10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
– I should like to know if the Prime Minister has seen in the press statements regarding a condition of things upon which I have submitted questions to various Ministers, namely, the serious position of the steel and galvanized iron industry in Newcastle, brought about by heavy importations, as a result of which, before Christmas, many men will lose their employment not only in my electorate but also in South Australia and Tasmania?
– I have seen newspaper reports of a certain amount of industrial dislocation in Newcastle, which is attributed to the cause the honorable member has indicated.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if steps are contemplated to improve the acoustic properties of the chamber? It is impossible for most of the honorable members of the Opposition to hear what is said on the other side of ‘ the chamber.
– As a result of complaints previously made, the matter was brought under the notice of the chairman of the Federal Capital Commission, who, having consulted the best experts available, appeared before the House Committee the other day, and submitted a report detailing the methods he thought could be adopted to improve the acoustic properties of both chambers. The House Committee approved of that report, and the commission, being duly authorized, will now take the matter in hand.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) on the ground of ill health.
Refunds of Duty
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Have arrangements yet been finalized by the Department in connexion with applications for refunds of duty on petrol used for civil aviation purposes?
– Yes. The necessary instructions have been sent to the State Collectors of Customs.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Commissioner information as to the exact date when the two grammes of radium bromide will be delivered to the Commonwealth Government ?
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Regarding the amount of customs duties that are raised for protective purposes and for revenue purposes, will he give the main items included in those two groups?
– The desired particulars will be prepared and supplied to the honorable member as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
For the year ended 30th June, 1927, what was thevalue of -
For the year ended 30th June, 1927, what was the amount of duty collected on (a) food, (b) wearing apparel, (c) textile fabrics, of a description not manufactured in Australia?
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information so far as it is available is being collated and will be supplied as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soonas possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Inquiry will be made and the desired information will be supplied to the honorable member as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and furnished as soon as possible.
Concession Fares to Melbourne
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the isolation of several public servants and their families, who have been transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, he will favorably consider the matter of granting special railway reductions in fares, or giving passes to enable them to rejoin their relatives during the Christmas vacation?
– The matter is at present receiving consideration.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– On the assumption that the honorable member’s questions refer to Western Australia, the answers are as follow : -
Mr. A. GREEN asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has Mr. Murnane yet furnished his report on the result of his investigations into the Buffalo fly pest in the north-west of Western Australia and the Northern Territory?
If the report has been furnished, has it been printed and will it be laid upon the table of the House?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Mini nster, upon notice -
Having regard to the following extract from the report of the Royal Commission on Wireless, viz. : - Considerable objection has been expressed to direct and indirect advertising by “ A “ class broadcasting stations. As “ A “ class broadcasting stations receive revenue from listeners’ fees, and “B” class stations receive no such revenue, the Commission is of opinion that all forms of advertising by “ A “ class stations in States where “ B “ class stations are operating should be prohibited, and in all cases strictly regulated. Will the Government take immediate steps to prohibit direct and indirect advertising by “ A “ class stations, and so enable “ B “ class stations to operate on a better and more equitable financial basis?
– The position of the various broadcasting stations is at present receiving the consideration of the Government.
Dr. Cooke’s Report. mr.A. GREEN asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice
When will he be able to lay on the table of the House the report of Dr. Cooke’s inspection of natives in the north-west of Western Australia?
– I am making inquiries and will let the honorable member know as soon as possible.
– On the 17th instant, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) asked me, upon notice -
I have pleasure in furnishing the following replies: -
The following papers were presented: -
Development and Migration Act - First Annual Report of the Development and Migration Commission for period ended 30th June, 1927.
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board Reports and Recommendations -
Hoodlights for Motor Cars.
Kit Bag Frames. Attache and Suit Case Pins, Barrel and Socket Bolts.
Panchromatic Plates for Process Engravers.
Pyrene Fire Extinguishers and liquid for refilling Extinguishers.
Ordered to be printed.
.- I move-
That Government business shall take precedence of General Business to-morrow.
As honorable members are aware, tomorrow is private members’ day, but as we are now in the middle of the budget discussion and it is proposed to go straight ahead with the estimates, the Government thinks that the discussion should not be interrupted by the intervention of private business. Furthermore, as this debate provides full opportunity to honorable members to discuss any and all matters upon which they may wish to speak, the need for setting aside a day for private members’ business is not quite the same this week as it would be in ordinary circumstances.
.- I realize that there is much important work to be done before the Christmas vacation, but at the same time there are on the business-paper important motions in the name of private members that should receive consideration at the earliest opportunity. Already some honorable members have been waiting for quite a long time for an opportunity to have their motions discussed. I do not know whether it is the intention of the Prime Minister to deprive them of that opportunity for the remainder of the session.
– The motion applies to to-morrow only.
– But there will be a long adjournment within three or four weeks, and next private members’ day will fall on a day very close to that on which we shall adjourn. I quite agree that there is scope on the budget and the estimates for honorable members to air grievances, but there are some motions on the business-paper standing in the name of private members that require a direct vote of the House, and it is only fair that opportunity should be given for an expression of opinion upon them. I do not wish to mention all the motions on the business-paper standing in the names of private members and, in order not to make an invidious distinction, I take the first in order, which is as follows : -
– To move: That all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Forces who served overseas and have since developed tuberculosis shall be deemed to be suffering from a war disability and be eligible for pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
There is much to be said in favour of that motion. Many honorable members have had brought under their notice cases of ex-members of the Australian
Imperial Forces who have deve loped tuberculosis. However, I do not wish to take up the time of the House. I submit that the Prime Minister should make some statement to the effect that opportunity will be given for the discussion of private members’ business before the House adjourns for the Christmas vacation.
– All that I am moving now is that Government business shall take precedence of general business to-morrow. The next private members’ day will fall on the loth December, and honorable members will not be deprived of the opportunity to discuss private members’ business on that day unless the Government, later, takes action in that direction. For the present the rights of private members are safeguarded, and if, subsequently, the Government proposes to deprive honorable members of the opportunity to discuss private business on the 15th December, it will be for the House then to determine whether it shall be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply(Considera tion resumed from 22nd November (vide page 1704), on motion by Dr. Earle Page-
That the first item of the Estimates under Division I. - The Parliament, namely, “The President, £ 1,300 “ - be agreed to,
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved by way of amendment (vide page 1414) -
That the item be reduced by £1.
.- I do not know whether any apology is due by me for the length of time that I occupied in speaking last night, but I hold that my action was justified because of my deep anxiety respecting the future of this country, and the dangerous position into which we are drifting. Last night I quoted from a statement by Sir David Gordon, who has just returned from the Economic Conference at Geneva, in which he pointed out the problems before us and the need to face them courageously. I quoted also from a policy speech that the right honorable member for North Sydney made when the full responsibility of Australia rested upon his shoulders. In it he pointed out that production could not be carried on at a loss, that no one would engage in enterprise unless there was a reasonable prospect of success, and that unless the workmen of Australia produced more, high wages could not be maintained. The right honorable gentleman also said that we cannot get from industry more than we put into it. I quoted from a statement by Mr. Swinburne, a gentleman who is highly respected in Australia, to the effect that in no other country in the world is the cost of production so high as it is in Australia, and he wondered why the primary producer had not received more consideration from this Parliament. I quoted the statement of the Manufacturers’ Association that the only remedy that it could suggest for the present state of affairs was to place an absolute embargo on all goods coming to Australia except under licence granted by the Minister for Customs. I also quoted from a statement of the Leader of the Opposition himself, in which he spoke of the great amount of unemployment in Australia to-day. We must face the economic situation into which we have so unfortunately drifted. If we attempt to defy all economic considerations and if Parliament continues to pass laws which interfere with the proper development of this country, wo shall have to pay a penalty much greater than what we are paying to-day. The imposition of high duties increases the cost of living, and that, in turn, increases wages. If the cost of living is high and the value of money not so great as it. was before, it is our duty to see that those on the lower wages are to some extent protected. The’ cost of living cannot increase without affecting the cost of production. We have instances of this day after day in respect of industries employing thousands of people. Many of our activities are closing down The mining industry is suffering severely, the timber industry is going to pieces, and all- sorts of demands are being made by those engaged in the dairying industry. The vicious circle is widening, and goodness knows how things will end unless
We change our policy.
– What policy would the honorable member suggest ?
– I shall tell the honorable member. As the Prime Minister has properly said, when honorable members complain about the Government’s financial proposals, it is their responsibility to suggest some effective remedies. We need some drastic reforms in Australia, and I hold that the Government is on its trial before the people. I. do not think that the honorable member for South Sydney will agree with me when I give my opinions as to what ‘ is needed. In the first place, economy in government is essential. I halve no wish to traverse the figures th:at have been placed before honorable members, but from them it is evident that there is great need for economy. If the Government will only set an example to the people, they will, I am convinced, effect economies in their turn. We should place a limitation upon borrowing. The United States of America has reduced its war debt by £1,500,000,000, Great Britain by £190,000,000, and Canada by £13,000,000, while Australia since the war has increased its public debt by £309,000,000. Undoubtedly we have borrowed too extensively since the war, and some limitation on borrowing should be imposed. We should reduce duties, especially those that are oppressive on both workers and primary producers. The effect of the increase in the cost of living in- Australia has been to build up huge monopolies. No one can deny that agreements have been entered into between manufacturers and traders. Unfortunately, the great majority of honorable members have become used to the practice of wholesale and retail merchants passing on the additional cost of the tariff to the customers. Enterprise in the cities, because of arbitration awards, is able to pass on any increase in the cost of commodities. But that is not possible in the case of the primary producer. It is unfair to favour one section of the community at the expense of another. High duties tend to destroy efficiency and competition, whereas we should give every incentive to” efficiency in production. There is no doubt that we have to a great” extent destroyed efficiency by the hot-house methods we have adopted to promote industries. As I pointed out last night, any advantages that may have been gained during the last 10 or 15 years because of the construction out of loan moneys of magnificent works, such as railways, harbours, power and other schemes,has been nullified by the decrease in production, which to-day is less than it was in 1911. I have taken from the statistical records some figures relating to the boot industry, which has been protected, in Victoria at any rate, for over 14 years.
– Australia makes the best boots in the world.
– Yet we cannot sell them outside Australia. In 1910, 13,810 employees turned out on the average 844 pairs of boots per man. In 1925, when I should imagine far better machinery was in use, 21,220 employees turned out 687 pairs of boots per man, this being 157 pairs less perman than in 1910; yet the value of the output in 1910 was £3,400,000 and in 1925 £9,800,000. Take soap and candle-making, highly protected industries, in regard to which I could obtain figures for only 1910 and 1920. Their employees, in 1910, numbered 1,600, and in 1920, 2,008. The output of soap in 1910 was 617,000 cwt., and in 1920, 602,000 cwt. Therefore, in 1920, with over 400 additional employees, the output was slightly less. The output of candles in 1910, ‘was 16,000,000 lb., and in 1920 only 9,750,000 lb. The value of the output in 1919 was £1,420,000, and in 1920, £2,940,000, or an increase of £1,520,000 for less output. Although I admit that the candle industry has to some extent been affected by the extensive use of electricity, these figures show loss of efficiency, and are a fair exposition of the facility offered by the tariff of passing on the cost and enabling the manufacturer to exploit the public. In view of those figures how canwe expect to export secondary products from Australia? It cannot be submitted that those two secondary industries have been of any great advantage to Australia. We must reduce duties because the cost of production is becoming too high for primary production to bear.
It is also essential that the Navigation Act should be amended. An appeal was made to the Prime Minister the other day for a partial amendment of the act, but it must be amended sufficiently to get rid of its coastal provisions. Western Australia purchases from the Eastern States from £8,000,000 to £9,000,000 worth of goods annually. It was stated by a judge of the Arbitration Court recently that freight from Melbourne toFremantle was more than from Melbourne to London. Western Australia has to contend, not only with high freights, but also with high costs of manufacture, clue to increased duties. How can that State prosper under such conditions? I hope that on private members’ day honorable members will be compelled to decide, by vote, whether the coastal clauses of the act are to continue. Our arbitration laws should be amended. The Scottish Commission, when it visited Australia, said that in no other country in the world was there such antagonism between employer and employee as there was in Australia, and that undoubtedly is due to the arbitration laws. It is absolute stupidity to ask a judge, no matter how able he may be, to fix the rates and conditions for employees in our railway services. This country will never prosper under a high tariff, restrictions on navigation and present industrial conditions.
– Will the honorable member explain why the importers have increased the price of iron?
– The honorable member should explain why the Minister for Trade and Customs increased the duty on binder twine. This Parliament should be supreme. Binder twine is, according to the tariff, to enter this country at 6s. a cwt., but the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has decided that Belfast binder twine is not binder twine and cannot be allowed to enter at that rate. It is not binder twine because some people have had the impudence to sew up some bags with it! The result is that the duty on all first-class binder twine coming into the country has been increased by nearly ten-fold. Referring to our industrial laws, I desire to see the Canadian method of conciliation, substituted for our Australian arbitration system of dealing with industrial disputes. We are not justified in continuing our costly and cumbersome arbitration machinery for any longer than can be helped. In my opinion it is immoral to retain upon the statute-book a law which is enforceable against one section of the community but not against the other. It is very well known that a number of industrial organizations are to-day taking control of our industries. In defiance of arbitration court awards and wages board determinations they disregard the laws of the country.
– What does the honorable member propose to do about it?
– I should be very glad to do my part to repeal our arbitration legislation if those for whom it was designed will not abide by it. These industrial organizations are practically holding the country to ransom. The members of the Waterside Workers’ Union say that this steamer may not work here, and that the other may not work there; and they do this in spite of liability to a heavy penalty. Then again they say “ We refuse to work overtime “ although they know very well that there is a great deal of unemployment throughout ‘ the country. These irresponsible persons, are,, as a matter of fact, striking at the vitals of industry in Australia, and. honorable members opposite who claim to represent them have not a word to say against it. The Government was returned to power with a great majority and a special mandate to enforce industrial peace. To-day it is before the bar of. public opinion; it has an imperative duty to perform. Revolutionary methods are being adopted, the laws of the country’ defied, irresponsible organizations usurping parliamentary functions, the trade of the country held at ransom with “disastrous results to the nation and consequent unemployment among its people. I urge the Government to act at once in sUCh a way that the people will see that it intends to be supreme and not to bc over-ridden.
I should like now to say a few words respecting the State of Western Australia.
An article which appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald under the heading “A Land of Romance “ described the wonderful developments that are occurring iu that State. The mining industry there hasdeclined, but we are opening up an area of first, second and third class agricultural land, equal in size to the State of Victoria, which runs from 30 to 40- miles north of Northhampton to the fringe of the gold mining country at Southern Cross and ‘ right up . to Esperance. Ten or fifteen years ago no one would have dreamed- of putting men on this land. I did not think that wheat would grow within 100 miles of it, but large areas of it have since .given an average yield of 20 to 22 bushels per acre. It is said with truth that the great needs of Australia are increased population and increased production. Under reasonable conditions Western Australia can do a great deal to meet both these needs; but we have a large area of second and third class land. It is essential tha*; the cost of working this poor quality country shall he reduced. The people who go upon that land - which is a wool and wheat proposition - need cheap superphosphates and material, and economical . transportation of their products to the markets of the world. I am sure that every honorable member must be glad that this development is occurring, but I assure them that they must assist to make the conditions reasonable to permit it to continue. The results that have been obtained so far have been so remarkable that men who a few years ago could hardly provide food for their families are now able to pay holiday visits to distant parts of the world. I know of one farmer who fifteen years ago was impoverished and who has land that is now worth £30,000. He has 200 horses and 16 harvesters to assist him to carry on his operations. But the average wheat yield in Western Australia is 2$ bushels per acre less than the average yield in the eastern States, while this will improve with better farming methods, and it ia essential that something shall be done to assist our producers to overcome that handicap. We cannot build up a large, prosperous, and contented population there on sops. In my opinion it is absolutely essential to the success of Western Australia that she should bc given complete control of her tariff for twenty-five years. If something of that nature is not done, secession is our only remedy. I am a federalist and I believe in federation ; but the people have the right to some control of their own destinies, and it cannot be expected that Western Australians will be willing for all time to pay tribute to the people in the other States.
– The people of Western Australia have never been so prosperous before as they are now.
– I do not know about that. It must not be forgotten that a wonderful harvest is being experienced over there, whereas the harvest in the eastern States is poor. But we should be stupid if we looked only at the silver lining. There is always danger that prices for wool and wheat will fall. We have surely had sufficient experience to know that. I trust that the Government will take its courage in both hands and assume the full responsibility of governing this country. It should no longer permit outside organizations to dominate and control our industries. Honorable members opposite must know that when trade and commerce are obstructed unemployment, misery and destitution follow, and the poorer section of the. community is always most heavily hit when that occurs.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) painted a doleful picture of the outlook of Australia. He said some things with which I agreed, but I am entirely unable to accept his deductions from the facts which he stated. As usual he discussed the position of the secondary industries in this country, and for the first time, to my knowledge, he admitted that the establishment of the iron and steel industry here was vital to our national welfare. He was not correct in giving to Hoskins and Company the credit for “being the pioneers in the industry, although he was quite accurate when he said that the workmen who are to-day engaged in this great industry at Newcastle are the most proficient in the world. That admission was made by a leading American general manager, who has had control, in the course of his life, of hundreds of thousands of ironworkers in the United States of America. Seeing that the honorable member made such an admission, I was unable to understand his doleful cry that Australians cannot and will not work.
– The doleful cry comes from the manufacturers who want more protection. I have always said that the Australian is a first-class workman when he is left alone.
– It is good, at times, to hear such admissions. The history of the establishment of the iron and steel industry in Australia is romantic. It is a continual surprise to me that it has been established here in view of the extraordinary opposition* which its pioneers encountered. The first man who built an iron furnace in Australia was an Englishman named Sutherland, who found the iron ore in the Lithgow hills and immediately took steps to manufacture it. After he had established his furnace he visited certain importers in Sydney, who at the time were practically the sole distributors of iron and steel in this country, and said to them, “If I put locally-manufactured bars in your racks, will you try to sell them for me? You may pay me as you sell them.” They absolutely refused to do so. They said, “We will buy you out if you like, but we will , not sell your products. If you continue manufacturing them we shall crush you out of existence.”
– What object could it have had in making a statement of that description ?
– The proprietors of the concern were Britishers, and they desired to keep the market for the.British manufacturers. Mr. Sutherland went “ back to Lithgow and blew up his furnace. Years afterwards a Mr. Sandford built up a lucrative business there. He established rolling mills and rolled scrap metal from which he made crossings, black sheet iron, and so on. Later he erected a blast furnace and produced merchant iron and steel for the first time in Australia, and he was the first successful pioneer.
– Mr. Sandford made a success of this industry under an almost freetrade tariff and with a third or fourth rate plant.
– No ; he imported from England thebest experts available; but from its inception the industry has been handicapped in many ways.
– It has had to meet an increase of 300 per cent. in the price of coal.
– I admit all that, but the principal difficulty is traceable to the neglect of the employers to make adequate provision for coal supplies. They are now endeavouring to secure control of a coal mine. Another handicap has been the number of rigid tests applied to the Australian product. No fewer than 22 tests are made in connexion with the manufacture of steel rails, from the time the ore enters the furnace until the finished product is placed on the stack.
– Has the honorable member read the report of the New South Wales royal commission on those tests?
– The report has no bearing upon my argument. My point is that the Australian product is subjected to a greater number of tests than is the imported steel product. The American rails have to pass only four tests. An American manufacturer stated recently that if the Australian conditions were imposed upon the steel industry in the United States of America, it could not carry on. It is admitted that the Australian steel rails and galvanized iron are the best in the world.
– Australian steel is being used at the small arms factory.
– That is so. During the war considerable consignments of Australian steel rails were sent to France, and when no galvanized iron was being made in Australia the price of the imported product rose to £70 and £80 a ton. I did not hear the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) condemn that increase in price by the importers. The Australian manufacturers of rails did not advance the price for their rails for the trans-Australian railway, though the then existing conditions might well have justified such a course of action. They were content with the extra cost involved through the increase in the price of coal. It is deplorable that Australian brains and Australian ability should be decried by so many people whenever the opportunity presents itself, because when they have a chance Australians can hold their own anywhere. The pity is that so often they have to go to other countries to be appreciated at their true worth. This propaganda of prejudice against the Australian workmen and the Australian product is seriously handicapping many of our industries. For many years our woollen manufacturers did not dare to brand their products as Australian-made. They were marketed and sold as imported products. It was only in this way that industry could get its footing in Australia. A reduction in the duties will not necessarily mean a reduction in costs to the. consumer, because, as I have shown, there is a settled prejudice against the Australian article. We had an instance of this not long ago in Western Australia. An Australian firm submitted a tender for the supply of locomotive axles and wheels, and because his price was1s. above the tender price of an importing firm, he lost the contract.
– Was the Australian price at the works or delivery on the spot?
– I cannot say. The South Australian American Railways Commissioner a few years ago treated Australian tenderers in much the same way. Prices were asked for about £1,000,000 worth of railway material. An Australian price was the lowest, but at the instance of the representatives of the American firms, some alteration was made in the conditions of tendering, and since the Australian tenderers would not agree to the altered conditions, the contract went to America. In New South Wales two years ago, an Australian tenderer for the supply of two boilers for the railways department was £800 below the price submitted by an importing firm, and yet the contract went outside the State. In the light of these facts how can it be argued that the tariff is retarding the development of Australian industries ?
– What reason was given for placing the orders for those boilers outside the State?
– No reasons were given.
– Recently the Queensland Government also placed an order overseas for 25 locomotive engines.
– I am aware of that. The railways commissioners should not be permitted to show such marked preference for overseas manufacturers. There has always been altogether too much decrying of Australian workmanship and products. During the war an Australian who, by sheer merit, won his way up to and through one of our universities, was head of the Inventions Board in London,and in that capacity rendered splendid service for the Empire. I have every sympathy for the primary producers. I realize how important it is that they should be able to buy their farm machinery at a reasonable price; but I fail to see how the duties on certain articles of manufacture arc prejudicing their interests. Farm machinery is duty free in New Zealand, and yet it is clearer there than in Australia. What is there to prevent an enterprising firm doing what H. V. McKay has done in Melbourne and establishing works in Western Australia to provide the farmers in that State with good Australian-made machinery?
– A firm has started the manufacture of wire in Western Australia.
– Such industries do not require huge supplies of coal for their furnaces. They should establish branches in the various States, and so save the cost of carriage. Every true Australian will agree with me that we need a tariff that will enable all types of manufacturers to produce and compete successfully with imported articles, and their activities should not be tied clown to any State. My chief concern is our employees. Those men are not slackers, but do their work better than any other employees in the world. Thousands of them are at present out of work, not only in my electorate but in South Australia, in the mining industry, and in the limestone industry of Tasmania. If the steel industry cannot obtain its fluxes and raw material, a greatly increased number of men will be thrown out of work at Christmas time, all because this Government is not carrying out its election promises to the people to safeguard the industries of Australia.
– Directly and indirectly there are over 15,000 out of employment in the industry.
– This government is responsible for the unemployment of at least 25,000 workers, a matter of no little concern. It obtained the support of the people of Australia by promising to protect our industries, and now it contemplates allowing some of our principal concerns to close down, as a result of the heavy importations coming into Australia, clue principally, no doubt, to the excessive overseas borrowing in which this Government has been, and still is, indulging.
– Does the honorable member want prohibition ?
– If necessary, on certain things. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that he would reduce duties all round. I would reduce duties, but they would be revenue, and not protective duties. If our protective duties are to be effective, they must be adequate.
– What particular duties would the honorable member reduce?
– There are scores of revenue duties that could well be reduced. The most ridiculous anomaly of which I can think at the moment was when this Government acceded to the demands of the primary producers and imposed an 800 per cent. duty on onions. We never import an onion, except in the off-season. Now those producers have awakened to the fact that that impost is useless, but they do’ not care whether it is taken off or not. The other evening the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) complained that Japan was purchasing millions of pounds worth of our products, and that we purchased very little from Japan in return. He urged that we should extend our buying operations with that country. I have never heard the honorable member refer to the fact that we purchase millions of pounds worth of goods from America, and that that country buys very little in return from us. The honorable member wishes to trade with the country that cuts wages to the bone, but omits to. refer to a country where the worker earns a decent wage. It does not matter much to the worker for whom he works, whether itbe the importer, manufacturer, or anybody, else, he always finds that, unfortunately, under our commercial system’, he is put ‘ out of work when the granaries are’ full. That sounds rather remarkable, but it is true, and is brought about by the system under which we operate. In my electorate the factories are full of the finest wire netting and galvanized iron that is procurable in the world. They have piles of rails as high as their roofs, yet the workmen are unemployed. Production has been carried to excess, and the manufacturers are unable to find a local market. It is the duty of this Government to make an endeavour to keep our industries going.
– Why do they not export their products? Tasmania has to export its apples, whether it pays or not.
– This Parliament has never refused to aid primary production, but if we are to secure the big population for which we are striving, are all those people to go on the land and become primary producers?
– It would be preferable if they did.
– What would be the fate of those unfortunate individuals while land monopoly is rampant?
– We have five Labour Governments in Australia, and yet there are all these unemployed. I had the idea that Labour administration was to overcome all unemployment.
– Irrespective of what Government is in power in the States, it is the duty of the Federal Parliament to deal with these matters. The State Governments can only construct railways, roads and schools. A good deal has been said in relation to our financial position, into which I do not propose to delve very deeply. Many big business men who do not support Labour, such as Henry Ford, have, at times, made bold statements. When Wall-street tried to crush Henry Ford, he was forced to admit that the time had arrived when the producers should control the banks instead of the banks controlling the producers. This is a bold statement, pregnant with truth. To-day the financial institutions can dictate whether a man shall produce or not - a most deplorable state of affairs. I shall say a word or two with regard to the policy of this Government. It will be admitted that no administration benches has failed so miserably to carry out its promises to the electors as has this Government. It obtained the votes of many people by its specious promises to protect Australian industries, but it has done nothing to honour those promises. Time after time tariff reports have been submitted, and no action has been taken by the Government.
– If the honorable member read the tariff reports, he would see what the Government is doing.
– I think I have read more tariff reports than has the honorable member. The Tariff Board was appointed to report on certain matters, and the Government should give attention to its reports. It has not. It has not fulfilled one of the promises on which it was elected. Instead, it has- dabbled in many things upon ‘ which it had no mandate from the people. No previous Government has been responsible for so many boards and commissions as this Government has appointed, and criticism of its action in that regard has appeared in every newspaper. It would be interesting to know how much the commissions have cost, and what has been done, or is likely to be done, as a result of their recommendations. The Government’s policy is to shelve its responsibilities. Did it not promise that a constitutional session would be held as soon as Parliament met in Canberra? An announcement to that effect was made by the Prime Minister himself. The Government has appointed a constitutional commission that will involve the country in great expense. Its members draw big salaries, and they go about Australia examining anybody who happens along and desires to give evidence. Many of the witnesses are probably not familiar with even one section of the Constitution. This is being done behind the back of Parliament. The*
Prime Minister, no doubt, given a lead by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), confined his remarks to reduced expenditure in departments. He asked the committee whether it would be prepared to reduce the vote for this or that department, and whether it would cut down the defence estimates. He said, in effect, that no member thought that the sum allowed for defence was too much. Members may agree with that, but they may still have their own opinions as to the method of expenditure that ought to be adopted in the Defence Department. No rifle club in my electorate can obtain money for improvements to its ranges. The targets arc either tumbling clown or are insufficient to meet requirements. The Government spent millions on the building of cruisers abroad, although they could have been built in Australia. At the same time it intends to sell five vessels, which were intended to act as auxiliaries to the cruisers in Australian waters. The “ Dale “ boats were constructed under naval superintendence, and could have been armed more heavily than the Sydney and theAdelaide to enable them to patrol the trade routes and protect our shipping in time of trouble.
The Postmaster-General made reference to the large increase in expenditure in the Postal department and, therefore, honorable members are wondering why they cannot get postal improvements car ried out in their particular districts. I have always supported the claims of every part of Australia, irrespective of State boundaries; but the department will not supply necessary facilities in country localities where a fair amount of revenue could be derived. Between Newcastle and Sydney there are eleven trunk telephone lines, while Ballarat, where the postal revenue is rather less than that of Newcastle, has twelve trunk lines to . Melbourne. It is unwise to miss hundreds of pounds of revenue by providing additional facilities for busy towns and neglecting profitable business that should be catered for. I notice that the postal profits in my district amount to £77,903, that being the difference between revenue of £127,S77 and an expenditure of £49,974. The Prime
Minister made a great boast of the increased expenditure in the Postal department. It is high time the department carried on its own business out of its own revenue, with the exception of the constructional programme.
– Our expenditure amounts to £17,000,000 per annum, while our revenue is only £12,000,000 per annum.
– Then there must be many non-productive postal works. I
Avas under the impression that the postal business throughout Australia ‘ Avas showing a profit.
The Government has neglected to carry out the promises that it made to the people when it Avas elected. It has done things for which it has received no mandate, and if it does not pay attention to the matters that I have mentioned, big works will be closed down for a period of perhaps twelve or fourteen months, and thousands of persons Will be out of employment during the approaching festive season. The Government professes to be glad to see this basic industry in Australia; but it stands idly by when some of the best workers in the world are threatened Avith unemployment.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) upon having had the distinction and honor of bringing down the first budget in the National Parliament at the new Scat of Government. I also compliment him upon having introduced five successive national budgets. Before proceeding to deal Avith the subject before the committee, I congratulate the Prime Minister, also, upon his clear and able exposition yesterday of the national finances. I am sure that his statement brushed aside all criticism, and that the result Will be that the Government will be appreciated by the people more fully than ever before.
A careful examination of the budget shows that the criticism levelled against it has been only superficial; the main features have not been dealt Avith. It is desirable to draw attention to the outstanding aspects that make this budget one of special importance. I refer particularly to the solution of. the difficulties between the States and the Commonwealth with regard to their financial relations. The position now is that the States, in conference, have, accepted the proposals of the Government, and minor deails only await adjustment, although the problem had remained unsolved since 1910. The Government’s action in abolishing the per capita payments is now shown to have been -fully justified. Critics who hoped to break the Government on this issue have been confounded. The new scheme is based upon equity and .sound finance, and it has been accepted by all the States and the Commonwealth. It is calculated to benefit the people materially, immediately and for many years to come. Its benefits from the point of view of systematic debt reduction and co-ordinated management of borrowing should be acknowledged by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and it should be wholeheartedly appreciated by the people. It was made possible only by the desire of the Commonwealth to give the States adequate financial assistance. Commonwealth payments on behalf of States will exceed those of last year- by £1,050,000. In addition, the scheme gives the States financial security that they have never previously enjoyed. The position, prior to the adoption of the new arrangement, was that if a Commonwealth Government found itself handicapped financially owing to the carrying into effect of some of its reckless proposals, the per capita payments could have been withheld from the States and the money devoted to the prosecution of its pet schemes. A number of trade and labour councils, particularly in Victoria, characterized the payments as a nest-egg that they proposed to use in. the event of their party securing office.
The second notable feature of the budget is the reduction of taxation, accompanied by the removal of anomalies and the simplification of procedure. Direct relief in income tax and land tax amounts approximately to £2,000,000, and that relief is additional to that given in earlier years, since the present Government has been in power. It is important to note that this relief has been afforded, notwithstanding the provision of over £1,000,000 for the redemption ofState debts and interest under the financial agreement. The _ , budget puts no further burdens on the States, but affords them practical relief. This relief is really taxation relief, because otherwise the States would have been forced to increase taxation in order to provide for debt redemption as demanded by oversea money markets. This visible relief will subsequently be augmented by savings in interest owing to the enhancement of Australian credit abroad.
Notwithstanding the reduction of tax.ation adequate developmental projects are provided for in the budget. The Government’s proposal to continue the policy of developing a system of national roads will meet with universal approval. Other special provisions in the budget cover migration, scientific and industrial research, the organization of marketing in order to improve the oversea sales of primary products, and a programme of sound developmental works, including £4,076,000 for telegraphs, telephones and post offices. While remitting taxation the Government is making £9,400,000 available this year for invalid and old-age pensions on the more generous scale adopted in 1922 and 1925; soldiers’ pensions are being increased, repatriation conditions are being liberalized, with special regard to maimed and limbless soldiers ; provision is made for the education of soldiers’ children, and the War Service Homes scheme is being developed. A substantial sum is set aside for naval construction, and the five-year defence programme is being maintained. Notwithstanding these heavy commitments, the Commonwealth debt was never on a sounder basis than it occupies today; £6,000,0000 was made available for debt redemption last year, and the war debt is now £36,000,000 less than it was five years ago. New flotations for developmental works approximately equal the amount of war debt that has been redeemed. The result is that the Commonwealth debt remains practically stationary, but the general position is improved, because the dead-weight debt is being replaced by one backed by substantial assets which are essential for development.
The Leader of the Opposition seemed to derive much satisfaction from a’ statement in the Melbourne Age that the budget contained many verbal bouquets for those who had framed it and that the Government was obviously on good terms with itself. That very half-hearted criticism was apparently all that the Leader of the Opposition and his followers could find. Honorable members opposite never lose an opportunity to quote in this chamber press and public criticisms of the Government, and if they could have discovered in any quarter a stronger indictment of the budget they would certainly have produced it. As an offset to that mild criticism of the Age, I propose to cite a few extracts from unbiased and reputable journals in Australia and overseas. The London Financial News of tho 29th September wrote - lt is appropriate that Australia should inaugurate her budgets in her new capital with the encouraging statement of which we print a report elsewhere. After appropriating the 1920-27 surplus to causes with which it would be impossible to quarrel, the estimates for 1027-2$, after allowing for larger payments in fulfilment of the financial agreement that was entered into between thu Status, and which it is expected will be ratified, for (.nui st such a marked increase in revenue that it has been possible to lower both the income tax and the land tax by 10 per cunt. In addition, a number of alterations are to be made in the laws referring to the. two taxes. These should undoubtedly encourage thu rapid development of the country. Another small change which it is thought will Iia ve a disproportionate effect is the removal of the inspection charges on certain types of exports.
Migration, it is satisfactory to see, is well to the fore in the minds of the Commonwealth, a provision for the raising of £.’(,750.000 for loans to the Status to assist migration projects being one of the features of the Loan Budget. This, indeed, brings one back to what is after all the main tendency of thu whole budget - the determination to take every step that can bc wisely advocated to encourage; the rapid development of thu Continent. This is thu end that all dominion statesmen should keep foremost in their minds, and they should lie on the watch for opportunities to mould their financial policies along lines most likely to advance it. lt may perhaps entail departures into new regions of financial policy, paths which the rest of us having other immediate aims have not trodden. But novelty alone must not deter. Where needs are different, means must also differ.
The following extract is from the London- Times of the 29th September: -
The Commonwealth Budget once again shows a surplus, and the uses to which that surplus is to be put are an excellent object-lesson in the growth of thu responsibilities which arc still accumulating upon the shoulders’ of thu Ministry. The Navy. civil aviation, education, thu subsidizing of research, all make, their indefeasible claims; yet the Government are so fortunate as to lie able at the same time to reduce both the income tax and the land tax. If the budget is u lesson in Commonwealth responsibilities, it is at all events a lesson without tears.
The Melbourne Argun of the 30th September, published this cable message -
The Times, after describing the budget and the shipping announcements as both cheering and important, seizes thu occasion to review at length Commonwealth affairs.
In a comment of the Commonwealth Budget, described us Dr. .Earle Page’s “ Encouraging Statement,” the Financial Net/: 9 expresses the opinion that the lowering of the income and land, taxes, and thu alterations to the laws referring thereto, should undoubtedly encourage the rapid development of the country. It commends the careful policy revealed in the under-spending of loan money.
Referring to the budget, the Melbourne Herald of 29th September, said -
Gratifying also is the evidence of better cooperation by the Commonwealth with the Status, and of thu gradual breaking down of those antagonisms which made Australia a house divided against itself. Continuance of the present policy will eventually wipe out all disputes and create a harmony in which development will proceed at a maximum ratu.
Altogether the budget may be regarded as a. reasonable statement revealing a sounder condition of federal finance and forecasting better budgets in the future. It augurs well for the new capital that a condition so prophetic of the future homogeneity and solidarity of the country should be revealed at the first Canberra session. We may venture to hope that Canberra has ushered in a new era in which that sounder administration and progressive unity for which the people of Australia have always striven and have not always attained, is about to be realized.
Those references are proof of the enthusiastic manner in which the budget has been received throughout the Empire.
The provision of £200,000 to form the nucleus of a fund for a scheme of national insurance, and the statement by the Government that a. bill relating to this matter will be brought down this session is greatly appreciated by honorable members on this side of the ‘chamber, and by all wage-earners throughout Australia. The greatest and most constant anxiety of the wage-earner is the possibility that he and his dependants will be placed in serious financial difficulties as a result of sickness, accident, invalidity, or old age. National insurance will provide a remedy for this, ohe of the greatest evils in the community. The fundamental doctrine underlying the whole fabric of national insurance appears to be that all sections pf the community should be protected by the strength of the community as a whole against the incidents of misfortune that befall a section or an individual. It is now recognized in the old world that in order to advance the prosperity of a nation as a whole, and conserve its vital forces, it is better that a misfortune befalling an individual shall be distributed and borne lightly by the whole community, than that the individual should be crushed by the weight of his own trouble. The royal commission’s reports proved that national insurance has long since passed the experimental stage, and has become an integral part of the social system in most important countries of the world. In this regard Australia is far behind the times. Legislation on this subject was enacted by Austria and Hungary in 1854, Belguim in 1868, Germany in 1SS3, Prance in 1S94, Luxemburg in 1901, Norway and Iceland in 1909, Italy in 1910, United Kingdom in 1911, Roumania and Russia in 1912, Holland .and Sweden in 1913, Bulgaria in 191S, Czecho-Slovakia, Portugal and Spain in 1919, Poland in 1920, Denmark in 1921, Esthonia, Japan, Latvia and Jugo-Slavia in 1922, and the Irish Free State and Argentine in 1923. In most of those countries the original schemes have since been considerably extended, and ar6 continually being made more comprehensive. In not one instance has there been any suggestion to abandon national insurance, and return to the less satisfactory pre-insurance methods. Those who were amongst the most bitter critics of the schemes at their inception subsequently became their strongest supporters. My experience on the National Insurance Commission has convinced me that the need for such a scheme in Australia has been proved beyond all doubt. Many wage-earners are unable to provide unaided for circumstances that may arise from incapacity to work. The worker” is unable to provide for the whole of his life from the wages received during his effective years His greatest and most constant anxiety is that should he be unable to continue at his employment, he and his dependants will be involved in serious financial difficulties. Through sickness each worker loses on the average ten days employment per annum; one-third of” the unemployment in Australia is due to sick-* ness or accident suffered by the workers engaged in industry; and 6 per cent of the workers are injured annually. Many are permanently incapacitated, and more than 3 per cent, of “ all wage-earners in Australia are drawing the Commonwealth invalid pension. Many more persons are invalids, but because it cannot be proved that they are totally and permanently incapacitated, they are not able. to secure the assistance they so greatly need. National insurance will give them the necessary relief. Quite 16 per cent, of our native-born are applicants for the old-age pension. The whole community suffers as the result of the wage-earners’ incapacity to work. Wages to the amount, of £S,412,000 are lost each year on account of sickness, and the noncirculation of this money is serious to the worker and to trade. The resultant loss in production is estimated at four times this amount, whilst the social and- economic burden created is enormous, and is most inequitably distributed. Existing systems of mutual and other assistance in Australia have been of great advantage. They have served a national need, but they have failed to help adequately the majority of wage-earners to make provision for the difficult circumstances in which they may be placed as the result of sickness, accident, invalidity or old age. They represent a stage in the evolution, of national insurance. The majority operate mainly in the more heavily populated areas and lack suitable machinery for the less populated areas. They have certain restrictions which debar many wage-earners from availing themselves’ of the benefits offered, and the smallness of the contributions prevents them from giving adequate assistance to the person insured. However,, in regard to friendly societies, the commission recommended -
That wherever practical, the administrative machinery of existing mutual benefit associations be availed of in the administration of each district.
I hope this recommendation will be carried out by the Government.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I atn, indeed, glad that the Government has at last provided a nucleus vote on which to build up a system of’ national insurance. In this connexion advantage should be taken of the organization of the friendly societies’ movement. .To ensure the success of the scheme it is essential that this be done. I urge the Government to do this. The Royal Commission on National Insurance recommended that in cases of sickness, the insured person should receive 30s. per week for six months, and for invalidity during his period of incapacity, 20s. per week. In maternity cases it recommended a payment of 20s. a week for six weeks - two weeks pre-natal and four weeks post-natal. Superannuation payments at the rate of :20s. per week after the age of 65 years in the case of males, and 60 years in the case of females, were also recommended. V child allowance at the rate of 5s.’ per week in the case of each dependent child under the age of 16 years of the incapacitated worker was also included in the commission’s recommendation. I point out that those rates were the minimum rates recommended by the Commission to apply at the inception of the scheme. They arc equal to the amounts now paid under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
-What will be the annual cost of thi! scheme?
Mr. J. FRANCIS. The cost will depend on the nature of the scheme which is adopted. After the scheme has been in operation for some time it may be possible to extend the benefits -mentioned; .but even those benefits are greater than those now available in Australia, and much greater than those payable under any scheme in operation outside Australia. The commission’s scheme, if adopted, will remove many of the anomalies as to property and income which are associated with the existing scheme.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government will ever introduce the scheme?
– There is every indication that before the next election effect will be given to the Government’s policy as enunciated by the Prime Minister. Most of the Government’s programme as placed before the people last election has already been placed on the statute-book. No great imagination is required to visualize the probabilities of such a scheme as national insurance. It would ensure a more contented wageearner, with increased efficiency and greater production, and create better relations between employer and employee. It would ensure a more effective review of social and economic problems, and provide a fuller application of statistical data to the life of the people. The indifferent would be compelled to adopt habits’ of thrift, while the wageearner would be able to maintain himself during any period of incapacitation. Before the scheme is introduced, however, the Government should give careful consideration to the defects that have been revealed in connexion with various schemes of national insurance in other countries. Particularly should it study the recent report of the British Royal Commission on National Insurance. That commission, after hearing a lot of evidence, submitted a voluminous report, in which the pitfalls of the British scheme were revealed. It made it clear, however, that notwithstanding its defects, the British scheme was an undoubted success. Nevertheless the Government would be wise to take precautions to avoid similar defects in any scheme of national insurance which it introduces. The existing friendly societies and other mutual benefit associations have expressed the fear that a scheme of national insurance will destroy their voluntary organization. The experience in Great Britain, however, has proved the opposite; the* voluntary organizations there are stronger to-Hay, both numerically and financially, than prior to the inception of the scheme of national insurance. The membership of the British organizations has increased from 6,000,000 to 7,000,000 persons since the scheme was inaugurated, and in addition, their accumulated funds have increased from £50,000,000 to £70,000,000. The friendly societies should realize that a scheme of national insurance is but an extension of the principles which they have advocated for years, and consequently they should render the Government all the assistance in their power to make the new scheme a success. A triparty contributory scheme of national insurance, such as that recommended by the royal commission, will confer greater benefit on the people at’ a lower cost than is the case to-day. The friendly societies claim that free medical treatment is the greatest benefit they confer on their members. The scheme recommended by the commission does not destroy that benefit. The only duplication is in respect of sickness benefits, which at present are inadequate. Benefits in connexion with superannuation, invalidity, and maternity are to-day the sole function of the Commonwealth Government; they are not provided by the friendly societies. It is obvious that a proper scheme of national insurance will confer advantages on the members of the existing friendly societies. Sufficient data has been obtained on which to establish a sound scheme of national insurance. Experience has shown that a period of several months should elapse’ between the inception of a scheme of national insurance and the granting of benefits. Time is necessary to perfect tho organization throughout a country of such dimensions as Australia. Further, a period should be provided to enable insured persons to establish their eligibility for benefits. I congratulate the Government on having provided the sum of £200,000 towards the establishment of this scheme, and I hope that soon the Government will give effect to the Prime Minister’s promise by introducing a bill to provide for a definite scheme of national insurance.
I propose now to deal briefly with the necessity for uniform customs laws throughout Australia. For a considerable time various chambers of commerce, traders and importers, throughout Australia have been agitating for a change in the system under which customs taxation is levied. They have represented that the duty payable at the time a vessel reaches its first port of call in Australia should be the duty payable in respect of the whole of its cargo, no matter at which port it eventually discharged. Queensland has been a heavy sufferer in this respect.
– So has Tasmania.
– When the customs tariff has* been altered, it has almost invariably been in the direction of provid ing for increased duties. Should a vessel have discharged a portion of its cargo at one or more Australian ports before the duty is increased, merchants in the ports at which the vessel subsequently calls have to pay higher duties than their competitors who received their goods when the old duties were in operation. In the few instances in which there is a reduction of tariff, the higher duty is collected until Parliament passes the new tariff. Moreover, no refund of duties is ever made. Realizing that Queensland traders were at a distinctdisadvantage because of the comparatively few vessels which make Queensland ports their first port of call in Aus- tralia, I recently addressed the followingquestion to the Minister for Trade and. Customs (Mr. Pratten) : -
What number of vessels trading to Australia had, as their first port of. call, any port (a.) in Queensland, or (l>) in the other Statesof Australia?
The Minister replied that of 1,666 vessels; only 292 called first at Queensland ports. That shows the great disadvantage under which Queensland traders operate. It frequently happens that in all thesouthern States traders have received shipments of goods on which lower dutieshave been paid than have been charged to Queensland traders for goods conveyed by the same vessel. The inequity of thepresent system has been pointed out on many occasions. The present system isa contravention of the Constitution which provides that uniform duties of customs shall be imposed throughout the Commonwealth. On the occasion of the last alteration of the tariff one firm of machinery importers in Brisbane paid £152 more in duty than was paid by Sydney merchants for the same articles. In another instance a Queensland merchant, who imported a small consignment of whisky, paid as duty £2S0 more than was paid by a Sydney importer for a similar consignment. On other occasions as much as £700, and even £900, more than the amount collected from firms in the southern States has been demanded by the customs authorities from Queensland merchants. The extra duty paid by Queensland merchants because of this practice amounts to many thousands of pounds. I nsk whether this differentiation is in accord with either the letter or the spirit of the Constitution? The act should be amended so that uniform duties of existtoms shall apply throughout the Commonwealth. The duty in force when a vessel reaches its first port of call iu Australia should bc the duty payable in respect of the whole of its cargo. A year or two ago the Customs Act was amended to provide for the imposition of duties on goods entering Australia by aeroplane. If an aeroplane first lands in Australia at, say, Geraldton, “Western Australia, any goods conveyed by it must bear the duty then in force. Should the aeroplane then proceed overland to the eastern States there is no alteration in the amount of duty levied, notwithstanding that in the meantime a new schedule of duties has come into operation. On the other hand, if a ship, having called at Fremantle, proceeds to eastern ports, any higher duties imposed after the vessel has left Fremantle must bc borne by the merchants in those ports at which it subsequently calls. To remove these anomalies the Minister should bring forward without delay the necessary amending legislation. At the annual meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce held at Sydney in March, 1926, at which I was present, and again at Perth in 1927, resolutions urging the Government to amend the Customs Act with a view to obtaining uniformity in the customs laws were carried. I point out that those conferences were attended by representatives of the chambers of commerce in all the States. Correspondence has also passed between the Minister, the various chambers of commerce, and also other honorable members of this House in the matter. In this connexion I mention particularly the honorable members for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) and Lilly (Mr. Mackay). The Minister has opposed the request chiefly on the ground that it would create a state of chaos and that’ it is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. The chambers of commerce, not being satisfied with that reply, submitted the whole of the correspondence, resolutions and reports to Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, Iv.C., of Adelaide, for his opinion. Mr. O’Halloran is now a member of the Constitution Royal Commission.
He states that there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the alteration of section 132 of the Customs Act in such a way as to give effect to the desires of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. I propose to read a few passages of his opinion to make it quite clear to the Minister that his view that such an alteration would be unconstitutional is brushed aside by the opinion of so eminent a legal authority as Mr. O’Halloran, Iv.C. His opinion is as follows : -
The Associated Chambers of Commerce at a meeting on 16th March, 1926, passed the following resolutions: - “That it be a recommendation to the Commonwealth Government that the Customs Act lie amended to provide that as soon as an overseas vessel has arrived and reported to the customs at its first place of call the rate of duty enforced on that date shall be the legal rate for the whole of the ship’s cargo and that the Customs Act bo amended.”
The resolution as passed sets out as the object which the Associated Chambers of Commerce desire to have carried out, and the resolution then proceeds to set out a necessary amendment to section 132 of the Customs Act to give effect to such desire. In order to discuss the question, it will be well to consider the following typical example: - “A ship arrives at Fremantle on the 1st June. Its cargo consists entirely of cement. It lands portion of such cargo immediately on arrival, and same is entered for home consumption. The duty then in force is say 10 per cent. The ship then proceeds to Fort Adelaide and discharges other portion of the same cargo, and the duty then in force is still say 10 per cent. The ship then leaves for Melbourne on say the 20th June, and on the 2.1st June duty is raised to 20 per cent. Having discharged further portion of the cargo in Melbourne the steamer proceeds to Sydney and discharges the remainder of its cargo ou say 27th June. On the 22nd June another ship reaches Sydney (its first port of call in Australia) with a cargo of cement. If the proposed alteration is made, the whole of the respective portions of the first ship’s cargo landed in Fremantle, Port Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney would all pay duty at 10 per cent., and the cargo of the second vessel would pay duty at 20 per cent., notwithstanding the fact that it arrived in Sydney several days before the Sydney discharge of the first ship..”’
The first point to note is that the discrimination (section 31, II.) and the preference (section 09) which is forbidden by the Constitution in discrimination between States or parts of States as preference to one State or part thereof over another State or part thereof.
The majority of the High Court (Griffiths, C .-./.. Barton, and O’Connor, J.) held that the words “States or parts of States” must bc read as synonymous with “ parts of the Commonwealth “ ov different localities within the Common wealth (Barger’s ease 6 CL.B… at page 78). Isaacs and Higgins J., the dissenting minority, held that, the discrimination or preference forbidden is in relation to localities considered as parts of States, and not as mere Australian localities or parts of the Commonwealth considered as a single country.
But Isaacs J. went on to say ‘: Discrimination between localities in the widest sense means that because one nian on his property is iu one locality, then regardless of any other circumstances, he or it is to be treated differently from the man on similar property in another locality.”
The proposed alteration of section .132 of thi! Customs Act would provide “ a. general rule applicable to all the States for ascertaining the rate of customs duty applicable to goods imported into Australia,” and any inequality in its operation would arise partly from the alteration of the Customs Tariff Act, and partly from the choice exercised by the importers in selecting the first port of call in Australia. (Sec Colonial Sugar Refining Company v. Irving 1906, A.C. 367, and Cameron’s case per Starke J., at page 79.)
The argument that the proposed amendment would give preference to one State over another State and thus come within the prohibition contained in section 99 of thu Constitution is thus put by the Minister at page 118 of the 1925-20 annual report. “ Under the proposed arrangement the same goods would be paying differing rates in thu different States at the same time.”
This may be conceded, but how does it constitute a preference to one State over another State!
Any inequality such as the Minister refers to would only operate in respect of a limited number of ships during a very limited period. Assume that the alteration in tariff came into force on 1st June. The goods in all ships which had touched their first Australian port of cull prior to 1st .Tune, but had not completed the distribution of cargo at all ports of distribution in Australia, would be dutiable at the lower rate, and the goods from all ships which arrived at their first port of call iu Australia after the 1st June would pay at the higher rate. The benefit of the lower rate would only apply to cargo in ships which had touched a port in Australia prior to 1st June, but had not then completed the distribution of such cargo at all ports of destination, and when the last of such ships had discharged its cargo, the inequality referred to by the Minister would disappear. It must also be remembered that the suggested preference would cut both ways. Under the proposed amendment, if it ‘ be said that the goods which have been landed in Australian ports prior to the 1st June (in the example given) have, in the event of an increase of duty, a preference over goods from another ship first touching at an Ai’rs- tralian port after the 1st June, it follows that if the duty is decreased the goods in such lastmentioned’ ship have preference over the goods in such first-mentioned ship. I cannot spell “out of the proposed alterations of section 132 any preference under section 99 of the Constitution.
As regards any suggested want of uniformity of customs duties under section 88 of the Constitution, thu answer to the argument seems to, be this : -
The goods on the ship which has reached anAustralian port prior to the alteration of the tariff will pay duty at the rate fixed by the repealed Customs Tariff Act, but the goods on a ship first reaching ‘an Australian port after the alteration of the tariff will pay the duty fixed by the new Tariff Act. It is not the amendment of section 132, but the repeal of the old Tariff Act, and the passing of the new Tariff Act, which results in any apparent lack of uniformity.
I have, therefore, reached the conclusion that there is nothing iu the Constitution to prevent an alteration of section 132 of the Customs Act in such a way as to give effect to the desire of the Associated Chambers of Commerce.
A deputation from the Queensland Associated Chambers of Commerce waited on the Prime Minister in respect to the matters of which I am now complaining, and he informed them that, if it was at all possible to do what they wished, he would see that it was done. He said that, first of all, it would be necessary to obtain competent legal opinion on the matter. That opinion has now been obtained, and it is, as I have said, to the effect that the Minister’s ‘ contention is wrong. I now urge the Minister to lose no time in amending the Customs Act in order to give the relief desired. Duringthe past few days he has presented to the House numerous reports of the Tariff Board. My experience is that when these reports come in numbers like this, .there is generally at the back of the Minister’s mind the idea of altering the Tariff Act. I hope that before such an alteration is made, the Minister will see that some provision embodying the relief for which I have asked is contained in an amendment to the Customs Act.
I take this opportunity to voice an emphatic protest against the continued reduction, iu the vote for rifle clubs. The votes over the past three years for rifle clubs have been as follow: -
Far from being reduced, these votes should, in my opinion, be substantially increased,so that those men who devote so much of their own time to perfecting themselves in the use of weapons essential in war should be encouraged. A volunteer is worth a dozen pressed men. A citizen who voluntarily sacrifices so many Saturday afternoons in so useful an occupation should be given every possible encouragement by the Government. It is fast becoming impossible to keep the interest in rifle shooting alive. A large number of rifle clubs will soon be unable to carry on, while those which do not close down altogether will be crippled in their operations. Rifle clubs are our cheapest form of defence, as well as being part of our first line of defence. The present cheese-paring policy is discouraging all the clubs, and particularly the young members of them. In Queensland, particularly, owing to its vast empty spaces, its great coastline, and limited means for moving forces should the need arise, it is essential that rifle clubs be kept very much alive, and the formation of new clubs encouraged. Recently the Minister representing the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse), in answer to a question asked by myself, admitted that Australia’s defence forces were at present below strength. The total number of officers, he said, was 2,700,and other ranks number 40,800. There was a shortage, he said, of 608 officers, and of 1,612 other ranks. Now, in spite of our defence force being materially below strength, the Minister has seen fit to reduce still further the votes for rifle clubs by, roughly, £2,000. Rifle clubs are to Australia what the trained Boer population was to South Africa in the Boer War. In the event of our shores being invaded, the rifle clubs would prove a most useful defence. Countries like Australia and South Africa are particularly adapted to guerilla warfare as a means of protection against aggression, and a definite means of defence until adequate assistance comes. In the South African war the Boers, although untrained in military tactics, were able, because of their ability as riflemen, their horsemanship, and their knowledge of bush lore, to make a prolonged defence of their country. Australians have a natural instinct for bush life, are good horsemen, and are particularly suited for guerilla warfare if taught to shoot. One sometimes hears the question asked, “ Of what use are rifle clubs, andwhat did they do in the Great War ?” In answer to that question, I shall quote from a report prepared by Colonel Jackson, Director of Rifle Clubs in Queensland, who stated : -
For some years prior to the Great War a scheme of mobilization had been in existence for the defence of the Commonwealth in the event of an invasion, and rifle clubs were allotted to the Militia Forces as a reserve force from which was to be drawn the number of members required to bring the Militia units to their war strength, the peace establishment of these units being, in many cases, only about half the strength required for war. The position is worse to-day. We have now only a very poor nucleus of a defence force. We are606 officers and about 700 noncommissioned officers under establishment. Certain rifle clubs had also been allotted to important localities for the defence of cable and wireless stations, &c. Briefly this was the position under peace-time conditions, and the efficacy of the rifle club’s organization as a reserve had never been tested up to this time. When the order to mobilize was issued by the Defence Department on 4th August, those rifle club members, who were called up to go to their war stations, responded immediately. The partial mobilization of rifle clubs in Queensland, who embarked on the transport “Kanowna,” will serve to prove how completely effective the Rifle Club Reserve was for its special purpose.
On the 4th August, . 1914, the Kennedy Regiment, which consisted of Companies at Charters Towers, Townsville, and Cairns, was ordered to mobilize and proceed to its war station at the northern gateway of Australia. The regiment required 386 men to raise it to war strength, sixteen rifle clubs being instructed to provide this number between them.
These clubs at once sent forward 474 medically lit members. The required 386 were selected from this number, and embarked with the regiment. The Irvinebank Club, from an active strength of 115, sent 90; the Herberton Club, with an active strength of 44, sent 41, the remainder of the clubs sending the balance of 255 men required.
The calling up of these members, medical examination, clothing and equipping them, occupied only three days, and the transport left the following day, or within four days from the order to mobilize. Numbers of these rifle club members were engaged in the timber and mining districts of the north, many miles away from their club’s headquarters, when they received the order to mobilize. This necessitated long journeys by rail, coach, and on horseback to enable them to reach the place of assembly, and it is claimed that the repsonse and result of the mobilization of these men could scarcely admit of any improvements for celerity or effectiveness.
The members of other rifle clubs called up for duty at the cable and wireless stations were all at their posts by the evening of the 4th August, 1914, and for some considerable time afterwards carried out the duties allotted them, and won the special praise of the department for their services.
When it was known that Australia was to send troops overseas to assist the Allies, and recruiting of the first Australian Imperial Force units commenced, the council of the Southern Queensland Rifle Association immediatelyoffered the services of selected expert rifle shots to assist in the musketry training of the infantry battalions then being formed-. The Defence Department gladly accepted the offer, and asked that the services of twelve picked rifle shots be made available for the duty. These riflemen were enlisted as sergeants and qualified by examination for certificates as instructors in musketry. Their duty was to instruct the recruit in the use of the rifle, giving him the benefit of years of hardwon experience, encouraging him in his efforts, and endeavouring to give him confidence in himself, for it must be borne in mind that thousands of those who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, never fired a rifle in their livesbefore they went into the training camp….. This is where the rifleman was enabled to give invaluable service, and with such results that he won not only theappreciation of the thousands whom they instructed, but justified their being entrusted with such an important part of the training.
The actual number of rifle club members who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Queensland was 4,382, in addition to which 934 ex-members who were not at the time of their enlistment on the roll of their club, but who had passed through the ranks of a rifle club, joined the Australian Imperial Force. Therefore, the total number of recruits supplied by the rifle clubs of the first military district, directly and indirectly, was 5,316. of which number 568 gave their lives in the cause of freedom and justice. I feel certain that the records of the rifle clubs in the other States are as good as those of the Queensland rifle clubs. The importance of the rifle club movement and the place that’ it holds in our defence scheme must convince the Minister of the imperative necessity to greatly increase the grant I hope that, at an early date, he will bring clown supplementary estimates which will give effect to this request. I trust also that the other matters which I have brought to the notice of the Government will be given early attention and that the requests which have been made will be readily granted.
– The presentation of the budget gives to honorable members an opportunity to review the administrative and financial achievements of the Government. The debate so far has been of considerable interest to the general public. I pay a tribute to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) for having revealed some startling features of the Government’s administration. Its extravagance has been roundly condemned in this chamber by members of all shades of political opinion. It gained office by promising economy, efficiency and sound administration, yet in the last two years its legislation has not in any way accelerated the progress or added to the stability of Australia. It is unusual to have demonstrations of unemployed at this period of the year, although we have become accustomed to them during the winter months; yet every State is at present faced with a most acute unemployment problem. Australia has enjoyed a succession of good years and the Commonwealth Government has had bounding revenues. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has been fortunate in being able to show at the end of each fianancial year a surplus of revenue over expenditure. The freetraders who sit in this Parliament lose no opportunity to complain of the tariff, but they are not able to point to any civilized country in which the standard of living is comparable with that which exists in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) are sympathetic with our industries, but there is some influence at work which is preventing this Parliament from giving full effect to the wishes of the people. What is the use of having a tariff that docs not completely protect our industries? Our adverse trade balance is an indication that something is wrong in our present policy. The imports of iron and steel last year were valued at £10,000,000.
– That is inclusive of a large quantity of iron and steel that is not manufactured in Australia.
– I am not concerned with that aspect of the matter. The Prime Minister said yesterday afternoon that, the Government could not make provision against inefficiency. The Newcastle Steel Works are the most efficiently organized and controlled works in the Empire. A large amount of Australian capital has been invested in that concern the most modern machinery has been installed, and the most highly skilled men are employed, yet there is a possibility of its having to close down on account of the ineffectiveness of the tariff.
– What is the remedy?
– A tariff that will make impossible competition by cheap labour countries. Australia, will not progress as it, should until ‘its tariff is completely protective.
– The iron and steel industry was given all that it sought a little while ago.
– It was not. Another industry that is being adversely affected by the large volume of imports is that of hosiery manufacture. I have visited in my electorate factories that have the most up-to-date machinery and the most affective management and organization. Last year the imports of stockings and sox amounted to £1,652,000. They came from Germany, Japan and other cheap labour countries, and were dumped into Australia to the detriment of our local industry. Are we content to allow that state of affairs to continue? Despite the fact that the manufacture of pianos and player pianos is established on a sound basis in New South Wales and Victoria, the imports of those instruments totalled £1,082,000, Germany and America being our chief competitors. Australia produces a greater quantity of food-stuffs than its people can consume, yet last year our imports of those commodities reached a total of £3,059,000. Linoleums and carpets were imported to the value of £2,843,000, although %ve have factories which are manufacturing those articles, and which will be unable to continue their operations unless they are adequately protected. In every State tlie manufacture of electrical appliances is proceeding on a satisfactory basis under the direction of highly skilled men. Our imports of those appliances amounted to £7,461,000.
– What is the use of raising the tariff when the Arbitration Act allows its benefits to be nullified?
– If the honorable member wishes the Arbitration Act to be repealed, and cheap labour to be brought to Australia from China, and other countries, let him say so. That is what he is driving at..
– Not at all.
– Yarns were imported to the value of £2,149,000, and as a result a large number of employees in that, particular industry have been thrown out of employment. Over £10,000,000 worth of woollen goods, cotton goods and linen was imported. Cotton is being grown in Queensland, and cotton piece goods can be manufactured in Australia. The imports of silk aud goods containing silk represented a value of £6,S82.000, and hats, caps and, gloves a value of £1,429,000.
– Not gloves.
– Other large imports were bags, baskets and brushware, £1,023,000; and glass and glassware, £1,307,000. On several occasions I have interviewed the Minister for Trade and Customs with respect to the manufacture of crystal glass. A large company in my electorate has established works to produce that commodity, but the market has been destroyed by the Belgians. Hundreds of men have thus been deprived of their employment. We also imported earthenware and china to the value of £1,244,000, drugs and chemicals to” the value of £3,560,000, timber and the manufactures thereof to the value of £5,643,000, and paints and varnishes to the value of £1,200,000. We import into this country chassis worth over £12,000,000. What is there in a chassis that we cannot manufacture in Australia? When a duty was proposed on imported motor bodies,- it was argued that they could not be made here ; but the result of the imposition of that duty has been the establishment of motor body factories in SOUtH Australia, New South
Wales, and other States. The’ Australian workmanship is equal to that of any other country, and to-day we are manufacturing seven motor bodies for every one imported. One great advantage is that we are. employing our own people. It would be of great help to Australia if the Minister placed a deferred duty on chassis to encourage their production in this country. When federation took place, motor cars were unknown. Since then the motor car industry has come into being, and has expanded enormously in certain countries. Surely our engineers are just as capable of manufacturing motor cars as those of America and England. At present we manufacture spare parts and bodies, and it will only be another step to manufacture chassis. Our adverse trade balance certainly justifies the establishment of this inindustry. It is time that we stopped sending money out of this country in payment of imports. We are told that we should cease borrowing abroad. The more we borrow, the more imports we receive ; therefore the Government should -concentrate on borrowing within Australia, and cease borrowing abroad as far as possible. I do not advocate the cessation of borrowing overseas altogether, because considerable money is needed to develop this young country. The Minister for Trade and Customs should introduce a tariff that will stabilize the industries of this country. The manufacturers are complaining bitterly about the lack of protection given to them. George Bond, one of the pioneers in the textile manufacturing industry, has established a fine factory in New South Wales, but because of the dumping of Japanese textiles into Australia, he has had to discharge hundreds of employees, the value of the company’s shares has dropped considerably, and existing stocks are unsaleable. Why should we hesitate to protect that industry? I remind the Minister that some years ago he said that we should have a special session to deal with the tariff. The present practice is to tableany amendments of the tariff on the last day of the session, and thus preclude any discussion. Our secondary industries will develop only under a scientific and protective tariff. When I was a boy the
Mr. jj. Riley.
McKinley tariff was imposed in the United States of America, and Great Britain was loud in its protestations against it. At that time the population of America was much smaller than it is to-day, yet it was determined to manufacture its own requirements. As a result the United States of America has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. Its population and manufactures have increased enormously, and the nation is now self-contained. Honorable members supporting the Government advocate the bringing of immigrants to this country, and surely the best way to attract immigrants is to provide work by establishing new industries. People will go to the country in which employment can be found. When unemployment is rife, immigration must necessarily be retarded.
– Has a working week of 44 hours anything to do with unemployment.
– A man working 60 hours a week in one country would be only too pleased to migrate to another country in which the working hours were 44 hours a week. Honorable members opposite continually speak of the detrimental effect of high wages; but they forget to mention the high rate of interest charged by the banks. Until we have a proper protective tariff we shall have unemployment in this country, and disinclination on the part of the business people to invest capital in industries.
– They are hesitating now to invest capital.
– Only because there is no proper protection to industries. This Government came into office to bring happiness and prosperity to tha people, but it has not put upon the statute-book one monumental piece of legislation. It certainly has appointed many commissions. This composite Government has shirked the responsibility of governing this country properly, because every knotty problem that has arisen has been referred to a board or commission. The expenditure is not considered. The Prime Minister was a great advocate of the Development and Migration Commission.
– The Labour party supported the appointment of that, commission.
– The division list will show that we opposed it. To-day the first annual report of that commission was tabled, yet it has been making investigations for nearly eighteen months. The chairman receives the salary of £5,000 a year, double what the Prime Minister is receiving. His first act was to accompany the Prime Minister to Great Britain. He travelled through that country, making speeches. He returned to Australia, and again travelled extensively.What has been the result ? Up to date the expenditure on the commission amounts to £140,000. A large staff of clerks, typists and lecturers has been appointed, but not one scheme has been propounded that will settle any family, or even one man, on the land.
– Some schemes have been recomme n ded .
– I have not heard of them. By the end of the year the expenditure on this commission will amount to £250,000, and its continuance will reflect upon the intelligence of the Ministry. The commission is serving no useful purpose, and it is time that we called a halt in its expenditure. The Government has appointed numerous commissions and boards, including the National Insurance Commission, the War Service Homes Commission, the Sugar Board, the Pacific Phosphates Commission, the Repatriation Commission, the Railway Unification Council, the Commonwealth Shipping Board, the Dairy Produce Control Board, the Dried Fruits Board, the Canned Fruits Board, the Meat Council, the Tariff Board, the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, the Canberra Public Servants Committee, the War Memorial Com- mittee, the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Old-age Pensions Commissioner, the Superannuation Board, the New Guinea Trade Agency, and numerous others. These bodies have incurred a tremendous expenditure. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) eulogized the work of the National Insurance Commission, and made a great appeal for national insurance. In 1924-25 the expenditure of that commission amounted to £3,790, and in 1925-26 to £2,734, and it is still continuing its investigations.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– Has not Senator Millen an office and’ staff in Sydney, and is he not interviewing friendly societies ?
– He has no staff.
– He is drawing fees. The commission is going on for ever, like the babbling brook, and is accomplishing nothing.
– It furnished its report some time ago.
– If the honorable member is the only champion of that commission that the Government can find, it is truly in a bad way. The expenditure on royal commissions is as follows: -
Any vital question that arises is referred to a royal commission for investigation and report, and when information is desired by honorable members in this chamber the Government’s invariable reply is that the commission’s investigations cannot be interfered with. The Federal Capital Commission has been of great expense to this country. The foundations of the Federal Capital City were laid long before that Commission was appointed. The water, sewerage and lighting services and the brick works were established by the Home and Territories Department. This Government has nearly reached the end of its tether. Taxation and expenditure have steadily ‘increased, and the result is an adverse trade balance of nearly £20,000. I shall give a simple illustration. If a man is earning £7 or £8 a week, and he and his family live at the rate of £9 a week, he must become bogged in the morass of debt. If he is a wise man, he will take stock of his position, and endeavour to live within his income. If he does not, he will find the bailiffs in possession of his chattels. Similarly, if a business man spends more than his income he will ultimately land in the bankruptcy court. That is really the position of this Government, which is pursuing a wastefully extravagant career.
– Will the honorable member indicate where this Government has been extravagant?
– The appointment of all these commissions constitutes extravagance. One commission alone cost £140,000 and produced no beneficial result. Then every year there is a ministerial jaunt to Geneva conference. Ministers are accompanied by a large staff, and the business is developing into an annual picnic. This Government sends representatives regularly to a conference which advocates disarmament, yet it yearly increases its defence vote. The country cannot bear such extravagance much longer. The Treasurer comes along and declares that he intends to reduce taxation by reducing income tax. We should encourage our secondary industries by relieving them of income tax, provided that a reasonable portion of any profit is utilized to expand the business and to develop the resources of our country. Instead of that this Government is taxing them out of existence. Overseas competition is being encouraged, and our own industries cannot properly expand. If proper encouragement were given, our secondary industries could meet the competition from overseas, and the future of Australia would then be unlimited. I am not one who declares that Australia is going to the dogs merely because we have an adverse trade balance. Australia’s potential resources are so tremendous that it is impossible to check its progress. It needs only the establishment of a sound and progressive government to give Australia the necessary impetus. I do not object to borrowing, provided it is used for reproductive purposes and to develop our resources. But I certainly do consider that borrowing is now being overdone, and that the money that is borrowed is being misapplied. The Treasurer’s balance-sheet shows the PostmasterGeneral’s Department with a surplus. Actually the developmental work of the department is paid for out of loan money, and all revenue is passed into the Treasury as profit. As much of the work as is possible should be paid for out of revenue. We lose £270,000 a year on newspaper telegrams. Is that a sound way in which to conduct the business of the country?
Yet, when it comes to maintaining an essential service, such as our own shipping line, the Government declares that we must not lose money. We .shall have a word or two to say on that when the matter comes before this chamber again for discussion. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was left in the hands of the Shipping Board, and this Government had no right to interfere with it. I regret that the Government is floundering so hopelessly in a financial morass. Our debt and our expenses have increased, and if that continues there is a black day ahead for Australia. The Government must check its reckless extravagance in connexion with commissions. It appointed an industrial commission to go to the United States of America, to investigate the industrial conditions of that country. That commission cost £10,000. What are the results worth?
– It was a very good thing to do.
– I thought the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was in favour of economy. The industrial conditions which obtain in America are entirely different from those in Australia, and cannot be adapted to our requirements, therefore, that £10,000 was a sheer waste of money. Last season the Prime Minister said that we would hold a constitutional session this year. Instead of that, the Government has appointed a commission to investigate our constitution. The personnel of that commission is entirely inadequate for the task. The chairman is drawing £200 a month, and two guineas a day travelling expenses. He is a lecturer from the Sydney university, and has not a practical knowledge of politics. I could name three or four men who could have done the work well. I mention the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has on two occasions drafted alterations to the constitution, and who knows its weaknesses perfectly. If he had been appointed, in conjunction with the Attorney-General. (Mr. Latham) and one of our High Court judges, either Mr. Justice Isaacs or Mr. Justice Higgins, we should have had a practical and efficient trio, who would have produced a satisfactory report. Honorable members on this side of the chamber declined to accept a position on the commission.
– The bosses of honorable members of the Labour party are on it.
– I have no bosses other that the electors. I have great faith in the destiny of Australia, and have no wish to decry it, but we must endeavour to conduct the business of the country on sound lines. This Government has failed to do so, and unless a halt is called, disaster must inevitably follow. I shall vote for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and I trust that honorable members on the Government benches will be actuated by a spirit of commonsense, which will cause them to view the issue as a non-party one, and vote as their consciences dictate.
.-When I heard this budget delivered by the Treasurer, I formed the impression that it was a very good one. Upon a closer examination of the figures, that impression developed into a conviction, and nothing that has been stated during this debate has altered that conviction. There has been a good deal of criticism of the legislation passed by the Government, but very little has been directed to the budget itself. The debate has really developed into a discussion of the tariff. I do not question the right of honorable members to discuss that subject during a budget debate, for the Standing Orders allow great latitude, and on this occasion honorable members, as a rule, have addressed themselves to many subjects which are only remotely connected with the financial position of the Commonwealth. It has struck me, however, that, although there is a certain amount of unanimity in attributing our difficulties to the tariff, there is a marked diversity of opinion as to the remedy which should be applied. Honorable members opposite have made it quite clear that they regard the existing tariff as inadequate, while some honorable members who support the Government are just as strongly of the opinion that our customs duties are far too -high. But, whichever party may be’ right, it is undeniable that it would be very difficult for this or any other government to intro-
duce a tariff which would please everybody. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) confined his remarks almost exclusively to tariff matters, and I listened to what he had to say with a good deal of interest. He is always fair in his criticism and presents his case in an agreeable manner; hut on this occasion I disagree with, his views. He said that Australia needed a scientific tariff; but he did not explain what he meant by that term.. He and other honorable members opposite have made it clear that they would go so far as to prohibit importation; but that would not be a scientific method ‘of dealing with the situation.
– We prohibit the importation of sugar.
– That may be so : but I have never heard it suggested that that is a scientific way to protect the sugar industry. I am a firm protectionist; but I realize, as I believe every thinking person in the community does, that if we impose high tariffs to protect our secondary industries, we must necessarily make it somewhat more costly for our primary producers to carry on their operations, and so add to their difficulties in marketing their products. What we need is a tariff which will protect secondary industries, but not penalize primary industries. One of my chief objections to the present system is that, although we have a board of experts to advise Parliament on tariff matters, we have not constituted an expert authority to protect the general community from exploitation by the manufacturers who are enjoying protection. A serious fault in our system is that manufacturers who operate- under the protection of very high duties, may be almost indifferent to the cost of production, the efficiency of their methods or the quality of the article they produce. The community is not safeguarded in any respect. Then again, the tariff operates inequitably.
The timber industry of the Commonwealth has suffered far more from tariff inequalities and unsatisfactory industrial legislation than any other great industry in the land. It has not been protected from the competition of the importers of foreign timbers. The result is that it has practically disappeared, and thousands of our finest timber-getters have been compelled to seeks employment in other walks of life.
Honorable members opposite have argued that the tariff is ineffective because a huge revenue is derived from” the duties, that are imposed. My reply to that argument is that from the inception of federation it has always been understood that the customs duties would yield sufficient revenue to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth. Such great protectionists as Deakin, Lyne, and Kingston always intended that these duties should yield a substantial revenue The sort of protection to which honorable members opposite appear to bc wedded, would be of no use to me. However, I shall reserve any further remarks on this subject until the tariff amendments proposed by the Trade and Customs Department are before us, and I trust that on that occasion we shall confine our remarks on the one subject, and that the Minister for Trade and Customs will be somewhat more kindly treated than the Treasurer has been during this debate.
I most heartily congratulate tho Government upon the success that has attended its efforts to bring about n readjustment of Commonwealth find 5! tate financial relationships. The matter was discussed in an atmosphere conducive to co-operation between the parties concerned.. I feel sure that the agreement will ultimately be ratified. The Government has not been given sufficient credit for its achievements in this respect. I consider it only fair that I should make these remarks, for I was opposed to the withdrawal from the States of th<? per capita payments.. I felt that the proposals that were made in lieu of the capitation grant were inadequate, and. I could see that it would be extremely serious for the States had the Government forced them to accept its proposals.. It was highly desirable that a mutually satisfactory arrangement should be made. I sincerely trust that the Loan Council, which will henceforth represent all the States as well as the Commonwealth, will be able to prevent excessive public borrowing.
I congratulate the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) upon the speech which he delivered in this debate a day or so ago ; but I trust that he will not misunderstand me when I say that in my opinion his criticism of the honorable member for Henty (Mr: Gullett) for daring adversely to refer, on the floor of this, chamber, to the Government’s financial proposals was entirely uncalled for and unwarranted. Honorable membersof the Nationalist party have always considered that it is their right to criticizethe Government if they consider criticism is deserved, even though they are in. general agreement as to its policy. I disagree with the honorable member for Warringah that these matters should be- thrashed out in the party room. I waselected to express my views in thi chamber, and I have done so, even though at times they have been in opposition tothe views of the Government. I have always claimed that the great differencebetween this party and the Labour party lies in the fact that we are entitled, without being considered’ disloyal to the party, to speak freely on all matters of Government policy, whereas honorablemembers opposite are bound to give expression to the decisions of the caucus.
It must be gratifying to the Government that its allocation of the surplushas been subjected to so little criticism. I am particularly glad, too, that the Treasurer intends to reduce income taxation. I entirely differ from my friend, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) r who condemned him for reducing direct taxation. If we can afford it - and weclearly can to-day - we should reducedirect taxation. Nothing will givegreater impetus to industries, or do more to encourage new capital, than the knowledge that private enterprise will not be unduly hampered by an excessive incometax. Although the federal land tax does not directly affect the small landholder, it affects him indirectly, because the more tax the Commonwealth takes theless is left to the States.
I am pleased that the PostmasterGeneral proposes to increase the payments to allowance postmasters.
– That has already been done.
– I am glad to hear it ; but I desire to draw attention to the need forgiving larger increases to some of those postmasters than to others. Those whose receipts amount to only a few pounds a year are in need of special assistance. Certain allowance postmasters receive more remuneration than some of those in charge of official establishments. Many who are doing valuable work in outback districts, often working for nine to ten hours a day for a paltry £25 or £30 a year, are more in need of increased remuneration than those earning £200 a year in addition to their ordinary income. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a further increase to those allowance postmasters who at the present time receive an inadequate return for their labour.
Honorable members on the Government side, and particularly the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), have stated that the outstanding need of Australia today is greater production. In order to bring that about, the cost of production must be reduced. I. remind the Opposition that another great need of this country is population. The only real criticism contained in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition is the remark that the Government is encouraging too many immigrants. Of course, the party opposite has always objected to immigration, just as it has opposed defence measures. I find myself in accord, however, with honorable members opposite in their disapproval of the influx of Southern Europeans. The best way to develop this country is to encourage men of British stock. With what the Government has done in the latter direction I entirely agree, and I am sure that it is supported by every thinking man in the community, at any rate, by every good Britisher. I do not allow that the Britishers coming to Australia today will not make as good .Australians as did their fathers and grandfathers, who were responsible for the early development of this country, and the Tace with which it is now peopled. If, instead of constantly criticizing the efforts of the Government to encourage migration and thereby increasing unemployment, the Opposition would use its influence with those persons who are interfering with the industries of the country and bringing about unemployment, their efforts would be directed to a good purpose. At the present time a strike of the waterside workers is in progress, and if honorable members opposite gave good advice to those responsible for that strike, they would be doing good to the Commonwealth, and, incidentally, to their own cause. I seldom quote from newspapers, but I intend to refer to a paragraph published in the Melbourne Argus yesterday. Similar reports appeared in all the principal daily newspapers. The waterside workers have refused to handle the cargo of vessels from Tasmania carrying zinc, and they have declared “ black “ every boat loaded by employees of the Electrolytic Zinc Company. It has always been the custom for the employees of the company to load its own product. The waterside workers decline, to transfer the cargo to overseas vessels, because some of their fellow workers who are not members of their union loaded the zinc. They claim the right to load all boats, and to handle all cargo conveyed by steamer, train, or lorry.
– They want to starve their fellow workmen.
– Yes. Seamen have been discharged and firemen are out of employment, and the waterside workers will not admit their fellow labourers in Tasmania into their union. Obviously if the employees of the Zinc Company are not allowed to load the vesels, some of them will be thrown out of work. What a remarkable thing is the brotherhood of Labour! The paragraph in the Argus states -
Because the vessel contained as part of its cargo zinc loaded at the Electrolytic Zinc Company’s works at Risdon (Tasmania) by the company’s own labour, the Union Steamship company’s cargo steamer Kakariki was declared “ black “ when it arrived at Queen’s wharf yesterday morning. Part of the zinc cargo was consigned to the United Kingdom. Vor some years zinc has been loaded at the works of the company by its own employees, but recently the Tasmanian wharf labourers declared that the work belonged to them, and threatened that if the cargo was loaded by other labour it would be declared “black.” This decision is regarded as part of the new policy of the Waterside Workers’ Federation in adopting irritation tactics, as well as resorting to an overtime strike on the wharves against the shipowners.
Wharf labourers refused to unload the zinc from the Kakariki, and it was decided by the owners to lay. up the vessel indefinitely at Melbourne. The crew was paid off yesterday morning, and the Kakariki was laid up.
It was ascertained that the Waterside Workers’ Federation had, in its new offensive against tho shipowners, threatened to include also the Commonwealth Line cargo vessel, the Fordsdale, in its “ black “ declarations in the event of any attempt being made to load zinc from the Kakariki on to the Fordsdale. This decision was reached because it was believed that part of the Kakariki’s cargo had been consigned by the Commonwealth Line vessel.
That is an example of what the workers are doing to assist the Commonwealth to operate a government line of steamers, and it furnishes a very good justification for the Government’s decision that the Line cannot be continued except at enormous and unwarrantable loss to the general taxpayer. With the Government’s policy in that regard I am in complete accord. I was reported in the Tasmanian press as having supported the censure motion in regard to the proposed sale of the Commonwealth ships, but it is hardly necessary for me to contradict that statement. The attitude of the waterside workers, seamen, and other industrialists associated with the running of the vessels has crippled the Line, and made the operating cost such that it is impossible for ships to be profitably worked on the Australian register.
The criticism levelled by some honorable members against the budget has been in the nature of a personal attack upon the Treasurer. It cannot be supposed that the Treasurer alone was responsible for the budget; in any case he alone is not responsible for the legislation that lias compelled the Government to borrow overseas, or for the building of Commonwealth railways, or for the roads grant to the States. Those things are in conformity with the policy approved by this Parliament. Yet honorable members have directed their criticism against the Treasurer personally. I. consider that his handling of the finances is entirely to his credit. He has devoted a lot of time to his office, and his achievements in connexion with the financial agreement and the bringing of the States into a loan council that will more effectively regulate borrowing, are a lasting monument to his energy and farsightedness. Whatever feelings honorable members on this side of the House may entertain towards the honorable gentleman as Leader of the Country party, he is en- titled to full credit for what he has done as custodian of the public finances.
Of course I shall vote against the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) who, although he quoted masses of figures, did not succeed in proving that anything was wrong with the handling of the finances. He charged the Government with extravagance. When honorable members opposite espouse economy, they appear in a role that is new to them, because their usual view is that the people who pay taxes are not the people who support them politically. I am glad that they have seen the error of their ways.
The Leader of the Opposition devoted a good deal of attention to the League of Nations and Australia’s defence policy. I hope to have an opportunity, when the defence estimates are before the committee, to deal with that subject fully, but I asked the honorable gentleman by interjection whether he considered thai: Australia should be the first to disarm. I think he replied that it should set an example. It is impossible for the Commonwealth to disregard the expenditure of other countries upon defence, particularly the naval construction programmes of America and Japan. The first duty of the Government is to ensure,!, as far as the means at our disposal permit, the safety of the country by providing adequately for its defence. Australia cannot afford to spend many million pounds a year on defence, nor can it afford to remain open to attack by neighbouring nations. We all are firm supporters of a White Australia. It is useless, however, to advocate such a policy if we are not prepared to defend it. No one would be more pleased than I if the League of Nations could put an end to war for all” time, by inducing the world to agree to the settlement of international disputes by arbitration. But is it not extraordinary that people in Australia should suggest that international disputes may be settled by arbitration when we are not able to settle our own local industrial differences in that way? Those who say that Ave should turn the other cheek to the aggressor, and not make preparation for our own defence, arc identical with those who at all times ure inciting one section of tlie community against another. If people whose interests are identical cannot adjust thendisputes, it is idle to say that much bigger and more critical differences between nations can be settled by arbitration. The Leader of the Opposition said that Australia should set an example to the world by being the first to disarm. Is it possible for the League of Nations to function successfully when the great country of America adopts towards the League this attitude, “ Arbitrate in Europe, settle all your differences by arbitration; let there be no wars in Europe. But hands off the Monroe doctrine? In regard to all that it implies there can be no arbitration.” So, if differences should arise between the United States and some of the South American republics, Europe must not interfere. Such a matter would, in the opinion of America, come within its exclusive jurisdiction. Australia takes up a similar attitude in regard to the White Australia policy. We claim, that it is a domestic question which we intend to decide for ourselves, and although we are prepared to arbitrate on all other issues and to encourage other people to settle their disputes by peaceful discussions round the table, upon that one vital subject the opinion of the outside world is not wanted. Is there anything more likely to embroil Australia in war than this policy? I hope our people will never be required to fight, but so long as we rigidly exclude all colored races from this country, we must be prepared to defend it. Those who are opposed to provision for the adequate defence of our great ideal of racial purity, our homes, and our national heritage, arc not good Australians. So long as they maintain that attitude they are not likely to be entrusted by the people with the government of the country.
Like many other honorable members, I am. very much concerned about the adverse trade balance, but I do not think that a remedy will be found in a higher tariff. Certainly a policy of free trade will not improve our condition ; no young country was ever developed by free trade. If the Commonwealth controlled all the banking institutions they might be able to assist in balancing our trading account by refusing to provide money to pay for imports in excess of exports. Perhaps the extravagance amongst our people could be checked in that way. On the other hand, the suggestion has been made - that the importation of certain luxuries should be prohibited while the trade balance is against us. Some action should be taken, and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say that the Government is giving serious consideration to this problem, and will seek the advice of the Commonwealth Statistician and other competent authorities. Of course, if this Parliament were to take action to limit the flow of imports, loud protests would be raised by certain sections of the community. I would not be influenced by them. We are living in an age of extravagance, and probably our people could, dispense with 15 per cent, of our imports without material or social disadvantage. City dwellers are mainly responsible for the present extravagant methods of living, and I am afraid that only bacl seasons and adverse economic conditions will check this tendency. Any legislation that the Government may introduce that may help to bring about a favorable .trade balance will have my whole-hearted support. The pernicious time payment system which is operating in this and other countries has been largely responsible for the present day extravagance. If the law did not project the sellers of motor cars against buyers who were unable to meet their liabilities, the time payment system would be curtailed considerably. The greatest evil existing in this country to-day is the credit system of purchase, and unfortunately this Government, cannot prevent it to any extent, except with the co-operation of the States. Certain honorable members have advocated the cessation of borrowing abroad, but a drastic curtailment in that direction at present would only intensify our unemployment trouble. For years past we have had to borrow abroad to meet our liabilities. When unemployment is rife, and honest and good workmen are seeking employment, that is the time when governments should construct out of loan moneys public works, such as roads and railways. The cessation of overseas borrowing would inevitably bring about depression and possible upheaval in this country and the consequent overthrow of the Government. No government has legislated so well in the interests of Australia as has this Government. It has not favoured one section of the community more than another. It has recognized that the smaller and weaker States must receive some assistance if Ave are to have a happy and contented, community and a successful federation. Having no desire to bring about a change of Government, I shall not support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- - I wish to take exception to one or two remarks made by the Prime Minister last night. The honorable member for Da.r- 171]1 criticized the Leader of the Opposition for making use of figures contained in the budget, but the same criticism can Avith equal effect be levelled against the Prime Minister, because he also quoted figures from the budget. He deliberately made one or two misstatements. He must know that one of the planks of the financial platform of the Labour party is restriction of public borrowing, yet he accused the Labour party of being opposed to bor.rowing altogether. I submit that it is the duty of all honorable members, especially Ministers, to stick as closely as possible to facts. The Prime Minister also took great credit for the wonderful financial arrangement between the Com.monwealth and the States. If this Government and many of its followers had had its way in Parliament earlier another scheme - the abolition of the per capita payments - would have been forced upon the States. I remind the Prime Minister that the recent financial arrangement Avas made possible only because of the protestation of honorable members on this side, supported by certain honorable members opposite, against the proposal to abolish the per capita payments. The Government Avas forced to change its policy. Once again, the Labour party, although in a minority, has helped to bring about a reform in the interests of the Commonwealth and the States. The Prime Minister last night referred to the funding of ;our debt to Great Britain, amounting to some £92,000,000. I asked by interjection what rate of interest Ave were paying, and he replied £4 18s. 4d. I should like to know what rate of interest Italy and France are paying on their debts to Great Britain. Judging by certain negotiations that have taken place between the representatives of Great Britain and those two countries, they obtained concessions that have not, been extended to Australia. If that is so, Australia has been treated unfairly. It may be said that Great Britain is the Mother Country, and that its people are taxed more heavily than the people of other countries, but if Great Britain is to be generous at all, surely it should give consideration to one of its dominions and extend to it even more favorable terms than those given to foreign countries. Those countries have not stood by Great Britain as they should have done, in view of the way in which Great Britain stood by them during the war. The Prime Minister has made much of the fact that, because we are paying £4 18s. 4d. per cent, for the £92,000,000 borrowed from the British Government, Ave are under a much better arrangement than that which previously existed. My contention is that we should receive the same .consideration from the British Government as is given to the Italian and French Governments. I do not claim that the treasurer is the only person who should be credited or blamed for our financial position, but as the honorable gentleman represents the Ministry when presenting the budget, his name naturally comes up in its discussion more frequently than does that of other Ministers. The supporters, of the Prime Minister applauded him when he spoke yesterday, as if the right honorable gentleman had stepped into the breach and taken upon himself all blame for the financial position of the country. I do not know whether the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) will bear me out, but while it may be generally considered that the Prime Minister is a strong man, I am confident that the Treasurer has been able to bring pressure to bear on the right honorable gentleman in regard to certain financial proposals -which bear the imprimatur of the so-called Country party. Undoubtedly this Federal Treasurer has been the luckiest individual who has ever occupied the position. Page 13 of the budget papers for 1927-28 contains a list showing the surpluses and deficiences in our Consolidated Revenue from the year 1907-08 to the estimate for the year 1927-28. During that long period, only two deficits are disclosed which can be satisfactorily accounted for. When a Labour Government came into office in 1910, it found that it had been bequeathed by the Fusion Government, the legacy of a deficit of £656,149. When Labour passed over the reins of government in 1913, it left a surplus in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but when it again took over from the Cook-Irvine Government, thirteen months later - notwithstanding the fact that that Government had taken over from the Fisher ‘Government an accumulated surplus of £2,643,305 - there was a deficit of £l,41S,958. From the year 1915-16, when there was an accumulated surplus of £3,000,000, the surplus accumulated until it reached £7,428,574 in 1922-23, when the Treasurer assumed office. That was a. tremendous surplus, which was never anticipated when Federation was consummated. The following note was appended to the first budget speech of this Treasurer -
The ordinary transactions of the. year 1923-24 resulted in a surplus of £2,578,334, which, with the surplus brought forward, made an accumulated surplus of £10,006,908. Of this amount £4,915,755 was applied to debt redemption, and £2,500,000 to provide for naval construction and a reserve for defence. The accumulated surplus thus remaining at 30th June, 1924. was £2,519,153.
The honorable gentleman has made the boast that, under his administration, a redemption fund has been established, and a scheme has been evolved whereby, within a certain number of years, we shall have liquidated our present debt. Everything depends upon what -kind of financial position we shall be in, and how much we borrow in the interim. The present Treasurer was not the first Treasurer to reduce the national’ debt. I recall to the memory of honorable members that, when Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer, a loan matured which amounted to £7,250,000. Sir Joseph Cook was somewhat anxious as to how he should meet the payment, and thought he would have to follow the established custom of floating a loan. However, he was assured by his officers that there was no need to worry, as the note issue fund had an accumulated profit of £7,750,000, which would more than meet the maturing debt. Sir Joseph Cook was, therefore, the first Treasurer who was able to redeem a maturing loan from accumulated profits of the note issue instituted by the Labour Government. I almost made the mistake of crediting the present Treasurer with that honour.
Not only did the Prime Minister make a egregious blunder in his speech, but. he purposely misrepresented the financial policy of the Labour party. That policy can be verified by a reference to our platform, to which we are pledged, and of which we are not ashamed. Honorable members opposite have asked why the Leader of the Opposition moved his amendment. The very discussion which has ensued as a result of that amendment is a sufficient answer. The amendment embraces four great problems which concern Australia to-day. It deals with the insufficient tariffs on our industries, and their effects on the people of Australia. It also deals with unemployment and our adverse trade balance, and with the present economic position of Australia. One cannot look at a newspaper nowadays without seeing utterances from chairmen of banks, insurance companies, and big business concerns which refer to one or other of the problems covered by the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. It has focussed the attention of the people of Australia on the important questions which affect most seriously the well-being of our community. By a strange coincidence, there appeared in the Evening News of yesterday a London cable concerning the firm of Paterson, Laing, and Bruce. It reads -
At the annual meeting of Paterson, Laing, and Bruce, Limited, to-day, Mr. Truman, who presided, said that there was nothing novel about industrial trouble in Australia, but the position was full of anxiety to thoughtful people. That Australia alone should show a steady increase in the cost of living since the war provoked alarm. The trend of recent economic policy in Australia was causing some anxiety in London and among the more thoughtful of the community in Australia.
Mr. Truman is the chairman, of the firm in which the Prime Minister is interested. I have no desire to refer to the private activities of the right honorable gentleman, but it is remarkable that we should, at this juncture, meet with a cable which deals with the problem which we are at present discussing. That cable shows Mr. Truman, as the mouthpiece of that great concern, which has ramifications in Australia and Great Britain, expressing himself on lines practically identical with those of the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister was applauded by his supporters when he mentioned that when Mr. Lang went to the American market for money his action prejudiced the activities of the Australian Loan Council, and caused that body to pay more for its requirements. To-day Mr. Lang is in opposition in the Parliament of New South Wales, and Mr. Bavin, a Nationalist, is Premier. From what I can understand of the general conditions of New South Wales, that State has not reaped the benefit which it anticipated from the change of Government, and the general public of New South Wales is now extremely doubtful whether the position will produce the result it expected. When Mr. Bavin assumed the reins of government, the Commonwealth Loan Council had to float a loan of £7,000,000 in Londone, part of it for the use of the Commonwealth Government, and part for the use of the State Governments. The Prime Minister stated some time ago that the prospects of floating a loan on satisfactory terms on the London market would be enhanced by a change of government in New South Wales, but the new issue is to be made at £97 10s. per cent., or £1 per cent. more than the last loan floated during Mr. Lang’s term.
– And the Prime Minister drew attention to Mr. Lang’s influence at the time it was floated.
– That is so. I wonder whether he will now admit that he made a mistake? It is only a month or so since honorable members opposite were congratulating themselves on the accession to office of a new government in New South Wales, but they are finding that the change is not so satisfactory as they anticipated.
A good many honorable members have drawn attention to the number of boards and commissions which this Government has appointed. The matter was referred to in the following terms in a leading article which appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 15th November last: -
In the maze of detail inevitable in a budget of more than £70.000,000, the expense of these sub-governmental commissions is difficult to trace, even by the expert financial tracker. Last year a return dealing with the subject was asked for. The list was so long, and the costs so difficult to trace, that weeks of investigation were essential before the return could he compiled. It was disclosed that the different boards, commissions, tribunals, &c, brought into existence by the Commonwealth Government, and which were in operation during the years 1924.26, numbered 78.
Of what good have these 78 boards and commissions been to the Commonwealth? In my opinion they have been even more extravagant than the Government. In the last loan bill that we had under consideration, an amount of £2,000,000 was provided for expenditure by the Federal Capital Commission. At the moment I am not concerned greatly about the work of the commission, though I feel that I should say in passing, that its appointment was altogether unnecessary. The work of developing this area had for many years been supervised by thoroughly qualified officers of the Department of Works and Railways, and the Department of Home and Territories, and they had rendered excellent service to the community. They did all the spade work before the appointment of the Federal Capital Capital Commission which has been given credit for it. This commission is an expensive excrescence. The point that I wish particularly to emphasize is that although we provide the money which the commissionspends, we have practically no control over it. Far too many boards and commissions are spending public money to-day without being subject to the control of Parliament, and, unfortunately, they have not added a single element of efficiency to our administrative methods. In the vestibule of the building in which this Parliament sat for so long in Melbourne was the motto, “ In the multitude of councillors there is safety.” I believe in those words of the Psalmist. I believe in trusting the people. It cannot be said that “ in the multitude of commissions there is safety.” I am entirely opposed to the handing over of the responsibilities and obligations of government to small boards and commissions which are not subject to close governmental supervision. Surely one of the chief attributes of a statesman is prescience, but that quality appears to be totally lacking in the members of this Government. They do not seem to be able to administer the affairs of the nation for the days immediately ahead, let alone look into the future. In my opinion, the Labour Government of 1910 and the succeeding years was in many respects ideal. It made provision in those years to enable the nation to withstand the storm and stress to which it was subjected during the years of the great war.I do not suggest for a moment that it had any idea that the war was coming, but it realized the necessity of making provision for any storms that might occur. Two of its greatest deeds were the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank and the removal from the private banking institutions of the monopoly of the note issue, and the placing of it in the hands of the Notes Issue Board. All but the most biased students of our national history are ready to admit freely to-day that those acts have been of incalculable benefit to the nation. But this Government has shown no capacity for actions of that kind. Its main endeavour appears to be to shed itself of all responsibility. It might have been expected that in the prosperous years through which we have passed it would have made some provision for the lean years which, in accordance with the law of averages, we may expect soon to encounter. Unfortunately this year will not be nearly so prosperous for our general community as those through which we have recently passed. Australia depends very largely upon her production of wool and wheat. The most casual consideration of our export trade in respect of these commodities must cause one to realize how much employment they give. For instance, the marketing of a single frozen lamb provides employment for a surprisingly large number of people. First of all the animal has to be bred ; then it has to be sent to market, sold at auction, sent to the slaughterhouse, slaughtered, returned to the cold stores, shipped by the water side workers, taken abroad by the seamen, and sold on the other side of the world. In a bad season our flocks and herds decrease seriously, and there is a consequent falling off in employment. The Government should have been making provision to meet these conditions, but it has not doneso. It has gambled on a continuation of good seasons. It reminds me of the man who attempts to break the bank at Monte Carlo. But it will surely reap its reward. Even business men in Sydney who are its friends, are to-day complaining bitterly about the financial stagnation of the country, and the number of unemployed workmen walking our streets. It is all very well to blame Lang and Willis, but the fact cannot be gainsaid that the Commonwealth Government is chiefly responsible for the situation which confronts us. We have been accustomed to read in various financial periodicals that the political complexion of Commonwealth and State Governments does not greatly concern money-lenders abroad; but the conditions under which our new loan is to be floated do not bear out that view. A new government has been elected in New South Wales, and conditions are worse there now than they have been there for many years.
– The same is true of South Australia.
– That is so. Nearly everybody in that State has turned into a “Dismal Jimmy” since Mr. Butler’s Government assumed office. I propose to quote a few notable expressions of opinion that have recently appeared in the press relating to the effect of protective tariffs. The Sydney Morning Herald of 26h Ocober las published the following letter by Mr. Paul Cheyne, secretary of the Australian Manufactures Development League: -
Sir,- Like all free traders, Mr.R. H. Webster has a curious system of bookkeeping. He posts all debts to the Protectionist account, and carefully ignores any credits. Mr. Webster points out that Australia pays5½d. a lb. for local-grown sugar, while London pays only 3d. This is not so. The retail price in the Commonwealth is fixed at 4½d. a lb. Mr. Webster omits to mention, too, that in one year our sugar industry, comparing overseas with local prices, saved the Commonwealth £18,000,000, and that from October, 1914, until 1920. the overseas price was very much higher than here. Not until February, 1022, did the British price fall below the Australian one. Mr. Webster is also amusing when he points to our tax of 5s. 4d. a lb. on tobacco. In “ free trade” Great Britain, which does not produce tobacco, there is a duty on manufactured tobacco ranging from las. 7d. to 10s. 4-Jd. a lb., and for tobacco unstripped or unstemmed, of Ss. 2d. and 0s. a lb. Mr. Webster then directs attention to an Australian tax of 4d. a pint on beer, and asks beer drinkers to calculate how much it costs them. It costs them nothing if they favour a good Australian brand. Mr. Webster is apparently ignorant,’ too, that in Great Britain there” is a tariff duty on beer, ranging from £23 lis. for 3(1 gallons - considerably over ls. 7d. a pint, which makes the Australian 4d. a pint mentioned by Mr. Webster seem almost dimunitive- down to £5 ls. 4d. for 30 gallons, or over 4d. a pint. Mr. Webster then sets out in pursuit of the iniquity of our tax on motor chassis. Even “ free trade “ England imposes an import duty of 33A per cent, on motor cars, accessories, component parts, &c. One feels a little sorry for Mr. Webster, but he should equip himself with a few facts before venturing upon a. tariff discussion.
The question has been raised whether a really protective policy would be likely to benefit Australia. I say that, undoubtedly, it would. In the early days of the United States of America, when the population of that country was far less than that of Australia at the present time, Alexander Hamilton and those associated with him adopted protective tariffs, and, with few exceptions, they have remained in operation ever since. To show what would happen to the primary producers if a free-trade policy were adopted, I shall’ quote the opinion of Mr. George Cockerill, formerly editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph and at, one time a leader writer on the staff of the Melbourne Age -
The protectionist believes in protection, liecause he believes in his own country. Before Australia can be a nation, self-dependent, prosperous find secure; before it can make reasonable use of the millions of square miles of habitable country within the Commonwealth, it must establish the industries that will provide it with ships, aeroplanes, machinery, and all the essentials of both peace and” -war. Nature has provided our great young country with the raw materials. We have the nucleus of a white population unsurpassed in physical and mental endowment, intensely patriotic, and singularly adapted for skilled industry.
Seeing- that Australia has about 12,000 miles, of coastline, it should be a maritime country, more than even Great Britain herself. We should build our own ships here. Although ships’” plates cannot be rolled in this country, the vessels built in our leading dockyards have met with the approval of the most severe British critics, and I have no doubt that, in the course of time, plate-rolling mills will be established in Australia, so that ships may be entirely constructed here. Mr. J. Galvin Brown, writing in regard to America’s experience, states-
The four years of free trade in the United States of America, from 1.893 to I Si) 7 , ruined agriculture as well as other industries. The decrease in the home consumption of wheat during those four years was 311,880,10(1 bushels, although the population increased. The loss on primary products was £512,000,000. The farmers’ loss on crops during those four years was £850,757,000.
I ask my Australian kinsmen to imagine the position in which this country would be if it were left a prey to foreign com.petition. Our factories, ‘ numbering 21,243, employ 450,920 persons. The value of the land and buildings is £96,000,000, and the plant and machinery are worth £1.12,000,000; salaries and wages aggregate £S6,000,000 per annum; and the annual value of our manufactures is £155,000.000. I have taken those figures from the Year-Book. Can it be contended that the primary producer does not benefit from the activities of nearly half a. million workmen? Counting the members of their families, there would be at least three times that number. Is that great clientele of no value to the primary producer? Could anybody be so insane as to discard with a sweep of the hand that great body of people? Would that £86,000,000 go into the pockets of the workers of Australia, if our industries were not protected? Those questions admit of but one answer. To say that Australia would be equally well off without protection would be to indulge in cant and humbug. During the four years between 1893 and 1897, when the United States of America was without protection, the rural population lost over £S00,000,000. President Coolidge, addressing the Union League at Philadelphia a few days ago, stated -
In the past we adopted and very generally maintained for a period of more’ than 100 years, a system of protective tariffs. This enabled us to develop our natural resources, build up great industries, furnish employment for the increasing population, and markets for the various products of the farm and factory.
This policy has lately been extended to include restriction of immigration. Without the influence of a protective tarin’ it would never have been possible for our country to reach its present stage of diversified development. Any material reduction in the general tariff rates would ultimately result, in drastic deflation of agricultural and industrial values, and in the standards of living. Under the present system our foreign commerce has reached the highest peacetime record, and the national income hits steadily increased to enormous proportions. It was 90,000.000.000 dollars (£18,000,000,000) last calendar year.
So far as we know, President Coolidge is not looking for further political honours and will not again be a candidate for the Presidency ; but he was prepared to bear eloquent testimony to the benefit of protection in a country similar to our own. The trade between Great Britain and Australia is decreasing. Those who advocate the cause of foreigners should leave Australia, and assist them on their own soil. The following table “shows the growth of imports from the countries mentioned in the last three and a half years : -
The United States of America is in a ‘ somewhat different category from the other countries there mentioned, because its manufacturers pay decent wages, and therefore compete with us on approximately equal terms. Statistics show that since 1922-23 the Australian imports from foreign countries have increased by £24,000,000, whilst those from Great Britain show a slight decrease, notwithstanding the substantial preference which we give to that country. The greatest increase has been in the exports from cheap labour countries, against which our industries cannot compete. “We know that Prance and Germany benefit by the existing depreciation of their currencies, and by the long hours worked by their people for small wages. Australian secondary producers cannot hold their own against such competitors. It is a most serious indictment of the Government that there has been such an immense increase in the importations from foreign countries, attended by a decrease of the trade with the United Kingdom. If the Prime Minister is satisfied with that state of affairs he should not again, when attending an Imperial Conference, gasconnade on public platforms as a. great imperialist, while he supinely allows the cheap labour products of foreign countries to oust both Australian and British goods from this market. Shortly the Government will sell the Commonwealth Line of Steamers to some private company, which will operate the vessels with coloured labour. It is allowing cheap-labour countries to flood this country with their products to the detriment of our own industries, and, to a greater extent, than any preceding^ Government, is permitting the influx of poorly paid southern Europeans to take work from our people. For these three big wrongs, the present Government is responsible. Some honorable members opposite laughed at the suggestion that the Commonwealth should step in to save an Australian industry, but that has been done before. At one time the canefields of Queensland were worked almost exclusively by kanakas. The Federal Government stepped in, repatriated the kanakas, and substituted white labour, and a big and flourishing industry has been established in tropical Australia upon white labour conditions. There are critics of what is termed the spoonfeeding of the sugar industry. Such criticism has never come from the Labour party. Not only were the kanakas sent back to the Islands in order to make room for white Australians, but to-day there is an embargo against the importation of foreign sugar. A great national industry could not endure for a season if its products had to compete against those of poorly-paid coloured-labour countries. I understand that only in exceptional circumstances can sugar be sold for more than 4£d. per lb. White protecting the sugar producer we are protecting also the consumer. Honorable members opposite are continually prating about the defence of Australia; yet they are not lifting a hand -to save one key industry that means so much to defence. The iron and steel industry, although mainly under the control of a very wealthy organization, is in a precarious position. What has been done for the sugar industry, can be done for the steel industry.
If this Parliament would adopt a patriotic stand in the interests of Australian industries and workers, every man and woman who is at present unemployed could be absorbed, Christmas will soon be upon us, and I am afraid that, at what should be a time of rejoicing, we shall hear the pattering of bare feet upon the pavement. Already those of us who represent industrial constituencies are receiving letters which remind us that many thousands of workers can expect nothing but a very dismal Christmastide. As a true Australian, I say that this Parliament, which is administering the affairs of one of the youngest and wealthiest countries on the earth, will deserve to be despised if it allows unemployment to remain acute longer than can be avoided. If the Minister for Trade and Customs would bring down a schedule of protective duties which would revive languishing industries, he would have the support of the overwhelming majority of honorable members, and instead of Christmastide being a time of misery and suffering, many thousands of workers would be singing with gladness, because once more the breadwinners were at work and their families could be supplied with the necessaries of life. It is high time that the period of the financial year was altered. I do not believe in the financial year ending in mid-winter; unemployment increases because of the hiatus then between the ending of one financial year and the commencement of the works programme for the following year. Honorable members opposite may remind me that the wheat yield and the wool clip will be less than they were in previous years, and that that is the cause of unemployment, but I believe that a wise Government would have been farsighted enough to make provision for this lean season. This Parliament should not adjourn over Christmas without giving to the languishing secondary industries a chance to live against the competition of goods from cheap labour countries, and providing employment for the thousands of men and women who are threatened with starvation. It is idle to say that this is not a Commonwealth responsibility. The State Parliaments also have their obligations, but something should be done by this legislature to allievate the distress that exists in all parts of Australia to-day. A protective and fostering policy has done well for the sugar industry; it will be equally beneficial to other industries.
I have not time to deal at length with the adverse trade balance. There was a time when, owing to the excess of exports over imports, Australia had lying to its credit in London about £63,000,000. It is remarkable how even a credit may be used to the detriment of Australian industry. That money was lent out to British manufacturers on short-dated loans in order that they might extend their businesses or carry out new processes of manufacture, which would enable them to compete more effectively, with Australian factories. Unfortunately, the pendulum has now swung to the other extreme; instead of having a credit balance of £63,000,000, we are almost as much on the debit side. This serious state of affairs cannot long continue. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that the Government is giving serious consideration to it. Some scheme to ameliorate the conditions of Australian industries and workers is required at once. A government that was truly alive to the needs of the situation could provide a remedy.
I believe that, if the Minister for “Works and Railways were to introduce tomorrow a programme of public works, to be undertaken by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the State Governments, hardly one voice would be raised in opposition to them. I am informed that in Melbourne 10,000 men and women are unemployed. Many of those people are heads of large families, and, therefore, the distress is felt by many more than the 10,000 workless breadwinners. Of course, among them may be a few of those who are termed “ unemployable,” but knowing many of the men who are seeking work in Melbourne, and the leaders who are pleading their cause, I am confident that if they were given employment, they would return fair value for the wages paid to them. The sooner the Ministry brings forward some ameliorative proposals, the better for the. community. Although the Victorian
Labour Government inherited from its predecessor an empty Treasury, it is doing a great deal to help the workless. If assistance is given now to those who are willing to work, trade will improve, and the benefits will filter through all sections of the community.
If any nation attacked this county, I should be prepared to defend it to the last ditch; butL strongly deprecate the enormous expenditure on defence units, which, if war came about, would in all probability be scrapped. One item with which I agree is the expenditure on the manufacture of munitions. I am satis- fied that Australia, with its present population, with its men of splendid physique and courage, would be no mean adversary in the event of an attack upon its shores, and other nations fully realize that. Much of the expenditure on items of defence could be used to employ our own people in peaceful pursuits. What effort has this Government made towards universal peace? I have no objection to sending our representatives to the Geneva conferences. I asked the Prime Minister the other day whether he would be prepared to convene a conference of the nations bordering the Pacific, and he replied that the Government was standing behind the Geneva conferences and its decisions. The treatment that Lord Cecil, the representative of Great Britain at the Geneva conference, received when he advocated peace led to his resignation from the Ministry. I submit that if there were more men of his ability, and with his ideals, in this world, we should be much nearer to universal peace than we arc to-day. I do not pay much regard to many of Lloyd George’s statements; but I agree with him that the preparation for war was responsible for the Great War. Extensive preparation for war constitutes an aggressive act towards nations that might otherwise be peacefully inclined. Statements have been m ade in this Parliament designed to offend certain nations bordering the Pacific, and honorable members who have made them are really enemies to Australia, in endeavouring to incite a war of aggression against us. The desire of the people of Japan is for a world-wide peace, and this Government would set a good example by convening a conference of the nations in proximity to the Pacific.
– Would the honorable member be prepared to submit the White Australia policy to arbitration?
Mr.FENTON. - I have conversed frequently with the representatives of India who have visited Australia. Mr. Rangachariar, who was here during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, and Mr. Cheety, who was here as a parliamentary delegate, and Mr. Sastri, have assured me that the people of India have no desire to disturb the White Australia policy; in fact, should the necessity arise, they would be prepared to assist in maintaining it. Honorable members who refer to the people of the East as being a menace to Australia are making an aggressive act towards them. Instead of expending money on war requirements, we should expend it on developmental works. I believe that if an election were held in Great Britain to-morrow, the present Government would be defeated, largely because the people of that country are keenly desirous of establishing peaceful relations with the other nations of the world. I agree with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that during the war the poor people fought for the rich people. It is the rich man who benefits from war activities. Apart from pensions to returned soldiers and their dependants, of which I fully approve, the expenditure during the last four years on defence services was . £28,000,000, and much of that money, with the exception of expenditure on the manufacture of munitions, could have been used to develop Australia.
I am a firm believer in federation, but so long as we allow the State Parliaments to remain as they arewe shall never bring about any real financial reform. The States should be governed by provincial councils, and the functions of the Commonwealth Parliament should be considerably extended.How is it possible to effect economywhen there is for each State a separate Governor, a separate AgentGeneral, and separate government departments. When federation took place the peoplewere promised a reduction in expenditure. What has happened? The expenditure of all the States has increased year by year. This Parliament should grapple with the problem of amending its Constitution; that matter should not have been referred to a royal commission. We should do in 1927 what we did in 1911, formulate our own proposals and submit them to the people by referendum. I have no liking for the present territorial division of the Commonwealth.
Great Britain imports every year ?350,000,000 worth of foodstuffs. A portion of that is supplied by the Dominions and the remainder by foreign countries, such as the Argentine, in which British capital is invested. There has been a suggestion of the appointment of a. pastoral commission, the chairman of which is to be a Government supporter in this chamber. But what on earth would it do? We know that we have to conserve fodder to provide for lean years, and that we must sink bores to ensure adequate water supplies. Although I do not favour the system of government in Russia today, in many respects that country can set us a fine example. There is some good even in bad governments. Russia has a population of about 150,000,000, and it expects in 1928, because of the adoption of modern methods of agriculture and cultivation, to export 500,000,000 bushels of wheat. A conference was held at St. Paul, Minnesota, in the United States of America.
– From what document is the honorable member quoting?
– I am quoting from the Victorian Producer. This is a paper issued monthly by one of the biggest cooperative concerns operating in Victoria, which also has activities in New South Wales and South Australia. It says -
Mr. Pavlov’s report says: The use of better seeds, and the adoption of improved agricultural machinery and tools, are becoming widespread. The resumption of grain exports to the pre-war basis - 500,000,000 bushels a year - may be expected in 1928.
Low productivity of the agricultural economy, Mr. Pavlov adds, was characteristic of Russian history. The war and revolution have, he says, “ changed the conditions affecting agricultural development, not speaking of the tremendous changes which have occurred in the psychology of the populace, the objective conditions of the country have become such that progress must make rapid pace.”
In 1921 there were only 500 tractors in the country. They increased to 1,200 in 1923, to1 0,000 in 1925, and to 22,000 in 1926. In 1925, one order to Ford’s was for 8,000, the largest single order Ford’s ever had. Without violating confidences, Mr. Pavlov said he could tell the conference that the new contract with Ford’s alone would be for 12,000 to 13,000 tractors.
Of the co-operative movement, which has the support of this party, Mr. Pavlov says -
This movement has assumed quite large proportions. … To date 5,000,000 families have been enrolled as co-operatives.
Those include agricultural co-operatives for supplying agricultural inventory, and for purposes of marketing.
The editor of the journal says -
What tremendous importance this remarkable series of facts has for Australian farmers. What a warning it conveys to them to make preparations to protect themselves in the world’s markets. And, above all, what a lesson it is on the value of co-operation.
We know what is going to happen, and we must organize. I believe that Australia, properly organized, would very soon become the greatest country in the world. We have such remarkable natural resources that that result would be inevitable. If we set to work to develop our country to the fullest extent, there would be no cry of want. Honorable members may compare Australia with Great Britain, Germany and other countries. Those are old countries, while we have only begun our career, and have merely scratched the surface of our development. We cannot develop our resources without a policy of protection. That policy has been applied to our sugar industry, and we have intimated to the sugar producers of Cuba, Fiji and elsewhere that they must stand off, that we intend to protect our own industry, and to produce’ sugar with white labour. If we extend that principle to other of our industries we shall have no unemployment in Australia. I say that with full conviction, and in the belief that this Parliament is master of the situation. Although this Government is opposed to me and would supersede me, if possible, with one of its own followers, I and my party are quite willing to stand behind it in the introduction of a protective policy such as I have outlined, because we believe that such a policy would stimulate the industries of Australia, and conserve the welfare of our people.
.- I have listened to a number of speeches during this debate, a great many of which were made by members who have attempted to castigate the Government for its alleged extravagance and failure to economize. When the critics come to the task of actually disclosing where the Government has erred, they fail, and resort to the accusation that Australia is obtaining too heavy a revenue from its tariff. The Treasurer, particularly, is held blameworthy. I believe that we protect some commodities which could better be left alone. We are endeavouring to foster a number of industries for which this country is not fitted, and are neglecting to apply our energies to others which should be developed. When the tariff comes before us for discussion, I shall endeavour to have fostered those industries for which we can supply the raw material. If a mau is conducting a business and (finds that certain lines pay well, he will give attention to those and discard unpayable lines.
This Government is lax in its attitude towards such activities as our timber industry. It should develop our natural resources to the full. If that were done, we should have so many suitable migrants coming to Australia that we could use our discretion and select the very best. So many of the older countries are in such a parlous condition as the aftermath of the war, that Australia should prove a veritable magnet to the enterprising people of the world. Instead of that, too few .suitable migrants are arriving, and far too great a proportion of undesirables. Every good Britisher and other suitable migrant who can be induced to come to Australia is a great asset, because he will be able to keep himself and thus supply employment for others and so develop the country. Some people deprecate the old custom of granting cheap land to migrants. It must be remembered that many of our pioneers underwent great ..privations, and deserve all credit for their success. Members of some of the finest families in Great Britain gravitated to Australia, lured by the inducement of cheap and attractive land. Later, when gold was discovered, there was a tremendous rush to Australia, and’ the rush continued in a modified form for some years after, but during the last 30 years an insufficient number of migrants has arrived, and that must be remedied. The loan of £34,000,00 offered to Australia on such favorable terms by the British Government was too tempting to reject, but the expenditure of the money must be carefully supervised. I have no doubt that the members of the Development and Migration Commission are highly competent gentlemen; but the possibilities of development in Australia are so great, and the schemes that could be submitted so numerous, that I fear that, notwithstanding great care on the part of the commission, the least desirable propositions may be recommended and the best possibly overlooked. If that should happen, we should not reap the benefit that ought to accrue from the expenditure of this £34,000,000.
In my opinion our industrial arbitra ti on system is doing more harm to Australia than any other single thing tha I can name. We should be well advised to scrap it and adopt the Canadian con.ciliation method of dealing with industrial disputes. There is too much compulsion and too little conciliation in our system. Union secretaries or other advocates of the industrialists are really afraid to trust the settlement of the grievances of the men they represent to conciliation. They feel that if they did so they might lose their positions. I have no doubt whatever that better results would follow the adoption of conciliatory methods than have followed our expensive and dilatory court methods. Under the Canadian procedure public opinion is a big factor in the settlement of disputes that ai-ice: while in Australia ir is almost entirely disregarded by the parties immediately concerned. Inevitably there are always three parties to an industrial dislocation - the employers, the employees, and the general public; but the employers and employees carry on their negotiations as they please without, the slightest consideration for “the general community. That should be altered. We need a change of heart in this matter, as well as a change of methods. The employer has a duty to do his best for his employee, and the employee has a duty to do a fair day’s work for the wages which he receives. I am not particularly concerned about how high wages rise, provided that the service rendered is worth the wage. I am nor an advocate of low wages.
– Does tho honorable member suggest ‘that the Arbitration Court does not award adequate wages?
– I say that the whole system is ineffective. The parties to industrial disputes would very often be able to make much more satisfactory arrangements by meeting round a table and conferring than by going to court. A fundamental mistake was made at the inception of our arbitration system, when the court decided that industry must pay what is considers to be a living wage or cease to operate. Many mining ventures in Australia could be developed into profitable concerns if the miners and the mine owners w ere permitted to make arrangements between themselves as to the wages and working conditions which should be observed. Of what use is a wage of £5 a week to a man if he is only provided with intermittent work? He would be much better off with a regular wage of £’i or £4 a week. It has been said that industrial chaos would result were we to abolish our arbitration court machinery. I do not believe it. Employers and employees alike would soon settle down to the new conditions, and industry, would be stabilized.
We should be well advised to give a good deal more consideration to the adoption of profit-sharing methods in industry. But here again union secretaries and other union officials are a serious, difficulty. They know very well that whenever properly devised profit-sharing methods are adopted the participating employees cease to require his services, and will not go on strike. Their nature is, so to speak, transformed. Tt makes all the difference in the world when men have a personal interest in the success of the concern in which they are working. It is often said that profitsharing methods enable perfidious employers to filch from employees their fair share of the proceeds of an enterprise: but that could easily be guarded against in Australia. All profit-sharing agreements could be registered, and, to a certain extent, supervised. Public opinion would soon express itself in respect of dishonest employers, and disapprobation would need to be shown in only a few7 cases to put an end to such practices. I regret that I have not sufficient time at my disposal to reply specifically to charges made against the Government. The allegation of extravagance “is not justified. Some of the promises of financial reform made by the Leader of the Country party, before he became a Minister, may have been impossible of achievement; but the Treasurer has come through the ordeal of Ministerial responsibility well, and considering all the circumstances, he has effected substantial reductions in taxation. Taxation has increased only through the tariff, for which the Government is not entirely responsible. The reduction of income and land tax is most commendable. The ideal underlying the Constitution is for the Commonwealth to retire from the field of direct taxation as far as possible. Owing to the financial burdens caused by the war and other things, it has been impossible for the Common wealth to abandon that field entirely; but efforts are being made in that direction.
I commend the Government upon the arrangement made for the adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. That agreement is the outstanding feature of the achievements of the Bruce-Page Government during its three years of office.
.- I congratulate the Government upon bringing down the budget in sufficient time to enable honorable members to fully discuss, the expenditure. I am glad that the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), regarding the Leader of the County party have been resented by honorable members on his own side. The Treasurer’s followers hold him in the highest respect, and, in my opinion, they are extremely fortunate iu having such a leader. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are young men who havetravelled the world. If they studied their personal interests, they would have nothing to do with politics; but they areprepared to work in the interests of Australia generally. Men of such calibre command our respect. The views of the- honorable member for Henty, summarized, are that the war was a capitalistic one, and was. fought in the interests of capitalism; he would abolish public borrowing; he would reduce indirect taxation considerably by enormous tariff reductions; and he would oppose expenditure on the unification of railway gauges. In short, his policy would bring about stagnation to such an extent that the unemployment of which complaint is now heard would be trebled. In a young country like Australia, where many reproductive public works are in progress, the financial situation need not alarm us. If I were a. money lender, the pessimistic speeches of all members of the Opposition, and of some members on the Government side, would induce me to draw in my purse strings. In June, 1922, before the Bruce-Page Government took office, the gross Commonwealth debt stood at £416,070,509, or £74 per head of the population. In June last, the gross debt was £461,067,441, again £74 a head, the population having increased correspondingly. Thus there was an increase in the debt of £45,000,000: but the amount raised by the Commonwealth for the States increased by £43,000,000, so that the net debt increased only to the extent of £2,000,00u. In June last the direct and indirect taxation amounted to £9 13s. Id.- a head, and, as it was £9 0s. 4d. in June, 1922, the increase was 12s. 9d. a head. Invalid and old-age pensions increased over the same period by 10s. 9d. a head. The sum paid for roads amounted to 6s. 6d. a head, making a total of 17s. 3d. on the last two mentioned items. If the increase in the invalid and old-age pensions expenditure and the road vote were abolished, it would mean a reduction in taxation of 5s. a. head; but nobody would have the temerity to advocate the abolition of the roads scheme, which has been of considerable assistance to the States in developing outback country. The time lias come when roads are more important than railways in many parts of Australia. No matter what government is in power, it will find it inadvisable to scrap that important measure.
The tariff is the main subject that has been discussed. The liabilities to be met absorb practically the whole of the tariff revenue,’ with the exception of about £900,000. Soldiers’ pensions require £7,477,099 ; invalid and old-age pensions, £9,144,589 ; maternity allowance, £660,000; war debt interest and sinking ing fund, £20,495.0S2; and defence, £4,791,282, or a ‘ total of £42,568,049. The customs revenue totals £43,552,478. A reduction in the vote for invalid and old-age pensions is unthinkable. Our war expenditure is unalterable. Defence expenditure has already been shamelessly” cut down. Those items alone absorb “the whole of the customs revenue with the exception of £999.196. The gross national debt of £461,067,441 includes £296,000,000 of war debt, off which £36,000,000 has been paid during the regime of the present Government. Substantial reductions have been made in the land and income taxes, and from those the worker benefits probably more than any other member of the community. The increase in the income tax exemption since 1922-23 from £100 to £300, and the increase in the child allowance from £26 to £30 means that a man with three child.dren has an exemption up to £450. By virtue of the fact that there is £300 exemption, and £50 reduction .for each child up to three children, a further £150 is added to the untaxed income, bringing it up to £450. This sum is very considerably above what the average rural producer earns, and in that respect the industrial worker also is very well catered for by the recent tax reductions. I am pleased that we have decided to reduce our losses by the sale of the Commonwealth Line. The longer the Line is kept, the greater will be the losses. State enterprises, both under the Commonwealth and the State Government have been a lamentable failure. Dealing with this subject, the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th November,’ 1927, has this to say- £1,000,000 Losses. - State Enterprises. - Results in Queensland. - Brisbane, Tuesday. - The total sum written off for losses, &c, on State enterprises has been £808,828, but from this should be deducted payments to consolidated revenue of £62,301, leaving a net sum of £746,460, and if the net accumulated losses were added, the total net loss to date was £1,063,185, says the Auditor-General in his annual report on State enterprises presented to Parliament to-day.
The Auditor-General added that with respect to State cattle stations, it was questionable whether payments to the Treasury should be continued, seeing that the result was merely to increase the large accumulated losses and working account overdraft at the Treasury, For the year 1925-26 stations paid the Treasury £85,007 for interest, and redemption on loans, and the year’s trading resulted in a loss of £152,545. Similarly for 1920-27 payment to the Treasury was £88,000. and the loss £285,486.
When enterprises such as stations were unable to pay even working expenses, the effect of making payments to the Treasury for interest, Stc, was merely to cancel one debt and create another.
The seven State enterprises were indebted to the Treasury to the amount of £1,703,51.’!. If this were added to amounts written off, namely, stations £674,789, cannery £89,959, fish supply £44,080, less profits paid to consolidated revenue by butchers’ shops £5,000; and railway refreshment rooms £57,361, there was a sum of £2,449,980 which represented the net investment of Treasury funds at June 30 ‘last. In the whole of the enterprises the capital cost of each enterprise was treated as a loan from the Treasury, with interest at 5 pel* cent, for 40 years. The long term of the loan and the rate of interest must be considered very favorable to the enterprises, as the Treasury certainly did not raise the money at 5 per cent.
That is a ghastly failure, and a terrible tale of woe in connexion with the State enterprises in Queensland, and those enterprises are practically on a par with the State enterprises every where else in the Commonwealth. My only regret is that the Shipping Line was not disposed, of long ago. Australia’s adverse trade balance is a very unsatisfactory feature of our finances. For the past twelve months the balance of trade has been against us to the extent of about £19,000,000. In addition to this we exported £10,000,000 in gold, making a total adverse trade balance of £29,000,000. That is a matter which requires most serious consideration by every member of the House. The primary producers, however, are not responsible for the position. The latest figures available show that primary products amounted to between 95 and 97^ per cent, of Australia’s total exports. How is it that we do not export more secondary products? The primary producers have done their share, and if the secondary industries were to come to their assistance, the adverse trade balance would not exist. It would be turned in a very short time into a favorable balance. The primary pro- ducers have been so successful because they have no 44-hour or even a 48-hour week, nor do they work under awards of the Arbitration Court or of wages boards. There are thousands of farmers and their families in the Commonwealth who are working long hours, irrespective of what return they may obtain. As a result, they have been able to put their surplus products on the world’s markets, and to compete against those produced by other nations of whatever colour or creed. If we were to place the primary industries of Australia under the same conditions as apply in the secondary industries, there would be a complete collapse in a very short time. I would welcome such conditions if it were possible to obtain them, but Australia’s primary industries cannot be carried on in that way. It is true that we have a home market for 33 per cent, of our primary products, and that market is the best of all; but the balance of our products has to compete in the world’s markets. Until those engaged in our secondary industries realize that they have to be up and doing, and take their share in producing and maintaining the volume of Australia’s exports, wo are not going to make much headway in Australia in respect to export trade in manufactured articles. The consumption of Australia for secondary products will be very rapidly overtaken, and what are we then to do with the surplus? There are many things militating against the success of the primary producer, and I have not heard any satisfactory remedy put forward in this House. The remedy of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is to reduce indirect taxation by a large reduction in the tariff. If that is done it will immediately lead to an increase in imports. The tariff is blamed as being a heavy burden on the primary producers, and I admit that they have to bear a large share of the burden; but the great bulk of the primary producers of Australia are protectionists. My own constituents support a protectionist policy. They are asking me to do what I can to bring about increased import duties on butter, cheese, rice, potatoes, timber, and other articles. When there is a large section of the primary producers asking for increased protection, and another section asking for a reduced tariff, it is for the Government to step in and do what it considers the best for the community as a whole. Protection is undoubtedly the policy of Australia. The protective duties would not affect us to any great extent if people played the game. I suppose that as a farmer my operations are greater than those of many other farmers in Australia. I have recently purchased uptodate machinery on which the duty was fairly substantial, but I would not care a snap of the finger about the duty if I could get conscientious and efficient men to handle the machines. One is an H. V. McKay reaper, which cost £185. It is one of the most up-to-date machines on the market, one which will deal with any kind of crop, whether lying or standing, short or tall. But it is very difficult to get a man to put in a faithful eight hours’ work on it, keep it oiled and in good condition, and see that his horses are well looked after. The inefficiency of the men the farmer has to employ is a greater burden on him than the tariff, as it is most difficult to get men of experience with machinery. I have read of a certain manufacturing firm which quite recently was successful in obtaining substantial protection for its product. In the year following the imposition of the increased duty this firm made a profit of £370,000. It paid a dividend of 20 percent, and carried £180,000 to reserves. It appears to me that that company is not playing the game; it is profiteering.
Mr.Watson. -What company is that?
– I do not propose to give the name. I do not consider that high wages are any consideration if the employee is efficient, and will give a reasonable return for the wages he receives. Out of the 450,000 people employed in factories in Australia to-day, there are not more than 25 per cent. who give a fair average return for the remuneration they receive.
– That is a very unfair statement.
– There are not more than 25 per cent. who give a fair return for the magnificent conditions afforded them by the Arbitration Courts andWages
Boards. They have obtained reductions in hours, double pay for overtime, and other benefits which make their conditions better than those prevailing in any other part of the world.
– Nothing better than they ought to be.
– Quite right. I should like to see them still better, but I should like also to see all employees playing the game. Some honorable members have expressed themselves as being very concerned about the industrial commission that went to America. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) very correctly interjected that even if the cost had been ten times as great it would have been justified if we could gain a lesson from what the members of the commission observed. We are very far astray in our judgment if we consider that we shall be able to uphold the standard of a White Australia with reduced efficiency on the part of the workers and profiteering by manufacturers. Thousands of the sons and daughters of farmers are treking to the capital cities, where they work shorter hours, receive more money, and have superior conditions. That is the cause of much of the unemployment which exists in the cities. If the conditions in the country in regard to roads, railways, water conservation, and other utilities were reasonable, everyone would benefit. A large number of farms are for sale. Not one-third of the primary producers in Victoria are making 5 per cent. interest on the capital they have invested in land, stock and farm implements. If their money were invested in government stock they would receive5½ per cent. interest, and up to 10 per cent. on other investments. Is it any wonder, then, that they are endeavouring to realize on their holdings? When the case for the tobacco industry was submitted to the Tariff Board astounding evidence was given relative to the miserable returns that are being received. The dairying industry has been able to show that it is carrying on under sweated conditions. The Cheese and Butter Manufacturers’ Association of Victoria, which is representative of the whole of the dairying interests in that
State, held a meeting recently, at which it passed the following resolutions: -
That, in order to stabilize the dairying industry, the Commonwealth Government should extend similar protection to that accorded secondary industries, by providing an export bounty on butter and cheese exported to overseas countries; that the amount of such bounty be decided by the Tariff Board in the same way as that board fixes the duty to protect secondary industries.
Bounty on Imported Butter. - That a duty of at least 6d. per lb. be imposed on butter and cheese imported into the Commonwealth.
The dairying industry is worth to the Commonwealth almost £40,000,000 a year; but it is in a state of decay. The tariff is not wholly responsible; the inefficiency of the workmen, the operation of the Navigation Act and Arbitration Act, shorter hours and profiteering manufacturers are some of the factors. No honorable member has so far suggested a cure for the present position. It is generally admitted that the Navigation Act requires drastic amendment, and there is not on the statute-book an act which needs greater amendment than the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There does not seem to exist any power to enforce the awards that are made by the court. Is it any wonder, then, that the act has been a failure ? The Government recently asked the people by referendum to give it increased power to deal with the act; it was rejected, and it is now for Parliament to take it in hand and amend the act to suit Australia as a whole instead of as now a section of it. The Government has placed the broom industry on a reasonable footing, and I am pleased to learn that immediate consideration is to be given to the recommendations of the Development and Migration Commission and the Tariff Board with respect to the tobacco industry. I trust that the Government will agree also to increase the duty imposed on butter that is imported from New Zealand. Wheat, wool, meat, and fruit play a very important part in the financing of the Commonwealth. I Ir egret that this year the loss on wheat will be approximately £15,000,000, and that on wool £10,000,000. With a coordinated policy, a reasonable amount of give and take, and greater harmony between capital and labour, I should view with confidence the future of this country. It is true that we retrogressed last year; but, with so many reproductive works that are urgently necessary, we cannot afford to slacken in our efforts or put them aside until they can be financed out of revenue. We must open up and develop the country. More roads, telephones, and to a less extent railways, are required; although I believe that before very long the motor car will take the place of many branch lines. Honorable members of the Opposition condemn expenditure on defence, and advocate a conference to bring about disarmament. I should favour that course if we could induce the other nations to agree to it. Arewe to make no preparation for defence whilst all other nations are continuing to build vessels of war? The Sun News Pictorial published the following illuminating statement on the 15th instant: -
Next Year will Witness Huge Expenditure.
London, Monday. - A huge amount of money will be spent next year in increasing the navies of the world.
Britain, it is pointed out by the naval expert of the Daily News, has increased her naval expenditure from£ 10,723,000 to £12,065,000.
United States will provide £70,000,000 next year, mainly for big cruisers; and Japan will spend £64,650,000. She is also providing for cruisers.
France is providing for 57 torpedo boats and 55 submarines, and Italy will construct 4 cruisers, 15 scouts, and 6 submarines.
Germany, Russia, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and the South American republics are among the others who are going in for naval expansion.
Is it wise for us to be content with a defence expenditure of only £4,000,000 per annum? We are certainly leaning on the Mother Country. If it were not for the protection afforded by the British Navy and the British Empire generally, I should like to know where our white Australia policy would be. It wouldbe very quickly knocked into smithereens. Aswe claim to be a nation, it is for us to bear the responsibilities of a nation. If there are publicworks that should be deferred because of our important defence commitments, I should make one to insist on deferring them, for the strides that other nations are making are so great that our defence commitments cannot he deferred, no matter how urgent other works may be. Projects such as the unification of our railway gauge, which has been already long postponed, could still remain in abeyance; but let us get a few good seasons, a little harmony in our Parliaments, a little more co-operation between workers and employers, and I am satisfied everything will be right and Australia will have no need to fear for the future.
– I should not have spoken on this debate but for the fact that it appears to rae that at the present time, which is rather a critical period, it is desirable for those of us who have views, whether antagonistic or favorable to the Government, or smacking of both qualities, to say something of the position as .it appears to us. The Treasurer’s budget speech is undoubtedly an interesting document to read. The details are well sot out in it, and it is easy to follow. I propose first to mention some of the things with which I find myself in agreement, and then say something about some with which I am not in agreement.
In regard to the financial readjustment which has taken place with the States during this year, I should have preferred to see the original proposals of the Commonwealth carried into effect. Had it been possible, I should have preferred the withdrawal of the Commonwealth from a considerable portion of the field of direct taxation in favour of the States. But as the States were so antagonistis to that proposal, the arrangement eventually come to appears to me to be satisfactory, and” to do full justice to the claims of the States. In Melbourne, speaking on the States Grants Bill, I said that I would vote for the bill because I relied on the Prime Minister dealing fairly by the States. The right honorable gentleman, in my opinion, has done so, and I have no intention of quarrelling with the terms of a readjustment which are not identical with those which I should have selected.
There are one or two other matters to which no reference has been made during this debate, but which were mentioned by the Prime Minister, in the speech he delivered when he returned from the Imperial Conference. One of them is referred to in the budget speech, and relates to the recovery of the best part of £1,000,000 as Australia’s share of the reparation payments due to the Empire before the Dawes plan came into operation in 1924. I do not think that this fact has been heralded as it might have been, but it ought to be a matter of satisfaction to Australia that this amount of money, which Ave were not definitely aware avc should receive, has been recovered for us by the Prime Minister and those who were associated Avith him in England at the time.
I Avas pleased that the right honorable gentleman, when in England, took up the question of what Avas a fair rate of interest to be paid by Australia in view of the funding arrangement in respect of our Avar obligations. No one would suggest that when Ave had already agreed to pay a certain rate of interest, Ave should appeal for better terms, unless a good argument could be advanced for a reduction. We all know that Ave get a great deal more from Great Britain, particularly in regard to her Navy, than we give in return, and no Australian would be anxious to claim a reduction in interest for the sake of a saving of a fen, pounds. But I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister’s claim that Australia should only pay the average rate of interest paid by Great Britain to America was readily discussed by the British Government.
With regard to the budget speech, I note Avith a good deal of interest the reference to the repeal of certain irritating taxation provisions. I need not recite these in detail, but -the improvements indicated, in the speech in respect of both land tax and income tax will be very acceptable to the general public. In Melbourne I frequently spoke in favour of the simplification of our taxation laws so that not only the man in the street, but also the farmer, might know his position, and ‘might not be hopelessly mystified by all sorts of provisions almost impossible to understand. The alterations ]low proposed to be effected will be particularly acceptable to country people. I must express satisfaction at the fact that there are to be remissions of income tax and land tax, but my feeling of satisfaction in that respect is a good deal qualified by the fact that in South Australia heavy taxation is being imposed, and necessarily imposed, which will deprive taxpayers iu that State of the advantage given by the reduction of Commonwealth taxation. Other difficulties will serve to prevent the proposed reductions having the intended effect. For instance, there has recently been a Federal land tax reassessment which has caused a good deal of complaint, not only in South Australia but. in other States also, and will to a great extent nullify the effect of the proposed 10 per cent, reduction of the Commonwealth land tax. If, by law, there is a 10 per cent, reduction and at the same time by administration there is a considerable increase in the taxpayer’s assessment, the net effect may be no reduction of taxation.
This is a suitable moment for congratulating the Government on its decision to sell the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. It is evident that the Government is aware that the position of this Line is not the happy one that some would expect us to believe it to be. I did not speak on this subject on the Want of Confidence debate; it did not seem necessary for me to do so. I was cordially in agreement with the decision to sell the Line, although I would have made the conditions even more open than the Government proposed. The Line has been the cause of tremendous loss for many years and there has been no ascertainable profit to be derived from retaining it.
I propose now to mention one or two matters upon which I do not think the Government deserves’ commendation. I do not wish to overstress criticism, but it is natural that one should emphasize points of disagreement rather than points of agreement with the Government. In my judgment, too much money is being spent in Australia at the present time by governments. and private persons. The new Commonwealth debt incurred this year amounts to £2,500,000, yet the Treasurer is distributing, from the accumulated surplus, besides the £2,000,000 set aside for the defence reserve fund, nearly £1,000,000 for objects which, although they may be deserving and worthy, are in my opinion not essential. At the present time it is not right that we should set aside money for objects which are not essential. I have said on other occasions that for years Australia has been spending too much. That tendency, I think, arises naturally. During the nineteenth century the two political parties in England were the Conservatives, who gave particular attention to foreign affairs and defence,, and the Liberals, who emphasized particularly “ home reform.” It appears tome that Australian governments have been trying to carry out both policies, aiming at keeping defence up to a high standard while giving effect to an extraordinarily wide and vigorous policy of “ home reform.” Such an effort necessarily involves heavy expenditure. Iu regard to defence, we are not doing as much as we should, and yearly the Inspector-General of the Military Forces, who is our chief adviser on military affairs, has warned us that he is not satisfied with the state of the army. Many people lose sight of the fact that the great war started thirteen years ago,, that many of those who took part in it returned not at all or in a sadly battered condition, whilst many others who came through it unscathed are now beyond the military age.
– Their military value is diminishing every year.
– Yes. Others must take their places, and we might fairly expect the younger generation to shoulder the burden of the next war. Several of our greatest military officers, including Lieutenant-General Sir Brudenell White, Major-General Blarney, and Brigadier-General Lloyd have left the service, some of them because the inducements to remain were not sufficient. Lieut.-Colonel Foster, who died a few days ago, was, I am told, a particularly able soldier. The retirement of talented and experienced officers is a great loss tothe defence forces of the Commonwealth. No doubt all of them who are alive would make their services available if they were required in time of emergency,, but it is possible that even the ablest soldier may fail to keep abreast of the- progress of military science during a few years of retirement. We should do more militarily than Ave are doing, although we have tlie satisfaction of knowing that, within the Empire, Australia’s contribution per head to naval defence is second only to that of the United Kingdom. In pursuance of the policy of “ home reform “ we have gone very much further. For instance, Australia pays a higher rate of old-age and. invalid pension than any other country in the world. The Housing Bill, which recently passed this chamber, provided for assistance in the acquisition of homes to a maximum 50 per cent, above the cost of houses available Tinder any similar scheme in the British Empire. The wages paid to the employees on the Commonwealth Government steamers are the highest in any mercantile marine service. In. addition, there are the arbitration awards, which some industries are unable to support even with considerable government assistance in the form of high customs duties or bounties. If we observe the effect on the mining industry only, we find Mount Morgan and some of the Broken Hill mines closing down and Mount Lyell idle for the time being. I have no desire to make an unnecessarily gloomy speech, but it is proper to recognize that unemployment is already considerable in New South Wales and South Australia, and appears likely to extend. That is partly due to the economic policy laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s case. He not only declared that an industry should pay a living wage, but he propounded the doctrine that an industry which could not comply with that obligation) should not continue. Referring to that judgment in the House last year, I dissented from Mr. Justice Higgins’s declaration as economically unsound. The result is that many industries have reached the stage when they cannot pay what the Arbitration Court has declared to be a living wage, and are ceasing to exist. In consequence, many men have been thrown out of work. The fact is that we have regarded ourselves as a privileged people, untouched by the vulgar finger of the outer world, and the mutterings of over- populated countries, which the honorable member for Warringah quoted a few nights ago, and the declarations of the Geneva Economic Conference, should be regarded as a warning of the external effects of our policy, as the industrial situation which I have mentioned may be of the internal results. Another indication is that Australia has .recently been forced to have recourse to the American money market for loan accommodation. If Australia must borrow, I would infinitely prefer that any external borrowing should be from Great Britain. In addition to bearing the burden of an expensive defence policy and an ambitious “ home reform “ policy, the country requires an enormous amount of money for even its partial development. A great deal of developmental work has been done, but, as the Treasurer reminded us, much remains yet to be done, and the doing of it will cost a . great deal of money. To these three burdens may be added a fourth - the foundation of the Federal capital at Canberra, which, to the end of last month, had cost £S,700,000. This quadruple burden is borne by a population of 6,500,000, of whom approximately only one in 28 pays - or, at any rate, a few years ago paid - any direct taxation to the Commonwealth. Thus only a very few people are carrying this four-fold burden, which falls eventually, as has been often said in this debate and before, upon wheat and wool. However, honorable members may try to ignore it, the fact remains that Australia generally, with the exception of Western Australia, has had a poor season, and although the shortage of wool may enable an increased price to be realized from that commodity, the income from our two staple products is likely to be much less this year than in previous years. After years of comparative plenty, Ave should not be depressed by one bad season, as Ave appear to be. The moment anything goes wrong, the industry concerned rushes to the Government for assistance. I have spoken occasionally against the bounty system, particularly in its application to the primary producers. Having lived amongst them and learned some of their difficulties, I have great sympathy with them, but I shall continue to oppose thepayment of bounties to them, because I regard the system as pernicious. Once a bounty is paid it is diffiicult to reduce or to terminate it. The payment of bounties tends to take away a man’s personal independence, because so soon as he is in difficulties he approaches the Commonwealth Government for assistance. The Tariff Board’s report this year discloses the pitiful spectacle of an enormous number, not only of our primary industries, but also of secondary industries, asking for assistance.
– Principally secondary industries.
– That may be so. The bounty system tends to corrupt the morale of our primary producers. Few of them are prepared to stand on their own feet. A few years ago, when the wool-growers were suffering hardships, there was immediate talk of placing the industry under control. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), when a private member, used to tell us with regret that the farmers of Victoria would not support the wheat pool there. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has even suggested that the only fair and proper pool is a compulsory pool. We cannot control or tamper with the wool industry. Bad seasons in wool and wheat must be reflected over the whole community, and whatever bounties are paid to minor industries will not affect the position. I suggest, therefore, that we should be careful in paying bounties, because the indications are that they have a bad effect on the recipients by lowering their self-reliance, and, at same time, from what one reads, the producers are not receiving assistance to an extent that will enable them to carry on successfully. General extravagance has arisen, and is affecting to a certain extent the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and private individuals. I, myself, do not claim to be free from reproach, and few people are; but it certainly appears that our lavish expenditure has resulted in the private individual, in addition to the producer, not being able to carry on when difficulties arise. This extravagance has been partly responsible for our unfavorable trade balance during the last few years.
– Would it not have the same effect on secondary industries as on primary industries ?
– I remember suggesting that theoretically the preferable scheme was to give bounties to secondary industries and not to place the primary industries in the humiliating position of asking for bounties, as they are doing now. I do not suggest that many of the objects which the Treasurer set out in his speech are not in the highest degree worthy and admirable, but it is questionable whether we have the money to indulge in such objects. Are we, in fact, storing up anything for the future? In Australia we do not store for a rainy day as a rule, but for droughts. We cannot expect present prices to continue. We must have a bad season in some years, and we are making no provision for it. The Prime Minister yesterday made an extremely fine speech. As I listened to him I was reminded of what Lord Rosebery - I think it was - wrote of the late Lord Salisbury, “ the sentences flowed from him as if the springs of eloquence would never run dry.” The Prime Minister detailed the various portions of the budget, and showed the practical impossibility of effecting any reduction in the items ; but surely a number of them could be reduced if it were necessary. Further, I put it to the committee that we have to consider not so much whether it is now convenient to reduce items of expenditure but whether some of them should have been proposed at all. Once expenditure on a certain work is started, it is difficult to stop it. The Prime Minister has suggested that honorable members wanted this and that item, but the responsibility for selecting them and bringing them in surely rests, not on the Treasurer, but on the Government. It is certainly not the responsibility of honorable members, who sometimes have no say in expenditure except in voting against the Government on a vital issue, or in accepting the proposals of the Government. The Prime Minister rather suggested that it was futile now to suggest that the Government should not have clone this and that. I propose to take briefly two or three things that were discussed by this Parliament during the last few years. At the time I pointed out that they would result in heavy expenditure, but no notice was taken of what I said. A speech that I made some years ago dealing with old-age pensions brought on me a good deal of criticism. On the 8th August, 1923, dealing with the budget, I pointed out that from June, 1917, to June, 1921, the oldage and invalid pensions increased from about 120,000 to 140,000, or an increase of nearly one-sixth of the total number. Taking those years to the 30th December, the increase in population was less than one-ninth. I went on to say -
So that the pensioners are increasing much more rapidly, proportionately, than the general population. In my opinion, the increase both in number and expenditure will be much larger in the future. So far, only those have become eligible who, when pensions were instituted, were of middle age. When those who are brought up with the idea that at a certain age they will be provided for by the State take full advantage of the privilege, the rate of increase must be vastly greater. This is, therefore, not the most suitable moment at which to grant an increase in old-age and invalid pensions, which, at the beginning, will mean additional expenditure of £1,000,000, and later may mean a great deal more.
What do we find? In 1922, before this Ministry assumed office, the total payment to pensioners in asylums was just under £5,400,000. For the coming year the estimate is £9,400,000, an increase of £4,000,000. I draw attention to the fact that what I prophesied has come to pass ; the number of pensioners has greatly increased. I find that for the five years from 30th December, 1921to 1926, there has been an increase of actually onethird in the number of pensioners, while at the same time there has been an increase of less than one-ninth in population. That is an instance in which this Parliament might has saved a considerable sum of money. There can be no fixed amount for pensions, whether it be 15s., £1, 25s., or 30s. Two factors should guide us: What we can afford and what other parts of the Empire are doing. Our pensions when increased to 17s.6d. were the highest in the world, and they have since been increased.
When the cotton bounty was before honorable members, I pointed out, in opposing it, that in that case money could be saved. The Tariff Board was afraid that bounties would simply be used to provide increases in the wages paid to employees. It therefore male the recommendation set out in the following paragraph : -
In its consideration of this matter, the Tariff Board was seised of the importance of making the payment of any bounty subject to such conditions as would ensure that any money paid by the Commonwealth Government in that direction shall actually be received by the growers of seed cotton, and it said : “ For the reasons given, the Tariff Board is of opinion that there must be attached to the payment of any bounty such a condition as will effectively prevent State interference with the cotton industry, either in the form of increased wages or rail freights, &c. (except any increase as may be the result of an alteration in the basic wage), during such period as the Commonwealth Government may be supplying funds, through the bounty system, to assist the industry to carry on and develop. In the opinion of the Tariff Board, any such interference might vitally prejudice the successful operation of the bounty. If provision for the suggested condition cannot, by reason of legal difficulties, be made in the Bounty Act or regulations, the Tariff Board suggests that it be arranged by agreement with the Commonwealth Government and each State Government concerned, ashas been done in the case of the sugar agreement.”
That seems a reasonable thing. The Tariff Board suggested that if this bounty was given it was advisable to see that it was not used simply as a means to raise wages. That was the condition to be attached to the granting of that bounty. I brought the matter up in this chamber and asked the Minister for Trade and Customs why it was that there was no such provision. I was not favoured with a reply. It seems to me that if the bounty is to be subject to a vital condition, the Government is asking for trouble by granting the bounty and leaving the condition alone.
Last year we had before us a proposal to construct a line from Bourke to Camooweal to connect with the NorthSouth line. I was the seventh speaker on the motion, and I was the first one who mentioned cost. I suggested to the House, and it was never authoritatively contradicted, that the railway would cost from £10,000,000 to £13,000,000. Those who were sponsoring the idea were calmly suggesting that this Government should foot the expense, which, properly, was the burden of New South Wales and Queensland.
– Where did the honorable member “obtain his figures?
– I worked them out before making my speech. They were largely based on the cost of the line through the Northern Territory, though I admitted that in thise case the cost might be rather less. It appeared to me to be ridiculous that we should spend our time discussing such a proposition. An exception must be made in favour of any commitment already entered into by the Government. The agreement as to the North-South and Port Augusta-Red Hill lines had to be accepted or rejected by this Parliament, and I decided to support it. There was no vote on the question, which was passed by every one. Having accepted the measure, I do not propose to go back on that part of the agreement, about which I was least enthusiastic.
The views that I have expressed to-night are not merely my own. I shall put on record, for the purpose of this chamber and for my own purposes, what the great business men of this country are saying with regard to our present position. With them, I do not adopt the attitude that everything is rosy, that we are on a splendid wicket, and will continue to be so in the future. I say that we are in very difficult times, and that it is our duty to check extravagance. The following is a report of a statement made on the 23rd October, 1927, by Sir Robert Gibson, Chairman of the Commonwealth. Bank of Australia,
A warning that thu national expenditure had exceeded sound limits was uttered by Sir Robert Gibson, Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, who is visiting Brisbane. He said that this expenditure had assumed large proportions in the way of indulging in luxury. This took many forms, but hu might mention motor car ownership. Those controlling the country’s financial institutions, while desirous of avoiding business depression and unemployment, were called uiou to arrest, as far as lay in their power, the drift towards inevitable disaster.
I shall also quote briefly from the reports of the Tariff Board. Here . again are men whose views may be expected to commend themselves to a great many honorable members. The 1926 reportstated -
From considerations such as ‘the foregoing, the Tariff Board is strongly of opinion that the industrial unions of the Common wealth should be induced to realize the critical position into which the Commonwealth isdrifting, and the absolute necessity for preventing the wages gap from becoming still wider between the United Kingdom, the Continent of Europe, and the Commonwealth,, otherwise the Tariff Board, placed as it is in the position to take a comprehensive and intimate view of all Australian industry, can see nothing but. economic disaster ahead, and that at no distant date.
– Does the honorablemember suggest that the trade unionistsare not entitled to increases when thecost of living rises?
– My point is that we have been expending too much. I am. quoting the opinions of men who hold very prominent positions - men of great ability. The following extracts are from the report of the Tariff Board for this year : - . . The Tariff Board ventured to sound a warning note in its last annual report as to the danger of the tariff being used to bolster up an ever-increasing cost of production, irrespective of any consideration being given to thu ever-widening gaps between the standards maintained within the Commonwealth on the one hand, and the United Kingdom and. the Continent of Ku rope on the other. For performing this function, which the board considers to be its duty in terms of section 17 of the Tariff Board Act, it has been subjected to adverse criticism by some members in the Federal House of Parliament. … In view of this public trust, the Tariff Board considersit obligator)’ upon it, not only to refer to thisvery critical matter again, but to re-affirm and further emphasize the warning it issued, last year, being convinced that the situation has become even more ominous.
There we have the views of the Tariff Board which, for two years, has been demonstrating in no uncertain words the dangerous position in which it considers this country to be. I shall now quote Mr. T. M. Niall, chairman of directors of Goldsborough, Mort Ltd. - 1 regret to say there is nothing to indicatethat our governments - either Federal or State - are doing anything to lighten the burden of taxation, which has now grown to bea most serious handicap to industry. . . . The process of heaping burdens on primary production must have a limit. It has. already almost destroyed the mining industry, which at one time was a. large employer of labour in Australia, and it only now requires to bc carried a little further, and the wool-grower and”, farmer will also be taxed out of existence. It seems to me that it is high time our politicianswoke up to the fact that the well-being of Australia is being gravel)’ menaced by the policy of discouraging the man on the land.
Mr. Harold Darling, chairman of directors of the Broken Hill Coy., said, at the annual meeting of that company - 1 regret- to report that the situation at Broken Hill is anything but bright. Metals have consistently fallen, and are now standing ait a figure which renders mining operations unprofitable. A situation has been arrived at where direct costs are too heavy. A stage is reached in mining, as well as other industries, where it is cheaper to practically cease operations and bear all overheads rather than continue full working at a big loss. Although price of metals is the chief factor responsible for the present situation, it must not be overlooked that direct and indirect costs are very heavy. lt must be obvious to most honorable members that those gentlemen are not crying out that all is miserable when it is actually bright. They are the big men of Australian commerce. What they say goes, and they do not make those statements lightly. They are men of great experience, and it is well for us to consider what these commercial men say. Mr. Andrew Williamson, chairman of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, said in London a few days ago -
Public and private expenditure in Australia should be materially curtailed, to the benefit of the whole community. The excess of imports over exports indicate extravagance, and expenditure which menaced the ultimate wellbeing of Australia. The safe course for the community, and individuals was to balance the budget, avoid wasteful expenditure, and build up reserves. While it was recognized that tlie Commonwealth and States must borrow for a long period to develop their resources, works on which loan money was spent should l)o wisely conceived and fair value should be obtained.
On the same day, Mr. Edmund Parker, presumably chairman of directors of Dalgety and Company, in London, sounded a note of warning. He is reported as follows: -
The trend of - Australian legislation was causing anxiety for her prosperity. Apparently artificial land values and overborrowing were the causes. Living costs have been increased by too much importing, and while this might not mean much in good seasons, calculations were liable to be upset by a drought.
The city editor of the Times in commenting upon those statements adopted a somewhat more cheerful outlook. He said -
Fortunately, the potential wealth of Australia was very great. Unfavorable economic conditions would- be easily eliminated by prudent finance during the next few years.
It is regrettable to me that I have had to read statements of this description by eminent representative business men, with interests in many industries, in different parts of the world. I do not want to feel, much less to say, that our condition is parlous; but, undoubtedly, both publicly and privately Ave have been living up to, if not beyond, our income, and we need to alter our habits. I half expected that the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) would ask me for my policy in respect of the matter. It is not for me to give my policy, but my view is that Ave should cease all unnecessary expenditure especially of a new kind. It is easier to do that than it is to curtail expenditure along already approved lines, even though it might not be essential. a
I trust that the Government will not appoint many more commissions. According to a newspaper report which I read the other day, there is a possibility of a pastoral commission being appointed to consider, among other things, the construction of a railway from Bourke to Camooweal. I do not know the view of the pastoralists en masse on this particular subject; but I do not think that they desire any more commissions to inquire into their problems. They know and we know, their difficulties. Their chief trouble is that although they have to sell their products in the markets of the world they have to produce under Australian conditions, and pay very heavy taxation. A number of pastoral commissions have been appointed in fairly recent times in the States, and their reports are available if the Government desires any additional information as to the problems of this industry.
I am of the opinion that all proposals to increase the tariff should be resisted except in the case of industries vital to defence, or key industries. I adhere to the remarks I made on this subject last year. It might be worth while to adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board that if there is any increase in wages extra traffic protection should be automatically withdrawn. The Government should see, in the last resort,, that the whole community does not suffer for the benefit of a small section of it, which while paid a wage based On the needs not of one but of five persons, loses, through its unions and leaders, no opportunity of claiming larger wages and shorter hours. Action along these lines would unquestionably improve our position. Unless I am very much astray iu my judgment there will be a good deal more unemployment in Australia before the end of the summer, and we should be doing our best to put our house in order, and to eliminate unnecessary expenditure, and expensive luxuries. I have kept my criticism of the Government’s policy to the end of my speech, and I have no desire to over-emphasize it; but we cannot overlook the fact that we are facing difficult times, and that we shall need carefully to husband our financial resources.
– J support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). It is evident from the speeches that have been delivered, in this debate that the financial policy of the Government is not suited to the conditions in which we find ourselves. I cannot remember a budget debate in which the. Leader of the Government and his Treasurer have been so roundly criticized as have our present Prime Minister and Treasurer during this discussion. The proceedings in this Parliament in the past few days have been Gilbertian. If honorable members opposite who have criticized the Government policy are in earnest they will vote for the amendment. In view of their attitude they should no longer occupy seats on the Government benches. It is well known, of course, that a composite government is the worst that any country can have; and I advise honorable members opposite to put an end to it. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) told us last night, when the gentlemen who meet in the party room upstairs - meaning the members of the Country party - disagree with those who meet in the party room downstairs there is chaos. That is not constitutional government as we understand it. I was amazed at the extraordinary- appeal that the Prime Minister made to his followers last night. He said to them, in effect, “You fellows must recognize that I am the Leader of this Government. I intend to uphold my Treasurer. If you stand behind me I will endeavour to pull you through the next election.” Rut I am afraid that the task of unifying such a conglomerate mass of opinions is beyond the power of the right honorable gentleman. There is no doubt whatever that the members of the Corner party are a menace to the welfare of Australia. Their main objectin life is to retain place and power for themselves. The Prime Minister amused me last night when he invited the committee to say whether this, that, or the other item of proposed expenditure could be reduced. He placed his fingers on the old-age pensions, maternity allowances, and pensions for military and naval forces; but he shocked me when he, in some measure, assailed former Labour Governments for placing certain humanitarian legislation upon the statute-book. Instead of having the Commonwealth Bank conducted on lines that would conserve the interests of the whole of the people, this Government has permitted it to play into the hands of the wealthy few who are interested in the private banks. The time will come when the Government will be cursed for the action it has taken. I have always endeavored to be an. optimist; but it seems to me that before long Australia will sorely feel the need of an institution conducted on the lines on which the bank was originally established. The members of the Government have gone back on their oath to serve the people, when they might have assisted to bring about conditions that would have made Australia the envy of the world. On very many subjects which criticism has been levelled at the Government and most of the condemnation has come from the Ministerial side. The Prime Minister made reference to war expenditure and the Post Office. The Treasurer has always boasted of what he calls a surplus, but what could be more accurately- described as unexpended income. Yet money is borrowed for the purposes of the postal department and the navy. Mark the difference in statesmanship between the policy adopted by Labour governments and that of the present party in power. When Labour wished to give increased postal facilities, it did so out of revenue. It always acted in a business-like way. But this Government has borrowed £5,000,000 to meet war expenditure, and is paying 6 per cent. interest on the loan. A few years hence honorable members may receive an invitation to witness the spectacle of a couple of Australian cruisers, not paid for, being sent to the bottom of the ocean. Expenditure on postal works, many of which have a limited life, should be met out of surplus revenue, and not out of loan money. I often imagine that the Treasurer has a quiet laugh to himself over the way in which he has deceived the people. He talks about the sinking fund that he has established. This amounts to about £5,000,000 a year; but at the same time he borrows £15,000,000 or £20,000,000. It is strange that honorable members generally have not awakened to the serious financial position into which we have drifted. Among my friends, particularly in Sydney, the Treasurer is not regarded as a heaven-sent financier. I happened to attend a dinner given to a member of the Chamber of Commerce in Sydney recently, and I told the audience that the Government had obtained office on the strength of extravagant remarks made about extremists, rather than as a result of its policy. A gentleman present, a staunch supporter of constitutional government, said that control of public affairs should be retained by Parliament. I pointed out that Parliament .had lost control, and that for a. period of thirteen months it did practically no work, because, during the few weeks that it met, no important business was submitted for its consideration. The other speaker also said -
Representative institutions, relieved of duty by convenient boards, are growing lazy and useless. Parliament likes to spend as much time as possible in recess, while the people look on and take no interest in preserving their interests. It is no wonder that under these circumstances, taxation mounts up, while the States fall deeper and deeper in debt.
On the 30th June, 1922, the total public debt of Australia was £905,484,946, involving an annual interest payment of approximately £46,500,000. The total debt owing abroad was £415,604,805, necessitating an overseas interest bill of approximately £20,000,000 per annum. Prom June, 1923, to June, 1926, the net public debt was increased by £.’10S,273,115, involving a permanent’ addition to the annual national interest bill of £5,000,000. Of the new debt, £90,129,910 has been borrowed abroad, adding over £4,000,000 a year to the permanent overseas interest account. During the three and three-quarter years ended -31st March, 1927, Australia retrogressed financially to the extent of over £117,000,000, and instead of the interest charges abating, official statistics showthat the momentum of the financial drift was accelerated. The Commonwealth’s excess of imports for the first nine months of the current financial year was almost £13,000,000, as compared with a total of £19,320,235 for the preceding 36 months. The total adverse balance foi’ the current year, including the interest bill, will probably be £73,969,386. That is a staggering amount. I do not think that anything I could say would weigh with the Government as much as the figures contained in that statement should.
For several years I have endeavoured to impress upon the Government that the re-issuing of maturing loans should be discontinued. Students of high finance have on more than one occasion adopted with success the policy of converting maturing loans into consols, instead of renewing the burden of debt for a definite number ‘ of years. The Government cannot continue the present cruel system of loading the people with an unnecessarily high interest bill. Recently, £36,000,000 of war loans fell due. The money was borrowed at a time when Australia, like every other country engaged in the war, was in a very feverish state; parents were despatching their sons overseas to fight for the cause of liberty, some never to return, and others to return partly or totally disabled. To-day we are increasing the burden of interest that was laid on the people by the necessities of war. There was no need for the Treasurer to re-issue the £36,000,000 conversion loan at £98 10s. The annualinterest bill on the original loan was £1,662,000. According to the terms of re-issue the interest charge will be increased to £1,890,000. In other words, an additional amount of £238,000 a year is to be paid into the pockets of those who were fortunate enough to subscribe to certain loans during the war period. Some of the bondholders are wealthy institutions. Discount and flotation expenses will reduce the net proceeds to £35,400,000, upon which during the 33 years currency of the loan, this country will pay in interest £62,370,000, and will still owe the whole of the principal. I can find no justification for the Treasurer’s continuance of this expensive method of borrowing. Other countries beside Australia are heavily weighted with debt. The bulk of the war debt is owed to large corporations, and, as Mr. Lloyd George has pointed out, the present financial position of the world cannot be shored up much longer. The time will come when we must reduce either the amount of the debt or the rate of interest. Nations cannot progress under such a heavy burden of indebtedness.
According to a paragraph in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day the steel works at Newcastle are discharging men at a rapid rate. When in full blast those furnaces consume 1,000,000 tons of coal a year, and even the partial cessation of operations at Newcastle will mean the closing of some collieries on the northern coalfields. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) spoke very caustically of the workers. Unfortunately, persons who, like the honorable member, are fairly well-gilded, seem not to understand or sympathize with those persons in the humbler walks of life, who are seeking to improve their position. Ambition has always been considered a worthy characteristic of the British race, but the honorable member seems inclined to lay the responsibility for all the troubles of our nation upon those workers who are trying to improve their conditions by shortening the hours of labour and increasing its rewards. In my boyhood, I worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on five days a week, and left the job an hour earlier on Saturdays in order to walk some miles to the office for my pay. Although the hours of labour in the building trade are considerably less to-day than they were in my youth, the rate at which Wildings are erected has been considerably accelerated. Structures, which in those clays could not be built under two and a half to three years, are now completed in twelve or thirteen months. The Sydney Morning Herald’s new monumental building of twelve stories and two basements, with a stone front and iron girders throughout, was built in three years. The erection of the Lands Office and the Colonial Secretary’s Office, on which I was employed as a tradesman many years ago. occupied five and seven years respectively. Workmen in those days did not put the energy into building that they do to-day. The modern idea of preparing plans and models of structures facilitates their construction, and surely the workmen, in addition to the employers, should receive some benefit. The honorable member for Boothby considers only the employers, but his argument will not stand investigation so far as Australian ideals are concerned. I make some excuse for him, because he is the victim of environment. The Prime Minister has stated that 98 per cent. of our people are of British or Nordic origin, but with all due respect to him, I venture to doubt his statement. Only the other day a vessel arrived in an Australian port with immigrants, 94 of whom were Britishers and 375 Southern Europeans. I questioned the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) the other day respecting the adoption by Australia of a quota system similar to that of America. That quota was arrived at after an examination of the areas available for settlement and cultivation. It was found in America that two-thirds of its territory was not suitable for cultivation, it was . unoccupied, and for that reason, and also to prevent an influx of Southern Europeans, the quota system was instituted. The AttorneyGeneral informed me that such a system could not be adopted by Australia, and that America had been able to adopt it because of its power. Surely we have just as much right to institute a quota system as had America. The League of
Nations has held that it cannot interfere with the domestic policy of its members. The White Australia policy is a domestic matter, and, therefore, no other nation is likely to interfere with us. As the nations of the East are opposed to the White Australia policy, we shall safeguard this country from racial intermixture by adopting the quota system. We must give the Americans credit for acting in the best interests of their country. I regret exceedingly that this
Government consistently ignores the views and opinions of the Opposition. We can do nothing hut open our mouths and shut our eyes, and be thankful for what we receive. The Labour party is not opposed to bringing immigrants here provided that work can be found for them. It is futile to bring men here only to walk the streets, and in some cases to commit crimes to keep themselves from starvation. No humanitarian government would cause these people to live under such degrading conditions. The honorable member for Boothby referred to wages boards. Mr. Bavin, the Premier of New South Wales, has for years been a bitter opponent of the Federal Arbitration Court, and evidently the Prime Minister has been influenced by him. This Government has no right to deprive the working class of this country of the right to approach that institution for better conditions and increased wages. The judges of the Arbitration Court are able men, and although I do not agree with all their awards, I certainly believe that they have honest intentions. I ask the opponents of the Arbitration Court, before they advocate its abolition, to suggest a better means of fixing- the wages and conditions of working men. The Prime Minister referred to Mr. Lang’s attitude to the Loan Council. I am not acting as a champion of Mr. Lang, but he was in a very awkward position in regard to loans New South Wales has at present undertaken gigantic works such as the North Shore bridge, the electrification of the railways, and various schemes of water conservation, and all these will require a heavy expenditure. Mr. Lang considered that if New South Wales joined the Loan Council, either the smaller States would be penalized, or his requirements would be curtailed.
I do not think the ex-Premier of New South Wales was opposed to the principle of an Australian Loan Council; but he objected to the manner in which its operations would affect the extensive works which were being undertaken in that State. He was only doing his best for the State which he represented, and should receive credit instead of being condemned as he has been by a certain section of the community. Last night the Prime Minister was, in effect, asking the people to do all they could to keep him in power. We have always regarded the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as an eloquent and fluent speaker; but I think his efforts are overshadowed by those of the Prime Minister, whose eloquence has been carried to such an extent that it is difficult at times to understand the idea he is endeavouring to convey. The right honorable gentleman reminds me of a speaker who once addressed a meeting in a large hall in York-street, Sydney, in support of a protectionist policy, but who spoke in such a way that it was difficult to determine whether he was a protectionist or a freetrader. The Government has no more intention of carrying out the policy outlined by the Prime Minister prior to the last general election than I have of chasing rainbows tomorrow morning. It was not the Government’s desire to introduce an effective housing scheme, and, in endeavouring to keep faith with its supporters, it now finds itself in a hopeless position. It also announced that it would introduce a national insurance scheme to assist the poorer classes in particular, and, in order to evade its responsibilities in this regard it has appointed a royal commission. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J: Francis), who was for a time a member of the commission, said that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a hill to give effect to the recommendations of the commission; but I do not think it has the slightest intention of so doing. The honorable member referred to the position in which friendly societies would be placed under the Government’s proposals ; but, as I have been a member of such societies since 1870, I can speak with more authority on the subject than can the honorable member. From conversations I have had with members of such societies, I am convinced that those in control of these organizations are considerably perturbed. as to the manner in which the recommendations of the commission, if adopted, will affect their work. The medical benefits conferred by such societies in Great Britain differ vastly from those in Australia, as in Great Britain they are conferred solely upon the males, whereas many of the societies in Australia conduct their own dispensaries for the benefit of members of both sexes. I feel sure that the Prime Minister and his Ministers will be fully occupied between now and the next election in endeavouring to keep faith with the people who supported a composite Government which they thought would legislate in their interests. I trust it will not be long before the present administration is defeated, and we shall have in this chamber and in another place representatives of only two parties, as constitutional government as we understand it can only be carried on under a two-party system. I feel confident that when the Estimates have been passed the Government will not make the slightest endeavour to pass any of the legislation foreshadowed, and will tell the members of this chamber to go to a place, the name, of which I need not mention. We were also told that the Government proposed calling a constitutional session, but in this, as in other cases, it has appointed a commission to undertake work that should have been done by this Parliament. Many important problems are debated at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, but at such conferences the representatives of the States merely endeavour to secure the support of the people instead of working in the interests of the nation. Too much attention is given by the members of the Government to the number of bricks laid each day by bricklayers, in giving reasons why men should not go to the Arbitration Court to improve their conditions, and to other matters which should be considered by institutions constituted for that specific purpose. Notwithstanding the fact that the Labour Government which was in office in 1910 was opposed by some of the greatest tories of the day, including Sir William Irvine, Sir Joseph Cook, the late Lord Forrest, Mr. Glynn, Mr. Bruce Smith, and others, it did valuable work. It was not an easy matter for such men to pay attention to the utterances of men who, though they had once worn hobnailed boots, were able to effectively legislate in the interests of the people. The Land Tax Act which has been the means of large estates being subdivided, was passed by a Labour government, notwithstanding strong opposition.
I am prepared to sit all day and all night if by so doing I can place Australia in a more favorable position than that in which it has been placed by this Government. The only measures which this Government has placed on the statutebook have been of a destructive nature. Its vision is so short-sighted that it seeks to scotch the activities of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, an essential service which confers great benefits on the people of Australia. I appeal to honorable members opposite, as men of reason, to make an endeavour to place something constructive on the statutebook, as the Labour party did iu 1910. The time is coming when the Labour party will again occupy the Treasury benches, and it is being accelerated by the disastrous legislation passed by this Government. The Labour party is accused of being an extremist body, but there are honorable members on the Government side as extremist as I ever was. It must also be remembered that the extremist of to-day is the moderate of to-morrow. The Labour party was considered to be violently extreme when it instituted oldage pensions, and prevented shops from being kept open until 9 o’clock nightly. Australia is retrogressing under the policy of this Government. Our industries are languishing, and our finances are in a deplorable condition. The Prime Minister attacked the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), and his .association with the administration of Queensland. I ask the right honorable gentleman not to try to regain power by traducing a government which did what it considered to be the right thing. That is not a statesmanlike action. I represent an electorate which embraces more than half of Sydney, and my constituents have a very poor opinion of those who govern this country. Those electors are as intelligent as any others, and their opinions must be respected. I am their representative, and I try to encourage others to aspire to that high plane to which I have endeavoured to attain. To-day I received a telegram from New Zealand stating that Dr. Tillyard, the eminent entomologist, had said that Australia is losing from £10,000,000 to £20,000,000 a year owing to the pests which infest its wheat and other products, and that it is doing nothing to cope with the position. The learned professor put forward a recommendation similar to that embodied in a motion which I had intended to move in this chamber to-, morrow. The subject is a national one, yet I understand that I am to be robbed of the opportunity to ventilate it. I should be lacking in my duty if I failed to avail myself of the opportunity to deal with the matter while on the budget discussion.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order! I remind the honorable member that he will not be in order in anticipating a discussion on any subject which appears on the notice-paper, consequently he is debarred from discussing the motion to which he refers.
– I rise to point of order. I contend that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) is quite in order in discussing this matter. The item, “ Council for Scientific and Industrial Research,” appears in the Estimates, and as the honorable members’s reference concerns science and industry he should have the fullest possible scope to deal with it, if he so desires.
– It is true that science and industry is dealt with in the Estimates, which makes it permissible for any honorable member to discuss any subject coming within the ambit of the item. The honorable member for East Sydney desires to speak specifically to a motion of which he has given notice. It is in regard to that that the Chair has ruled that the honorable mmber would be out of order.
– Surely the honorable member has the right to speak on any matter relative to science and industry.
– It is not permissible for the honorable member to discuss in detail a subject covered by a motion of which notice has been given, but he may refer, in passing, to the subject dealt with in the motion.
– On a point of order, I desire to draw the attention of the Chairman to the fact that, during this debate, constant references have been made to certain anticipated legislation, such as the Income Tax Assessment Bill, the Export Guarantee Bill, Land Tax Assessment and Migration. If it is competent for honorable members to discuss those subjects, which are included as government business on the notice-paper, I respectfully submit that the honorable member for East Sydney is in order in dealing with the matter on which he desires to express his views.
– There is nothing analagous between the two. The measures to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) refer are not before the chamber. Had they been, it would not have been competent for any honorable member to discuss them. The honorable member said that, during the course of this debate, certain honorable members had referred to impending legislation. Any honorable member is quite in order in making passing reference to such a subject, but he would not be in order if he discussed it in detail. That is the point which I raised in connexion with the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Dr. Tillyard indicated that the prevalence of insect pests is of greater magnitude than is suspected by the majority of the people of Australia. He advocated that a central body should be inaugurated to cope with the menace. I consider that I know something about the matter, having put myself into communication with every university professor worthy of attention, and having circulated pamphlets to numerous persons and newspapers. I have suggested that this Government should set aside, in the Federal Capital Territory, an area of 20 square miles, to be dedicated to scientific research, wherein experiments would be conducted dealing with the diseases to which our cattle, sheep, goats, plants, soil, and other food-producing media are subject. I ask the Government to take this matter into serious consideration. It would be a fine thing if these 20 square miles of land could be dedicated to the memory of the man who for so many years did so much for humanity in general, and wheat growers in particular, in this very district, to prove the value of certain types of land for wheat cultivation. His wife still lives in the Territory. I had a motion on our businesspaper on the 9th of May respecting this subject, and the Duke of York paid me the compliment, before he left Australia, of drawing attention to the great need that existed for- concentrating upon the problems of production in this country. We propose to establish within a few hundred yards of this building a museum of Australian zoology, the nucleus of which has been presented to the country by Dr. MacKenzie. Such an institution would be ah invaluable adjunct to my proposed research institute. State Governments are not able to do anything along the lines that I am suggesting because of their financial embarrassment,. The Melbourne University asked the Victorian Premier (Mr. Hogan), the other day, to increase its grant from £40,000 to £112,000 per annum; but he politely replied that he could not do so. Even the Sydney University cannot obtain all the money it requires for research purposes. Some research work has been done in the laboratories of private enterprise. I had to assist to instal atmospheric burners and other apparatus in the laboratory of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in O’Connell-street, Sydney, and even to-day the soil in every new area that is proposed to be put under sugar cane is tested there to ascertain what kind of fertilizer it needs, and periodically the sugar cane from all the areas from which the company draws its supplies is tested to determine whether it has a sufficient sugar content. If this* was necessary for the company it is more so for the nation. Recently an amount of £126,000 was raised by public subscription in New South. Wales for the purpose of cancer research. I contributed my mite to the total, for I believe that research work is greatly needed in this as well as in other directions. If we can do anything to increase the size and quality of our flocks and herds, the productivity of our poultry, and the fertility of our land, we should do it. I was informed not long since by an inspector who regularly visits the dairying districts on the south coast of New South Wales that it would pay the dairymen there handsomely to replace their herds with only half the number of quality cattle, for under present conditions they were feeding stock which must always be incapable of giving a decent return for the money invested in them. It would be of immense advantage to Australia if the land in every new area that is opened up for development were tested to determine the crops for which it is most suitable. Had we made an investigation along these lines before we settled our soldiers- on the land and dealt with this matter as an economic question we should have given many of them a far better opportunity to make good. My proposal is that £1,000,000 should be invested for the purpose of establishing this federal institute for national research,, and that one of the States should pay interest en the amount at h per cent. That in 33 years would total £1,850,000, and the capital would remain intact. This interest would be used in perpetuity for the purposes of the institute. The Rockhampton Institute in Great Britain has tested more than 1,000 different classesof soil.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Most honorable members must sympathize with the Treasurer for havinghad to listen during the last few daysto so much criticism from our friends of the Opposition and from our foes on this, side of the Chamber, on the Government’s financial policy in general, and his own administration in particular. The honorable gentleman might reasonably have expected solid support from the Nationalist and Country parties, for he has done his duty to the nation conscientiously and well. He has made many sacrifices in his public service. Had he declined to be drawn into politics, I am sure that he would have <risen to great heights in the medical profession. The worst feature of the criticism has been that it isentirely undeserved. Supporters of the Government who felt inclined to join the critics must have been glad, after hearing the logical and able defence of the Prime Minister, last night, that they had not spoken. Certain honorable members opposite have complained about the late presentation of the budget, but- they appear to have entirely forgotten that the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra caused great dislocation in the Public Service. Dr. Page has established notable records in other years by his early presentation of the budget.
The budget was introduced on the very day that Parliament assembled, and no doubt it would have been disposed of within a few days, had it not been for the delay occasioned by the Opposition moving a vote of censure upon the Government for its decision to dispose of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The postponement of the discussion of the budget, therefore, is due entirely to the action of the Opposition. The Treasurer has had a thankless task to fulfil. He has been unfairly represented as the Bill Sykes of the political world. While I expect criticism from honorable members opposite, I deplore the unwarranted attacks from members on the Government side. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was challenged many times by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) to mention the remedy he proposed for Australia’s financial troubles. When his argument was boiled down, it appeared that he refused to support the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway or the wine bounty. When honorable members were asked yesterday by the Prime Minister which items in the budget they regarded as extravagant, one said that the tariff should be increased, while others complained of the high duties. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) expressed the opinion that the Government was not borrowing sufficient money, while others complained that borrowing should be curtailed.
– The honorable member for South Sydney advocated more judicious borrowing.
– He said that in a young country an extensive borrowing policy was justified. It would be impossible for any Treasurer to please members with such conflicting views.
Invalid and old-age pensions cost the country about £9,000,000 per annum. Would any honorable member advocate a reduction in that expenditure? No doubt if they advocated it before the people they would be defeated. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that he could show how £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year could be saved. The only direction in which Labour members would attempt to make a saving would be in defence expendi ture, but if they went to the country on that issue, there would be no hope of their return. The east- west railway was built in order to carry out the compact entered into with Western Australia. That work cost millions, and heavy expenditure is incurred annually in maintaining a service. The north-south line might have been authorized by a previous Government, but this Ministry honored the arrangement made with South Australia, and authorized the construction of the line. Whether it will prove a losing or a paying proposition, a great deal of money must be spent upon it, and because this Government has had the courage to honor a promise made some years ago, it is receiving abuse.
Again, this Ministry has carried out a compact made with the State of New South Wales, that the seat of government should be established as soon as possible, not less than 100 miles from Sydney. After 27 years this Government has transferred the seat of government from Melbourne to Canberra. The work has cost millions, and much abuse has been heaped upon the Government in consequence of it.
– Too much money has been wasted.
– There may have been some wasteful expenditure; but it will be admitted that the Federal Capital is not entirely a losing concern. Hundreds of houses are tenanted, and no doubt in the course of a few years a fair return will be obtained on the capital expended upon them.
Even if the Government had accomplished nothing else, the adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States would have amply justified its occupation of the Treasury bench. The States have entered into an arrangement with the Commonwealth whereby a proportion of the public debt will be redeemed year by year. If the States had been allowed to go on as before, without providing a sinking fund, they must surely have fallen into a chaotic financial condition. Those honorable members who previously opposed the abolition of the per capita grants now admit that the Government adopted the right course. Another creditable action was the raising of the interest rate on transferred State properties from 3^ to 5 per cent. An equitable adjustment was made, and the Government deserves to he praised for it. The States benefit to the extent of £165,533 per annum.
Recently Canberra was visited by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Bavin, who has entered into an arrangement with the Prime Minister that will result in benefit to that State. During the two and a half years when Mr. Lang was Premier, it appeared that any proposal made by the Prime Minister was sure to be opposed by Mr. Lang, and to that fact most of the unemployment in New South Wales during that period was attributable. Mr. Lang refused to participate in the wire-netting vote of £3,000,000 allotted by the Commonwealth. There must be hundreds of acres of land in that State which might have been enclosed by wire netting some time ago if Mr. Lang had been more friendly. For a similar reason, that State was deprived of its share of the £34,000.000 provided under the migration agreement with the British Government. A year or so ago we passed the Roads Act, and New South Wales would have been entitled to £554,000 for the first year. The State subsidy would have brought the available sum up to about £1,000,000 ; but even up to the present time the agreement has not been ratified by the State Parliament. Money that could have been made available for road expenditure in that State has been steadily accumulating in the Federal Treasury. Although Mr Lang objected to co-operating with the Prime Minister, the present Premier of New South Wales took the earliest opportunity of acting in concert with the Federal authorities. He has also brought New South Wales into the Loan Council. The statement was made to-day that Mr. Bavin had to pay more for his first loan than Mr. Lang paid for his last, and that the Federal Government also has had to pay a higher rate of interest than the Labour Government in New South Wales- paid. That has been fully explained by the Prime Minister, and it shows the ill-effect of one government pursuing an independent and selfish policy. Now that New South Wales has joined the’ Loan. Council the confidence of the lender will be restored, and the State and the Commonwealth generally will benefit. A few days ago a deputation waited upon Mr. Bavin and urged that money should be provided for relief works. Why should he have recourse to relief work? There should bc at least £2,000,000 available from’ federal and State resources for public works in New South Wales, but during the Lang regime only a very small amount was spent, and in consequence unemployment is rife throughout the State.
The Treasurer has shown a surplus on the operations for 1926-27, and because of that has been criticized in and out of Parliament. Mr. Lang finished the year with a deficit, and he also has been abused in and out of Parliament. It seems to me that a Treasurer is damned if he has a surplus and damned if he has not. That is the attitude of both politicians and the public. The Treasurer was criticized also for not having more accurately forecast the surplus. It is difficult for any Treasurer to estimate exactly how the year’s operations will result, and an approximately accurate forecast would probably be mere guess work. A Federal Treasurer’s forecast is influenced by the season. In a good season plenty of money is available, importations are on a large scale, the Treasury is overflowing, and a good credit balance at the end of the year is assured. The fact that new customs duties came into operation last year increased the Treasurer’s difficulties. Theoretically the raising of protective duties reduces the volume of imports, but the new duties imposed last year had not the desired effect, and in consequence the public paid more customs taxation than the Treasurer anticipated. Having had the good fortune to finish the year with a substantial surplus he has allocated it in ways to which no exception can be taken. An amount of £2,000,000 has been set aside for naval construction and as a reserve for defence. For science and industry investigation an amount of £250,000 has been provided; a contribution of £200,000 has been made towards the establishment of a national insurance fund; £70,000 is allotted for assistance to oil prospecting; £100,000 for the purchase of radium; £200,000 for civil aviation ; and £100.000 for the education of soldiers’ children.
In regard to tlie provision for national insurance the friendly societies are anxiously awaiting an announcement of the Government’s policy. The statement, has been made that the friendly societies will be utilized extensively in operating the scheme, but there is a feeling among them that they will be only half trusted. I met in Sydney a few days ago several leading representatives of the friendly societies, and they asked that the Government should announce its policy as soon as possible. I personally hope that the Government will place the fullest trust in the societies because of their large interests and organizations throughout the Commonwealth. I suppose that in. New South Wales the members of friendly societies, together with their wives and children, number about 1.000,000. The societies have branches in every city and town. The Government, I understand, proposes to operate the national insurance scheme through the lodge secretaries. If so an immense number of accounts will be opened up, for there are about 5,600 lodge secretaries; the grand secretaries number only about 360. If the Government scheme is inimical to the friendly societies it will prove a failure. I strongly advise the Government to adhere as closely as possible to the legislation which has proved so successful in the United Kingdom.
On the expenditure side of the balancesheet presented by the Treasurer, there is scarcely an item to which exception can be taken. The sum of £1,000,000 has been expended on the construction of tha Grafton to South Brisbane railway. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber are strongly in favour of the unification of the railway gauges, and a substantial step towards the realization of that ideal has been taken by the linking up of two large States by rail without a break of gauge. The work is not yet completed, but it is satisfactory to know that good progress is being made with it. The total Commonwealth loan expenditure for the year, we are told, approximately equalled the amount of Commonwealth debt actually redeemed during the year from the sinking fund and from revenue, and, therefore, the total indebtedness of the Com monwealth was not increased. The net increase of £10,265,37S in the Commonwealth debt was wholly due to loans raised on behalf of the States and the Federal Capital Commission. Of the total, about £9,000,000 is repayable to the Commonwealth by the States over a period of years, and may be regarded as an asset. The money is really lent to ourselves, and if it be deducted from the actual debt shown on the balance-sheet the indebtedness of the country has actually been reduced during the last twelve months.
As my time is limited I propose to pass on to matters more or less local, but having a national significance. When the Federal Capital Territory was acquired an agreement was made between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales for the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra. The State of New South Wales undertook that when required by the federal authority so to do, it would construct a line from Yass to meet the line from Canberra at the boundary of the Federal Capital Territory. A few years ago the Public Works Committee adversely reported on this project, and in consequence nothing further has been done towards the construction of the line. Now that the Federal Capital has been established at Canberra, roads and railways should lead to it as they lead to other cities. A. railway from Yass to Canberra could be. constructed at a lower cost than that estimated by the Public Works Committee, because in its estimate it provided for viaducts and certain deviations within the capital city that would not be required for at least 40 or 50 years. Its construction is certainly justified, if only to serve the northern and western parts of New South Wales, and the Prime Minister should re-submit the proposal to the Public Works Committee for further investigation and report. Some authorities favour the construction of roads instead of railways, and failing a railway a good road should be provided from Yass to Canberra. The Government of New South Wales is now considering the construction of an up-to-date cement road from Yass to the boundary of the Federal Territory, and this Government should co-operate with that
State in extending that work to Canberra. A railway line has also been proposed from Canberra to Jervis Bay. When Canberra was selected as the Federal Capital Site, the Commonwealth took over two square miles of land at Jervis Bay, together with certain areas in the vicinity. The New South Wales Government also agreed to grant sufficient laud for the construction of a railway from Jervis Bay to Canberra. The following is an extract from the Bulletin, dated 10th November of this year -
Years ago, when the Commonwealth was granted the right to a corridor to the sea, it was understood by every far-seeing man that by the time the Federal House met, Canberra would be connected by rail with its natural port. But up to the present, vested interests have proved too strong, and Sydney even joined with Melbourne in ignoring the fact that a harbour of any description existed on the coast thereabouts. The Defence Department; however, managed to secure a footing on the shores of Jervis Bay, and the naval college was established, but between that school for naval cadets and the establishment at Duntroon, there is no connexion, though the services are supposed to work in close cooperation. On 18th October, 1909, New South Wales agreed to grant at Jervis Bay an area of two square miles for a port, and certain other areas totalling 2,302 acres for defence purposes. The State also granted the Commonwealth the right to construct, maintain, and work a railway from the Federal Territory to the Bay. The corridor, along which there is a practicable route for a railway, has a length of about 123 miles. It presents few engineering difficulties; indeed it is probable that a line could be constructed along .a route which would be only about 100 miles from city to port (the distance from the coast in a direct line is 75 miles). If it is granted that the blunder of Canberra must stand, then the necessity for bringing it into touch with its deep sea harbour cannot be argued against. The only alternative is the construction of a concrete road along which fast motor transport could move, and that is certainly worthy of consideration; it is to a great extent a matter of cost. In either event, with the port within two or throe hours by road or rail, Canberra’s position would be vastly improved. The bugbear of heavy freights would bo removed, and with a new port ‘created that corner of the State which has for so long been handicapped by heavy freights would come into its own, and in the long run New South Wales as well as the Commonweath Territory would bo enormously the gainer.
The people living in and about the Territory are vastly interested in this proposal. Some months ago a .deputation waited upon me at Nawro, near Jervis Bay, and suggested that the Government might consider the construction of a road from Jervis Bay to Canberra. I placed the report of the deputation before the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), and he stated that we had permission to construct a railway, but not a road. I feel sure that that difficulty could be overcome. Canberra is the capital of Australia for all time, and for that reason some outlet should be provided to its natural port. Another suggested railway is south from Canberra to Bombala, thence to join the railway, from Orbost to Melbourne. I do not say that the Commonwealth should build that line, but it might co-operate with New South Wales and Victoria. When I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, the Minister for Works and Railways of that State told me that he was quite prepared to join with the Commonwealth in constructing that railway under the conditions applying to a similar project in the northern part of New South Wales. It would indeed be convenient to have a direct railway from Canberra to Melbourne. The line from Bombala to Orbost must eventually be constructed, irrespective altogether of the Federal Capital.
I was pleased to read in the newspapers to-day that the Federal Capital Commissioners were anxious to complete a portion of the lake scheme at Canberra. Although the Public Works Committee set this project aside, the commissioners are satisfied that a modified scheme costing from £60,000 to £70,000 would add to the beauty of the city. It would permit of the holding of regattas and swimming carnivals, and would add considerably to the enjoyment of the people.
I have been asked by several citizens of Canberra to inquire about the housing conditions. At present the Federal Capital Commission carries out the construction of houses, but I am satisfied that if private persons were allowed to build, as in every other part of Australia, more houses would be erected, and the cost of building would probably be reduced.
In my electorate there are a number of Asiatics who have lived in Australia for many years. One man has been here for 35 years. He is highly respected in the community, but, unfortunately, he is ineligible to receive a pension, although those who fought against us in the war and are now residing here, are allowed to enjoy that privilege. It is the duty of the Treasurer to rectify the anomaly which at present exists. I do not see why a man who is not born in Australia, but who has become naturalized, should not get the benefits available to other lawabiding citizens. Even naturalized Asiatics whose sons fought for Australia in the Great War, are not entitled to a pension. I received a letter to-day from a person pointing out that although a German in the district in which he lives, who was practically an enemy during the war period, is entitled to a pension because he is a European; Asiatics - fathers of loyal naturalized Australian are not allowed the same benefit. There are other cases that could be quoted; but I think I have said sufficient to convince the Treasurer that this anomaly should be removed.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), who is at present abroad, has asked me to bring one or two matters under the notice of the Government, as he does not expect to return to Australia until the Estimates have been disposed of. He has forwarded to me a letter from the secretary of the Hospitals Association of New South Wales, stating that since the pensions rate has been increased from 17s. 6d. to 20s. a week, the hospitals in which pensioners are accommodated receive 10s. 6d. a week, the pensioner 4s., and the Commonwealth 5s. 6d. a week. This gentleman says that although it costs £2 10s. a week to maintain a hospital bed, the Government is contributing only 10s. 6d. towards the cost. I do not think the Government should benefit because the pensioner happens to be an inmate of a hospital or similar institution, and I trust the Government will amend the act in order to enable these public institutions to receive a higher payment for the services they render. I understand that the Government has entered into some arrangement in this regard, as it was made a feature of the recent New South Wales election. I have, however, just been informed by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis), that the pensioner now receives 4s., and that the balance is paid to the hospital in which the pensioner is accommodated. According to the information I have received quite recently, the Government retains 5s. 6d. of the 20s. In a letter to the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr), who was then acting for the honorable member for Barton, the Treasurer stated that itwas incorrect to say that the Commonwealth effects a saving on pensioners who are inmates of public institutions, as the Commonwealth is at a considerable loss in making a contribution of 10s. 6d. to the institution as an act of grace. In my opinion that is sidestepping the issue. Although I am bringing this matter forward on behalf of the honorable member for Barton, I am also interested in the subject, as I have received correspondence from my constituents on the subject. I accept, however, the assurance of the honorable member for Kennedy that an alteration has been made.
– In what way has the system been altered?
– I understand that 4s. is now paid to the pensioner inmates of institutions, and that the balanceis paid to the institution.
I now wish to deal with the activities of the Postal Department, and in this connexion quote a letter I have received from a person occupying a position in a semiofficial office, in which he states -
I would be very grateful if you would have inquiries made re the allowance payable to the messenger. About fifteen months ago the minimum rate. of pay for a messenger at an official office was increased from £72 to £84 per annum. Semi-official offices were debarred from this increase? Messengers at such offices having to remain on £72 per annum. I think that this is most unfair. Messenger’s at these offices do far more work than at an official office. The rate of pay for assistants was also increased to £212. Semi-official postmasters still remain on £208. The whole business is a farce. Take my position here. I have to perform all duties similar to an official postmaster yet I am paid less salary than the lowest paid adult permanent officer. Conditions governing semiofficial offices should be reviewed. Salaries, &c, should be altered to suit the present time. There is only 83 semi-official offices in the Commonwealth now, so no big task is involved. Following are a few facts: - (1) No sick leave or sick pay; (2) two weeks leave granted, £6 allowed to find a relieving officer. We have to find a reliever and are held responsible for the conduct of the office; (3) We are required to give the whole o£ our time to our duties. Duties are identical with official postmasters, yet our salaries are pounds lower. (4) We are not allowed to contribute to the superannuation fund. On present salary we are unable to make provision for our old age.
I bring this matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General, because it is one requiring the attention of the Government. There are many fairly important towns in New South “Wales in which semiofficial post offices were established years ago, and are still- retained. I understand it is the intention of the department to change the status of these offices when those at present in charge relinquish their duties. Although that policy may have something to commend it, there are many in charge of semiofficial offices who are entitled to more consideration than they are receiving today. According to the budget an additional £S0,000 is to be spent on allowance offices. That, however, is a mere bagatelle. I had a communication a few days ago from a person in charge of an allowance post office, in which she said her remuneration is equivalent to ls. 6d. a week. It is true that the work in many of these offices was once very light, as those in charge had to handle mails only once or twice a week, but telephones are now installed in even the smallest allowance post offices, which necessitates those in charge being frequently called away from their ordinary duties. In these circumstances the remuneration is totally inadequate, particularly as the department is showing a substantial credit balance. I trust the Government will continue with its progressive policy in other directions, and that in this connexion it will increase the allowances made to persons in charge of these offices, who, in many instances, are performing important duties. Although the Government has done exceedingly well in giving effect to the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister prior to the last election, there are occasions on which even honorable members on this side of the chamber have- cause to complain. I believe, however, that if the Government does as well in the future as it has in the past, the people will be quite satisfied with its work.
There are several points in connexion with invalid pensions to which attention should be given by the Government. Many sad cases have been brought under my notice in which persons have gone to one doctor who says that the patient is not totally incapacitated, and, therefore, is not entitled to a pension, whilst another medical man has expressed a different opinion. In some instances they are asked to produce evidence of total incapacity, which is not always an easy matter, particularly as doctors hold different views. There are other instances in which persons receiving the invalid pension are capable of earning an income.
– Does the honorable member not think that the worst phase of the act is the hardship it inflicts on a father who earns only small money, but who can keep the invalid, even though he be an adult ?
– Yes, I agree with the honorable member there. If these cases were taken collectively, it would be found ‘that they would not add materially to the burden placed on. the finances of Australia. There are cases which should receive more humane consideration. I have in mind the application of the principle of the aggregation of incomes, in the case of an old-age pension, to a husband or wife who in reality have been parted for many years, but who for the sake of the children and the family pride, have not obtained a judicial separation. One of the two may have adequate means of support, while the other may be hard-pressed, yet maintaining the family. “When the destitute one applies for the old-age pension, he or she is informed that it cannot be paid, as the income of both parties is aggregated when determining whether a pension shall or shall not be paid. The Commonwealth Government- would do well to liberalize the law in such cases. I hope that this Government will continue to hold office, and that the Treasurer will continue to perform his excellent work.
– If there is one thing more than another that is engaging the minds of the people of Australia, it is the populating and developing of Australia, with a view to making it self-supporting, selfcontained, and capable of being selfdefended. “We are aware of the conges- , tion that is taking place in our capital cities, and we know that the flocking of a denser population to the cities is disintegrating our country areas. We also know that the capital cost of land is so high that it taxes the energies of settlers to pay interest only. The hope is entertained that, by sympathetic administration and considerate assistance, an area in northern Australia, running practically from Thursday Island and across the north-west portion of Western Australia, will he thrown open and developed. That area, if the scheme is intelligently undertaken, will absorb millions of settlers. Endeavours have been made during the last few years to settle the area, but no regard has been paid to the fundamentals of development. Those attempts have failed, and they always will fail if similar methods are pursued. The failures were attributable, not to the infertility of the land or to the lack of natural resources, but purely to the lack of transport facilities. This Government appointed the North Australia Commission which, it was said, would provide a panacea for all the ills of that territory. It was expected that in a short time the commission would initiate a scheme which would expeditiously and economically develop these huge tracts of fertile country. We have waited long, and in vain, for the materialization of that scheme. The commission has been appointed for over twelve months, and no report is yet forthcoming from it. Undoubtedly the North Australia Commission reigns supreme as an exponent oi the go-slow policy. There would be some excuse if the members of that commission were totally ignorant of the conditions that obtain in that section of Australia; but that is not the case. One member was, for many years, chairman of the land board in the far north of Australia, and, when carrying out his duties in that capacity, visited every corner of the teritory. He is familiar with the reasons for its retarded progress. A second member has traversed the Northern Territory for a number of years in connexion with his duties, and is thoroughly conversant with local conditions. In the circumstances one was justified in expecting that the commission would put forward a virile policy for the development of that country, and very expeditiously, too. Apparently, all their previous experience has been useless, for the commission has again gone from one end of the country to another. As it controls the activities of the Land Board, the whole of the work of that body has been hampered for about six months. I have endeavoured to ascertain the whereabouts of the members of the board, in order that prospective settlers might be assisted to obtain land, and to enjoy the advantage of the low prevailing price of stock, but in vain. Instead of being a benefit to the area, the commission .has actually been an incubus. The grand old pioneers in the area have battled against colossal odds, in the hope that some reasonable development might take place, and, although they have been sadly disillusioned, they still hope against hope. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a. prophet, but I think I can foretell what the commission will recommend. Means of transportation are essential to the development of every new country, and as this area of 500,000 square miles is without railway, road, or shipping facilities, it stands to reason that these will have to be provided before any extensive development can occur. At least two of the members of the commission are known to be favorable to the construction of a railway from Camooweal to Newcastle Waters.
– They are all favorable to it.
– That makes it all the more certain that one of its first recommendations will be that the line should be built. The appointment of this commission was really unnecessary, for Parliamentary parties, royal commissions, and official and private visitors to North and Central Australia have, on innumerable occasions during the last 50 years, reported that transport facilities are the first requirement of the country. In my opinion, the commission was appointed by the Government to delay the spending of public money there as long as possible. This is at least one of the 7S boards, commissions, and tribunals which the Government has appointed during the last few years, and which could have been done without. It appears to me that the
Government appoints these bodies “with the object of evading its responsibilities. “Whenever a Minister is questioned respecting the activities of any of these subgovernmental bodies, he invariably replies, “ That is a matter for the board ; but I will have an investigation made into it.” I cannot understand why the North Australia Commission has not, through the Government or otherwise, placed some settlement schemes before the Development and Migration Commission, which has £34,000,000 to spend on developmental works in Australia. I placed a number of suggestions before the commission, which it considered sympathetically, though it gave me to understand that it could not take any action until it was moved to do so by the Government. There is room in North and Central Australia for thousands of migrants, as well as for all the land-hungry Australians who find it impossible to take up rural enterprises because of the inflated value of real estate in the settled areas. The safety of Australia demands that no time shall be lost in populating this country, as the following cablegram, which appeared in the Melbourne Sun on the 14th inst. indicates: -
Thrust at West. (Pictorial World Cables.)
Tokio, Saturday. - The tenor of Armistice Day editorials in the Tokio press was that the causes which forced the Great War continue to exist.
The Asahi states that America now lords it over the world, relying upon her immense resources.
The “ America First “ principle is hindering the progress of peace, as was demonstrated at Geneva.
The Richi Richi argues that the egotism of America and England prevented an agreement at the Geneva naval limitation conference, as each, although heavily armed, desires still greater armaments.
The next paragraph in the message is significant. It reads -
Candour compels the blunt statement that the menace to world peace to-day exists in the fact that the western powers are holding suzerainty of immense lands beyond their national necessities, and refusing to satisfy the pressing needs of other nations with surplus populations.
They hold immenses territories without a population, while coolly advising congested nations to practise birth control.
On the surface of it,’ these people would appear to be just as much entitled to dispossess us of this Territory as we were to dispossess the Australian aborigines of it in the first place. After all, the land was made for the people and not the people for the land. In North Australia we have huge tracts of country which we are only holding by reason of our bluff. Some day that bluff will be called, and. then our statesmen will be accused of having sold Australia into the hands of our enemies. The only way to avert that disaster is to settle those areas with a white and virile race which will be prepared to defend the country. As things are now, an enemy nation could easily entrench itself in North Australia, and only by a great sacrifice of life could we drive it off. It is our duty to provide remedial measures now. The possibilities of this portion of the continent are greater than those of any other part of Australia. In the southern States, there are hundreds of applicants for one block of indifferent land, with the result that prices have become so inflated that purchasers cannot pay the interest on the capital cost. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) referred to an area of thousands of square miles of fertile country capable of carrying 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 sheep. If that land could be resumed for 5s. or 10s. per square mile, settlers who obtained it would have a good start. Recently, sheep were sold in Adelaide for 5s. per head. I know persons who were anxious to buy some of them in order to engage in pastoral pursuits in North Australia, but at every stage they encountered obstacles. The golden opportunity to obtain sheep at that low price will probably pass before they can obtain land. A proper system of administration would have saved thousands of sheep during the last six months. Sheep do remarkably well in the country to which I have referred. There are wonderful possibilities for the wool industry there. As the pastoral areas iu the south become smaller, wool growers will have to go further back. The Government should prepare the way for them by providing freights at reasonable rates. Although many hundreds of people have travelled through North Australia during the last few years, I have heard only one adverse criticism of that country. That came from the honorable member for Riverina, and even hia remarks applied to only a portion of the territory. The rest of Worth Australia he characterized as splendid country. Even the area which he condemned is good sheep country. Writing on the 84th April, 1924, the postmaster at Charlotte Waters, at the extreme south of North Australia, adjoining South Australia, said - in reply to your request as to the possibilities, &c, of this country as regards stock, such as sheep and goats, the following figures will give you some idea as to what it will do, and you will also see from rainfull figures that rain is far from regular, and consequently we are often without surface, waters, which is anything but beneficial to’ stock, as same have to be shifted on to well at Finke River, and in the past two years they have had four trips to well, figures quoted are for government stock only, running on five-mile reserve at Charlotte Waters. The average rainfall is somewhere about ii inches, and at present time country is looking extremely dry and barren, but nevertheless stock holding condition and killing well, as you saw for yourself. The figures I have quoted are from’ 9th February, 1922, to 31st March, 1924, and you must admit that they are good, as all stock disposed of by my department has been female class. The wool clip is good, and I think one might say remarkable, as there has been no new blood introduced into mob for the past several years. - Trusting same will meet with your requirements.
It is true that the rainfall at Charlotte Waters is very light, but the station is situated at the extreme end of the bad belt. As one goes further north towards Deep Well and Alice Springs the country improves every mile. The Government officer at Charlotte Waters was given something like 300 head of sheep in lieu of meat rations. No fresh blood had been infused into the stock for about twenty years or more, and according to the ordinary laws of stock breeding, they should have resembled rats with lumps of wool on their tails. The following are the official stock figures at Charlotte Waters from the 9th February, 1922, to 31st March, 1924:-
On the 9th February, 1922, the station was running 457 sheep, and between that date and the 31st March, 1924, the department disposed of 300 ewes besides a total of 253 sheep consumed, and the usual average of deaths on the station. Present total running reserve, 320 sheep.
On the 9th February, 1922, the station waa running 493 goats, and between that date and the 31 Bt March, 1924, the department disposed of 400 culled female goats, besides a. total of 224 goats consumed, and usual average of deaths on station. Present total running reserve, 316 goats.
September, 1922. - Five hundred sheep shorn (including about 100 lambs), for total weight of 4,010 lb. of wool. Average slightly over S lb.
September, 1923.- Three hundred and eighty sheep (including 80 odd lambs), for total weight of 2,827 lb. wool. Average slightly over 7 lb.
Bill returned from the Senate- with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce), agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 1 1 a.m. to-morrow.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271123_reps_10_116/>.