third week in December. Most of the houses erected by the Commission which are now empty will be occupied before that time, but some houses built by speculators for sale or letting may not have tenants before the new year.
– Will the Prime Minister have the proposal for the construction of a. railway from Yass to Canberra re-submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report?
– The suggestion will receive consideration.
Means of Communication
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are proceeding, and the particulars desired will be furnished as soon as they are available.
asked the Minister for “Works and Railways, upon notice -
Will he give favorable consideration to the suggestion that prior to the execution of ejection warrants against defaulting tenants, the nearest branch or sub-branch of the Returned
Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia be given one month’s notice as to the intention of the commission, so that an opportunity will be afforded to the Returned Soldiers’ League, if it so desires, to meet the obligations of the defaulting tenant?
– Many of those who are purchasing homes from the commission are not members of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, whilst others such as munition, war workers and members of the mercantile marine, are not eligible for membership of that body. The commission, in the past, did mention several cases to the league, but as individual applicants resented the action, stating that they objected to their private affairs being made known, the commission wisely decided not to make public an applicant’s affairs without his authority. If the services of the league are required by an applicant, they should be sought by him, and I consider that the commission would be acting ‘ wrongly if it informed the local branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, which might include among its members close neighbours of an applicant, when an applicant’s tenancy was determined, more particularly as approximately 99 per cent, of the warrants are cancelled on the applicant agreeing to pay arrears by small amounts each month.
asked the ‘ Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will befurnished as early as possible.
Excise on Fortifying Spirit.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Tomatoes - Paper
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the quantity and value of paper imported into the Commonwealth during the past twelve months under the following headings: -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the revised scale of payments being made to allowance postmasters, will he make arrangements for the re-establishment of any offices that went out of existence owing to no person being prepared to undertake the duties under the previous scale of payments?
– Offices will be established or re-established wherever justified.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and furnished to the honorable member.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the following questions : -
The Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board has now furnished the following information: -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply : -
Determination of appeals of classified taxation officers is now being completed, and it is anticipated that approved classification will be gazetted within a fortnight. No delay has occurred consistent with the heavy volume of work involved in classifying the whole Public Service.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Denison (Sir John Gellibrand) asked the following question : -
How many members of the Public Service are still awaiting classification and what steps are being taken to expedite the completion of this work?
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
The approximate number of officers still to be classified is fifteen hundred (1,500) out of a total staff of thirty thousand (30,000). Classification of telephone staffs comprising a large section will be gazetted shortly. Full expedition is being exercised in completing the work of classification and determining appeals.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Homes Act - Report of the War Service Homes Commission, together with Statement and Balance-sheets, 1st July, 1920, to 30th June, 1927.
Ordered to be printed.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Statement by the Minister for Markets and Migration regarding the operation of the Act, together with the Report of the
Canned Fruits Control Board, for the period ended 30th June, 1927.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Statement by the Minister for Markets and Migration regarding the operation of the Act, together with the Second Report of the Dairy Produce Control Board for the year ended 30th June, 1927.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Statement by the Minister for Markets and Migration regarding the operation of the Act, together with the Third Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for the year ended 30th June, 1927.
– If the honorable member will examine the question more closely, he will find that it is in a different category from that to which objection was taken yesterday.
– Only slightly.
– Substantially. The question objected to yesterday contained a reasoned argument, while that now under review seeks information regarding the administration of public affairs. I presume that it is addressed to the Prime Minister to enable him to give information in reference to a certain matter of administration. Honorable members, however, are not permitted, in asking a question, to use arguments or express opinions.
– The protection of our corporate honour largely resides with you, Mr. Speaker, and therefore I ask if it is not a reflection on this Parliament to refer to a determination of our Parliament as a “ tragic blunder/-‘ especially when our action was taken in compliance with an agreement made between th>) Commonwealth and the State of South Australia?
– My object in drawing the attention of the Prime Minister to the statement made by the Queensland Minister for Railways was that I considered that it contained a reflection on the integrity of the right honorable gentleman. While in Queensland the Prime Minister received a deputation of persons interested in the construction of a railway from Camooweal to Bourke, and the inference made in the statement of Mr. Larcombe is that the right honorable gentleman deliberately refused to intimate to that deputation that it was proposed to construct a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. I had no intention of questioning the decision of this Parliament in regard to that railway.
– The question of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) does not reflect upon any decision or statute passed by this Parliament. It is, of course, not in order for any honorable member to reflect in this House on any decision of this Parliament, or on any of its legislation, unless steps are being taken to repeal or amend some particular statute. This question directs the attention of the Prime Minister to the criticism of a Queensland Minister upon an act of administration and of his action with respect to a deputation.
– Yesterday the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked whether the report of the commission on the Morobe gold-field had been received and when it would be made available. I thought the honorable member referred to the report of the North Australia Commission, and replied that it had not been received, but would be made available when received. The report on the Morobe gold-field had been received, is in the hands of the printer, and will be tabled next Wednesday.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) (by leave) agreed to -
That Mr. Marr be discharged from attendance on the House Committee, and that, in his place, Mr. Grosvenor Francis be appointed a member of the Committee.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 29th September, vide page 132) :
– When Parliament adjourned last night, I was discussing the anomalies and grievances existing in the Mandated Territory, and was confining my efforts to the treatment meted out to miners and prospectors in that area. To-day the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) informed us that the report on the Morobe gold-fields is in the hands of the printer and will be tabled shortly, and any remarks- 1 may address to that phase of the question must not be taken as aa attempt to influence that report. The question that has perplexed the mining public of the mandated territory is : what line of reasoning was adopted when granting the “ Big Six “ leases. Those leases comprise the pick of the alluvial goldmining area on Edie Creek, where the daposits are fabulously rich. When they were granted, 21 miners lodged applications for leases on different parts of Edie and Mary Creeks, the applications being for leases under conditions similar to those granted to the “Big Six.” For some unknown reason the applications of the 21 men, although they were made -under the same ordinance as those of the “ Big Six “, were refused.
– Was any reason given for the refusal ?
– None whatever. Just recently the 21 applicants were advised that they would be granted leases ; but, in the meantime, a great deal of the gold had been extracted from the ground. If it was just to grant leases to the “ Big Six it appears to me that there could have been no reasonable ground for refusing the applications of the 21. The impression is rife on the fields that the ordinance was made, not for the benefit of the mining community, but for that of the few who were granted these huge leases. It was said, of course, that the leases were for dredging and sluicing propositions; but no effort was made by the lessees to install proper plant for dredging and sluicing. With a big wooden box with bamboo ruffles it was possible to extract from 80 to 90 ounces of gold a day, and under such conditions it was hardly likely that sluicing and dredging would be undertaken. In my opinion leases could quite easily have been granted to the 21 applicants to whom I have referred. I remember a case occurring on the mainland in which a court adjourned certain proceedings in an application of this character and the Government issued a new ordinance which was made retrospective. If that could have been done in Australia I can see no reason why it could not have been done in the Mandated Territory. In any case, there was no justification whatever for granting leases of huge tracts of rich alluvial country to six men while 21 others were denied even a small lease. Such actions cause miners, to wonder whether the interests of the community or the interests of the individual arc paramount with the authorities. The possibilities of the mining industry in the Mandated Territory are wonderful, and it is regrettable that nothing has been done to encourage prospecting there. In my opinion prospectors there should be assisted just as much as they are on the mainland of Australia; but unfortunately that is not the case. In the Mandated Territory a man is obliged to battle along without any help whatever from the administration. He may show much initiative and great courage in working this difficult country, only to see the fruits of his labour taken ‘ from him. There is no doubt whatever that New Guinea is a most difficult country to prospect. There is nothing like it any where in Australia. In the circumstances the Government should grant extra assistance to those who are prepared to undergo the privations of prospecting it. I believe that the existing mining ‘ordinance is to be revised. I trust that it will be made as liberal as possible. The regulations governing prospecting in Papua have been working successfully for a number of years, and I cannot understand why the New Guinea Administration did not base its ordinance upon that of Papua. Had it done so, we should have had. no reason to complain of the mon opoly which has been given to a few men. The difficult nature of the country makes prospecting a most expensive business. The result is that a prospector may spend practically his whole capital and find that he has not sufficient money left to provide the survey fee for a claim which he desires to obtain. Consequently, it has happened more than once that a party of strangers with a certain amount of capital behind it, has paid the survey fee and obtained the claim over the head of the man to whom it should have been granted. In Northern Australia the survey fee has not to be paid until the survey is about to be made, which is often twelve months or two years after a claim is pegged out. That gives prospectors an opportunity to raise a little money. It would be most beneficial if the same arrangement could be made to apply in the Mandated Territory. At any rate I trust that the authorities will see that the new ordinance gives reasonable protection to the prospector.
– The regulations governing prospecting in Western Australia have worked very well.
– I trust that the Government will take note of that remark. A good mining ordinance, sympathetically administered, would be wonderfully helpful in developing the industry in the Mandated Territory.
– In Western Australia a prospector may hold anything from ten to eighteen acres for prospecting for twelve months subject to the payment of a fee of 10s. per acre, provided that he carries out certain work on the land.
– That is an excellent provision. As things are in the Mandated Territory, a man requires capital to the extent of £1,000 before he can attempt much prospecting.
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should/ like to preface my remarks by expressing my very deep regret at the loss of a very dear and old friend in our late Clerk, Mr. Gale. I had been associated with him since 1S97 when I first entered the “Western Australian Parliament, of which he was then the Clerk; and ever since I have had the highest regard and respect for him. He was not only a great Western Australian - this was exemplified by a visit to his chambers, the walls of which were hung with photographs showing the various beauty spots of that State - but he was also a great Australian. I know that I am voicing the opinion of every honorable member of this Parliament when I say that they had no kinder friend, and no one more ready to help them, than he was.
For a long while we have been accustomed to hear, and to read in the press, that when this Parliament removed to Canberra its members would take a broader outlook upon our national affairs. It was said that we would no longer be dominated by the influence and environment of a hig city, but would set to work in a new spirit to build up this great country. It is significant, however, that in the first debate that has occurred here honorable ‘members have made bitter complaints because so many people from other countries have been allowed to enter Australia to aid us in developing its huge empty spaces. We have a con,tinent which has an’ area equal to that of the United States of America, but which has at present a population of only 6,000,000 people. I pity the man who says that under good conditions and good government we could not easily carry a population of 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people. We need sane government here, and less government interference with the industries of the country. I am sure that if our industries were allowed to develop along reasonable lines, and with less government interference we should not hear so much about unemployment. During 1926 the public debt of Australia increased by £4S,000,000. For a number of years we have had glorious seasons, and we have obtained a good price for both our wool and our wheat; but this, notwithstanding, a huge increase has occurred in om public debt and complaints are being made throughout Australia about the number of people who are unemployed and the number of new-comers who are admitted annually to the country. What is the reason for it? Surely there must be a good reason.
– There is too much free trade.
– We have been trying for many years, by the imposition of duty upon duty, to build up secondary industries in the Commonwealth; and yet we have an army of unemployed.
– Our position is not so bad as that of Great Britain.
– The honorable member would kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Perhaps when the great primary industries of this country are destroyed people will realize the blunders that have been made by this Parliament. Surely the first principle that should guide honorable members in considering any proposed legislation is the welfare of the country. I believe that honorable members whose views differ from mine are honest in their opinions, and I have no objection to their expressing them; but I claim the same right to express” mine. I want to put my views before the people of Australia, particularly the workers, and to ask them to realize that the policy that we are now following is unwise and not in the best interests of this country. I have little time even for honorable members on this side of the House who in their speeches apparently try to rob the Labour Party of its policy of opportunism and cajolery in an endeavour to win seats at elections. According to them the party must win, and to the Dickens with the future of the country! I do not believe in pandering to the people. We have the experience and we should have the courage to tell them where the danger lies. It must be clear to any balanced mind that we are pursuing a very dangerous policy. In 1926 we increased our public debt by £4S,000,000. I have not been able to obtain the figures for 1927, although I have asked the Treasurer for them, but I believe that last financial year we borrowed even more than that amount. Does any one realize what the result will be when we are no longer able to borrow large sums of money abroad ? Unemployment will be rife, and yethonorable members opposite say that Australia cannot carry more than 6,000,000 people.
– No one has said that.
– Yet it is inferred in every speech from that side of the House. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) spoke last night regarding the closing down of the Broken Hill mines. It is only a little while ago that the Melbourne Herald published a paragraph concerning the closing down of Mount Morgan mine, and the consequent abandonment of £15,000,000 worth of ore. I believe that the value of the ore at Mount Morgan is about £2 10s. a ton. The wages paid at the mine were lower than those paid to miners in Canada and the United States. Yet in those countries lower grade ore is being profitably worked.The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has a magnificent agreement with the Imperial Government, and this expires in 1930. Despite that agreement the mines are closing down. What is the cause? The cause undoubtedly is excessive duties. There has been an increase in the cost of Oregon. Hundreds of miles of Oregon are used in the works underground. The tariff has increased the cost of timber and of machinery. The following paragraph was published in the press : -
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company recently the chairman, Mr. Harold Darling, directed attention to a late increase in New South Wales railway freights for coal of 9d. a ton, but he also pointed out that an increase of1s. 6d. a ton was due to workers’ compensation and child endowment legislation. These charges had lifted the f.o.b. price of coal at Newcastle to 26s. 7d. a ton for large, and 21s.1d. for small coal, against 21s. 9d. and 17s. 9d. a ton respectively in the 1920 boom period. Mr. Darling added that, in 1915, the price of coal was only11s. a ton for large and 7s. a ton for small coal. As the cost of obtaining coal has moved up in the meantime, so the price of fuel to the consumer has advanced correspondingly. The Caledonian Collieries Limited recently announced the passing of the dividend on its ordinary shares. Directors then conveyed their regret “that, owing to frequent strikes and other industrial interferences . . . the profit does not warrant the payment of any dividend on the ordinary capital.” They added that “the demand for the company’s coal has been, and is, in excess of the available supply.”
The Mount Morgan mine has now closed down. A large number of men are unemployed at Broken Hill. Mines have been abandoned in Western Australia. One mine which had already developed a million tons of ore worth from 32s. to 34s. per ton, had to be abandoned owing to high costs of production caused by the tariff, the Navigation Act, and arbitration awards.
– If the men worked for1s. a day the mines would pay.
– I admit that the worker, especially in the mining industry, is not getting a good wage taking into consideration the cost of living, but we must realise that a continual increase in the cost of living must necessarily increase the cost of production and that when we increase the cost of production beyond the value of the article produced, production must cease. No mines in Australia other than coal mines are making any progress. Gold mining is a vanishing industry, but it should not be vanishing at its present rate. In Australia we cannot afford to produce a class of ore which is being mined in other countries at a profit. It is marvellous what the employment of one man in primary production or mining means to the progress of the country. I estimate that one man working on a farm or in a mine keeps eight or nine other men employed throughout Australia. How, then, can we view with equanimity the closing down of these industries? There has been a request for a duty on coal to compel the vessels leaving Australia to use Australian coal. A bonus is being asked on the production of copper. Take the timber industry. When in Tasmania recently I saw some magnificent wood work which I thought was Tasmanian blackwood, but upon investigation I found it to be Oregon. We have magnificent Australian timbers in Parliament House. There is no finer timber for embellishment work than is obtain able in Tasmania, and yet oregon is largely used in our capital cities. It is our economic conditions that are destroying our industries. The timber industry should be a source of marvellous wealth to Tasmania, and also to my own State. How can we carry on when some old gentleman, probably a fairly good lawyer, fixes the wages and general conditions of labour in Australia? The whole position is monstrous and absurd. What is more, the Arbitration Court has helped to build up a terrible enmity between employer and employee. We are not getting good service from our workers. I throw the blame, not upon the workers, but upon their leaders, and honorable members on this side of the House who have not the courage to state their convictions. We are expending millions in conserving the waters of the river Murray, hoping to settle half a million people upon its banks, in successful and prosperous conditions, and thus to establish excellent markets for our secondary industries. But what is the position to-day? There are requests for subsidies and assistance throughout the whole area. The increase in the cost of living increases the wages of the men, which in turn increases railway freights and the cost of production. There are great steel works at Broken Hill. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company when it commenced operations said that it did not require protection, and that if it could not compete with the world it would be satisfied to close the works. It pointed out that its works and its workers were as efficient as those in the United States. Since those works started the price of coal has increased from11s. to 26s. 7d. a ton, and every other commodity has increased in proportion. Under these conditions how can we hope to make progress? We have been able of recent years 1o make a fine showing to the world with huge loan policies, and the splendid prices obtained for wool and wheat. This year, however, we have had a bad season for wool. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and also the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) must be very optimistic if they think that next year the Customs revenue will be anything like it was last year. No State other than Western Australia, which has magnificent avenues for settling people on the land, has made progress in primary products in recent years, but should there be a drop in the price of wheat there will be such a bitter complaint from Western Australia that we shall have to give that State control of its own tariff for 25 years otherwise secession must take place. To-day Western Australia imports £6,000,000 worth of goods over and above its exports from the East. Our purchases from the East last year amounted to £7,600,000, and the cost of these goods is probably over 100 per cent. more than it would be if we had control of our own Customs, due not only to the tariff, but also to the Navigation Act, and the consequent increase in freight.
Mr.Fenton. - Train loads of stock and goods go from the Eastern States to Western Australia.
– When goods are carried by train instead of by vessel it shows the impossible and intolerable position which has arisen in this country. We are necessarily a primary producing and exporting country. Australia is the most distant from the markets of the world, and its costs of production are higher than those of any other country. If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) is able to increase duties with the almost unanimous approval of every section of the Parliament, and add duty on duty through the Anti-Dumping Act - thus preventing any competition from abroad with Australian manufacturers - as he has done with respect to iron and steel, wire, and wire-netting, what will the end be? He tells us that it is necessary, for the purpose of assisting the Australian manufacturer, to charge a duty of £9 a ton on barbed wire from the United States of America. Look at the position of the unfortunate settlers on the Murray Flats. If a frost comes their hopes of a harvest are shattered. I have letter after letter from men in the Mallee districts, many of whom do not expect to obtain even seed wheat thisyear. Why should they be compelled to pay tribute year after year for the purpose of providing work and good conditions for other sections of the community?
– They might as well pay tribute to the man in the city as to the foreigner.
– That is a stupid interjection. We should try to mete out even-handed justice to every section, and if there is one class that is deserving of special consideration it is those who are prepared to help to develop the great natural resources of this country. The foolish policy of attracting migrants to the cities, where the conditions have been made much better than they are in the country, should be abandoned. If the wages paid to rural workers were brought into line with the high rates paid in the cities, it would be impossible for the men on the land to carry on production. If we encourage an enormous aggregation of people in the cities without enabling primary producers to keep pace with that increase, we must face the menace of unemployment and destitution. The YearBook shows that in the last four years the interest rate on borrowed money has increased by no less than 9s. 3d. per cent. “With a big borrowing programme this year and heavy redemptions, the average rate of interest will bo found to have increased enormously. This will necessitate further taxation, which is already too high. I hope that the Government will realize the economic impossibility of carrying on as we have done in the past. We should give preference in our legislation to the primary producers, because if the men on the land are made contented and prosperous, markets for secondary industries will automatically come.
I regret that no special action appears to be likely to be taken to encourage settlement in Northern Australia. “We see the writing on the wall in the debates at the Assembly of the League of Nations. The world will demand that if we are to retain the vas open spaces in the north of this continent they must be developed. “We should allow all goods to enter our northern ports from the cheapest markets of the world. The trade there is worth nothing to the manufacturers in the southern portions of Australia. The freight and handling charges are enormous. We should abolish harbour and light dues, and encourage shipping from all countries to trade there. The general manager of the Dutch East India Company informed me that he would be only too pleased to cause his vessels to call there if low charges prevailed; but he said that as soon as he berthed them in th<b waters of Northern Australia he had to pay high duties on everything that his officers and crew ate and drank, and pay heavy harbour and light dues. If settlers could be successfully established there they would eventually be able to pay income tax. For 25 years special inducements should be offered to enable the country to be developed. What is the value to us of this great area, with its pastoral and mineral wealth, if the coS: of production is so high that nobody will make use of it? Bring down the cost of living and the cost of production will be lessened, and unemployment will soon cease.
– If the speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat were circulated throughout Europe those reading it would npt have the slightest desire to settle in Australia, because he has presented such a doleful picture. He has painted Australia as a wretched country bordering on a state of bankruptcy. I take an entirely different view from that of the honorable member, and compare the progress of Australia during its comparatively short history with that of the United States of America. Less than 140 years ago Captain Arthur Phillip landed in this country with a small band of 1,100 persons, and we can look with pride and pleasure upon the remarkable developments that have since taken place. No public man should decry a country that has made such great strides in so short a period.
– Nobody has decried Australia.
– I cannot understand the mentality of the honorable members from Western Australia who seldom say anything that would encourage rural settlement. They are all Jeremiahs. From the small beginning to which I have referred we have built up in Sydney the second city in the Empire, and we are justly proud of our early pioneers who evidently planned for the future.
– And they were immigrants.
– The Labour party is not opposed to immigration. From Sydney a net- work of railways, telegraphs, roads, and bridges has been constructed throughout New South Wales and our universities, and art galleries speak of advanced civilization. Similar progress is to be noted in all the States. The honorable member for
Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), however, persistently pitch doleful tales about what has happened in the rural districts of Australia, although no other country has such a record of rapid progress. Th.e honorable member, for Swan spoke of the dearth of primary production, but when I was in Western Australia last year the people seemed very cheerful concerning the progress made. No less than 32,000,000 bushels of wheat had been produced, and increased cultivation was contemplated. He also referred to the high cost of coal and other commodities. I point out, however, that high prices have ruled for wheat, wool and butter. That is not detrimental to the people. When these goods advance in price surely the cost of coal must increase proportionately. We should not forget the good effect of the Navigation Act in bringing about a well-deserved improvement in the wages and living conditions of seamen. A protective policy has been adopted for Australia because only by that means can secondary industries be made prosperous. The United States of America would not have made such rapid progress without the aid of a high protective tariff. Whilst the population of Australia is not increasing as fast as we would like, it is certainly progressing steadily. One of the Admirals of the American Fleet told me that a fact which astonished most of the Americans during the parade through Sydney was that amongst the thousands of people in the streets they saw not one colored man. Some honorable members are prepared to introduce colored people in order to provide cheap labour for the development of the northern parts of the Commonwealth, but the Americans have realised the mistake of such a policy. They say that we are acting wisely in keeping Australia white, even though that may involve slower industrial progress. The Labor Party believes in maintaining a white Australia and a high protective policy for the development of its resources. If these two policies are adhered to, this country will progress. Some honorable members have repeated the old parrot cry that Australia cannot be held by a sparse population. I have heard the same pessimism expressed for the last 40 years.
What nation desires to take the country from us? I endorse the statement of my honorable leader that too many migrants are arriving from Southern Europe. Australia was developed by men of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic races, and now, after the pioneering has been done and the country has been opened up, the Southern Europeans are arriving te garner the harvest. They do not go into the back country and engage in heavy development work; they prefer to hand goods over the counter. In my electorate the shops are filled with these men. I have no objection to migrants of any white race who will go into the back country and do their share in reclaiming the wilderness or, as tradesmen, help in the building of our cities. Many of the Southern Europeans, however, render no such services. The Labour party believes in immigration, preferably of people of the British race. It is no reflection upon Southern Europeans to say that this country, having been pioneered and developed by the British people, must be retained for them, and any Government should protect our own kith and kin against the possibility of being displaced by foreigners. The honorable member for Swan has condemned the tariff as the great stumbling block m tho way of progress and as the cause of the high cost of living. If the honorable member wants cheap living, he can go to China, India, the Malay States and other low-wage countries.
– He will not be prepared to live on rice.
– I do not say that he should. He and the honorable member for Forrest say that Australia requires greater production at lower cost. That can be achieved only by increasing the hours of labour or reducing wages. The progress made by any cheap labour country is not comparable with that of Australia, which, in respect of both development and standards of living, is a beacon light for the civilized world. I have not heard those honorable members objecting to the increased rate oi interest we are required to pay for the money we borrow abroad. It is regrettable that our national debt is so great, but it is largely the result of the Great War. I do not begrudge anything done to win that war. We had to incur that debt as a means of self-preservation, but the country is wealthy enough to meet its obligations, and will do so. Those honorable members who wail about the heavy burden of taxation omit to take into account the valuable assets which Australia possesses in its Stateowned railways. This is the only country in the world where the railways are entirely owned by the Government. Because of State ownership the country has been opened up much more rapidly than it would have been if the railways had been controlled by private companies, who would have hesitated to incur any expenditure that did not give an assurance of. satisfactory dividends. I deplore the statement by honorable members opposite that this country is going downhill. Admittedly there is unemployment in our midst; but, unfortunately, under the present economic system that is common to all countries. The evil, however, is less acute in Australia than in other parts of the world, particularly Southern Europe. Our superior condition in that respect is due to the wise legislation enacted by our various Parliaments. I want people to come here when opportunities are made for them, but I am opposed to flooding the country with immigrants before adequate provision has been made for them. I have seen new arrivals landing at Circular Quay, Sydney, and confronted with the problem of finding a room in which to live. When they cannot find employment or houses, they form a bad impression of the country. If, on their arrival, they were able to get houses and their labour were in demand, they would write to others in their native land urging them to follow them to this new land of opportunity. The Southern Europeans are not conversant with local condi-tions, and because they do not understand our language, undue advantage is taken of them by employers. We have heard a good deal of the Italian invasion of t”he sugar industry in Queensland. In order to develop Northern Australia and keep the country white, our people are paying a high price for sugar. I remember well the doleful prophecies of political Jeremiahs when colored labour in that industry was prohibited, but we have shown that white labour can develop the northern portions of the Commonwealth. People will not, however, be satisfied to pay a high price for sugar if the cane-growing industry is to be captured by Southern Europeans.
– There is no indication that that is happening.
– We should take steps to ensure that it does not happen. I understand that the Italians live in groups, pool their money, and after working for twelve months or so purchase a cane-field, and then bring out others of their countrymen to work for them.
– And they post up, notices that no Australian need apply for a job.
– I am not aware of that, but the Government must take precautions if the people are to continue to pay a high price for sugar in order to maintain the local industry. I am pleased with the progress which Australia has made, and I have the utmost confidence in its future. So long as the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic races predominate in our population, we need have no fear of a foreign invasion.
.- Last night the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) waxed indignant because of a question placed upon the notice-paper by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen). I regard the honorable member for Riverina with sorrow rather than anger. 1 am sorry that when he visited the Northern Territory he allowed a few 23eople interested in its downfall rather than its uplift, to mislead him, and I can only suggest that some of the many inches for which the honorable member is noted are the result of continuous leg-pulling. Those who have lived in the Territory and studied it, and those who have formed expeditions to explore it - not merely making flying trips by motorcar - have declared as a result of their investigation and experience, that it can be made a land flowing with milk and honey. I hope that the honorable member for Riverina will make another trip to the Territory, and that his second impression will be better than the first. Last evening the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), referred to boy migrants in South Australia. The honorable member did not state the position fairly. He emphasized the few suicides that have unfortunately occurred amongst the lads. I do not know the reason for these occurrences, but the evidence I have gained by conversation with some of the boys and an inspection of the homes in which they live gives me an impression contrary to that conveyed to the House by the honorable member. I recollect one of these boys in the constituency of Wakefield coming to my place of business with a government order. In conversation with him I found that he was quite enthusiastic about his life in Australia; in fact no native-born boy could have praised this country more freely than he did. When I asked him if he was satisfied, he replied, “More than satisfied. I have plenty to eat and to do, and I enjoy this wonderful climate.” Asked if he was receiving sufficient wages to pay his way, he said, “I am saving money to bring out one of my brothers, and when he is here the two of us will endeavor to bring out others of the family.” He told me that he was one of a large family, that his father in London was working half-time; and the members of the family were glad sometimes to go to a public kitchen for soup to keep body and soul together. In recruiting for the navy it is considered a wise policy to “catch ‘em young”, andI think that that also is true of migration. Young lads will make the finest settlers because they have not yet formed habits of mind or body, and, being more malleable than adults, will sooner develop into good Australians. Some little time ago I met, in the Mallee country, one or two boys who were later successful in securing farms. Both had served their apprenticeship on farms, were of the right type and made good, as had many other such boys. I am glad to notice that the present Government of South Australia intends to re-institute the scheme of boy immigration, which, I consider, has been entirely satisfactory. The honorable member for Adelaide made many allegations about the conditions to which these boys are subjected. I advise the honorable member, before again speaking on the subject, to make himself conversant with the facts.
– You have quoted only three examples. I am listening patiently to hear of the settlers about whom you promised to enlighten us.
– I have given typical examples of boys who have graduated in farm life and successfully taken their part in the development of our splendid country.
– Give me the names of those who have settled. You have not yet “ produced the goods.”
– Last night the honorable member had ample time to express himself, and was even granted an extension. There is a good deal of common sense in that well-known doggrel about the wise owl - “A wise old owl lived in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Let’s imitate that old bird “
I commend those lines to the honorable member. I consider this to be the finest country on God’s earth. During the war the Australian proved himself to be the best soldier available, and the Australian worker, left alone, is. without doubt, the bestof all workers. Bearing that in mind, I have been astonished during the last day or two to witnessremarkable exhibitions of slow motion on the part of men working on Canberra earthworks. If their efforts were a fair sample of the industry of Australian workmen there would be little hope for the development of this great continent. The efforts of those men are a disgrace.
– Perhaps the honorable member saw some of Barwell’s boy migrants.
– If the honorable member for Adelaide can find one of those boys among the workmen I have mentioned, I am prepared to donate £10 to any charity he cares to name.
– I only said “ perhaps.”
– The honorable member should not make suggestions.
– The honorable member should not insinuate that those men are not doing a fair day’s work.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order !
– I shall be astonished if the honorable member for Adelaide suggests that those men are doing a fair day’s work.
– I say definitely that they are earning all they receive.
– Order ! Order ! I remind the honorable member for
Adelaide that he has not yet exhausted his privileges under the Standing Orders, but he is noi! permitted to make a speech under cover of interjections.
– I have cudgelled my brains to discover what those slow motion pictures reminded me of, and suddenly there flashed across my memory a scene I witnessed of prisoners working in the woodyard of a country gaol in South Australia. There I saw a similar exhibition of slow work. It is criminal for one man to sweat another, but it is also criminal for any man receiving good wages not to give a fair day’s work for those wages. Surprise has been expressed in regard to the capital cost of Canberra, but the excessive cost is easily explained by what I have witnessed. Such exhibitions do not indicate to the world that we are worthy to occupy Australia. It is certainly not the sort of thing I have been accustomed to see in my constituency, where in the outback areas even the women and children work day in and day out in the endeavour to carve for themselves a suitable # niche in this great country of ours, and by their efforts to achieve their ambition they make the country a better place to live in.
.- Some strange statements have been uttered by honorable members opposite, statements that make one wonder where we are. Last night the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) made some remarkable pronouncements’, particularly in regard to the. amount of £34,000,000 which has been set aside to stimulate migration. Actually that amount was subscribed by the manufacturers of Great Britain, acting in conjunction with the British Government, and advanced at a low rate of interest, in order to stimulate additional trade between Australia and Great Britain. Those manufacturers can very well afford to accept a low rate of interest, as they will make from 10 to 15 per cent, profit on the goods they export to Australia. The money was advanced merely to bolster up the mismanagement of the Tory Government in England, with .which honorable members opposite are so familiar. I am unable to understand why men in Great Britain who call themselves statesmen allow the continuance of the dole. The money so used should be expended on some governmental enterprise, so compelling those who receive it to earn it. Such a scheme is not adopted because Tory politicians label governmental enterprises with the title “socialistic.”
A great deal of talk is indulged in upon the unemployed question, but the actual merits and demerits of the matter are not dealt with. To-day Australia exists to a great extent upon loan money, and sooner or later the present practice must be discontinued. If the Federal and State Governments were to reduce their borrowing by £1,000,000 each, the total reduction would amount to £7,000,000. Allowing £1,000,000 for contingencies, the reduction of the expenditure on labour by £6,000,000 would mean 30,000 unemployed. I have arrived at those figuresby allowing £200 a year for each casual labourer. That aspect of the question must be seriously considered before further migrants are brought to Australia. The population of Australia during the last sixteen years has increased as follows : -
For five years of that period there was very little growth of population. This was due to the removal of the flower of our manhood overseas and the stoppage of arrivals, and, in the circumstances, I consider the increase very creditable. I deem an over indulgence in the increase of population to be unwise, and as tending to injure the country. We should exercise moderation in our migration scheme, just as we do with any other economic question. The honorable member for Henty stated that we, as a nation, are not entitled to decide our own domestic policy. I differ entirely from the honorable member. We can decide our domestic policy, and every nation would respect us if we did. The honorable member intimated that America is able to fix a quota iu respect of all immigrants because it is so powerful. According to his. logic, Australia has to suffer an injustice because, in his opinion, it is not powerful. I consider Australia is powerful, and that no nation will interfere with it provided it does not interfere with the rights and privileges of other nations. Every nation in Europe is to-day puzzled with economic problems, due partly to the war, and partly to unemployment”. The Chinese, the Japanese, and the Indians particularly, have made up their minds that their countries shall be developed for the benefit of their own people. They have not yet, in some cases, secured complete control of their national affairs; but there is no doubt that when they do escape from the yoke of other nationals they will seek to conserve the interests of their own people. If “ China for the Chinese “ is a good policy, “ Australia for the Australians “ ought also to be good. The experience of the United States of America has been mentioned frequently during this debate, and I have not the slightest doubt that if the American nation could go back to a period in her development comparable with that which we have reached in ours, she would take drastic steps to preserve her racial purity. I remember ‘seeing, when I first entered this Parliament seventeen years ago, a most valuable report on migration problems that was made by an American commission after seven years’ investigation. I suppose it is still in the Library. It would pay honorable members to peruse it. I trust that the Government will take note of the remarks that have been made in this debate by honorable members on this side of the chamber. We are not creatures of vested interests, nor are we obsessed with the idea that cheap labour means prosperity. We desire to see the Australian standard of living maintained. I had the privilege of travelling in both New Zealand and Australia with the members of the last Empire Parliamentary Delegation that visited Australasia, and I was glad to hear them speak in such high terms of our standard of living. They expressed the opinion that we were building on a sound basis. I trust that we shall continue to improve our standard for no standard is too high for our people. It has been said that only 2 per cent, of our population is of other than the British race ; but I am afraid that the statement will not bear examination. Every person who becomes naturalized is, after his naturalization, regarded as British. This means that very many Italians and Southern Europeans who have not assimilated our national ideals and aspirations are included in the 98 per cent, of so-called British stock here.
I trust that the Treasurer will think well before he undertakes the flotation of the £40,000,000 conversion loan in December next. I am informed, on reliable authority in Sydney, that the Government intends to go to America to raise this money. At least £23,000,000 of the total to be redeemed was raised in Australia by the Fisher Government, but I understand that a good deal of the stock that was then issued is now in the hands of various banking interests, the head offices of which are overseas. I suppose I shall be told by the Government that it knows best how to conduct its own business; but I trust that it will think carefully before it decides to seek the whole of the conversion money abroad. I am sure that the .people of Australia have no desire to be paying in perpetuity a hugh interest bill to money lenders abroad.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) during his speech this morning stated that the man on the land should not continue to pay tribute to the man in the city. As he was dealing with the manufacture of agricultural machinery, I interjected that the man on the land might as well pay tribute to the man in the city as to the foreigner. The honorable member stated that my interjection was stupid. I am aware that interjections are disorderly, but I propose to show that my remark on that occasion was far from being stupid. Wherever one finds a free trader in Australia he finds also that binders are used as a stock argument in favour of free trade. During the war the price of binders rose from £32 to £95 each. That was before there was any tariff on the imported implements. The tariff on binders did not become operative until 21st January, 1921. Yet the honorable member for Swan, and others who hold similar views, would have us believe that the tenderhearted foreign trader was so keen to help the man on the land in Australia that he kept the price of binders down! The fact is that by imposing a 30 per cent, duty on imported agricultural machinery we have been able, during the past fifteen or twenty years, to manufacture these implements in Australia; and to-day the Australian farmer is able to buy his implements just as ‘‘cheaply as he would have been able to buy them had there been no tariff.
– More cheaply in some instances.
– And certainly better.
– That is so. Until a few years ago New Zealand had a number of agricultural implement manufacturing industries operating, but her Parliament, in a weak moment, abolished the tariff on imported machinery, or at least reduced it to a low revenue tariff. That, however, did not make agricultural machinery less costly in New Zealand. Today there is no material difference between the price of these machines in Australia and in New Zealand, notwithstanding that we have placed a 30 per cent, duty on International, McCormack, and other imported implements. That is a sufficient answer to the statement of the honorable member for Swan that my interjection was stupid.
The honorable member advocated that, with a view to assisting the development of North Australia, the ports there should be opened so as to allow goods to enter duty free. I earnestly desire to do everything possible to assist the pioneers in North and Central Australia, but I do not think the suggestion of the honorable member is a good one. I believe that the labour problem in North and Central Australia is more likely to be settled satisfactorily by the rapid construction of the railway from Darwin to Alice Springs, and by an extension of the railway from Camooweal through the Barkly Tableland to the main North-South line than by the means suggested by th.e Honorable member for Swan.
– When J[ was in the Mandated Territory some little time ago I pro: misedthe miners there that I would place their grievances before Parliament. I have made two attempts to do so, but the Standing Orders have not allowed me sufficient time to complete my statements. I propose to enlarge still further upon the remarks that I have already made upon this subject. I wish to point out the peculiar conditions existing under the ordinances in the Mandated Territory. If a nian takes up a lease of a dredging area he has a sole right, within his area, to every other type of mining, whether it be reefing, sluicing, or dredging. That practice does not exist in Australia. If a tenure is granted for sluicing, it is for that purpose exclusively. If a reef or lode should show on a lease, there is nothing to prevent a miner from pegging out and applying for a reef claim. But in the Mandated Territory reefs that are running through leases are not allowed, to be pegged out by the miners. The mining conditions in Australia should be a guide for the Minister, and I trust that when framing the bill, he will see that the various tenures are so defined as to leave little room for doubt concerning their value.
The judiciary of a country plays a very prominent part in its development. The British race has always boasted of its great facilities for justice. Once the judiciary is brought into disrepute, then the future of the country is anything but assured. Thu system in the Mandated Territory is to appoint a district officer and to give him control over a large area of country. That officer is in effect a deputy administrator. He is also chief magistrate of the area. Any man who is called upon to interpret the laws of the country should at least have some legal training, but unfortunately, in the appointment of district officers, there is a total disregard of this qualification. The results are sometimes astounding. Barristers have informed me of cases in which a verdict has been given against their clients, and they could have appealed on ten or fifteen grounds, and be certain of winning on any one of them. Naturally it will be asked why there has been no appeals against the decisions of district officers. The answer is obvious. In, many case3 the persons concerned reside 500 or 600 miles from a centre at which the Supreme Court sits, and to get to that centre would involve expenditure and loss of many months of work. The result is that the district officers get away with their convictions. A man named Sabine was prosecuted for impersonating a government official. The circumstances arose in this way : Three miners employed ten or twelve natives to carry supplies from a village to the mining fields. The conditions of employment of casual labour in the country include payment in advance. These natives received their pay, and then disappeared. Sabine appeared on the scene, and the miners told him of their difficulties. He had had considerable experience of the kanakas, and he told these boys that if they did not fulfil their contract he would send along the head of the police to arrest them. He was charged with impersonating a government official, and the three miners concerned were subpoenaed as witnesses by the Crown. These men had unfortunately become sick, and an escort was sent out to arrest them Sabine was fined £100, with £45 costs. He was refused the right to call the three witnesses subpoenaed by the Crown to substantiate his evidence. That is one sample of the injustices that are being done in the Mandated Territory because of untrained men being appointed to judicial positions. I suggest that if the system is to continue, a number of justices of the peace should be appointed to sit with the district officers, in order that justice may be done to those who come before the court from time to time.
In the Mandated Territory a poll tax of 10s. a head is imposed on the natives. We say that we are out to help the natives, and yet this iniquitous tax is placed upon them. Many of the- natives receive little or no benefit from the administration. Another anomaly is that employers of labour, whether planters or miners, have to pay an education tax of 12s. 6d. a head per annum in respect of all employees. Many of these boys are well past the school age, and live up to 700 miles from the only school in the territory ; yet their employers are compelled to pay the tax. Education is a vital matter in colonization, and the Government should therefore foot the bill. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr), who recently visited the Mandated Territory, knows that 98 per cent, of the settlers there are returned soldiers. Although they did their duty to Australia, to-day they are disfranchised and have no voice in the management of the country which they are helping to develop. .1 do not know whether, under the mandate, representation can be given to them by this Parliament, but in any case, an advisory council should be established represent ing mining and other interests. By that means, I am satisfied that many of the anomalies now existing might be overcome. I hope that the Minister will give the people in the Mandated Territory a better form of administration, and that he will uphold the good impression that he has already made there.
– I wish to refer to the attitude taken by the Department of Trade and Customs respecting certain classes of artificial manures which have been brought into this country, and which are of great importance to our primary producers. If a duty be imposed on some synthetic manures which are being manufactured in many parts of the world, an obstacle will be placed in the way of a considerable reduction in the cost of production in Australia. As the Minister (Mr. Pratten) is well aware, some of the most important developments of modern science have been in the preparation of what are known as synthetic compounds, to replace at lower cost those compounds for which we have hitherto been dependent upon natural resources. I refer particularly to processes which depend upon the extraction of nitrogen from the air in order to make compounds of ammonia and its salts, and which have been closely studied in many countries for a number of years. They had already reached a high stage of development in Germany before the war, and were one- of the factors that enabled that country to persist in the war as long as it did. The importance of those processes was so well recognized in England that, during the war, the Government devoted about £3,000,000-1 am not sure of the exact amount - towards the establishment of a nitrogen fixation plant, on the same lines as in Germany. But the proposal was abandoned, chiefly, I think, because it was a process that could not be carried out profitably under government control. However, since the war, great progress has been made in the investigations along those lines in Germany, and to-day the total production of nitrogen in that country amounts to 600,000 tons per annum, of which 90 per cent, is synthetic. The amount of capital involved is tremendous. One of the great triumphs of modern chemical science is the discovery of what is known as the Haber-Bosch process. The subject has attracted much attention in England, and I understand that a large plant is to be erected for the fixation of nitrogen. I have, no definite information as to the process to be employed. I believe that it is not the HaberBosch; it will probably be the Casale process, which had its origin in Italy and is said to be even more efficient. I mention these facts merely to show the immense importance attached to the discovery of these processes as a means of producing this most important compound, which is an essential accessory in all our agricultural activities. The importance of nitrogen to plant life is well known, of course, to all chemists, and it has even been said that the nitrogen production of a country is to-day the surest criterion of its progress and security. By the process of nitrogen fixation, Germany and Italy are now producing nitrogenous manures in a wonderfully cheap and efficient form. Two of these, to which I intend to make special reference, are known as synthetic urea and di-ammon phos., and they represent two of the most important developments with respect to the manufacture of synthetic manure. The urea is a purely nitrogenous product calculated to provide the nitrogen requirements of plant crops. The di-ammon phos. is a very scientifically compiled combination of nitrogen and phosphoric acid, as its name implies. It is obtained in a wonderfully clear and pure form, which is easy of transit and distribution on the field. Its chemical composition is such that it is a very concencentrated form of manure. In fact, it contains nitrogen and phosphoric acid in such proportions that one bag of it contains as much of those chemicals as is found in a bag of sulphate of ammonia and three bags of superphosphate. That is to say, in one bag is concentrated the chemical ingredients of four bags of the fertilizers commonly used in Australia at the present time. Tho importance of this new product is obvious. I wish to say quite frankly that these goods are coming to us from Germany. The agents desire that they should be admitted under the item of the tariff 403c which covers fertilizers not elsewhere enumerated. In the first instance the agents were informed that di-ammon phoscould not be entered as a fertilizer, but had to be entered as a chemical. That, of course, is technically quite incorrect. It is clearly manufactured as a fertilizer, just as much as is superphosphate. When it was claimed that this product should be admitted duty free under item 403 c their request was again refused, and they were told, after some delay, that the Minister ruled under section 139 ‘of the Customs Act that being a substitute for sulphate of ammonia the product would have to bear a 25 per cent. duty. Obviously di-ammon phos. cannot be regarded as a substitute for ammonium sulphate, which does not contain any phosphoric acid. As to urea, it contains nitrogen, which is the principal ingredient of ammonium sulphate. It is so different in its character from sulphate of ammonia, and it goes into use in the soil for plant food in such a different manner, that it cannot be considered a substitute for that fertilizer. In fact, it is calculated to remove some disadvantages to which ammonium sulphate gives rise by its use in the soil. As a fertilizer, therefore, it cannot be properly considered a substitute. The result of the Minister’s decision is that an additional charge is to be placed upon the producers. Without the duty, urea could be sold at a unit value of 15s. I may explain that if a manure contained 20 per cent, of phosphoric acid, and its value was £20 a ton, its unit value would be £1. Urea could be sold at a unit value of 15s. without the duty ; but with the duty the price is raised ‘ to £1. The price of sulphate of ammonia is usually about 16s. 6d. a unit. Sodium nitrate has a unit value of about 21s. ; but it is not a very suitable manure for many of our soils, and is not used to the same extent as ammonium sulphate. Thus we have a direct impost of 5s. a unit placed < upon the new fertilizer. The unit value of di-ammon phos., without the duty, would be equivalent to that of sulphate of ammonia and superphosphate, which it could replace. Without the duty, £7 10s. a ton would be its price. If the duty were removed, the superphosphate and the ammonium sulphate, which it is supposed to replace, would not be under any disadvantage as regards price, but would be practically on the same unit value.
These manures in competing would then have to rely entirely on the physical advantages present by reason of their chemical contents and convenience for transport. In the case of di-ammon phos., carriage would have to be paid on one bag of equivalent weight instead of on four. That would be legitimate competition, and it should not be prevented by a penalizing duty? When science provide < the primary producer with a cheaper and better fertilizer than he has ever had before, we should not prevent him from using it by imposing, such duties. What is the use of having a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research if, as soon as improved fertilizers come into the market, they are to be handicapped by a penalizing duty. It will be contended that the object is to encourage the manufacture of these fertilizers in our own country, and to prevent their importation from abroad. That is a most impractical conception of the position. I have already pointed out that even in Great Britain, where science and capital are much closer in league than they are in Australia, it has only recently been found practicable to establish a plant capable of producing these improved fertilizers, and even at the present time their commercial output has not been perfected. Therefore, it must necessarily be a long time before Australia can hope to obtain the capital necessary to establish plants capable of supplying these substitutes. The financing and efficiency of the industry depend entirely upon a huge output. In Germany the output amounts to 600,000 tons per annum and that is the sole reason for the low price of the commodity. At a time when the primary producers are being hit in every direction, not only by the hand of man but, also, apparently by the hand of God, and when they require every assistance, why should this unnecessary penalty be imposed upon them? We desire to increase primary production in every way; yet when the latest discoveries of science are brought to the aid of the farmer, the Government raises obstacles to the use of them. I believe that the action of the Department was taken during the Minister’s absence abroad; if so, the facts I am stating should induce him to investigate the matter fully and seek the best expert advice that is available.
I could say much in regard to the application of these manures to agriculture, but I do not desire to burden the House with technical details. I am informed that three times requests to the ComptrollerGeneral that this matter should be referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report have been refused, the answer being that the departmental policy had been decided by the Minister under Section 139, and, therefore, could not be referred to the board. This is a matter of high ‘ economic importance. and I suggest to the Minister that all the facts have not been taken into consideration. ‘Apparently the purpose is to protect the manufacturers of ammoniasulphate and superphosphate. Attempts are now being made by some manufacturers to produce an article similar to di-ammon phos. by mixing ammonium sulphate and superphosphate, but the cost of this mixing must be at least 10s. a ton, and as three parts of superphosphate and one of ammonium sulphate are required to produce the equivalent of one part of di-ammon phos., the extra cost of handling and spreading must be not less than £2 per ton. Surely such a compound should not be protected against an up-to-date product of science.
– If the ammonium sulphate and superphosphate are mixed in the proportion of 1 to 3, is the compound equivalent to the preparation to which the honorable member is referring?
– In chemical value 1 cwt. of di.-ammon phos. is equivalent to 3 cwt. of superphosphate and 1 cwt. of ammonium sulpha*0- combined.
– What fs the phosphoric acid content of di-ammon phos.?
– It is 52.5 per cent, water soluble, and it contains 24.6 per cent, of nitrogen. No hard and fast rule of protecting the product of the coke furnaces that make ammonium sulphate or the already highly protected and rewarded superphosphate industry should prevent the farmers from having available to them the latest product of chemical science. The stoppage of importations of di-ammon phos., instead of encouraging local manufacture, will have the opposite effect. A new compound requires time to win the confidence of users. Its use and value must be demonstrated to the growers, and only when they understand the product, and a market for it has been created, will there be the slightest possibility of manufacturing it locally on a commercial basis. The department should, therefore, afford every opportunity for this new product to be introduced and become known. I have mentioned only two of quite a number of up-to-date products of this kind. Although I endeavour to keep ‘ myself abreast of the developments of industrial chemistry. I have been astonished to learn the progress that has been made in recent years in this particular branch of technical science, and I hope that our people may have the benefits of it. The unreasoning protective system is preventing us from getting not only the goods, but also the brains of other countries. If we are to enter into competition with the world we must accept the results of their brains and enterprise or lag behind in the race. The British people are trying to develop this industry, and I have the greatest confidence in the enterprise and skill of British scientists. Although they are slow in starting, I believe they will eventually out-distance the Germans in this particular branch of manufacture, but we must create a market for their product, and must make use of the German article to create a demand for the British, and, later, the Australian product. Agriculture must detach itself from the creed that superphosphate will do everything that is required. We must go deeply into the laws that govern the surface feeding of plants; the scientific application of manures is necessary if we are not to impoverish our soils. If we calmly rest on the assumption that we know everything the rest of the world will leave us behind. I appeal to the Minister to take a wider view of this subject and not to be concerned if a little profit should find its way into the pockets of a German company. Of what importance is that in comparison with the profits which the use of this commodity will bring to us? I implore him to see if he cannot remove what I seriously regard as an unjust handicap upon a very valuable material.
– I propose to reply briefly to various matters mentioned by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) last night, relating chiefly to mining ordinances and the granting of leases in the Mandated Territories. Mr. McGregor, of Queensland, was appointed a royal commission to inquire into the grant of leases to the “ Big Six “ at Edie Creek, and I hope to table his report on Wednesday next. In what the honorable member said with regard to rnining ordinances generally I concur. Very little assistance has been given by the Government to prospectors in the territories, and on the Edie Creek field the Government cannot give the help that is possible on the mainland. It must be remembered that the discoverers of the field had been prospecting for four years, and that may account for the reward areas granted by the Administrator having been so liberal. I do not know whether the report of the commission is favorable to the prospectors or to the Administrator, but the Edie Creek field is difficult of access and dangerous, unless miners who go there are experienced and well equipped. I agree that the existing ordinance is hardly applicable to the conditions of New Guinea, and therefore have instructed Mr. McLean, the warden of the field, to come to Australia by the next steamer to confer with Mr. McGregor. The Mining Department of Queensland is lending the Commonwealth the assistance of one of its experts, and I am hopeful, with the aid of the Crown Law Department, to revise the ordinance. When that has been done honorable members who have had experience of mining will be afforded an opportunity to peruse the new ordinance, and if they can assist the department we shall be glad to consider their advice. I am quite in accord with the remarks made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding the jumping of prospectors’ claims. When in New Guinea I learned that under the present ordinance when a prospector goes to a centre to report a discovery somebody may jump his claim. The prospector should be safeguarded and should have first right to peg on any newly-discovered field. In regard to the need for appointing district officers having legal training, all are agreed that these jobs are most difficult to fill.
The officers now there were appointed during the time when the Defence Department occupied the Territory. They had no local training, and in most cases no experience of the tropics, so we couldhardly expect them to do better. To ensure efficiency in the future, the Government has decided to train a number of young men for the work. Six cadets were appointed last year, and a similar number this year, to undergo special training for a period of two years in such subjects as anthropology and tropical administration to fit them for duties as district officers. The working out of this scheme on a satisfactory basis may take some years, and possibly for some time the administration of the territory may be subject to criticism.
– Healthy criticism is always a good thing.
– I agree with the honorable member, and I give the House an assurance that if any suggestions made by them are, in my judgment, likely to improve the administration, I shall give effect -to them. My visit to New Guinea has given me first-hand knowledge of its peculiar problems. I regret that I could not stay longer. I am hoping that, in the near future, I shall be able to give honorable members detailed information concerning affairs in the Territory; and I hope that what I may have to say will receive their commendation.
With regard to the Advisory Council, I can promise definitely that, when the third group of plantations has been sold and planters settled on the blocks, the Government will consider the granting of some form of representation to the people, as has been done in other territories under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. It is deemed advisable not to take any action at present, in view of the fact that only two groups of plantations have been sold, and that action taken now might preclude settlers who purchase plantations in the third group from participating in the privileges proposed to be granted to th. people. It is hoped, also, that the miners and business people generally will have a voice in the selection of their representatives on. the Legislative Council. The Government has authorized me to say that, at the earliest possible moment, some form of local government will be established in New Guinea on lines similar to the system in operation in Papua.
The poll tax on the natives and the education tax on the planters will receive consideration. I am not at the moment free to state what the Government intends to do with regard to the latter subject. All I can say is that it is receiving the close attention of the Cabinet. I think we are likely to achieve better results if we give our attention to the efficient training of the natives as artisans. It is probable that, from a financial point of view, their position will be better, as, no doubt, they will be able to command a higher wage than if they are educated for positions as teachers. We shall also, by that means, be able to deal with the problem of the Chinese, which is a serious one in Papua; at present, the Chinese in Rabaul have practically a monopoly of all artisans’ work. Later, I expect to have an opportunity to discuss all these matters at length, and I hope that those honorable members who took advantage of the opportunity recently to visit New Guinea, will be able to offer helpful suggestions for the. better government of the Territory.
.- I should like to preface my remarks by offering my deepest sympathy with the relatives of the late Mr. Gale and the late Mr. McGregor. We all held Mr. Gale in the highest esteem. Personally, I feel that I owed a great deal to him for his unfailing courtesy and willing assistance to me at all times. My association with the late Mr. McGregor was somewhat different. He and I enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces at about the same time, and prior to leaving Australia for the other side, we were associated in Broadmeadows camp, in Victoria. We left by the same troopship and we were together in camp in England and for a little time in France. During the war he attained his majority. He was held in the highest esteem by all those who belonged to the company under his command, and I am sure that, if they knew of his death, they all would join with us in extending our deepest sympathy to his relatives in their bereavement.
I desire now to say a few words on the subject referred to by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory)* ‘I do not agree with the honorable member that the duties now being paid on the importation of certain agricultural implements should be abolished; a slight amendment of the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act of 1922 will meet the case, The purpose of that act is to stimulate the manufacture in Australia of certain iron and steel products; but, unfortunately, in the case of one firm in my division that is engaged in the manufacture of tractors, declared to be the best in the world, the act is not functioning satisfactorily.
– What is the name of that firm?
– I am referring to the firm of Messrs Ronaldson Brothers & Tippett. Up to the present they have not been able to sell any of their tractors in Queensland or Western Australia, because they cannot obtain the bounty and, therefore, are not in a position to compete with manufactures overseas. It appears that, as about 25 per cent, of the parts in that tractor are not made in Australia, they are ineligible to participate in the bounty. I understand that there is not sufficient inducement for firms to undertake the manufacture of the parts referred to in Australia. The honorable member for Swan spoke of the increased prices which primary producers have to pay for agricultural machinery as a result of the policy of protection. As against that I contend that Australian manufacturers, with a full knowledge of local conditions, are in a position to manufacture stronger and more efficient machinery than are manufacturers in other parts of the world. The tractor made by Messrs Ronaldson Brothers & Tippett will do the work of at least ten horses. It has stood up to the most strenuous test, and is in every respect the most effective machine of its kind in Australia. Unfortunately, the firm mentioned is likely to go out of business unless we can induce the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to so alter the conditions under which the bounty is payable as to enable that firm to obtain it.
– Are the conditions under which the bounty is payable fixed definitely in the act or is discretion given to the Minister?
– The. Minister is distinctly sympathetic; but under the act he is powerless to do anything. Some time ago he was good enough to submit this question to the Crown Law Department, which has ruled that, in the case of Messrs. Ronaldson Brothers & Tippett the bounty cannot be paid. A week or two ago the Minister expressed gratification that, as a result of his recent visit to Great Britain and America, a number of manufacturing firms would shortly establish manufacturing plants in Australia. I sincerely hope that his expectations will be realized, and I feel sure that he will receive the hearty commendation of all parties for what he has done. But it is far more important that we should look after and encourage firms already established in Australia. Messrs. Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett have within the last three years spent at least £10,000 on plant and equipment for the manufacture of their tractors, and now, unless something can be done in the direction I have indicated, all their efforts will be of no avail. Without the bounty they cannot continue the industry. They have appealed for two and a half years to the department to have the anomaly rectified, but so far without success. All honorable members, irrespective of the party to which they belong, at election time emphasize the need for a policy of decentralization. I appeal now on behalf of an established country firm which has to contend against many obstacles, and which, in many respects, is at a disadvantage compared with rival city firms. Here is an opportunity to give effect to the policy of decentralization. The firm has received testimonials from scores of users of its tractor, stating that it is the best machine of its kind that has ever been made for Australian conditions.
– Is the firm selling them ?
– The honorable member for Forrest is a representative of a State that is destined to become, perhaps, the principal wheat-growing area in the Commonwealth, and I remind him that the tractor manufactured by Ronaldson Brothers and Tippett will be of immense benefit, perhaps, to many of his constituents.
– It is not a commercial proposition; that is the trouble.
– I disagree entirely with the honorable member. I do not wish to press the matter further at this stage, but I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that, if possible, he will have the act amended in the direction I have indicated.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Duncan-Hughes and Mr. Hurry to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, in the place of Sir Granville Ryrie, no longer a member, and Mr. Maiming, resigned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-20, Senator A. A. Hoare, a member of the Senate, bad been appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in the place of Senator C. S. McHugh, deceased.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) (by leave) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to Sir Neville Howse, Mr. Bowden, and Mr. Ley, on the ground of urgent public business.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
Rainfall in Australia.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Although I am not in a position to supply as much information as I might wish, I am able to enlighten the House a little as to the rainfall at present occurring in Australia. The reports, up to 9 o’clock to-day, indicate that most satisfactory falls have occurred during the last 24 hours in New South Wales, with a consequent alleviation of the pastoral situation in the Riverina, South-western and Central New South Wales. The rains have extended as far out as Broken Hill, with very satisfactory precipitation on the western and central plains.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at1.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 September 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19270930_reps_10_116/>.