10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– For the information of honorable members will the Prime Minister outline the programme of busi- . ness to be submitted by the government during this session?
– I shall only be too pleased to give that information to honorable members at a later hour this day.
– A statement has appeared in the press that motor cars have been running in the streets of Roma on petrol obtained froma bore in the district. Has the Prime Minister received any information regarding the operations of the Roma Oil Corporation?
– Ihave not heard that motor cars are running on oil obtained at Roma, but if the honorable member desires information regarding boring operations generally and the assistance given by the Commonwealth Government out of the funds made available by parliament for that purpose I suggest that he give notice of a question to the Minister for Home and Territories.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following statement made by Sir David Gordon, M.L.C., of South Australia, on Friday evening last at a meeting of the Women’s branch of the Liberal Union -
Under a new and amazing . decision of the High Court, control of the hours, wages and conditions of all State instrumentalities bad been transferred to an irresponsible tribunal appointed by another government.
Will the Prime Minister see that the High Court and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are protected against such gross reflections.
– I have not seen the statement quoted by the honorable member, but I am certain that Sir David Gordon “would not in any public utterance reflect upon the judiciary of this country.
Motor TRANSPORT FOR Disabled Soldiers.
– Notwithstanding the general dissatisfaction with the government’s announcement that only £10 per month will be made available for the motor transport of certain disabled men, the returned soldiers are anxious to know to whom and how that allowance will be paid? Will the Prime Minister make a statement on the subject?
– I do not accept the honorable member’s statement that the government’s decision in .regard to the motor transport facilities to be allowed to certain classes of returned soldiers has caused general dissatisfaction. Either I or the Minister in Charge of Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) will at an early date make a statement indicating generally the manner in which the grant will be administered. .
– Has the Prime Minister read the newspaper report of the High Commissioner’s recent biased comments on questions of a highly controversial and party political character? When a member of Parliament has been appointed High Commissioner is he not placed in that position to serve the people of Australia irrespective of his political opinions? If so, will the Prime Minister instruct the High Commissioner to maintain the high traditions of his office and cease from meddling in party politics.
– I have seen newspaper reports of certain utterances by the present High Commissioner, Sir Granville Ryrie. The High Commissioner occupies an office in which he knows no political’ party, but represents the whole of the Australian people. I have communicated with Sir Granville Ryrie to ascertain whether reports which have appeared in the Australian press are correct but I am sure that he, as High Commissioner, would not intentionally intrude into controversial politics.
– Will the Attorney^ General inform the House of the personnel of the Australian representation at the International Conference on Copyright to be held atRome?
– The Commonwealth will, I hope, be represented at that conference by Sir Harrison Moore, who will be accompanied by Major Furnham, of Australia House. We had arranged that those two gentlemen should attend the conference which was to have been held this month, and I hope that they will still be able to represent the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that the gathering has been postponed until next spring.
– Will the Prime Minister enlighten this House as to th.3 present position with regard to the completion of the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, which is awaiting ratification? I understand that the Victorian budget is being delayed pending its finalization.
-Certain drafting amendments have been submitted by the States since the agreement was considered by their Crown Law offices. During the last few days my Department has exchanged telegrams with the States concerned, matters have been elucidated, and it is anticipated that the agreement can be submitted to the Victorian Parliament in the course of the next two or three days.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a resolution passed by the returned soldiers of Western Australia protesting against Italian migrants being placed in positions immediately on arrival in Australia, while Australians are unable to obtain work? In view of that resolution and remarks of a similar nature that appear daily in our press, will the Prime Minister make a statement as to whether the quota has been exceeded?
– I read the resolution to which the honorable member refers, and I remind him that the subject was thoroughly debated in this House last week. During the debate I dealt at length with the matter.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to inform the House of the true state of affairs regarding the recent loan flotation in the United States of America ? Complaints have been made by certain bankers in that country alleging that had a different group of bankers been allowed to float the loan, the Commonwealth Government would have saved at least½ per cent.
– I have read the comments to which the honorable member refers. The action of the Commonwealth in floating that loan was taken after careful consideration and after the receipt of advice from its financial adviser, Mr. Collins, from the financial adviser to the Victorian Government, Mr. Pitt, the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and the Australian Commissioner in New York. It is the opinion of the Government that it adopted the wisest course. The comments referred to do not impugn the fact that the Commonwealth Government secured the best possible terms, terms better than the price at which the bonds are at present being offered.
– In view of the splendid isolation of Canberra, has the PostmasterGeneral taken all possible steps to ensure adequate telephonic communication between Canberra and the capitals of the various States? On Monday and Tuesday of this week it was practically impossible to secure telephonic communication with Melbourne.
– The last ten days have placed a particularly heavy strain on our telephonic communications, principally because of the resumption of the parliamentary session. Every effort . is being made to cope with the traffic. There are” three lines to Melbourne and two to Sydney, and under normal conditions, which should be reached within the next week or two, there should be no difficulty in handling satisfactorily all traffic that is offering.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether fees are still being paid to the members of the Industrial Delegation which visited the United States of America; whether the report of that delegation has been received, and, if not, when it is expected?
– Upon the return to Australia of the Industrial Delegation which visited the United States of America, it proceeded to draw up its report in Melbourne. It is still engaged on that work, and fees will be paid to its members until the report has been presented. I anticipate the receipt of the report any day. When received., it will be taken into consideration by the Government, and will then be placed before this Parliament for consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the duties of the newly- appointed Australian medical officers, and -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mental tests are applied to assisted migrants. 2. (a) Medical referees are required to give special attention, during the course of their examination of applicants for assisted passages, to the mental conditionof the prospective migrants. Each applicant is questioned, not only in regard to his own mental history, but that ofhis antecedents. Mental tests are applied in the form of questions as to local happenings, local geographical knowledge and historical events. Applicants are also tested in mental arithmetic and in the reading of a newspaper, &c. > (b)The tests are applied chiefly by the medical referees, but the selection officers of the Migration and Settlement Office also, in the course of their interviews with applicants, apply questions with the intention of testing the mentality of the prospective migrants.
The newly-appointed medical officers will, to a very considerable extent, take the place of the medical referees. With permanent Australian medical officers operating, it is expected that all migrants, with the exception of those in outlying and inaccessible areas, will be examined by our own medical officers.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the statement in the budget speech that through the recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission, final approval has been given to schemes upon which £5,898,000 will be expended, will he state what are the schemes referred to, and the respective States which submitted them ?
– The information is being compiled, and will be furnished as early as possible.
Statement by Queensland Minister for Railways.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has seen the statement made by the Minister forRail ways of Queensland, in which Mr. Larcombe describes the action of the Commonwealth Government in accepting a tender for the construction of 271 miles of railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs as a “ tragic blunder,” and further said it was astounding that the Prime Minister “ did not inform the recent deputation that waited upon him in Queensland of the Commonwealth’s proposed action,” which he described as “ a blow to Queensland.”
– I have seen the statement referred to by the honorable member. The acceptance of the tender was not a “ tragic blunder,”, but eloquent evidence of the Commonwealth Government’s sincerity in honorably discharging an obligation laid upon it by- act of parliament and by the terms of an agreement entered into between the State and Commonwealth Governments. I did not consider it necessary to mention this matter while in Queensland, as I naturally assumed that the Minister for Railways would be informed of this important matter, particularly as prominence was given to it in the press.
Prime Minister’s Residence - Dwellings for Workers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Minister is inadequate for the present Prime Minister’s housing requirements. It is, however, felt that as a permanent official residence the accommodation is not commensurate with the office and ordinary social responsibilities of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. As the matter affects the dignity of the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth, irrespective of party considerations, I propose, before any action is taken, to consult with the leader of the Opposition.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he make available for perusal by honorable members - [a) the terms of the charges which were the subject-matter of the agreement made in connexion with certain income-tax prosecutions; and (6) the precise terms of the agreement made in connexion therewith.
– I shall he glad to allow the honorable member an opportunity to peruse, in the office of my department, the documents referred to.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow.: -
of which £5,210 worth was admitted under Bylaw tariff item 404, free (British preferential tariff) 10 per cent. (General tariff).
of which £4,370 worth was admitted under Bylaw tariff item 404, free (British preferential tariff) 10 per cent? (General tariff).
The principal countries of origin were the Netherlands and British Malaya.
The production of arrowroot in Australia for the years 1922-23 to 1925-26 was as follows : -
Inquiry has already been instituted to ascertain whether arrowroot is suitable for the purposes mentioned with a view to deciding whether or not the by-laws should be cancelled and the duties provided in tariff item 98, viz., per lb. 2d. (British preferential tariff) and 3d. (General tariff) applied.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Marrickville Woollen Mills;
Geo. A. Bond and Co., Sydney;
Tweedside Manufacturing Co. Proprietary Limited, Abbotsford;
Foy and Gibson Proprietary Limited, Collingwood;
Federal Woollen Mills Proprietary Limited, Geelong. .
– The information is being obtained as far as possible.
Equipment fob Tasman Island.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
World Prices - Manufactured by White Labour.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
These prices obtained at the refinery locality. In other selling points in each country, the retail prices are increased to meet any material freight from the refinery. Retail prices in France are not available.
Collection of Opal Specimens
asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
With a view to developing the present opal fields of New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland, and opening up fresh fields, will he give sympathetic consideration to the getting together of a representative collection of our rare, and beautiful opals, for exhibition in the National Museum at Canberra, thus allowing oversea visitors an opportunity of inspecting our opals and thereby creating a demand for same?
– In reply to a question by the honorable member on 2nd March last, I promised that this matter would be considered. The matter of collecting specimens of opals will form part of the general question of the establishment of a national museum, which will be con sidered by the Department of Home and Territories in conjunction with the Federal Capital Commission.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in . view of the indiscriminate slaughter of that good little Australian, the koala, or native bear, he will at once prohibit the exportation of skins of these animals in order to prevent their extermination?
– The exportation- of the skins of Australian fauna which are protected by the States is already prohibited, except with the consent of the Minister for Trade andCustoms. It is the function of the State Government, however, to decide what animals shall be protected, and the Queensland Government recently saw fit to remove the protection from native bears for one month. A number of skins thus became available for export,, and as the animals had already been killed, and no good purpose would be served by refusing to allow the skins to be exported, the Minister reluctantly consented to such exportation.
I have instituted a full inquiry as to what the position is in the various States, upon the completion of which it will be decided what future action is advisable.
Allowance to Mail Contractors
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, owing to the prohibitive cost of fodder, brought about by drought conditions, to the mail contractors of Western New South Wales and other parts of Australia, ho will give sympathetic consideration to the many applications for fodder allowance?
– The matter has recently received my consideration, and I have approved of allowances being made where circumstances are found to justify such a course.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What are the amounts in money orders for 1926-27, and also for 1920-21, that, have been remitted from Post Offices at Innisfail, Ingham and Wonthaggi?
– Particulars of remittances by money order during 1926-27 are as follows: -
Remittances from Wonthaggi . during 1920-21 totalled £116 to Italy and £6 to Greece. The earliest figures available in respect of Innisfail and Ingham, namely, the year 1922, are as follow: -
In view of the honorable member’s previous question on 29th September, it has been assumed that his present question relates to money orders transmitted to the two countries indicated above.
On Thursday the honorable member also asked the following question, upon notice -
What are the amounts in money orders for 1926-27, and also for , 1920-21, that have been remitted from post offices at Broken Hill, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Kalgoorlie, and Townsville, to residents in Italy and Greece?
I am now in a position to reply to the honorable member’s query: -
The following amounts were remitted by money order during 1926-27, namely.-
Remittances during 1920-21 to Italy from Kalgoorlie totalled £90 3s. Figures for that year to Italy and Greece from the other offices are not available, the records having been destroyed. During 1922-23 the remittances from Broken Hill to Italy amounted to £2,915, and to Greece nil. From Townsville the remittances during the calendar year 1922 to Italy amounted to £30, and to Greece nil.
– On Friday the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following questions : -
I have since received the following information in reply to the’ honorable member’s questions : -
Excise on Fortifying Spirit.
– On Friday the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– I desire to lay on the table of the House a statement made necessary by statute setting out the reasons why I have, in pursuance of section 9 (b) of the Cotton Bounty Act 1926, authorized the use of less than 50 per cent. of Australian grown cotton in the manufacture of certain counts of cotton yarn on which bounty has been paid.
– I beg to lay on the table of the House, pursuant to statute, the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year, 1926-27 . The report is complete with the exception of a few recent recommendations of the board which have not yet been considered by the Government. After due consideration, these recommendations will be laid on the table of the House. As most of the papers accompanying the annual report have already been placed on the table of the House, and where necessary printed, and as the matters relating to classification have been dealt with and gazetted, it is not proposed to print them. I move -
That the report be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On Friday the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1 and 2. No separate statistical record is kept of the imports of fresh tomatoes. They are recorded under the statistical heading vegetables, n.e.i., which includes all fresh vegetables with the exception of onions and potatoes. Statistical records are kept in financial and not calendar years. The imports of vegetables, n.e.i., for the financial year 1924-25, 1925-26, and 1926-27, were as under-
– On Thursday the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies : -
The following papers were presented - Reports of debates of Commonwealth and State Ministers’ Conference held at Melbourne, June, 1927, and at Sydney, July, 1927, to consider (1) Australian Exhibition; (2) Child Endowment; (3) Financial Relations between the States and the Commonwealth; (4) International Labour Conference; (5) Soldier Land Settlement.
Edie Creek (New Guinea) Leases - Report, with exhibits and summary thereof, of the Royal Commission.
National Insurance - Membership, Finance, and Administration, Fourth and Final Report of the Royal Commission.
Wireless - Report, with appendices, of the Royal Commission.
Tariff Board - Annual Report for 1926-27 - together with accompanying Schedule of Recommendations.
Ordered to be printed.
Air Force Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 108.
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for year ended . 30th June, 1926.
Cotton Bounty Act - Statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs of the reasons for authorizing the use of less than 30 per cent. of Australian-grown cotton in the manufacture of cotton yarn upon which bounty has been paid.
Papuan Oilfields - Reports from the AngloPersianOil Company for the months of January,* February, March, and May. 1927; drilling report to 30th June, 1927.
Motion (By Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911-1925.
Bill presented and read a first time.
. - (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
During its tenure of office, the present Commonwealth Government has continually endeavoured to improve the machinery of the Commonwealth Bank to enable it to function to the fullest possible extent in supplying the evident needs of the people. Accordingly, in 1924, the Government asked the Parliament to extend the operations of the bank and increase its usefulness by placing it under the control of a board of directors, which was to be given complete control of the note issue and by enabling it to operate as a bank of reserve, discount, and exchange. In the three years that have elapsed since that change was made, the Commonwealth Bank in its altered form has performed very valuable work for the community at large. It has improved the exchange position to a marked degree, has gained the confidence of the trading banks, and has performed very great national service financially. In 1925 the Government asked the Parliament to establish a rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank, and this department was formed to provide short-term credit to assist in the regular and orderly marketing of our products especially those primary products that have to be exported. After three years of operation, wonderful progress has been . made by this department. Its business last year totalled over £8,000,000, having trebled as compared with the previous year, and with experience the initial hampering difficulties have been overcome. The department is now t steadily gaining in public support, and requests by producers for over twenty primary products to be brought within the provisions of the act have been granted. The usefulness of the department greatly increase as time goes on. On this occasion the Government asks the Parliament to amend the act in order to make the Savings Bank Department as useful as possible to the people at large, and especially to amend it in such a way as to ensure that the savings of the people shall be utilized to the fullest extent in providing homes that the occupants themselves will own. In doing this, it is evident that the Government is following a very wise policy, and one quite consistent with the nature of savings banks, because these have been instituted for the purpose of facilitating the saving of money. Their existence enables the people to deposit their money safely, and protects it not only from theft, but also against extravagance. Thrift is of the utmost value to the community because it helps the people to provide against unforeseen circumstances and accumulates wealth for the nation. Under the present proposal, the savings bank funds are to be used to assist persons of small means to provide homes for themselves. This will stimulate thrift, because nothing encourages it more than to give to the people facilities for achieving their ambition to acquire homes of their own. With this purpose in view the Government has examined the whole scope of the Commonwealth Bank, and has considered its functions to see if there is any better method of bank administration than that now adopted to enable this policy to be put into operation. From that examination two facts emerged. The first was that if the Savings Bank was greatly to enlarge its functions, and provide money for the building and buying of homes, a much heavier burden would be laid upon the directors, and, consequently, steps would have to be taken to separate the administration of the central trading and rural credits ‘ departments from that of the Savings Bank department.
When one comes to examine the nature of the operations of the Savings Bank and the other departments of the bank, one sees that they are fundamentally different in their purposes. Consequently the Government has determined to separate entirely the administration of the Savings Bank from that of the other section. It will be realized that the functions of a central bank are to act as a bank of reserve, to stand behind the other financial institutions of the country, and to prevent panic. If its funds are to be available in times of stress, however, it is necessary that they shall be essentially liquid. Honorable members will remember that under the Commonwealth Bank Act itself the funds associated with the note issue can only be invested in certain securities, and trading bills of more than 120 days currency cannot be taken. Similarly a trading bank which has to provide accommodation for business people must have its funds a$ liquid and as readily realizable as possible. The rural credits department was established to enable short-time credit to be made available to assist the regular and orderly marketing of our primary products, thus allowing them to be sold at various times throughout the year instead of immediately after they have been harvested. As its customers are limited to advances of a year’s duration they are short-term -investments. The Savings Bank money, however, is used mostly in long-term investments, such as government bonds and mortgages on homes, arrangements being made for the repayment to be spread over 30 or 40 years. Consequently, it is wise, in the “Government’s opinion, that there should be separate administration of the Saving Bank department, because of the difference between its operations and outlook and those of the other two sections of the Commonwealth Bank as it is constituted to-day. The Savings Bank puts its -funds into long term investments, and this continuity of investment enables it to make advances at a lower rate of interest than is possible for the other branch of the Commonwealth Bank. Therefore, the Government proposes in this bill to separate entirely the administration of the two branches, but a liaison will be established between the two by one of the Commissioners of the Savings Bank being a member of the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. In future the Savings Bank will be governed by a commission of three, of whom one will be a permanent full-time commissioner, who will be the executive head of the institution, and two will be part-time members, who, we propose, shall be paid at the rate of £500 a year. Through one of the Commissioners being a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board of Directors mutual understanding and co-operation between the two institutions will be possible, and the advice of the Board of Directors will bo available in connexion with the investment of savings funds. No Commissioner may be a director of other banks except the Commonwealth Bank; and, like the directors of the Commonwealth Bank,, members of the commission may be removed from office at any time for bankruptcy, incapacity, or any other reason. Two Commissioners will form a quorum. In order to reduce duplication and expense to a minimum provision is made for the staffs of the Commonwealth Bank and the newSavings Bank to be completely interchangeable. Men transferred from the Commonwealth Bank to the Savings Bank will be able to re-enter the service of the former without any loss of seniority or rights. The same provision will apply to Commonwealth servants who enter the service of the Savings Bank, ali of whose officers will have the same rights of appeal as are provided for in the Commonwealth Bank Act for servants of the bank; they will retain all the existing machinery for voicing -their complaints and securing redress. If necessary the Commonwealth Bank may be appointed agent for the Savings Bank, so that in places where the Savings Bank has no agency and the Commonwealth Bank already has one established, the latter will be able to act for the Savings Bank as the Post Office does for the Commonwealth Bank at the present time. The accounts of the Savings Bank Department are kept separate from the other assets of the Commonwealth Bank, and this will enable all the existing assets of the Savings Bank Department to be transferred from the Commonwealth Bank. The agreements which have been made with some of the States, including Queensland and Tasmania, to permit of the absorption of the State Savings Banks by the Commonwealth Bank, will be transferred to the new Commonwealth Savings Bank. Provision is made also for the junction, if necessary, of #other State Savings Banks with the Commonwealth Savings Bank upon such terms as shall be mutually agreed upon. There will be opportunity for the closest possible connexion and working between the two banks, and the elimination of every source of waste. The profits of the Savings Bank will be divided in the same way as the profits of the Commonwealth Bank are divided at the present time ; half will be paid into the bank’s reserve fund and half into the National Debt Sinking Fund. The most important change that is being made is in regard to the investments of the Saving* Bank; it is this that particularly * necessitates the separation of its administration from that of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Bank Act now provides that the moneys of the bank may be invested in (a) any government securities approved by the Treasurer, (h) on loan on the security of land, and (c) in any other prescribed manner. About S5 per cent, of the Savings Bank deposits have been invested in securities of Commonwealth and State governments and local governing bodies; cash represents 12 to 13 per cent., and practically nothing has been invested in other securities. This bill makes an additional prescription as to the manner in which the Commonwealth Savings Bank may invest its funds. First, they will be available for advances in accordance with the Commonwealth Housing Act, 1927, for the purchase or erection of dwelling houses and for the discharge of mortgages on dwellings. I shall explain to honorable members shortly how there will be formed under that measure a revolving fund of £20,000,000 which will be available for the building and purchasing of homes, to enable the housing problem of the people to be more adequately met. Each year a certain amount of money will be advanced for the building or purchasing of houses, but there will b=: continual repayments into the fund, and practically all States which have housing schemes use such repayments for the purpose of extending their business.
– Will the Commissioners be compelled to lend money for this purpose, or will the power be discretionary?
– The bill prescribes five methods in which they may dispose of their funds, and others may be prescribed if- necessary.
– If, in their discretion, they do not invest their funds in this way, what will happen ?
– They will be available for investment in other ways. Tha fund of £20,000,000 will be created in this way: First, half of- all new de- posits will be available; that is to say, if this year the deposits amount to £40,000,000 and next year they increase to £42,000,000, half of the extra £2,000,000 will be available for the housing scheme. The fund will be augmented by one-fourth of the repayments of exist- ing loans. At the present time the Commonwealth Savings Bank has over £40.000,000 loaned to municipalities and other bodies. As these loans mature, if they are not immediately renewed in full, one-quarter of the repayments will be paid into’ the housing fund.
– Do not the agreements with Queensland and Tasmania provide that a certain proportion of the savings bank funds in those States shall be available for investment locally?
– Yes, and the bill safeguards that condition.
– Does the Treasurer propose to make provision for other States which may desire to make a similar agreement?
– Any State savings bank, if its government so desires, may join with the Commonwealth Savings Bank upon similar terms or upon other mutually satisfactory conditions.
– This bill will mean a decrease in the profits of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Only to the extent that the profits of the general bank have hitherto been increased by the transactions of the Savings Bank; in future those savings bank profits will appear separately to the credit of the institution we are about to establish.
– Is it proposed that the Commonwealth Bank shall guarantee loans by the Savings Bank?
– The Government will guarantee those loans as it does at the present . time. The fund will be further strengthened by money made available by the Treasurer from time to time. Another alteration in the investments of the Commonwealth Savings Bank will be in connexion with the provision of storage or warehouse facilities for primary producers.
– Does not that mean cold storage?
– It means any sort of storage that may be approved. Proposed new section 34 (aa) provides that the bank may invest its moneys in “ advancing moneys for the erection of warehouses or storage facilities intended for the warehousing or storing of primary products.” Nearly all the State Governments have asked that this action should be taken. Many have complained bitterly that in the Commonwealth Bank Rural Credit Act of 1925 provision was not made for the building of silos and other storage facilities. The purpose of that act, however, was to. provide short-time credits for the actual marketing of primary products. Long-term business is more appropriately the concern of a savings bank. Some time ago the Commonwealth received the following resolution from the conference of State Ministers of Agriculture: -
That the Commonwealth Government be asked to give early consideration to the widening of the scope of the Commonwealth Rural Credits scheme to provide finances on terms and conditions more suitable to marketing boards and kindred associations.
To amplify that resolution, certain particulars were furnished by the Premier of South Australia, which included the following :- -
Limitation of the advances to produce precludes the utilization of the rural credits scheme for storage and manufacturing plants. A maize pool may require grain silos. A co-operating dairying group may require to build a factory, Hay and chaff producers may need storage sheds. Very frequently these, facilities are essential factors to successful marketing, yet the provisions of the rural credits scheme are not available for these.
That kind of business could not be done under the rural credits provisions of the
Commonwealth Bank Act ; but under this bill it will be possible for the Savings Bank to invest its funds in the manner suggested by the State Ministers for Agriculture. In addition, power is given to the Commonwealth Savings Bank to invest its money in debentures issued by the Commonwealth Bank for the purposes of its rural credits department, on fixed deposit in the Commonwealth Bank or any other prescribed bank, and in any other prescribed manner. The other amendments contained in the bill are consequential upon the general alterations I have already outlined. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Soullin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration qf Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for . the purposes of a bill for an act relating to housing.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Eai:le Page and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
An outstanding feature of modern life is the recognition of the importance of housing in the domestic affairs of the nation. Society can be stabilized and contentment created only by the satisfaction of the intense desire of the individual to own and live in his own home. Much has been done by the Governments of Australia by their State schemes, not merely to enable individuals to purchase dwellings, but also greatly to encourage thrift. But no one can live in Australia without appreciating that there is a big, bare area as yet uncovered by existing schemes; and the Commonwealth Government has been impelled to attack the problem of housing with the desire to eliminate that bare area. It realizes that the existence of that bare area is due to lack of financial provision, ‘and to the failure to use the full proportion of savings bank funds. The census of 1921 reveals the fact that only 40 per cent, of the homes in Australia were owned by the individuals occupying them; 12 per cent, were occupied by men who were acquiring the homes on the rent-purchase- system, and the remaining 48 per cent, were occupied by persons who paid rent and did not own the homes. The conditions governing the rent-purchase system were such that the 12 per cent, who were purchasing their homes under that scheme had no certainty of acquiring their homes permanently.
That condition of things existed because no adequate facilities were offered to encourage people to purchase their own homes. The facilities available were limited, in the first place by .the very low amount granted as a loan. In the majority of States the amount must not exceed £800, while no State will advance more than £1,000 for the purchase of a home. There is also a rigid income limit of from £260 to £450, the larger sum being available only in one State, and in cases where there are several children under a certain age in the family. . Persons shut out of governmental schemes were compelled to have recourse to money-lenders or house agents, from whom they could acquire houses on first or second mortgages, under a rent-purchase scheme. Frequently such a scheme results in the failure of the person to acquire the home. For those desiring only a first mortgage, there is abundant money. If a person possesses 40 per cent, of the value of the home he desires to purchase, he may secure a first mortgage on terms as reasonable as Q or 7 per cent. If he has only £100 to deposit, he is compelled to give a second mortgage, and the rates governing second mortgages in Australia are excessively heavy, varying from 9 to 12 per cent., and frequently being loaded by another 2 per cent, in the form of a penalty clause, which operates if the interest is not paid on its due dates. Further, these mortgages are nearly all for short terms, the great bulk being limited to three years. “When the money is first obtained, the prospective house owner frequently has to pay a procuration fee of from 1 to1½ per cent., and when the mortgage is discharged and renewed the unfortunate house owner is subjected to very heavy legal fees. My personal investigation disclosed one case in New South Wales where, on a property worth £1,200, and carrying a first mortgage of £800 and a second mortgage of £200, the legal fees that had to be paid every third year to enable the mortgages to be discharged and renewed, covering stamp duties and so forth, amounted almost to £40.
– Was that through a private agency?
– That would not be permitted by any reputable practitioner of whom I have knowledge.
– The amount was made up principally of stamp duties, which it would have been very difficult to cut down.
– Are those duties avoided under the measure now proposed ?
– This measure avoids the repetition of those duties. We arrange for a term of from twenty to thirty years, and there is only one set of stamp duties to be paid during that period. We shall be effecting a substantial benefit if we are able to arrange a rate of interest for the whole loan lower than rates of interest now prevalent.
There is another system of rentpurchase under which a man deposits, say, £50, and pays 8 or 9 per cent. on the balance owed. Such an individual has to pay ordinary repairs, insurance, taxes and other incidental costs associated with the maintenance of a home, which amount to a fairly considerable sum. If he is unable to meet his instalments on their due dates, he immediately forfeits his deposit. In many cases men who have been buying on this basis for years have not been able to get any further ahead. It will be admitted that men with salaries of from £300 to £700 per annum have the hardest row to hoe. The position they occupy in the social scale is such that they are called upon to wear more expensive clothes than artizans, who may be receiving a much higher remuneration. The salaried men also have certain social obligations which they must discharge, and this makes their position still more difficult. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, they are at present completely excluded from the benefit of the existing housing schemes. There is also a very large class of people who do not wish to have homes built for them if they can buy satisfactory dwellings already built. The trouble with these is that very often the deposit required in private dealing is too heavy for them to meet. They wish to buy their homes within a reasonable time at a reasonable cost. This class of home-seeker is also excluded from most of the State schemes. The object of the State authorities is, of course, to relieve the acute housing shortage, and for that reason they have limited their operations to the building of new dwellings. Under the New South Wales Advances for Homes Act it is specifically provided that money shall be available for the purchase as well as the erection of homes; but the State Savings Bank prospectus intimates to home-seekers that no money will be available for purchasing houses that are already built. All the money that is available under the scheme is being absorbed in erecting new homes. The State authorities have said in effect, “ We must relieve the housing shortage before we do anything else.”
Let us look for a moment at the manner in which savings bank funds are at present being invested. Of the total amount available, 60 per cent. is invested in Government or local government securities; 11.38 per cent. in homes and shops; 6 per cent. in land ; 1.93 per cent. in mortgages; and 1 per cent. in bank premises. The remaining 19.69 per cent. is held in cash. It will be generally admitted that 11.38 per cent. is not a sufficiently large proportion to be invested in housing, particularly as the money represents, as a rule, individual savings. Of course, depositors in savings banks receive a certain interest on their deposits, while retaining the privilege of withdrawing money from day to day ; but even in that circumstance a larger proportion of the amount deposited should be made available to enable people to acquire their own homes.
– The individual deposits his money in the savings bank because be desires a liquid asset, which is a very big thing in business.
– Commonwealth bonds are nearly as liquid as any other asset in Australia; and are almost as readily negotiable as the currency of the country. Of the funds deposited in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, as distinct from the State Savings Banks, we find that 85 per cent, is invested in Government securities.”’
It may be explained in justification of that position that this state of affairs has arisen in part because large investments, not including any in respect of housing, were taken over from the Governments of Queeusland and Tasmania when the savings banks of those States were transferred to the Commonwealth Bank. Moreover, the Commonwealth Bank is under the obligation to apply 70 per cent, of the increase in deposits in those States to investments in their government securities. Seeing that the Government is able to borrow on the open market at lower rates of interest than those obtainable by the general community, it should not, in addition, be in a position to. obtain at less than market rates and for long terms the individual savings of the people. These fluids should rather be used for providing money at low rates of interest to individuals of that great body of people who make practically the whole of the savings bank deposits. “Whilst the policy is continued of using so large a proportion of savings bank funds in making loans for governmental purposes, it will prevent the extension of the very excellent work performed by savings banks in granting assistance to home building. The Commonwealth Government thinks that a great deal more of the funds of the savings bank, which represent the individual savings of the people, should be used in providing homes, whether in towns or on farms, for the people themselves at low rates of interest. Under the aegis of the Loan Council, the Australian investment market has been for some time, and is at present, reserved so far as new money is concerned, to the States and authorities constituted under State law, and the Federal Capital Commission. The Commonwealth for its own purposes, limits its activities in the Australian market to the conversion of its maturing war obligations. The Australian investor is, therefore, in a position to decide for himself whether he will apply his savings directly to the developmental programmes of the State Government, or will deposit his surplus funds with savings, banks. The money so placed with savings banks carried with it an obligation, on the part of those who administer those funds, to apply them in a greater degree to assist the individual to own his own home.
The need for granting special assistance to provide housing for persons of small means is not peculiar to Australia. In other parts of the world active steps have been taken in this direction, and before detailing the Commonwealth housing scheme I propose to make h brief survey of housing conditions in other countries.
The outbreak of the war occurred in a period of slackened building activity in Great Britain. There was a shortage of housing accommodation, and consequently high rents ruled. In Britain, as in all other belligerent countries, the war led to an almost complete cessation of house building, which accentuated the position, and <»i the termination of hostilities a serious problem confronted the Government. In 1919 a special Department of Housing was established under the Ministry of Health, and this department acted in co-operation with local authorities in the building of houses. The money was borrowed by the local authority, and the British Treasury, by means of an annual subsidy over a period of 60 years, made good any loss.
The British Government, at the same time, made loans to co-operative societies up to 75 per cent, of the cost of land and houses. It also contributed towards the interest on the money so lent for a period of 50 years, commencing at 50 per cent., and reducing to 40 per cent. Provision was also made for the payment of subsidies to private builders who built approved houses for the working classes. The amount of the subsidy varied with the size of the house from £230 to £260 per house. Up to 1923 the number of houses built during the previous four years fell far short of the requirements, and new efforts were necessary to satisfy the public demand for homes. The Government therefore agreed to a fixed exchequer subsidy per house of - £6 per annum for 20 years. Any further loss was left to the local authority, the owners or occupiers. Provision was also made for advances up to a market value of £1,200 to persons who desired to secure a house for their own occupation The maximum amount that could be advanced was 90 per cent, of that value. After negotiations with interested bodies the Government, in 1924, made provision for a State subsidy of £9 per annum per house for 40 years; but in agricultural parishes the State contribution was fixed at £12 10s. per annum. The subsidy to be contributed by local authorities was limited to a compulsory contribution of £4 10s. per house for 40 years.
Under these several schemes 411,79.1 houses were built up to the end of September, 1926. From the end of the war to the 31st March,. 1926, the Exchequer payments in housing subsidies in England and “Wales have totalled £45,618,000. The aggregate cost of houses under the three schemes up to September, 1926, was over £300,000,000.
To meet its post-war housing difficulties the French Government undertook to lend sums up to a total of 300,000,000 francs. The loan could not exceed 60 per cent, of the cost of the house, but the proportion could be raised to 75 per cent, if the loan were guaranteed by a- department or ‘a municipality. The period of loan was fixed at 40 years, and the rate of interest was 2 per cent, for single dwellings, and 2£ per cent, for multiple dwellings. The rent charged to the tenant was a sum equal to 4 per cent, of the actual cost of the building. Authority was also given to charity boards and hospitals to grant loans to cheap-housing associations and municipalities up to an amount not exceeding two-fifths of their capital funds. Savings banks were authorized to use one-half of their assets either for loans to cheap-housing associations or to private individuals who wished to build or purchase cheap dwellings. The National Deposit and Loan Fund, which controls the various pension funds, was also empowered to devote one-fifth of its assets to loans for the promotion of cheap housing. In addition to providing capital to the extent of 300,000,000 francs, the Government also arranged to pay to other lending authorities the difference between the normal interest paid for savings bank loans, and the special rate of 2 or 2-J per cent, charged on loans for housing purposes. These special efforts were for the purpose of meeting the shortage of houses caused mainly by the cessation of building operations during the war period, and were additional to the special steps taken to restore houses in the areas devastated by the war.
Belgium is perhaps the most advanced of all the continental countries in rendering assistance to workers to buy their own homes. As far back as IS 89 the Government empowered the General Savings and Pensions Fund to issue loans for the erection and purchase of working class houses. The authority did not deal directly with the workers, but made loans to building or credit societies and to public authorities, which dealt with the individual direct. In furtherance of its housing programme the Belgium Government in 1919 founded a National Society for Cheap Houses and Dwellings. The society is an incorporated body, with a capital of 1,000,000 francs, half of which is subscribed by the State, and half by the provinces. The State places funds at the disposal of the society at 2 per cent, interest, to be repaid within 66 years. The actual erection of houses is undertaken by private local societies which must themselves possess capital. The State and the provinces contribute two-fifths of the cost of the houses, the remaining three-fifths being contributed by the communes, public institutions, and private individuals. The local societies repay the loans over a period of 66 years, and pay 2 per cent, per annum on moneys advanced, to cover interest and redemption. The balance of the charges on the moneys advanced are payable by the State,- the provinces and the communes. In 1922 a fund was established by the Government for granting bonuses to private persons for building cheap houses for their own use. The amount of the bonus was fixed according to the population of the commune in which the house was built* This assistance was limited to persons of Belgian nationality. Up to July, 1914, the total amount advanced had reached more than 109,000,000 francs, and 62,122 houses had been built. Since the termination of the war, and up to the end of 1922, more than 47,000,000 francs had been spent in providing 25,000 workers’ homes. In the years 1921 to 1923, the State budget provided from 100,000,000 marks to 121,000,000 marks each year for housing purposes, but since 1923 the need for economy has compelled the Government to reduce State assistance in the provision of cheap houses, and it has temporarily limited the number of new houses to be built to 1 per cent, of the population in each district.
After the war the German Federal Government, and also the German States and municipalities, were compelled to assist people to provide homes for themselves. In 1918 it was decided to grant subsidies, calculated on the difference between the actual cost, and either the cost of a new building of the same kind after the return of more “ lasting conditions,” or the sum obtained by capitalizing the rent to be charged for similar buildings in the municipalities concerned. One-half of the subsidy was paid by the Federal Government, and one-half by the Federal State and the municipality. Further assistance being deemed necessary, it was decided in 1920 to grant loans for the building of homes, one-half to be paid by the Federal Government, and one-half by the State and municipality. The loans in the first place were free of interest and were repayable only in certain cases. The value of the houses was to be definitely fixed 20 years after the loan had been granted. If such value fell below the cost of the building, the difference was to be treated as a non-repayable subsidy. On the remainder of the loan, interest at 4 per cent, per annum, and redemption at 1 per cent, per annum, were fixed. Public unemployed relief funds are used specially for building agricultural workers’ dwellings. These loans bear interest at the rate of 5J per cent, per annum:
The Dutch Housing Act, passed in 1901, and the provision for State aid to housing, furnished a basis for emergency measures in the Netherlands when private building failed to overcome the housing shortage. Under the act, the State was empowered to grant loans to local autho- rities, or to public utility societies, at interest rates corresponding to the yield from the sale of State debentures on the market. If an economic rent were not obtainable, owing to high working expenses or other unavoidable circumstances, an annual subsidy wis granted to defray loan charges, including interest and redemption. One half of the subsidy was payable by the local authority, and one half by the State. After the war an acute housing shortage arose, and it was decided that if reasonable rents, to be approved by the Government, were charged for new houses, the loss would be borne by the State up to 75 per cent., and by the local authority up to 25 per cent. The Government policy was to fix the rent at about one-sixth or one-seventh of the tenant’s income. In 1918 assistance was given to the building of middle-class dwellings. Builders were granted a subsidy by the State equal to the difference between the actual building costs and the supposed costs, the economic rent on which would be chargeable to the tenants. These supposed costs were fixed at 200 per cent, of 1914 costs. In 1920 a new scheme was adopted, under which grants were paid up to a maximum, fixed at 2,000 florins, but this was later reduced to 600 florins. Der house. .
It will be noticed that in the endeavours of continental countries to meet the housing shortage, assistance was given to private enterprise to build houses which would be available on reasonable rental terms. Little or no effort was made to encourage the habit of thrift in the worker, and thus enable him to own his home. Australia, on the other hand, in providing financial assistance from public or semi-public funds has directed its energies more particularly to enable persons of small means to secure the ownership of their dwellings. I shall now set out in some detail the facilities made available by the different States for the erection of houses.
The Government Savings Bank of New South “Wales makes advances for homes under the following conditions : - Loans are granted for erecting homes or improving or enlarging dwellings; dwellings must be occupied by the borrower; advances are not made to purchase or pay off mortgages on houses already erected; jio advance is made to any person who is already the owner of a dwelling house, or whose wife or husband owns such property, except to enlarge or improve the house; the maximum advance is £750, and must not exceed threefourths of the value of the property; the maximum periods for advances are : - For brick, concrete or stone, 30 years, and for timber, 20 years. The commissioners may vary the rate of interest once in five years, and alter the instalment accordingly upon giving the borrower six months’ notice. At present repayments are being made in monthly instalments, including interest at 6 per cent., and partial repayment of principal. A borrower may make payments in excess of his monthly instalment, and is entitled to receive interest on such excess repayments at the same rate as is charged on the loan. ‘The Commissioners must set apart the net profits earned by the Advances for Homes Department during any year towards a reserve fund for meeting any loss or deficiency in connexion with the transactions of the department. Any deficiency in the fund at the end of any financial year must be made good from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State.
The State Savings Bank of Victoria is operating the following schemes : - Credit Foncier loans, Credit Foncier loans to ex-soldiers; advances under the Housing Act; ordinary mortgage loans. Credit Foncier loans are repayable by quarterly instalments of a fixed amount, including interest at 6 per cent, per annum. The maximum period of the loan is eighteen and a half years. Loans arc made for the purchase or erection of dwellings or to pay off liabilities, and must be for not less than £50 or more than £1,000. Not more than 66$ per cent, of the value of the property offered as security will be lent. There is authority to lend an additional 10 per cent, where an applicant is not in receipt of an income of more than £400 a year, and does not own another dwelling house. The advance at this higher percentage cannot exceed £650, and an advance of this nature will be made only in a case where a house has been erected within six months, or is about to be erected. The loan is granted only to an applicant who occupies or is about to occupy the building. A borrower may repay sums in excess of the quarterly payment, and such sums will be credited to him with interest at the rate which he is paying on his loan, but not exceeding 6 per cent. The ordinary quarterly payments will not be reduced by the payment of any such excess. On Credit Foncier loans to exsoldiers the interest is 5 per cent.; and the maximum period of each loan is 22J years. Not more than three-fourths of the value of the property offered as security will be lent. This three-fourths may be increased by 10 per cent, up to a total of £650 advanced. The other conditions arc similar to those of the ordinary Credit Foncier loans. Under the Housing Act, advances will be made on dwelling houses erected according to the bank’s standard plans and specifications. Each purchaser for whom a house is erected must personally occupy the house. Applicants must not own a dwelling house and must not be in receipt of an income of more than £400 a year. The commissioners may build for any farmer, whether or not eligible under this clause, a dwelling for the accommodation of farm labourers employed by him. The cost of the house and land, including the drainage, sewerage, outbuildings, &c, and all other costs, must not exceed £850 for a house of wood, or £950 for a house of brick, stone or concrete. The applicant must make a deposit of at least £50. The loan is repayable by fixed monthly instalments. Advances cannot be granted under either the system of Workers’ Dwellings or the Workers’ Homes Act for the purchase of homes; the intention in both cases being to assist in the erection of new houses or the extension of houses. The following details apply to workers’ dwellings: - An applicant for a loan must own a piece of land; must not already own a house; must not have an income of more than £416 per annum; and must undertake that the proposed house, when erected, will be used as a home for himself. Loans may be granted up to 80 per cent, of the value of the security. The maximum loan is £800 but, generally, a loan in excess of £600 will be approved only under exceptional circumstances. Interest is charged at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum. Loans are repayable in 20 years by monthly instalments, covering interest at 5 per cent, and an instalment towards reduction of principal. The following details relate to the Workers’ Homes Act: - In suitable localities Crown land will be provided by the Government. If suitable Crown land is not available, the Government will consider the purchase of an approved freehold and convert it into a perpetual leasehold. The annual rent of the land will be 3 per cent, of its capital value. Generally, an application for the erection of a home estimated to cost more than £600 will not be approved. An applicant must deposit 5 per cent, of the capital cost. The balance of the purchase money is payable over a period not exceeding 25 years. Interest is charged at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum. The monthly instalment will include a sum sufficient to pay purchase money and interest; fire insurance; external painting; repairs, except as stated below ; a proportionate amount of general expenses; rent of the land; and life insurance. Repairs not exceeding £2, and repairs made necessary by neglect, etc., must be effected by the purchaser. The purchaser must insure his life for an amount to cover the unpaid balance of purchase money. An applicant must be one who is employed in work of. any kind, who is not the owner of a house, whose income, after making certain allowances, does not exceed £260 per annum, and who intends to use the house as a home for himself.
The State Bank of South Australia, under the Advances for Homes Act, is prepared to make advances to persons who are in receipt of incomes not exceeding. £450 per annum. Advances are made up to six-sevenths of the valuation of the security, but the margin between the advance and the valuation is reduced in the case of a person having two children under the age of 16. Such an applicant is required to make a deposit of only £25. The purpose of an advance is to purchase land and build a dwelling house ; to build or enlarge a dwelling house on any land held; to purchase a house and land; and to discharge any mortgage. The maximum advance available is £700. Interest is charged at 64 per cent, per annum, subject to a rebate of one- thirteenth, thereby reducing the rate of interest to 6 per cent., if the full amount is paid on or before the 8th of the month. The interest, together with a portion of the principal, is payable monthly by uniform instalments. The term of the loan is limited as follows : - For a stone or brick, or stone and brick building, 42 years; ordinary concrete, ferro-concrete, reinforced concrete, or other similar material, 30 years; and ordinary wood and iron, or wood, 20 years. Until the expiration of ten years, a borrower is not entitled to a discharge of the mortgage over the security held by the board. The Savings Bank of South Australia arranges mortgage loans on the security of city and suburban homes or shops with dwellings of not less than £100 nor more than £800. Not more than two-thirds of the value of a property will be lent. A borrower is required to make ‘quarterly repayments in reduction of the loan until the loan is reduced to about one-half of the amount of the valuation. This quarterly repayment must be at the rate of 12s. 6d. for each £100 borrowed, and interest on the amount outstanding must be paid quarterly at the rate of 7 per cent, per annum. When the balance of the loan has been reduced to about onehalf of the valuation, the quarterly repayments of principal may cease, and the loan may be continued at the discretion of the trustees as an ordinary loan from the bank at the lowest current rate of interest, with the right to repay the whole or part of it on any quarter day.
The Workers’ Homes Board is the only public authority operating in Western Australia, to enable persons to acquire or build homes. At one time savings bank funds were lent on mortgage, but this was discontinued several years ago. The Minister may acquire or purchase land or land and buildings. He may also cause dwelling houses to be erected or convert any building into dwelling houses, provided that the cost shall not, in the case of any dwelling house, exceed £650. Land on which a dwelling house is erected shall be let under a perpetual lease subject to reappraisement every twenty years. The rent payable shall be 3 per cent, per annum on the appraisement. The capital cost of the dwelling-house, with interest at 5 per cent, per annum, or such other rate as may be prescribed, shall be paid by the lessee by instalments over 30 years, or such other period as the Minister may direct. Every applicant must be a worker, and must not own any dwellinghouse. He must deposit £10. The board may, with the approval of the Minister, make advances to any worker to enable him to erect a dwelling-house on his holding for himself; or to purchase a dwelling-house and land as a home for himself, though purchasing approvals are extremely rare ; or to discharge any mortgage, provided that at no time the total advance shall exceed £650. Advances may be for the following maximum’ periods: - Stone or brick, or stone and brick, 30 years; ordinary concrete, ferro concrete, reinforced concrete, or other” similar material, 20 years ; ordinary wood and iron, or wood, 15 years. The percentage of the total value which may be advanced is discretionary, but at present advances may be made up to 90 per cent. Interest is at the rate of 6 per cent, per annum, subject to a rebate to 5£ per cent, if instalments are paid not later than seventh day after due date. The interest on new advances may be at such rate per cent, as is prescribed for the time being. A “worker” is a person in receipt of not more than £400 per annum.
The Tasmanian Government’s Agricultural Bank has a scheme for home building. The Hobart Savings Bank also makes advances up to two-thirds for home-building purposes, repayable by easy instalments, but there is no set scheme. Under the Agricultural Bank scheme an eligible person is one who is married or has dependants, and whose income does not exceed £350 a year, of which not more than £20 is income frsm property. In the case of a person who has three or more dependants the limit of income is £400 a year. The advance must be for the purpose of erecting or enlarging or completing a dwelling-house. The trustees under the act have power to erect and sell dwelling-houses up to a total cost of £750 for wood and £S50 for brick, including value of land. An advance may not exceed nine-tenths of the total value of the dwelling-house and land. There is legal authority to make advances for purchasing a house and land or to discharge a mortgage or to build a house; but apparently this authority is in abeyance for the present. Every advance, together with interest, must be repaid by equal instalments, either quarterly or monthly. In addition to the instalments, a borrower may make deposits, and the excess over any instalment is credited to him with compound interest calculated at the same rate as that charged on the advance. The rate of interest is 7£ per cent. Where the borrower pays his instalment on or before the 14th of the month in which it falls due, he is entitled to a rebate of interest to the extent of one-half of one per cent, per annum. The maximum periods for the repayment of advances is 42 years for stone, brick, or concrete; 30 years for Tasmanian hardwood; or 20 years for other wood. Advances may be made up to £750 for wooden structures and £850 for brick, concrete, or stone. The Hobart Savings Bank makes advances for both the erection and purchase of homes. The maximum advance is not fixed, but the bank will not advance more than two-thirds of the value of the security. The maximum period of advance is five years, and interest is charged at the rate of 6 per cent, per annum.
It will be seen that generally the States have fixed the maximum advance at less than £1,000, and the assistance is confined to persons whose incomes do not exceed £400. The Commonwealth Government considers that the assistance should be extended to persons with incomes of £600 per annum, and that the maximum amount of .advance should be increased to £1,800. The assistance already given to persons to own their homes has been almost wholly in the direction of building new houses. There is much to be said for this, because private enterprise has been unable to meet the demand for houses caused by the limited construction during the war and by our continually increasing population. It is thought, however, that much can be done to assist citizens to purchase houses already built, many of which are on the market. Financial assistance should be granted on moderate terms to enable people, who are receiving higher incomes than those to whom this assistance is now granted, to acquire their own houses.
– What is the maximum allowed to soldiers2
– A soldier may receive up to £800, but land was made available at a cheap rate for building war service homes, and that was a considerable assistance to soldiers. The bill provides that Commonwealth money shall be made available to any “ prescribed Commonwealth territorial, State or municipal authority which administers a scheme for providing or assisting in providing dwelling houses.”
For instance, money could be made available in this Territory provided that an authority was set up to administer a housing scheme. That also would apply to other Commonwealth territories. It is also contemplated that in some of the larger cities the municipal authorities may embark on a housing scheme, in which case money will also be available to them.
– I take it that “municipal authority” means a municipal council ?
– It means a municipal housing authority. The fund established under the bill will be known as “ the housing fund,” and it will be made up as follows: -
such proportion, not exceeding one-half of all increases in deposits over the total amount of the deposits existing at the commencement of this act, us, in the judgment of the commission, is available for investment by the commission in pursuance of this act.
moneys borrowed by the Treasurer in pursuance of this act and lent to the savings bank.
It will be realized, therefore, that the Commonwealth Savings Bank will not come into the arena as a home builder, but merely as the authority making the advance. The authority which obtains an advance from the fund will be responsible for repaying it to the Commonwealth Savings Bank within the period of years specified in the agreement. The only conditions that will apply to advances are those set out in clause 9 of the bill.
– But do not those conditions require that the State authority shall completely alter its present scheme ?
– I have discussed this subject with many authorities, and I have found that the only reason why thi various State schemes have not been liberalized is that there is no money to liberalize them. All the money available under the existing schemes is eagerly applied for by home seekers. The persons administering the different State schemes have not urged upon their Ministers the liberalizing of the schemes, for they have realized that no money was available from present sources for the purpose. I find that in Victoria the authorities are nut only using ordinary deposits to provide money for housing purposes, but have frequently floated loans at a higher rate of interest than they pay to their ordinary depositors, simply to obtain money for applicants seeking advances. There ii» not much danger of the States failing to avail themselves of this new money.
– The scheme becomes Government policy?
– Yes. There is no risk to the Commonwealth. If anything happens to make repayments impossible, it will bc because of a general disaster throughout Australia, which would prevent any government institution from carrying on at all; but that condition is really unthinkable. That the scheme would alter some existing security of the depositor in the Commonwealth Savings Bank is an idea simply due to a misconception of the position.
– Can the Treasurer estimate the amount that may be available per annum?
– It is difficult to estimate the amount. We may be able to tell what amount will be available from the two sources that I have mentioned, but we cannot quite tell what amount it will be necessary to borrow, because none of the authorities are absolutely satisfied respecting the sum needed for the discharge of existing mortgages. There is no doubt that during the first two years a great- many mortgages will be paid off under the scheme, and although it may be necessary to raise a loan to enable that to be done, I do not think that the amount required will be excessive. The money already advanced against such mortgages bears a high rate of interest, and as the mortgages are paid off that money will become available for investment elsewhere in the community. It partakes of the nature of a conversion loan. The scheme is really for new buildings, and the additional money will be available, not simply from the depositors of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but also from the public taken as a whole. The housing fund will consist of - (a) such proportion, not exceeding one-half of all increases in deposits over the total amount of the deposits existing at the commencement of the act; (b) such proportion not exceeding one-fourth of all repayments of loans from savings bank moneys; and (c) moneys borrowed by the Treasurer and lent to the Savings Bank. Any money made available by the Treasury will be lent to the Commonwealth Savings Bank for re-lending to the authorities mentioned at the net rate it costs the Commonwealth Government. At present the various savings banks are issuing loans in Australia at rates above those which their respective Governments are paying for them, but in this case money will be made available by the Commonwealth Government to the Commonwealth Savings Bank at the rate which the Commonwealth pays for it.
– Is there any provision to prevent the interest rate from being increased ?
– The provisions are laid down in clause 9, which reads : -
An advance shall not be made by the Savings Bank to an authority until the commission is satisfied -
that since the passing of this act the powers of that authority in relation to housing have been increased so as to extend the existing facilities provided under the housing schemes of that authority in order to cover the matters hereunder specified (if the existing powers are not sufficient to cover those matters), that is to say -
that the schemes administered by the authority contain provisions under which -
That clause contains not only exclusion provisions, but also liberalization provisions, which the States must accept if they come into the scheme. The clause also incorporates the provisions of the various State Acts, and those have been inserted with the intention, not of extending the liability of the scheme, but of safeguarding it from the operations of speculative builders. We are trying to ensure the scheme for the bona fide homeseeker.
– A man may, under the scheme, obtain one home only.
– That is so.
– If a man builds a house under the scheme and then sells it, would he be able to make use of the scheme again?
– That would depend on the sale. If the house were sold at a profit of from £300 to £400, the seller would not need to come under the scheme, which is really for those people with the limited amount of money.
– If a man had to sell his house because he was compelled to move to another suburb, what would be his position?
– That could be discussed with the local authorities. who, as a rule, are always prepared to meet such cases. Loans will not be made to any person who already owns a house, except for the purpose of discharging a mortgage upon a dwelling house. A loan will not be made to any person who has already received a loan, or whose wife -or husband, as the case may be, has received one. The loan will be made only for the purpose of building a house if the borrower intends to reside in it. Moneys will not be made available to any authority for the purpose of home building unless that authority extends the benefits of its existing schemes to persons in receipt of an income not exceeding £12 per week. It is not intended that local government bodies and other authorities under the States, which have been accustomed to receive loans from the Commonwealth Savings Bank, shall have that privilege withdrawn. It is proposed, therefore, that up to 50 per cent, of the increase in deposits, and up to 25 per cent, of maturing investments, when such investments are not renewed, shall be available for housing. The rights of the Governments of Queensland and Tasmania to share in the increase of deposits will, at the same time, be preserved. The Commonwealth will raise loans from time to time so that with other funds, £20,000,000 in all will be available for housing. The territorial administration will, of course, include the Federal Capital Territory at Canberra. On all loans made by the Treasury to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, the bank will make a contribution to the National Debt Sinking Fund of at least 10s. per cent, per annum of the amount of the loan. The sinking fund contributions will continue for a period during which their accumulation at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum compounded will amount to a sum sufficient for the redemption of the loan. The National Debt Commission will apply the bank’s contributions to the redemption of the Commonwealth public debt, and under the provisions of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act, the Treasurer will pay into th” sinking fund 5 per cent, per annum on the amount of such debt redeemed. This will give the bank’s sinking fund an accumulating power at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum compound interest, and if the bank’s sinking fund contributions are limited to 10s. per cent, per annum on the amount of the loan, the bank’s liability will be extinguished in 50 years. During this period the bank will continue to pay interest on the total amount of the loan at the appropriate rate to the Treasury, and the amount so received will be u set-off to the Commonwealth’s contribution of 5 per cent, per annum on debt redeemed. The Savings Bank itself will not engage in house building, but will make the funds available through State or Territorial Administrations, Savings Banks and Municipalities. The additional funds thus provided will augment the moneys already available, and will be applicable to housing schemes at present in existence. In addition, provision i.; made for building a better class of house than is now provided for, and advances will be made up to 90 per cent, of the value of the property, with a maximum advance of £1,800. Of course, the conditions in the various States differ. In Queensland most of the ‘buildings are of wood, and therefore the maximum sum may not be required. In Victoria most buildings are of brick, and in that case a larger sum would be required. A certain amount of uniformity will be secured by this legislation. The success of the Commonwealth’s Housing Scheme is dependent upon the co-operation of the State Savings Banks or other home building authorities. It will be necessary for the State Parliaments to amend their laws to enable those authorities to comply with the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth. Unless and until the States take this action the scheme cannot operate. There is every indication, however, that the States will take the action necessary to ensure practical effect being given to the Commonwealth’s proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 30th September, (vide page 165).
.- I take this opportunity to bring before the Prime Minister and responsible Ministers an important national proposal, and to advance a few reasons why the Commonwealth Government should take whatever action is necessary to bring about the construction of a railway from a point on Northern Territory Railway across to Camooweal in Western Queensland and thence to Bourke in New South Wales. This matter was prominently brought before the Prime Minister during his recent tour through Queensland, and in the early sittings of this Parliament at Canberra it is only right that such a large national proposal should be seriously considered by the Government. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he convene a conference between himself and the premiers of New South Wales and Queensland, which are the two States most directly concerned, so that proper consideration may be given to the project at an early date. Such a railway would not only enable the pastoralists of western Queensland and north-western New South Wales to save millions of stock during drought periods, but also provide easy access to the rich Barkly Tableland. The subject is a burning one in Queensland to-day, particularly because of the great drought in which the State has lost about 7,500,000 sheep and a natural increase of about 2,000,000, as well as about 2,000,000 cattle. A big percentage of this stock could have been saved if the railway had been constructed some years ago. It is estimated that about every five years Australia loses merino sheep fto the value of £22,000,000 through drought, and the area mostly so affected is, unfortunately, western Queensland and the north-western portion of New South Wales which would be served by this line. It is estimated that about 500,000 cattle and 4,000,000 sheep are depastured along the proposed route of the railway in Queensland alone, and the construction of the line would enable a much larger number of stock to be carried. The proposal can be supported from the defence, economic and commercial standpoints, and the line would directly link the North Territory with the large centres of population.
– We are dealing now with the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I am sure that the Prime Minister recognizes that the Northern Territory furnishes wide scope for migration and development. In drought times cities, such as Brisbane, Rockhampton and Townsville, and other important centres in Queensland, suffer severely. The Prime Minister is fully aware of the need for this line. In tho Sydney Mail, of 10th August last, a speech by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) at Longreach, was reported in these words: -
They must be provided with facilities to move their stock in drought times into areas where drought did not prevail. The great disadvantage obtaining in Queensland to-day was that they had three great railway systems running east and west, and they were not linked up in the western part of the State by a line- running north and south, and, if possible, running south as far as Bourke in New South Wales. It might be advantageous to construct a line from the Federal Territory, linking up the train, systems of Queensland and New South Wales.
The Prime Minister evidently realizes the importance of this matter to the residents of western Queensland. He received a deputation on the subject in Brisbane. There has been correspondence between the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments upon it for many years. On the 13th May, 1914, the late Lord Forrest, writing to the Hon. W. H. Barnes,. then Acting-Premier of Queensland, said: -
I should like to have a talk with you while you are in Melbourne with regard to the question of the connexion of the Queeusland railway system with Port Darwin. Your railway system extends to Cloncurry, and will, no doubt in time, be continued to Camooweal. I have it in mind that, if the Queensland Government were to offer to connect Cloncurry with Camooweal at once, the Commonwealth Government might undertake to continue the railway through to the Northern Territory, via Alroy Downs station and Anthony’s Lagoon to Newcastle Waters, meeting the railway which will be in course of construction from Pine Creek to Katherine and Newcastle Waters. It would also be a great advantage to the trading of Queensland in that all the production from that part of the country from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal would probably find its way through into Queensland.
In a letter to the then Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Cook, the late Lord Forrest wrote, inter alia: -
I consider this would be a great move in the direction of opening up the Northern Territory, and would, when completed, provide railway communication with all the capital cities of the Commonwealth.
Writing further to Mr. Barnes on the. 16th May, 1914, Sir Joseph Cook, said : -
I have pleasure in saying that the views expressed in Sir John Forrest’s letter are in accordance with the views and policy of this Government, who consider that if this railway connexion between Cloncurry and Camooweal were at once carried out by the Queensland Government, and extended by the Commonwealth Government to Port Darwin as rapidly as possible, and if the trans-Australian railway and the railway from Rockhampton to Townsville (both now in course of construction) were completed, railway communication would then be available from Port Darwin to all the capital cities of the Commonwealth, which would he of great advantage for the purpose of defence, inter-communication and national development.
In a subsequent letter to the then Acting Premier of Queensland, dated 19th May, 1914, the late Lord Forrest wrote -
There can be no doubt of the great advantage of the proposal to Queensland, and also to the opening up of the Northern Territory, so that I do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty about it.
– What of the claims’ of South Australia?
– The north south line gives an advantage to South Australia. I do not quarrel about that, because its construction is necessary under an honorable agreement. Let that State have the line promised by the Commonwealth Government, and I want, the support of South Australians for this railway. The late Lord Forrest, writing to the Acting Premier of Queensland on 1st June, 1914, said -
As there is a very good chance cf our getting a double dissolution, and in that case we shall be before the country in a very short time, I should be very much obliged if you would urge Mr. Denham to consider the railway matter, so that, in the event of your agreeing with the Commonwealth Government we can make it part of our policy at the forthcoming election.
But his government did not receive a favorable reply, and therefore its railway policy was not one of the issues on which it was defeated. On the 22nd June, 19.14, the Honorable D. Denham, then Premier of Queensland, wrote to the then Prime
Minister, Sir Joseph Cook, stating that the Queensland Government du! not consider the linking up of the railway system in the west to be so urgent as the carrying of the southern, central and northern systems in a westerly direction, and this short-sighted attitude was commented on by a Brisbane newspaper in severe terms. On the 13th. December, 1920, Mr. Theodore, as Premier of Queensland, brought the matter before the Commonwealth Government, but without success. The Chambers of Commerce, the pastoralists, and every other section of the people, have asked that the railway be built. There is no doubt about the suitability of the country for settlement, because the land between Bourke in New South Wales and Hungerford in Queensland has been described as of a sandy, undulating nature, and of such a character that the construction of a railway between the two points would link up an immense tract which even under present conditions is profitably occupied. The distance is 130 miles, and throughout its course the railway would traverse what is generally known as low-carrying country which, on an average carries at least one sheep to six acres. The suggested route lies just within the Great artesian basin, and is crossed by the Paroo River, the Cuttaburra Creek and the Warrego River, all of which carry good water. Saltbush and cotton bush, both excellent feed for stock, abound, and artesian bores are plentiful. The route from Hungerford to Camooweal for a distance of practically 800 miles passes through country suitable for close settlement and for sheep and cattle raising. There are enormous areas of open downs, well supplied with mitchell, flinders, and blue grass. There is very little broken country, and with the exception of a limited area of sandy spinifex and occasional stretches of mulga ridges, the land is suitable for settlement in grazing farms. No less than 32,994,500 acres within a radius of 50 miles of the proposed route is pastoral leasehold, of which 4,829,840 acres can be resumed at any time for selection purposes on giving six months’ notice to the lessees. The route between Camooweal and Newcastle Waters, a distance of 434 miles, traverses the Barkly Tableland, than which there is no better pastoral country in Queensland. A fair sample of the class of land that would be served by the railway is afforded by Brunette Downs, on the Queensland side of the tableland, which is noted for its fat stock. For the whole distance there is rich pastoral country, so that the country proposed to br. served is particularly productive. An important point to be considered is that in a few years there will bc a shortage of meat to supply the Australian market. Since the boom period of the war the meat industry has been in a precarious condition, due largely to the fact that the Argentine captured the Liverpool market during the war and has since held it. The Argentine is a fortnight’s voyage nearer than Australia to the world’s markets, and has spent a great deal of money in developing early maturing cattle; we will have to look more to our local market. That statement is supported by Mr. A. J, B. McMaster, who, speaking on behalf of the United Graziers’ Association, said -
I do believe, however, that with the great increase in the Australian population the cattle industry will soon become a paying proposition, which it has not been for a number of years.
Nearly all the cattle in Queensland are in the north-west and north of the- Stat*, and as far south as Central Queensland, and railway communication through Western Queensland would bring those areas much closer to the big centres of consumption. To make cattle breeding a payable proposition at the chief centres of consumption a price of 30s. per 100 lb. must be realized, but since the boom period the price received for cattle raised in North and North-west Queensland has not been more than from 15s. to 20s. per 100 lb. Unfortunately, the world’s parity determines the price that the Australian producer receives. It is estimated that as 80 per cent, of our cattle are now killed for local consumption, if our population increased by 1,500,000 we could consume all the cattle that Australia raises. It is quite possible that within the next seven or eight years our population will have increased to that extent, and then we shall experience difficulty in supplying the local market with beef. That shows the necessity for opening up the great Barkly Tableland, the northern and north-western portion of Queensland, and the north-western part of New South Wales. The proposed railway is a great national project that should be constructed by the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the governments of the States that would directly benefit. Millions of acres along that route would carry a much greater number of stock if transport facilities were provided. Furthermore, that line would bring ‘ the Northern Territory within reach of four ports on the eastern coast of Australia. Every witness before the Public Works Committee, including the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, expressed a very high opinion of the proposal for a railway from Bourke through north-western New South Wales and western Queensland to the Northern Territory via Camooweal, and they declared that there were no engineering difficulties to be surmounted. Those who have been in the north of Australia know that although cattle can be depastured at considerable distances from the railway, sheep cannot be profitably raised at a distance of more than 100 miles. If this work were carried out, not only could the north-west of Queensland be used to a much greater extent for cattle grazing, but the country west of Longreach and in Western Queensland generally could be used for sheep raising. Transport facilities, however, are absolutely essential. At present nearly eight or nine months is occupied in travelling beasts on the hoof from North-west Queensland to the big centres of population, and subsequently they take some’ months to recuperate. If they could be conveyed by railway trucks that obstacle to development would be removed. I stress the importance that such a railway would be to Queensland and New South Wales in periods of drought, and as it would avoid the loss of millions of pounds’ worth of stock and wool, it would be a great boon to the whole nation and would soon save more than its cost. In 1914, when Central Queensland had an abundance of grass, the north-western portions of New South Wales and South Western Queensland were experiencing a drought, but it was impossible to travel the sheep from the drought-stricken areas to relief country. If this railway had been in existence at that time Australia would have been spared the loss of millions of pounds’ worth of stock in each drought. In the 1914 drought the Commonwealth lost about 10,000,000 sheep. There have been other droughts since, including that which now affects portions of New South Wales and Queensland, as a result of which the latter State has lost, including natural increase, approximately 9,500,000 sheep. Fat bullocks bring exceptionally high prices in the Melbourne and Sydney markets, but while cattle are being imported from New Zealand, hundreds of thousands of beasts in North-west Queensland cannot be brought to market because of the absence of transport facilities.. There is now a railway from Sydney to Rourke, a distance of 513 miles.- .From Bourke to Daly Waters the distance is 1,230 miles; from Newcastle Waters, which is the point at which the Queensland line would join the Darwin line, to Townsville, is 1,176 miles; to Rockhampton, 1,500 miles; to Brisbane, 1,730 miles; to Sydney, 1,S77 miles; to Melbourne, 2,269 miles; and to Adelaide, 2,753 miles. The proposed line would bring Brisbane 1,500 miles closer to Darwin by railway; Sydney, 1,700 miles nearer; Townsville, nearly 3,000 miles nearer; and Rockhampton, about 2,000 miles closer. I feel confident that my remarks have the sympathy of the Prime Minister who- is listening to me. Recently he saw a good deal of Queensland, and he knows how greatly the people have suffered through the ravages of drought. That State is largely dependent upon its pastoral industries, and the losses of millions of sheep and cattle have caused unemployment and privation to hundreds and hundreds of people. Unfortunately, the indications are that Australia is about to experience a lean period, and the time is opportune for the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, to undertake this big railway construction, which would create employment for thousands of competent labourers, engineers, and clerks who have been engaged in a similar class of work in Queensland and in other States on lines that are now completed. This expendi- ture, while serving a great national purpose and providing communication with the isolated Northern Territory, would relieve the distress that is caused to-day in the large centres of population by Jack of employment. I ask the Prime Minister to give to this proposal very earnest consideration.
– The late Sir Austin Chapman, who preceded me in the representation of Eden-Monaro, had much to do with the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. He did not actually vote for the selection of this site, and to that extent the popular designation of him as “ the father of Canberra “ may not be quite accurate; but from the time that Parliament decided on the location of the Federal Capital he was untiring in his efforts to promote its development. In Parliament and out of it he never lost an opportunity to advocate the speedy transfer of the Seat of Government from Melbourne to Canberra. For that reason, the people in my electorate acknowledge a great debt of gratitude <T,o Sir Austin Chapman, and during my election campaign I was invited in many towns to ascertain whether some tablet or bust could be placed in the King’s Hall of this building to perpetuate his memory. Some people may suggest that this would be making an invidious distinction, but I think the deceased gentleman had special claims to recognition. The Federal Capital Territory was taken out of the electorate which had been represented for so many years by Sir Austin Chapman, and it may be truly said that he was the only representative in the Federal Parliament that the Territory ever had. Moreover, he was for a very long time in public life, having served for 26 years in this Parliament, as .well as for several years in the Parliament of New South Wales. I do not think that we would be acting with undue generosity if we raised a memorial to every man who served 25 years in the Parliaments of this country;, and I am confident that any memorial raised to the memory of Sir Austin Chapman would be appreciated by the constituents of Eden-Monaro, whether they had been his supporters or opponents. It is estimated that about 20,000 people were present when the Duke of York opened this building on the 9th May, and of that number probably 15,000 were electors of Eden-Monaro. I mention that fact as an indication of the special interest they have in the Federal Capital. I earnestly appeal to the Prime Minister to consider whether some memorial such as- 1 have suggested can be raised. It need not necessarily be a bust or a tablet. The services of Prime Ministers are recognized by portraits and busts in the King’s Hall, and mcn who have served for a stated number of years as Ministers of the Crown have a pass for life over all the railways of the Commonwealth. Sir Austin Chapman’s long service in the Federal Parliament has not been recognized as it should be. Many of those who were at Canberra on the 9th May were disappointed that no reference was made to its late champion. I do not blame anybody in particular for that omission, but I personally felt haunted by his ghost on that memorable occasion, which saw the realization of his greatest ambition. I felt, when taking the late honorable member’s place, that I was succeeding a man who, during the last six or eight months of his life, had struggled to live practically only to see the realization of Canberra, the city of his dreams. I bring this matter forward in the hope that my representations may induce the Prime Minister to take some action along the lines I have suggested.
.-Recently questions were asked and speeches made in this chamber which, while perhaps not directly in opposition to the construction of the North-South railway, were adverse criticisms of the building of the line now under construction, and if the Prime Minister were to take serious notice of those criticisms he would jeopardize the existing agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments. Representatives of New South “Wales and Queensland lose no opportunity, by fair means or otherwise, to endeavour to create an advantage to themselves from the construction of the NorthSouth railway. “Without any desire to be rude) it is my opinion that those honorable members should mind their own business and realize that the construction of this railway is a matter of arrangement between this Government and the Govern ment of South Australia. Prior to the agreement for the construction of the North-South railway being entered into, the Northern Territory was a part of South Australia, and one of the conditions attaching to the transfer of that territory to the Commonwealth was that the Commonwealth Government should construct the North-South railway. The honorable member for Riverina alleged that the Northern Territory was a desert, affording no opportunity for development, and he spoke in general disparagement of it. Other honorable members have spoken in a similar strain, and I object to their unjustifiable criticism. The honorable member for “Wannon, who is just as capable an authority on , the Northern Territory as is the honorable member for Riverina, spoke most eulogistically of that country, but the honorable member for “Wannon represents a “Victorian constituency, and is, therefore, not seeking political advantage for himself or his constituents, as is the honorable member for Riverina. The Hon. G. Swinburne, an ex -Minister of Lands in Victoria, recently expressed a most favorable opinion of the. Northern Territory. The honorable gentleman is an authority on the subject, and spoke in the interest of the development of Australia generally.
The subject of the North-South railway is so hackneyed that I am diffident about labouring it; but I feel impelled to deprecate the utterance of these disparaging statements and to urge honorable members to take a wider outlook. The line is at present under construction, the Commonwealth Government having practically completed the first 21 miles by day labour, and a contract has been accepted for the construction of the remaining 270 odd miles to Alice Springs. It is the endeavour of honorable members who speak against the project to have the line terminate at that point. Such an action would be a violation of the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments, and would prove a colossal blunder. Alice Springs is situated in Central Australia, and the termination of the line there would leave undeveloped a country possessing tremendous potentialities. Further. I remind honorable members that the North-
South railway is frequently mentioned as a line of communication of considerable importance from a strategic point of view.
– And it is in our own territory.
– That is so. I trust that the Prime Minister will intimate to honorable members that no undertaking’ will be entered into with any State which would terminate the North-South line at Alice Springs. I believe that public opinion would not allow this or any other Government to terminate the line there. The country in that locality is so fertile, and the potentialities so great, that it is imperative that the line be continued to the terminus originally agreed upon. I should be lacking in my duty to the people I represent if I failed to ventilate the matter in this Chamber. I urge that the deprecatory propaganda to which the project is subjected will not be considered seriously; but “that, instead, the Government will consider the possibility of adequately watering the areas adjacent to and in the Northern Territory. Only a few years ago it would have been regarded as madness had any one advocated seeking water in some areas which were regarded as waterless, and so lacking transportation facilities as to be valueless. During the last twelve months with the limited assistance afforded by the South Australian Government, the pastoralists in the north-west area have dispelled that misapprehension, and I intend to read an extract detailing the experience of the owners of Bulqunnia station, which is situated in the northwest part of South Australia. A few years ago no wool was grown in the areas touched by the East-West railway, but pastoralists have now penetrated those areas, provided water facilities, and flourished. The Melbourne Herald deals with the evolution of Bulqunnia in this fashion : -
On this property Mr. Giffen is in partnership with the Haywood and Mundi-Mundi Lewis families. For many years he was associated with the financial side of - the pastoral business in Adelaide. “ Two years ago.” he said to-day, “ I joined up with these pastoralists, and we went into the NorthWest. We took over -virgin country known as Bulqunnia Station. The territory was declared by experienced pastoralists to bc waterless and useless for stock. That was because they had never tried it. Our ti rst proceeding was to bore for water. We sank 21 bores, each one of which was a success. The supplies ranged from 0,000 gallons a day to an unlimited amount. Nearly all had been discovered by water-divining. The bores vary in depth from 42 feet to 177 feet, and are spread over our property, measuring COO square miles. We are now developing an adjoining property of similar size, and have found water with our first bore at 42 feet. After only two years’ occupation,” Mr. G-men continued, “our 000 square miles block is surrounded by vermin-proof fencing, in addition to about 200 miles of special divisional fencing. There are 21 bores, fully equipped with windmills, engines, 20,000- gallon tanks, and troughs. There are two homesteads - one for me, and one for the manager - three huts, shearing sheds, and yards, 40 horses, 12 camels, and a fleet of v motor vehicles. In the houses there is running water in the bedrooms, hot and cold water in the bathrooms, septic tanks, petrol pump system, wireless, gramophone, and piano. Our first shearing was completed last Thursday week. More than 15,500 sheep were shorn, returning us 3S1 bales.
I know that a difference of opinion exists as to the value of the divining rod for locating water; but that method has been very successful on the property I have just mentioned. It appears to me, therefore, that the Commonwealth Government would be well advised to investigate the possibility of using it in the Northern Territory. If such fine wool can be grown on Bunqunnia, I can see no reason why, given a decent water supply, it should not also be grown in the surrounding country. I trust that the Government will give this matter its earnest consideration.
A good deal has been said in this debate about the migration of foreigners to Australia. I have had many letters - from different organizations, including branches of the Australian Natives’ Association, the Returned Sailors’ ‘ and Soldiers’ League, and the Labour party, protesting against the Government allowing the almost unrestricted influx of foreigners to continue. Until a few years ago the Northern Italians who migrated to Australia were assimilated in our population, and developed into good citizens; but the foreigners at present coming here are of a decidedly inferior class. I have no quarrel with these persons as individuals; but I
Strongly object to them arriving in Australia in such large numbers. Most of them are unskilled workers who enter into immediate competition with. Australians and Britishers for whatever work is available. In all the circumstances I regard the statements that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has made on this subject as being very unsatisfactory. It is time that something was done to impress upon the Government the opinion of the general public on the subject. A few years ago I requested Sir George Pearce, who was then Minister for Home and Territories, to take steps to end the invasion. Subsequently I’ was furnished with a verbatim report of the remarks that were made on that occasion. I forwarded it to the person who was responsible for my representations to the Government. He, in turn, had it published in the press. The result was that a foreigner of a nationality referred to in the report stated in reply, that “ the foreigners were not to blame for coming to Australia. Any blame was attachable to the Commonwealth Government.” That is the position as I see it. The Government is responsible. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), who is a supporter of the Government, only to-day requested the Prime Minister to take steps to prevent these people from coming to Australia. So it is apparent that the opposition to their entry is not limited to one political party. Certain employers in Australia appear to be only too ready to give preference to foreigners, although, fortunately, there are some who prefer Australian or British workmen. In company with other Australians and Britishers I have had the unhappy experience of seeking work for which foreigners were also applicants, and I have seen the foreigners preferred. These people are admittedly of a servile nature. They do not understand Australian working conditions, and appear to have no idea of maintaining our standards of living. When Sir Henry Barwell was Premier of South Australia he informed a deputation of workers, on one occasion that their standard of living was too high. He added that if the workers were not prepared voluntarily to accept a reduced standard of living he would take steps which would oblige them to do so. Certain supporters of this Government, appear to hold similar views to those expressed by Sir Henry Barwell, but they are too prudent to say so. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr.
Prowse) stated, a day or so ago, that the foreigners who were coming here were’ being paid the Australian rate of wages and that there was no fear of them lowering our standard of living. In reply to him I shall quote an article that appeared in the Melbourne Herald on the 30th of September. The representative of that newspaper interviewed various consular representatives in Melbourne, to ascertain whether alien migrants wore accepting low wages in order to secure employment, and the following summary of the statements made by representatives of the respective nationalities was published: -
Greeks. - All recent arrivals nominated by friends in Australia. A few agriculturists go to the country, but the great bulk are city men, who find employment with other Greeks in the cities. A great number of the recent arrivals have accepted low wages in order to secure any employment offering.
Czecho-Slovakians.- Not one unemployed in Victoria to-day. Tradesmen, for the most part, many of them possessing high qualifications, they find ready employment in their several spheres. New arrivals frequently accept any work offering in the country districts until they become proficient in the English language They then drift back into their natural employment
Swiss. - Farmers and mechanics find it most difficult to gain employment. Many are working in the country without wages, merely for their keep, unable to find profitable employment elsewhere. Many others, particularly skilled tradesmen, are out of employment Swiss Government informed of position in Australia, but a few migrants still coming, hoping to secure work.
Austrians. - Very few coming to Victoria; those who do have not been nominated, and in the majority of cases have no definite prospects of employment. Comprising mainly mechanics, cooks and labourers, they find it difficult to secure work. Having to take any employment offering, they are forced to accept any wages named by the prospective employer in order to live.
Danes. - Of the few Danes who come to Victoria, the majority are farmers, with, a few office workers. Agriculturists placed readily in country employment, but city men have great difficulty in securing work, and then only at low wages.
Those observations are, in my opinion, a complete answer to the honorable member for Forrest. They show quite conclusively that foreigners “do accept low wages. In some cases they even work for no wages. I have had the opportunity, as a member of the Public Works Committee, of visiting every capital city in the Commonwealth within the last eight or ten months and I know that while a great many Australians and Britishers are unemployed, foreigners are able to obtain work. That is not as it should be. We know that the wages ruling in Southern European countries are low, so we can guess what they would regard as low wage3 in Australia.
Another reason why this foreign influx should cease is that we are hoping that under the terms of the development and migration agreement with Great Britain, we shall be able to place a large number of British migrants in Australia within the next few years, lt will by quite impossible for us to do so if we allow the present rate of migration from Southern Europe to continue. I do not share the views of some honorable members regarding the Development and Migration Commission. Some -have said that it should expedite its inquiries and that it should have done more than it has done. I do not hold that view. When the commission was appointed it was intended that developmental schemes should precede immigration, and the Government should give effect to that intention. We must make provision for settling people on the land before migrants arrive here. The commission is inquiring into large projects. In my own electorate a certain water conservation scheme cost the South Australian Government £300,000, yet it is not worth the proverbial snap of a finger, because it was undertaken on land which would not hold water. If, on the recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission, the South Australian Government were committed to a similar scheme, it would need to absorb one migrant for every £75 expended on the work. It is therefore necessary that the commission should make the most exhaustive* inquiries. I believe that in my own electorate it has recommended for the West Coast and Eyre Peninsular, a scheme of water reticulation which will cost £580,000. There was really not much investigation needed, because the reservoir has already been constructed. That scheme when completed will provide for considerable settlement. When I was in Western Australia recently I heard that the Development and Migration Commission was investigating a very fine proposition for that State, but even in such an instance the greatest care should be taken. So far as I can see, the carrying out of that scheme would open up a large area of wheat-growing country. The commission is recommending the construction of railways and roads, and the provision of water conservation and reticulation. I contend that it should work on the lines that development must take place before immigration is possible. While foreign migrants are admitted freely into Australia, we shall find it difficult to absorb British migrants. Our developmental schemes should be primarily for the settlement of our own people, and migrants should be absorbed into subsidiary industries.
The other day the honorable member for Angus (Mr. Parsons) eulogized the Barwell boy scheme. I know that scheme and its effect. My electorate contains more wheat-growing country than does that of the honorable member, and I know the conditions under which those boys have been working. I admit that in isolated cases some of them have done well, and are treated well by their employers; but that remark does not apply generally. Many of the Barwell boys are to-day working for wages in the industrial towns of South Australia. There would be no objection to the scheme if the boys were told before they left England that when they arrived in Australia they would be employed as farm labourers, but to tell them that after working three years on .a f arm they will be able, out of their savings, to become successful land settlers is certainly misleading. Even our own people cannot obtain land. There are plenty of applicants for every block of land that is thrown open for settlement. In one case there were 800 applicants for one block. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) when speaking on this subject stated that land was available in two States only - Queensland and Western Australia. That is not quite correct, because in my own electorate there are many square miles of land awaiting development. It cannot be claimed that the Barwell boy scheme has been a success. Why did seven of the boys commit suicide? It was because they had been misled, and were appalled at the conditions under which land was obtainable. If that scheme is extended, as is now proposed, British boys should be informed of the true position, and that if they like to come here and work as farm labourers they are welcome to do so.
Mr.Rodgers. - Does not the honorable member, as a public man, recognize that those boys have bettered their positions and prospects in life by coming to Australia ?
– Perhaps some of them have bettered their positions. Some of them are certainly settled on the land. What I object to is the misrepresentation of the conditions in Australia. A farmer I know has adopted a Barwellboy, and is treating him as one of his own family, but that is only one out of 3,000 cases. More of these boys should bo settled on the land, otherwise they should not be brought here.
The other day the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) made a reference to “ going slow “ at Canberra. I notice to-day that the chairman of the Federal Capital Commission has taken him - to task for that statement. I certainly do not think that it should be allowed to pass without comment by me. The honorable member’s time could be better occupied than by critizing men working on a Government job. There is supervision of all works at Canberra, and if the men are not doing well it is the fault, not of the men, but of the supervisors. I invite the honorable member to inspect some of the houses which were built by the last South Australian Government, at a cost of about £800 each. They are undoubtedly better houses than those which are being built at Canberra at a cost of £2,000, and for which rents up to £3 18s. a week are being asked. This Parliament has during the last thirteen months been in session only for three weeks. It is certainly ridiculous for a member of a Parliament that has been in recess so long to come here and criticize workmen for going slow. Members of this Parliament have something better to do than criticize those men. If they attempted to do such work themselves they would soon be found “ going slow.”
.- I understand that at the beginning of the year the advance available for a war service home was increased to £800 and £950; but I am informed that in South Australia the maximum amount advanced is only £700. Why is this differentiation made between South Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth?
– Perhaps the department in South Australia is working under State legislation.
– I understand that is so. There the war service homes are administered by the State Bank authorities, whose maximum advance is £700; but they should not apply State regulations to applications for war service homes. Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be uniformity in the distribution of the funds available, bringing South Australia into line with the other States?
– Yes. If what the honorable member says is correct, the anomaly will be rectified.
– How many officers under the Development and Migration Commission are employed in connexion with development, and how many are concerned with migration ?
. -I cannot give the figures off-hand in regard to migration, but so far as the markets staff is concerned they number less than twenty permanent officers, apart from the commerce branch, which consists of inspectors dealing with the examination for export ofmeat, fruit, dairy produce, &c. I shall obtain exact information for the honorable member.
.- I have been puzzled for some time to know where the Development and Migration Commission has its office, and what work it does. I noticed by the press a short time ago that the Commissioners were travelling around England, looking at iron and coal works. They appear to do very little but travel.
– The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) has just spoken convincingly of the good work of the commission.
– A South Australian representative will naturally do what he can for the State, which has been so good to him. The chairman receives £5,000 per annum, and the other members £8,000 per annum, with travelling expenses, and the country is entitled to something in return for those large salaries. It seems that Australia is being governed by means of commissions, and mat Parliament has got into the habit of letting matters slide. The people cannot wonder at the increase in taxation. I hope that ere long a report will be presented by the Development and Migration Commission. The public is naturally anxious to know what that body has done and what it proposes to do. Wherever the Prime Minister happens to go, members of ‘the commission appear on the scene. Why has an expensive Parliament House been erected in Canberra if governmental functions are to be handed over to commissions? The people are beginning to take a very serious view of the brevity of the parliamentary sittings, and the small output of legislative work by their elected representatives. I do not know, whether the Development and Migration Commission and its doings have been a source of amusement to the Prime Minister, but that body seems to have assisted in keeping the Parliament in recess. The stupid and rascally practice of carrying on government by commissions should cease.
The honorable member must withdraw the expression “ rascally.”
– I withdraw that word, and say that the undue persecution of the people of Australia should be brought to an end. I would prefer to be able to praise the Government, but I am unable to find anything in its conduct that is worthy of commendation. I hope that the few remarks I have made this evening will warn the Prime Minister to discontinue going about the country with the Development and Migration Commission like a sort of vaudeville show, and give the commission an opportunity to justify its appointment. His administrative duties cannot be done while these methods are continued. The opinion of all sections of the people is that this Parliament is neglecting its duties.
.- Can the Minister for Markets and Migration inform the committee whether Mr.
Gepp’s report on the Dawson Valley water conservation and land settlement scheme has yet been considered by the Cabinet, and, if so! what action the Government intends to take? The Prime Minister stated that certain schemes estimated to cost £11,000,000 had been submitted to the Development and Migration Commission, and that about £4,000,000 worth of work had been approved. Queensland has been experiencing a terrible drought, and if this water conservation scheme were completed sufficient water could be impounded in that area to supply the dairying industry in Wowan and Rockhampton districts, and even the pastoral areas of central and western Queensland, with fodder. Thousands of dairy cattle and hundreds of thousands of sheep could thus be kept alive. The Dawson Valley water conservation scheme was submitted to the Federal Government in order that portion of the £34,000,000 to be provided under the migration scheme by Great Britain and Australia be made available for its completion. If this scheme has not been approved by the Government, I ask the Minister to inform the committee of the reason. The time is opportune to proceed with it.
.- I take this opportunity to bear testimony to the good work done by the department controlled by the Minister for Markets and Migration. I was gratified on a recent visit to a town in my constituency, in which is a large butter factory, to receive confirmation of an opinion I already held that the Paterson ‘ butter stabilization scheme had resulted in dairymen receiving a much higher price for their milk. Men along the Murray Valley who had been asking 7½d. per gallon for milk prior to that scheme coming into operation are now receiving ls. per gallon. The increase in price means the difference between a painful struggle for existence and a fair living.
In consequence of the recent disastrous frosts along the Murray Valley and in other districts where vines are grown, the grape crop next year will be very much reduced.- When the Empire Parliamentary Delegation was visiting the
Murray Valley various members impressed upon us the importance of continuity of supply in the development and maintenance of markets overseas, and I am concerned lest owing to the frosts the profitable market recently opened in Great Britain for sultanas and lexias may be adversely affected if prompt action is not taken. I am pleased to note that the South Australian Government is acting, and that its experts are visiting the valley to prepare reports regarding the extent of the disaster, an l to advise the settlers. I strongly urge the Minister for Markets and Migration to leave undone nothing that can be done to ensure that the markets already secured will not be unnecessarily jeopardized.
Silting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
.- Under the head, “ Business Undertakings - Commonwealth Railways,” I desire to ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether he has considered the advisability of instituting motor trains on the line from Port Darwin south, in order to give better services to the people situated in the interior. Some time ago the honorable gentleman seemed averse to the idea ; but similar services have been singularly effective in the north of Victoria. If what I suggest were instituted it would, undoubtedly, be effective and economical and would give better service than does the ordinary locomotive.
.- The department has a large motor coach, which has been used only on occasions, but is not in general use. I shall consult the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to see what can be done.
– I regret that the Postmaster-General is not at present in the chamber, as I desired to question him regarding the installation of automatic telephones in country districts while his department was before us for consideration.
.- While on the subject “ North Australia and Central Australia,” I take the opportunity of mentioning that I had the privilege, at the beginning of August last, of joining- one of the largest expeditions that has ever entered Central Australia, an expedition organized by the Victorian Railways Commissioners. Those gentlemen are to be congratulated upon their farsightedness and broadmindedness in having despatched such an expedition into the centre of the continent. The expedition consisted of 62 men, representing widely different activities, and all intensely interested in the country. We had the advantage of the company of Dr. Keith Ward, of South Australia, an eminent scientist, whose inclusion in the expedition made the tour doubly interesting. Dr. Ward is well informed as to the physical conditions of the country, its animal life, and its aboriginal inhabitants. His fascinating lectures in the evenings on its soil and rock formations, water supply and native races were really a treat in themselves. We also had other scientists with us, and generally speaking, the expedition was a body of men. capable of making a sound estimate of the value of the interior of Australia. I shall give to the chamber the impressions of myself and that body of able men regarding the area. Were that great tract of land in the possession of any other Government in the world, I arn confident it would not be described as a desert. Its praises would reverberate throughout the world.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– It is a gross slander’ to apply such a term to a great tract of useful country, and it is unfortunate that the late Professor Gregory, when seeking a title with which to focus public attention, should have described that country around Lake Eyre as “ the dead heart of Australia.” That phrase has conveyed the erroneous impression that the centre of Australia is useless and barren country, but I am in a position to refute such an idea. I had the good fortune to have as companions in the car in which I travelled, two experienced pastoralists with a wide knowledge of Australia’s land problems, and, as we went along, made a joint survey of the soil, climate, herbage and the physical and general conditions of the country. We considered that as a representative body of men, before returning to Melbourne we should endeavour to arrive at a few conclusions upon which we all agreed. The consensus of- opinion was that Australia should be informed as to the character of Central Australia, that we should revise our maps and erase the word “ desert “ as applied to that area.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Let us take pride in the potential value of our possessions. Because we are a nation unfortunate enough to have a gigantic continent with good country round the coast line, and populated by only a handful of people, we overlook the great centre of Australia. I consider its problems somewhat similar to those of “West and North Queensland, “West New South “Wales, and the Northwest portion of “Western Australia. Australians must occupy and develop Central Australia, or reckon with those races of the world who are so closely packed and starved for land.
That expedition traversed the country from the southern boundary to Barrow Creek, close to the northern boundary. The area is, roughly, 151,000,000 acres, and it contains approximately 300 white people and 6,000 natives. If that organization described as the Development and Migration Commission seeks a first-rate subject to engage its attention, it should obtain permission to go into the Central Australia problem. The country may be described as a big stretch of useful land, capable of carrying a much greater population than it now does. As a result of my association with’ that expedition, I now realize that the public debt of Australia rests upon a much more magnificent security than I previously thought to be the case. It .requires but the genius and enterprise of our people to develop Central Australia as they have developed and settled other sections of the Commonwealth ; but it would be impossible to aPPly to that country the economic conditions in existence around our coast-line. The country would not stand it, and industry would not stand it. The country, though not rich from an agricultural stand-point, is sweet, wholesome, and sound stock country. When I tell honorable members that petrol costs 8s. a gallon at Alice Springs, they will appreciate the difficulties associated with the development of that country.
– In spite of that, the motor car is ousting the horse.
– There are 18,000 horses in the area, and they may be had practically for the taking. While we were there an Indian horse-buyer came along, and, on one property, out of the hundreds of horses that were yarded for his inspection he chose six, at prices ranging from £5 to £6 per head. The horse is disappearing there as a beast of transport, as is the case in other parts of Australia. In quite a number of centres in our settled parts during recent droughty conditions, horses might be purchased from the pounds for 10s. per head, and in Central Australia horses are being shot in order to get rid of them, as they are using up the limited water supply and consuming the fodder available. It is, indeed, a sorry day for the light horse, once Australia’s pride, and a great helpmate in the earlier days of settlement. The camel, too, is passing as a means of transport, for the motor car is taking its place ; but there is a certain class of work over rough and waterless country that it will always do. It is almost the only animal that can carry loads across the “ gibber “ country. The soil in Central Australia varies from a kind of red sand to a red loam, which is a. better soil, to the eye, than that which is found in the red mallee country. But, like all other large districts, Central Australia has varying belts of soil. The rainfall ranges from an average of 5 inches over a period of 35 years, at Oodnadatta, to 11 inches over a period of 53 years, at Alice Springs; but nature has compensated the country for its small rainfall. After the winter rains a great variety of saline herbage springs up, maturing quickly, which makes it both the cheapest and the quickest fattening proposition in the world. Sir Sidney Kidman is quite right in saying that no country will fatten so quickly or so cheaply as this, with a rental of 2s. 6d. per square mile, carrying on the average about three bullocks. I would class Central Australia as a belt of useful country capable of vast improvement. Many less fortunate races m other parts of the world would regard it as a second paradise. We have a great responsibility to see that it is developed, and I regret that the Government has not announced a definite developmental policy for it. One of the first considerations that weigh with prospective settlers in a new country is the land tenure. Any man who thinks of building a home for himself and of settling his family in such a territory, gives first consideration to the tenure under which he may hold the land. He does not desire to be at the mercy of successive governments. I have no hesitation in saying that I believe that men should be able to settle in Central Australia on a freehold tenure. At present a freehold is obtainable only in respect of agricultural areas of 1,280 acres ; but it will be many long years before agriculture is followed there. To-day the country is a pastoral proposition, plus the hope of mineral development. For my own part, I can see no reason why a man should not be granted a pastoral freehold for the purpose of fattening bullocks or running sheep or breeding horses, just as he may be granted it for agricultural purposes. A freehold is the only inducement that will cause men to forego the social advantages of life in our coastal areas for life amid coloured people in Central Australia..
– The honorable member wishes to repeat there the errors that were made in the southern States.
– The honorable member for Yarra and myself do not agree on the subject of land tenure.
– I am very glad that we do not.
– The honorable member likes a little bit of freehold for his own home. If any persons in the community are entitled to a freehold it is those who are prepared to brave the tremendous pioneering problems of our outback areas.
– Even they should not get the freehold of half a State.
– It is not necessary to give a freehold of vast areas; but it is necessary to offer a freehold of some substantial area to induce men to attempt to solve the problems of developing the country. Every man, when, his time comes to release the reins, wishes to have something to pass on to his family. We must revise our land policy in respect of this country. It may be said that we are already offering leases of 42 years. But when one takes into account the light rainfall and the other precarious conditions that prevail, it may be said that such leases are profitable for a period of not more than ten years at the most. In other words, a man holding a 42 years’ lease of this country can only expect a good year every third or fourth year, the others will be lean years. He must put the lean with the good years and average his earnings. This is not condemning the country; it is merely facing the facts. I have referred to the herbage that springs up after the winter rains fall. The spring or early summer rains bring the grasses, the mitchell, blue, spear and oat grasses, in addition there are many bushes of an edible nature, such as the saltbush, the cotton bush, the blue bush and the dillon bush and others that I could name. These are a splendid addition to the grasses. Many of the trees also are edible, such as three kinds of mulga, the supple jack, the bullock bush, myall, plum bush, and others.
– What about the parakelia
– That is not a tree. It grows also in the stony and “ gibber “ country. In this instance, too, nature works in her own fascinating way. Looking at the country on which the parakelia grows, one would consider it nothing but a wind-swept waste; but the “gibbers” really preserve the soil and cover the seed. The parakelia belongs to the “ pig face “ family. Bullocks fatten on it very quickly, and after eating it they .can remain for days without water; but unfortunately it makes their condition too soft for them to be able to walk ‘to market. They need, some other fodder, a better balanced ration before they are fit for droving. During our visit we saw some splendid looking country, such as the Birt Plains. To a man with agricultural experience the development of such an area would present no difficulty. They would not need grubbing or clearing, and such trees as grow there are light and mostly edible. The provision of water is undoubtedly the great problem which has to be faced before development can occur. I can see no difference in principle between conserving surplus water in reservoirs, and leading it on to the farms as is done in Victoria, and tapping underground supplies such as undoubtedly exist in Central Australia. The rivers in these areas are neither more nor less than drains for storm waters. In the whole of our travels I did not see a single acre of “ jackyjacky” or sour country; but we passed over miles and miles of country that would carry three bullocks to ih.e mile. The warm and dry climiate sweetens the soil and produces light but quick fattening herbage. The average price of the country is about 2s. 6d. a square mile, so that the cost of producing bullocks there is the lowest in the world. The great problem that must be solved is how to transport them to market. I should like in this connexion to congratulate the Government upon having honoured the bargain with South Australia by constructing the Oodnadatta to Alice Sprngs Railway. I am not speaking as a convert to that proposition, any more than I am a convert to Canberra. My view is that our. statesmen of that day acted unwisely in agreeing as a condition of federation, to establish the Federal Capital in New South Wales ; the balance of convenience should have been the dominant consideration, but they did so, and our duty to-day is to honour their undertaking and do the best we can for Canberra, our selected capital. In the same way I consider that we should honour the undertaking given to South Australia. I do not think that we are honouring it now by putting forward counter proposals to those that were agreed upon at the time. I do not think that that is playing the game of federation. In addition to providing transport facilities for Central Australia I think that the Government should undertake a systematic exploration of the underground water supplies of the whole of the Territory, for it owns the land and controls the wells which have been sunk at various points on the stock routes. Water, is obtainable in some places in sandy soakages at so shallow a depth as 6 feet. At Alice Springs, wells have found good water and good supplies at from 30 to 50 feet. In the subartesian basin it is necessary to sink from 700 to 1,000 feet. The Government should explore the water resources in every part of the Territory. It has the opportunity, at present, of. secur- ing the services of the Government Geologist of South Australia, Dr. Keith Ward, who is an intensely interesting and capable. man. I think it should not only obtain his services, but it should also engage other geologists and experts to concentrate upon this great water problem. We shall never develop this country until we provide it with a constant water supply. We a:’e justified in investigating the possibilities; for practically all the water that has been found up to date has been good. On the question of transport, even when the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway is built we shall find that in good years cattle will be driven as far south as possible in order to save heavy trucking expenses. By this the cattle are not knocked about in the trucks, and they benefit by getting pasture and water while . travelling, whereas on the long train journey they have neither. The Government can make up its mind that in a good year stock will travel as far as possible on the stock route, and will travel by train only when compelled to do so in order to reach the Adelaide market. A good stock route well served with water will in a good year lessen the railway revenue, but on the other hand fresh hope has been given to the limited body of men in the Territory by the knowledge that in two years’ time the railway will be completed as far as Alice Springs, and that their stock can be got away to markets in the years when they could not travel along the stock routes. It has given them a fresh lease of life and hope, and also, after long waiting, it is the realization of a promise made 26 years ago, when federation took place. It has heartened the people. The name of Charles Sturt, the great explorer, is revered by them, and if the Minister adopts this new policy the name of Charles Marr may be similarly revered. The Minister has a great opportunity to familiarize himself with the conditions of that great country, and to be the father of a nev/ policy of development for it.
We have nothing that presses for so much consideration as does a sound and humane policy for Central Australia. One is struck as he arrives at Alice Springs by the very feeble attempt on the part of Australia to face our internal White Australia policy. The only evidence that there is such a policy is that it has been abused by the white people. It is of no use to mince facts. I am pleased that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has interested himself in the conditions of the native population, and has given notice of an important motion, and for this I applaud him. When white people arrived in this country, then the possession of the Australian aboriginals, their first act of occupation was to drive them from the water. We know full well that water provides their only chance of a livelihood, and, therefore, the vicinity of water was their gathering ground. In his original state the native’s real occupation is getting food, and that keeps him healthy and fit. He has a fine code of morals when left to himself. It is when he comes into contact with the white man, becomes subservient to them, eats their food, and wears their clothes, that the process of degradation sets in. We have to face this problem, and we should make a start. We have no truly national policy in respect of the Australian natives, although we have a great moral responsibility as their natural guardians. They are human beings, yet they degenerate by contact with us. We are the dominant race, and the natives soon become submissive to the white man’s rule. We have not attempted to govern the natives at all, nor have we made any separate laws for them. There are in existence some regulations of a punitive character for improper contact by us with natives, but I regret to say that there is living evidence that they have been too often honoured in the breach. Admirable work has been done by some of the missions in Central Australia and other parts occupied by natives. I refer particularly to the work of the Australian Inland Mission, which has rendered a magnificent service to this country. We met at Oodnadatta and Alice Springs hostels some of the grandest and gamest nurses that ever wore the nurse’s uniform. They are doing magnificent ‘service in the lonely outposts of civilization, and to those who have built and maintained the institutions I take off my hat. Yet, although they are doing splendid work they are touching only the very fringe of the native problem. They, of course, are not attempting, and rightly, too, to solve the problem of the coloured race, nor are they -attempting in any way to discipline or control them. There are other missions in the Territory doing good work, and, although we were unable to visit it, I believe that the Hermansburg Mission is rendering good service. What are we to do for our coloured people? As I have raised the question, I should at least take the responsibility of making a suggestion. A limited proportion of the black boys are used on stations, chiefly in the saddle mustering and travelling stock on the wells and with camel teams. Mustering often takes weeks. We travelled 3,400 miles from embarkation to disembarkation, and opened only one gate, there being no fences in the Territory. There are about 6,000 out of 20,000 blacks in the Northern Territory living in Central Australia. They have no settled home, but move in camps or groups. When a native is employed on station or other work the habit of his relatives or members of the same tribe is to establish their camp on the station on which he works or in the vicinity of his work, and become camp followers, and here the danger of racial contact arises. I should not like my son or any other young man to go to Central Australia to settle there, for under the conditions it is a positive menace to any young settler. Too many have fallen, as is evidenced by the fact that the Government has established at Alice Springs a bungalow at which to house, teach and look after unfortunate half-castes, who are wanted by neither side to this illicit contact. One very game woman, Mrs. Standley, is in charge of this government institution, which is virtually keeping bright the window of life through which these unfortunates may look out on a better world. The Government provides sustenance for these half-castes. They can be trained up to twelve or thirteen years of age, but not afterwards, as their minds then seem to close on tuition. They revert always to the ways of their native parent. The children are trained, and the girls sent out to service, mostly to Adelaide, whence, after, too often, ail unfortunate experience, they return to the bungalow or their tribe to add the saddest chapter of all to the story of life in Central Australia. I need say no more on the subject to an intelligent body of honorable members. That is not a phase of our White Australia policy of which we can be proud, and the problem has to be faced, for we are in the full gaze of the eyes of the world. Here is a chance for Australia to redeem herself, and to be the one country in history that has ever done the fair thing by the native coloured race. The coloured man has had to do the world’s donkey work, and has never had a place entirely of his own. There is a part of the Northern Territory, away in Arnheim’s Land, where no white man has ever put foot, and where are some of the finest physical specimens of coloured humanity. The coloured man lives there in a savage state with plenty of natural food - wild fowl, game, and edible fish abound. It has not been seen except by very few. I had the opportunity of consultation some years ago with an Australian bushman who spent three years near Arnheim’s Land, and he had a fine collection of photographs that fairly depicted native life there. He took his life in his hands on many occasions in order to obtain them. We have never occupied that country, and we do not want it. We as whites could not use it, so let our own coloured natives have it; let him remain untouched and uncontaminated in his simple, natural life on some part of God’s earth. I am not a sentimentalist, but I say that contact between white and black is not good for any country. If Australia wants to maintain a white Australian policy she must not commercialize the services of native blacks. We must first put our own house in order.
– Could we keep the blacks at Arnheim’s land ?
– We could keep in that country those that are there already. They should remain in segregation, and the white man should not attempt to dispossess them or to injure them in other ways. As to the rest of the blacks, where contact has already taken place the position is difficult, but I advocate more segregation where possible. Complete segregation in parts other than Arnheim’s Land is impossible. There is sentiment among the blacks as among the whites, and even after contact with the whites. Every black likes to return to his happy hunting ground - the place of his birth - and every half-caste, be it boy or girl, even when sent to the city instinctively hears and heeds the call and goes “ a bush.” The Government would be well advised to face this problem. We are seeking now to administer the Territory by certain local control, and if we wish to do the right thing we should confer with the States and such noted authorities as Sir Baldwin Spencer, and Commissioner Stott, who spent his life among the blacks, and knows their customs. With the assistance of such men we could evolve a policy under which we need not be ashamed of our treatment of “>ar coloured races. We who set before the world the great ideal of a White Australia policy that governs our migration laws, should be the one nation resolved at all costs to do the right thing by the scattered remnants of the coloured natives, who, until the arrival of the white man and his civilization, held undisputed occupation of this great continent.
.- Last week I asked for information concerning the Pacific Islands mail contract. I understand that that matter comes under the Home and Territories Department. I want to know whether the mail contract has been completed; and, if so, with whom and under what terms? I understand that a contract has recently been renewed with a shipping company, and I desire to know the name of the company and the terms of the contract.
– I regretthat the answer desired by the honorable member has not been supplied. The Government has invited, fresh tenders for the Pacific Islands shipping service, and we are giving tenderers an opportunity to develop their own schemes during the next twelve months. We have extended the present service to the 31st October, 1928, and tenders for the new service, which will begin on the 1st November, 1928, close at the end of this year. Any company desirous of organizing- a shipping service thus has twelve months in which to complete the work.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble, title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a third time.
New Standing Order.
– Owing to the death of the Clerk of the House under tragic circumstances last week, we are to-day in a difficulty. Standing Order 2S provides that “ in case of unavoidable absence or illness of the Clerk, his duties shall be performed by the Clerk-Assistant.” No provision is made for the emergency which has now arisen, the vacancy of th.: Clerkship. Standing Order 1SS says -
When a bill originated in the House shall have passed, the Clerk shall certify at the top of the first page, “ This bill originated in the House of Representatives; and having this day passed, is now ready for presentation to the Semite for its concurrence.”
A bill has been passed, and Standing Order 1S8 requires that it shall be- certified by the Clerk. I therefore move, by leave -
That the following standing order be forthwith adopted: - “ 28a. During any vacancy in the office of Clerk, all powers, functions and duties of the Clerk shall be exercised and performed by the Clerk-Assistant.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed, until after the consideration of the Estimates for Additions, Kew Works, Buildings, &c.
In Committee of Supply:
Prime Minister’s Department, £3,000, agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Proposed vote- £8,800.
.- Under the Department of Home and Territories there is a reference to the erection of, and additions to, meteorological buildings. Will the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) state whether those are works in the Federal Territory?
– They are.
.- Since the return of the Minister for Home and Territories from New Guinea one or tiwi statements have appeared in the press to the effect that the Government intends to introduce a change in the method of administration there by providing for an advisory council elected by the residents. I realize that the matter requires a great deal of consideration, and I do not wish to press the Minister unduly upon ii,; but I should, like to know whether he is prepared to make a definite announcement. I think that the time has come, especially in view of the sale of a number of plantations in New Guinea, when we should recognize the importance of what may be called private interests in the Territory. In Papua the residents have been given a voice in the administration of their own affairs, and the best results have accrued. I have no wish to reflect on the past administration of the Territory; but, if it is to march with the times, steps should be taken in tut, direction indicated. I do not know whether the Minister intends to introduce amendments to the New Guinea enactments. Perhaps he would like to confine himself to a general statement regarding his visit. He was admirably received, every confidence was reposed in him, and high hopes are entertained as to the outcome of his visit, which promised to produce excellent results. His inquiries into various matters affecting the Territory impressed the residents very favorably. One of the most urgent matters is that of local representation through an advisory council.
– I draw attention to the fact that the future representation of the Federal Territory is an equally important subject for consideration.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that in connexion with additions, new works, and buildings.
Mr. MARR (Parkes - Minister for Home and Territories [9.0]. - The honorable member has raised a question of policy. Some time ago tlie Government promised that “when all the expropriated properties were sold - and the third group has been sold - consideration would he given to the vital matter of granting local representation on some form of advisory council. The -actual system to be adopted has not yet been thought out. The people of North Australia are at present engaged in electing their first local advisory council. A similar system has been in operation in Papua for years, and the Government will introduce local representation in some form into New Guinea at the earliest possible moment.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed vote, £205,364.
.- The two new cruisers that are being constructed for the Commonwealth in Great Britain are expected to arrive in Australia at an early date. Representations were made eighteen months or two years ago that wharfage facilities at Garden Island for the provisioning and loading of these vessels were essential and urgent. If this work was urgent then, why is no provision made on these Estimates for it?
– Provision, will be made in the Loan Bill.
Mr. MANN (Perth). rg.4]. - I see an item of £8,980 for the Civil Aviation Branch. I should like some information from the Government as to the present position regarding the establishment of an aeroplane service between Perth and Adelaide. I understand that tenders were called for such a service, and that fourteen were received. I have since read that tenders are to be called again. Why is this necessary? This service is of great importance to the people of Western Australia. I can understand that the traffic in more populous districts is greater, and that services there are more likely to pay, but I submit that it is more urgent to give aeroplane services to those remote parts of the Commonwealth where no mail services now. exist. What is the prospect of the early establishment of the proposed new air route?
.- Will the Minister when replying state whether the tenders were called for a direct service or whether the representations made to the Postmaster-General from time to time that mails should be lifted and dropped at intermediate stations have been considered ?
– Perhaps because of inherent and incurable stupidity I am unable to understand what the Committee id doing. I do not recall the New Works Estimates having been tackled in this manner in previous years. The consideration of details is usually preceded by some general discussion, during which we have opportunity to consider matters of policy and to learn the Government’s intentions. If we are to discuss aviation I should like the Minister in charge to indicate generally the Government’s policy in regard thereto. Aviation has impressedupon us its wonderful possibilities and tremendous hazards, and this country seems designed by Nature to be the happy hunting ground of the airman. I see before me an amount of £9,800 for civil aviation, and I suppose that somewhere else in the Estimates is a further reference to that subject. Unless this is a Masonic lodge, and only those having the countersign are to be admitted into the mysteries, it would be well if we delved right into the subject and found out just what the Government intends to do.
– The Committee is following to-night the usual procedure. Alwivs after the presentation of the budget, the estimates for additions, new works, and buildings are given precedence in order to enable the various works to be carried on without any interruption pending parliamentary approval. The usual discussion on the budget will take place at the end of next week, when the general Estimates are before us. I gave to the Leader of the Opposition an assurance that the discussion would be delayed for a fortnight after the delivery of the budget in order that honorable members might have an opportunity to appreciate fully the financial position as I had set it before them. All the committee is now considering are various works chargeable to revenue involving a total expenditure of £284,049. Included in that amount are the following - £111,050 for naval works, £20,000 for naval bases, works and establishments; £1.000 for the construction of miniature rifle ranges; £8,000 for the provision of aircraft equipment and plant, and ammunition and the preparation of aerodromes for the Royal Australian Air Force, and £980 for the initial preparation of aerodromes and emergency landing grounds and the. provision of aircraft equipment, plant, &c, for the Civil Aviation Branch. The main discussion on aviation will take place on the general Defence estimates when the Government policy will be explained by the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The work referred to by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will be included in the loan estimates. In regard to the proposed aerial mail service between Perth and Adelaide tenders were called and the response was deemed unsatisfactory. To enable more satisfactory arrangements to be made, and in view of the contemplated extension of the Government’s civil aviation policy, we decided to call for fresh tenders.
– When are they likely to be returnable?
– I do not think that the actual terms upon which the tenders will be called have yet been decided.
.- I have made persistent but unsuccessful applications for the establishment of aerodromes at Rockhampton and Bundaberg, important centres in my electorate. As far back as January, 1925, I made such representations to the Minister, and the honorable gentleman intimated that sufficient funds were not then available. Latterly the excuse of the honorable gentleman has been that those cities are not in the track of our civil aviation routes. I submit that towns of such importance have a right to the establishment of aerodromes by the Commonwealth Government. This is a reply received from the Minister for Defence in January, 1925, in answer to one of my requests -
Further to my AS. 438 of the 29th January, 1925, relative to the proposal to establish an aerodrome at Rockhampton, I have now to advise you that an inspection has been made by a departmental officer, who reports that the only suitable area within a reasonable distance of the city would cost approximately £3,500 to acquire and prepare. As such considerable expenditure is involved, I regret that the funds available for civil aviation purposes will not permit any further action at present.
It is interesting to note that, while the Estimates for 1926-27 set aside £2,670 for civil aviation purposes, the amount has been reduced for the year 1927-28 to the negligible sum of £980. If it costs £3,500 to erect an aerodrome, it is obvious the Government will not be able to erect many new aerodromes for £9S0. On the 11th of February, 1926, 1 again questioned the Minister for Defence on this matter, and the reply of the honorable gentleman intimated that 74 acres, costing £3,170, would be required in addition to an expenditure of £330 to prepare the land. My contention is that such an expenditure would be justified, in view of the importance of Rockhampton, the chief commercial centre of Central Queensland. Representations have been made by the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and other prominent bodies of men in’ Bundaberg, asking that an aerodrome should be established there. Very soon Bert Hinkler, the world-famous aviator and a native of Bundaberg, will desire to land at Bundaberg, and no decent landing facilities are available. The Minister for Defence recently suggested that the local city councils might provide an aerodrome. It is well known that all city councils are in an impecunious condition and have not the funds necessary to establish aerodromes. - Further, provision for. civil aviation should not be left to city councils. The matter is an important one; it is a national one, and should be attended to by the Commonwealth Government.
– Do not civil aviation enterprises erect their own aerodromes, as did Q.A.N.T.A.S. in Western Queensland ?
– It has been the practice of the Commonwealth Government to establish- aerodromes in different centres. A number of aeroplanes have landed at Rockhampton, but they have done so at great risk to their pilots and to the public generally. By clearing a few acres of land and establishing an aerodrome at such, important centres, the Government would encourage aviators to land there. The Minister once said that, if it could be shown ‘that civil aviation was popular in these centres, an attempt would be made to erect aerodromes; but it is impossible to encourage civil aviation if proper landing facilities are not provided. The establishment of an aerodrome at Rockhampton and Bundaberg would be a great impetus to civil aviation and would greatly benefit the whole of Western Queensland - Longreach, Blackall, Springsure, Rolleston, Dawson Valley, and other important areas - and I ask the Minister to use every endeavour to establish the necessary facilities at an early date.
.- Does the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) really ask the Government what it proposes to do in regard to civil aviation, and what it is going to do in connexion with the establishment of an aerodrome at Rockhampton and Bundaberg? There is no need to ask that question. The answer is before us - nothing The Government avows that its intentions are really serious, that at some time in the future - no matter how remote - it will do something, but the answer is clearly and definitely before us : it will do nothing. The Government contemplates a wonderful programme for the provision of aerodromes, emergency landing grounds, aircraft equipment, plant, vehicles, spare parts, machinery, tools, and engineering supplies - and it sets aside the stupendous sum of £980 to establish those multifarious works. What is going to be done at Rockhampton? Nothing. What is going to be done as to the erection of aerodromes in different parts of Australia? Nothing. The Government is merely setting up a pretence and actually means to do nothing, therefore it is superfluous to ask what it intends to do.
The Government has dilated upon the importance of having a Royal Australian Air Force for the defence of Australia. Aviation must be developed, and we must have an adequate aerial fleet. It is a genuine Government, and really intends to defend Australia. It has no intention of allowing Australia to fall into the grasp of an enemy or to be left open to attack ; ample means of defence are to be provided by the establishment of an adequate aerial fleet. The Government is resolved that all these things shall be done, and to establish the wonderful aerial programme it provides £980 in the Estimates ! A wonderful Government ! If any honorable member wants to know what this Government intends to do in the matter of aviation he should either look at the budget or ask me.
– As the right honorable member for North Sydney was told this is not a general discussion upon the policy of the Government in regard to aviation, nor does this item indicate all that the Government intends to do. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, emphatically stated that the Government intends to spend £200,000 this year on civil aviation.
– It is not disclosed here.
– It will be fully discussed when introduced. I hope to see Rockhampton and our other important centres linked up and forming a chain in au adequate aviation scheme. Full consideration has been given to the establishing of an aerodrome at Rockhampton and Bundaberg, but it was considered that the requirements of Normanton were more urgent than those of Rockhampton and Bundaberg. In the Normanton area 600 people are practically isolated, and were receiving their mails only once every six or seven weeks.
– What about Tasmania ?
– Experts have advised that the only class of aircraft suitable for Tasmania is the amphibian, with which experiments are now being carried out. The Government is fully alive to the rerequirements of Tasmania, and at the earliest possible moment its requirements and those of the intervening islands will be considered. As the right honorable member for North Sydney said, this country affords glorious opportunities for the development of aviation, and it will be the endeavour of this Government satisfactorily to effect that development.
I listened with considerable attention to the speech of the honorable member for Wannon, and, if I remain long in the capacity of Minister for Home and Territories, I hope to visit the country described by him. I hope to see Central Australia connected both by land and air communication, and I also hope to be able to give effect to my promises in connexion with New Guinea and other territories.
.- I am curious to know why the Government placed upon the Estimates an amount of £980 under the heading of Civil Aviation Branch, the amount being taken out of revenue, while later another amount is taken out of the Loan Fund for a similar class of work. How does the Minister discriminate as to the work to be undertaken by revenue or loan funds ? It seems to me to be the same cla&. of work. At any rate, the figures as Set out, are most difficult for honorable members to follow.
.- I accept the statement’ of the Minister for Home and Territories, but just as it was impossible to shoot Kruger with the mouth, so it is impossible to build navies and armies on promises. The Treasurer has promised us child endowment, national insurance, civil aviation, and many other things. In fact, he lives on promises. The daily press, day after day, sets out the promises which he makes; but he is always able to explain away to-day the promises which he made yesterday. I consider that there is no better promiser in the Commonwealth that he is.
.- On page 370 of the Estimates an amount of £500 is provided for “ ..Machinery and plant for Commercial Explosives Testing Station.” This station is being established at Maribyrnong, fs the Minister able to inform me whether the £500 provided this year will be sufficient to complete it ? I am glad that all the explosives now being used at Newcastle are being manufactured in Australia. Hitherto it has been necessary to send our explosives to England to be tested before they could be used; but the completion of this station will enable us to test them here
– The £500 will complete the station.
– For the information of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), I wish to say that last year an amount of £381,000 was expended on air services, and this year £302,000 is being provided for the same purpose. The year before last £250,000 was provided out of the surplus- for the development of the Royal Australian Air Force, and it has been spent. The money provided on this occasion will also be spent. The reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is that certain expenditure is more suitably made from loan funds than from revenue. Sites for buildings, which tend to improve with the passage of time, are usually paid for out of loan money, while certain equipment, the value of which is more or less evanescent, is usually paid for out of revenue. When the full defence Estimates are under consideration the details of all proposed expenditure will be given.
.- I have been informed that the Government intends this year to curtail the grants to rifle clubs. Can the Treasurer inform me whether this is so; and if it is, will he give me the reasons?
– The policy of the Government will be set out when the general Estimates for defence are being considered.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs, £25,015, and Department of Health, £41,S70, agreed to.
Territories of the Commonwealth. Proposed vote, £33,600.
.- The following line appears in the Estimates, “ Construction of buildings and roads, engineering services and water boring £34,000.” A little lower down the following appears: “Less amount estimated to remain unexpended at close of year, £20,000.” Every year since I have been a member of this Parliament a large part of the amount voted for works in North and Central Australia has been paid back into consolidated revenue. Why is the money not spent? The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who has just returned from Central Australia, has indicated this evening, many directions in which this money could very well be spent. I am assured by a gentleman who has lived in the Territory for the last 25 years that the condition of the water services there is worse now than it was at the beginning of the century. That is no credit to this Government, nor to the Governments which have preceded it. It is distressing to those of us who are anxious to do something to develop this country to find that the departments are not enthusiastic. I suggest that the Minister for Home and Territories and the Minister for Works and Railways should confer more frequently than they have in the past, in order to see that ail the money that is voted for work in these neglected area3 is spent.
.- This afternoon I urged that the Government should build a railway from ‘a point in the Northern Territory to Camooweal, linking up the three great railway systems in Queensland, and connecting them with the New South Wales railway system at Bourke. I should like an assurance from the Minister for Railways that he will bring this matter before Cabinet. I suggest that he should convene a conference of representatives of the two States most concerned in the matter to discuss a basis on which the cost of the project could be allocated.
– That is a matter of Government policy which has not yet been determined, and I am unable to make any promise in respect of it.
– When Me are dealing with the main Estimates a little later I hope to be able to outline some proposals for the development of North and Central Australia which will meet with the approval of both the honorable member for Wannon and the honorable member for Bass. As soon as I took over the portfolio of Home and Territories I interested myself in questions involving the welfare of our natives; but I regret that none of the States is willing to co-operate with the Commonwealth in dealing with the matter. However, we can deal with our own natives in our own way.
– As the carrying capacity of Central Australia is deter mined wholly by its water supply, I should like to know whether the Minister can give me any information on the attitude that the Government has adopted on this subject.
– The departmental officers are at present considering a scheme which, if approved, will involve the spending .not only of all the money provided in these Estimates, but of a good deal more besides.
Mr. ANSTEY (Bourke [9.43].- Will the Minister for Home and Territories tell me why he estimates that he will spend £34,000 .in the “Construction of buildings and roads, engineering services, and water boring” in Central Australia, and then estimates that £20,000 of the amount will remain unexpended? The people are promised a certain thing in one breath, and the promise is repudiated in the next. Why should they have their hopes dashed in this fashion ?
. - I did n >t provide any item at all last year.
– Is the Minister the responsible Minister?
– I am not responsible for what was expended last year.
– I am blaming the Minister for Works and Railways.
– Last year we estimated an expenditure of £20,000, but actually only £5,000 was expended. That was not my fault. This year we are providing for an expenditure of £34,000. and that amount will be expended if 1 can possibly do it.
– I rise to a point of order. We are .now considering 1;1k department of Works and Railways, and I contend that the Minister for Home and Territories is not the responsible Minister.
– I regret that I have not the full explanation of the Estimates. Because of the transfer to Canberra some of the particulars are in Melbourne and some are at the office here at Kurrajong. Regarding this item, I might explain that last year it was estimated that *e should expend £30,500 in connexion with buildings in Central Australia. As far as I can remember, those buildings consisted of a house for the Government resident, a house for his secretary, and several other houses, together withtwo or three bores or wells. An amount was also to be expended on a half-caste station, but unfortunately, after the work had been commenced it was found that there was not sufficient water available, and therefore it was not proceeded with. Only last week we accepted tenders amounting to £31,000 for works and buildings in and around Alice Springs.
Proposed vote agreed to.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1027-28, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £317,649.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of “Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
It will be remembered that to meet expenditure in respect of works and other services chargeable to Loan Fund during the first three months of this financial year, Loan Act No. 1 was brought forward in March last authorizing expenditure amounting to £2,000,000. When Loan Bill No. 1 was under consideration I promised that the full programme of expenditure from Loan
Fund would be submitted when the budget was presented in Canberra. Reference to the budget will’ show that the proposed programme for Loan Works and Services for the current year totals £9,000,000. Last year the programme submitted with the budget was £10,000,000, but the actual expenditure was only £7,748,417. The decrease in expenditure for that year compared with the estimate was chiefly due to Post Office works and Commonwealth railways. In the case of Commonwealth railways, the construction of new railways in South Australia was not advanced so rapidly as was expected. In the case of the Post Office, the decrease was due partly to the delay in delivery of material and partly due to the requirements being less than were anticipated. The programme of expenditure for the present year was fixed at £9,000,000 after the proposals ofthe various departments had been carefully scrutinized, and reduced where practicable. The following table makes a comparison of the proposed expenditure for this year with the actual expenditure last year : -
The bill now submitted provides for the appropriation of £7,217,696. This amount is necessary to meet the full works programme for the year, and also to provide for sundry redemptions amounting to £14,388. The financial position may be summarized thus : -
The total comprises £9,000,000 _ for works and services and £14,388 for redemptions. No provision is made in the bill for loans to be raised for the States for development and migration under the Migration Agreements or for the Federal Capital Commission. Authority has already been given by Parliament under other acts for these services. When delivering the budget I stated, however, for the information of honorable members, that it wa3 anticipated that wc should raise £3,750,000 for migration purposes and £2,000,000 for the Federal Capital Commission.
Clause -2 of the bill gives authority to borrow £7,600,000. The difference between that amount and the amount to be appropriated by this bill - £7.217,696 - is required to cover the expenses of borrowing. The Government intends to continue its practice of borrowing new money for its own purposes oveseas, thus leaving the Australian market available for the States and for the requirements of the Federal Capital Commission. ft cannot be stated at this stage when a further loan will be raised overseas, and, if necessary, temporary financial arrangements will be made to meet our requirement pending the raising of the next loan. Honorable members may be interested to know the terms of the Commonwealth Conversion War Loan which is now ready to be launched.
– When dues that redemption take place?
– On the 15th December. I desire to announce the terms of the Commonwealth War Conversion and Redemption Loan, which is being opened to-morrow. This operation is to cover £36,000,000 of War Loan bonds and stock maturing in Australia on the 15th December next. The amount required is somewhat less than was generally expected. On the 30th Jane, £39,329,000 of this loan was outstanding; but of this amount more than £3,000,00.0 will be redeemed and cancelled by the use of national debt sinking fund moneys. The loan will carry interest at the nominal rate of &i per cent. ; but the actual return will be considerably better, because the issue price of the new loan has been fixed at £98 10s. for each £100. Holders in the maturing loan who convert into the new loan will receive their usual halfyearly interest payments on their present securities on the 15th December next, and on the same date will be paid a cash bonus of £1 10s. for each £100 converted. From the 15th December onwards the new rate of interest - 5£ per cent. - will be paid on all securities converted. The sole object of the loan is to provide for the redemption or conversion of the maturing securities. It invariably happens, however, that some holders of maturing loans are not in a position to convert, and, therefore, it is necessary to ask for cash subscriptions to provide money for paying off unconverted holdings. Persons who lodge cash subscriptions will be entitled to interest at 5i per cent, from the date of lodgment of the money, and will be required to pay only £98 10s. for each £100 of stock or bonds purchased. Cash subscriptions may be paid in full at the time of application, or a deposit of 10 per cent, may be lodged then, and the balance may bd paid at any time up to the 14th December. Alternatively, 10 per cent, may be lodged with the application, 25 per cent, on the 2nd November, and 63-J per cent, on 14th December. When making application for conversion or lodging a new cash subscription, the subscriber is given the option of saying whether his loan will be for 5, 10, or 15 years. Interest on the new loan will be free of State income tax, but will be subject to federal taxation, whilst theo cash bonus payable to persons who convert will be free of both Federal and State income tax, as it is in the nature of a return of part of the capital already invested. The reduction in the rate of the federal income tax, which was announced in the budget last week, is expected to assist in making the loan attractive. In ordinary circumstances the loan would have been issued several weeks ago, but the disturbed state of the money market in the last three months has caused delay. The recent ruins, fortunately, have greatly improved tko outlook throughout Australia, and there is now a much more confident tone in the money market and in financial circles. The terms have been fixer! after close consultation with the banks and leading financial authorities, and are the best the Government can offer. “With these terms I confidently expect that the greater proportion of the maturing loan will be converted, and that the balance will be provided by new cash subscribers. In any event, however, the Government has definitely decided not to make any second offer of conversion. Conver.von applications and cash subscriptions may bo lodged at any bank, State Savings Bank or money order post office throughout the Commonwealth. It has not yet been possible, however, to send the foi ms to all the banks and post offices. Therefore during the next few days it will be necessary for persons desiring to lodge applications to do so at the Capital City branches of the Commonwealth Bank. Progress reported.
House adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271005_reps_10_116/>.