10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House what amount has been advanced by the Commonwealth to the States for soldier land settlement, the interest charges thereon, and the amount of the concessions made by the Commonwealth in respect thereof?
– Approximately £34,000,000 was loaned by the Commonwealth to the. States. In respect of the interest on that, the Commonwealth made an original concession of 2½ per cent. for the first five years, involving an allowance of about £5,000,000. An additional concession of £5,000,000 was made in 1925.
– I have received from an old-age pensioner a letter directing attention to the fact that a deputation waited on the Prime Minister in Queensland some months ago to urge that the amount that pensioners are allowed to earn should be increased. The right honorable gentleman promised to obtain a report from the Commissioner of Pensions. Has he done so?
– The Commissioner of Pensions has been asked to make a report upon the matter, but I have not yet received it.
– In reply to a question I asked yesterday concerning the liquor referendum to be taken in the federal Capital Territory, the Prime Minister said that the subject, including the preparation of rolls, was being investigated. He alao used the words “ in the event of it being decided to take such a referendum.” As the proposal for a referendum emanated from himself, I ask him whether he is thinking of not giving effect to the policy he announced in that regard. If his wordsyesterday do not mean that, what do they mean?
– Order! The honorable member must not make improper reflexions upon the Prime Minister.
– I am sorry if I have said anything that is disorderly.
– The honorable member suggested a lack of sincerity on the part of the Prime Minister.
– I would like the right honorable gentleman to be more explicit.
– I did not gather that the honorable member was reflecting upon me, but when you, sir, pointed out that his words bore that construction, he might have withdrawn them or explained that he did not intend any reflection. I am extremely sorry if my answer to his question yesterday left the impression that I was endeavouring to modify any statement I had previously made. I sought to convey to the honorable member that if this House determined that a local option poll should be taken in the near future it would be necessary to ascertain what preliminary work was required for the preparation of rolls.
– When may I expect from the Prime Minister’s Department a reply to the matters I placed before it relating to furlough, compensation claims,&c., affecting the employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard?
– I am not in a position to furnish a reply on those subjects at the present time.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs expedite the consideration of the Tariff Board’s report upon the tobacco-growing industry so that the document may be available to honorable members at the earliest possible moment?
– Since the Tariff Board’s inquiry commenced, the Government, through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in collaboration with the manufacturers, has arranged to spend approximately £50,000 upon the scientific investigation of this industry. I have also obtained from the manufacturers an increase of 3d. per lb. upon the price paid last season for certain varieties of tobacco that are commercially useable.
– When will the report of the Tariff Board upon the dairying industry be dealt with by Cabinet and presented to the House?
– The report was received by me recently and will be dealt with as soon as possible.
– Can the Prime Minister say when the report of the Industrial Commission that visited the United States of America will be presented ?
– I have been in communication with the secretary to the commission, and the latest information I have is that we may expect to receive the report within a few days.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs any idea as to when the Tariff Board’s annual report, which was laid upon the table recently, will be available for distribution to honorable members?
– When presenting the annual report to the House I tabled about a dozen typewritten copies for the benefit of those honorable members who might want to peruse the report before it was available in print., I shall ascertain from the Government Printer when the published copies will be ready.
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, received a letter from Robert Denholm who was employed in and about the House of Representatives in Melbourne, requesting that a compassionate allowance be paid to him bythe Commonwealth Government? If so, will you indicate your attitude towards his claim ?
– Ihave received a further petition from the ex-officer -whom the honorable member has mentioned, and as the matter affects both Houses I intend to confer with the President of the Senate about it. I shall inform the honorable member of any decision.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to recent press reports that Mr. Hopkins, secretary to the Melanesian Mission, deprecated the sending of an Australian cruiser to the Solomon Islands, expressed the hope that the punitive expedition would be strictly limited in its operations, and disapproved of the taxation imposed upon the natives? If the right honorable gentleman has been advised of these statements, will he indicate the policy of the Government in regard to the taxation and general treatment of the natives? .
– I have read in the press the statements referred to by the honorable member, but I was not aware who was the author of them. The Government’s policy in sending a cruiser to the Islands, following the loss of British lives, will, I am sure, have the approval of every honorable member. That loss is brought home very closely to honorable members in this House because one of the killed was a brother of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), with whom all of us are sincerely sympathetic. The Adelaide was despatched in response to a request by the British Government that a cruiser should be sent to the Islands for the protection of life, and to assist the British representative in ‘the administration of the Islands. As to the treatment of the natives, and the taxes that are levied upon them, I donot propose to express any opinion. We all know that every community under the British flag is administered fairly and impartially, and it is hot for us to criticize the administration in the SolomonIslands.
– Am I right in assuming that any action that may be taken by H.M.A. cruiser Adelaide will be in obedience to instructions issued by theAustralian Government, and that any such instructions will be determined not necessarily by information tendered entirely by the British authorities, but also by that of other persons to whom it can properly look for advice? The Adelaide is our own vessel, and under our sole control. Am I right in supposing that that is the view taken by Ministers?
– The Adelaide is a cruiser belonging to the Australian Navy, and that navy is entirely and absolutely under the control of the Australian Government. All such cruisers act only under the instructions of the Australian Government. When an Australian cruiser was recently attached to a British squadron in Chinese waters, and the senior officer of that vessel was an officer of the British navy, she could be used to safeguard British lives and property so far as the admiral of the squadron had authority to act without reference to the British Government, but for any action in the case beyond such authority reference had to be made to the Australian Government. That was an exceptional case. Ordinarily this Government is solely responsible for any action that may be taken by any ship of the Australian navy. In the present instance the cruiser Adelaide has left for the Solomon Islands, and the British Government is now in consultation with the High Commissioner for the “Western Pacific as to what action is necessary. On the conclusion of that consultation, it will, no doubt, communicate with the Australian Government, and if it thinks fit, make a definite request to us. It will then be for the Australian Government to decide whether it will agree to such a request.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Markets and Migration to make available for the perusal of honorable members a report of the recent conference held in Canberra in regard to the the meat industry? If so, will such report cover the full scope of the discussion ?
– The outcome of the conference recently held in Canberra was a recommendation that an inquiry should be made by the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia and the North Australian Commission in regard to the position of the cattle industry in their respective territories, and that they should jointly recommend what action should he taken by the Commonwealth Government. . When their recommendations are to hand, they will be made available to honorable members.
Tariff Board’s Report
– With reference to the request made by the dairymen of Australia for the imposition of a duty of 6d. per pound on imported butter, will the Minister say when the Tariff Board’s report on that matter will be made available to honorable members; whether he lias considered that report; what is its nature; and what decision is the Government likely to come to ?
– I have already given answers to similar questions. The report has been very recently received and is now having my attention. It will be considered by the Government at the earliest possible moment.
– Is it the intention of the Government to. establish a Commonwealth observatory at Canberra in the near future?
– There is an observatory at Canberra which is carrying out certain solar work on an international basis, the Commonwealth having undertaken responsibility for it so far as Australia is concerned. It is also under contemplation that the observation of the heavens should be dealt with so as to cover both our international obligations and our national requirements. The Commonwealth has intimated to. the States that it is prepared to assume the international obligations of Australia. Recently we discussed with the State of Victoria the controlling of the observatory there. No definite decision has yet been arrived at respecting the astronomical work to be done in Australia: that matter is still under consideration
– Has the Minister yet received the report of the Tariif
Board concerning the player piano industry; and if so, will he give the House an early opportunity of discussing it?
– The report of the Tariff Board on the piano industry was received only yesterday or the day before. It will have my early attention, and must, of course, be considered by the Government before its contents can be disclosed to honorable members.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to state what arrangements have been made respecting the proposed Empire Exhibition in which the Commonwealth is likely to participate?
– No further information is available beyond that already given. The subject was mentioned at the conference with State Premiers recently held in Sydney. An outline of the proposal was placed before them, and they undertook to consider it. The Commonwealth promised in the meantime to prepare general estimates of possible expenditure and receipts, and also to consider the location of the site upon which the exhibition should be held. These matters are still under consideration, and no further information has yet been sent to the States.
– I have received an intimation from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The decision of the Federal Capital Commission to allow a private company to control the transport services of the Federal Territory.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I take this course for the reason that the transport service of this territory will have much to do with its future development and welfare. It is therefore necessary for us to see that proper facilities under efficient control are provided for the people. The Federal Capital has been designed on modern lines, and the areas therefore are somewhat scattered. Areas for business, for residential purposes, for officers and so forth, have been provided, and consequently it will entail considerable travelling on the part of the residents to move between those areas. The Federal Capital Commission is in control of the capital, and up to the present has been in control of transport arrangements; but it is now about to enter into an agreement to hand over the transport service to a private company. It appears that some time back tenders were invited for this service, but those received were unsatisfactory, and now an arrangement is being made for a private company to take over the service as from December next. According to the statement made by the Minister for Home and Territories last night, the reason given by the commission for this step is that it is making a loss of 6.5d. per bus mile run. It is obvious that any service running in the territory must be a losing proposition until the population grows. I want to know on what period has the commission based its estimate of loss? - Since the Federal Parliament has been functioning at Canberra, the population has increased considerably, and it is likely to continue to do so. More revenue must have been received front the buses during the last two or three months than in any corresponding previous period. It would therefore be hardly fair to take as a basis for the loss, the revenue received during the last three or four years. The commission, in answering a question asked by Senator Findley, gave a different reason for handing the transport service to a private company, and perhaps it would be as well to place it on record. No reference was made to the loss on the service. Probably the commission realized that that was unavoidable. The following is a portion of the reply of the commission : -
The commission already has heavy responsiblity in operating such municipal services and facilities as water supply, sewerage, lighting, power, roads, stormwater . drainage, fire brigade, abattoirs, and similar activities, in addition to the administration of many important matters that are outsde the ordinary municipal sphere, and it was felt that, as private enterprise had not taken a very active part in the development of Canberra, the necessity to conduct a more extensive omnibus service afforded a fitting opportunity for its co-operation.
All transport services in the other capital cities are under either Government or municipal control, and railway commissioners and other authorities have now realized that it is necessary to run omnibus services as adjuncts to railway and tramway systems, provided that good roads are available. The day has arrived when both governmental and municipal authorities will have to> determine whether in the event of additional transport arrangements being required, it would be more economical to build rail- “’ ways and tramways, or to construct good roads for the use of motor traffic. A large amount has already been spent in making good roads in the Federal Capital Territory, and apparently these are now to be used by a private company which is to provide an exclusive trans- 1 port service which, in my opinion, should be provided by the commission itself, so long as it exists, and then by the body which supersedes it. I trust that the day is not distant when Canberra will have a city council elected by the people to deal with these matters. We cannot quietly acquiesce in the adoption of the policy upon which the commission has determined respecting transport facilities for this city; otherwise we might find it in a week or two applying the same policy of the lighting, the abattoirs, and other public utilities of the city.
– And last of all to its land.
– That is so. If this precedent is allowed to go unchallenged the commission may assume that it is entitled to hand over almost all its activities to some other body. I do »i not think that Parliament would agree to that. We should, as a matter of fact, have far more control over the commission than we have. It should not be able to make ordinances with an entire disregard of Parliament. We should have had no information ( whatever about the proposed new transport service had we not asked questions about it in the House, or read reports which appeared in the press. We have been told that the Government has acquiesced in this arrangement. If that is so, I submit that the Government should first have ascertained the mind of Parliament on the matter, for we can no longer be ignored in the development of the Federal Capital Territory. At least until such time as a city council is elected to manage the affairs of this city, Parliament should be consulted upon all matters of principle. It may be said that the provision of transport facilities has caused the commission a good deal of difficulty, but that was only to be expected. There must be difficulty and discomfort in the establishment of a new city. Honorable” members, and I think the residents generally, are quite aware of that, and they are cheerfully submitting to many inconveniences knowing them to be unavoidable. The conditions under which this’ bus service is to be inaugurated are, that the private company concerned will be subsidized during the first year of its operations to the extent of 4d. per mile, which is a very hig subsidy; next year the subsidy is to be 3d. a mile ; then 2d.; and finally, Id. In the following two years it appears that the company will conduct its operations without a subsidy, but also without any control in respect of the dividends it may pay its shareholders, though it is provided that after the sixth year of its operations its accumulated dividends shall not exceed 10 per cent.
-It could easily water its stock.
– That is so, or it could increase its rolling stock, or condemn vehicles which were quite satisfactory for the service and sell them to other companies. In spite of the COInmision having stated that the public, interest will be safeguarded, : there are many ways in which the company could defeat the purpose of this clause in the agreement. I have been informed by both the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) and the commission itself that the company will provide a service of twelve buses to begin with, and have available additional vehicles to provide for peak periods and special occasions. I estimate that each of the twelve buses will run two shifts of eight hours a day, making sixteen hours in all. That is a conservative estimate, for some of the vehicles will begin running at 6 o’clock in the morning, and run until midnight, which is eighteen hours. For the sake of this computation, however, I have fixed a period of sixteen hours. The trip from Eastlake to North Ainslie and back will cover a distance of S£ miles, and it is estimated that it will occupy one hour. Therefore, each bus, running for sixteen hours, at 8^- miles an hour, will run 136 miles a day, and at a subsidy of 4d. per mile will earn £2 5s. 4d. a day. or £27 4s. a day for the fleet. In the first year the subsidy will amount to £9,92S. That calculation is made on a conservative basis, for I am convinced that the total mileage will exceed my estimate, as I have made no allowance for peak periods or special business on the occasion of, important public events. In the second year the subsidy, assuming that the mileage is the same, will amount to 25 per cent, less than £9,928. In the following year there will be a further 25 per cent, reduction, again assuming that the volume of traffic is the same; and in the fourth year there will be no subsidy. Apparently, after the fourth year, the company “will be permitted to make whatever profit it pleases for two years.
– This is a ten-year contract.
– That is so, and we are not justified, in a,ny circumstances, in making a contract for such a long period.
– Has the contract been signed ?
– It has been agreed to ;. but the Government should take steps “to prevent the documents from being signed. No two or three men should bc able to avoid the discharge of an irksome duty in this way. In every city in Australia the rail, tram and bus services are under the control of some public authority and it would be inexcusable for us to allow a private company to provide these services in Canberra.
-. - Were public tenders invited for the service?
– They were, but I understand that this arrangement has been made because the tenders received were unsatisfactory. I have mentioned that under the terms of the agreement the rate of subsidy payable after the first year would be reduced, but it is unlikely that the total amount would be lower, for the population of this city will undoubtedly increase considerably with the passing of every year. I believe that the city will develop at a considerably faster rate than some people estimate. The plan of Mr. Walter Burley Griffin is elaborate, and we may expect that this place will become, in the near future, one of the finest residential cities in the world. It is the more necessary, therefore, that Parliament should keep a close oversight of the work of the commissioners who have been appointed. In my opinion they should be allowed to operate only such ordinances and regulations as have the approval of Parliament.
– They are little kings.
– But this Parliament should be supreme.
– I am strongly of that opinion, particularly as Parliament is now meeting here. No three honorable members of this chamber would be permitted to wield the power that these three commissioners are exercising. Many of the functions which they are discharging should rest only with representative bodies such as municipal councils.
– Too many monopolies are developing here.
– Everything is a monopoly, and until an element of competition is introduced, the cost of living must remain high. The agreement provides that this private company may operate without competition for the next ten years.
– That is not so.
-Then I should like the Minister for Homes and Territories to indicate how any other company may compete with it. The conditions here should be as free as possible. It has been said that the agreement has been made to enable private enterprise to assist in developing the city; but certain services should be conducted only by a government or municipal authority. I have no objection to private enterprise being encouraged to carry on business which properly belongs to it, but in this enlightened age we surely cannot sit down quietly and allow the commission to revert to practices which have been discarded in some places for quite a century. No one can estimate how rapidly the population of this city will increase. It must always be a resort for tourists and official visitors. I shall not at the moment make a long speechabout the commission, but will content myself with saying that if it is capable it should be able to conduct a satisfactory transport service for the residents here; if it cannot do so, it should be dismissed. I do not desire to condemn the commission, but I am obliged to say that I disagree with its policy in this regard. This transport service should be publicly conducted, and no three men in Australia should have the power to place it in private hands.
– The subject which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has been discussing is of great importance to the residents of the Territory, and the decision which has been reached and to which he objects was not made after only five or ten minutes’ thought, but after a very great amount of consideration. The question is whether everything in this national city of Australia is to be nationalized, run on socialist lines, or whether we are to do what was recommended by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and create competiton by the introduction of private enterprise. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the only way in which we can make Canberra successful is to decrease the cost of living by introducing competition, and that is the very thing that the commission is endeavouring to do. It is the policy of this Government to allow private enterprise to enter into competition with the Government in the matter of transport and other facilities, and the policy governing the conduct of the national city of Australia will not be any exception to that general policy. The Leader of the Opposition intimated that buses and other means of communication were government owned in other parts of Australia, but I deny that; they are mostly conducted by private enterprise.
– The Railways Commissioners of the various States are conducting bus services.
– Victoria is the only State where that is so.
– It is also the case in South Australia.
– Where State Governments have found that private enterprise was competing successfully with their efforts, carrying the people at cheaper rates than those charged by the railways, they have made an endeavour to safeguard their business. The Federal Capital Commission has lost 6.57d. per mile on its bus routes, and has averaged a loss of£400 per month while conducting only an hourly service, a little less than half the service proposed to be run by the private company. London, the biggest city in the Empire, does not possess government-owned buses. Its buses are all privately owned.
– The railways in England are not government owned.
– Great Britain possesses the finest network of railways in the world. Even when our buses were running with peak loads they were losing 4¾d. per mile. The Government and the commission have safeguarded themselves in every possible way, yet it is now stated that we are handing over an essential service to a monpoly. Had the. Leader of the Opposition read the proposal more carefully he would have realized that only two routes have been contracted for. The company is to have twelve buses in operation, and its garage accommodation alone will cost £20,000. If the time arrives of which the Leader of the Opposition is fearful, and the company goes into liquidation, the Government will still possess those garages as an asset.
– Will any other company be allowed to run buses over the same routes?
– That depends upon the traffic offering.
– The honorable gentleman said there was to becompetition.
– I said there will be competition in the Territory. If it is advisable to inaugurate another bus service, say, from Acton over a different route, that will be done.
– I refer to competition over the same route.
– That would not be fair. The experience of bus-owners in Australia is that the life of a bus, when properly cared for, is four years, and this company will invest a very considerable amount of capital in its venture. The problem has received the close attention of the Government and the commission for many months in the endeavour to arrive at a satisfactory solution. If itis the desire of Parliament that everything in Canberra should be governmentowned and conducted, then the best thing to do is to put another Government into power. While the present Government continues it will endeavour to stimulate competition, as it is convinced that healthy competition means a reduction in the cost of living. At presentthereare eleven hotels and boardinghouses in Canberra, and the Government would gladly pass them over to the care of private enterprise.
– Which means that the Government was wrong in coming here so precipitously.
– Will the honorable gentleman state the name of the company concerned?
– That may be ascertained byplacing a question on the notice-paper. It must be generally agreed that the task facing the commission is exceedingly onerous; one of the greatest undertaken anywhere, and it is being well done. The Government anticipated that many troubles would be experienced. Honorable members can appreciate the difficulties arising even out of the construction of roads, footpaths and other conveniences. Notwithstanding the fact that the city is merely in embryo, this company is prepared immediately to start a taxi-cab and motor-car service for the convenience of the population. Every day one hears people at hotels asking where they can secure a taxi-cab or motor car. If we are to encourage people to come here we must provide them with facilities.
– What deposit did this company make on the contract?
– The contract is not yet signed.
– Is there any limit to the number of miles on which this bounty of 4d. shall be paid?
– Yes ; the mileage run by the buses will be absolutely under the control of the commission. If it is seen that the company is not justified in making a certain trip, that trip will be cut out. I do not think that any sane person would advocate that the services associated with the conduct of our parks and gardens, and water and sewerage conveniences, should be passed over to private enterprise. In the interests of public health, Government supervision is necessary.
– After the action of the commission, one may expect anything.
– The commission would never countenance anything like that. Those are essential public services, and necessarily controlled by the Government. The commission has done excellent work, and all that it humanly could be expected to do. It has investigated and promptly acted upon all reasonable suggestions emanating from honorable members, and has tried to better the conditions of Canberra residents.
– We make our own conditions in this Parliament, and will not allow the commission to manage the Government.
– The Government, in conjunction with the commission, has very carefully considered this matter, and is prepared to take full responsibility for any decision that has been arrived at. If we continued to run our own buses, and duplicated existing mileage> we should be losing ls. 2d. per mile.
– Two routes will be run by this company. How many more does the commission intend to provide for?
– At present, the commission is serving only those two routes. If it is necessary to inaugurate other services that will be done.
– The commission reserves the right to run whatever routes it considers necessary ?
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition was incorrect when he stated that the commission first started the bus service in Canberra. One was already in existence when the commission came to Canberra.
– And it was not subsidized.
– It was working under a special contract, but was unable to keep going. We do not subsidize the service to Goulburn, or the trips to the Cotter River. This company proposes to take over all commission buses at book value, and the Government will do well to sell on those terms. A service will be run to Queanbeyan, and the company will conduct a service anywhere that there is a chance of making a’ profit, subject always to the sanction of the commission.
– Are the fares fixed?
– Yes, and they cannot be increased. The Government has stipulated that, in the event of the company making a profit of 10 per cent., the fares shall be reduced. I do not anticipate that there will be very much profit at all in the venture. Officers who now go home to their lunch and spend, say, ls. a day in bus fares, have to pay 6s. a week for travelling; but the company proposes to issue a weekly ticket for 4s., entitling the holder to 22 trips in any part of the city. If the commission decided to continue the present bus service, the fleet would have to be more than duplicated. The commission is now losing 6-Jd. a bus mile, and no doubt the loss would be doubled if twice the number of buses were run. It would also be necessary for the Government to supply the commission with further funds to build a huge garage and workshop for the housing and repair of the vehicles.
– The honorable the Minister’s time has expired.
– I was sorry to note the pessimistic tone adopted by the Minister. The future of the capital will be very gloomy if we are to accept his forebodings. I claim, however, that we should be guided by past experience, and, if there is one lesson to be learnt, it is that no city can be developed by handing transport arrangements over to private enterprise.What would be the position of the Australian nation to-day had that course been adopted in opening up new territories? No private concern will provide transport facilities unless there are profits to be gained by doing so. The Minister pointed out that the commission had not conducted shops and would willingly give up the hotels; but even an anti-socialist could more easily justify the nationalization of transport than of hotels and shops. The Minister asked if everything in the Capital was to be run on socialistic lines. Canberra belongs to Australia, and the land is owned by the nation. One of the principles that justified the establishment of the city was that the Government was to retain the ownership of the land for all time, and obtain the benefit of the increment in value. Now Parliament is asked to make a most undesirable precedent. The Minister stated that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) claimed that the only way to obtain good transport was by providing for competition, and that was what the Government the Minister said, proposed to do. What the Leader of the Opposition really said was that, if private enterprise was to undertake the service, there should be competition. Under national control, monopoly is possible, without the people suffering; but private monopoly necessarily involves high travelling costs. I challenge the Minister to show that competition is possible under the Government’s proposal.
– Were tenders called for?
– Of course!
– That does not mean that competition will take place. Under the proposed agreement there is a ten years’ guarantee regarding certain specified routes, and the only competition that can come will be over other routes which will be unprofitable, and where no private company will wish to run. The essence of success is control of the profitable routes, so that the outskirts which are unprofitable may be developed. The private company to be allowed to provide the service will not undertake such extensions. The Minister was ill-informed when he said that no buses were run by government in the States. Of course government buses are in operation in Victoria and South Australia. It was found in Melbourne that until national control of transport was obtained through the State Parliament the outlying parts of the metropolitan area could not be properly developed. The private firms concentrated on the profitable areas, and would not extend their services for a solitary mile until good dividends were assured.
– I am speaking about buses, not tramways.
– All that private bus owners in Melbourne did was to duplicate the tramway service, picking the eyes out of the traffic and tearing up the roads. They are a menace to great cities, and, if Canberra is to be properly developed, private buses must be kept from the roads. There has been talk of the commission shirking its responsibilities. I am not blaming the commission, because I believe that the proposed agreement is the result of Ministerial actian. It is in accord with the policy the Government has enunciated on all matters. This Ministry will hand over everything it can that is likely to be profitable to private enterprise, allowing the Government to attend only to those services from which no profit can be obtained. The Minister said that for a considerable time the buses in Canberra had been losing £400 a month and giving half the service required. If the service were doubled the loss would be exactly the same as the amount proposed for the first year’s subsidy to the private company, even making no allowance for increased business. Does not the Minister anticipate that the population of Canberra will quickly be doubled ?
– No. That may take three years.
– Then the Minister has become the greatest pessimist I have known concerning the future of the Federal Capital. I have never painted it in the roseate hues that he and others have given it, but I expect that in the near future the population will be doubled, and, perhaps, quadrupled. Now the Government proposes to enter intoa contract for ten years without paying attention to recent experience. Why does not the Minister give a direct answer when he is asked to name the persons who are to be given transportation rights over the public roads? Has any deposit been paid by them? What are the guarantees? What is the agreement? Why were honorable members left to hear rumours from pressmen? Why was not Parliament taken into the confidence of the Government before definite steps were taken? Surely we have some voice in regard to the future of the capital. Instead of laying the foundations of the city on sound lines, by retaining Government control of transport facilities, Ministers talk about co-operating with private enterprise! We owe something to future generations. We should maintain in this city the principle that has been accepted in every other capital city of Australia, where it is recognized that public transport should be in the hands of the people themselves.
– I anticipated that words of protest would be heard from the Ministerial side. The Minister’s reply was exceptionally weak. I thought the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) would have risen as soon as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) resumed his seat. The information supplied is of a most meagre character. The Government has handed over many of its responsibilities to a great number of commissions, and now we find some of those bodies, notably the Federal Capital Commission, passing its responsibilities over to private enterprise. To my mind it is one of the worst things that couldhappen to this Territory. The Minister appears to be ill-informed as to the activities of government and tramway boards in transport matters in the great cities of Australia. It is well-known that in Victoria the Government has placed buses on routes where no railways had been laid down.Even where private enterprise was giving the public a fair service, the Railways Commissioners in Victoria introduced buses, showing that they were far-sighted in the matter.
– They kicked out the private owners after the latter had proved the routes.
– They did nothing of the kind. The Government, with the taxpayers’ money, had built a splendid road between Melbourne and Geelong. Then private enterprise came along with its buses, and took from the Railway Department many of the passengers that formerly travelled by train. It also wore out the road, and to-day Victoria is spending thousands of pounds in putting it into proper repair. The Railway Department now runs its own buses on that route, and it has reduced the fares considerably. Government buses are also plying between Flinders-street railway station and Portsea, in the Prime Minister’s constituency. If the Federal Capital Commission has acted under duress, the responsibility is its own. If it can be proved that the commission was so weak as to adopt the policy dictated by the Government, it is not worthy of its position. I am wondering how the bus employees will stand. Some of them have come from various parts of Australia because they believed that they would obtain employment in connexion with a government instrumentality. Will they be handed over to private enterprise, or will the company engage its own motormen and throw on the unemployed market the men now in the service of the commission?
-They will be taken over.
– If the Minister knows that small detail, he should know some of the major facts concerning this contract. The Loan Bill passed by the House a few days ago included a sum of £2,000,000 to be handed over to the commission ; yet this Parliament, which provides the commission with money, cannot be told some of the major points of a very important contract.
– We must be told, or some further action will be taken.
– We cannot submit quietly to this sort of thing.
– Can the honorable member show that the proposed business deal is not in the interest of the people?
– The losses made by the commission’s buses when handling the present meagre traffic could be converted into a profit by tbe subsidy which is to be paid to a private company. Why should this service be handed over to a company when the traffic prospects are improving? The Government’s action is so unaccountable that one cannot help being suspicious of it. The facts indicate that it is not a legitimate business deal, but is part and parcel of the Government policy of surrendering to private enterprise anything out of which money can be made. The taxpayers who will provide the funds for the subsidy will demand an explanation. The present Ministry is only temporarily in office, and one of the biggest tasks of its successor will be to undo many of the iniquitous things that have been done during the last six years. This House is the custodian of the public purse; the Federal Capital Commission is an instrumentality of the Federal Parliament, which from time to time provides it with funds for the carrying on of its operations. We are entitled to know the name of the company that is to get this contract, its financial standing, and what deposit has been, or will be, paid as a guarantee that the contract will be carried out. We should know who are the shareholders ; and if the Minister will not tell us, we must refer to the registrar of companies. How can we arrive at a just decision upon a matter of this kind unless the full details are disclosed to us? The very fact that a subsidy of £9,000 per annum is to be paid to a private company, and that the mileage upon which it is based will increase every year, is sufficient to justify the condemnation of the contract by honorable members on both sides of the House. The taxpayers will demand to know why the Government is not only giving to private enterprise large sums of money, but is handing over to it one of the potentially most profitable businesses in the Territory. It is a bad beginning, and I hope the Government will be warned not to surrender any further public utilities. Will the water supply and the electricity supplies be handed over to private companies at the dictate of the Government? Of course, honorable members opposite will say, “ No ; “ but if this policy is sound in connexion with the bus service, it must be equally sound in connexion with other utilities. The Government is handing over its responsibilities to commissions which in turn, following the bad example of their principals, transfer their responsibilities to private enterprise.
– I rise to express my dissatisfaction with the action of the Government. I can conceive of no reason for it other than that somebody in an official position is interested in the transaction. I know that Mrs. Barton, who conducts a bus service in Canberra, has for the last two years been trying in vain to get security of tenure, although she has not asked for any subsidy.
– Who said that she has not ?
– I am assured that she has not. She asked to be allotted a permanent route and was denied it. Now a private company, of whose shareholders and directors we are ignorant, is to be given a monopoly and a substantial subsidy. Since Parliament has been meeting in Canberra, honorable members have heard many sinister rumours regarding the interest of certain individuals in local industries. I have just received an anonymous note.
– Treat it as it deserves.
– I shall read it, and those who are accused can make their own defence. It is as follows : -
Every bit of private enterprise in the Territory has leading commission officers mixed up in it. For example, the secretary of the commission is a shareholder in the Steam Laundry Company, and the commission sends its towels and linen to this company, which charges exhorbitant prices; all the hotel and hostel washing goes to this laundry.
A leading company - the Canberra Land Investment Company - has leading officials as shareholders. For example, at a recent sale of land here the auctioneer, the Lands Officer, and the buyer of choice blocks were big shareholders in the same company. These share lists were published in the Sydney press last July, but the commissioners apparently saw nothing wrong in it.
This is happening with private enterprise, and these are only two examples.
How do we know that the same thing will not happen with the bus company?
When the Government is doing things “ under the lap “ honorable members have to learn from the daily press that a heavy subsidy is to be paid to a private bus company, it is little wonder that we are suspicious of transactions in this Territory. If we had not the experience of the whole world to guide us, there might be some excuse for the Government’s action, but everywhere transport is recognized as a public utility that should be owned and controlled on behalf of the people ; yet in this new model city a monopoly of certain bus routes is to be handed over to a private company which is to receive a subsidy of £9,000 a year, based upon the traffic for the last five or six years, during which the population of the Territory was very small. Contrary to the opinion of my Leader, I do not think that Canberra will ever have a large resident population, but the meetings of the Federal Parliament here, and the beauties of the city, will attract large numbers of tourists. We are at least assured that the population will never be less than it is to-day. Yet the Government is handing over to a private company the franchise of the roads that are being constructed with the money voted by this Parliament. I enter my strong protest against that policy.
– I congratulate the Federal Capital Commission upon the step which it has taken, and I feel confident that the inhabitants of Canberra will be greatly relieved to learn that a private company is to take charge of the bus service. The commission’s buses have maintained a very infrequent service, and civil servants who are quartered in widelyscattered suburbs have suffered great inconvenience. Even when the buses were carrying full loads, the service was still losing money. The population of Canberra will increase, and so will the work of the commission. It is wasteful to have the commissioners engaged in the conduct of ‘ services such as the running of buses, when they could be attending to more important duties. I cannot understand why they did not endeavour some time ago to dispose of the bus service, which has been a worry and a nuisance to them. We know that the commission wishes to present each financial year as satisfactory a balance-sheet as possible, and at the same time to provide an adequate transport service, but under existing conditions that is impossible. We look for an increase in population. I venture to say, that within six months the population of this locality will be increased by 3,000. That is not guess work, because I am basing my estimate upon movements that we know of in and around the Federal Capital City. After that period progress may not be rapid, but it will be sure. I congratulate the commission on the step that it is now taking. Mention has been made of the fact that certain officers of the commission have shares in private companies in Canberra, but I can see nothing dreadful in that. If the secretary of the commission likes to invest his money in a steam laundry, he has a perfect right to do so. There is nothing to prevent honorable members opposite from investing their money in a rival establishment and participating in the profits that they have referred to. A few years ago’ in the City of Sydney a movement in which many members of Parliament were concerned, was instituted to induce the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales to take over the running of buses in Sydney, but they would have nothing to do with it, believing that the omnibus service would be better left in the hands of private enterprise. Whether they were right or wrong, I cannot say, but in a young city like Canberra surely the commission has sufficient work on its hands without being required to control the transport service.
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) has not advanced any sound and satisfactory reason for embarking upon a serious change of policy in the Federal Territory involving the transfer of the control of the omnibus service from the commission to private enterprise. He has stated that the loss on the present service is about £400 a month. If the new service travels about 120 miles a day, as is proposed, a subsidy of 4d. a mile would represent twice the amount of the loss. The loss on operations should not be .permitted to influence the provision of transport services. Had that influenced State Governments, or even local governing authorities, we should not have had many of the railways and tramways that are now serving our capital cities. It is indeed amusing to know that the Minister is apprehensive about a loss of £400 per annum in a city which is in its initial stages. I should like to remind honorable members that in connexion with, the building of the Secretariat, the architect is being paid a fee of £60,000 for supervision, yet the Government is objecting to an insignificant loss on the transport service. The transfer of that service to private enterprise is a retrograde step unparalleled in the history of Australia. Where -will this policy end? If it is right to hand over the transport service to private enterprise, why not transfer other public services rather than permit them to remain under the control of the commission and its officers? This drastic action certainly emphasizes the necessity for the whole of the commission’s activities being reviewed by this Parliament. This Parliament has an opportunity of reviewing ordinances that bring about changes of administration or policy in other Commonwealth territories, and it is competent for honorable members to disallow them. That practice should also be followed in respect of the administration of the Seat of Government. It is dangerous to allow three commissioners to effect serious alterations of administration without this Parliament having an opportunity to review their activities. It seems to me that the only function that this Parliament exercises respecting the Federal Territory is the provision of the necessary funds to enable the commission to administer its affairs, and that it is considered no business of ours to inquire in what way the money is being expended either in subsidies or other directions. Parliament when it established the Federal Capital Commission expected it to control the activities of the Federal Territory, and its attempt to hand over a portion of its responsibilities ato private enterprise should meet with the unanimous disapproval of honorable members. If the Government considers that the intrusion of private enterprise into our transport services is justifiable, I should like to know whether private enterprise is also to meet the Government’s requirements in respect of taxi-cabs and motor cars. At present we are maintaining a costly fleet of vehicles1 for the conveyance of Ministers and commissioners in and about the Federal Territory.
– That suggestion will receive consideration.
– The action of the commission, which has been endorsed by the Government, emphasizes the necessity for this Parliament to establish at the earliest possible opportunity some local governing body in the Federal City, and thus give the residents an opportunity to register a protest against any attempt by private enterprise to exploit them within, the Territory.
Mr. HUGHES (North Sydney? [12.40]. - I agree with those who say’ that transport is of such vital importance to society, and more especially te new countries, that it should preferably be in the hands of State or public bodies, but I can hardly regard as happy and fitting the application of this great principle to the omnibus service of Canberra. It is well known and has been admitted that, although we have adopted the principle of State ownership of railways and in the vast majority of cases, of tramways too, nearly all omnibus services are in the hands of private individuals.
– That is not so.
– I speak mainly of the State of New South Wales, which I know.
– Can the right honorable gentleman name any omnibus, service that is subsidized?
– All omnibuses throughout Australia are in the main-, owned by private companies and, therefore, the step that we are now taking in the Federal Territory is not an innovation. In Sydney the problems of trafficare tremendous, and. it is not suggested even there that existing licences to private bus owners should be cancelled. I know all that can be said against the use by private enterprise of roads that are paid for by the people. But we have to face facts, and it is a fact throughout Australia that the present means of transport owned and controlled by State and municipal authorities have proved inadequate, and have had to be supplemented. I believe in the control of transport by public bodies, but in this case we have placed the Government of this Territory in the hands of a commission, and something has been said this morning which seems to reflect on the manner in which it has carried out its york. If, in the whole of Australia, it could be shown that one area, one city, one village, or one district had been governed one-fiftieth part as well as the Federal Territory has been governed, we should have heard of it from Dan to Beersheba. The neighbouring town of Queanbeyan, for example, is as it was years ago. We have expended millions of public money in the Federal Territory, and Queanbeyan remains practically unaltered. The only development has been in the direction of extending the drinking shops. And we all know of other municipal governments that have not been, and are not now, a great success.But the Federal Capital Commission has done its work not only well but admirably. The Government of Canberra by a commission is not in conflict with the best democratic principles, nor is it in conflict with socialism, or, as far as I know, with Sovietism. If Lenin or Trotsky had done this thing nothing would have been said about it. The commission has done its work well, but it will be impossible for it to continue doing it so if all the tittle-tattle of the neighbourhood is introduced into this chamber. If I were a member of the commission I should insist upon knowing where I stood. It will be impossible for it to carry on satisfactorily if its actions are eternally to be the subject of questions in this chamber, and its officers are to be brought to the bar of the House every ten or fifteen minutes.
– Does the right honorable member consider that my statements are based upon tittle-tattle? This is a matter upon which he had very definite opinions a few years ago.
– If it had to do with his bricks he would be taking a different stand.
– I do not say that the matter introduced by the Leader of the Opposition rests upon tittle-tattle. It is a matter of importance; but tittle-tattle inspires a good many statements regarding matters brought to the notice of this National Parliament. A few days ago an honorable member on this side of the chamber inquired how many feet of dirt a man shifted per day in this Territory, how many hours he worked, what wages he received, and so on. Inquiries of that kind are all right in their place; but their place is not here. If any big question of principle needs to be determined, it is proper for it to be discussed here.
– This is one.
– I do not deny it. Apart from matters of that kind, the commission should be allowed to continue its work without hindrance. I trust that the Leader of the Opposition will make no mistake as to where I stand. I am in favour of the ownership and control of transport by public bodies. But the commission should be allowed to continue its work without being continually harrassed and hampered. In this instance it has recommended that the transportation service be leased to a private company. Nothing in that action conflicts with any democratic principles whatever. This is not an American franchise, and the Government is able to keep its hand upon things. As to the merits of the case, I have nothing to say. I do not censure the Leader of the Opposition for moving the adjournment of the House. I regret that I used the phrase “tittletattle” in a way that might have suggested that I was applying it to his motion. From that point of view my expression was unfortunate ; but it certainly fitted the questions that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) asked a few days ago. I consider that the commission is carrying on its work much better than any local governing authorities in other parts of Australia. We have seen this place grow from nothing at all to a fine city, and we have the promise of still better progress in the days that are to come; but because a bus service into Queanbeyan and round the city is to be leased to a private company it is said that everything is going wrong. I cannot see it. The commission has carried out its work well and proved its capacity to handle an undertaking of this magnitude, and I trust that it will not be obliged to face trumpery criticism of every act that it does. If the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues regard this as a vital principle-
– I do.
– Then we should settle it and lay down the lines upon which the commission should work, and leave the commission alone.
.- The criticism which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has levelled against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) seems to me to be most illogical. Moreover, it is an invitation to Parliament to lay down an entirely new principle. Surely it should be competent for this House to discuss any matter of policy connected with the development of the Federal Capital Territory! The Leader of the Opposition did not attack either the personal character of the commissioners or the motives which prompted them to agree to make this contract. All he did was to question the wisdom of changing a policy which, throughout Australia, is regarded as the best for carrying out public utilities, and that is a matter upon which Parliament might well express itself. The right honorable member tried to establish that public utilities of this kind could be controlled by private enterprise in the Federal Capital Territory without abrogating any democratic principle; but he dismally failed to make out his case. It is recognized, not only in all the capital cities of Australia, but throughout the world, that utilities of this kind are best controlled by municipal or other public authorities. I know that, heretofore, bus services have been operated in some of our cities by private enterprise; but the tendency everywhere now is for municipal authorities or other public bodies to assume control of them. In this case the very reverse of that is proposed. Here we have a public authority which has been controlling the transport service surrendering it to private enterprise. It is possible that even that might be justified if it could be shown that the commission could not run such a good service as private enterprise, or that the cost at which it could do so was prohibitive; but that has not been established. After all, this city is only in the initial stages of its development. It is far too early to determine that public control of its transport facilities has failed. It is even too early to say that the loss that has been incurred in conducting the service up to date is such as to make it advisable to surrender it to private enterprise.
– To my knowledge private buses have been running here for a number of years.
– The question of competition from that aspect has not been introduced into this discussion. It would have been a different thing had the commission taken steps to prevent any competition with the service that it was running ; but it is proposing to surrender the service completely and to allow a private company the monopoly of certain routes. If such a policy can be justified in regard to transport, it can also be justified in regard to our telephone service. It might be said, even without the production of the balance-sheets, that our telephone service is being conducted at a loss; but will it be suggested that on that account we should call for tenders from private companies for carrying it on, and offer a subsidy to ensure that the lucky tenderer should not incur a loss? The right honorable member astonished me by drawing invidious distinctions between the development that has occurred in the Federal Capital Territory under commission control and that which has occurred in certain small country towns which are controlled by municipal councils; but there was no common ground on which he could properly make such a comparison. The Federal Capital Commission has been carrying on with the prestige and money of the Commonwealth Government behind it, and with a noble design upon which to base its operations. Then, of course, it has not- been restricted for funds. But where is there a local governing authority in Australia of which that could be said?
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he looked forward to the day when Canberra would be governed by a local council.
– Quite so, and possibly this Government might later on alter the method of controlling the affairs of this Territory; but in the meantime it is foolish to suggest a comparison between it and, say, Queanbeyan, which is a small town with very limited resources. It was ridiculous for the right honorable member to draw attention to the conditions at Canberra and then ask after the boulevards, gardens, and great edifices of Queanbeyan.
– Will the honorable member tell us something about the State enterprises of Queensland?
– When an appropriate occasion arises I shall be glad to do so, and I trust that it will be to the (edification of the honorable member for Herbert. At the moment, I shall content myself with observing that in all our capital cities, as well as in the principal towns of the Commonwealth, our public, facilities are carried on satisfactorily under municipal control. Those include the provision of water supply, sewerage, electric lighting, street car and many other services. In the circumstances, we should be very ill-advised to agree to hand similar services in Canberra over to private enterprise. This debate has been most interesting, and illuminating, but I must again confess to my astonishment at the extraordinarily archaic views expressed by the right honorable member for North Sydney, who still regards himself as a democrat.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) made a statement which seemed to win general acceptance from honorable members, to the effect that the responsible officers of the commission were not debarred from engaging in industrial enterprises within the Federal Capital Territory. Seeing that all the land here is held under leasehold, and that conditions are very different from those which prevail elsewhere in Australia, there would be an element of great danger in allowing officers of the commission to engage in outside business operations; and I think it should be understood quite definitely that they should not do so. I am not suggesting that they are doing so now, but I felt obliged to take this opportunity of expressing my entire disagreement with tho suggestion that they were entitled to do it. As to the matter immediately before the Chair, I approve of the action which the Government has taken. May I remind the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) of the fate of Mr. Eggleston, a Minister of a former Victorian Government, who was responsible for preventing private buses from running down St. Kilda-road, in Melbourne. Any person who is proud of the tramway system of Melbourne is easily pleased. I consider that the Federal Capital Commission has taken the right course to provide transport services for this Territory. ‘
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 11.9.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether it is proposed to utilize the plant at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, for the manufacture of switchroom apparatus and automatic telephonic parts required in connexion with the programme of converting manual telephone exchanges to the automatic system ?
– The departmental ^ workshops are sufficient to meet all requirements for the manufacture of apparatus of the nature referred to, other than that for which tenders are invited.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
By the Commissioner in conjunction with the Secretary. The position of Secretary was classified by the Commissioner after consultation with the Minister.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he will supply particulars in respect of the public works reported on by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works which were completed during the year ending 30th June, 1927, as follows: -
Estimated cost as submitted to the Committee;
Total completed cost in each case;
If estimates were exceeded in any instance, the reason for such increased cost?
– The information will be obtained and furnished to the honorable member at a later date.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
What is the percentage increase in building costs for an average four-roomed war service dwelling since 1921-22?
– The information will be obtained and furnished to the honorable member at a later date.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in order to give greater encouragement toAustralian investors to invest moneys in the Commonwealth, he will take steps to tax the profits of such investments at the same rate as that applicable to income derived from personal exertion?
– If this proposal were adopted, it would be necessary to apply the personal exertion rates of tax to all income from property. This would be a grave departure from the principles underlying income taxation in’ Australia and in practically all countries, and I am unable to promise favorable consideration.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What bounties have been paid during the past four years, and to whom?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the strategic value of the Broken Hill to Port Augusta route, and the grave amount of unemployment, he will favorably consider the question of referring to the Public Works Committee the matter of a direct transcontinental railway route from Sydney to Port Augusta, linking up with the present line at the latter place?
– The Government has, on a previous occasion, informed the House that the suggested connexion between the New South Wales railway system and Port Augusta, via Broken Hill and Condobolin, is not the most advantageous.
Bounty on Motor Cars.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Miniter, upon notice -
Will he give favorable consideration to the question of paying child endowment to employees of the Government Printing Office in
Canberra, which is now under Commonwealth control, as is done in the case of temporary and permanent Commonwealth employees.
– The matter is being looked into, and I will furnish the honorable member with an answer as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether any inquiries were made by him, during his recent visit abroad, with a view to encouraging the local cultivation of flax and the establishment of the linen industry in Australia.
– Whilst abroad many manufacturers interviewed me and made inquiries regarding the establishment of various new industries in the Commonwealth, but I regret that the production of flax and the manufacture of linen in Australia were not included in the inquiries made. The production of flax in the Commonwealth has not yet been commercially established in spite of the encouragement given by the Government during the war, but any reasonable and practicable proposals made to help the establishment of either or both of these industries pn a commercial basis would receive sympathetic consideration.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice-
Whether the statements appearing in the leading article of the Canberra Times of the 11th instant, that there are slum conditions and worse in the Federal Capital Territory, owing to the lack of proper housing accommodation, and that 281 unsatisfied applicants for homes have approached the Federal Capital Commission, are correct.
– The statement in the . Canberra Times evidently refers to the Russell Hill Camp. This camp came into existence as a result of a number of workmen, with their wives and children and with nothing but camping effects, arriving at Canberra in search of employment and with no means of subsistence. The commission found them employment and, as there were no workmen’s houses vacant, did the only other reasonable thing, namely, established a temporary camp in which each workman had a small block of land 50 ft. by 50 ft., provided with a water supply and a sanitary system, to enable him and his family to live under some supervision and under better conditions than if allowed to camp indiscriminately. The alternative was to refuse them employment and turn them out of camp altogether. It is a fact that there are roughly 280 workmen who desire to obtain cottages in Canberra. The commission has been engaged upon a very big housing programme for the Public Service, which is now approaching completion, and it has already commenced to build a number of houses to satisfy the above demand. The Government’s housing scheme, which is now before the House, will help this situation.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the average estimated cost to the Commonwealth per head of immigrants, up to date of landing, under the existing Immigration Agreement with the British Government, and what is the average amount per immigrant which has been refunded to the Commonwealth ?
– This information is being compiled and will be furnished as early as possible.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies : -
The following papers were presented : -
Defence - Australian Military Forces - Report for the Inspector-General, by Lieut. - General Sir H. G. Chauvel, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. (Chief of the General Staff), Part I., 31st May, 1927.
Munitions Supply Board - Annual Report from 1st July, 1925, to 30th June, 1926; together with the Annual Report of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act. - Seventh Annual Report by the Trustees, 1st July, 1926, to 30th June, 1927 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest for the Technical Education of Soldiers’ Children).
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 12th October (vide page 464), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When I ceased speaking on Wednesday I was emphasizing the fact that the South Australian Labour Government had created a precedent and set an example to the world in the matter of house-building for the people. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) interjected, stating that the Liberal Government of South Australia had built more houses prior to the advent of the Labour Government than were later built by a Liberal Government. I stated that I. would endeavour to procure the precise figures and I now have before me a South Australian Hansard quoting those figures, which I shall place on record for the edification of the honorable member. They are -
Those statistics were prepared prior to 1926, during which year the programme of the Labour party was even more vigorous than in the years I have quoted.
– I referred to a twelve month’s period.
– The honorable member should not dissect the figures to suit himself. Each twelve month period must stand on its own. Had I included the thousand-homes scheme which the Labour Government of South Australia completed in 1926, the statements of the honorable members for Wakefield (Mr. Poster) and Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) would have been shown to be baseless. Those are the facts, however much honorable members might desire to sidestep the issue. The activities of the Gunn Government are now world renowned. When the recent British Empire Parliamentary Delegation visited Australia, it inspected the houses that had been erected by the South Australian Labour Government, and was profuse in the encomiums it heaped upon that Government. Lord Burnham and many other eminent members of the Delegation expressed surprise at what had been achieved, and it is of no use for honorable members opposite now to endeavour to belittle the efforts of the Labour Government in South Australia. It is unnecessary to harp upon the fact that the working classes in Australia have been the victims of the landlords of the country.
– What government initiated the housing proposition ?
– Does the honorable member wish me to repeat the story? It is well known that the South Australian Government initiated’ the thousand-homes scheme, called for tenders, and set the successful tenderer to work on it. The banks foreclosed on the builder, but the Government, nothing daunted, successfully took upon itself the task of completing the work.
– I speak of the initiation of the housing scheme.
– The honorable member for Wakefield was a member of the Parliament which evolved it. He knows that when the State Bank was suggested in the South Australian Parliament, it was ‘opposed as bitterly as was the inauguration of the Commonwe’alth Bank in this House its opponents bitterly exclaiming that the government of the day was duplicating existing facilities. In spite of all opposition, that State Bank was established, and has justified itself. Now it is being enlarged.
– And Sir Frederick Holder was its originator.
– But behind Sir Frederick Holder was the force of the Labour movement, which subsequently came into power. The honorable member for Wakefield followed Holder, Kingston, Cockburn, and other Liberals, and he must admit that it was the driving force of Labour that compelled them to take these actions which have proved so beneficiaL to the working man.
– That is perfectly true; but it was then impossible to distinguish between Labour and Liberal.
– It was a matter of expediency. When the parting of the ways came we know who jumped to the Labour, and who jumped to the Liberal side. These reforms were forced upon the Liberals by the Labour party, who have been responsible for the bulk of our remedial legislation. When there was a South Australian wine depot in London the Labour party turned it into a produce depot, which has been a god-send to the producers. Labour was not in office; but it was the driving force that made Liberal politicians do what they would not otherwise have done. That statement is irrefutable. When the Galway suburb was opened at Richmond in my State, Mr. Gell, who often stood in the Liberal interests, was manager of the State bank. I heard him on that occasion read a panegyric upon the activities of the State bank, which he described as a wonderful institution for supplying workmen with homes. When it was found that the deposit asked for was too large, Mr. Gunn, the Leader of the Labour party in South Australia, brought it down to £25, allowing the worker, if necessary, to pay that amount in weekly instalments of 5s. Even that was not sufficiently generous, and Mr. Gunn, on assuming power, initiated the “ thousand homes “ scheme. The history of housing is bound up with the history of the Labour party; but the present bill’ does not provide for the scheme which the Labour party realizes is necessary to-day. Let honorable members take a stroll round Capitol Hill and see the workmen’s humpies. Then let them compare those shacks with the palatial quarters provided at Parliament House, and wonder why there are Bolshevists who ask for reform.
– The measure is designed to prevent over-lapping of the work of existing State organizations.
– That is so ; and so far as those bodies may need assistance financially, I am in sympathy with the bill. I have no objection to every facility being given to members of the Public Service, even those on the higher salaries, because our housing legislation should have a general application ; but this bill means the separation of the Savings Bank department from the general bank. The State Savings Bank of Victoria has erected mammoth buildings in Elizabeth and Swanston streets, and these are even provided with flood lighting, so that they will not escape attention at night. During last year, I think, two mergers took place among the associated banks. They are not breaking up into factions. Their intention is to function as one body, and eliminate the waste due to over-lapping. I shall quote from the bible of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), by reading an extract from a sub-leader published in the’ Adelaide Register of the 10th October-
The separation of the savings and general banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank is in accordance with the Government’s central bank policy, but there is some truth in the complaint of Mr. Scullin, .M.H.E., that the Ministry is over-loading its institutions with highly-paid directors and officials. One governor or manager of the separated Savings Bank could surely discharge all the functions which it is proposed to vest in three commissioners, in addition to whom a fresh swann of officials will doubtless bc required to administer the details of the housing scheme.
The Liberal organ in South Australia considers that the measure is not needed. Its effect would be to destroy the efficiency of the Commonwealth Bank, and thus provide an excuse, perhaps, for further hamstringing it, if not wiping it out of existence. The honorable member for Wakefield said that the bill was inopportune, because the pastoral industry was in such great difficulty that it was hard to find employment for those engaged in the industry, and the West Coast lands of South Australia were crying for fur: ther settlement. The honorable member should realize how valuable the pastoral industry is to Australia, instead of declaring that the country is going to the dogs. I recently took out a few figures from the quarterly summary supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, and they somewhat staggered me. In 1915 there were 9,931,416 cattle in Australia, and, in 1925, 13,279,7S5. There were 73,146,460 sheep in the Commonwealth in 1915, and ten years later the number had increased to 103,563,21S. The largest number of sheep ever held in this country was in 1891, when there were 106,421,068.
– The country was overstocked both then and in 1925.
– I do not suggest that the pastoralists do not know how to conduct their own business; I leave that aspect of the matter to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen). I am concerned about the actual productivity of Australia, and not the methods of those engaged in the pastoral industry. In 1915 there were 735,695 pigs, and in 1925 no fewer than 1,128,370.
– In the year following the severe drought of 1914 our stock had been seriously depleted.
– No doubt; but I am inclined to think that the figures I have quoted show a gradual increase. In 1891, half a sheep could be purchased for ls.. 3d., and in those days the worker benefited by the low price. But the total number of sheep carried in 1925 was within 3,000 of the record established in 1891. I do not know how one is to prove that the pastoral industry is successful, if the official figures do not show it. If honorable members wish, I am prepared lc examine banking figures.
– That would not prove anything.
– No figures would prove anything to the satisfaction of the honorable member. Then I could take land values. Is there nothing that will convince the honorable member that the Commonwealth is not on the brink of disaster ? I have quoted official figures, and have done what I can to select them fairly, but honorable members challenge their accuracy. Am I to believe the honorable member for Riverina, the honorable member for Wakefield, or the Commonwealth Statistician ?
– The Commonwealth Statistician emphasizes what I said yesterday. I quoted from his figures.
– The country was overstocked in the years in which we had the large number- of sheep mentioned by the honorable member for Adelaide.
Mr. YATES.My figures only extended to 1925. I am sorry that I have not those for 1926.
– They would have included the Queensland losses on account of drought.
– I do not say that we have prosperity in all parts of the Commonwealth at the same time, neither do I believe that we have lost the whole of our fleet when one ship has been sunk. I am answering those honorable members who say that this is not an opportune time for making money available for the building of homes. It is pitiable to see strong able-bodied men wandering the streets of every capital city in search of work - men who at meetings and deputations declare that they do not want charity, but ask only for an opportunity to earn money for themselves and their families. The onus is upon those who control the wealth-producing assets to find work for them, because the figures I am quoting prove that they get value for their money. The production of the dairying industry in 1911 was £20,154,000; in 1925-26 it increased to £47,161,000- more than double. Honorable members opposite will say that the latter figure is inflated by the higher prices ruling in 1925-26; but the statistician shows that on the 1911 basis £47,161,000 was equal to £26,750,000. Even when taking into account the relative purchasing power of the pound as compared with 1911, an increase of £6,000,000 is shown. These figures are sufficient to satisfy me that none of the producer’s are worse off than they were in 1911. If honorable members are not convinced by statistics of values, I shall let them have numbers and quantities. In 1915-16 the number of dairy cattle throughout the Commonwealth was 1,684,393, and in 1925-26 it had increased to 2,382,902. That is undeniable proof of the increasing productivity of our country. The butter production in 1915- 16 was 137,672,713 lb., and in 1925-26 it was 273,313,685 lb. What better evidence do honorable members want?
– Were the seasons comparable ?
– Prior to 1914 the largest wheat crop in the history of the Commonwealth was 103,000,000 bushels. In 1914 the crop was only 24,000,000 bushels; but in the following year it rose to 179,000,000 bushels. I am sorry that I have not the opportunity to quote from the Year-Book the figures for each year. I challenge contradiction of my statement that the 1925 harvest was a record. We are told that we should stay our hands, because of losses in the pastoral and agricultural industries and the consequent tightening of money. I would cut the bellybands of the money-kings, and that would soon loosen the market. In 1915-16 the production of cheese was 15,S29,226 lb., and in 1926 it had increased to 28,799,320 lb. The quantity of bacon and hams produced in 1915-16 was 43,175,913 lb.; in 1925-26 it was 73,374,679 lb.
– The honorable member is not mentioning the increase in production costs.
– There is a good Arbitration Court which sees that an industry does not pay more than it can afford. Any increase in the wages is more than counterbalanced by the increased prices of commodities. Wages have been chasing prices ever since the patriots of the war period started to inflate them. I come now to a sweeter subject. Of honey - the production in 1915-16 was 3,521,978 lb., as compared with 6,940,289 lb. in 1925-26. Even the output of the bees was nearly doubled in the decade. The output of beeswax advanced from 70,907 lb. in 1915-16 to 90,046 lb. in 1925-26. The value of eggs and poultry in 1915-16 was £4,903,538, in 1925-26 it was £9,166,369 - again double, and it cannot be said that production costs in that industry have increased in the same ratio. I come now to mineral production. One never hears honorable members opposite class the miner amongst the primary producers; he is usually grouped with the town labourer. The Country party is never heard demanding an increase of wages for the producers engaged in mines. The total mineral production in 1915-16 was worth £22,060,361; that total had increased in 1925-26 to £24,592,620. Again there was an increase, but not so great as in agricultural and pastoral industries, because in mining a good season does not help production; if a rich patch is worked out that is the end of it. In 1919 - I am quoting the only figures that the statistician has supplied - the silver production totalled 6,696,788 oz. ; in 1925-26 it was 8,946,218 oz. The output of lead pig was 82,732 tons in 1919, and 150,460 tons in 1925-26; and of zinc, 6,544 tons and 47,356 tons respectively. Yet the Broken Hill Company’s works at Newcastle are closing down because the prices have dropped slightly! Is the company going to put over some scheme by which the men engaged in the production of those minerals will lose their all? As soon as the price of wool drops it is said that the bottom is falling out of the Commonwealth; but the only effect of the fall in the price of minerals is that the workers are thrown out of employment. The managers of the mines concerned immediately advise that production operations should cease. They care very little about what happens to the men who, in consequence, lose their work.
– What about the wheat yield?
– I can give the honorable member that, hut first let me call his attention to the output of native timbers from our sawmills. I well remember that when he was chairman of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Act he frequently told us that because of the operations of the coastal sections of that measure the sawmilling industry must inevitably disappear from Western Australia. As a matter of fact, the output of native timber from our sawmills in 1915 was only 489,862 super, feet, while in 1925 it was 739,799 super, feet, and that, notwithstanding the Navigation. Act and the high cost of production. It is honorable members opposite who, with their constituents, have profited from this increased production; yet they desire the Government to abandon its housing policy.
– What about the wheat figures?
– I shall be glad to give them to the honorable member. I regret that my returns refer only to South Australia. I abstracted them, to use in a speech that I made in that State. But it may.be taken that the position in South Australia is largely the position in the other wheat-growing States of the Commonwealth. In 1915-1916 a total of 34,134,504 bushels of wheat was produced in my State, the average being 12.46 bushels per acre. In 1925-26 the total production was 28,603,101 bushels and the average yield 11.60 bushels per acre.
– That was a considerable decline.
– That may be so, but the average yield for the ten years was 29,402,288 bushels, the yield per acre being 12.44 bushels. It will be seen, therefore, that we practically held our own last year. I am quite satisfied from my knowledge of Australia that we shall be able to maintain and even increase our production in the next ten years. I could give honorable members equally satisfactory figures respecting barley, oats, and hay. I come now to our production of potatoes and onions. In 1916 our onion crop averaged 6.11 tons per acre, while in 1926 the average was 7.57 tons per acre. The average for the ten years was 7.44 tons per acre. The total yield of potatoes in 1916 was 12,991 tons, the average being 2.99 tons per acre, while in 1926 we produced 10,764 tons at an average of 3.72 tons per acre. The average for the ten years was 3.43 tons per acre.
– But what happened to the onions that were produced?
– I did not follow them to the market. I am a city man and am not intimately associated with those who manipulate the produce markets. If my figures are false I invite honorable members opposite to correct them. To my mind they are satisfactory evidence that Australia is a good place in which to live. It is a wealth-producing country, and not the poverty-stricken territory which some honorable members opposite seem to delight in calling it. It is a strange thing to me that people who make fortunes in Australia are often the most vigorous in denouncing it. There is no need for us to apologize for ‘this fair land. In spite of it being .one of the few places on the earth that has been blighted by Labour rule, it is a desirable place in which to live. It is both wealth and health producing. As for this housing scheme, the most I dare to hope is that the Government will do the fair thing by those who expect to benefit by it. But I sincerely trust that in carrying out its policy the Government will not tear the Commonwealth Bank asunder, by severing the savings bank from the other branches of the institution.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has precipitated an avalanche of figures upon honorable members, but whether he has convinced them of the soundness of his views is open to question. I think he gave himself away badly when he said that he was a city man and could not be expected to discuss in detail the production and marketing of the commodities with which he was dealing. I regard this bill as a machinery measure, and as such it is more suitable for discussion in committee than at the second reading stage. It has been suggested by honorable members opposite that the Government in introducing the measure has been actuated by a sinister desire to destroy the effectiveness of the Commonwealth Bank. I entirely disagree with that view. I do not think that any government would dare to do anything to minimize the power of the bank, or to damage its prestige in the eyes of the world. It is advisable that the two spheres of activity of the Commonwealth Bank should be separated.
– The honorable member is not controverting my figures, as he set out to do.
– I shall do so later. It has been contended that this measure is a blow aimed at the present administration of the Commonwealth Bank, but I do not share that view. In 1912 the Commonwealth Bank absorbed the Tasmanian State Savings Bank, which had deposits to the extent of £9,000,000 or £10,000,000, and in 1916 the Commonwealth Bank had to its credit deposits amounting to £41,354,050. That year Labour went out of power in the Commonwealth sphere, and it has not since regained supremacy here. In. 1919, when Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer, the Commonwealth Bank absorbed the Queensland Government Savings Bank, and in 1920, when Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer of Australia, the Note Issue Department was transferred to the control of the Commonwealth Bank. The amount to its credit in 1920 was £134,960,568, and that credit has since been augmented. Honorable members will appreciate the tremendous increase that has taken place in the activities of the bank since Labour was in power in 1916. My opinion is that the present action has been taken after consultation, and with the concurrence of the governors of the Commonwealth Bank,°in order ‘that the institution may the more effectively deal with the measures proposed in this bill. The bill provides that the bank shall extend its operations in a way that must be’ to the advantage of the people of Australia. It is argued that the Government is creating unnecessary boards and commissions, but I consider that the gentlemen now in charge of the Commonwealth Savings Bank will be in charge of the new branch, and that the increase in administrative expenditure will be infinitesimal. At the same time I regret that the salaries of those concerned have not been set out in the bill.
It is satisfactory to me that the Government has honoured the promises set out in the Prime Minister’s policy speech regarding the housing scheme, and this measure has my wholehearted commendation. We can give no greater advantage to the people of our country than the making available to them of facilities to obtain money with which to establish their homes. It is contended that this is not an opportune time to advance money for the erection of homes, . but at the same time the Commonwealth is to be congratulated upon the fact that it, does not propose actually to enter the field of home building. That will be the task of State governments, the finances being provided by the Commonwealth Government. The various State governments have experienced men in charge of their home building operations, who will see that no inflation of values takes place As to the 90 per cent. advance ; at present . the South Australian State Bank advances 95 per cent. of the value of the homes it constructs, and has not experienced any difficulty, therefore I do not see why one should anticipate any danger in the advancing of 90 per cent. under the provisions of this bill.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) supplied an extraordinary set of figures to this House, but failed to state exactly how many of the 1,000 homes proposed to be erected were constructed by the South Australian Labour Government. In the year 1923, the last year of the Barwell administration - an administration which is anathema to honorable members opposite - the State Bank had constructed 1,182 houses. In 1924 the Gunn Government came into power, and decided to do something that had not previously been attempted in Australia, to construct 1,000 homes in one year. It proceeded with the scheme, but unhappily made the serious blunder of letting the whole contract to one builder, so congesting the building trade, with the result that not even 100 of those thousand homes were completed that year. The cost of the homes was to be between £750 and £800, but, due to the muddle created by the bad management of the Gunn Government, it proved to be considerably higher, and the difference between the anticipated and actual figures had to be met by the taxpayers of the State, a procedure which I strongly deprecate.
– Does the honorable member seriously contend that only 100 houses of those’ 1,000 were completed ?
– Yes, in the first year. This bill also makes provision to advance money on approved securities for the erection of warehousing or storage facilities for primary products. I am not aware whether that covers the building of silos, but we shall secure that information when in committee. I regret that the scheme was not made even more generous, to provide an advance up to about £2,500 on farm property. It increases the salary range of those to whom assistance will be given, from £400 to £600, but probably the man above that salary experiences just as much difficulty in building a home as does the man on the lower salary. It has been stated that our rural activities are on the increase, but the actual position is that the cities are everywhere encroaching further on the resources and population of the country. People are leaving the country because the conditions in the city are much to be preferred. The small . farming community has been recruited from the best class of working men ; but, owing to the financial stringency, the farmers are finding the land unattractive. We cannot successfully populate the rural areas until we adopt a scheme to give more financial security than can be obtained from the private financial institutions.
Mr.Fenton. - Is not the Credit Foncier system available to small landholders ?
– Not in all the States. They want assistance under which they can repay their loans in the same way as under the housing scheme.
I support the bill, and congratulate the Government on having given effect to a plank of its policy in which I have great faith.
– Strangely enough, this measure is opposed by supporters as well as by opponents of the Ministry. It is hard to understand why the Labour party resists a measure dealing with housing. During the last election campaign I was asked when the Government would redeem its promise to provide £20,000,000, for housing. The only answer I could give was that the pledge would soon be honoured. Now the Government has come forward with its scheme only to find considerable opposition to it. There can be no question as to the necessity for the measure. People who own the homes in which they live become contented citizens, and lose all ideas of anarchy and revolution. I could understand the opposition to the measure if . it were proposed to build up a new and expensive department ; but the intention is to utilize the State machinery already in existence. The State institutions have many outlets for their funds other than the provision of houses and by this bill the Government proposes to make £20,000,000 available for the sole purpose of building homes. In1924, Dr. Purdy, Metropolitan Health Officer in Sydney, said -
Housing is the key to the whole problem of improving the public health. The sanctity of home life and the upbringing of the children of to-day must be carefully safeguarded, for the children of to-day are the men and women of to-morrow. The problems of housing, therefore, affect and involve the very basis of the social welfare ofthe community.
The only aspect of the bill that seems to be debatable is the question whether the Commonwealth Bank should continue under one administration or whether the Savings Bank department should be separately managed. In New South Wales, Mr. Lang thought that three commissioners were not sufficient, and he proposed five. It seems to me to be wise to separate the two departments. No large banking institution would attempt to carry on two classes of banking business in one department, and the Government is to be congratulated on its proposal. No doubt it has been guided by expert advice from the present directors of the bank. The scheme is decidedly liberal, in that 90 per cent. of the money required for a home is to be advanced : but I know of building societies in New South Wales that have advanced, in some cases, even up to 95 per cent. They have looked upon the matter not merely as a commercial proposition. They have made exhaustive inquiries as to the character of the applicants, and I have no doubt that similar action will be taken under the government scheme. If the intention were merely to advance 60 per cent. of the money required, only a limited number of persons would benefit; but the proposal is intended to help the poorer section of the community, and, therefore, it ought to be supportedby every party in Parliament. The Government is in a difficult position in having to fight opposition from its own followers, not only on this measure, but on practically every proposal it has brought down. Although members of the Labour party take credit for the inauguration of the Commonwealth Bank, I find, from a small pamphlet published by Mr. King O’Malley, that he does not give any credit at all to that party. He had to fight his party tooth and nail in connexion with the bank’s establishment. I was pleased to notice that the man to whom the pamphlet was dedicated is the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). When a conference was held at Brisbane in 1908, three of the gentlemen present supported the establishment of the bank, and, strange to say, they are not to be found to-day in the ranks of the Labour party, but they have become members of the Nationalist party. Therefore, my party has just as much right as the Opposition has to take credit for the establishment of the institution. Both in town and city, in New South Wales, many more homes are badly needed. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I promised honorable members a week ago that I would try to indicate this afternoon what business would probably be taken during next week, so that they could make their arrangements accordingly. I anticipate that the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the Housing Bill will be proceeded with, and the budget debate may be initiated. In addition, there may be one or two second-reading speeches; but the general debate on the bills thus introduced will not be proceeded with. No measures, other than those I have indicated, will be brought forward.
Question resolved in affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271014_reps_10_116/>.