10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
right Hon. L. C. M. S. Amery.
Mr.SPEAKER. - I desire to inform honorable members that a distinguished member ofthe House of Commons, the Right Honorable L. C. M. S. Amery, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, iswithin the precincts of the House. With their concurrence I propose to invite the right honorable gentleman to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Amery thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the press reports of the remarks of Sir Henry Cowan on migration, also the remarks quoted in the Melbourne Age of yesterday, by Mrs.Robert Lindsay, daughter of the late SirW. J. Clarke, who has settled on an estate near Perth. She is reported as having said :
It appears that we do not want migrants. When in London last month ten Fife farmers of a community that had never recorded an insolvent, applied for passages and land in Australia, only stipulating that they should be settled together. The reply was that they must take what they could get, and a part of the best type of farmers possible was lost to the Commonwealth.
I should like to know the opinion of the right honorable gentleman on the subject?
Mr.BRUCE. - I cannot express opinions when replying to questions. My attention was drawn to the report of the remarks of SirRobert Cowan, but. it was quite impossible to learn from it exactly what SirRobert Cowan was endeavouring to say. I have not seen the report of a statement by Mrs. Lindsay; but every possible step is being taken to have brought to Australia suitable migrantswho desire to come here. It must be remembered, however, that migrants come here only under the requisition or nomination system, and consequently the Commonwealth Government can do nothing beyond filling the requisitions or nominations of the States.
Mr.CHARLTON. - Is it a fact that the Commissioner of Federal Taxation has ruled that the whole of the gross proceeds of gold from New Guinea gold fields, sold in Australia, is to be considered as profit and liable to taxation?
Dr.EARLE PAGE. - The ruling of the taxation commissioner is that the tax should be calculated upon the total proceeds receivable by the persons in New Guinea from sales of their gold in Australia. This means the amount payable to them after deduction of all expenses incurred in Australia in connexion with the handling, refining and sale of the gold.
– I have before me a resolution carried at the adjourned annual conference of the Women’s Service Guilds of Western Australia, reading -
That the Federal Capital Commission be approached with a request to set aside an area of land at Canberra for the future use of Australian W omen’s Commonwealth Organizations, thereby providing a centre for all such national bodies.
I shall be glad to know Avhether the Minister for Home and Territories is prepared to approach the Federal Capital Commission to ascertain whether such a request would be approved?
Mr.MARR. - The allotting of sites in the Federal Capital for the use of public institutions is receiving the consideration of the Federal Capital Commission. The representation quoted by the honorable member will be placed before the commission for its attention.
– Is it the intention of the Government to await the return of Senator Sir George Pearce, who was a delegate to the conference of the League of Nations, before it will permit any action to be taken, in Parliament or otherwise, to deal with the report recently submitted by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts ?
Mr.BRUCE. - The Government will, at the appropriate moment, communicate to this House its policy with regard to the report on the Australian Commonwealth Steamship Line recently submitted by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
– Is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government to despatch H.M.A.S. Melbourne overseas to be dismantled and broken up? Could not this work be done in Australia, and’ would it not be desirable to invite tenders for the disposal of the vessel after being; dismantled ?
Mr.BRUCE. - Some little time ago, a very full statement was made in connexion with the matter. It is proposed to send H.M.A.S. Melbourne to Great Britain to be broken up. That is very much more economical than to have the work done here, as it will be necessaryto send ratings to Britain to bring out our new cruisers. Those ratings will go on the H.M.A.S. Melbourne, and will gain useful experience ‘during the voyage,
– Speaking last evening on the second reading of the Electoral Bill, I referred to a statement that I said had been made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when he was Prime Minister, during the general election of 1917. I said that he had promised when inLaunceston to bring about proportional representation. I took the trouble this morning to look up one of the local newspaperreports of the time, and I shall read two short extracts from it. In the report of the right honorable gentleman’s speech, published in the Launceston Examiner of the 21st April, 1917, appears the following passage: -
I have a statement to make. Mr. Goodluck - who was the fourth Senate candidate in the National interest - asked me whether I was in favour of preferential voting. I said. I was (applause).. “Well,” he said, “If you are in favour of preferential voting, and will Bay so to-night,. I will withdraw my candidature. (Great applause ) .
Following upon that, the editor of the Examiner published with respect to thematter, a sub-leader in which the following sentence appeared: -
The candidate had received an assurance from the Prime Minister that if returned ha would introduce an amended Electoral Bill embodying the main features of the Tasmanian system, by which the choice of the electors wouldbe broadened, and there will be no necessity for limiting the number of candidates.
Whatevier may have been the right honorable gentleman’s intention in the matter, the people of Tasmania clearly thought that they were to have proportional representation in the Senate. As I said last night, I do not wish to do him an injustice, and, therefore, have made this statement.
– I am not quite clear, from what the honorable member for Bass has said, whether he thinks there was justification for the statement he made last evening; but on the merits of the case as set out by the honorable member, quite apart from the facts, there is no justification whatever for the assertion that Mr. Goodluck would have persisted in his candidature had I not promised to introduce proportional representation. There is no evidence of any such promise. Apparently, when asked whether I was in favour of preferential voting, I said that I was; but no relation, causal or otherwise, exists between preferential and proportional voting. From what I remember of the circumstances, Mr. Goodluck had not one chance in 155 of being returned, and he seized a convenient opportunity to back out.
– Notwithstanding the fact that there is already much unemployment in South Australia, an additional 2,000 men are to be dismissed from the Railway Department. Will the Government place as much Commonwealth work as possible in operation in South Australia without delay with a view to alleviating the unemployment problem in that State?
– Whenever, through any local circumstance, a period of unemployment occurs in a State, the Commonwealth endeavours to relieve it by pushing on with Commonwealth works that have been authorized in that State. The last instance of the kind was, I think, furnished when certain representations were made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) regarding Commonwealth works in that city. I can assure the honorable member for Grey that that policy will be pursued in the present case, if unemployment is acute.
Dr. Tilyard’s Visit
– In view of the investigations, interesting and valuable though necessarily cursory because of limitation of time, now being carried out by Dr. Tilyard, the eminent New Zealand entomologist, will the Prime Minister ask the New Zealand Government to extend the visit to Australia of this great scientist to enable action to be taken in concert by the Commonwealth and State Governments for the establishment of definite research plans?
– Steps are already being taken to utilize to the maximum, the services that Dr. Tilyard is prepared to render.
– Has the Prime Minister further information to furnish to the House in connexion with the operations of His Majesty’s Australian cruiser Adelaide?
– I have nothing to add to what I said in the House yesterday, except that the Government has received a further communication regarding the establishment of the base camp, which states that the work is being carried on and is practically completed - I refer to the base from which the party of police and volunteers are going forward in an attempt to bring to justice those responsible for the recent murders.
– Is the Treasurer now in a position to supply the information promised to the House some time ago regarding the use of British typewriters and preference to machines ‘of foreign make?
– Certain information has already been supplied, and the remaining particulars will be obtained in the shortest possible time.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state approximately how many recommendations have been received from the Tariff Board during the last twelve months?
– A great many have come to hand, and if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall have them counted.
– In the distribution of the sums received from wireless broadcasting licences payable to the various wireless distributing agencies, arbitration may be resorted to in those cases in which it is considered that the distribution is inequitable; but as such arbitration is likely to be an expensive and complicated proceeding, will the Government take into consideration the suggestion that it should itself first make an allotment of the licence fees in accordance with the special knowledge that it has, so as to leave arbitration as the last resort, thus saving trouble and expense?
– The licence fees are allocated to the various broadcasting companies by the Postmaster-General, and only when the two A class stations in a State are not prepared to accept the Minister’s allocation is arbitration resorted to.
Mr.FENTON. - As the broadcasting companies enjoy great revenues, will the Postmaster-General take into consideration a reduction of the fees charged to listeners-in ?
– The future control of wireless is now being considered by the Government, and an announcement will be made at an early date.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the telephone service between Sydney and Bega has broken down, and that such dislocations are frequent?Will the Minister expedite the construction of a new line?
– I was not aware of a breakdown in the line, but I shall have the honorable member’s statement investigrated, and instruct that the service be restored immediately.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received the report of the Tariff Board upon importations of crystal glass?
– The report has been received, and will be considered in due course by the Government.
-Can the Minister for
Trade and Customs inform the House of the nature of the Tariff Board’s report upon the request made by certain copper interests for a bounty on the production of copper? Has the Government considered the report, and, if so, when will its policy in regard thereto be made known?
– The report was received recently, and, in accordance with practice, will not be laid upon the table until it has been considered by the Government.
Despatch to the Solomon Islands.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement published in last night’s Melbourne Herald, that 150 seamen from H.M.A.S. Adelaide had been moved inland to occupy deserted villages, and would shortly move forward into hostile country? As the criminals must eventually surrender, will the Prime Minister see that, while justice is done, bloodshed is avoided? The ends of justice may be served without bloodshed if the Prime Minister will give an instruction that the seamen from the Adelaide shall not advance any further.
– I have no knowledge of the report referred to by the honorable member, but the fact is, as I told the House yesterday, that seamen from H.M.A.S. Adelaide have been landed at a base camp, and that they will not be moved from the base camp save with the express authority of the Commonwealth Government unless for the immediate protection of lives and property. The expeditionary force that is operating inland is composed of either police regulars or volunteers, and I am confident that every step will be taken by the British Government, which bears the responsibility, to ensure that justice is clone without unnecessary bloodshed.
– Some time ago a regulation was gazetted which provided that importations should not he eligible for admission under the preferential tariff unless they contained 75 per cent. of British labour and material. I understand that recently British iron and steel goods, which were declared to comply with that regulation, were not allowed to enjoy the advantage of the preferential tariff. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs explain what is the present position in regard to preferential duties?
– A law passed by this Parliament provides that goods from Britain must, in order to be eligible for the generous preference accorded to British goods, contain 75 per cent. of British labour and/or material. While I was in London a question arose as to whether certain exports from England of iron and steel did comply with that condition. I decided that the ordinary duty upon foreign goods must be paid on any importations that were suspect until proof was given to the satisfaction of our investigating officer in London that the goods did contain the required proportion of British labour and material.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make a clear statement for the information of those interested as to the position of the Performing Rights Association, and the rights of local halls and artists who contribute items at local country concerts. Is the Australian public to be bound to pay tribute to this association for ever?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member is of such intricacy thatit cannot be adequately dealt with in an answer to a question. The copyright law in all countries will shortly be discussed at an international conference in Europe, and it would be unwise on our part to take action at the present time which would exclude Australia from any international arrangement relating to this subject.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
” The Gallahansandthe Murphys.”
askedthe Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as. follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he state when applications were made to him in connexion with the following matters: -
For reduction of duty on electric floor polishers (domestic), electric ironing machines (domestic), electric hair dryers, electric fans (domestic and office type), electric washing machines (domestic) ;
for increase of duty on Ironclad air brake switches, Ironclad air brake switch fuses, and air circuit breakers ;
for increase of duty on paints, anticorrosive and anti-fouling;
for increased duty on white-lead, dry or ground, in oil; and will he give the dates on which the above items were sent on to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice- 1. (a) What was the total quantity of kapok imported to Australia last year? (b) What was the value of such imports? 2. (a) From what countries were the importations of kapok made? (b) What was the value of such importations from each of the countries in question?
– The information is being obtained as far as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– It is assumed that the honorable member’s questions refer to North Australia and Central Australia. On this assumption, I desire to make the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
In addition to the £400 per annum subsidy to the Finke River Mission, a loan of £500 free of interest for a period of ten years has been granted to the Mission to enable it to purchase bulls and make certain improvements. The loan is conditional upon the Mission expending £1,000 of its own funds on improvements.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - Will he supply the following information : -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether the annual grant has yet been paid to the Finke River Mission this year; if not, can he advise as to when the grant will be paid?
– No. Payment will be made as soon as a properly completed claim has been received from the mission. The mission is being asked to expedite the submission of the necessary claim.
asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Whether he has considered the advisability of granting a subsidy towards the public fund for cancer research throughout the Commonwealth ?
– I am obtaining a statement on the subject and will reply, in the course of a few days, to the question asked by the honorable member for Lilley.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it a fact that an aerial mail service is operating from Adelaide to Cootamundra; if so, will he give consideration to the extension of that service to Canberra, with a view to expediting the mail service from Western Australia and South Australia to and from the capital city?
– Aerial services come within the province of the Department of Defence. The attention of the Minister for Defence will be drawn to the honorable member’s question.
Saltern Creek, Queensland
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Such an offer was made by the Queensland Government, and is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
asked the Minister for
Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Act Amendment Act No. 471 of 1889 of the State of South Australia, in force in North Australia and Central Australia) : -
Any person who proves to the satis faction of the Government Resident that he has passed through a regular graded course of medical study of not less than four years’ duration in a British or foreign school of medicine, and has received after due examination from such British or foreign university, college, or body duly recognized for that purpose in the country to which such university, college, or other body may belong, a medical diploma or degree, certifying to his ability to practise medicine or surgery, as the case may be.
Transport Service - Housing - Expenditure
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Regarding the present omnibus service conducted by the Federal Capital Commission, will he give the following information for the past six months: -
the actual mileage for each month; (b) the cost per mile for each month;
the earnings per mile for each month;
the total cost each month;
the total earnings each month;
the capital value of each bus;
rate of interest taken into account ;
the total interest allowed each month ;
the percentage allowed on each bus for depreciation during each month ; and (j). the total depreciation each month?
– Inquiries are being made with a view to obtaining the details desired by the honorable member, and if they are procurable they will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Referring to his reply to the question by the honorable member for Darling on 28th October regarding the purchase of homes in Canberra by public servants whose houses in Melbourne were taken over by the Government, will he favourably consider the question of allowing an officer to make a deposit of £100 on a house in Canberra, the remainder of the money held, less interest paid on that amount, to be handed to the officer at the expiration of twelve months from the date of his transfer to Canberra?
– I am not prepared to ask the Government to favorably consider any variation of the arrangement under which the Melbourne homes of certain public servants were taken over that is not in consonance with the essential objects the arrangement was designed to serve. I would remind the honorable member that the terms and conditions of the arrangement were fixed after consultation with accredited representatives of the public servants, and that in every case in which a public servant has elected to come under the arrangement, the officer has specifically indicated his acceptance of such terms and conditions.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I am having inquiries made with a view to obtaining as soon as possible the information desired by the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What increases, if any, have there been in the value of the output of the Commonwealth clothing and textile fabric factories for the years 1023-24; 1924-25; 1925-26; and 1920-27 respectively ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The year 1925-26 is the latest year for which final figures are available. The indications are, however, that the figures for 1926-27, when completely available, will show a further substantial increase in the value of output.
asked the Minister in charge of repatriation, upon notice -
What increases have been granted in pen. sions to returned soldiers and the dependants of deceased soldiers since the rate of pensions was originally decided upon?
– I am obtaining the information desired by the honorable member for Henty, and will reply to his question as soon as the information is available.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be supplied as far as possible.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Mr. HILL (through Sir Neville Howse. - The information will be obtained and furnished at a later date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked, the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the Public Works Committee having reported adversely on the Canberra- Yass railway proposal, will the Government consider the advisability of co-operating with the State Government of New South Wales in the construction of a new road from Canberra through Tumut to Albury, thus saving 150 miles on the via Yass route to Melbourne, and 240 miles on the via Goulburn route which honorable members are compelled to travel at present?
– Until the Federal Aid Roads Agreement has been ratified by the New South Wales Parliament, the Commonwealth Government will not be in a position to discuss with the State Government of New South Wales any proposal for road construction.
– On 21st October, 1927, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following questions : -
Regarding the action in 1914 of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited v. the Commonwealth Government for, inter alia, alleged infringement of patents -
Did the terms of settlement include an undertaking on the part of the company to transfer to the Government certain Marconi patents, if so, were some of these patents found to be, in the opinion of the Crown Law authorities, valueless?
Is it a fact that certain of these patents axpired within a few months after the date of settlement of the action ?
Did the company undertake to hand over to the Government all patents the Goldsmidt system held by the com pan y in Australia; if so, is it a fact that it was within the knowledgeof the company at that time that they held none of the Goldsmidt patents, inasmuch as, in the month of March previously, the company had re-transferred them to the Telefunken Company - a German organization?
Did the Crown Law authorities write to the representative of the company directing his attention to the fact that the Goldsmidt patents had not been re-transferred; if so, what reply, if any, did the representative make to this complaint, and was it satisfartory to the Crown Law authorities ?
I am now in a position to make the following reply : - (a)The terms of settlement of the litigation in question contained an undertaking by the company to grant to the Commonwealth a licence to useall inventions covered by patents then owned by the company in respect of wireless telegraphy. I am not aware that any of these patents were found to be, in the opinion of the Crown Law authori. ties, valueless.
I have no personal knowledge of the matters in question, and these answers are based upon a search of existing records in the Attorney-Genpral’s Department, the Grown Solicitor’s office, and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Inquiries have also been made from the Department of the Navy.
– On the 21st October the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question: -
What is the amount of the annual revenue and expenditure (including the administration expenses for the separate States) of the following post offices: - Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart?
I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following information : -
The revenue collections and expenditure at the post offices concerned in respect of the year 1926-27 are -
The amounts shown as revenue include all collections at the chief offices irrespective of where earned. Under the heading “ Expenditure “ is included the cost of administration from head office, and operating the mail branch, chief telegraph office, central telephone exchange, and public counters, but not the cost of maintaining telegraph and telephone plant, purchase of stores, or conveyance of mails over railways.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Australia Act -
Central Australia - Ordinances of 1927 -
No. 9 - Encouragement of Primary Production.
No. 10. - Stock Diseases.
North Australia - Ordinances of 1927 -
No. 9 - Encouragement of Primary Production.
No. 10 - Stock Diseases.
.- I move : -
That, in the opinion of this House, section 24 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, 1908-26, should be amended to provide pensions for blind persons, irrespective of earnings.
To understand the spirit prompting the resolution, one has to examine the position of people afflicted with blindness, the tragic nature of which malady must be recognized by all who are enjoying their lives to the full. The unfortunate blind, frequently from the cradle to the grave, have to bear a cross of suffering which must draw from us our whole-hearted sympathy. At the same time, it is not merely sympathy that I ask for. I ask honorable members to treat our blind sufferers in an equitable manner. I admit that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act has been a boon to many so afflicted, but its effectiveness is marred by an anomaly which I now seek to eliminate. I have in my electorate an institute for the blind, which endeavours to employ blind people on a basis mutually profitable to the institution and the afflicted. Unfortunately, the act provides that a blind person must not earn in the aggregate an amount more than the basic wage - which in most States is £4 5s. When such a person has earned £3 5s., to which is added £1 under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, all incentive to continue working is taken from him. After that he is simply “working a dead horse,” working for the benefit of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, his aversion to continue working is quite natural. This tends to demoralize men who are, in all respects, excellent workers. It causes a .hold-up of the machinery at the different institutions, and cannot be regarded as being economically sound. The. additional expenditure involved by the approval of my resolution by this Parliament would be comparatively negligible. The Treasurer, when replying- a few weeks ago to a question of mine, stated that there were 1,792 blind people in the Commonwealth, and they were receiving approximately £91,000 a year under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. If those people received the £1, irrespective of their earnings, the amount involved would be £93,184 - approximately another £3,000. The payment of that amount would not place a burden upon the Treasury. It may be urged that if the £l were granted, irrespective of earnings, it would encourage other blind people to go into institutions and work.
If that happened, the Commonwealth would be well rewarded for forcing those men to take such a step, as it would be to the advantage of the community generally. There is another aspect of the matter. These men are endeavouring to set aside something for the time when they reach the winter of life, and are no longer able to work. They should be encouraged in their efforts, and the passing of my resolution would supply that encouragement. We frequently hear the catch cry, “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” The only way to materialize that is to encourage a man to work to his full capacity, by paying him for the volume of work he turns out. I appeal to the honorable the Treasurer to view the question from the point of view of equity, and I commend my resolution to the favourable consideration of honorable members.
.- I have much pleasure in seconding the resolution. It is one that should appeal to all honorable members, and it does not in any way raise a party-political question. Doubtless, honorable members on both sides of the House have, like myself, received communications from those administering the various blind asylums. Those people have made out a very strong case why we should give our support to this resolution. Recently I received such a communication, which put the case very succinctly : -
The affliction of blindness depreciates our commercial value, because it limits our choice of occupation and our earning capacity.
We cannot fail to realize the truth of that statement. The blind number only about 1,792, and,’ as no great sum is involved, the Government could readily agree to the concession, and thus allow them to earn whatever they can in addition to the pensions. Much can be said in favour of liberalizing the act generally. In addition to supporting the honorable member for Adelaide in his motion, I remind honorable members that serious anomalies are to be found in the act. To thousands of persons throughout the community the further amendment of this legislation is a matter of vital importance. The extra few shillings a week that might be given, if necessary amendments were made, would mean a great deal to those who are impaired in health and are unable to enter into active competition with able-bodied persons. One might say that the Commonwealth Government is indeed fortunate in having an efficient body of officers to administer the act. I believe that they have been specially selected for the work, and, if pensioners do not receive as much as they should be paid, no blame is attachable to those officers. For the first 28 days after pensioners, go into a hospital or other institution they receive no pension, although in their infirm state they need certain delicacies that they are now unable to provide. At the end of 28 days they are paid only 4s. a week, and the institution receives 10s. 6d. a week for each of them. As the pension rate is £1 a week, the Government thus saves 5s. 6d. on each pensioner who is in a hospital or other institution. The old people should receive the difference between 10s. 6d. and £1 to enable them to procure necessary delicacies, and have a small balance on leaving the institution.
– The honorable member may not discuss the administration of the act generally. The motion deals only with pensions for the blind.
– But I contend that the act is inadequate, and I should like to see the scope of the motion widened to provide for a general review of the whole measure. Not long ago the Treasurer said that that the difference between 14s. 6d. and £1 a week with respect to pensioners confined to institutions amounted to £40,000 a year. I suggest that he call a conference of the depute commissioners of pensions in the various States and obtain their views as to how the act could be advantageously amended. Quite apart from Government institutions, such bodies as the Rockhampton Benevolent Society care for blind persons, invalids, and others in receipt of the pension, and should get a more liberal allowance from the Commonwealth.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the whole subject of pensions.
– When the Minister deals with the suggestion of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates),
I hope that he will consider whether the act generally should be reviewed with the object of correcting anomalies. I shall bring these under the notice of the House on another occasion.
– All will agree that everything possible should be done to alleviate the position of those who, through any cause whatever, are debarred from the full use of their faculties. I suppose no section of the community makes a greater appeal to our sympathy than those who have been deprived of their sight; but, in. considering the subject of old-age and invalid pensions, regard must be had to the general effect of the scheme, so that equal justice may be done to all sections whose health may be impaired in any way. Australia has led the world in the granting of generous conditions for the old folk in the community, for the injured and for those deprived of their sight or the ability to earn their own living. The blind are treated more liberally in Australia than in other countries, and Parliament has shown itself ready, whenever an opportunity has occurred, to extend the concessions made. In the last five years the cost of invalid and old-age pensions has increased by practically £4,000,000, from about £5,400,000 to £9,400,000. At the present time it absorbs more than one-sixth of the direct and indirect taxation of the Commonwealth. The cost per head of the population is, roughly, £1 10s. 2d. as against 14s. in New Zealand and 14s.10d. in Great Britain. If a system as liberal as that operating in Australia were introduced in the United States of America, where the subject of pensions is raised now and again, it would cost £180.000,000 annually.
– Does the British figure include the unemployment dole?
– No. This year pensions in Great Britain will cost £32,760,000, or, roughly, about 14s. lOd. a head. Special consideration has been shown in the Commonwealth act for the blind, who comprise the only class now permitted to earn more than a very small sum over and above the pension. The act provides in section 24 that the total amount that can be earned, in conjunction with the pension, by invalid pensioners who are blind is £221 a year, or the basic wage, whichever may be the greater. That is, roughly, about £4 5s. per week. The words of the proviso in the section are -
Provided that in the case of a permanently blind person who is qualified under this act to receive a pension, the amount of pension may be at such a rate (not exceeding Fiftytwo pounds per annum) as will make the income of the pensioner and of the pensioner’s wife (or husband), together with the pension, equal to an amount not exceeding Two hundred and twenty-one pounds per annum,, or such other amount as is declared by any act, or by any authority constituted under an act, to be a basic wage for the portion of the Commonwealth in which the pensioner resides.
In New Zealand, where the pension is 17s. 6d. a week, the pensioner may enjoy an inclusive income of up to £3 15s. a week, as compared with £4 5s. in Australia. Honorable members must recollect that the blind also receive a considerable amount of sympathy and help from the public. Schools and institutions are established for their benefit, and the lot of many of them is very much better than that of persons with bad hearts, paralytics, persons who have lost both limbs, and tubercular subjects, whose pension is limited to £1 a week, and whose earnings may not be more than 12s. 6d.
– That amount is totallyinadequate.
– That may be so; but Australia is doing more for the invalid and old-age pensioners than is any other country, and any liberalization of the act should have regard to all deserving sections of the community. We should consider the cost of making not only the particular concession, advocated by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), but also similar provision for other classes.
– Will the proposed scheme of national insurance affect this matter at all?
– It will relieve one class, the temporarily incapacitated, who at the present time are suffering very great hardship. It is impossible for an invalid pension to be granted to an incapacitated person unless there is evidence that the incapacity is total and permanent. Many persons are incapacitated for two or three years ; they are excluded from the benefits of the existing law ; but in the national insurance scheme they will be provided for in a proper and methodical way. By reason of his past contributions a man will get his insurance payment quite independent of what he earns.
– Does the Treasurer propose to introduce the National Insurance Bill during this session?
– It will be introduced at the earliest possible moment. It is a very comprehensive measure, and requires a lot of preparation. At the present time, 1,792 blind persons are in receipt of pensions. Of that number, 1,596, or approximately 90 per cent, of the total, are being paid at the maximum rate of £52 per annum. In other words, the earnings of 90 per cent, of the blind are not interfering with the pensions payment, and, of the balance, it is estimated that at least half are receiving reduced pensions for causes other than income. Therefore, if the existing limitation were removed, it would merely increase the pensions of a few persons who are less in need than some other clases in the community. It is impossible to visualize at this juncture a complete change in the pension system, because of the enormously increased cost that would be involved. There are 53,350 invalid pensioners, and, if provision were made for the blind to receive a full pension irrespective of their earnings, it would be reasonable to enact that other deserving classes should be similarly dealt with. If all restrictions were removed, the increased burden upon the taxpayer would be enormous. This problem can be dealt with adequately only on a comprehensive basis under a national insurance scheme.
.- Despite the views expressed by the Treasurer, the general merits of the motion entitle it to the support of all honorable members. It does not require very much discussion. On a previous occasion, Parliament recognized the peculiar position of blind pensioners, and accordingly prescribed for them a higher earning power than that prescribed for other pensioners. Since then living costs have increased and circumstances have changed, and an inclusive income of £4 5s. is obviously inadequate to maintain a married man and his family. The terrible affliction of blindness, which is accompanied by various handicaps and expenses, warrants a larger earning power than is prescribed in the act. I commend to the Treasurer’s attention one aspect to which attention was drawn on a previous occasion by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), who, I regret, is not present, because he has manifested a keen interest in the treatment of blind pensioners. There is an anomaly in the present administration of pensions in that blind pensioners are prohibited from following certain avocations. They may sell newspapers without being interfered with by the department, but if they sell tobacco, cigarettes and matches, they lose their pensions. That is an unwarranted discrimination. One occupation is as honorable and respectable as another. I understand that the contention of the Pensions Department is that the selling of tobacco and matches is one form of alms-seeking; but those who have observed the activities of the blind in this way know that there is no warrant for the department’s prohibition. If the Government will not accept the motion, I hope that some action will be taken to discontinue the unjustifiable’ interference with the blind pensioners’ right to select for themselves a means of earning a livelihood. An eminently respectable and decent citizen named Christie in my electorate sells newspapers and desires to sell tobacco and cigarettes, but the department says he may do so only at the risk of forfeiting his pension. Whilst I commend the honorable member for Adelaide for the excellent motive which prompted him to propose this motion, I regret that it is not more comprehensive and does not draw attention to other injustices suffered by the pensioners. The amount which an ordinary pensioner is allowed to earn without suffering a reduction of his pension is limited to 12s. 6d. per week; that amount is totally inadequate. Such a limitation penalizes, instead of encouraging, men. who display energy in increasing their incomes. Some months ago a deputation waited on the Prime Minister, who promised to call for a report from the Commissioner of Pen sions. So far that report has not been received. Surely it should not take the commissioner so many months to make a report to the Government on this subject. From all parts of Australia I, in common with other honorable members, have received letters asking when the Prime Minister is likely to announce the Government’s decision. I hope that some announcement on the subject will be made very soon. It is regrettable that the Treasurer should ask that all these matters shall wait until the National Insurance Commission’s report is translated into legislation. We may have to wait months for that bill, and in the meantime the ameliorative proposal contained in the motion should meet with general acceptance. If honorable members opposite fear an undue increase in the pensions obligation of the Commonwealth, they should support the alternative proposal to increase the earning power of the blind pensioner from £3 5s. to some other amount more commensurate with the higher cost of living, and sufficient to enable him to maintain a wife and family in reasonable comfort. Instead of adopting a merely negative attitude, the Government supporters should suggest some constructive alternative. The best way to do justice to the blind, who, by correspondence, have supported the request made by the honorable member for Adelaide, is to waste no further time in discussion, but to vote upon the motion.
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the blind, who suffer the greatest affliction to which human flesh is heir. As the motion does not propose a greatly increased expenditure, I urge the Treasurer to open wider his already generous heart and include in the pensions payments those who be cause of their earnings are now ineligible. A blind person is in a different category from any one else; he must always be accompanied by some one to guide him. Any one who has lived in the country and been visited by blind canvassers must have been impressed by their absolute helplessness. At different times I have played lacrosse against the deaf and dumb. “ Although they suffer a tremendous handicap, they are not helpless, as the blind are. If for no other reason, pensions to the blind should be paid, irrespective oi earnings, because at least £1 a week is required to pay for the services of an attendant. The blind are in a category entirely different from that of other incapacitated persons, and I urge the Treasurer to agree to the motion.
.- I support the motion, and I feel certain that if a vote were taken irrespective of party, and of the statement of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), possibly every honorable member would agree to it. It is unfortunate that the Treasurer has seen fit to say that in the far-distant future some national insurance scheme will be introduced making some provision possibly for blind pensioners, because that statement will afford certain honorable members an excuse for voting against tu*5 motion. A vague promise of some relief later is little comfort or satisfaction to those who are afflicted with blindness. The Treasurer instanced the hardships suffered by those who are not permanently incapacitated, but he has taken a long time to consider their plight, and up to the present they have had little satisfaction. ‘
– They have had satisfaction to the extent of £4,000,000.
– The Government is squandering millions of pounds in Canberra and elsewhere, and yet it is unable to find money for blind persons who are in some cases absolutely destitute.
– This relief should be given before any remissions of taxation are made.
– That is so. The Government is remitting taxation to the wealthy land-owners of this country, and yet it cannot find sufficient money to give some relief to incapacitated persons. I know of one person who has had both legs broken and is now destitute and helpless; yet, because he is not permanently incapacitated he can obtain no relief. Again and again I have pointed out that quite a number of pensioners arc unable to live in their own homes, and because of that their pensions have been reduced by something like 12s. 6d. a week. Those are cases that certainly require attention. The blind are deserving of some consideration, because in some cases they have to pay for the services of an attendant and probably keep him as well. They are in a much worse position than many old-age pensioners.
– The blind soldiers are receiving a pension.
– They are receiving what they are justly entitled to. TJ lose who lost their eyesight on the battlefields of France are not worse off today than those who have lost their eyesight on the industrial battlefield, and we are pleading for them to be placed on an equality. I hope that the motion will be carried, and that the necessary relief will be given to the blind, who, after all, according to the Treasurer’s own statement, represent only 10 per cent, of those who are drawing, pensions. It is of no use to postpone the consideration of this subject until the national insurance scheme is submitted to the Government, because it may not be received for some time, and in the meantime many of these afflicted persons will probably have passed away. I hope that the motion wi il be agreed to, and that the unfortunate blind will be given substantial, relief.
.- I commend the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) for having moved this motion. He has placed his arguments clearly and briefly before the House, and has made an appeal that is difficult to resist. It is true, as the Treasurer has said, that many persons other than the blind are suffering great hardship, particularly those who are not permanently incapacitated. It is a great pity that they are not yet receiving the benefit of a pension. Others who are permanently incapacitated are receiving £1 a week and are unable to live upon it. I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide that the blind are in a category apart altogether from the rest of the community. They may not suffer so much as some others who are incapacitated, but they have an affliction that singles them out for special relief. Parliament has recognized that by allowing them to earn sufficient to bring their incomes to £4 5s. a week; but no one will claim that that amount is sufficient for them. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has mentioned “that the blind frequently employ attendants to guide them, or else keep some member of their family out of employment for that purpose. That, in itself, is a considerable financial burden. The Treasurer has stated that the national insurance scheme,, when introduced, will deal with all cases requiring attention. He used that argument after referring to the huge expenditure for pensions. I would point out to him that the establishment of an insurance scheme would not reduce that expenditure, because millions of pounds would still have to be found in Australia by Australians. If this country cannot afford to add to the present pensions bill, then it cannot afford to give additional benefits under an insurance scheme. The money comes out of the pockets of the people, whether it is contributed directly or indirectly. From a sound economic stand-point there is no difference. I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide, that those who carry on the blind institutions should be given every encouragement. Nothing adds to -the happiness of people afflicted with blindness more than being given something to occupy their minds, These institutions teach a number of trades, and it is a pity to discourage the blind by the restrictions that have been placed upon them. Whether we should grant them pensions irrespective of their earnings, is for the Treasurer to decide. I hope that the Government will agree to the motion, and will give some relief to those who are unable to look after themselves. After all, any expenditure in this direction would not be a heavy burden upon the community. The money would be kept in circulation, and the prosperity of the country would not be affected adversely.
.—I wish to make a few remarks, chiefly by way of a personal explanation. My previous opinions, as expressed in this House, have been referred to by honorable members opposite, particularly by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I should like to remind them that I have never in this House put forward a proposition similar to this motion. While I deeply sympathize with the blind, I think that a bald proposal to grant pensions irrespective of earnings opens up a big question; and, in view of the statement of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page)-, that this and other similar matters are being dealt with under the national insurance scheme, I think that there is every reason for this Parliament to hesitate before it carries a motion like this. My previous speeches in this House on the subject of the blind referred solely to the sellers of tobacco and matches. Those persons, twelve or eighteen months ago, were receiving no pension at all, and that was the subject of my complaint. I introduced a deputation from the Blind Association of New South Wales to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Sydney. I also placed the position before this House, but no notice was taken of my appeal. I know that the Deputy Commissioner himself reported favorably to the Commissioner in Melbourne, Mr. Collins, who was then in the unfortunate position of being Secretary of the Treasury, and also the Chief Commissioner of Pensions. Pensions were really a side line with him, and he could not understand the details of administration, or the questions of policy involved, in the same way as could the deputy commissioner. When a deputy commissioner, like Mr. Theggie, recommends this reform, and the commissioner in Melbourne turns it down, things seem to be a little topsy turvy. I should think that we ought to respect the opinion of the man who is best qualified to express one. Blind sellers of tobacco, cigarettes, and matches are denied a pension altogether because the commissioner says they are mendicants, but blind sellers of newspapers are permitted to receive pensions. That is a serious grievance with the blind people. If sellers of matches are mendicants, surely the sellers of newspapers are also. The reason given by the commissioner is that it is possible to trace the earnings of the man who sells newspapers. Information as to his earnings can be obtained from the news agency or the newspaper office from which he gets his papers, but it is impossible, says the commissioner, to trace the earnings of the seller of matches, cigarettes, and tobacco. I very much doubt if there is anything in that argument. The seller of matches cannot make a fortune; I do not think he can make anything like £3 5s. a week. He cannot be classed as a mendicant, as he offers full value for the money he receives. The only difference between him and the shopkeeper is that he is out in the open, and the shopkeeper is under a roof. I think the Treasurer should use his influence to see that the sellers of matches, cigarettes and- tobacco, and the sellers of newspapers, are placed on the same footing.
.- The Treasurer said that 1,596 persons were already in receipt of the full pension, and that only 10 per cent. were not receiving the full amount. I would remind the House that it will not cost the Commonwealth one penny more if this restriction is lifted. It will only mean that these people will be allowed to go on earning, instead of being made to stop after they have earned a specified amount. If this reform were brought in, it would provide an incentive to blind people to exert themselves usefully, and would enable them to obtain that recuperative enjoyment which a useful occupation provides. I have been in blind institutions, and I have noticed how much happier the inmates are when they are at work. It is a bad thing to restrict their earnings or their activities, and I hope the Treasurer will not place obstacles in the way of this proposed reform.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Order of the day for the resumption of the debate on motion in the name of Dr. Maloney, postponed until the 24th November.
Order of the day forresumption of the debate on motion in the name of Dr. Maloney, postponed until the 24th November.
Debate resumed from 13th October (vide page 523), on motion by Mr. Manning -
Thatit is essential for the proper development of Northern Australia that a railway be constructed from Bourke, New South Wales, through Central Queensland towards Cloncurry and thence across the Barkly Tablelands to a point on the north-south railway in the Northern Territory - the carrying of this resolution to be taken as an instruction from this House to the Government to approach the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland with a view of apportioning the expense of constructing this line between the Commonwealth and the States mentioned.
Upon which Mr. Gregory had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ constructed from” up to and inclusive of the words “ Northern Territory “ be omitted, and the words “ Broome or Derby starting in an easterly direction up to its junction with the north-south railway at or about Newcastle Waters, thence south of cast to Camogweal “ inserted in lieu thereof.
.- 1. rise to support the motion proposed by the honorable member, for Macquarie (Mr. Manning). The building of this railway is of the greatest importance to the pastoral industry of Queensland and New South “Wales. I regard the proposal as essential for the proper development of Australia. The construction of such a line is to me one of the most urgent public works requiring the attention of the Government. Australia has a huge burden in its national debt, which, on the 30th June last, was £461,067,000, the States’ debt being given at ,£641,334,000- a total debt of £1,102,000,000. That is a crushing burden of debt for a small population to carry. Fortunately our national credit is good, and that is due to our extraordinary potential resources. It should be the endeavour of the Government to lighten the burden in every possible way, and the best way of doing so is to develop our national resources. The building of this line will help in that direction. It could be constructed by utilizing some of the money made available to the Commonwealth under the migration agreement with Great Britain. It is imperative that we should develop our pastoral industries, which are of the utmost importance to Australia. For the years 1922-1926, inclusive, the average value of the overseas exports from Queensland was £19,700,000, 75 per cent, of which represented pastoral products. Statistics also reveal the fact that 40 per cent, of the income tax paid in Queensland dulling the last financial year was paid by those engaged in pastoral industries. The construction of this proposed line from the Northern Territory, across the Barkly Tablelands, through Camooweal, and the western districts of Queensland, to Bourke, in New South Wales, would greatly assist in developing our pastoral industries, and would, as a result, help to reduce our national debt. The proposal to build this line is no new one, it being first introduced in the Queensland Parliament by Sir Thomas McIllwraith, in 1883. Later it was again brought before the Queensland Parliament by the Hon. W. Kidston, in 1910, in a revised form. During the interval that has elapsed since, then the wisdom of putting the proposal into effect has been clearly demonstrated. The project has the approval of the Sec tiona! Committee of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee, which inspected the north-south railway route from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs and on to Darwin. Sir George Buchanan, K.C.I.E., who was specially, brought out from Great Britain by this Government to investigate the development of the Northern Territory, stated in his report - I feel satisfied that the development of the
Northern Territory must begin through Queensland, in the first instance, by the pastoral industries.
The history, of our pastoral industries indicates that the remote parts of Queensland were developed by means of the cattle industry, supplemented by the sheep industry. The one industry follows the other, each developing our back areas as it became established. The cattle industry has been the pioneer of the great wool industry. The great need of the cattle industry to-day is the provision of adequate transport facilities, and they would be provided by the construction of this line. Such facilities would make possible the conveyance f early matured stock from remote areas to our populous centres for consumption locally and overseas. At present cattle have to be kept two or three years longer than they should, in order to develop the constitution necessary to withstand the arduous journey from our remote pastoral centres to the populous areas in which they are sold. When they reach those markets they are sold at a price con- *siderably less than would have been realized had they arrived in good condition two years earlier. That procedure is economically unsound, and causes a national waste. Four-fifths of the population of Australia is clustered upon the east coast of the continent, and half of our population is centred in Queensland and New South Wales. Australians are great meat-eaters, and the establishment of the proposed railway would provide our population with meat at a reasonable price. The * lack of adequate transport facilities has greatly hampered the development of the pastoral industry. If our population continue to increase at the present rate and the pastoral industry makes no increase - it has made very little in recent years - it is stated that in ten years there will be a meat famine in Australia. Recently we had the absurd position of the Commonwealth Government granting a bounty on cattle exported from the Northern Territory, while stock was being imported from New Zealand into the southern States. The building of this line would end such absurdities. Further, it would be a great insurance against drought. At no time has the whole of the area traversed by the proposed railway been simultaneously subject to drought conditions. In 1914, the southern States of Australia were afflicted by drought conditions, and lost over 10,000,000 sheep, in addition to cattle and horses. Queensland, owing to good rains, was then like a garden of Eden. Last year Queensland had the misfortune to suffer a disastrous drought while New South “Wales enjoyed splendid seasons. On each occasion, had a method of transport such as would be afforded by this proposed railway been available for the conveyance of stock to well-pastured areas, these huge losses would have been avoided to a great extent. It is said, and statistics support the statement, that Australia loses £20,000,000 worth of merino sheep every four years through droughts, an amount which would have gone far towards meeting twice the capital cost of this proposed railway. In the interests of defence, the construction of this line is vital. The Northern Territory is the most vulnerable part of Australia, and is absolutely isolated. Over four-fifths of the population of Australia is to be found in the eastern States. The bulk of the men and material necessary for the defence of the Northern Territory in the event of attack would have to be drawn from there. The defence of Australia is the sole responsibility of this Parliament. “We owe it to the people of Australia to see that we carry out this trust. The construction of this railway, when viewed strategically, has the approval of our most eminent soldiers, including Sir Brudinel White.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the north-south line should first be dealt with?
– That line has the approval of this Parliament, and is part of an agreement entered into between the Governments of the Commonwealth and South Australia.
– An agreement too lightly entered into.
– I agree with the honorable member. I was unfortunate enough to travel over that lie to a point 60 miles beyond Oodnadatta, at a time when drought conditions . prevailed. I believe that we should concentrate on building lines which will serve a purpose more useful than will be served by the north-south railway. However, the project had the support of the Leaders of the Government and of the Opposition during the last election, when a pledge was gven by those gentlemen’ that the line would be constructed. That pledge must be honoured. The line proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie in no way competes with the north-south line. Each serves a distinct purpose in the development of Australia. I hope that the bright hopes entertained by the honorable members representing South Australia regarding the development of that State by the north-south line will be realized. The proposed line is essential to the development of the Northern Territory and of the pastoral industry in the large areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales, and the further development of this industry would help materially to wipe out the huge burden of national debt. The country through which the line would pass is, from a pastoral view-point, unexcelled. The line could be constructed quickly and economically, because the decentralized system of railways in Queensland, which has four distinct lines running from the coast to the centre of the State, and even beyond, could act as a feeder in connexion with its construction. No real opposition to the proposal has been offered. The only objection raised has come from honorable members from South Australia, who fear that the construction of the suggested line would interfere with the extension of the north-south railway beyond Alice Springs.
– No logical objection has been raised.
– That is so, and no ground exists for the fears of the South Australian members. This proposed line and the north-south railway serve distinct purposes, and each, I hope, will ultimately be built. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has moved an amendment to provide for the construction of a line from the Northern Territory to Broome or Derby, to’ serve the northern portion of Western Australia. Having heard the honorable member’s remarks, and having carefully perused the report of his speech, I have no hesitation in saying that it favours the construction of the line proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) ; but the honorable member for Swan suggests that the line to which his amendment refers should be constructed first. I have nothing to say against the proposal for the building of that line. In due course its construction also will, no doubt, be authorized. The most urgent matter awaiting the attention of the Government, however, is the building of the railway proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie. New South Wales and Queensland should bear their respective shares of the cost of the undertaking, and the carrying of the motion would be an instruction to the Government to open up negotiations with the governments of those States to decide a financial basis upon which this important national development work could be cooperatively carried out.
– I have great pleasure in supporting the motion. Previous speakers have indicated that a great saving of stock would be effected ‘in seasons of drought by the construction of the line.
– Would it be of greater benefit than the north-south railway?
– Yes. It is an entirely separate proposal. There is room for both lines, and, if the country were good enough, there would be plenty of scope for a third line between the two. The present proposal should not be regarded as an alternative route to the north-south line. Millions of stock have been lost in both New South Wales and Queensland because of the absence of such a railway. I take it that the work would cost £6,000,000or £8,000,000; but, divided between the Commonwealth and the two States concerned, that amount would not be too burdensome. It would be as nothing compared with the loss of stock that would be prevented during drought times. Queensland and New South Wales wouldeach have benefited to a greater extent than the total cost of the line through the saving of stock if the line had been constructed years ago. On several occasions the question whether the building of this railway should be delayed until after the construction of the north-south line has been raised. I say definitely that it should not. This is by far the more important project, and the country that it would serve is of infinitely better quality than the other. Many more stock would be saved in times of drought, and the line would open up the Barkly Tableland, which, with railway communication, would, I believe, carry from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 sheep, and would be capable of supporting a large number of successful settlers. Honorable members who know the difference between good country and bad would, on inspecting the Barkly Tableland, marvel, as I did, that the railway from Oodnadatta northwards was being built before the proposed line.
– But there was an agreement with South Australia.
– No mention was made in that agreement of the period within which the work should be carried out. The country north of Oodnadatta is not worth developing. In the one case we have practically waste land, and in the other a fine tract of country capable of supporting a thriving population. We know that our future meat supplies will be largely drawn from Queensland and the Northern Territory, and the proposed line will be required to enable them to be brought to the south and to the east. The line would pass through good grazing country that could be settled in much smaller areas than that on the other route. Plenty of water is obtainable by sinking for it. The amendment of the honorable member for Swan should not have been moved in connexion with the present motion, because it refers to an entirely separate work. If it were embodied in an independent motion, I should support it. I hope that the House will accept the motion, because the suggested railway would result in the saving of millions of cattle and sheep and the preservation of one of our chief national assets.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Paterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13th October (vide page 535), on motion by Mr. Jackson -
That, in view of the fast increasing death rate among the aboriginal tribes in Australia, and the urgent need for their protection against disease and other effects brought about by the populating of areas which for centuries have been their hunting grounds, a joint select committee be appointed to inquire into -
– I do not intend to enter into the discussion of any controversial matter in the few minutes remaining for the completion of my speech. I am definitely of opinion that our natives can be made self-supporting. Experiments could be made under competent super- vision on Melville Island, and other islands adjacent to the coast, which are exclusively inhabited by native tribes. If those natives were faught how to cultivate the soil, and realized that they were getting the full rewards of their labours, the younger generation, instead of being nomads, would become settled and self-supporting citizens. With such a policy, a system of partial segregation could be introduced. I am not convinced that complete segregation is possible; tribal customs and laws would make that very difficult. It might be practicable to segregate the younger natives, but long experience has convinced me that the older natives could not be so treated. No doubt a government anthropologist could collect a great deal of information of scientific interest regarding the natives, but such an appointment would not solve the problem that confronts us.. A committee of persons more or less acquainted with the habits and customs of the aborigines would probably present to this Parliament a report that would be of advantage to both whites and natives. But I urge the Minister not to wait for the appointment of such a committee before instructing the Chief Protector of Aborigines in tha north to see that all natives are removed immediately from the vicinity of the railway construction camps. I recollect the havoc that was created by the sexual intercourse of whites and natives during the construction of the railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River. The whites received medical attention, but I cannot bear to think of the results to the natives. The last thing natives want is medical treatment, and as soon as they find themselves affected with the red plague, they go into the bush and there spread the disease amongst their fellow tribesmen. The Minister should, therefore, instruct the Chief Protector to declare a prohibited area that in which railway construction work is now in progress, and to arrange for the medical examination of the natives with a view” to applying curative treatment to those already diseased. Although I have had long experience of the aborigines, I am definitely of opinion that they will not play a very big part in the development of Northern Australia. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) attributed to me a statement that Northern Australia could not be developed without the assistance of the aborigines. That is not my view. Contact with the whites only hastens the degeneration of the natives; therefore a system of partial segregation is the only one by which the native may be made a useful citizen. He cannot improve while liable to contamination and exploitation by the whites.
– What does the honorable member mean by partial segregation?
– It is impossible to segregate all the natives, but, as I have already indicated, those living on Melville Island and other islands near the coast could be segregated and taught cultural methods. The natives on an island would be all of one tribe, but if complete segregation were attempted by bringing together natives from the mainland and other islands trouble would develop at once.
– Would the natives accept exile?
– To those natives who were born on the islands it would not be exile. Those who have tried to exploit the timber, on the islands have always found the islanders who had migrated to the mainland willing to return to their homeland. Their homeland is .as much 1 to them as ours is to us. Even under existing conditions very useful work can be done to assist the natives and to remove them from contact with the whites. They could be employed on stations devoted to the breeding of stud cattle and sheep, for which there would be an unlimited market amongst the station-owners in Northern Australia. I hope that the Government will agree to the appointment of a committee to investigate the conditions of the natives, particularly in the far north. If any action is to be taken, now is the time, when many of the natives are still in virgin country and are uncontamin a ted by the whites. For that reason I cordially support the motion for the appointment of a select committee.
– A few days ago I presented to the House a petition signed by over 7,000 persons praying for the creation of an aboriginal state. I did not move that it be printed because I learned from you, Mr. Speaker, that such a motion would not be in order unless I intended to move, within fourteen days of its presentation, that effect be given to the petition. I have, however, interviewed the Chairman of the Printing Committee, which I understand will consider to-morrow whether the petition shall be printed. The treatment of the aborigines has exercised the minds of our people for very many years. Much legislation relating to them has been passed, but very little of it has been effective. To illustrate the governmental attitude in the early days of Australian settlement, I shall quote from a proclamation issued by Sir John Hindmarsh, Governor of South Australia, in December, 1836 -
It is also, at this time especially, my duty to apprize the colonists of my resolution to take every lawful means for extending the same protection to the native population as to the rest of His Majesty’s subjects, and of my firm determination to punish with exemplary severity all acts of violence or injustice which may in any manner be practised or attempted against the natives, who are to be considered as much under the safeguard of the law as the colonists themselves, and equally entitled to the privileges of British subjects. I trust therefore with confidence to the exercise of moderation and forebearance by all classes in their intercourse with the native inhabitants and that they omit no opportunity of assisting me to fulfil His Majesty’s most gracious and benevolent intentions towards them, by promoting their advancement in civilization, and, ultimately, under the blessing of Divine Providence, their conversion to the Christian faith.
That was the official attitude of the British Government at that time. Since then abuses have been practised against the natives until the population has dwindled from about 300,000 to about 60,000, mainly because of criminal neglect and sometimes criminal persecution. There is a general idea that the aboriginal of Australia is of a very low type, some persons going so far as to say that he is the lowest type of human being in the world. I shall quote, not my own opinion, but that of persons who have lived amongst the natives and studied their habits. Dr. Basedow says -
The two mightiest tribes which ever lived in Australia lived in the lower Northern Territory, viz., Arunndta and Aluridga. Intellectually these tribes, especially the former, take. a. foremost place amongst all primitive groups.
Captain S. A. White, of South Australia, says - ,r
The Australian aborigines are the greatest naturalists that- ever were, or ever will be.
The wonderful intellectual growth of the Australian aborigines, their astonishing system of automatic government, and their wise laws and complete system of philosophy have been referred to by Dr. Chewings, Sir Arthur Keith, Dr. Andrew Lang, Dr. Basedow, Dr- Ramsay Smith, ti rid other eminent anthropologists. Bishop Gilbert White, who for a number of years was Bishop of Carpentaria, is one of the greatest authorities on the blacks, and he said that he did not believe that the Australian aboriginal was the lowest of the various races of the world. The innate degeneracy theory as to the Australian aborigines has been exploded by Mr. Pitt-Rivers, also by Dr. Basedow, Dr. Ramsay Smith and other anthropologists. In 1S26 Surgeon Cunningham, in his book “ Two weeks in New South Wales,” wrote that the aboriginals were a stately, healthy race, easily civilized. All accounts from 1820-1850 refer to the aborigines in similar terms. There is no doubt that the native has deteriorated both morally and physically because of contact with the whites. Mr. Buckley at the Inland Mission conference stated : -
Before the entrance of the white races, the aboriginal was an upright and clean man, both morally and physically.
According to information solicited from the oldest and most intelligent of the natives, neither syphilis nor gonorrhoea was known prior to the occupation of this country by Europeans. There is abundant evidence from many sources on that point. The western Aluridga and Wonga Pitch a tribes inhabiting the Petermaim and other ranges are free from those diseases because they have not come into contact with whites. [Quorum formed]. One of the principal reasons for the rapid decline of the blacks is the lack of protection by governments. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) is in sympathy with the natives, and I think that he will do everything that lies within his power to give them some reliefHe will be responsible, however, if things are allowed to go on as they are. I have mentioned the sufferings of the natives as a result of disease, but only recently in Western Australia there was an occur- rence to which the Advertiser refers in these words -
What may be called the Kimberly atrocities may well set the cheeks of humane people everywhere aflame with indignation, and they will certainly supply the friends of the aborigines throughout the Commonwealth with a text for much eloquent discourse. Mr. G. T. Hood, S.M., the royal commissioner, leaves to others the apportioning of the guilt, but lie finds the evidenec conclusive that eleven aborigines were shot and their bodies burnt. Perhaps something may yet be learned about the nineteen other blacks who, in the commissioner’s opinion, probably shared the fate of the eleven.
If it came to the ears of the people of Australia that about 30 white people had been shot down, there would have been a great deal more notice taken of it than was taken of these atrocities. Just because the victims were black people, and because, in the opinion of some people the sooner the natives die out the better, the country is prone to take little notice of occurrences of this nature. They say, “ Oh, it was only a blackfellow.” Here is a further comment from Mr. Arthur James Vogar, F.R.G.S. :-
In 1889-90 I wrote my book, Black 1’oUcn, obtainable in your public library. I then calculated that about 5,000 natives had been rounded up arid killed by native police within three or four years, and twice that number had been poisoned, shot, or otherwise destroyed by settlers.
Dr. Ramsay Smith, M.D., D.S.C., P.R.S., said-
The problem of what to do with the race, the most interesting at present on earth, and the least deserving to be exterminated by us, and the must wronged at our hands, is not a difficult one to solve, were a solution really desired.
Further, he goes on to say -
What .might have been the position of the Australian blacks to-day if we had not been too much engrossed with our own affairs to give them the proper kind of help?
The individual treatment meted out to some of the natives is very bad, and here is a typical example. It is the case of a black boy who was engaged in breaking colts. He was thrown and rolled on. The result was that his leg was broken, he was unable to work, and was dismissed. Much excellent work is being done amongst the natives by the Hermannsberg Mission. If our governments in the past had been actuated by the same high motives, and had carried on the same good work, we would not now be before the courts of the world answering a charge of neglecting the black people of Australia. Referring to the blacks controlled by this mission, Dr.H. Basedow said - “ The state of health of the blacks is excellent, and the condition of the camps thoroughly hygienic.” This mission tackled the problem of looking after the blacks in the most difficult part of the Commonwealth. They have been in their present position since 1877, before the completion of the line as far as Oodnadatta. Even since the completion of that line in 1890, they are still over 300 miles from the railway. Only last week I received figures from the chairman of the mission, stating that the railway charges for supplies for one year amounted to £190, and the charges for camel freight came to over £500. The mission was established in 1877 by two men, Missionaries Kempt and Schwarz. It has established a church there, which was built over 30 years ago, and there are, in addition, some splendid station buildings. It grows all sorts of vegetables, and the station work is done, to a great extent, by the male aborigines. Thesemen do cattle mustering, colt breaki ng, and other outdoor work. The women are taught sewing and domestic duties. I wish to pay a tribute also to the work of Pastor Strewlow, who gave his life to helping the aborigines. He mastered their language so successfully that he was able to complete a translation of St. Luke’s Gospel into the Arunndta tongue. Unfortunately, he stayed at his work too long, and died shortly after leaving the mission to recuperate. When we find devotedmen of this kind prepared to sacri fice so much for their ideals, surely it is not too much to ask that we should do something to tackle this problem, even if it should cost the Commonwealth something to do so. Now let me touch on the subject of the establishment of a native State. It was not my idea, but I fear that that there are some honorable members who have a wrong idea of what this aboriginal State means. Some people have the idea that we who advocate an aboriginal State wish this House to pass a resolution to-morrow, and start the State the next day. We have no such desire; but we say that the time is over-ripe when a beginning should be made with the establishment of such a State.I shall quote from the Daylight -
The story of the inception and development of the Dearfield negro colony in Colorado, United States of America, is one of inspiration to any one who has ever given thought’ to the possibilities of teaching the coloured man the lesson of self-help, and thus enabling him to raise himself from the rank ofunskilled labour and make of himself a successful competitor in the world’s business. Its founder was O. T. Jackson, who was the descendant of slaves on one side of the family, and he is leader to-day. The property values of the settlement now amount to over three-quarters of a million, and some of the negroes are men of much wealth. Realizing the advantages of co-operation, it is proposed to acquire, as a community, a quantity of farm equipment, including machinery of the larger and more expensive type. Within a short time, it is believed, the settlers will be able to purchase farm tractors, trucks, harvesters, and threshing machines to be owned by all, and used for the best advantage of the entire colony.
We are also familiar with the establishment of the republic of Liberia, where each native was given a grant of land of about 30 acres. The British Government showed its sympathy with the project by giving the State a warship for its use and protection. The manifesto of the proposed Aboriginal State is signed by a number of eminent persons, whose opinions should weigh with honorable members. On the committee I noticed the names of Rev. Dr. Seymour, Dr. W. Ramsay Smith, Rev. A. C. Stevens, Ca.pt. S. A. White, Prof. Darnley Naylor, Mrs. J. Carlile McDonnell and others.
I ask leave to continue my remarks on a later occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
The Government feels that, in order to cope with the volume of business, it will be necessary for Parliament to meet on Tuesday of next week. I mention this in order to give honorable members an opportunity to make their arrangements accordingly.
House adjourned at 5.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 November 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271103_reps_10_116/>.