10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-Will the Minister for Tradeand Customs have an early review made of the flour-milling industry, which is at present in a precarious state, in order to see what can be done by the Commonwealth to give to it the fillip it needs?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s question.
– Is it the intention of the Government to arrange that the evidencetaken by the Constitution Royal Commission shall be published within a reasonable time? If so, will the Government see that copies of the evi dence are distributed to honorable members before Parliament re-assembles? Although the commission has been sitting for nearly twelve months, only the opening statements of counsel and the evidence of a few important witnesses have been published and distributed.
– Some delay has occurred owing to the decision given in the early stages of the commission that, because of the tremendous volume of the evidence and the cost of printing it in its entirety, only portions of it should be printed in full and the remainder summarized. That arrangement having been found impracticable, steps are being taken to have the whole of the evidence printed as speedily as possible. As it becomes available it will be distributed to honbr- able members.
Mr..FENTON. - Having regard to the fact that the heavy importations of cigars., representing a value in 1926-27 of £115,367, are a serious menace to the Australian cigar factories, will the Minister for Trade and Customs refer the matter to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, with a view to amelioratory action ?
– I am under the impression that the Tariff Board hasalready reported upon the industry, but I . shall make inquiries.
– The Minister for Works and Railways will recall my questions relating to the state of the loads between Canberra, Yass and Goulburn, and his oft repeated assurance that he would confer with the New South Wales authorities and communicate the’ result to the House. Has the honorable gentleman yet conferred with the chairman of the Main Roads Board of New South Wales, or any other authority that is responsible for the deplorable condition of the roads, and, if so, with what result?
– Yesterday I had a long conference with the chairman of the Main Roads Board. I hope to be able to report the result to Cabinet to-day ; if so, I shall make a statement to the House at a later hour.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet obtained any information regarding the proposal to equip the lighthouses on the Australian coast with wireless receiving sets?
– I believe that I furnished the honorable member with information regarding the lighthouses generally, a few days ago, but I shall again look into the matter and let him have any further information that is available.
-Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the very loose system of recording trunk line calls, particularly at the Sydney General Post Office? The practice ia to present unitemized accounts for the half-year, and very often subscribers are debited for calls, which they did not initiate. Before they can make a protest against the wrongful charge, they have to go to the General Post Office and make a personal inspection of the records. Will the Minister inquire whether it is possible to present the accounts in detail?
– I think that that would be impracticable, but I shall inquire into the system of recording trunk line calls at the Sydney General Post Office.
– A Scotch professor who is a friend of mine decided to send a package to me, but on inquiry at the Glasgow post office he found that he could not insure a package for despatch to Australia. In Australia a person can insure any parcel of value for despatch to any part of the United Kingdom. Will the Postmaster-General communicate with the British post office and ask for reciprocity in regard to the insurance of valuable packages and letters?
– That matter is entirely under the control of the British post office. Packages despatched from Australia to the United Kingdom can be insured, but the British authorities have not seen their way to make the arrangement reciprocal.
– It is alleged that in some States the concessions made to the State Governments in respect of soldier land settlement are not being applied to the benefit of the soldiers, but are being utilized to pay for the cost of alleged bungling in administration. I ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth, when making these grants or remissions to the States, stipulated that the benefits should be given to the soldiers ?
– The concessions made by the Commonwealth to the States in connexion with soldier land settlement total £10,000,000. At the inception of the scheme the Commonwealth made an advance of £5,000,000, and a further concession of £5,000,000 was made in 1925. The arrangement with the State Governments was that this money should be . used to ensure that the soldiers were properly repatriated. Since that time it has been apparent that many of the soldiers are not satisfactorily settled on the land, and by arrangement between the Commonwealth and State Governments an investigation is now being conducted by Mr. Justice Pike to ascertain in what further way the soldier settlers can be assisted.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral ever listened-in to the wireless broadcasting programmes and heard racing results, starting prices, &c., being disseminated for half to three-quarters of an hour at a time? As these results are not of interest to the majority of the public, will he take steps to have them eliminated from the programmes or condensed?
– Wireless broadcasting companies must cater for the whole community, and racing results, although not of interest to the honorable member, may be, in the opinion of many other people, a valuable feature of the service.
– Has the Treasurer received from - the Returned Soldiers’ Association in Sydney a request that income taxation should be waived in respect of the donations to Captain
Kingsford Smith and his companions? If so, will he give favorable consideration to the request ?
– Gifts and donations are not regarded as income, and therefore are not liable to income taxation. The returned soldiers, however, also requested that the entertainments tax in respect of the benefit performance held in Sydney on Monday night, should be waived. The Entertainments Tax Act exempts only entertainments the whole proceeds of which are to be devoted to a specific public purpose. In this instance the whole of the ordinary charge for admission was retained by the theatrical management, and therefore only part of the proceeds will be received by Captain Kingsford Smith and his companions. The Government is prepared, however, to place a sum on the estimates to refund the . taxation collected in respect of the amount received for the seats in excess of the ordinary charge.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he can arrange for members to inspect the interior of Captain Kingsford Smith’s wonderful machine when it reaches Canberra to-morrow? Also, will the Government consider placing Captain Kingsford Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Captain Herbert Hinkler, and others, on a reserve list of officers, with substantive rank, so that Australia might have the benefit of their aviation experience in the event of war?
– I shall endeavour to arrange for honorable members to have an opportunity to inspect the monoplane, but, of course, the determination of the matter must rest with Captain Kingsford Smith. I shall give consideration to the second part of the honorable member’s question.
– If anything is done in the matter, will the Prime Minister consider the claims of Lieutenant Parer for such recognition?
– If the suggestion is acted upon, consideration will be given to the claims of every aviator who has performed meritorious service.
– The provision of our Customs legislation that antiques more than 100 years old shall be allowed free entry into Australia is causing consider able confusion. Recently some china admitted free upon the claim that it was 100 years old, was returned to London for examination, and an expert there determined that it was not more than five years old. I have been informed that so far no regulations have been framed in regard to this matter. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider an amendment of the act to meet the peculiar circumstances of these cases?
– An amendment was made to the Customs Tariff Act last year to provide that articles more than 100 years old should be admitted into Australia free ; but so far the Customs officers have not been able to frame the necessary regulations. The illustration which the honorable member used showed the diffi- ‘ culties of the case, andthe need for stringent provisions- I shall look into the matter with a view to the formulation of a basis as simple as possible.
– Recently during a debate, the Treasurer was asked whether he would undertake to try to bring about a measure of reciprocity in the payment of British and Commonwealth war pensions. Has anything been done in that matter ?
– The subject is still under the consideration of the Government. On account of the great disparity of the pension rates of Great Britainand Australia it is difficult to arrive at a basis for negotiations.
– Has the Government yet received the report of the Pastoral Research Committee, and if so, will it be made available to honorable members at an early date?
– The report has been received and is now being printed. I anticipate that it will be made available almost immediately.
– Some time ago I forwarded on behalf of the Australian Italian community an application to the Government for permission to publish a newspaper here in the Italian language. Has a decision been reached in regard to it?
– I have had the matter under consideration within the last few days and I hope to be able to announce a decision shortly.
– Has the Minister for Markets seen the report of the Queensland Beef and Cattle Industry Commission. It recommends the Commonwealth Government to grant assistance in the establishment of an advisory board to act in consultation with the northern cattle interests with a view to improving our beef standard. Seeing that Colonel Dunlop Young is at present in Australia, will the Government take steps to confer with him, and with the northern authorities with the object of introducing improved methods in the industry in Australia?
– I have received a copy of the report, but have not yet had time to consider it. I shall give consideration to the second part of the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways undertake to give preference to Australian citizens for Commonwealth work in North Australia? I asked the honorable gentleman a question on this subject last week.
– I told the honorable member then that I would call for a report, and after its receipt would consider his suggestion. I do not know the exact number of Southern Europeans employed on the North Australia railway, but I believe that they are all unionists. Surely in that case they have the right to employment.
– If openings occur for additional employees on the North Australia railway and both unionist Australians and unionist foreigners apply, will the Minister give preference to the Australians?
– I have already replied to the question as definitely as I intend to do until I have received the report to which I have referred.
– A few days ago I drew the attention of the Minister for Works and Railways to the fact that a number of groups of men who had accepted contracts to construct certain earth works on the North Australia railway, had incurred expense to the extent of £500 or £600 for plant, and had shortly afterwards been informed that there was no money to proceed with the work and that they would have to cease operations. In view of the fact that the Government has practically repudiated its agreement with them and financially embarrassed them, is it not proposed to recoup them for the initial expenses they incurred in good faith?
– I have not heard of any such losses. I shall obtain a report on the subject from the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner, and communicate with the honorable member later.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence able to inform me when and where the ten planes in which the members of the New South Wales Aero Club are flying to Canberra will land?
– They will land at Duntroon. I have received a communication to the effect that the meteorological officers in Sydney have advised the aviators not to begin their flight on account of adverse weather; consequently they may not land till sometime tomorrow.
– I understand that when an application is made for an invalid pension the practice is to give very little consideration to the medical certificate forwarded by the applicant. The case is referred to the departmental doctor and then to the medical referee. In the event of the decision of these two officers differing, it is understood to be one for the department and one against it, and the certificate of the private medical practitioner is disregarded altogether. In that event could not the department take into consideration the nature of the original certificate?
– The certificate of the medical referee is final. It is given only after a complete examination and when a number of specific questions have been answered, whereas the certificate of the private practitioner is entirely general.
– Seeing that the
Minister for Works and Railways has taken the trouble to bring the Chairman of the New South Wales Main Roads Board to Canberra for consultation in regard to the Canberra-Goulburn-road, will he show the same keenness to investigate questions which honorable members may ask respecting other roads that are even more important to the general community than this?
– The Chairman of the Main Roads Board was not brought to Canberra in connexion with the Canberra-Goulburn-road only, but in connexion with proposals that the whole of the approaches to the Federal Capital Territory should be brought under the provisions of the Federal Aid Bonds scheme.
Report (No. 5) presented by Mr. Corser, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Gold-mining Industry of Australia - Report by the Development and Migration Commision.
Now Guinea - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea from 1st July, 1926, to 30th June, 1927.
Federal Pastoral Advisory Committee - Report.
Ordered to be printed-
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of 1928 - No. 3 - Plant and Fruit Diseases.
– I lay on the table-
Report on work preparatory to the proclamation of the Bankruptcy Act.
It is proposed to proclaim the Bankruptcy Act to commence on the 1st August next.
Motion (by Sir Neville Howse) (by leave) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigation : - Erection of a School of Public Health at Sydney.
Motion (by Sir Neville Howse) (by leave) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigation: - Australian War Memorial at Canberra.
Motion (by Sir Neville Howse) (by leave) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the report of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee on the proposed construction of buildings and formation of Zoological Reservation at Canberra for the National Museum of Australian Zoology shall, for the purpose of considering certain modifications of the proposed work which appear to be necessary as the result of the development of the preliminary scheme originally submitted to the committee, be remitted to the committee for its further consideration and report.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments, and message ordered tobe taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee : (Consideration of Senate’s amendments)
– I move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
The first of these amendments affects only the title of the bill, and has been made merely to simplify reference. The second amendment substitutes the word “ judge “ for the word “ court “ in a proviso in clause 21, where obviously the intention is that a judge may refuse to certify, and the third amendment is consequential upon the second.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Board in this matter without consultation with persons entitled to speak, with full knowledge of Canberra conditions, on behalf of the Public Service ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Markets, upon notice-. -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1., The bounty is provided from a levy voluntarily subscribed by manufacturers, who deduct the equivalent from their payments made to cream suppliers. In this way the producer provides his own export bounty.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Housing - Cost of Bricks - Sports Grounds
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
On the 7th June, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me the following questions: -
Will he supply a detailed statement setting out the total cost of each of the following: -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : - 1. (a) (i) Approximately £6464, exclusive of an estimated expenditure of £1,570 on portion abandoned owing to the 1925 flood or required to make good damage from the same source.
and (c) Separate costs of these items were not kept, but were included in the cost of construction of the Hotel Canberra grounds. The estimated cost is: - Bowling Green, £1,120; Croquet Lawn, £320.
Partly constructed by voluntary labour.
Riverbourne and Russel Hill, 1. court, £110 6s. 5d.
Molonglo, I court. (Cost not known; constructed by military authorities ) .
Bachelors’ Quarters, 1 court, £75 2s. 5d. (Constructed prior to the appointment of the Commission. The cost is probably understated, but no record of any further amounts can be traced).
Old court near Bachelors’ Quarters, 1 court. (Cost cannot be traced. Constructed prior to appointment of Commission).
Acton married quarters, 1 court. (Cost cannot be traced. Constructed prior to appointment of Commission.)
Blandfordia, 2 courts, £439 5s.
Broddon, 2 courts, £506 12s. 4d.
Hospital, 1 court, £359 2s. Id.
Hotel Acton, 2 courts, £599 19s. l0d.
Hotel Canberra, public courts (3), £1,071, 10s. 9d.
Hotel Canberra, staff court, £236 3s. 4d.
Association Courts, Manuka, 6 courts, £1,874 18s.
Parliament House, 5 courts (approximately), £2,305.
Acton Golf Course (approximately), £150.
Bowling Green, Hotel Canberra (approximately), £126.
Croquet Lawn, £46
Tennis Courts, £46
Parliament House. Maintained by Parliament.
The remaining tennis courts are maintained by the Tennis Association or by the clubs in occupation. It is anticipated that next financial year the revenue from the golf courses and the bowling green will approximate to the cost of maintenance.
Bowling Green, Hotel Canberra, 1 man, half time.
Tennis Courts, Hotel Canberra, 1 man, 1 day per week.
Croquet Lawn, Hotel Canberra, 1 man, 1 day per week.
Tennis Courts, Parliament House. Maintained by Parliament.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he received a communication from the Premier of New South Wales regarding the erection of a wireless station on Lord Howe Island; if so, what steps have been taken to forward the information required?
–Yes. The matter is at present engaging the attention of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the preparation of the information required is being expedited.
– On 1st June, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the Minister for Health the following questions: -
I am now able to supply the following information : -
– On 11th June, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Expenditure chargeable,in part, to Junior Cadet training on the provision of a physical training staff : -
note. - The above salaries were not wholly chargeable against Junior Cadet training, as the staff was engaged also on physical training instruction for the Senior Cadets and Military Forces.
Expenditure chargeable in part to Junior Cadet trainingyear 1927-28 : -
The only alteration in the nature of the training now given to that in force during the period 1911-1919 is that the optional subject, miniature rifle shooting, has been eliminated.
– On the 11th June the right honorable member for North Sydney referred to a recent press report in which it was stated that six stewards on the s.s. Ballarat who had been engaged for the voyage from London, and who had asked to be paid off at Melbourne, had been refused permission to land unless they could produce . £20 in cash. A report has been obtained from the
Customs authorities at Melbourne, which shows that the statement referred to is incorrect. The stewards in question were passage-workers, and not seafaring men by regular occupation. They wished to be discharged in Australia for permanent residence. In accordance with the usual practice they were questioned as to their means, in order that the authorities might be satisfied that, if permitted to land, they would be in a position to support themselves pending an opportunity of finding employment. It was not required that they should each possess £20. The master of the ship sought permission to discharge only four of them at Melbourne, and these were permitted to land without restriction.
Theft of Mail Bags
– In reply to several questions previously asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) concerning the loss of a registered mail containing £220 despatched from the General Post Office, Adelaide, to Hilton, South Australia, and the subsequent investigations, I have made full inquiries, and find that the detective who carried out the investigations was well qualified for the purpose.
No complaint has been made to the Deputy Director, Adelaide, or the Superintendent of Mails, in regard to the manner in which the officials interrogated were treated by the police officer, and I find that nothing in the nature of the third degree was adopted during the inquiry. I regret I cannot make available the evidence asked for by the honorable member.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message. Message ordered to be considered in committee at a later hour.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on
Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries: - South Melbourne (Victoria) - Erection of Postal Workshops.
This proposal is for the erection at South Melbourne of a building to accommodate the various sections of the telegraph and telephone workshops. The proposed site is Commonwealth property abutting on Sturt, Grant and Dodds streets, South Melbourne. The building has been designed to meet requirements for approximately ten years after the date of erection. The present accommodation is both inadequate and unsuitable. The two main workshops are at present situated in widely separated parts of the city, the telephone workshops being in Spencer-street, adjoining the General Post Office, and the telegraph workshops at Jolimont, over a mile away. This separation of the workshops is an inefficient and uneconomical arrangement. Moreover, the Jolimont workshops must shortly be vacated, when the site will be utilized for recreation purposes. The present accommodation at the Spencerstreet General Post Office is also required for other purposes. The proposed site in Sturt-street, South Melbourne, is at present used by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the storage of cable, and transport and workshop material. It has a frontage of approximately 462 feet to Sturt-street, 347 feet to Grant-street, and 298 feet to Dodds-street. The proposed building is a simply-designed concrete structure of two floors providing a working space of approximately 53,000 square feet. It will provide better accommodation than that of the existing workshop buildings, which were not designed for the purposes for which they are now being used. The cost of the building is estimated at £56,500. Sufficient ground space is available to enable an extension of the workshop to be made when needed. The proposed building is designed to permit of extensions. The various sections comprising the workshops are - Telephone, telegraph, carpenters and joiners, painters and polishers, installation staff, motor car, cycle and lorry, and coach building. The number of permanent men employed is approximately 360. An additional 200 men are employed in a temporary capacity. The number of telephone stations in Victoria, which in September, 1927, was 141,535, is rapidly in creasing, about 11,400 stations being added yearly. The repair and renovation work will, in consequence, increase in direct ratio to the number maintainedThe following statement comparing the cost of erecting workshops on Commonwealth property at Sturt-street, South Melbourne, with the original proposal to erect workshops alongside the General Post Office, Melbourne, will be of interest to honorable members: -
The Sturt-street project represents a saving of about £1,910 per annum. The rental of the existing telegraph workshops at Jolimont is £448 per annum. That amount would be saved under either scheme. As the type of fire protection for the building has not yet been decided the estimated cost of it has not been included in the financial statement. The cost of a sprinkler installation would be £3,500, with annual charges estimated at approximately £270, but having regard to the class of work to be done and the comparatively small fire risk which would be incurred, it is considered likely that an automatic thermostat alarm system, costing approximately £450 to install, and approximately ‘£80 in annual charges, will meet requirements. The distance from the workshops to the nearest fire brigade station is 1,880 yards. The protection offered by a thermostat system, if considered adequate, will be much the more economical arrangement.
As the Postmaster-General regards this matter as urgent, steps will be taken to carry out the work as early as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to section 8 of the War Precautions Act Repeal Act, 1920-1923.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to repeal section 8 of the War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1920-23, which deals with the holding by aliens, without the consent in writing of the Treasurer, of any mine or interest in a mine, or the acquisition of any share in any company incorporated in the Com.monwealth. During the great war, and indeed for some time after its termination, such a provision was necessary, but gradually the necessity for its retention ou the statute-book has disappeared. In any case, it does not now achieve the desired result, and during recent years has caused considerable difficulty. The obtaining of the consent of the Treasurer to the acquisition by an alien of any mine or interest in a mine is generally not a matter of difficulty; but that portion of the section which provides that there shall be no transfer of a share in an Australian company without the consent of the Treasurer being first obtained, has caused considerable difficulty, and prevented the introduction of capital from other countries for the development of Australian mines. The existing legislation has prevented advantage being taken of a recent discovery by which fuel oil is extracted from black or brown coal. Experimental work in this connexion in Great Britain and Germany has had satisfactory results; last year large quantities of fuel oil were obtained from coal in Germany. Should further success attend the experiments, it is most desirable that Australia shall participate in the benefits which will accrue. In the event of the further success of the experiments, the persons interested, although aliens, should not be prevented from acquiring coalmines in Australia. An instance of the harsh effect of the existing legislation occurred in connexion with the development at Mount Isa. There is a prospect of big developments taking place there, and apparently a large amount of foreign capital is available for the purpose. Owing, however, to the restrictions which the section proposed to be repealed now places upon the transference of shares, the position has become somewhat acute. I understand that a large proportion of the capital proposed to be utilized for the development of Mr Isa will be raised in Great Britain. Under the existing legislation, the transfer of a share in the company to an alien residing in Great Britain could not be made without the previous consent of the Treasurer. Honorable members will therefore see that such a provision necessarily causes considerable embarrassment, and places restrictions on development. After full consideration, the Government has come to the conclusion that it is no longer necessary to retain on the statute-book the section to which I have referred. It will still be necessary to take care that the great key industries of Australia do not get entirely into the hands of aliens, but should the necessity arise, action could be taken to prevent anything which would be inimical to the interests of Australia. While realizing the necessity for safeguarding Australian interests, the Government is of the opinion that the retention of the section in our legislation not only causes embarrassment but also prevents the flow of capital into Australia. I, therefore, confidently ask the House to pass the bill without delay.
.- I agree with the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) regarding the necessity for this measure. At one time restrictive legislation such as that contained in the section to which the right honorable gentleman has made reference, might have been necessary, but that time has now passed. Our duty to-day is to develop the country. Anything which will impede development should be removed. -I agree with the Prime Minister that the retention of the section referred to may retard the development of this country, and that, therefore, it should be repealed - The effect of it is that no foreign capital will come into Australia for the development of our mines. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and myself have interested ourselves in this matter, with a view to securing an amendment of the War Precautions Act. We understood that there are interests prepared to invest £2,000,000 in enterprises for the extraction of oil from shale and coal. There are large deposits of coal in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, and, in view of the great and growing demand for oil for use in steamers, it would be of great benefit to this country if we could commercialize the extraction Of oil from coal. We should then be able to absorb our present unemployed, and find work for thousands of other men besides. I welcome this bill, and hope that it will go through all its stages without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted and bill, by leave, read a third time.
Message recommendingappropraition reported, and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for (he purposes of a bill for an act to provide for carrying out geophysical surveys, in Australia.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruceand Mr. . Latham do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to give effect to a proposal for the carrying out of geophysical surveys in Australia. The greatest development in mining methods within recent years has been in the direction of geophysical prospecting. Very satisfactory results have been obtained, but a great deal still remains to be done. The advantage of this method of prospecting is that it saves expenditure on expensive boring operations. It is possible to discover at little expense the most suitable areas in which to conduct prospecting work, and to enable areas which are quite unsuitable for exploitation to be ruled out altogether. These methods of prospecting have been the subject of considerable discussion in recent years, and have been studied by the mining departments of the various States, and by the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. At the last Imperial Conference this matter was brought up by the Australian Delegation, and we suggested that it was most desirable that experimental work should be carried out in some portion of the Empire, in order to determine whether or not the method was practical.
– Will this bill’ apply to New Guinea?
– We can make it apply to New Guinea, but the first areas to be tested will be inside Australia itself. It was decided, at the Imperial Conference, that experiments should be carried out in some portion of the Empire. The matter was referred to a committee of English research experts, who reported favorably, and it was then taken up by the Empire Marketing Board. We represented that Australia had the most suitable areas for prospecting of this kind, and it was agreed that experiments should be conducted in this country, the Empire Marketing Board and ‘the Australian Government to co-operate on a £1 for £1 basis in defraying the cost. A very distinguished scientist, Professor Broughton Edge, has been appointed leader of the survey party. He is in Australia now, and has brought with him two trained assistants. It is intended that work should begin immediately, and Australian university graduates will be attached to the party, so that while the preliminary survey is being made during the first two years, we may train nien of our own in Australia who will be able to continue the work.
– What about our own Australian geologists ?
– We must, also have the co-operation and advice of the geologists, and we have been able to arrange with the State Governments that this shall be given. There is to be a committee on which the State Governments will be represented. We have secured that full measure of co-operation which will ensure that the services of geologists in Australia will be at command, so that the work may be carried in the most practical way. The appropriation involved in this bill is £20,000. I strongly recommend the proposal to the House as a most valuable work, one which may have more far reaching results for Australia than we can see at the present time.
– Can the experts point to valuable results achieved in other places by this method 6f survey?
– They can.’ Valuable results have been obtained in oil prospecting by the Anglo-Persian Company in the course of its own work in Persia. The indications are, however, that the most valuable results will be obtained in a country such as Australia, where the geological structure is suited to this kind of survey.
– Will they also prospect for water? “
– Surveys will be made for minerals, oil and water. I have had a very long technical explanation given to me of the exact methods used. I believe I could make the matter more or less intelligible to the House, but it is extraordinarily technical, and it would be better, I think, for honorable members who are interested in the subject, to read up the subject for themselves.
– Could the Prime Minister not have the explanation incorporated with his speech in Hansard?
– I could, but it will be better to have a memorandum prepared so that members may study it for themselves. I recommend that the Commonwealth should co-operate with the Empire Marketing Board which is finding a portion of the money required. We have only to look back on the history of Australia to see what it would mean to the country if we could make further important mineral discoveries. The rapid populating of Australia after 1850 came about largely as the result of gold discoveries. Many of the prosperous agricultural districts of Australia were first opened up because of mineral discoveries. I cannot believe that we have even scratched the surface of the mineral possibilities in Australia. The great difficulty in the way of exploiting our mineral resources is the tremendous expense involved in carrying out prospecting and boring operations to locate the deposits. Any method which will obviate that expense will, I believe, lead to the opening up of great, new mineral areas.
– I am pleased that the Prime Minister has seen fit to introduce this bill. I have not the temerity to air my superficial knowledge of matters which arc. now the subject of exact scientific inquiry. New wonders in the way of prospecting become possible when science turns her attention to this field of activity. We are all familiar “with the old water doctor who went about the country with his divining rod. Sometimes he achieved results, but he did not work on any scientific basis. It is evident, from the reports prepared by the Development and Migration Commission, presided over by Mr. Gepp, that new sources of wealth are waiting to be opened up if the necessary prospecting is done. The real reason for the decline of gold mining in Australia is that all the surface outcrops have been discovered and worked, and it has been too expensive to prospect for other deposits.
Persons uninformed in mining ask why there is no prospecting to-day, such as was carried out by the “ old battlers.” The explanation is that prospectors going into new gold-bearing country were able to locate lodes by the surface indications, and any development was merely by means of blind stabbing. Australia is one of the most highly mineralized countries in the world, but the over-burden hides from our eye the great riches that must exist beneath. I hope that this legislation will be the means of reopening the doors of research, and lead to the discovery of some of the many Great Boulder Mines that I am confident are to be found below the surface. Science may do a great deal to give a fillip to the discovery and development of the stored mineral wealth of Australia.
.- I cordially support the bill. Nature, in its own fascinating and mysterious way, hides from the eyes of man the storehouses of its great treasures, and only science can pronounce the magic “ Open sesame.” I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to co-opt the definite interest of the States.
– That has been done already.
– I can conceive of no more valuable result from this research than the discovery of great subterranean supplies of water for stock and domestic purposes in Central and Northern Australia. The utilization of those vast areas is limited, not by the carrying capacity - of the grasses and herbage, but by the quantity of water available; and if a geophysical survey will assist the geologist to discover artesian supplies, immense provinces will be added to the productive area of Australia. The location of new mineral wealth also would be of great value to the nation. Ever since I saw the romance of John Stofel unfolded on the stage, I have been hoping that Australian would “ strike oil,” but its hopes in this regard have been often blighted. Any scientific endeavour to help the prospecting for oil must receive, the commendation of this House.
– I am pleased that the Government has introduced this measure. I asked the Prime Minister whether it will apply to New Guinea; nothing in the bill indicates that it will. Huge sums of money have been expended -on prospecting for oil in Papua, and private enterprise is busy in New Guinea.
– Oil has been found in Papua, but not in commercial quantities.
– It is opportune to inquire whether the heavy expenditure in Papua and New Guinea should be continued. Perhaps further waste of money and energy would be avoided if the geophysicists were to report at an early date upon the mineral prospects of those two territories.
– The work to be done under the authority of this bill will be in the nature of experiments to determine what can be achieved in Australia by geophysical methods, and it will also give training to Australian scientists in this branch of research. The proposed expenditure is not’ for the purpose of examining any particular spot suggested by any State or group of persons, but to select the areas most suitable for carrying on experiments, and to add something to our knowledge of geophysical methods. Therefore, the suggestion made by the honorable member for South Sydney is not practicable at this stage. I hope, however, that it will be possible to apply the results of these experiments to the auriferous areas of New Guinea and the oil-bearing portions of Papua.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I understand that some German scientists, skilled in geophysics, are at present in New Zealand. Is there any coordination between the Dominion and the Commonwealth in this matter, or were the German experts in New Zealand engaged by private enterprise?
– One of the conditions upon which the Empire Marketing Board agreed to co-operate with the Commonwealth in connexion with geophysical surveys was that the results should be made available to all parts of the Empire. So far as I am aware, the survey about to be commenced in Australia is the only work of the kind authorized by any Government within the Empire. Certain German scientists have gone to New Zealand at the invitation of private enterprise. Geophysical surveying is work that can be done only by thoroughly qualified experts. If it is attempted by people who have not the necessary scientific knowledge, it may yield results that are misleading and calculated to do more harm than good.
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment; report adapted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Tariff 1921-1928 or the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1922-1920, from and after the fifteenth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, there shall be charged, collected and paid to the King for the purposes of the Commonwealth on butter and cheese produced or manufactured in the Dominion of New Zealand and imported direct from that Dominion after the time and date above specified or imported direct from that Dominion before, and entered for home consumption after, that time and date, duty of Customs at the rate of sixpence per lb.
The last tariff schedule, which was introduced on the 24th November last, increased the duty on butter from 3d. per lb. in each of the three divisions of the schedule to 6d., 61/2. and 7d., but owing to the reciprocal trade treaty with New Zealand, the decision of Parliament on the schedule did not alter the duties on butter and cheese imported from that dominion, although those importations were the reason for its introduction. By clause 27 of this agreement the Commonwealth undertook not to impose any customs duty or increase the rate of any customs duty on any article entering the Commonwealth from New Zealand, except by mutual consent, or, until after six months’ notice of such new duty or increase had been given. The Dominion, of course, gave a reciprocal undertaking. On the 1st December last the New Zealand Government was requested to agree to an alteration of the duty on butter, but notified that it could not see its way clear to do so, and on the 14th December the necessary six months’ notice was given by this Government that it intended to alter its duty in accordance with the tariff schedule tabled on the 24th November. That notice has now expired, and it is necessary for Parliament to take this action to enable the duty to apply to New Zealand. This proposal has already been debated and determined, and the motion merely gives effect to a previous decision of the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Latham do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I regret the necessity for the introduction of this bill. I was in New Zealand some little time ago and learned that the butter industry there was in an unsatisfactory position. The New Zealand butter producers at that time had 600,000 boxes of butter in London for which a market could not be found, and a million boxes in cold store in New Zealand awaiting shipment. The introduction of bills of this description tends to dissipate the kindly feelings which should exist between Australians and the people of our sister dominion. What has become of the proposal that there should be’ a reasonable exchange of empire goods?
Mr. STEWART (Wimmera) [12.35 1. - I am sorry that legislation of this description has to be introduced, but I know that it is necessary for the purposes of self-defence. Our butter producers ave clamouring for this in order that they may, so to speak, got a hair off the dog that is biting. They want Australian prices for Australian primary produce. But it will be impossible for us to continue our present economic practices for any length of time. The policy of trying to make, everybody prosperous by making everything dear does not appeal to me. The object of this and similar legislation is to increase the price of Australian produce to the Australian people. By the adoption of these methods we are obliging our people to pay more for Australian butter, sugar, rice., dried fruits, and other primary, products than people pay foi them in other parts of the world. To pui it in another way, we are making our primary produce available to people overseas at a lower price than that which the Australian consumers have to pay for it. This makes it possible for them to compete with us in secondary industries on a footing which is unfavorable to us. 1 support the bill because I am practically forced to do so, and not because I believe in the principle which underlies it. We cannot continue these practices indefinitely. Our tariff wall must shortly become top-heavy, and then it will overbalance and fall upon those who are sheltering near it. The mere handful of us who disapprove of the present fiscal policy of the nation are overwhelmed by the majority of the Government, and it seems as though our protests are of little value, but we shall continue to draw attention to these unsound economic practices in the hope that ultimately they may be superseded by sounder principles.
– We must accept the apology of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) for supporting the bill, but it is necessary to show the folly of his effort to compare the duties payable upon manufactured goods and those on primary products. In the case of such manufactured goods as iron and steel, pianofortes, and the like, the duty is paid once, although the article may last for 30 or 40 years; but in the case of. commodities for human consumption, the duty is payable every day, for the people must eat every day. I support the bill because I believe that it is in. accord with the protectionist principles of the nation.
.- When the late Mr. Pratten visited New Zealand recently he discussed with the Government of that dominion the reciprocal trade treaty between the two . countries. I should like to know whether any fresh negotiations have been initiated. We should, if possible, restore cordial trade relations between Australia and New Zealand. Formerly the balance of trade; between the two countries was substantially in our favour in certain respects, and we ought to do what we can to restore that desirable state of affairs. Has the Government invited the Government of New Zealand to discuss the proposals for doing so?
Sitting suspended from 12.^7 to 2.S0 p.m.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) rightly claimed that the purpose of the imposition of this duty is to make the householders of Australia pay more for butter; and it will certainly do this. Another purpose that it is expected to accomplish is to ensure that the producers shall get more for their cream. It would be far better to pay a bonus direct ‘ to the cream producers, as it would go into the right pockets, whereas the return from this imposition will not. The Labour party support this duty because they claim it to be a protective measure.. It is no such thing; it is merely an exploiting imposition. We are selling nearly one half of our output on the world’s markets in competition with the very people that this is intended to protect us from. New Zealand butter is being imported into Australia, though the present duty is 2d. per lb., and the costs of getting it here approximately -Id. per lb. Within the last few months approximately 80,000 boxes of New Zealand butter has come into Australia. Such a duty as this merely penalizes the consuming public. Our butter is being exported to overseas’ markets at present, and realizes ls. 3d. per lb. f.o.b. The householders’ of Great Britain are buying the choicest of 0111 butter for ls. 7d. per lb. after 2d. per lb. transport charges have been met, while the householders ofAustralia are compelled to pay 2s. per lb. for butter. This duty will not prevent New Zealand butter from being imported, but will merely raise the price of butter to the cost of New Zealand butter landed, duty paid. It takes approximately 10 per cent, of the value of the output of our unfortunate dairymen for the upkeep of extravagant spending departments which are merely machines for finding big jobs for brainy men.
The Government is merely playing into the hands of the speculators who have large quantities of butter stored in Australia awaiting the application of this duty to unload it at the enhanced price. All that the imposition of the duty will do is to make speculators wealthy men. It will not benefit the dairymen to the extent that it should. We are asked to support an imposition that will make the disparity between British and Australian prices at least 3d. per lb. greater than it is now, without in any way preventng the importation of New Zealand butter, or commensurately benefiting the dairymen. The whole scheme is, as the honorable member for Wimmera has said, economically unsound. Sooner or later it will collapse, and half the people who are now living on the dairymen will be running round looking for jobs. It will not benefit the dairymen.
.- The arguments of the three honorable members who have preceded me in speaking to this measure are exceedingly difficult to understand. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) is supporting, yet opposing, the duty. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), when Minister for Trade and Customs, inaugurated a system of reciprocity between Australia and New Zealand, and was one of the first to reduce the duty on butter from 3d. to1d. per lb. At the same time he was one of those who caused a duty of 4d. per lb. to be placed on New Zealand potatoes. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) is in the butter trade. I endeavour to purchase at the lowest price and sell at the highest price, and. I believe most other people do likewise. It is therefore a natural assumption that the honorable member for Fremantle wishes to buy butter at the lowest price, because the lower the price the greater will be his profit, and the more he will make out of his consumers.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) has accused me of being a butter speculator. I am not, and I ask that the offending words be withdrawn. I understood him to say that the reason why I was opposed to this duty was that I wished to buy butter cheaply and charge my customers high prices, in order to make undue profits.
– That would be an imputation of improper motives, and T ask the honorable member for Indi to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark, and will put it in another way.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that he must not convey the imputation in another way.
– I shall not impute improper motives to the honorable member for Fremantle. I make a considerable number of purchases and I always buy at the lowest price and sell in the dearest market, in order to make as much profit as I can. The honorable member for Fremantle is a very large purchaser ofbutter, and I leave it to honorable members to judge whether he sells that butter at a loss.
– I rise to a point of order. Is any honorable member who is financially interested in the bill entitled to speak upon’ it?
– Any honorable member is entitled to speak upon this measure.
– As we are all directly or indirectly interested in this matter, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) must come within the category that he wished to exclude from speaking on the bill. This duty was brought in following upon unanimous representations made by primary producers in the various States of Australia. A conference decided thematter, and an application was made to the Tariff Board. The New Zealand dairymen will not gain1d. from the exportation of their butter to Australia, as they can obtain an equally satisfactory price abroad. The people interested are those who want to break down our Australian butter control. Although this duty increases the price of butter, it gives the toiling dairy-farmers and their families something approaching a reasonable reward for their labour. There is a levy of 1½d. a lb. in existence at present, which gives a benefit to producers of 3d. a lb. Under this duty it is possible to increase that levy to 3d. But it is not the intention of the control board to strike an additional levy, therefore those speculators who have imported huge quantities of butter to Australia will either have to take it back to New Zealand or lose heavily on the transaction, as they deserve to do. It is abundantly clear that the Government is justified in safeguarding the interests of those engaged in the dairying industry against speculators by increasing the duty to 6d. per lb. I am exceedingly surprised that the honorable members- for Wimmera and Wannon, who have many primary producers and dairymen in their districts, should oppose the duty. As to the attitude of the honorable member for Fremantle, I may say that the great majority of people who found themselves in his position would take the same stand as he is taking.
.- I should not like the impression to go abroad that this committee is uncertain whether it is wise or unwise to impose this duty. The duty was brought forward after the fullest inquiry had been made by the Tariff Board, and its intention is to protect the interests of our primary producers. So keen were the producers for this protection to be provided at the earliest moment that the late Mr Pratten, exMinister for Trade and Customs was prevailed upon to visit New Zealand in an endeavour to achieve their objective. Unfortunately, he was not successful. I am glad that the Government has introduced this bill to give to the dairying industry this further measure of protection. I am desirous ( here shall be the utmost trade reciprocity between Australia and New Zealand, in regard to both our primary and our secondary products. The export of butter from New Zealand to Australia would not benefit the New Zealand dairymen ; any advantage would be derived by the New Zealand speculators in butter. Australia produces more butter than its people can consume. Any surplus must therefore be exported. Every box of butter brought into Australia from New Zealand reduces the home market for our own butter, more of which consequently must be sent abroad and sold at a lower price than that which it would bring in Australia. It would again have to compete with New Zealand butter in the markets of the United Kingdom. Unless these duties were imposed on New Zealand butter our own dairying industry would be endangered. The Government has done a great deal to establish a proper organization for the marketing of our dairy produce. The Dairy Produce Export Control Board has done wonderful work in placing the dairying industry on a sounder economic basis. The additional protection afforded by this bill will be of great assistance to our primary producers. I strongly support the increased duties, and regret that so many ill-considered statements have been made during this debate in opposition to this protection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
Mr. RODGERS (Wannon) [2.49 [.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) would make it appear that I had adopted a hostile attitude towards this measure. The honorable member knows well that I intend to support the duty on butter, as I have done on previous occasions. When I rose previously it was to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Bruce) a question, and to say that, in my opinion, it would have been better, in the interests of reciprocal trade between the two dominions, if the Government had first approached the Government of New Zealand and explained the altered circumstances of the Australian dairying industry, and then sought to enter into a satisfactory arrangement.
– The matter was discussed with Mr. McLeod for several months.
– The dislocation of trade between two sister dominions is a serious matter. . At one time, Australia was regarded by New Zealand almost as a foreign country in trade matters. I resent the attempt of the honorable member for Indi to misconstrue my remarks. No one better knows than he does that I formed the Australian Dairy Council and aided by the Council, particularly by Mr. Meeres, of New South Wales, established the standard for “ Kangaroo “ brand butter. I cannot understand what motive underlies the honorable member’s remarks, particularly as we represent, similar constituencies. The southern districts of Wannon constitute one of the richest dairying areas in Australia. It is not for me to say whether my efforts on behalf of the dairying industry have been fruitful, but they are well known. It was my privilege to convene the first all-Australian conference of dairymen, at a time when they were in difficulties. The result of that conference was an improvement in the standard of Australian butter. The honorable member’s remarks were entirely unwarranted.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), in an attempt to be clever, has misconstrued my attitude towards the dairying industry. I stated my attitude briefly, and, I thought, sufficiently clearly for most honorable members to understand my meaning. But as the honorable member for Indi appears not to have understood me I shall briefly repeat what I said. The dairymen of Australia asked for the imposition of a higher duty on butter as a means of self-preservation, economically as well as in a spirit of retaliation. In my opinion it would have been infinitely better had the policy of adding more bricks to the tariff wall not been adopted. If, instead of increasing duties generally, we had lowered them, and also reduced the cost of production, the price of utensils, and the cost of living, the dairymen of Australia would not unanimously have asked for the imposition of higher duties on butter. Like the. dairymen of Australia, I consider that Government’s proposals to be economically unsound. Eventually we shall have’ to retrace our steps. Nevertheless, while the tariff wall remains, I can understand the dairymen’s attitude towards this question, and I support the means of retaliation they have adopted. But the proposition itself is unsound.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said that this bill would probably endanger reciprocal trade between Australia and New Zealand. There is very little risk of that taking place, because New Zealand cannot regard Australia as an ordinary market for her butter. Australia produces far more butter than its people need. We have the strange spectacle of consignments of butter - small, it is true - arriving here from New Zealand at a time when we are exporting our surplus butter. Every box of butter sent by New Zealand to Australia competes in the Australian market with Australian butter, and causes an additional box of Australian butter to compete with NewZealand butter in, the! London market. Any trade between Australia and New Zealand must necessarily be in those commodities of which either country is in need. For instance, in New Zealand Ave ought to find a good market for dried fruits, because they are not produced there. It is obvious that there can be no potential export market either in Australia or New Zealand for those commodities of which both countries have a surplus.
.- The Minister must know that my reference to a deviation of trade did not apply to butter. Although New Zealand has certain seasonal advantages over Australia in relation to butter production, I agree with the Government that the butter market in Australia should be reserved to the Australian producer. I intend to vote accordingly. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) said that I had deprived the Australian producers, particularly the dairymen, of certain benefits. Before the treaty was entered into, the Tariff Board and those connected with the industries which would be affected by it were consulted. Only after those consultations were the duties fixed. I ask the, honorable member to indicate the directions’ iii which the agreement will act detrimentally to Australian producers. I remind him that he voted for every item in the schedule. There could be no treaty between two dominions except. .on a give-and-take basis. The treaty was not entered into hastily. On the contrary, the leaders in every Australian industry likely to he affected in it were consulted on almost every point. The treaty had the unanimous approval of the members of this chamber. Certainly the honorable member for Indi did not oppose it.
– I regret that the second reading of this bill was agreed to while I was temporarily absent from this chamber, because I wished to reply to some of the statements made during the debate, particularly those relating to the negotiations carried out in New Zealand by the late Mr. Pratten. I regret that his visit to New Zealand did not result in a definite arrangement being arrived at for the revision of the treaty between the two dominions. There were difficulties in the way which Mr. Pratten was unable to overcome. The visit did a great deal to improve the relations between the two countries. These had not been as favorable as we could have desired, due entirely to misunderstanding which the visit of Mr. Pratten did much to remove. Negotiations are still proceeding, and I trust that they will be brought to a successful conclusion.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a. third time.
Order of the day read for the resumption, of debate from 4th. May (vide page 4692), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
That the paper he printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
:. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill relating to the rights of officers in the Public Service who are transferred to’ the service of some Commonwealth, authority. Many acts of Parliament provide that when members of the Public Service are transferred to the service of a Commonwealth authority, they shall preserve their existing and accruing rights. The precise meaning of these terms has not yet been defined. In the schedule to the bill there is a list of some ten statutes, all of which provide -that the existing and accrued rights of officers shall be preserved. It is desirable that the position should be made clear in this respect, particularly in the case of such officers as Mr. Mulvany, who was until recently Secretary to the Department of Markets, and has now become a member of the Development and Migration Commission. His position cannot be defined until this bill is passed. There are other officers in a similar position, and the result is that, technically, they have not yet given up their existing posi-‘ tions, while other appointments are being held up. Clause 5 defines the rights which are to be preserved under any provision for preserving existing and accrued rights. These rights are in respect of : -
These rights are to be retained in the same way as if the officer had remained in the Public Service. In some cases, however, officers may prefer to renounce their existing rights, including those under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, and take advantage of the superannuation fund of the authority into which they transfer. This applies particularly to the Commonwealth Bank.Subsection 1 gives that right, and allows a period of three months in which to make a choice. Sub-section 2 in clause 5 states that any necessary adjustment shall be made in order to deal with superannuation contributions as betweenthe Commonwealth and the authority. Clause 6 affirmatively provides . for matters mentioned in clause 5, and subsection 3 of the clause contains this provision -
Upon the termination of his employment an unattached officer who has not been, dismissed, for misconduct or who has not attained the maximum age for retirement fixed by the Commonwealth Public Service
Act 1922-1924, shall be entitled to appointment to an office in . the Public Service of such status and salary as are determined by the Public Service Board of Commissioners, having regard to the office in the Public Service previously vacated by the officer and the period of his employment.
The officers “who will be affected by this measure, and who will have their rights placed upon a secure footing, may be ascertained by reference to the schedule. They are members of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, Officers of the Commonwealth Bank, the members and officers of the Development and Migration Commission, Income and Land Tax Commissioners, members and officers of the North Australian Commission, members of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, members and officers of the Federal Capital Commission and of the Superannuation Board.
– Does this provision cover such officers as Mr. Gepp, chairman of the Development and Migration Commission, and Sir John Butters, chairman of the Federal Capital Commission?
– No ; because they did not previously possess rights in the Commonwealth Public Service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted, and bill, by leave, read a third time. .
Message recommending appropriation reported and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) .
Motion (by. Dr. Earle Page) agreed to.
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Latham do prepare’ and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to enable loan works and services in progress at the 30th June next to be continued during the first three months of the ensuing year, pending the full loan programme for 1928- 29, which will be brought forward with the next Budget. No new services are included in the bill. The amount provided for is £1,920,000. The Loan bill last year was for £9,000,000, but, as a result of the representations of the Loan Council, it was decided to reduce that amount to £7,875,000. The amount now asked for, £1,920,000, is less than one quarter of either ‘of those amounts.
The following table showsthe expenditure now proposed under the different items as compared with that approved by Parliament: -
There are certain loan services that are not provided for in the bill, such as migration loans to the States and loans to the Federal Capital Commission, and the. North Australia Commission. Appropriations have already been made by Parliament for migration loans. In the case of the Federal Capital Commission, there is a provision under the Seat of Government Act for the Treasurer to make advances from the Commonwealth public account pending the borrowing of moneys either by the Commission or by the Treasurer on its behalf. It is proposed that the requirements of the Federal Capital Commission and the North Australia Commission during the next three months shall be met by advances from the Commonwealth public account.
– “Was the amount expended by the Federal Capital Commission last year included in the last loan programme ?
– No. That is a separate programme. In accordance with the usual practice established two or three years ago provision has been made in this bill that the unexpended balances on the 30th June, 1928, of the appropriations made by the Loan Acts of 1927 will lapse, on that date. The intention is that the loan programme of each year shall be dealt with as a whole by Parliament. When we resume after the adjournment the full loan programme for 1928-29 will be submitted for approval.
.- I should like the Treasurer to inform the House how and where it is proposed to raise this money. The bill provides for a three months’ loan expenditure of £1,920,000. The purposes for which the money is to be raised are outlined. The list contains many questionable items of loan expenditure, and I shall refer to them in committee. This bill opens up a subject that we have discussed from time to time. The Treasurer contends that we cannot borrow in Australia the money we need for public works. He has. declared that he does not think that an adverse trade balance is such a bad thing after all. That statement was contained in a report published in the press the other day of a speech he made in connexion with the Martin by-election. He said that he totally disagreed with the Leader of the Opposition that an adverse trade balance was a bad thing for the country. He forgets that money borrowed from overseas is received in the form of imported goods, and that that is one of the contributing factors to our adverse trade balance. No country in the world can remain solvent with a continuous adverse trade balance, unless it is a creditor nation. A nation with money invested abroad draws large sums annually in interest, and, therefore, can afford to import more than it exports. As a matter of fact, to keep things normal it must do that.
– Our position is the reverse.
– That is so. To keep the Commonwealth ship of State on an even keel we must export more than we import over a term of years. The Treasurer’s statement that an adverse trade balance is not a bad thing for Australia is a clear indication to us that he has not a clear conception of national finance. We should seize every opportunity to impress upon the Government the need to curtail our borrowing abroad, because it necessarily leads to the importation of goods, to the ultimate detriment of Australian industries. I am not prepared to accept the statement that we cannot borrow money in Australia to carry on reproductive works. Our tremendous importations are rapidly de- 1stroying our ability to borrow money in Australia. We are lessening the capital as well as the revenue of the country when we send abroad for our requirements, both in goods and in money. We have nearly doubled our imports during the last six or seven years. Last year we imported £164,000,000 worth of goods and I venture to say that £100,000,000 of those goods could have been manufactured in Australia had our industries been properly developed. We must grapple with our financial problems, particularly that of public borrowing. We should limit it to reproductive works and not use it for some of the items that appear in the bill. It is proposed to expend £75,000 on the passages of immigrants, and that cannot by an stretch of the imagination be regarded as capital expenditure, to be met out of borrowed money.- We are borrowing money abroad and receiving imported goods in return, and we also import people from abroad, thus forcing out of employment our own men, who should be manufacturing Australian goods. We cannot have it both ways. That is one of the points which the Treasurer does not seem to be able to grasp. His tendency is to. borrow recklessly a broad, irrespective of the consequences to this country. This subject will be discussed more fully when the whole financial position of Australia is under the consideration of this Parliament. I warn the Treasurer that we cannot go on piling up debts abroad. The present position is alarming.
– -We should have a close season for borrowing.
– We all agree that we must develop the vast resources of this country in order to progress; but I suggest that we are trying to do something beyond our means. After all, there is no difference between the management of a nation and the management of a business. It is only a question of degree.
– One is the aggregation of the other.
– Absolutely. A business man knows that he can expand his business only in proportion to his ability to create or to put new capital into it. If he endeavours to develop his business faster than his capital is expanding, no matter how prosperous it is, he must fail. A Government can also over-reach itself. We are importing goods and migrants faster than we can absorb them. The utilization of new capital and new people should expand as we develop. We must not overdo this thing. We should borrow within Australia, and limit the expenditure on reproductive works to our capacity to borrow. That would overcome the difficulty in which we now find ourselves. We have borrowed money extravagantly, and now we have a financial slump. Reproductive works are being . suspended, although large sums of money have already been expended upon them. In the Capital City, foundations were laid for the administrative buildings, but all of a sudden the work ceased because of financial stringency. -That expenditure is dead money. I believe that there has been a curtailment on the work on the
River Murray locks. We have already expended millions of money on that project and, up to date, we have received no return, and are not likely to do so until the scheme is completed. That is a criticism levelled at the general policy of the undertaking. No work should be undertaken unless we can complete it within a period consistent with economy. That is preferable to putting a large number of projects in hand, locking up millions of pounds, and then curtailing expenditure before any of them are nearing completion. We should concentrate our attention on a few reproductive works at a time, so that we may receive some return as quickly as possible. When they are completed, we should turn our attention to others. We are to-day, in a. serious financial position, and doing little to improve it. We have an adverse trade balance accumulating year after year, and our public debt is also increasing. It is true that during the last four years the public debt within Australia has been reduced by £20,000,000, but during that period we borrowed’ £28,000,000 abroad. The position should be reversed. I can quite understand this Government borrowing abroad in time of national emergency.
– Canada is reducing its national debt.
– We should follow her example. It is not my purpose at this stage to open up a general discussion on this subject, because that must take place later in the year. I have seized this opportunity to draw the attention of the Government to the seriousness of our financial position.
– I should like to know whether through the Loan Council or the Commonwealth’s financial advisers in London anything is being done in co-operation with the British Government to reduce the heavy interest and charges on loans. In the final analysis, taxation falls upon the masses of the people, and instead of calling upon the ordinary taxpayers to contribute so heavily towards the financing of the nation, we should require some sacrifice from the wealthy people who invest in our loans. I mentioned last night that
Denmark, a comparatively small country, has, since 1921, reduced its interest rate on loans from 8 per cent, to 41/2 per cent. What the Danish people have done, the British people can do. This Government professes to have influence with those who control the great cash reserves of this country, and surely something could be done in conjunction with the British Government to control the rates at which loan money is obtained in this country and abroad. The United Kingdom does not pay as heavily for its loan accommodation as does the Commonwealth. I realize that it has a wonderful security to offer, but so has Australia, and that is proved by the manner in which American moneylenders are offering their cash. If we must continue to borrow money, the Treasurer, and those associated with him, should endeavour to get it at a cheaper rate. Australia is being bled seriously by the constant drain of interest payments. I do not say that we should pay nothing for the accommodation we get, but the annual interest payment of £52,000,000 is weakening our community. That amount is equal to £8 10s. per head of our population, including children and aged people, or £42 10s. per year for a family of five. Honorable members may say that the working man and hig family do not make that contribution; they do indirectly. It is of the greatest moment to this country that the interest bill should be reduced.
– The banks have combined to keep up the interest rates.
– I am afraid that there is a combination of financiers throughout the world. I say nothing against Sir Alfred Mond’s great project, which is to have a capital of £2,000,000 and a backing of over £500,000,000; it may, or may not, be able to promote the development of business, and offer improved facilities to the borrower. Unfortunately, there is reason to suspect that a combination has been formed of British and American financiers. When the Commonwealth appealed to the British money market recently for £20,000,000, the Treasurer was advised that it could supply only £5,000,000, and that he should apply to New York for the balance. Within half an hour of . the opening of the loan in New York the full £15,000,000 was subscribed. There is, I fear, collusion between the great . financial firms of Nivison and Company, of London, and Morgan and Company, of New York, which enables them to dictate the conditions of most of the loans floated in those great money centres.
I notice in the schedule that £66,250 is to be provided for defence purposes. I had hoped that the Government had discontinued the policy of financing defence requirements from loan. Is this committee content to vote £10,000 for machinery and plant for the manufacture of munitions, £18,000 for naval bases, works and establishments, £8,000 for drill halls, stores, rifle ranges, barracks, &c, £15,000 for the Australian Air Force, and another £15,000 in connexion with various munition factories? From this expenditure the Treasurer can expect no return. He may attempt, to defend it as an insurance premium, but in these times of financial distress it is criminal to provide for defence purposes out of loan. I shall never vote against the expenditure of loan money upon postal works and other reproductive enterprises, but I cannot sanction the spending of even £1 of borrowed money on defence. Surely that should be provided for from revenue. I hope the Treasurer will offer a satisfactory explanation of these items; if he does not, I shall feel inclined to take the sense of the committee upon the question whether defence should be financed from revenue or loan.
.- On the Supply Bill I expressed my views fully regarding the financial situation, and I do not propose to go over the same ground again. I hope, however, that the Treasurer will make some reply to the criticism then offered. He should not, when closing the financial year with a deficit of £3,000,000, be reaching out for a further £6,000,000 of new . money without indicating tothe committee howhe proposes to balance the ledger.
On the recommendation of the recently appointed advisory boards, many soldier land settlers in Victoria have been removed from . their holdings, but have been given an assurance by the State’ . authorities that they will be further repatriated by theCommonwealth. I ask the Treasurer to confer with- the Prime Minister with a view to stipulating, as a condition of any further financial assistance given by the Commonwealth, that the State Government shall be required to makegood its promises to those men. Justice must be done. If this sort of wrong doing is allowed to pass unchecked when the Commonwealth lias power to cope with it, we shall have to share with the State authorities the culpability for the removal of those settlers from the land.
The Commonwealth Government has granted assistance to the State Governments in connexion with the purchase of wire netting for settlers. The honorable member for Swan has drawn attention to the very serious menace of wild dogs in some districts. I have no desire to unduly advertise the tribulations of this country, but the dogs are threatening many areas that formerly were free’ of them. Because of the drought the rougher country has had to be used by stockmen for accommodation purposes, and this is resulting in the dogs being drawn closer to the settled areas. The menace is approaching some of the big centres, and serious losses -of sheep are being sustained. I .urge the Treasurer, in connexion with this vote, to get into communication with the State Lands .Departments with a view to evolving a policy to check this danger. In some cases the land-owner3 have themselves combined to combat the menace of the wild dog. The division represented by the Treasurer is a particularly good shelter for these pests.
I have had occasion, at times, to criticize the administration of the Treasurer, but I recognize the difficulties with which he has to contend. The value of money is not so great to-day as it was formerly. But the honorable gentleman made the mistake of embarking upon a programme that was too large for the capacity of the country. It must be remembered that our people are able to pay only a certain amount of taxation, and when we make demands upon them which are too heavy, we defeat our own ends. I sincerely hope that in the next budget a curtailment of expenditure and an economy in administration will be forshadowed. In these days the central governing authority takes too much upon itself. It should allow the States to develop their terri tories and enterprises without restriction, for, after all, the State authorities come into closer contact with the people than the central authority. The Treasurer has to endeavour to meet the requirements of all the departments, but I appeal for a more conservative financial policy for the country. It was only the conservatism of Great Britain that enabled her to prosecute the war to a successful issue. I welcome the statement of the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that they are not favorable to unlimited borrowing. I trust that the Government will realize that we have difficult times ahead of us and should curtail our works programme at least until we have placed the finances of the country upon a sound basis.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition I protest against the proposed expenditure of £75,000 of loan money upon migration, particularly as we have been informed times without number that migration is a State matter. I also object to providing for defence works out of loan. Formerly we found the money for our defence projects from revenue, and that was a sound policy. The amount of £15,000 is being provided for aviation and the preparation of landing grounds. I trust that it is not intended to expend anything like that amount on the Mascot aerodrome for, in my opinion, it is in an unsuitable locality. Only this week tens of thousands of people were at the aerodrome and many of them were up to their knees in mud. It may be possible to improve the ground to some extent, bat more suitable landing grounds are available at Long Bay and Maroubra Bay.
– Almost half of the money proposed to be raised under this bill is for the Postmaster-General’s Department; but I point out that we have very meagre information as to how and where it will be spent. Much more detailed information is given in respect of the proposed expenditure by other departments, for instance, by the Department of Works and Railways. We have only three general headings under the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, namely, additions and alterations, new buildings, and sundry offices. We do not even know bow the money is to be allocated among these headings, or even among the different States. I suggest that we should be given more detailed information, for it must be available. I have no doubt that some of the work has already been done; in which case actual costs could be stated. Other work is perhaps in progress, and the estimated cost could be given. As a matter of fact, estimates must have been made of the cost of the whole of the work in contemplation, so I can see no reason why they should not be made available to honorable members. I do not desire to speak from a State point of view, but I notice that two post offices in my own district are included in the list of post offices to which additions and alterations are to be made. The department has, I think, been adding to and altering these buildings ever since I have been a member of this Parliament. I should, like to know the particulars of the proposed expenditure, and I am sure the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) also would like to know the amount that has been provided for the additions and alterations to the Adelaide General Post Office. I repeat that it is desirable that in connexion with the expenditure of loan money on such works as are mentioned in this bill, we should be given full details. They are given to us in connexion with other expenditure. A mere list of names means nothing at all to us.
– I endorse the sentiments of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). In the proposed vote for the Department of Works and Railways, I read the following : -
New railway construction under the Northern Territory Extension Act 1923 and the Railways (South Australia) Agreement Act 192G, and the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Act 1926, £213,000.
Is that money being provided for the purpose of continuing the construction of the Katherine to Daly Waters line?
I am in accord with the view of the Leader of the Opposition that we should have a continuous public works’ policy.
It is false economy to commence a work and discontinue it before it is completed because money is not available. That policy has been followed in connexion with the construction of the Katherine to Daly Waters railway, and it will mean that the line will cost considerably more than it should. Every temporary closing down of such works must add to the ultimate cost.
Once more I ask the Minister for Works and Railways to make a definite announcement as to whether he will issue instructions that preference must be given to Australians in any work that is put in hand in North Australia by his department. The honorable gentleman said that the foreigners at present engaged on that work are trade unionists. If that is so, will he give me an undertaking that he will instruct his officers consistently to observe the principle of preference to unionists ?
Reference has been made to the provision of £75,000 for the purposes of migration. It is a scandal that we should be appropriating that amount out of loan money to bring in more people when Australia is menaced with unemployment and poverty.
– Does the honorable member think that the introduction of more people will make less work?
– I certainly think that when our national works are being closed down, and unemployment is rampant, we should call a halt, and concentrate upon finding employment for many thousands who are now without it.
– That is impracticable, because our market in Australia is restricted.
– I admit that, with the exception of a few primary products, we have difficulty in marketing our output abroad. But that matter needs more than passing reference, and I shall not go into it exhaustively now. The item “ Advances to States and to the Administrator of the Northern Territory for purchase of wire and wire netting, £40,000 “ may be essential, but surely - it - is also essential to assist settlers in that area to purchase ordinary plain wire for their paddocks. I commend that suggestion to the consideration of the. Treasurer.
.- I support the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) in urging the Minister to take action to improve the aerodromes in some of our capital cities. I refer particularly to the Eagle Farm aerodrome, Brisbane, and to the Mascot aerodrome, Sydney. On Sunday last I was at the latter, where a crowd of approximately 200,000 had gathered to welcome Captain Kingsford Smith and his companions. The state of the ground in the vicinity of the aerodrome was appalling. Even the area set aside for the official guests was ankle deep in mud and slush. Many cars were bogged before they reached the aerodrome, and everything was most uncomfortable, and possibly dangerous for the aviators themselves. A very similar state of affairs existed at the Eagle Farm aerodrome when I was last there. I know that the difficulty is to find the necessary funds. I am aware that the Minister for Defence (Sir “William Glasgow) is anxious to do what he can to improve our aerodrome. I should like to know precisely upon whom the responsibility rests after aerodromes have been established and handed over to aero clubs. Is the Commonwealth Government still under an obligation to maintain the aerodromes? My contention is that the Government should still assist to keep them in order. “We know that interest in aviation is increasing tremendously in Australia. That has been particularly evident during the last twelve months, due undoubtedly to the great prowess of our aviators, who have flown to Australia from England and from the United States of America. That interest will be sustained, and every effort should be made to keep the aerodromes near our cities in such a condition that they will be safe for aviators and reasonably comfortable for the general public.
– T do not know whether it is from force of habit, or because I realize the responsibility attaching to the important representative position that I hold, but I avail myself of every opportunity to point out the errors of this Government in its conduct of the finances of Australia. Daily the press of Australia is stressing the callous indifference of the average individual to our reckless methods of finance, and it is time that we reviewed the position and curtailed our expenditure. Every page of this schedule contains items that should not be borne by loan expenditure, and I feel justified in pointing out that, during the regime of Labour Governments, such items were always paid out of revenue. Take, for instance, the item which appears under the heading “ The Prime Minister’s Department,” on page 3 of the schedule. There £75,000 is set aside for immigration, “ Advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants.” It seems absurd to borrow money from Great Britain for the purpose of paying the passage money of immigrants. We are told that Australia is the richest country in the world. It certainly has a genial climate, and has been very generously endowed by Providence, yet we make no effort to safeguard our inheritance by wise legislation and careful finance.
The schedule makes provision for the construction of rifle-ranges. Why do we need rifle clubs in times of peace? They are conducted merely for sport, and their members should provide the money for their maintenance. A substantial sum is set aside for the erection of hangars, which are mainly composed of galvanised iron, a commodity which is now much inferior to what it used to be. It is difficult to find galvanized iron that will last even ten years, so that, if the type of material is not changed, that expenditure will savour of wastefulness. The people overseas from whom we borrow must often grin when they think of our simplicity. As I have previously declared, the people of Australia are like lions led by asses; but they are gradually becoming alive to the situation. I urge the Government to make every effort to reduce unnecessary expenditure, and to meet such items as are incorporated in this schedule from revenue. The next presidential election in the United States of America will be the most important ever held. The President of that country has convened a conference to outlaw war. In the event of the success of that conference or of a great union of the English speaking peoples, much of our expenditure for defence purposes would prove unnecessary. Yet wc shall have to pay the interest on it for many years to come. The Government should pay heed to the advice of honorable members on this side in matters of finance. The income of the Commonwealth is derived chiefly from that, section of the community which is more directly represented by honorable members on this side. The Treasurer’s ideas, of finance are indeed strange. I object to loan money being expended on small works, such as fitting a pane of glass to a window, or painting the doors and shutters of a public building. Our public finance should be placed on a more satisfactory footing. I trust that before he introduces his next Budget, the Treasurer will profit by the advice tendered by honorable members on this side.
.- A number of women’s organizations in Kalgoorlie and Perth have approached the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) regarding the necessity for additional hospital accommodation along the route of the Trans-Australian railway. The Minister has told them that the hospital accommodation already provided at Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie should be sufficient for the purpose; but to carry a sick woman ‘by rail from the place where site becomes ill to either of those places might endanger her life. I realize that the provision of additional hospital acommodation would necessitate increased expenditure, but the money would be well spent. If the Minister will approach this matter with an open mind, he will realize that something ought to be done. in the direction I have indicated.
.- I support the request, of the honorable member *or Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). There should be no further delay in providing hospital accommodation along the route of the Trans- Australian railway. This bill appropriates money for the Health Department to provide services of less importance than a hospital between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie would be. Each year more persons travel on that railway. and as time passes the population living along the route increases. Many of the railway employees there are married men whose wives and children may at any time re quire medical attention. Should a serious accident happen, or a person become seriously ill at a point midway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, it would mean a journey of over 500 miles to rea.ch a hospital. If a hospital were established at Cook, which is a centre, and a telegraph repeating station about midway between the two places 1 have mentioned, there would not be so much risk of lives being lost through lack of proper medical and hospital attention. Last year a woman along the line of the railway became so ill that she could nor even be removed by train. Other women living along the route of the railway attended to her, and she eventually recovered; but for a time her life was despaired of. With trains travelling every second day each way, it should not take long for a doctor to reach Cook. Pending his arrival, prompt attention by the hospital authorities there might save valuable lives. I hope that the Minister will give this matter his earnest consideration.
.- I desire to refer to the sum of £75,000 set down for advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted migrants. Unlike many honorable members, I believe that Australia is capable of absorbing many thousands of migrants ; but they should be of the right type. I trust that the greatest precautions will be taken to ensure that only suitable migrants are permitted to enter this country. We cannot have too many migrants of the right kind. I have seen on farms in my district numbers of lads who have come here from the Old Country and are a distinct credit, to their families, and the countries of their origin ‘ and adoption. The more such fine fellows we can get, the better it will be for Australia, and we shall have less ground for complaint about the influx of foreigners and person.* of unsound health.
The sum of £10,000 is provided under the heading “Loan to the Territory of New Guinea for works.” If the country could afford it, that amount could be doubled with advantage. It is a selfsupporting portion of the Empire. When we take into consideration the fact that these territories -are twice the size of Victoria, we gain some idea of their importance. Victoria is approximately 88,000 square miles in area, while New Guinea is 91,000 square miles, and Papua 90,000 square miles. Already a great deal of work has been accomplished, but more money needs to be spent on the construction of roads, bridges and wharfs.
We should be wise to give more encouragement to the development of aviation, which has done a great deal towards relieving the hard lot of those who have to pass their lives in the more distant parts of Australia. A great deal has been done in this direction by the air services of Western Australia, and the number of accidents has not been proportionately greater than on the railways.
The vote for the Postal Department is a large one, but an even greater sum could be spent profitably in the extension of telephone services. Much money’ has been spent in this work during the last five years, but it has all been revenueproducing. If the department were to canvass for telephone subscribers, many more could be obtained, and the revenue correspondingly increased. In my electorate the construction of many lines is held up for want of money. If they could be built, they would pay for themselves from the beginning. Improved communications have done much to make life worth living in country districts.
.- Although the Government has been accused at different times of wasting loan money on unnecessary work, I ask the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to be generous in apportioning money to assist the laboratories which study public health matters. I have been examining the report of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the Bundaberg serum tragedy, and, in my opinion, the death of those unfortunate children was due primarily to the desire to save money by sending out the serum in large quantities, instead of having only sufficient in each container for a single injection. I have here in my hand an ordinary indiarubber covered bottle.
Mr. -SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom). - The honorable member must confine his remarks to loan appropriations.
– It was because insufficient money was apportioned-
– That does not justify the honorable . member in commenting on the report.
– I ask the Treasurer to take into consideration the health of the community, and-
– The honorable member must not go into details.
– I shall not take ten minutes. On page 6 of the bill appears the item, “ Department of Health - under control of Department of Works and Railways - Serum and Health Laboratories.”
– Yes, but that deals only with the provision of funds under the Department of Works and Railways. However, the honorable member may proceed .,!
– The danger, arises when the needle is inserted in the rubber cap of the bottle. This unfortunate accident would not have occurred if instructions had been more carefully followed. There is danger of infection if the plunger is not properly withdrawn. Every scientist knows that it is wicked and sinful to take so many doses from one bottle as were taken by that unfortunate doctor in Bundaberg. It was unfortunate for his son, but possibly lucky for him, that his own child was one of those injected with this filth. I was once travelling down from Thursday Island when a case of small pox developed on the ship. The last President of the Senate (Senator Givens), the former honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) and myself were together. The ship’s company was inoculated against the disease, and some of us decided, as loyal Australians, to be inoculated with Australian lymph. We were inoculated with, under the guise of lymph, filth. For some time I doubted whether Senator Givens would escape with his life. His temperature was 104.5, that of Mr. Bamford 104, while mine was 103, and my friends assured me that I was never more bad tempered in my life than I was then. In contrast to the Australian lymph, that obtained from Japan was excellent, and produced no ill effects. The American lymph obtained at Manilla was also very good. Two officers of Parliament who accompanied us were inoculated with
Japanese lymph on one arm, and American lymph on the other, and the results were satisfactory. It was only those who chose Australian lymph who suffered. I informed Dr. Cumpston of the splendid results which had been achieved by the new kind of vaccine used in Japan, and I hope he will have time later to go into the matter. The report of the royal commission on the Bundaberg tragedy states that Dr. Thomson, on receipt of the toxin antitoxin mixture, stored the bottle until it was required in an instrument cupboard in his surgery, where it was also kept during the period of the inoculations which he made from it. I firmly believe that if the mixture had been used only once on that day, this terrible tragedy would not have occurred. Apparently the Minister, for Health (Sir Neville Howse) agrees with me. I do not care how much money is spent in protecting the public health, and particularly in the care of child life. That unfortunate medical man in Bundaberg is not to blame for what happened. He is no more guilty than would be a grocer who unwittingly sold sugar with which arsenic had been accidentally mixed. He was only less unfortunate than the children who were lost. The findings of the commission are as follow: -
I believe that the toxin anti-toxin would be better without an antiseptic, but it would have to be made up in containers holding only one dose. This would be more expensive, but would be justified on the ground of safety. The report continues -
The omission of antiseptic was intended to safeguard against the dangers attendant upon freezing, but the issue of this preparation without antiseptic in rubber-capped bottles suitable for repeated usage is an unsound procedure.
The toxin anti-toxin mixture- in the bottle’, used by Dr. Thomson was contaminated by him with a pathogenic staphylococcus during a series of inoculations on the 17th, 20th, 21st, and 24th January; most probably on the’ last occasion.
The consideration of all the available evidence concerning the deaths at Bundaberg points to the injection of living staphylococci as the cause of the fatalities.
The recommendations of the commission are as follows: -
That biological products in which the growth of pathogenic organisms is possible should not be issued in rubber-capped containers for repeated use unless there is present in the material a sufficient concentration of antiseptic to inhibit bacterial growth.
That will surely appeal to the Treasurer. He, being a surgeon and medical man, must realize that it woud be advisable to make up the serum in single doses. This may make him open his heart, and increase the vote for this class of work.
The recommendations proceed -
That all biological products not containing antiseptic, however issued, should bear a conspicuous printed notice, both on the container and on the package to the effect that no antiseptic is present; that they should be used immediately on opening, and any remaining product discarded.
That biological products should be distributed in bottles or ampoules of clear glass in which it is easier for the medical practitioner himself to detect turbidity or any other defect.
That the Commonwealth Department of Health should make full and careful inquiry as to whether it bc advisable to substitute ( anatoxin or some similarly modified immunizing agent for toxin-antitoxin.
To ensure the adoption of the most approved technique, facilities for special post-graduate training should be afforded to all medical officers entrusted with the conduct of public campaigns to diminish the incidence of disease by immunization.
No fewer than 45 separate injections were made from that bottle, and that was how the infection occurred. When it was proposed to appoint a royal commission I made a request that a member of the laity should be appointed to it, my reason being that this language, which is so technical-
– The honorable member is now discussing the report, and going into questions of administration.
– A royal commission should not be permitted to make use of technical expressions that cannot be easily understood even by medical men.
– The bill relates to the provision of loan funds in connexion with serum laboratories under the control of the Department of “Works and Railways, and, therefore, the honorable member may not further discuss the royal commission. I ask him to condense his remarks.
– “When a royal commission is appointed to investigate a mutter of a highly technical nature, its personnel should include a layman, to ensure that its report is couched in simple language. Even I, a retired medical practitioner, find great difficulty in following this report; how much more difficult would it be to the layman of ordinary intelligence? The Minister should spare no expense in protecting serum culture, particularly when human life is at stake. The tragedy at Bundaberg is an awful blot upon Australia, and I trust that the Government will be prepared to compensate the bereaved relatives for the serious losses that they have sustained.
– I wish to say a few words respecting the need for establishing additional lights on the coast of Australia. The amount provided under this bill for this purpose is £5,500’ for a period of three months. Last year’s estimates provided an amount of £25,000 for twelve months, so this bill actually proposes a reduction of £3,000 for the year. That is an indication that the Treasurer is not prepared to provide the money necessary for this work. We should not plead poverty in this instance, because lives are at stake .when sufficient lighthouses are not provided on the coast. We should consider not only the safety but also the convenience of shipping. Insufficient lighting causes great inconvenience and loss of time to the vessels trading round our coast. For some years there has been an agitation for the provision of a light on the east coast of King Island. Some two and a half years ago I took this matter up where my predecessor had left it. It has been brought under my notice by masters of ships trading between Tasmania and Adelaide and Melbourne, and especially by those whose vessels touch at King Island. My experience in travelling on those boats has brought home to me the absolute neces sity for the provision of a light there. The coastline of King Island extends for about 30 miles, and no lights at all are provided. All the vessels trading between Tasmania and Adelaide pass between King Island and a small group of islands. There is nothing to guide them at night time, and in rough weather they are often driven westward. Failure to provide sufficient safeguards against the existing risks to shipping must be characterized as false economy. The late Minister for Trade and Customs informed me that his officers had advised him that there was need for a light on King Island, yet nothing has been done. 1 am mentioning this because the reduction in the estimates before us mav mean that this light will not be provided. I am assured by responsible officers that other important points on the coast are to remain unlighted. I make a special appeal to the Government to provide a light on King Island. If we neglect to do this, Ave may have to answer for it later. I urge the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to take steps to put this work in hand, and thus render it unnecessary for me to refer to it again.
– I shall deal at the committee stage Avith most of the points that have been raised. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has asked where, and how, Ave are to raise the loan moneys proposed to be expended under the bill; but, before answering him, I shall say a few words regarding the Bundaberg serum tragedy, which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has referred to. I suggest that it Avas not lack of money, or any attempt to save costs, that led to the use of the particular type of container referred to in the report. It Avas purely a question of convenience to a practitioner intending to handle a number of cases. The Government deprecates the suggestion that desire to avoid expense had anything to do with the tragedy. It is , 11OW considering the report of the Royal Commission, and hopes to make a statement before the House rises.
Reverting to the question of the Leader . of the Opposition, as to where, and how, the money proposed to be expended under the bill is to be raised, this has exercised the minds of all the governments of Australia ever since the war. During the war the borrowings of the Australian governments were practically limited to the Australian market. After the war. when we had a fixed paper currency, it was impossible at times to borrow outside of Australia, because of the difficulty of securing proper exchange. In 1923 we had a typical example of what will happen, in Australia when we are again forced to raise in Australia all the money that we require for public works. In 1923 the Commonwealth Government paid off some £39,000,000 worth of war loans, and converted some £33,000,000 of that money. As a result an additional £6,000,000 was placed in the hands of the investors of this country. All the States were at that time borrowers in Australia for the whole of their commitments for a period of three months, and, because of that, the interest rate rose from 5 per cent, to well over 6 per cent. As a result the States of Western Australia and Queensland found themselves unable to get any money at all for public works. This despite the payment into .the market of the amount not converted by the Commonwealth. Ever since the establishment of the Loan Council, the Commonwealth Government has felt that the local market should be left free for State loan purposes, and the loans that have been floated in Australia since 1923, whether by -the Commonwealth for the States, or by the States themselves, have always been for State purposes, with the exception of about £2,000,000 borrowed for the Federal Capital Commission. That that market has been exploited to the full can be best demonstrated by an examination of the manner in which the various conversion loans have been treated since 1923. Some of those loans were fully subscribed. Some were for new money and were over-subscribed; but only to the extent of a few hundred thousand pounds. Several loans were under-“subscribed ; for instance, the loan conversion early in this financial year was under-subscribed to the extent of £10,000,000, despite the fact that we were offering a higher rate than that given for the previous loan, and that this year no newloans were raised in Australia by the Loan Council for the States. During the present financial year certain moneys have been raised by New South Wales for local requirements. Our experience has proved conclusively that, if an attempt were made to obtain in Australia the whole of the money necessary for our development, we should find, first of all, that the rate of interest would be prohibitive, and secondly, little money would be available for private enterprise. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and subsequently the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), suggested that the position of Australia could be likened to that of a farm in the course of development. Honorable members will know that, if the development of a farm is left entirely to the unaided work of the farmer himself, its development will be very much slower than if he is able to call outside capital to his assistance. That is the position in Australia. We have a huge continent with enormous resources, the greater portion of which are still undeveloped. We are only on the eve of our destiny, and to assist us to realize it rapidly we need more money than we can possibly produce at this stage of our history. But the introduc- of fresh capital from abroad is likely to produce a corresponding adverse balance of trade. That has been the experience of every young country. The state of development of the United States of America from 1820 to 1840 was analogous to that of Australia to-day. During those years there was an adverse balance of trade, due to the fact that the country was carrying on a big developmental policy, which made possible the absorption of a big accession of population in the next 20 or 30 years. As the people who had come into the country bringing with them fresh capital and plant, gradually became productive, the country was able to export more than in earlier years, and for a decade or so the trade balance improved. In the next twenty years there was again a tremendous accession of capital, due to the great railway development that took place throughout the United States of America, and again the balance of trade waa heavily tipped against that country. During the early years of the present century Germany was a hive of prosperity. Through the utilization of outside capital its industries were made to flourish, and were able to give employment to many more millions of people; but the adverse balance of trade over a period of fourteen years averaged about £76,000,000 a year. The history of Canada’s development shows that there also an adverse trade balance accompanied the introduction of capital from abroad. But there is no need to fear an adverse trade balance created in that way if the money borrowed abroad is being used for the development of new industries, the introduction of machinery that cannot be made locally to help those industries, and the- opening’ up of the national resources, thus providing employment for an increasing population. But if the borrowed money has been spent on luxuries or non-developmental works an adverse trade balance can be very serious indeed. What we have to concern ourselves about is not the adverse trade balance itself, but the cause of it. We have to take care that money borrowed from abroad is spent .upon reproductive works, and that concurrently with the introduction of fresh capital, we introduce enough additional man power to help us to increase our production to a maximum. If we do not get additional helpers with the borrowed capital, we shall simply raise our price levels without expanding our actual production and wealth. Borrowing and immigration <and growth of population must go hand in hand, and in all progressive countries they do.
We are told that the money we raise overseas is sent to us in the form of goods. That would be true if we had not been for many years borrowing extensively overseas, with the result that we have big interest obligations to meet on the other side of the world. When we raise a loan, instead of bringing the money to Australia and paying exchange upon it, we use a corresponding amount of local revenue for our capital expenditure and apply the proceeds of the new loan to the payment of interest on the earlier oversea borrowings. The policy of borrowing so heavily in the past may have been unwise, but there is some compensation in the fact that the interest obligations in London prevent a sudden inrush of imported goods in respect of new flotations.
The honorable member for Wannon has suggested a close season for borrowing. I agree that we should borrow cautiously and only for reproductive works ; but I do not believe that we can at the present time absolutely discontinue borrowing. Reference to the schedule of this bill shows that at least half of the amount of money to be raised is to be expended on postal works, . the need for which will not be denied. The applications for telephone services, which are great savers of time and energy, are more numerous than we can cope with. If we are to extend this convenience, we must get a certain amount of capital from abroad. The alternative would be to increase the telephone rates and pay for these works out of the ordinary revenue. But this is capital expenditure, and we think the use of loan money is justified, when it gives a return of 7 per cent., of which 5- per cent, represents interest, the balance of 1^ per cent being for the amortization of the debt during the effective life of the works. Among the other items is £311,255 for War Service Homes. Honorable members will not suggest that thi3 is a wrong application of loan money; -on the contrary, members have complained because more has not been expended upon the provision of homes for our soldiers. Another amount of £100,000 is for the Grafton to South Brisbane railway, a » contribution to the unification of railway gauges, which, I believe, is generally approved. The £66,250 appropriated for the Department of Defence is for capital expenditure. As the Commonwealth is already expending £5,500,000 from revenue on defence, I do not think the taxpayers should further burden themselves by providing from revenue sites for aerodromes, fortifications, and buildings that will last for 30 or 40 years. Many honorable members have criticised the item of £75,000 for “ Advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants.” The fact, however, is that the £300,000 of loan money made available for this purpose each year is paid into a revolving fund for the purpose of paying the passages of migrants. The greater part of it is repaid. In one year £900,000 was expended in this way, and over £600,000 was recovered during that year. Surely it will not be suggested that for the purpose of making these advances which are to be repaid, the Government should levy increased taxation on the people. The wiser policy is to provide the amount from loan, and to put the repayments into the sinking fund for the eventual amortization of the debt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed vote, £311,255.
– The item for war and repatriation services affords a convenient opportunity to answer the inquiries that have been made regarding soldier land settlement. The honorable member for Wann on has asked what will be the attitude of the Government in the event of the Commonwealth agreeing to grant further assistance to the States in a final endeavour to solve this very difficult problem. He has suggested that the Commonwealth should insist that the soldiers shall get the benefit of any further money made available by the Commonwealth, and that it shall not be used to bolster up the finances of any individual State.
– I spoke particularly of Victoria, because of the, undertaking that the State authorities gave to the soldiers who were turned off their holdings.
– With the approval of all sections of the community, it was decided to give those of our returning soldiers who were qualified an opportunity to settle on the land. The only lands suitable for the purpose were controlled by the States, and at a conference between Commonwealth and State representatives the Commonwealth undertook to advance the money necessary for this form of repatriation, and to make certain interest concessions in respect thereof. As it was to provide the money, the Commonwealth thought it only fit and proper that it should have some control over the schemes to be undertaken by the States, but they emphatically declared against the Commonwealth’s interference in a matter which they regarded as within their sole jurisdiction. Accordingly, soldier land settlement was undertaken by the States, the Commonwealth agreeing to advance the necessary capital, and to make an interest concession for a period of years. That concessionwas given because of the difficulties of the problem which even at that time were recognized to be very great. The settlement of the soldiers proceeded, and after a period the difficulties were found to be much greater than had been anticipated at the inception of the scheme. The Commonwealth, therefore, decided to grant a further measure of assistance to the States. This was done by writing off £5,000,000 from the obligations of the States to the Commonwealth in respect of borrowed moneys. But even that assistance did not solve the problem. Other difficulties arose in all the States, and the matter was again considered at conferences which took place last year in Melbourne and Sydney. The whole subject was then fully discussed, and it was unanimously agreed that the time had arrived for a definite settlement of the matter. It was felt that this was desirable in the interests of both the community and the soldier settlers. It is not necessary for me now to go over the ground covered by the discussions at those conferences’, it is sufficient to say that the subject wasthoroughly examined. The ultimate decision was that the Commonwealth would render further and final assistance to the States on the understanding that definite principles would be laid down which would apply in all the States alike. The Commonwealth made it quite clear that it was not prepared to grant further assistance unless there was to be a definite settlement of the difficulties between the State Governments and individual soldier settlers. This involved an investigation by the States into such cases as those of soldiers who had been placed upon areas not big enough to yield them a fair living, or upon land unsuitable for the purpose for which it was granted to them, or land for which too high a price had been paid. The Commonwealth also made it clear that any settlement of the problem was dependent upon the States requiring their soldier settlers to stand up to their obligations. I believe that every man of the type that we like to believe the Australian ex-soldier is favours the settlers being required to meet their obligations when it is possible for them to do so.
At the same time there was discussed the losses incurred by States because of incompetence, unwise schemes, or maladministration. The Commonwealth insisted that, it would not meet losses- incurred from those causes. I do not think that the States expected us to do so.
All this involved an immediate investigation of the facts by all the States, and the preparation of returns showing the area of unsuitable land purchased, the area for which too high a price was paid, and so on. The Commonwealth, on its part, undertook to appoint a competent person to consider these returns and formulate general principles upon which a final adjustment could be made. Mr. Justice Pike agreed to undertake this responsibility, and I think that the Commonwealth, the States and the soldiers, were alike singularly fortunate in securing his services, for he has done a great deal of work of this character, and is probably better qualified than any other person in Australia to make the investigation. “When the States have all made the necessary data available, Mr. Justice Pike will draw his deductions from it and make his report. I understand that” the investigations of two States have already been completed, and that those of two other States are rapidly nearing completion. I hope that the whole matter will be definitely cleared up within a few months.
A point I wish specially to stress is that, at the inception of our soldier land settlement policy, the Commonwealth asked for a voice in the determination of the various schemes, which the States definitely refused to allow. It would have been open for the Commonwealth at that stage to say, “ As we have, no voice in the determination of these matters we decline to accept any responsibility for them.” It did not assume that attitude; it recognized that, irrespective of the arrangements which were made by the States, it had a contingent responsibility to see that the soldiers were properly re patriated. But the Commonwealth cannot possibly assume any responsibility vis a vis the individual land settler in any State. That must be borne by the State authorities.
It is necessary, perhaps, that I should refer particularly to a situation which has arisen in one State. It has been suggested that at one of the conferences T stated that, if any soldier were not successfully settled by the State the Com.monwealth would accept the responsibility for repatriating him. I have never made such a statement, and I wish to make it quite clear that the Commonwealth cannot possibly undertake the duty of repatriating a man a second time, as it were. In the case of a man’s health breaking down and he becoming entitled to a pension, the Commonwealth, of course, accepts responsibility, for it agreed to meet the whole cost of the payment of pensions to soldiers and their dependants; but we cannot repatriate men a second time.
I sincerely trust that the investigation now proceeding will result in a definite and final settlement upon an equitable basis of all the outstanding problems of soldier-land settlement. To say that the soldiers are not to be compelled to stand up to their responsibilities is to endanger the failure of the whole scheme. Those who have been in intimate contact with the Australian soldier, know very well that if he has reason to feel that any of his companions have been treated more favorably than himself he leaves no stone unturned to improve his own position. That cannot be objected to. Officers in charge of the Australians during the war learned very early that so long as they treated their men with absolute impartiality they had no trouble, but immediately they favored one man above his fellows they lost control of their company. I have no doubt whatever that if any State Government attempts to differentiate between one soldier and another it will have serious trouble. The desire of the Government is that there shall be at an early date a final and just settlement of this problem. If that can be effected, the atmosphere will be cleared and a healthier state of affairs brought about.
.- I believe that the Government has fairly discharged its duties to the returned soldiers generally, and I am glad that the Prime Minister has made the statement to which we have just listened with such interest. ButI wish to bring one specific point in reference to Victoria under the notice of the right honorable gentleman. Some time ago and not, I think, through any statement alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister, certain advisory boards appointed in Victoria to investigate the position of some soldier settlers, were under the impression that if on their recommendation, the leases of an individual soldier were cancelled, the Commonwealth Government would take steps to further repatriate the soldier in a more suitable way of life, or on larger areas. In these circumstances, a number of soldiers were dispossessed of their lands. I want the Prime Minister to take care that in the final settlement with Victoria, such soldiers shall not be allowed to fall between two stools. They were, in some cases, dispossessed of their land in a misunderstanding, and steps should be taken to rectify the errors as far as it is possible to do. In the final analysis the State Governments must see that justice is done.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £75,000.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I have already protested against the expenditure of this amount on. passage money for migrants. We consider that it is entirely unfair to use loan money to bring new settlers here when so many of our own people are out of employment. We shall vote against the item.
.- I also protest strongly against this proposed vote. We have spent a good’ deal of loan money in recent years in paying the passage money of migrants to Australia, with the result that we now have in our midst a large army of unemployed. I do not think that I should be overstating the facts if I claimed that there are more than 100,000 men and women out of work in Australia, people who are only too eager to work if they can get it. That is why I cannot understand why additional money should be set aside to bring out more immigrants. If peoplewant to come to Australia, and they are good citizens, let them come at their own expense. We have quite a sufficient number of problems to solve without having to meet the further one involved in this additional expenditure. If the general public were informed exactly how much is being expended on immigration it would be startled. A little while ago the Attorney-General of Victoria made a statement to me of so remarkable a character that I desired to have it verified in writing. This is what his letter says -
I have yours of the 7th instant, and note contents. I have since confirmed my observations to you by discussing the matter with Mr. Ackroyd, the Inspector-General of Penal Establishments. He confirms the figures that I gave you previously, namely, that when we visited Pentridge about twelve months ago, among the young prisoners attending an educational class two-thirds were immigrants, and half of those had been in trouble before they left their native country. I would say there were about 50 prisoners altogether in the class. I am going out to Pentridge again tomorrow, and may be able to get more uptodate information for you.
No wonder we have experienced a wave of crime in Australia! I enter my strongest protest against the policy of immigration that is being pursued by this Government. It is almost criminal to bring more people here when our own folk cannot obtain work.
– The Commonwealth Government does not bring those people out. They are nominated by the States.
– Then what is this £75,000 for? Mr. Hogan, the Premier of Victoria, has convened a conference of State Premiers to meet the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and the Commonwealth Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in an endeavour to bring about a cessation of our immigration activities. Recently, the Prime Minister admitted that 3,000 Mediterraneans will arrive at Australia within the next three months. All the talk about those individuals being the grandmothers, grandsons, uncles and aunts of people already here is nonsense. A most undesirable class of aliens is coming to Australia, and further steps should be taken to restrict their entry.
An amount of £66,250 is set aside for the Department of Defence. Between the years 1910 and 1913, when a Labour government was in power, every shilling spent on defence was taken out of revenue. That was a sound policy. If another war broke out, and Australia was burdened with a millstone of debt, we should be in a most precarious position. If this country is worth living in, the people who live in it should be prepared to pay for that privilege.
– I do not agree that immigrants should not be brought to Australia. At the same time I am in agreement with the view that immigration should be regulated in such a way as not to increase unemployment in Australia. I understand that every immigrant who comes here is either( nominated by somebody else in Australia,’ or requisitioned by the State Governments. In addition, I believe immigrants are guaranteed employment as a condition of their nomination. Certainly one of the conditions of their coming out is that their nomination must have the approval of the State Governments. There are a number of Labour governments in power in Australia, and the obvious inference is that they favour the bringing out of more immigrants. I have much pleasure in supporting the item, and only regret that a greater number of immigrants are not arriving to fill our great open spaces.
Question - That the vote be agreed to -put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £100,000, agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Proposed vote, £10,000, agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed vote, £66,250.
.- I take it that the item -
Towards cost of construction of buildings, hangars, workshops, barracks and earthworks, and the preparation of aerial route and landing grounds. - Royal Australian Air Force - £15,000 is in addition to the vote for aerial services. An aerial service is established between Perth and Adelaide, and on many occasions I have asked that provision may be made for landing grounds for that service on both sides of Eyre Peninsula, in order to provide mail facilities for the residents. The mail service now provided for that community is one of the poorest that I know of. I have described the peninsula as beings not a wilderness, but a centre that has made excellent progress and one which contains some large towns. I do not propose to suggest the sites of those landing places. Probably the best means of determining the most suitable places would be to call a conference of mail contractors and other interested persons. I point out, however, that ample suitable landing places are available. At Franklin Harbour or Cowell, a landing ground could be prepared for a very small expenditure. ‘ The local residents, I feel sure, will be only too pleased to prepare the ground. I am not advocating Cowell in preference to other sites, but mention that town as one at which landing facilities could easily be provided. Other landing places should be provided on the eastern and western sides of Spencer Gulf.
I hope also that the aerial mail service between Adelaide and Cootamundra will be extended to Canberra. The extension of the service to the Federal Capital city would be of great benefit to Western Australian and South Australian members of this Parliament.
.- This morning the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) referred to the aeroplane landing-ground at Mascot, Sydney. When the Southern Cross landed there a few days ago, the landing ground was in a disgraceful condition. Many motor cars were bogged. The Aero Club, of Sydney, although the leading club of its kind in the world, cannot be expected to put the landing ground in proper condition. I hope that the Government will do something to remedy the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs. That the Southern Gross will have to land at Duntroon to-morrow is evidence that the present landing-ground at Canberra is unsatisfactory. The Government should take this matter into consideration also.
I make a plea for the continuance of the physical training of the youth of our country. The present arrangement is that the Commonwealth Governmentallows one expert in each State to train schoolmasters, who in turn train the boys. Although the expenditure is only about £3,000 per annum, it is rumoured that the system is to be discontinued. Should the rumour be well-founded, I trust that the Government will not discontinue the existing practice without full consideration. Compulsory military training in Australia was first introduced by the Fisher Government in 1911. That system continued until June, 1922. It was revived in July, 1924. To-day one physical training instructor is allotted to each State. In New Zealand these physical training classes have been a great success. To show the importance of physical training, I have only to remind honorable members that during the
Great War 30 per cent, of those who offered themselves for active service in the Australian Imperial Forces were rejected on physical grounds.
.- - I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister the necessity for improving the landing grounds on the Perth to Wyndham aerial service. Whatever is done must be done” promptly, because during the wet season it will be impossible to put the grounds in order. The Minister informed me this morning that this matter would be attended to shortly. I should like to know whether he was correctly informed. Sir Neville Howse. - The information was absolutely correct.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance that something will be done, and hope that nothing will occur to prevent this matter being given prompt attention.
.- Can the Minister say whether work on the national war memorial at Canberra is likely to commence before Parliament is again called together?
– I hope that the foundation stone of the memorial will be laid on the 11th November next, before which time I hope that Parliament will again be in session.
– Will honorable members be afforded an opportunity of considering the material to be used in the building?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote, £5,500.
.- At Cockatoo Island three naval architects are now employed, but if the dockyard there is closed and their services dispensed with, a serious position would arise in the event of war. I suggest that in the event of their services being no longer required at Cockatoo Island, these naval architects be employed in the Trade and Customs Department in connexion with the lighthouse service. They could be well employed in that capacity, and in the event of hostilities they would be available immediately. I point out that graduates in naval architecture in the Old Country are so few as to cause concern to the authorities there. It would therefore be impossible to obtain men from England to replace the men at Cockatoo Island. ‘
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Works and Railways.
Proposed vote, £311,000, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £941,500.
– Members who have brought before ‘ the Postmaster-General the desirability of providing new post offices in different centres, have been informed that the departroent’s building programme has been suspended. Yet the Estimates each year provide a sum of money for new post offices in different parts of the Commonwealth. I should like to know whether the Government contemplates building any new post offices, or whether an attempt has been made to deceive honorable members in the replies that they have received to questions?
.- On various occasions I have mentioned the need for a new post office in the eastern portion of the city of Adelaide.Five years ago the Postmaster-General was approached in. this matter by a deputation of residents. The post office was then a most dilapidated building.
– It looked like a pawnshop.’
– As a result of those representations authority was . given for the acquisition of property on the other side of the street. for a new post office. A post office in that portion of the city of Adelaide would not be a losing proposition to the department. The building has been described as a hen roost, and it is an affront to the city of Adelaide that the business of the Postal Department should be carried on there. The PostmasterGeneral says that the money cannot be raised except for an extraordinary purpose; but I say that as the Governmentwould have found £500,000 for a tin-pot scheme in Sydney had the proposal not been killed, it should be able to find the money for this building.
– What scheme was that?
– The scheme for holdingan exhibition in Sydney. Fortunately the honorable member for South Sydney succeeded in strangling the idea almost at birth. I bring this matter up now because requests made to the department in the ordinary way get one nowhere;. Some official sends back a nice letter,, and nothing is done about it. For the last five years the department has been drawing revenue from this post office, but it still refuses to erect a decent building. I suggest that, following the present practice, part of the building, when erected;, be used for post office purposes, and . theother part let. I should be satisfied if the department would erect a building similar to that at the Haymarket,in Sydney. The residents of Adelaide are entitled to some consideration from the Government, and I trust that the Minister, when the Estimates are being framed, will make some allowance for carying out this work.
.– The electorate of Hunter is a very important one, but I am not certain that the Minister recognizes the fact. I do not think that a post office has been built there during the last five or six years,- and I ask the Minister, when framing next year’s Estimates, to. take into consideration the claim of. the grow ing suburb of Cardiff for a new . post office building. …
:.iThe Minister should make some reference to the matters which have ‘been raised by honorable members during the discussion of this item. ‘ During the regime of this Government, very little consideration has been given by the Postal Department to requests for new post office buildings. In one post office in a thickly-populated portion ofNewcastle there is room for only four people at the counter at one time. When the chief’ inspector of the department visited the office, he was so ashamed of the building that he immediately selected a site ‘for a new one. That was some years ago, but nothing has been done since. -Mr. GIBSON (Corangamite- PostmasterGeneral) [6.8]. - Many honorable members have referred to the need for new post office buildings in their districts. Let me point out that the first consideration of the department is to provide services for the people, and erecting new post office buildings is not giving service. There is such a great demand for telephone extensions and new mail services that practically all the money available is expended in supplying those wants. I admit that many new post office buildings might be erected with advantage, but I have tried to keep the building programme down to £600,000 a year. We have built those post offices which are necessary, but if we erected ornate buildings everywhere they were asked for, we should have to curtail the services given to the public. When the demand for new services has been overtaken, we shall turn our attention to the erection of better buildings. Any one who has travelled in Great Britain must admit that the postal facilities provided by the department in Australia compare very favorably with those in the Old Country.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) complained that the Estimates did not disclose the amount of money which it was proposed to spend on each building. I remind him that these Estimates cover only a short period, and it would be quite impossible to state the amount of money which will be spent on any particular building during that time. When the general Estimates are before us, details will be given of the proposed expenditure on every building. The present system allows the transfer of sums of money from the Estimates for one building to those for another. Previously, if the estimate for a post office was £1,000, and another £20 was required to complete it, the work could not be finished during that financial year. Under our present system the job can be finished by using a portion of the money voted for some other building. I impress it upon honorable members that in the administration of the Postal Department, the first consideration is service to the people, and the second consideration, the provision of ornate post office buildings.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £5,100.
– After the serum fatalities occurred at Bundaberg the Government stated that when the report of the royal commission was received, consideration would be given to the position of the parents of those children who had died, and of those who had become very ill, but had subsequently recovered. It is now proposed to give £100 to the parents or guardians of those children who died, and to pay all the expenses incurred in regard to medical attention, nursing and other services, by the parents or guardians of those children who became ill, but have fortunately recovered. The Government desires it to be very clearly understood that this is not to be regarded as compensation, because nothing could possibly compensate parents for what they have suffered. It is merely the discharge of an obligation which the Government feels that it is right and proper it should assume in the circumstances. It is, perhaps, not advisable at this stage to say anything about the report itself. The Minister and his officers are investigating it very carefully, and he will be in a position to make a statement in the near future. Every one must be pleased that this very full investigation has been made by three men who command such confidence throughout Australia. As the result of this tragedy, there was an uneasy feeling in the minds of many that a serious blow had been struck at the progress of preventive medicine; but this report will have the effect of completely restoring public confidence in this branch of medical science.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Markets.
Proposed vote, £40,000.
– This is an appropriate time to bring before the Minister for Markets certain reports which have appeared recently in the press- regarding the inquiries made by members of the Australian Scottish Delegation in Great Britain into the marketing of our produce,and to ask the Minister whether any steps have been taken to investigate the position. I have here a cabled newspaper report of an interview which members of this delegation had in Perth, Scotland, with a distributor, Mr: Gowans. The report states -
Mr. Gowans, the distributor referred to, stated that he was heartbroken over buying Australian products. The only canned fruit procurable was wrongly packed, uneatable, and half green. Furthermore, he had to buy it through a foreign firm.
– An answer has been given to that charge.
– If the honorable member has an answer, and is satisfied with it, I am not. We should probe this matter to the bottom, as the effective marketing of our primary products is at stake. The report continues -
On the delegates’ advice he gave a deplorable sample to representatives of Australia House. Similar complaints were made by other distributors, who emphasized the difficulty regarding purchase, and the frequency of inferior quality.
A Mildura grower declared that it was scandalous, and laid the blame upon the Commonwealth and Australia House. He added, “ We pay the Development and Migration Commission £30,000 a year to help in marketing and this is the result. There is not a business man at Australia House, and the Government has not sufficient backbone to. take the matter up or .to dismiss incompetents who squander the taxpayers’ money and allow trading and goodwill to dwindle.”
That is a serious statement by a distributor on the spot, and supported by one of the delegates who is directly interested in the subject, because he is a grower. If that statement is true, the position is serious for the primary producers of Australia, because they have to depend upon the overseas markets for the sale of a large proportion of their products. I understand from the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) that the Minister has stated that this is not a recent happening, but I would in-, form him that, according to the press paragraph, this is a present-day occurrence.
– The same conditions existed when I was on the spot four years ago.
– The paragraph continues -
It now becomes the duty of the Prime Minister and the Government of the Commonwealth to make instant inquiry into the dis closures. Mr. Bruce did not hesitate to advocate squandering half a million or more of the people’s money over an international exhibition in Sydney for the purpose of encouraging Empire trade and Australian trade, but it would be much better for the country were he to use sense in- cleaning up the department which has the control and development of Australian trade.
That statement is so serious that the Minister for Markets cannot ignore it. We know that there is something radically wrong at Australia House. It is of no use talking about producing more unless we establish markets for our products overseas. I take a serious view of this matter, and I ask the Minister to make a full investigation into the charges that have been made.
– I have noticed the report that the honorable gentleman has alluded to. .It refers to some canned fruit stocked by a storekeeper at Perth in Scotland. It is perfectly certain that that fruit must have been extremely old stock and could not have been shipped from Australia within the last three or four years.
– During the last three or four years the system of inspection has been such that it would be quite impossible for fruit of the character described, to leave our shores. To-day the fruit is not merely inspected at the wharfs, as are apples and other fruits, but in the canneries it is processed under strict supervision. The grades and standards maintained are very high, and that is shown by the fact that we have been obtaining up to ls. a dozen tins more than the ruling price paid for Californian fruit of the same description.
– Bearing in mind the great harm that can be done to Australian trade because of the sale of old stock, when might we expect that stock to become exhausted?
– I am making inquiries about that. It is a great pity that a comparatively small quantity of very old stock is still to be found on the shelves of certain storekeepers in the United
Kingdom, because that must, to some extent, damage the reputation of the splendid fruit that we are sending there to-day.
– I suggested to the Minister some time ago that portion of our last year’s pack should be exhibited in some of the principal cities and towns of the United Kingdom.
– Honorable members will realize that we could not obtain for our fruit prices considerably in excess of those ruling for Californian fruit, if it were not for the fact that our fruit is undoubtedly superior, and is everything that it should be.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Redemptions : Port AugustaOodnadatta Railway Loans.
Proposed vote, £54,395, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– There is in the bill an item of expenditure of £70,000 in connexion with the Murray Waters scheme. I should like to know from the Treasurer whether, compared with last year’s expenditure, that sum represents a decrease.
– It is roughly one quarter of the vote for last year. We arc providing for only three months of the year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Messages from the Governor-General transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the financial year ended 30th June, 1927, and recommending appropriations accordingly, reported.
That the messages be considered in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s messages) :
Motions (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
Supplementary Estimates fob Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc, 1926-27.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1926-27 for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £21,379.
Resolutions reported : Standing Orders suspended and resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means founded upon resolutions of Supply reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported, and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee: (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message).
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs [6.32].- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for . the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for scientific and industrial investigation.
This motion is for the appropriation of the sum of £250,000 provided on the last Estimates. The vote for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is embodied in the annual Estimates, so that Parliament may have an opportunity to consider the individual items and discuss the whole work of the council. This measure is merely for the purposes of formally appropriating the vote already approved by Parliament.
.- Although Dr. Tillyard, the Commonwealth Entomologist, only completed about twelve months ago an extended trip round the world on behalf of the New Zealand Government, I understand that he has again gone abroad at the expense of the Commonwealth. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to furnish information regarding the activities of that gentleman. I am particularly anxious that all Commonwealth scientific research should be carried on within the Federal . Capital Territory, or, at any rate, be controlled from Canberra.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External sent on a trip through America and Great Britain for the purpose of establishing a liaison with the scientific institutions in those countries, so that there may be no overlapping of their work and his entomological research in Australia. It is intended that Dr. Tillyard shall establish his head-quarters at Canberra.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill.
Supply Bill (No. 1 ) 1928-29.
War Precautions Act Repeal Bill.
Geophysical Survey Bill.
Customs Tariff . (New Zealand Preference) Bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.S9 to 8.15 p.m.
Duty on Films.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 24th April (vide page 4353), on motion by Mr.
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1928 be amended as hereunder set out. 320. By- omitting clause (b) of paragraph (2) of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead the following clause: - “ (b) Other, per lineal foot, British, free; intermediate,1d.; general, 2d.”
.- I move-
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after 15th June, 1928 -
Other, per lineal foot, British, preferential, free; intermediate,1d.; general,13/4d.”
On the 24th April the report of the Royal Commission on the Motion Picture Industry was tabled. It recommended, among other things, that the general duty on picture films brought into Australia should be increased from l£d. to 2d. per lineal foot, with the object, not of increasing the revenue, but of providing money for the carrying out of certain of its recommendations. The late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), speaking on the subject, said -
The Government approves of the proposal contained in recommendations 41 and 42, that the present duty of lj. per lineal foot under the general tariff be increased to 2d. per lineal foot, in order to provide the funds necessary to carry out the recommendations made for improving the administration by obtaining more suitable premises, increasing the staff, and stimulating the production of Australian pictures.
It was estimated at that time that the increase in the duty would yield a revenue of £44,000 per year, which was considered necessary to meet the expense of appointing a board of three censors and an appeal board, as well as providing additional accommodation for the screening of pictures for censorship, and encouraging, in certain specified ways, the production of picture films in Australia. The Government has since made a more careful estimate of the expense involved in carrying out these recommendations, and has come to the conclusion that it will not exceed £20,000. The farthing increase in duty now proposed will yield approximately £22,000 per annum.
– That will not provide much to encourage the production of pictures in Australia.
– The royal commission suggested that the encouragement should be given by offering prizes for the best pictures. Seeing that the object of the increased duty is not to add to the general revenue, the Government feels that it is not justified in increasing the rate by £d. when ¼d. would provide sufficient money for the required purposes.
.- The Government must, of course, take full responsibility for this proposal. We understood when the motion to increase the duty by £d. was moved earlier in the year, that the money was required for certain specified purposes. It is somewhat extraordinary that the Government should now discover that it only requires half the amount that was then thought to be necessary. It appears to me that after the expense incurred in increasing the staff of censors, setting up an appeal board, and providing the extra accommodation required, has been met, there will be very little money left to encourage the production of pictures in Australia. Is the Prime Minister able to inform us how much will be available for this purpose after the extra administrative costs have been met?
– The margin will be sufficient to carry out the recommendations of the commission.
– It seems to me that there will not be much money to encourage Australian picture production. However, we can give the new proposals a trial.
– It will probably meet the convenience of honorable members if this matter is carried no further at the moment. I, therefore, ask that progress be reported.
Debate resumed from 1st June (vide page 5453), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the paper be printed.
.- Since this motion . was previously before the House I have suggested to the Prime Minister that he should introduce another motion dealing with the subject in a more specific and adequate manner. I understand that he is now prepared to do that.
– I have discussed this subject with the Leader of the Opposition, and if honorable members will approve of this motion, I shall immediately move another with the object of giving definite expression to the view of this House on the proposal of the Government of the United States of America for the outlawry of war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- (By leave.)- I move-
That the proposal made by the United States of America that the nations of the world solemnly renounce by treaty all recourse to war as an instrument of their national policy is one with which this House has full and complete sympathy.
The fundamental principle contained in the proposal which the Government of the United States of America has submitted to the powers of the world for their concurrence is that all civilized nations shall publicly declare that they subscribe to the view that recourse to war as an instrument of national policy shall be banned. With that principle I feel that all honorable members will agree, and so, also, will the people of Australia. The treaty which has been submitted for our consideration consists of only two clauses, which, in many respects, is both wonderful and significant. It shows that the conscience of the world has been stirred during recent years, and that a new ideal of international morality has been developed. There is, I feel, nothing that we could more appropriately discuss than the great fundamental principle” which the treaty embodies. Of course, there are certain subsidiary questions which will have to be earnestly considered before this great ideal can be consummated.
There is the problem of the maintenance of the right of self defence of a party to the treaty in the event of direct and deliberate aggression; the problem of the obligations of certain nations - in the case of Australia, those more particularly in relation to the covenant of the League of Nations; and also, in the case of Great Britain, those connected with the Locarno treaties, and the guarantees which the British Government has given under them.
At this stage it is undesirable that we should deal with any such problems. It is sufficient now to affirm the principle embodied in the proposals which the Government of the United States of America has submitted to the other nations of the world. I believe that this Parliament should subscribe upon that basis to the resolution which I have sub mitted. In doing so, we express our sincere hope that there may be a realization of this ideal, and that the present negotiations may be consummated in a treaty which will give effect to those great fundamental principles which all of us desire to see introduced into the international relations of the world.
.- I am pleased to second the motion that has been submitted to this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). I feel -that the unanimous vote of this Parliament upon it will be a contribution towards world peace. The proposal that has come from the Government of the United States of America to the other great powers of the world to determine by a multilateral treaty to renounce war, is a bold move in the right direction. One thing that pleases me and should please all who desire the establishment of world peace, is the cordiality with which every nation to whom the proposal has been made has received it. There has not been any indication of the difficulties and the suspicions that too often have been raised in the past when similar proposals have been put forward. On this occasion there has been hearty agreement, and almost unreserved acceptance.
I agree with the Prime Minister that this is not the time to raise any of the obstacles or difficulties that might present themselves. These may, be discussed subsequently. The principle that war should be renounced and outlawed by the nations of the ‘world should receive ready acceptance by every nation, and every parliament representing the peoples of the world. The great hope for the future peace of the world is that the people will take an interest in the proposal, and determine that effect shall be given to it. I hope that this multilateral treaty which it is proposed shall be made by six nations will be extended until it embraces every nation in the world. Then we shall have taken the first important step towards the real solution of the problem, and towards the realization of universal peace, to be achieved by general and complete disarmament.
One could speak at length on a subject like this ; one could paint the horrors and inhumanity of war, and picture in rosy tints the glories of universal peace. But that is not necessary to commend the resolution to this Parliament. We look forward to the day when war will not even be considered possible ; we hope that future generations will be freed from the great burden of anxiety and fear, as well as the ruinous costs of war. Ifwe can dispel from the minds of our people, old and young, and particularly the young, the thought that there is no glory in the killing of human beings on the battlefield, Ave shall go a long way towards our goal. I am glad that there have been no expressions of suspicion and no cynical remarks made by public men or the press in regard to this proposal. If the spirit in Avhich it has been received continues, future generations will not suffer the miseries of war, and peacewill reign throughout the world. -, Question resolved in the affirmative.
; The following bills were returned Jfrom the Senatewithout amendment or requests : - ‘ Loaii Bill (No. 1 ) 1928.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1926-27.
Science and Industry Appropriation Bill.
:. AUSTRALIAN BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION BILL.
Discharge of Order.
Order of the Day read for the resumption of debate from 1st June (vide page 5449), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the hill be now read a second time, !, Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs). [8.38].- I move-
I That the Order of the Day be discharged.
The discussion on the second reading of the bill in this chamber made it clear that there was no possibility of obtaining the unanimous opinion of honorable ; members in favour of holding the proposed exhibition in Sydney in 1932.
– My personal opinion ‘still is that it is desirable that the exhibition should be held; but it would not be of any advantage to the country to proceed Avith a proposition such as this without the unanimous support of the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the Day discharged.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Consequential amendments made by the Senate to clauses 2, 9, 11 and 13 agreed to.’
Clause 14 -
Bouse of Representatives’ Amendment - ““After clause . 14 insert the following new clause: - “14a. Section one hundred and thirteen of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section 1 the word ‘ State ‘ and inserting in its stead the word ‘ Commonwealth ‘.”
Section proposed to be amended - 113. (1) . . . . an elector shall be entitled to vote at any prescribed polling place for the sub-division for which he is enrolled, or he shall bc permitted to vote at any other polling place within the State……
– I move -
That the amendment be not insisted on.
This chamber considered this . matter very carefully andwas of the opinion that absent voters should be allowed to vote in any part of the Commonwealth. After a conference Avith the officers of the Electoral Department, it Avas agreed by the “Government that it Avas practically impossible to carry out that scheme. The Chief Electoral Officer said that such a procedure Avould cause a great delay in the returns. That is perfectly obvious. He also stated that the proposed amendment would give rise to difficulties of administration on account of the fact that it confers upon persons claiming an absent vote the right to vote at any polling place in the Commonwealth. Conse quently it would be necessary for a presiding officer in every polling booth in the Commonwealth to be equipped to deal with a claim vote for any other subdivision in the Commonwealth. For this purpose he Avould require lists of the candidates for election in every division in each State, and lists of candidates for election to the Senate in each State. The objection raised by the Chief Electoral . Officer was carefully considered by the Cabinet, and it was decided that it would be advisable to continue the system of intra-state voting which is at present in operation.
.- I exceedingly, regret that the Government has decided not to insist on the amendment made by this House and rejected by the Senate. It appears to me that the reasons’ for disagreement given by the Senate are not sound. One would think that something novel had been proposed, but I believe that two elections were conducted under the system that was recommended by this chamber, and that those elections did not bring forth any protest as to delays in returns coming from distant polling booths.
The underlying principle of adult, franchise is that every possible facility shall be placed at the disposal of the electors. The provisions of the Electoral Act and the whole of the electoral machinery, including the services of the electoral officers, are placed at the disposal of the people on one day in every three years. On that day the people make their choice as to who shall govern Australia. Already there is included in the bill a provision that a declaration of a poll might be made notwithstanding that there may be votes outstanding. If that be so the main objection advanced by the Senate disappears. If, for instance, the leading candidate in an election for the House of Representatives had a majority of 5,000 votes, and only 800 votes were outstanding, the returning officer could declare the poll without waiting for the arrival of those votes. The only time when difficulties would arise would be when the number of votes outstanding was sufficient to alter the result of the election. In that case the declaration of the poll would have to be delayed until such time as the divisional returning officer was satisfied that the votes still outstanding could not affect the result. Little or no delay would be occasioned in the case of Senate elections, because in any case the returns have now to be received from polling booths scattered throughout the State. It would not take much longer for them to come from other portions of the Commonwealth.
– Can the honorable member say what delay was occasioned when this provision was in operation previously ?
– I am unable to say at the moment, but with the provision that a returning officer may declare the poll in certain circumstances, without waiting for all the votes, there should not be much delay.
– An absent vote would take no longer to reach the divisional returning officer than a postal vote would take.
– Most of the electors of Australia are taxpayers, and should be given every facility to decide who shall represent them in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I appeal to the committee to adhere to its previous stand in this matter.
Mr. PARKHILL (Warringah) [8.48 J. - I support the view that in this matter we should insist upon the amendment made by this House. The Senatehas disagreed with it, on the ground that it would cause delay in the counting of votes and the announcement of the result of the election owing to the fact that it would in many divisions be necessary to await the receipt of absent votes cast possibly in parts of the Commonwealth remote from such divisions. We have already agreed to amend the existing legislation to provide that a postal vote may be handed on polling day to any presiding officer in any part of the Commonwealth. Consequently there will be no greater delay in the case of absent votes than with postal votes. Generally an election is not finally decided for .it least two or three weeks after polling day. Moreover in very few electorates does the result of an election depend on a few absent or postal votes. The existing legislation provides that an absent vote may be recorded in any part of the State in which an elector is enrolled. Au elector who ordinarily would vote in Sydney may vote’ at Broken Hill as an absent voter, but he may not vote at Melbourne. Yet it would take longer for his vote to reach Sydney from Broken Hill than from Melbourne. The reasoning of the Senate is not sound. The second reason advanced by the Senate is that every presiding officer would have to be supplied with a list of all the candidates for every division. That is not so. Should I be absent from my electorate on polling day at, say, Dubbo, or Milparinka, I could enter a polling booth there and vote a3 an absent voter. The returning officer would not advise me of the names of the candidates for the “Warringah electorate. That would be my responsibility, or that of the political organization with which I was connected. The only sound objection to the proposal of this chamber is that a little additional work may be thrown upon the electoral officers, but seeing that voting is now compulsory, that consideration should not weigh with us as against affording the electors every facility to record their votes. When the bill was before this chamber previously, I instanced the case of a mail steamer arriving at Fremantle or Sydney with 1,000 Australian electors on board. The proposal of this chamber would enable those electors to vote at either Fremantle or Sydney for the candidates for the divisions in which they were enrolled. Otherwise, they would be disqualified from recording their votes.
– What about interstate visitors ?
– Electors are frequently called from their own State at short notice. In such an event they might be unable to record their vote on polling day. It is not sufficient to say that they could vote by post, for we all know that certain formalities which are associated with postal voting are not known to the average elector. I hope that the Minister will not oppose our disagreeing to the Senate’s proposals. A little inconvenience to electoral officers should not weigh too much with us when considering the interests of the electors.
– I agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who on this occasion is upholding the rights of electors who are in danger of being disfranchised. If in this matter the Minister is acting on the advice of the Chief Electoral Officer, I can only say that he has been misled. Absent voting without any limitations imposed by State boundaries was in operation in connexion with the 1910 and 1913 elections. It is true that on those occasions we had to wait some time ‘for some of the votes to come in. I remember that one vote was recorded in my favour at Camooweal, in Queensland. Seeing, however, that provision is now made whereby a divisional returning officer may, in certain circumstances, declare the result of the poll before he has received every vote which has been recorded, there should be no great delay. My electorate is a compact one, yet the poll is usually not declared for about three weeks after polling day. I hope that on this occasion members sitting behind the Government will not feel compelled to support the Minister. The soundness of the argument advanced by the honorable member for Warringah in respect of electors who might arrive at an Australian port on polling day should commend itself to all honorable members. There may have been good grounds in the past for objecting to postal voting, but here we propose to allow an elector to enter any polling booth in the Commonwealth and hand to the officer in charge an envelope containing his vote. When the system now advocated was in operation in 1910 and 1913, it was not abused. At first I could scarcely believe that the Senate was serious in disagreeing to the decision arrived at by this branch of the legislature. The Government’s claim that it has followed the advice of its electoral officers may be the excuse, but it is not the reason for its action. 1 ask the House to insist on its amendment, otherwise a large number of electors will be disfranchised.
.- I trust that the Government will not “ squib “ on this, but will insist that this facility for voting be given to every elector. This is the one thing lacking to make the compulsory voting system complete. I have been secretary to my party, and I know the difficulty involved in voting by post. The form which has to be filled in is incomprehensible to many people. The Senate, in its reasons for rejecting this provision, stated that all the electoral officers would need to have lists of the constituencies and the candidates who are standing for election. That is a puerile excuse, because, prior to an election, the newspapers publish this information in respect of every electorate in the Commonwealth.
– We print lists, and send them out for the information of electors.
– Of course, the idea being that every vote may be recorded. It is not an insuperable difficulty to supply such lists to every polling booth. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) knows more about this matter than any one else. He was a member of the government which was in power when the system was first put into operation. It was introduced during the regime of a Labour Government, and I never heard of any candidate dying of heart failure while waiting to learn whether or not he had been returned. That is all so much “ eyewash.” Although the absent voter is to be deprived of this simple method of voting, he will be compelled to answer a summons if he is unable to record his vote. In my office I used to keep a printed sheet issued by the Electoral Department showing every subdivision of every electorate in every State, together with the chief polling places in each division. Those lists may still be obtained. Is it asking too much that this information should be made available throughout Australia? I am not speaking now from a party point of view. Our supporters do not travel so much as do those of honorable members opposite, and are, therefore, not so much likely to require a provision like this. When they do travel they are generally in bowyangs and looking for a job. This is the thinnest excuse I have ever heard advanced, and it reflects little credit upon the body of men who framed it.
– Nor on the Cabinet which accepted it.
– My friend wishes to indict the Cabinet, and there may be something in what he says. The Senate gives the following reasons for disagreeing with the amendment -
This system has already worked in actual practice. I, myself, voted as an absentee at Yankalilla without any difficulty. I merely gave my name and address as George Edwin Yates, Prospect, and in a very short while my vote was recorded. Any one who has listened to the spruikers during an election campaign has a fairly good idea of the candidates who are standing, and, besides, as the honorable member for Warringah stated, lists may be obtained giving the candidates for every division and sub-division throughout Australia. If a labourer or artisan could advance no better reason than this for not being able to do his job he would very quickly be “ fired.” The gentleman who leads the Government in the chamber which sent these reasons to us evidently does not know his job, and should be “ fired “ immediately.
.- When this clause was being discussed here a few days ago, I urged the Government to hold it over until an opinion was obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer, and the divisional returning officers.
– But this system has already been tried out.
– It has, and it has worked rottenly. I know all about how it worked, and so does the honorable member for Adelaide. At the present time the Commonwealth rolls are the cleanest in the world. If any one values his vote he will make arrangements, before leaving his electorate, to vote by. post. If we wish to keep our rolls clean, and to avoid for all time the rotten and disgraceful conditions that used to obtain in the past, we shall follow the advice of the electoral officers. It is to be regretted that anybody should, in any circumstances, be deprived of his vote, but that is not too great a price to pay for keeping the rolls clean.
– But the persons to whom this clause refers are already on the roll.
– -We know all about that, and the electoral officers know about it, too.
– It is a matter of giving those already on the roll an opportunity to vote.
– Yes, and of voting two or three times.
– Some honorable members who have spoken on this matter appear to have forgotten two things, firstly, that postal voting is much easier now than it used to be, and secondly, that absent voting was tried for some time, and given up in 1919. They also seem to have forgotten that an inquiry was held into this matter by a committee of this Parliament, and that recommendations were adopted after evidence had been heard. Let me remind honorable members what that committee said in respect of absent voting -
Much evidence was tendered to the committee as to the desirability of electors being permitted to vote when in a State other than the one for which the3’ arc enrolled. At present absent voting is restricted to the State for which the elector is enrolled. Interstate absent voting was formerly provided for, but it was found that its operation caused grave delays in the announcement of the results of the elections; and, upon the introduction of postal voting, it was decided that practically all cases of this kind would be met by the postal voting system, and therefore absent voting beyond the boundaries of the State was discontinued.
If it were re-introduced, the same difficulties would arise, and the already long period of suspense during which the votes are being counted would be considerably added to. In any cases of close elections, periods even as long as a month would elapse before the de cision of the electors could be made known. It would be impossible to enter upon the final counting of the Senate votes until the whole of the absent voting ballot-papers had been received by the Divisional Returning Officer to whom they were addressed. This would mean that, in connexion with the Senate election, no real progress in the count could be made within a month of polling day.
The committee cannot, therefore, recommend the re-adoption of the system of interstate absent voting.
– Whose report is that ?
– It is the’ unanimous report of the Joint Committee of both Houses which ‘ inquired into electoral matters in 1926 and 1927. It is obvious that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has overlooked another factor which is very important. If there are hundreds of men out of their own State, surely they should take sufficient interest in the elections to apply for a postal vote before leaving it. They have all the facilities for voting at their command under the existing law. I have no hesitation in saying that the Government intends to stand by the decision of the Senate.
.- . It is a pity that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) did not have the evidence of the Joint Committee on Electoral Matters before him when the discussion on interstate absent voting was taking place a few days ago. Now the Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse) proposes to upset the decision of this committee and to take away from the workers the right when in another State to record an absent vote. The Minister has pointed out that these men should be interested enough in elections to obtain postal voting papers before leaving their States. There are people in this community who are continually travelling throughout Australia. Those engaged in the shipping on our coast are moving from one State to another, and what opportunity have they of obtaining postal voting papers before they leave their home State? It is quite likely that they may be away from their homes for weeks or months at a time. Voting is compulsory, and if they fail to vote a notice is sent requiring them to furnish an explanation for not voting, and if that is not satisfactory a fine is imposed. Our Federal electoral law should take no cognizance of State boundaries. All this talk of delay in receiving interstate absent votes is nonsense. At Senate elections interstate absent votes could be forwarded to the Divisional Returning Officer quicker than could postal votes.
– The numbers could be sent in by telegram.
– That is so. In any case the votes would not be certified to until received by the returning officer of the electorate concerned. I am surprised at the Government’s action, seeing that this committee unanimously agreed to accept an amendment re-instituting the interstate absent vote.
– Not unanimously. .
– The Minister accepted an amendment to that effect, subject* to inquiry.
– All the evidence given before the Electoral Committee, with the exception of that of one officer, was in favour of absent votes being recorded outside of a State.
– The evidence of the committee is perfectly clear.
– That system was in operation . previously and was never abused. This committee would be well advised to reject the amendment of the Senate.
– I was surprised indeed at the House inserting this amendment in the bill. It seems to me that the Honorary Minister who was in charge of the bill the other night was either misinformed as to the position, or acted very indiscreetly. As a member of the Joint Committee on Electoral Matters, I rose in my place and explained the reason which prompted that committee to reject the proposal to restore the interstate absent vote. I also quoted the report of the committee. The Minister subsequently announced that he intended to accept an amendment to allow of interstate absent voting, and I then asked him whether he was aware of the objections which the electoral officers had raised to that method of voting. He said that he was aware of them. I understood from him that he had consulted the electoral officers, and that they were agreeable to the amendment being inserted in the bill. Now we find that the electoral officers were not consulted, and that they still strongly object to interstate absent voting. As a result, another place has refused to accept the amendment that we inserted in the bill. While I regret that an amendment should be turned down by another place, I consider that the evidence that was given before the Electoral Committee still holds good. As the Minister has pointed out, that committee represented all parties, and its report in respect of interstate absent voting was unanimous. The Electoral Committee came to its conclusion after hearing the objections of the electoral officers to this method of voting. They argued that the postal voting provision permits persons to vote when they are out of their own State, and that, in the past, when interstate absent voting was permitted, very serious delays took place in announcing the result of the elections. If interstate absent voting were permitted, it would not affect the House of Representatives to any extent, because there would be only a small percentage of such votes recorded, but the position is different in respect of Senate elections, because there may be hundreds of persons outside their home States, and if they all recorded votes the announcement of the result of an election would be seriously delayed. That, I repeat, would not be so in respect of an election for the House of Representatives, because there would, possibly, be only a few interstate absentee votes recorded for each electorate. Another point which honorable members have forgotten is that the percentage of postal votes is small compared with the percentage of absent votes. The percentage of absent votes for each division is about 10 per cent, of the total, and the percentage of postal votes represents about 10 per cent, of the absent votes. Therefore, if 3,000 absent votes were recorded, only 300 postal votes would be recorded. If we allow interstate absent voting, we shall encourage the people to ignore the postal voting provisions, which really are not availed of to any extent, and to concentrate upon absent voting. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) seems to think that the arrival of Australian- passengers from overseas on the’ day of au election is important because, in his opinion, they should be entitled to a vote. People who have been absent from this country for three or six months should not be entitled to vote. They would know nothing about the issues before the country, and therefore, would be most ill-equipped to record an intelligent vote. To suggest that this dangerous provision should be reinserted in the Electoral Act merely for the convenience of that class of people is, to me, democracy run mad. There is no logic or common sense in such a suggestion. Another objection raised by the Opposition to the action taken by another place is that migratory workers are likely to be adversely affected. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has to-night complained that the supporters of his party are not able to travel about the country to any extent, but the other night he complained that certain classes of workers were continually travelling throughout Australia.
– Not from State to State. I referred to working gangs.
– The Electoral Committee found that class of person was the most migratory in Australia. The only valid excuse that the Opposition has given for reinstituting interstate absent voting is that some of the workers may go from one State to another, but surely if they do, they should take the trouble to apply for postal voting papers. We should not tempt these people to ignore the provision for postal voting by enabling them to take advantage of the absent vote, thus increasing enormously the work of the electoral officers. The system of interstate absent voting was tried during two elections, but was abandoned because it caused great delay in declaring the result of an election. When the act was amended to enable electors to lodge postal votes with any presiding officer up to polling day the postal voting system was practically revolutionized. As a matter of fact, the Electoral Committee reported against that.
– That would make for just as much delay as absent voting.
– The returning officer has knowledge of every postal vote.
– He can have the same knowledge of the absent votes.
– That is nonsense.
– Safeguards surround the postal vote. The absent vote is not safeguarded in any way ; it is already extensively used, and will be further availed of if the privilege is extended to absentees in other States. As the Government has had an accession of common sense through the Minister in charge of the bill in another place, ministerialists should agree to the deletion of an amendment that should never have been made by this House.
– I cannot understand the attitude of the Government, especially in the light of the explanation given by the Minister in charge of the bill. He quoted the report of the Electoral Committee in regard to this matter in such a way as to suggest that that report was not in the possession of honorable members when they originally agreed to the restoration of interstate absent voting. Every honorable member was fully aware of the views of the committee, and when an amendment was moved to make absent voting privileges Commonwealth-wide the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) said that the Government would not object to its insertion if the Chief Electoral Officer advised that such a course was desirable. The honorable member for Wakefield, with characteristic extravagance, said that undesirable features were associated with the absent vote.
– I said that undesirable practices were possible?
– The honorable member said that the system was rotten, and that he was opposed to it because he desired to maintain the purity of the ballot. That was a suggestion of malpractice in connexion with this form of voting. I do not think that corrupt practices are indulged in to any extent. The federal ballot is as nearly pure as is possible. Undesirable practices are easier in connexion with the postal vote, because it is recorded away from the oversight of the electoral officers. The applicant for an absent vote, however, must sign before an official a declaration that he is entitled to vote for a certain constituency, and his vote is recorded in a polling booth. Those are greater safeguards than surround the postal vote. We know that at one time masters and mistresses abused the postal voting facilities by intimidating their servants into voting as they were directed. That abuse is not possible with the absent vote. I cannot understand honorable members opposite objecting to the extension of the absent voting system, because their parties benefit by it to a much greater extent than does the Labour party. The fairness of honorable members on this side of the House is shown by our advocacy of a principle that will probably operate to our disadvantage. We consider, however, that it is fair and democratic to give the maximum facilities to the people to declare who shall represent them in this Parliament.
drew attention to the improper practices that might be resorted to if the additional facilities were granted. We were reminded of the malpractices which originally caused the withdrawal of the postal vote. The report of the select committee, which was representative of all parties, did not include a recommendation for an extension of the absent voting facilities. One paragraph, however, read -
It was suggested to tlie committee that an elector should be permitted to apply for a postal ballot-paper and vote as a postal voter on polling day. This would be practically a reversion to absent voting beyond the boundaries of the State, and would result in great delay in ascertaining aud announcing the result of the voting, and the inconvenience caused would be quite out of proportion to any advantage that .might be derived by any elector through the adoption of tlie proposed system.
– Those words mean nothing.
– Their meaning is perfectly clear. The committee heard a good deal of evidence on this subject, but did not think it worth while to refer to the restoration of absent voting by persons outside the State in which they were enrolled. The records of the last election show that more postal votes were recorded then than ever before. That result was doubtless brought about by the compulsory voting provisions of the act. I am quite sure that there is not one postal vote for every ten absent votes. I agree that there might be a slight advantage to honorable members of this side of the committee from the absent votes recorded, but that does not enter into consideration with me. I was -30 satisfied with the evidence submitted to the Electoral Commission, that I did not consider for a moment recommending that absent voting should be made possible, beyond the boundaries of a State. The committee also adopted that view.
.- The. honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), suggested that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and I, knew something about electoral malpractices of which the Electoral Department knew nothing. There is no justification whatever for that accusation and I defy the honorable members to substantiate it. It has been said that it is possible under the absent voting provisions for a person to vote two or three times. I totally disagree with that. Everyone who has had anything to do with the administration of the Electoral
Act or “who has been present at a scrutiny, knows that a person who desires to record an absent vote must make a declaration on a specified form and sign his name. The vote is then recorded and the paper folded over and glued down. Then the envelope is sealed and conveyed intact to the returning officer. If I were to record an absent vote as George Edwin Yates, Prospect, and attempted to do the same, thing later in. the day, it would certainly be discovered. It would be possible to compare the signature on the second vote with the signature on the first, and the two signatures with my signature on the enrolment card in the electoral office. In the light of these facts it is foolish for the honorable member for Wakefield and others to make such ridiculous allegations. The honorable member for New England said that absent voting could not be safeguarded from malpractice, but in my opinion it is even safer than the ordinary open vote. It is well known that impersonation has occurred at different times in regard to the open vote. I remember that on one occasion the Rev. Henry Howard was recorded as having voted at the Halifax-street Church polling booth, in East Adelaide, and also at the Adelaide Town Hall. I do not think that any honorable member who knew the reverend gentleman would even think of accusing him of attempting to duplicate his vote. On another occasion the wife of the late Mr. W. C. Melbourne, Secretary of the Printing Industry Employees Union of South Australia, went to a polling booth to record her vote and was informed that she had already voted, though she had not done so.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member is now dealing with the ordinary vote, which is not the matter before the chair.
– I am endeavouring to prove that the absent vote is safeguarded to an even greater extent than the open vote.
– The honorable member has already given several illustrations.
– If you are of the opinion, Mr. Chairman, that I am endeavouring to prove the obvious I shall desist; but I may be allowed to express the hope that the Government will shortly come to its senses.
– In the 1919 election 15,000 absent votes were recorded by electors outside their own State, so that the provision affects a considerable number of electors. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) appeared to think that, as the Electoral Committee had not recommended absent voting beyond the boundaries of a State, there was nothing more to be said on the subject. I suggest to him that the committee would have shown a good deal more wisdom if it had made such a recommendation. It has never been suggested that the absent voting provisions of the act have been abused. The only argument that has been “advanced against them is that they cause delay. My reply is that the returning officers could deal with absent votes as they deal with postal votes, and at the same time. If they did so there would be no greater delay with absent votes than there is with postal votes.
Question - That the amendment be not insisted on - put. The committee divided’.
Ayes . . . . . . 22
Noes . . . . . . 17
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next meeting.
Appointment of late Governor.
– (By leave.)-
On the 13th June, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Yesterday I gave the honorable member certain of the information asked for. I am now in a position to furnish the balance of the information, which has been supplied by the. Commonwealth Bank, namely : -
– (Byleave.)- On the 12th June, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies -
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have just received the information that the While Bay, a small ship, has been lost off the coast of New South Wales, and that only one member of its crew of seven has survived. My information is very vague, but it suggests that had wireless been installed on that ship the crew would have been saved. I urge the Prime Minister to give consideration to an amendment of the Navigation Act insisting that every ship shall be equipped with wireless. Last year we heard of a similar instance, when a collier was lost. Its crew could have been saved had the ship been fitted with wireless.
As it is possible to equip au aeroplane such as the Southern Cross with wireless, it is also possible to fit every steamer with it. The matter is one of urgency, and I ask the Prime Minister to give it his very earnest consideration.
.- Twice I have asked the PostmasterGeneral questions in relation to the theft from the Adelaide Post Office of a mail bag containing £220. To-day I received from the Postmaster-General an answer of such a nature that it has aroused my indignation. It is inadequate and unsatisfactory, and I call the attention of the House to it. The missing mail bag was lost from the Adelaide Post Office on the 26th April. It contained a registered mail packet from the money order office, containing £220, which was to be paid to old-age and invalid pensioners at Hilton, South Australia. The circumstances of its disappearance have been thoroughly investigated by the officers of the Investigation Branch of the Department, assisted by Sergeant-Detective McMahon, of the Criminal Investigation Department, Adelaide. That officer is noted for the very searching nature of his examinations. It is stated that on more than one occasion those examinations went beyond the bounds of fairness. Prom the 26th April to the 5th May different departmental officers were examined, and their statements were taken down and signed by them. Three members of the staff were selected to undergo a special additional examination, two being examined’ on the 21st May and the third person on the 22nd May. I understand that the detectives called upon Mr. Sinclair - I think that is the name - one of those officers, and apologized for the rough treatment to which they had subjected him. But Mr. Sinclair did not give me any information. The detectives, through the Adelaide Register of the 31st May, indignantly repudiated the suggestion that they had put those officials through the third degree, and declared that the evidence taken at the examinations would be made available to me through the department. I asked the Postmaster-General to make that evidence available to me. I did not even ask that it should he laid on the table of the House, and so become public property, although I see no reason why that should not be done. I particularly wanted to know what is the departmental version of what happened on the 21st and 22nd May. Evidence does not exist, because no notes were taken on those occasions. That was when the officials were put through the third degree. Well might the detectives say I could see the evidence, but why does not the department straight-forwardly say that. Parliamentary procedure will not permit me to repeat the language used by the detective, but if the Postmaster-General wishes I am prepared to give him a written copy of it. This is the reply given to me to-day by the Postmaster-General -
In reply to the questions previously asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh concerning the loss of a registered mail containing £220 despatched from the General Post Office, Adelaide, to Hilton, S.A., and the subsequent investigations, I have made full inquiries, and find that the detective who carried out the investigations was well qualified for the purpose. No complaint has been made to the Deputy Director, Adelaide, or the Superintendent of Mails, in regard to the manner in which the officials interrogated were treated by the police officer, and I find that nothing in the nature of the Third Degree was adopted during the inquiry. I. regret I cannot make available the evidence asked for by the honorable member.
Honorable members will notice that an endeavour is made to burke the fact that no report of the evidence was taken on the 21st and 22nd of May. These men would not have applied to me if they had not a grievance. I desire to prevent a recurrence of this sort of thing, and I ask that a thorough investigation be made of the circumstances. An official from head-quarters in Melbourne should be despatched to Adelaide to inquire into the nature of the examination to which these men were subjected on the 21st and 22nd May. I hope that the department itself will make a thorough investigation in order to ascertain whether the claims of these men for protection is not well founded. If I do not get satisfaction, I propose when the session is resumed to move for the appointment of a select committee,” when I shall produce sworn declarations setting out the treatment to which these men were subjected. I hope that the men will not. again have to complain of similar treatment.
I support the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) for an amendment of the Seamen’s Compensation Act. Those who go down to the sea in ships are faced with many dangers. The dependants of a seaman who is killed on duty receive compensation ranging from a minimum of £200 to a maximum of £500. That is not sufficient, nor does it compare favorably with the compensation provided by other acts. The provision for total incapacitation is woefully inadequate. There has been no amendment of the act since 1911. I suggest that a schedule should be attached to the act setting out the amount of compensation payable in respect of certain specified injuries. That would avoid many of the delays which now arise.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following newspaper extract from this- morning’s Labour Daily: -
Wellington (N.Z.), Wed. It was stated at the Royal Agricultural Society’s Conference that supplies of phosphates from Nauru and Ocean Islands are not assured, and this is giving some concern to farmers. “ Our demands,” said a delegate, “ have increased enormously in the last ten years, and, with the ever-increasing appreciation of the value of top-dressing the demand will continue to increase. For the year ended 30th June, 1926, we imported 222,000 tons of phosphates from all sources. “It is stated that the requisitions from the British Phosphate Commission by New Zealand manufacturers for the year 1928-29 are already 230,000 tons. At the present time the capacity of the plant at Nauru and Ocean Islands is 550,000 tons per annum. New machinery now being installed will raise the capacity to 1,000,000 tons per annum under favorable conditions within two or three years.
Government Will Act. “The commissioner himself states that during the next three years New Zealand and Australia between them will require 100,000 to 200.000 tons more phosphate annually than Nauru and Ocean Islands can supply. “ I t does not seem to be generally realized, too, that New Zealand and Australia are at present getting more than the share allotted under the agreement with Great Britain.”
The conference decided to impress upon the Government that the supply of phosphate was very far from being assured.
Dr. C. J. Reakes (Director of Agriculture) said that the New Zealand Government appreciated the danger and was taking active steps to secure further supplies.
The use of superphosphates has increased enormously during recent years.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will take this matter into serious consideration.
– I take this last opportunity for some time of advising the Minister for Home and Territories to keep a careful watch on the Federal Capital Commission while Parliament is in recess. There is a feeling among the inhabitants of this city that with Parliament not in session further injustices will be inflicted upon them by the Commission. Some men, because of changes demanded by the Commission in respect of the control of buildings, have lost several hundred pounds. That money should be returned to them. At the time of the visit of the Duke of York to Canberra, I had a severe attack of sciatica. Sir John Butters promised that a motor car would be. provided for me, but had it not been for a lady who conducts a motor transport service between Canberra and Queanbeyan, I should have been obliged to limp my way from Hotel Acton to Parliament House, which, for a man of my years, and in the state of health I was then in, is a considerable distance. I regard it as infamous that public servants should be compelled to live in houses in the designing of which they had no say. The Commission has treated them like a lot. of helots. Who are these men connected with the Federal Capital Commission that they should have the right to dictate to public servants the class of house in which they are to live - houses with no back verandahs or eaves? Should any glaring evidences of injustice on the part of the Commonwealth occur while Parliament is in recess, they will not go unchallenged.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has spoken of the desirability of wireless installations on ships trading round, the coast of Australia, and tells us that during the last 24 hours a tragedy has occurred in connexion with a small vessel on the coast. So far I have had no information of such an unfortunate happening. The need for the provision of wireless on ships was brought under the notice of the Government previously by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) in connexion with a disaster which occurred to a small ship on the coast some time ago. The Commonwealth jurisdiction extends only to vessels engaged in the interstate and oversea trade. It does not embrace intra-state shipping. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that action should be taken- to provide wireless on all vessels. I believe that Australia goes further than other countries in the installation of wireless on vessels trading to our ports, but even our provisions are based on conditions which existed in the past when wireless equipment was much more expensive and more difficult to install than it is now. The science of wireless has made such tremendous progress during recent years that possibly the whole basis of its control should be reconsidered. I shall look into the matter and see if any practical steps can be taken to ensure greater safety for our shipping.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has again referred to the loss of £200 in the post office at Adelaide. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) indicated this morning that he had made inquiries into the matter and had received a report showing that the detectives had not employed third-degree methods and were not guilty of improper conduct. The honorable member will agree that in the interests of the men themselves, it is essential that when thirty members of a staff must be regarded with suspicion so long as the matter remains unsettled and the perpetrator of the crime undiscovered, the examination must be thorough. I suggest to the honorable member, who obviously feels this matter deeply, that he should provide the PostmasterGeneral with all the information at his disposal. He could give it in confidence if necessary. No complaint has been lodged with the senior postal officials in Adelaide by any member of the postal staff as to the action which has been taken. The Postmaster-General must be guided by the report he has received unless the honorable member can supply him with further evidence which would justify a more complete investigation.
– I shall supply him with the sworn declarations.
– The PostmasterGeneral will no doubt, on receipt of those declarations, investigate the matter fully.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) questioned our supply of superphosphates. This matter has engaged the serious attention of the Government during the past two years. “We in Australia ‘are in the fortunate position of having command, in conjunction with New Zealand, of the entire supplies of superphosphates from Ocean Island and Nauru. The British Government is a partner with the Governments of New Zealand and Australia, the partnership interest being in these proportions: Great Britain 42 per cent., Australia 42 per cent, and New Zealand 16 per cent.; and the agreement provides that whenever any of the partners does not take its share, that share shall be distributed among the other two partners in proportion to their holdings. Since the islands have been under the control of these three Governments, Australia and New Zealand have shared between them the whole of the supplies, Great Britain not having taken any. There has been a phenomenal increase in the consumption of superphosphate in New Zealand and Australia during recent years, brought ‘about by a realization of the value of the application of superphosphate to agricultural land. We have hardly begun to apply superphosphate to grass land. Leaving out of consideration the possible application of this fertilizer to grass land, and working on the assumption that the increase in consumption during the next ten years will be at the same rate as during the last seven years, it is very difficult to see how requirements can be met even from the resources of Ocean Island and Nauru.
– What have the surveys disclosed ?
– The surveys have disclosed the presence of most amazing quantities of superphosphate, something like 200,000,000 tons, but, unfortunately, the amount that can be obtained is governed, not by the quantity there, but by the facilities for getting the .cargoes away. Prom four to six months of the year it is impossible to ship superphosphate from the islands. The increase in the cantilever facilities for loading, to which the honorable member has referred, so far from’ improving the’ position during bad weather, will make it more difficult, because it is impossible to get the ships under the cantilevers when the sea is rough. There is no danger of a serious shortage of supplies during the next three years at least. The commission has been controlling the matter for Australia. There have been periods even during the last two years when we have been forced to import a certain amount of superphosphate from other places because we were not able to get full supplies from Ocean Island and Nauru, and the installing of the cantilever loading facilities was held up owing to a disagreement among the commissioners. The imported phosphate was of quality inferior to that which we were getting from our own islands, but it was necessary to enable us to carry on. The Government realizes that Australia must have abundant supplies of superphosphate, and is taking the necessary steps to obtain them.
– The House stands adjourned until a date and hour to be fixed, and notified to each member by telegram or letter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m. until a date and hour to bc fixed by Mr.- Speaker.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280614_reps_10_119/>.