10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Markets whether it is a fact that the Dairy Produce Export Control Board has increased by1d.per pound the levy on butter? If so, will this impost correspondingly increase the price of butter to the Australian consumer? Is it a fact that the present season is one of the most favorable on record for dairy farming? Has the Dairy Export Control Board power to increase the levy at its discretion ? Is it true that the members of the Export Control Board are merchants controlling over 80 per cent. of the butter sold for Australian consumption?
– The Dairy Export Control Board has nothing to do with the imposition of any levy or export bounty. The honorable member must be confusing that board with another body.
Government Policy - Royalties on Patents.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral furnish the House with any information regarding the Government’s new policy for the control of wireless broadcasting?
– Honorable members will recollect that a board was appointed to take control of wireless broadcasting. Mr. Brown, Director-General of Postal Services, who is chairman of the board, returned recently from abroad, and I have no doubt that the board will function at an early date and submit a recommendation to the Government.
– The Prime Minister replied to the honorable member for Parramatta yesterday that the Government had already taken action to reduce the royalties charged by Amalgamated Wireless for the use of its patents. Does that reduction apply to all the patents controlled by the company? Is it not a fact that the public is still being exploited in respect of a number of the patents held by Amalgamated Wireless?
– The agreement between the Government and Amalgamated Wireless covers all patent rights used in connexion with broadcasting or listening-in sets. I have no knowledge of the other patents controlled by the company, but I suggest that the honorable member is not justified in saying, without a full knowledge of the facts, that the company is exploiting the people of the Commonwealth.
– Has the Treasurer observed that whilst the value of most of our primary products, with the probable exception of wool, is declining, land valuation for taxation purposes are increasing? Will the honorable gentleman confer with those responsible for the land tax valuations with a view to basing the valuations on the fair productive value of the land rather than on the prices realized at isolated sales?
– Since the land tax was originally imposed the proportion of the total land tax collected from city lands has increased from 40 per cent, to- 60 per cent. Under the Land Tax Assessment Act the method of valuation is controlled entirely by the Commissioner of Taxation.
– I understand that the Australian Dried Fruits Association has made certain representations to the
Minister for Trade and Customs regarding the importation of Californian sultanas and that an inquiry into the matter has been promised. Will the Minister inform the House of the result of that -inquiry?
– Representations were made to the Government that Californian dried fruits were being dumped in Australia, and I immediately instructed the department to investigate the matter. Apparently the dumping in this case does not come under that section of the aci with which honorable members are most familiar, namely, that which relates to the sale of a commodity in Australia at less than the home consumption price, but comes under a section which is more difficult to enforce, which relates to the sale of a commodity at less than the reasonable cost of production. 1 understand however that the investigation is almost complete and that I shall know the result at an early date.
Compulsory Military Training - “ Optional Clause
– As the representative of the Commonwealth has signed the Kellogg pact for the outlawry of war, does the Government intend to give practical effect to that agreement by discontinuing the present system of compulsory military training?
– The only purpose of compulsory military training is to fit the youth and young manhood of Australia to defend their country in the event of an invasion. The outlawry of war pact specifically excludes self-protection against foreign aggression. The honorable member will see, therefore, that the compulsory training of the youth of Australia for home defence is not inconsistent with adherence to the pact for the outlawry of war.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the signing of the outlawry of war pact does not remove some of the difficulties in the way of the adoption of the “ optional clause “ in the statutes of the Permanent Court of International Justice? As the last Imperial Conference decided that no action regarding the adoption of this clause should be taken by any dominion without consulting the Governments of Great Britain and the other dominions, will the Commonwealth Government take steps to revive discussion of the subject?
– It is a matter of opinion how far the signing of the outlawry of war pact alters the position in regard to the “ optional clause.” The whole matter will have to be further considered, because although at the last Imperial Conference it was agreed that no individual nation inside the Empire should accept the optional clause without consultation with other nations, the desire of all the delegates was that if that course could be adopted with wisdom it should be adopted.
– While I was in Queensland, postal employees complained to me that certain staffing committees had been appointed by the central postal administration in Melbourne to visit all the States with a view to reporting as to the possibility of the work of the department being done with fewer employees. Will the Postmaster-General inform the House of the function of these committees and whether their inquiry is a prelude to a policy of general retrenchment?
– These committees, which were appointed about twelve months ago, are investigating the staffing conditions in the Postal Department in all States. Their reports are made to the Deputy Postmasters-General, who will take any action that may be required.
– As liver and liver extract have been discovered to be effective for the treatment of pernicious anemia, and as the cost of the extract is prohibitive to persons on the basic wage, will the Minister for Health endeavour to have it manufactured at the Commonwealth Laboratory, and made available to the public at a reasonable price ?
– It is true that extract of liver is claimed to be effective in the treatment of pernicious anæmia, and the Department of Health is considering the possibility of manufacturing it in Australia or allowing it to be imported duty free.
Payment in Bonds.
– Is the Treasurer aware that of the amount received by the Commonwealth in respect of probate duties £800,000 only was paid in cash and £900,000 in Commonwealth bonds? Is it a fact that the practice of paying probate in bonds, which are obtainable on the market below par, is becoming increasingly popular with the trustees of wealthy estates ?
– The right to tender bonds in payment of probate duties was one of the conditions upon which various Commonwealth loans were issued. This undoubtedly contributed towards the success of the various loans raised during the war period, and continues to improve the market for Commonwealth stock.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to a statement published in the Canberra Times to the effect that the Country party has issued an ultimatum to the Government demanding the abolition of the Tariff Board and a reduction of the tariff. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Government has been challenged in this way?
– I assure the honorable member that this newspaper statement, which I had not previously read, is entirely without foundation.
– It cannot be denipd that a statement was published in the press to the effect that the Country party had issued an ultimatum to the Nationalist party. Will the Leader of the Country party say whether there is any truth in the report?
– Questions addressed to Ministers should relate to “ the public affairs with which they are officially connected, to proceedings pending in Parliament, or to any matter of public administration for which the Minister is responsible.” The question of the honorable member, however, appears to relate to rumours about the action of a political party.
– It was stated in the press by the secretary of the Country party that this ultimatum had been issued. A matter of Government policy is therefore involved.
– It is not usual for a Minister in replying to a question to make a statement of Government policy.
– There is not the slightest truth in the statement that an ultimatum was issued.
– During the recess the Prime Minister was reported in various newspapers to have said that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a scientific tariff. I should like him to indicate briefly to honorable members what he meant by a scientific tariff?
– I made no statement that warranted an interpretation such as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has mentioned. I have always been under the impression that Australia has a scientific tariff. The Tariff Board was established in order to keep our tariff scientific. Whenever the tariff becomes unscientific in any respect the board is charged with the responsibility of investigating the matter, and making recommendations to rectify it. We are endeavouring in that way to keep our tariff scientific.
– This is a matter of great importance. In view of the difficulty of the Prime Minister in answering the question of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I ask the Treasurer to give us his definition of a scientific tariff.
– The honorable member is asking a Minister to express a personal opinion, and that is not a usual practice.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Chief Electoral Officer to count separately the boxes for the different polling places in the Federal Capital Territory liquor poll on Saturday, and to make the detailed returns available to the public?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr.FORDE asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Duty on Girders.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
With reference to applications made for assistance under the War Service Homes Act -
How many applications for each State respectively (i) to buy; (ii) to build and (iii) additional advances, were deferred from the last financial year owing to funds not being available?
What amount will be absorbed in dealing with the beforementioned applications?
How many applications have been received since the commencement of the present financial year, and what amount will be required in relation thereto ?
– The information will be obtained and furnished at a later date.
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 soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that Commonwealth Public Service employees have contributed approximately 50 per cent. of the Superannuation Fund, when will the report of the quinquennial investigation be made available for public information ?
– I propose to submit the Actuary’s report on his investigation of the Superannuation Fund as an appendix to the annual report of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, which is expected to be available during the present session of Parliament.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
How many licences were issued to “ lisenersin “ during the years ended 31st March, 1927, and 31st March, 1928?
– The particulars desired by the honorable member are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
International Copyright Conference at Rome,1928 - Report by Australian Delegate (SirW. Harrison-Moore).
Ordered to be printed.
Defence - Australian Military Forces - Report for the Inspector-General, by Lieut. - General Sir H. G. Chauvel, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. (Chief of the General Staff), Part L, 31st May, 1928.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for a proposed law to alter the Constitution by inserting therein further provisions relating to the public debts of the States and the borrowing of money by the Commonwealth and the States.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 30th August) (vide page 6249).
Proposed vote, £383,785.
.- I am strongly opposed to the spending of £75,000 on the Goulburn-Canberra road. A rich State like New South Wales should not ask the Commonwealth to spend money on such a project while a struggling sister State like Tasmania has no direct communication between its Capital City and the mainland. About 100,000 people desire direct communication between Hobart and Melbourne; but hitherto they have been denied it. Proposals such as that now under notice force me to wonder whether Tasmania is actually a part of the Commonwealth.
– What about the grant Tasmania receives?
– That is a right to which we are unquestionably entitled. Direct communication between Hobart and the mainland is essential in the interests of Tasmania’s tourist traffic and otherwise.
Some time ago I requested the late Minister for Customs (Mr. Pratten) to provide wireless facilities at the lighthouses on Tasman Island and Maatsuyker Island. At present these lonely places have no means of direct communication with any part of the Commonwealth. Once every three months the stores boat calls at the islands, leaves provisions and handles mails; but otherwise the residents are entirely dependent upon pigeon post, and the pigeons are often taken by hawks. I submit that it is the duty of the Government to provide wireless communication for these people and I trust that it will be done without delay.
– I do not intend to comment upon the wisdom or otherwise of constructing a road from Goulburn to Canberra. There is a lot in what the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) has said, because there are many other works that should first claim the attention of this Government. I am not against the construction of roads. I should like to see much more money expended on roads, but only to assist the outback settlers. Never before in my political experience of from eighteen to twenty years have I known of similar provision being made for the construction of a road. It is unprecedented in the history of Australia. I should like to know what influence has been brought upon the Government to induce it to construct a road from Goulburn to Canberra. Recently, several honorable members, including myself, asked the Minister to interest himself in another road, the construction of which would open up magnificent country between Canberra and Tumut. That district, with a feeder road, would soon be able to supply the needs of Canberra. To-day most of the requirements of this city have to be freighted from Sydney. The Minister for Works and Railways promised that he would bring that proposal before the Main Roads Board; but whether he has taken any action in that direction I do not know. Evidently, pressure has been brought to bear upon him by selfish city interests to construct a road from Canberra to Goulburn, apparently to the neglect of other very necessary roads.
The other day, at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, it was decided to curtail the work on the Murray River. I am satisfied that the reason for that is known to the people of this country, particularly those who would benefit from the construction of the Hume reservoir. They certainly are not impressed by the attitude taken up by the Government and the decision of the conference to cut down the works that are being carried out at the Hume reservoir and along the Murray valley. Yesterday, the Minister replied to a question asked by me in this House, and I cannot help thinking that either he has not been correctly reported in Mansard or he has not given much consideration to my question. I asked him to explain why it had been decided to curtail work on the Hume reservoir.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the subject to which he is referring concerns loan expenditure and do.es not come under these estimates.
– I am showing that, while money is available for the construction of a road from Goulburn to Canberra, expenditure on other very necessary works is being curtailed. Connected with the construction of the Hume dam is a proposal to construct a deviation road, and this, so the Minister informed me a few months ago, should be constructed at the same time as the weir. I now understand that men are being put off, and that the road is not to be proceeded with. In view of that, how can the Minister justify the construction of a road from Goulburn to Canberra which will serve city interests only? There is a nasty impression in the public mind that the sudden curtailment .of the work on the Hume reservoir, entailing the dismissal of 500 or 600 men, is being made for political purposes and to injure my prospects of re-election. That view is being freely expressed in the Hume district. If that is the motive behind the decision of the conference, there will undoubtedly be a revulsion of feeling against the Government on the part of the Hume electors.
– That statement is unworthy of the honorable member.
– It is being freely made. The Government’s attitude seems very suspicious in view of the conversation that I recently had with the Minister. He then said that the work should be proceeded with. Now it is to be curtailed. If there is money available for the construction of a road from Goulburn to Canberra there is no justification whatever for the Minister’s excuse that there is no money available for the construction of the deviation road to the Hume reservoir. I have been told by a member of the Murray Waters Commission that if a little impetus were given to the river works, next year, there would be sufficient water to irrigate several thousand acres of land. In case of drought that would be of immense benefit to the settlers on the Murray valley..
– I have already warned the honorable member not to continue his remarks in that direction.
– I feel that I am voicing the sentiments of the members of the Country party when I say that scarcely a week passes that we do not receive requests from our constituents for the construction and maintenance of roads that will bring the outback settlers into closer touch with the railway and their markets. On the construction of feeder roads money would be well spent, because they would be reproductive. The Treasurer stated last night that it was necessary to link up Canberra by roads with other parts of the Commonwealth, and he suggested roads to Goulburn, Jervis Bay and Yass.
– The Government wishes to make a jubilee plunge on roads to Canberra.
– That is so. . It forgets that there are other parts of Australia that have long awaited tha construction of essential roads to assist struggling outback settlers. Years of agitation on their part have had little effect upon the Government, yet, apparently, within a few months, influence has successfully been brought to bear upon it to construct a road from Canberra to Goulburn. Strong agitation has been made for this road by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and other honorable members. There is to be no official inquiry, although it was suggested last night that the proposal should be investigated by the Public Works Committee.
– The Government is afraid of Billy Hughes.
– I cannot imagine that the Government has sanctioned this work merely to please the right honorable member for ‘ North Sydney. Evidently he is backed by big city interests. I have no objection whatever to the, construction of roads if they are taken in order of merit. This road may be justified, but there are many other roads that should first be constructed. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) and myself have already placed before the Government facts and figures relating to a proposed road through very valuable country with immense timber and agricultural resources. The Minister has stated that it would cost £20,000 a mile to construct the road, but a wellknown road maker, “who is on the spot, is prepared to do the work at one-quarter of that figure. He has placed his proposal before the local shire council, but the Main Roads Board has decided not to sanction the work, evidently because it would not serve city interests. We should consider every proposed road on its merits, and I venture to say that if the proposal to construct a road from Goulburn to Canberra were considered on its merits no honorable member would agree to it. What justification is there for building such a road? It is an amazing thing to me that money can be found so quickly and mysteriously for comparatively non-essential works of this kind, while the Government proposes to cut down the supply for great national works such as the Hume reservoir, and other road construction schemes which have long been calling out for completion.
– I have listened with interest to the discussion which has taken place on the question of roads to Canberra, and it seems to me that there is a good deal of misapprehension in regard to the matter on the part of some honorable members. We have been told that it is the duty of New South Wales to provide the money for this road. If there was ever a matter to which the National Parliament should devote time and money, it is the development of our Federal Territory. The State of New South Wales, if the matter is properly analysed, will be found to have already spent a considerable sum of money in providing roads to the Capital. There is a great deal of Commonwealth money sunk in this Federal Capital. Some honorable members think, no doubt, that it should not have been spent, but it has been spent with the consent of the people of Australia, given through their parliamentary representatives. We have to deal with the position as it stands now. It is no use complaining about the spending of the money; it has been spent with the sanction of this Parliament.
– A lot of it has been misspent.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion. He is entitled to think that, but I think that, taking the circumstances into consideration, the money has been well spent, and will eventually prove a profitable investment. The Parliament decided that the Capital should be established here, and it is our duty to see that the development of this Territory is not retarded by lank of proper road communication. The main road leading to Canberra from Sydney is at present in a bad state of repair. The grades are not good, and it follows a circuitous route which this suggested road would obviate. The main road comes through Goulburn and Queanbeyan, and, personally, I prefer to go from Goulburn through Gunning and Gundaroo, which is 10 miles further. But the main road is 10 miles longer than this for which we are now providing. The first part of the new road, from Goulburn to Yarra, is a length of the main southern highway, connecting the capitals of Victoria and New South “Wales. That has been constructed already by the New South Wales Government. It is proposed to leave the main southern road at a point about 6 miles from Goulburn, and to come past Collector, which is 22 miles from Yarra. This section of the road is already good, having been constructed by the Government of New South Wales. In addition, a length of 5i miles on the Canberra side of Collector has been constructed by New South Wales. The next stretch is one of 22 miles from the point 5£ miles on the Canberra side of Collector to the Federal Territory boundary, and the cost of this portion will be £200,000. Honorable members who have spoken against this proposal have said that they would not oppose the money being spent were it to be allocated on the same basis as that adopted under the Federal Aid Roads scheme. As a matter of fact, very little would be saved if that were done. Under the agreement with New South Wales, the amount to be expended on this road by the Federal Government will be in the proportion of two to one. Had the work been done under the Federal Aid Roads scheme the proportion would have been four to three. Of the sum of £200,000 which is to be spent the Commonwealth Government would, under the Federal Aid Roads scheme, have contributed a sum of £114,284, while the State Government’s share would have been £85,713. As it is, the Commonwealth proportion is £133,332, and the amount to be paid by the New South Wales Government is £66,666. Therefore, the difference between the Commonwealth Government’s shares under the two schemes amounts to only £19,050.
– But this sum of £133,000 is over and above the vote for the Federal Aid Roads scheme.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. If the money were advanced under the Federal Aid scheme the proportion of Commonwealth contribution to that of the State would have been four to three. New South Wales in the past has done her share towards providing communication with the Territory.
– It is an extra vote.
– It may be an extra vote.
– That “is what we object to.
– The honorable member would object to anything unless he thought it would help towards the building of an underground railway to Tasmania. If the Federal Capital Territory had never been acquired from the State of New South Wales, the Government of that State would not have been called upon to spend one penny of the money which it is now contributing towards the construction of the road from Collector to the Territory. The roads previously in existence would have served this area had it not been for the decision of the Commonwealth Parliament to build the Federal Capital here. In my opinion, the State of New South Wales would have been quite justified in saying that this was a Commonwealth matter, and that the road should be built entirely at the expense of the Commonwealth Government. Fortunately, however, neither in this nor in other matters has the New South Wales Government adopted such an attitude. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has stated in very strong terms that this money is urgently required by the outback settlers to provide better communications. I give place to no member in this committee in my sympathy with settlers living in the out-back districts, and I know that the settlement of such districts has been in the past retarded by bad roads, but let me point out that we have now in New South Wales a Government which is entirely sympathetic with the settlers in regard to such matters. That Government has shown its practical sympathy by making up to the Main Roads Board a very large sum of money of which it was deprived through the action of the late Labour Government, which passed legislation limiting the amount of motor taxation which should go to the Main Roads Board to such an extent that upwards of £460,000 which should have been expended during the last year the Lang Government was in office was put into the Consolidated Revenue. The Labour Government also refused to enter into an agreement with the Federal Government on the Federal Aid Roads scheme, although every other State Government had done so. By this means the Lang Government was instrumental in depriving the Main Roads Board of New South Wales of a sum of £552,000 to which it was entitled. Thus, during the last year of the Labour Government’s term of office over £1,000,000 that should have been spent on the roads of the State was not spent. The present Government of New South Wales is now showing its practical sympathy with the out-back settlers by reimbursing the Main Roads Board the £460,000 of which it was deprived, and is, in addition, making available to it the whole of the motor taxation.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member is wandering away from the point.
– The honorable member for Hume made a statement to the effect that what I said was not- true, and I ask that he withdraw it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I did not hear what the honorable member for Hume said, but if he made that remark he must withdraw it.
– In my opinion the statement was not true, but in deference to you, sir, I shall amend my remark by saying that it was not correct.
– The honorable member has not yet withdrawn the words of which I complained.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Hume must do so.
– I withdraw them, and say that the statement was not correct.
– The figures I have given are approximately correct. In every case in which I have quoted round figures, and they are below the actual amounts. The honorable member for Hume said that a member of the Ministry stated last night that this road was one of a system of roads by which it was proposed to connect the Federal Territory with outside places. Surely, if there is any matter on which we should look ahead and not commit ourselves to a piecemeal policy, it is in regard to road communication with the Federal Territory. ‘ Is it not well the Minister and his advisors have gone into this matter, and, instead of simply building one road into the Territory, have laid down a scheme of road construction which, when carried out, will give the best service, not only to the Territory, but to the districts outside it ?
– What guarantee have we that this will be done ?
– We know that a scheme has been evolved which, when carried out, will give proper road access to the Territory. This road, which is to cost £200,000, runs within a few miles of Bungendore. I do not think that there are any honorable members in this committee who fail to realize the necessity of connecting the Federal Capital with Jervis Bay. This new road will be utilized for a considerable distance, until a point opposite Bungendore is reached, as part of the essential communication between the Capital and Jervis Bay. The New South Wales Government has acted with its customary liberality in this matter. Money which could have been expended in other directions has been devoted to providing better means of access to the Federal Capital. I well remember that only a year or two ago the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), in a light-hearted and airy way, advocated the construction of a railway which, although it would have cost millions of pounds, would pass through country, not one square mile of which is not already served by other railways. It is significant that much of the territory it would serve is in the honorable member’s electorate.
– “Would it not go through good country?
– The country through which it would pass is practically served by existing railways. I was born and reared in it and know more about it than does the honorable member for Hume.
– There is no railway along the Upper Murray.
– The honorable member’s interjection shows that he knows nothing about the country that would be affected. His proposal was to provide a railway which would pass through Holbrook.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in replying to interjections.
– I am well acquainted with the country referred to and with the maps which the honorable member for Hume circulated. Good roads are essential to the development of the Federal Capital. I am therefore glad that it is proposed to provide the first instalment of a full plan for connecting Canberra with the rest of Australia by road.
Last night the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) referred to a matter to which I made reference earlier in the day in a question which I addressed to the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has mentioned the same subject in this Chamber before.
– For over two years I have had a motion on the business paper in connexion with the same matter.
– The honorable member has no monopoly of it.
– Evidently my motion on the business paper came under the notice of the honorable member for Capricornia, who I am glad to see_ is so strong an advocate for the construction of the railway to which he referred yesterday.
– That is unfair.
– I have no desire to be unfair. It is true that the honorable member for Capricornia referred to this matter on one occasion in a discussion on the Estimates; but I am not aware that he discussed it in connexion with the motion standing in my name. I am glad, however, to have his support to the proposal, and am gratified at the satisfactory reply to my question given by the Prime Minister yesterday. The construction of railways to connect with the existing railways in the western portion of Queensland is essential to the development of this country. Yesterday an honorable member inquired by interjection whether the railway I advocated would pay for the axle grease used. No one who knows the country well would suggest that year in and year out the railway line I advocate would provide a handsome return.
– Let the States concerned build these railways.
– The honorable member does not suggest that South Australia should construct the railway to Alice Springs.
– That is being made under an agreement with the Commonwealth.
– The area which would be served by the railway I have mentioned is some of the finest pastoral country in Australia. During recent years we have seen how droughts can reduce our national wealth. A repetition of the losses which have been incurred would be avoided if proper means of transporting stock from place to place were available. T trust that the conditions referred to by the Prime Minister yesterday which make it impossible -for the Government favorably to consider the proposal now will not long continue, and that soon we shall be better able to safeguard our national wealth in times of drought.
.- I hold different views from those which have been expressed in most of the speeches delivered in connexion with the proposal to reconstruct the road between Canberra and Goulburn. I believe that it is the duty of the Commonwealth to assist the State of New South Wales in providing better means of communication with the Federal Capital. Canberra having been selected as our national capital, it is essential that it shall be connected by good roads with other portions of Australia. The existence of the Federal Capital has necessitated much heavier expenditure on the roads leading thereto than would have been required were the territory still a portion of New South Wales. Were Canberra not the Seat of Government, the amount expended on road construction and maintenance by the municipal and shire councils on the roads in this district would be ample to keep them in good condition. The additional traffic over the roads leading to Canberra because it is the National Capital justifies the Commonwealth in providing funds for their reconstruction and maintenance. I contend that it is the duty of the Commonwealth to assist the State or local authorities controlling roads used largely for governmental purposes.
– The Commonwealth has not honored its obligations in that direction.
– That is so. I have endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to persuade the ‘ Government to” assist in the upkeep of the road leading to the Commonwealth naval base at Port Stephens, and I know that the requests of other honorable members for similar assistance in other districts have also been refused. The arguments I have previously advanced in favour of Commonwealth assistance for other roads I now advance in favour of a Commonwealth grant being made for the road between Canberra and Goulburn. It may be that the proposed grant is greater than the circumstances warrant; but I shall not proceed further along that line.
It is idle for this Parliament to agree to the expenditure of money for new works if the money is not expended thereon. The expenditure of money on public works was never more justified than it is now. Australia is experiencing the longest period of depression that it has known for many years; thousands of men are out of work and unable to obtain employment; yet work in connexion with large public undertakings is not being expedited. It would be interesting to know how much of the money voted last financial year for public works was not expended. In my district 3,000 men are unemployed at the present time ; yet not one penny is being expended in the construction of roads from.Cessnock, the rail-head, to the country beyond, although the Government must be aware of the need for roads in that area. Rather than expend public money in paying doles to unemployed workmen, it would be better to pay them wages for work in connexion with valuable public undertakings. Men desire work, not a dole. The honorable member for Hume referred to the proposal to dismiss some hundreds of workmen, now engaged on the Murray River works. It is useless to provide work for 200 men in one district, if 300 or 400 men are to be put off in another locality. In times such as we are now experiencing, the Government should proceed with a continuous programme of public works. The work now in progress along the River Murray is national in character and should not be delayed. The sooner these undertakings are completed, the better it will be for all concerned. The Government has a responsibility in providing work for its people. The Treasurer has urged that the present time is inopportune for borrowing abroad. I remind him that the last Commonwealth loan was over-subscribed two or three weeks before the due date. There is plenty of money available in Australia for investment, so that there is no need to borrow abroad. I feel sure that there would be no difficulty in floating a loan in Australia to provide funds for essential public works. The way in which the people subscribed to the war loans shows that they are willing to make their money available to the Commonwealth in the public interest.
I desire to refer to the proposal to expend £50,000 this year on the construction of a war memorial at Canberra. I approve of the construction of a war memorial at the national capital; but, with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) I question whether the time is now opportune for it to be built. I wish to make it clear that I am not opposed to the erection of a war memorial in the national capital, but in view of our financial position the work should be deferred. At the present time £300,000 could be spent to much greater advantage in other directions. It is probable that the present financial year will end with another deficit. If we are wise, we shall postpone the erection of the memorial.
I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that where a post office or other public utility is necessary, the work should be proceeded with without delay, in order to provide employment for our people during this period of depression. When a work must be put in hand sooner or later, why not tackle it now, and thus make the country more prosperous? It is not in the best interests of Australia that adverse reports should be sent abroad of the conditions that exist here. In my electorate a number of additional post offices are necessary. Although the population has increased considerably not one post office has been built in the electorate during the last eight or ten years. If the Government were to devote its attention to public utilities of that kind, the existing unemployment would be largely alleviated.
The Commonwealth is justified in assisting the Government of New South Wales to reconstruct the road between Canberra and Goulburn. It should also put in hand the construction of other roads which will open up and develop agricultural country. It would be an excellent thing if Federal and State ministers were to confer regarding those works that are most calculated to relieve unemployment, and come to an agreement to have them expedited. If action along those lines is taken, prosperity will quickly return to this country.
.- We have reached a stage when works that are not reproductive should be shelved until the conditions improve. The construction of a war memorial at Canberra could be postponed, with advantage to the nation. That building, when completed, will have cost probably £300,000. Through the length and breadth of Australia tangible proof of the people’s recognition of the loyalty and devotion of those of our manhood who participated in the great war has already been given. As this work will not be reproductive, greater advantages would accrue if the sum which it is proposed to expend upon it were diverted into other channels.
I am of the opinion also that the sum of £75,000 which the Government proposes to advance towards the cost of reconstructing the road from Canberra to Goulburn could be expended more reproductively upon other works. A road from Canberra to Tumut, which has been advocated by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), would open up a large area of grazing and agricultural country, and thus enlarge the opportunities for settlement. I have traversed by motor car the country between Canberra and Goulburn, and its quality is not such as is likely to encourage closer settlement. There -are thousands of settlers who at the present time are not provided with a decent road for the carriage of their wheat, wool and fruit, and they are at their wits’ end to make sufficient to pay interest on their overdrafts. I trust that these estimates will be scrutinized carefully, and that the Government will be instructed to postpone those works which will not be immediately reproductive. At the present time, a government loan is a more attractive proposition to the people than industrial undertakings, on account of the frequency with which disturbances arise in the industrial world. It is regrettable that unemployment is so widespread. Causes other than those over which governments can exercise control are largely responsible for that lamentable state of affairs. Recently I visited the northern part of Queensland, where I found that both interstate and overseas shipping was tied up, and cane could not be shipped despite the fact that there were over 200 able-bodied men willing to undertake the work of loading it into the ships. Reports of occurrences of that description discourage people from investing their capital in industries. We should make it our business to see that a decent return is obtained for the expenditure we incur. With many works that is not the case at the present time. I am satisfied that throughout the country districts of Australia many hundreds of men could be given profitable employment if the landowners were able to pay the rate of wage demanded.
.- Honorable members must agree that, in view of the deficit, the adverse trade balance, the unsatisfactory condition of business generally, and the heavy taxation which is imposed, there is a pressing necessity for the exercise, both publicly and privately, of the strictest economy. I should like the Government to set an example in practising economy, and I feel sure that it effects savings wherever possible.
I am a fairly frequent user of the road between Canberra and Goulburn, and am as anxious as any honorable member that it should be a good road ; but I do not think we should be justified in incurring the expenditure necessary to lay a concrete road. At the present time the road has a fairly good surface, and the expenditure of from £5,000 to £10,000 would be ample for all present requirements.
– How long is it since the honorable member travelled over it?
– I have been travelling over it constantly since this Parliament has been sitting in Canberra, and in my opinion it is not a bad road. A road from Canberra to Tumut, on the other hand, ought to be constructed, because that would give the most direct route to Victoria. I do not advocate the expenditure of a large sum on such a project; but I contend that it is more important to provide a direct highway to Victoria than to reconstruct the Goulburn road at a considerably greater expense. A road to Tumut would open up large areas of land and induce further settlement. No further settlement will result from any expenditure upon the Goulburn road.
The ultimate expenditure on a war memorial in Canberra will probably be in the region of £300,000 or £400,000. I do not consider that there is any necessity to proceed with that work at the present time. We are all anxious that the heroic sacrifices of our glorious dead should be commemorated in a fitting manner; but I point out that that has already been done by the erection of war memorials throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It may be a perfectly right thing to build a memorial in Canberra when our financial condition improves; in its present state the expenditure cannot be justified.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) discussed at considerable length last night the question of the development of the Northern Territory. I agree with a good deal of what he said. There are portions of the Territory such as the Barkly tableland and the Victoria River country, which is worthy of development ; but, apart from those sections, the greater part of the Territory is absolutely incapable of commercial development.
– That argument can be applied also to large areas in Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland.
– It applies with far greater force to the Northern Territory, in which 80 per cent. of the land, apart from those portions to which I have specifically referred, is not worth developing, and cannot be put to any other than its present use. The honorable member for Dalley said that the Territory is held in very large areas by only a few people. I consider that the Government is fortunate in having such country occupied at all, because it is suitable only for blackfellows.
Judging by a question which he asked yesterday, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) wishes to bind the Government to provide railway communication right through the Territory, at a cost of at least £10,000,000 or £12,000,000.
– The Government is already bound, morally, and in every other way, to the construction of such a line.
– Perhaps so; but not within any stated time. The greater part of the country which that line would traverse is not capable of being developed commercially. The country is incapable of carrying an extensive population. Many persons in Adelaide who are keenly interested in the project have never seen the country which the proposed line will serve, and there are many who know as well as I do that if the line is constructed, it will always be a white elephant. It will never be of any benefit to Adelaide, because the traffic to be handled will not be sufficient to justify such a heavy capital expenditure. The railway to Oodnadatta, which has been built for about 35 years, has not been responsible for additional development. In fact, there are fewer settlers in that locality than there were before the line was built. At present one passenger train every fortnight is sufficient to cope with the traffic offering. It is true that the line is of some convenience to those transporting live-stock to the southern markets, but a continuation of the existing line from Oodnadatta will not be of any benefit, because the farther the line extends north the greater will be the transport charges, which will consequently result in comparatively small returns. I agree with what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said concerning the Barkly Tableland, which I admit is the best portion of the Northern Territory, and that most capable of commercial development for a comparatively small expenditure of capital. The amount of £250,000 which it is proposed to expend on the construction of a national war memorial at Canberra would be sufficient to build a railway from Rocky Island to Borraloola, which would enable the greater portion of the Barkly Tableland - which I estimate capable of carrying 8,000,000 sheep - to be stocked. Surely the construction of such a railway or the making of a good road is of greater necessity than the immediate erection of a national Avar memorial? In the circumstances, I consider that it is the duty of the Government to reduce the expenditure proposed on reconditioning the road between Goulburn and Canberra, and at least to temporarily postpone the expenditure of a large sum of money on a war memorial.
– The discussion on this vote has been exceedingly interesting, and, I trust, will prove profitable. At present every one is preaching economy; but I think it is time to practice economy. The only way in which a ranker can act in matters of this kind is to challenge particular items of expenditure which in his opinion do not appear to be justified. In the present circumstances, when our exchequer is empty and we have a deficit of over £2,000,000, every government proposal involving the expenditure of large sums of money should be challenged, unless the work is urgent. That is the only way in which we can show the people of Australia that we are anxious to improve the financial position. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in an interview which appeared in the Melbourne Argus yesterday, said that everything possible must be done to stop the financial drift. With that we all agree. Two items which have been discussed very fully are the erection of a national war memorial at Canberra, and the reconditioning of the road from Goulburn to Canberra. The construction of a national war memorial is a delicate subject, because one is apt to be misunderstood in what he says about it. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that one must approach this subject very carefully, and in suggesting a postponement must make it clear that one is not opposed to perpetuating the memory of our gallant dead. We all wish to do everything we can to keep before the people of the Commonwealth the recollection of these brave men, so that generations yet unborn, may be inspired with the spirit that animated those whose memory we wish to perpetuate. In this connexion I intend to apply the test I have already suggested, and to ask if the construction of a national war memorial is immediately necessary. Whilst we all agree that we should erect at Canberra a war memorial worthy of the Commonwealth, it seems to me that the work is not urgent and that the construction of the building could be postponed. I do not suggest that the proposal should in any sense be shelved, but only that it shall be postponed. In discussing this matter with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) a few minutes ago, I was informed that there is an element of utility in connexion with the proposed undertaking, as it is intended to provide accommodation in the memorial building for housing war trophies, relics, pictures and records. I do not therefore propose to commit myself definitely on this vote until the position has been, fully explained by the Minister.
It was refreshing to hear the practical speech of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) on the proposal to spend £75,000 on reconditioning the road between Goulburn and Canberra. The honorable member, who has been using the road for some time, stated that although a first-class road is highly desirable, it is not immediately necessary, and that for the expenditure of a much smaller sum than is now proposed, a serviceable road could be provided. Those of us who were originally opposed to the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra have been twitted with the fact that we are constantly complaining of expenditure in the Federal Capital Territory. I am one of those who have been opposed to Canberra from the outset, and have also been critical concerning the enormous amount of money that has been unnecessarily spent in this city. The capital has however, been established here, and we have now to make the best of it.
In attempting to justify the Government’s policy, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said, in effect, that now this glorious city has been established easy and comfortable roads leading to the capital should be provided. But the provision of such roads would be of benefit only to the users of motor cars, who consist mainly of tourists. Commercial men who wish to visit Canberra use the railroad which is already in existence, and tourists who wish to view the Federal Capital have the same means of access. In these circumstances, it seems that the expenditure of £75,000 on reconditioning a portion of the road is unwarranted, particularly as the amount which will eventually have to be spent will total approximately £133,000. The Government should consider the opinions that have been strongly expressed by many honorable members in relation to this item and delay the work, at least for the time. If it could be shown later that the work was urgent and the financial position would justify it, the Government could, after consulting Parliament, carry out what it now proposes. It seems to me that a majority of honorable members are opposed to this item and, if the opportunity is provided, I intend to vote against this item.
– I think I am correct in saying that on almost every occasion on which expenditure has been proposed in connexion with developmental works at Canberra, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has said that the time is not ripe, and that the work should be postponed.
– The honorable member cannot quote any instance in which
I have made any such suggestion. I challenge the honorable member to quote one.
– A reference to Hansard will show that the honorable member for Fawkner has always strenuously opposed expenditure on developmental work in the Federal Capital Territory. Anything’ in the direction of retarding the progress of Canberra has been acceptable to the honorable member. It is interesting to note, however, that he has stated on other occasions that the only way in which we can develop this great country is by providing means of access to different centres. If that principle is to be applied to other portions of Australia, it should also be applied to the National Capital. The remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), would have been of more value, if in his desire for economy he had been consistent. I understand that whilst he was objecting to the expenditure of £75,000 on reconditioning the road between Canberra and Goulburn, he favoured the expenditure of £500,000 on a road in a southerly direction from the Federal Capital.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the measure is to provide for a referendum of the people in regard to a proposed alteration of the Constitution to enable agreements upon financial questions to be entered into between the Commonwealth and the States, and to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate to give effect to such agreements if they are unanimously approved by the States and the Commonwealth. Last year, after prolonged negotiations, an agreement was reached between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the six States for the settlement of their financial relations, and it was subsequently ratified by the seven Parliaments concerned. It is a matter for congratulation that a settlement of this very complex problem, which was one of the obstacles” to federation, and has been the subject of spirited controversy for the last quarter of a century, has been reached, and apparently gives satisfaction to all parties.
– Was the technical point that was raised in Western Australia cleared up?
– Yes. The agreement was divided into two parts - one covering a period of two years, and the other providing for a permanent settlement. The temporary portion of the agreement is now in operation, and it is essential that an arrangement that has been endorsed by all the governments and parliaments of Australia should be ratified by the people also, and its provisions given permanent effect. That can be done only by an alteration of the Constitution to give this Parliament power to validate any agreement made between the Commonwealth and the States. The bill before the House, does not relate to any specific financial agreement, but provides merely for a referendum of the people in regard to an alteration of the Constitution, which would enable this Parliament to validate and give effect to any financial agreement unanimously accepted by the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States. Unfortunately, this proposal will inevitably be associated in the minds of the people with the definite agreement already made and ratified by the parliaments; however desirable it may be to separate the issues, I am afraid that will be difficult. But I ask honorable members to consider only at this juncture whether there should be constitutional power for this Parliament to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to financial relations, consolidation of debts, the provision of sinking funds, and the partial control of borrowing. Such action is not within the legislative competence of the Commonwealth Parliament to-day. Section 105 of the Constitution provides for the taking over of the State debts by the Commonwealth and for the utilization of portion of the payments due by the Commonwealth to the States for the payment of interest on the debts thus transferred. But this Parliament is given no power to enter into arrangements with the States in regard to sinking funds for the redemption of the debts so taken over, or to make an arrangement which will be permanent and unalterable, except with the unanimous consent of all the parties concerned, such as is embodied in the financial agreement recently reached between the Commonwealth and the States. It is most desirable that that power should be placed in the Constitution. Honorable members may or may not approve of any particular agreement; but I trust that this proposal for a referendum of the people will not be clouded by consideration of the arrangement already in operation. We have to concentrate our attention upon the wider and more important principle of getting constitutional authority to legislate for the validation of agreements of this character, perhaps in more acceptable terms, so that we may reach a permanent settlement of this highly complex problem. The essential fact to be borne in mind is that the purpose of the referendum is to make possible an agreement of some kind.
– The two matters will be necessarily linked together in the public mind.
– Unfortunately, that is true, but honorable members, even those who do not approve of the agreement already in existence, can give unprejudiced attention to the desirability of giving to this Parliament constitutional power to make financial agreements with the States. The mere passing of this bill for the taking of a referendum and an affirmative vote by the people, will not give effect to the agreement already made. Validating legislation will have to be passed by this Parliament before the agreement can have the force ‘of law.
As to the exact power that is sought by the proposed amendment of the Constitution, most of us, I think, are prepared to assume that it is desirable to reach some agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to financial relations and debts. Whatever agreement is reached will almost inevitably involve the taking over of the State debts by ‘the Commonwealth, and such an arrangement must be of a permanent character ; we could not have a temporary arrangement for the assumption by the Commonwealth of such a heavy responsibility as the taking over of £640,000,000 of State debts. And permanency cannot be secured merely by an act of Parliament ; the legislature has always the right to alter what it has previously done. Permanency can be secured only by a definite provision in the Constitution. But however wisely a financial agreement may be devised, and however well it may suit the circumstances of the day, alteration will always be liable to be required at a subsequent date. If the actual terms of an agreement were incorporated in the Constitution they could not be altered to meet changing circumstances without a further reference to the people, although it is clear that if the people were unanimously agreed, through their representatives in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments that an alteration was necessary, it should be made. The proposal, therefore, is to insert in the Constitution a provision which will allow of agreements being made, and of this Parliament legislating to give effect to any agreement unanimously accepted by the Parliaments of the States and the Commonwealth. Having validated such an agreement, this Parliament would be unable to legislate further on the subject without the unanimous concurrence of the States. It is desirable that whatever arrangement be made shall have some elasticity so that changing circumstances may be met, but at the same time neither the Commonwealth nor the individual States could consent to an agreement being made binding by the legislation of this Parliament if there was the slightest fear that the agreement could be altered without the concurrence of all the contracting parties. Having regard to the impossibility of completely dissociating that plain referendum issue from the agreement already entered into, I propose to deal very briefly with some aspects of that arrangement.
– Order! I am afraid that unless the position is put before honorable members clearly at the outset, some difficulty may arise in the course of the debate as to the extent to which reference may be made to the financial agreement. On a former occasion, during the present session, the House debated a bill relating to the financial agreement which is responsible for the introduction of this measure, and our Standing Orders provide that, except with the indulgence of the House, no honorable member shall allude to any debate of the same session, upon a question or bill not being then under discussion. Whatever latitude is now permitted the right honorable the Prime Minister, who, when I intervened, had just expressed a desire to refer to certain aspects of the financial agreement, must be allowed also to other honorable members who take part in the debate.
– It will be impossible to prevent other honorable members from debating the bill along the same lines.
– That is so. The bill before the House is for a proposed law to alter the Constitution in certain respects, and the Financial Agreement provided that the Commonwealth would take the necessary action to submit the specified proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. If the Prime Minister were permitted to discuss certain aspects of the agreement as he proposed to do, it would be difficult to limit the scope of the debate. I suggest that it is not desirable to have another prolonged discussion on the details of the financial agreement which was responsible for the introduction of this bill. I do not propose to give a ruling now. I merely mention the matter, as at. a later stage, the question of relevancy may arise.
– It appears to me that the only matter for consideration at the moment is the bill now before the House containing provisions for an alteration of the Constitution, which alteration, if adopted, will open wide the door for the entering into of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States. The bill, I remind honorable members, does not deal with any specific agreement. Since the House had ample opportunity to discuss the financial agreement, and actually debated that measure at considerable length, it is desirable that, in the debate on this bill, honorable members should deal only with the specific proposal embodied in it. I did not propose to go very far beyond that point myself. I shall be glad to have a definite ruling on the point from you, Mr. Speaker, because if I confine my remarks to the constitutional aspect of the measure, honorable members should not, at a subsequent stage, be allowed to enter into a wider field of discussion. I take the view that the debate should be confined to the proposed alteration of the Constitution, and that we should not discuss the merits or demerits of any particular agreement.
– My ruling is that the debate must be confined to the subjectmatter of the bill, which relates only to a proposed alteration of the Constitution. It provides that certain powers shall be vested in the Commonwealth to enter into certain agreements. Honorable members will be justified in referring to the financial agreement by way of illustration - not for the purpose merely of discussing its merits or demerits, but by way of indicating the nature of agreements that may or may not be made under the proposed new power. Reference to the agreement, except for that purpose, may not be relevant to the debate. If greater latitude were allowed, I am afraid the debate on the bill would be really a repetition of the discussion of the merits of the financial agreement itself.
– On a former occasion we debated the financial agreement which has been accepted by the States. The right honorable the Prime Minister has now introduced a bill which is in reality designed to give permanent effect to the agreement. It appears to me that in the discussion on this- measure the questions that will be asked by honorable members are: “What is the agreement?” “Is it worth while altering the Constitution to give effect to it?” I fail to see how it will be possible in the debate on this bill to prevent honorable members from referring in some detail to the agreement.
– Perhaps if I put the case as it appears to me we may be able to discuss the bill without referring at length to the details of the financial agreement, as suggested by the honorable member for South Sydney. As I indicated at an earlier stage in my remarks, we are all cognizant of the fact that the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States have been very complicated and difficult ever since the inauguration of federation. The trouble arose from the fact that when the Commonwealth - this new entity of government - was being brought into existence, it was necessary to provide some means by which it could be supplied with the finances requisite to enable it to carry out the functions entrusted to it. This meant taking away from the absolute sovereign jurisdiction of the States some of the powers they had previously exercised. It involved also taking from them certain sources of revenue which they had enjoyed previously. The Constitution laid down one method by which this could be done for a period of ten years. At the expiration of that period another method was adopted, again for a period of only ten years, and at the expiration of the second ten-year period it was left to the Commonwealth Parliament to determine the basis upon which the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the Sates should continue. The necessity for some definite and permanent basis of settlement which would ensure to the States security as to the financial provision made for them by the Commonwealth has long been shown. Every one recognizes that if an agreement that was just and equitable to both the Commonwealth and the States could be arrived at, that should be done ; but under the Constitution as it stands there is no power to bring about that security and permanency. An arrangement might be entered into by the Commonwealth and State Governments, and ratified by the different Parliaments, but it could not be permanent and unalterable. It could be varied by any one of the sovereign States that were parties to it. What is necessary to ensure permanency for an agreement of that character is to embody in the Constitution itself something which will provide that what has been agreed to by all the parties shall be unalterable. That is what this proposal for the amendment of the Constitution does.
Another question that confronts us in this connexion has relation to the debts of the Commonwealth and the States. There is a strong body of opinion that it is desirable that there should be a greater mobilization of the credit of Australia. It is obvious that the framers of the Constitution realized the importance of this matter, since they embodied in the Constitution section 105, which enables the Commonwealth Government to take over the debts of the States. If an arrangement could be made for consolidating the debts and mobilizing the credit of Australia - an arrangement which every one agreed was in the interests of the whole of the people of Australia - surely there should be a means of giving effect to that universally expressed desire. The financial position of this country would thus be strengthened, but under the Constitution as it stands to-day it is not possible to do that. It is equally clear that if any such arrangement were entered into, there would have to be vested in the Commonwealth authority to establish sinking funds to ensure the redemption of the debt, and to control future borrowings. Section 105 does not meet the case. It does not provide for the establishment of sinking funds, nor for what is equally important, the control by the Commonwealth of future loan transactions of the States, assuming that the debts of the States are taken over and consolidated. For this reason also I suggest it is eminently desirable that there should be an alteration of the Constitution to leave the way open for permanent arrangements of this character to be entered into and the wishes of the people given effect.
There is one other feature of the measure that might well be the subject of discussion, and that is the provision that agreements having been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States, and the Constitution having been amended as suggested, the Commonwealth should have legislative power to give effect to them. The proposed alteration” goes a little further. It provides that if the Commonwealth and all the States unanimously consent to an arrangement of the kind mentioned, it shall be possible, with the complete concurrence of all the parties thereto, to vary such agreement. The legislative power of this Parliament, therefore, is to be extended to enable it to pass legislation to give effect, with the concurrence of all the parties concerned to alterations of agreements arrived at. The Government considers that, in the circumstances I have just mentioned, it should not be necessary to refer complicated financial questions to the people for endorsement by way of referendum. The
Federal and State Parliaments are elected by all the people. The Ministry takes the view, therefore, that provided the representatives of the people in the Com- monwealth and all the State Parliaments concur, agreements entered into between the Commonwealth and the States should have in them this element of elasticity. I put it to honorable members that agreements concerning complicated issues such as the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, the consolidation of the debts and the mobilization of the credit of Australia, must necessarily involve so many conditions and provisions that it is impracticable to embody them in the Constitution itself. What we require must be done by giving power to enter into agreements. Quite apart from any particular financial agreement that might be proposed, the case is overwhelmingly in favour of embodying this provision in our Constitution so’ that we may have the power to deal with these most important questions of Commonwealth and States financial relations and the public debts of Australia. It appears to me to be imperative that we should deal with the subject immediately; but even if it be not dealt with at once one has not to look far into the future to see the time when the interests of the Commonwealth and the States will make any further postponement of consideration of the subject quite unavoidable. I commend the bill to honorable members of all parties, irrespective of political opinions and differences. The Government is not asking honorable members at this stage to accept any particular financial agreement that may have been entered into with the States. Any such agreement will have to be validated by this Parliament after the proposed alteration of the Constitution has been made.
– If we pass this bill shall we be forced to accept the agreement?
– We can accept it or reject it. Every honorable member must see that it is highly undesirable that there should be political differences with regard to actual alterations in the Constitution, although some people suggest that they are inevitable. We have definite evidence before us to-day that the great political parties in all the States -recognize the necessity for taking some action of this character. We have, the further evidence, although I am not using it as an argument on this particular point, that four Labour governments and two Nationalist governments in the different States have accepted a specific agreement. This shows clearly that the States recognize the necessity for something being done. I trust that the bill will receive the support of all parties, and that it will result in the desired alteration being made to the Constitution. We may afterwards disagree as to the terms of any particular agreement submitted to Parliament for ratification, but I appeal for unity on this measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. ‘Scullin) adjourned.
Additions, New Works and Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed).
Parts 1, 2 and 3
Proposed vote, ?383,785.
.- Before the luncheon adjournment, I was dealing with certain arguments which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) had used on a former occasion in favour of the postponement of expenditure until a more opportune time. The honorable member challenged my statement. I refer the Committee to vol. 103, page 4992, of Hansard. The honorably member for Fawkner, in discussing a proposed vote of ?150,000 for expenditure upon the Federal Capital, is reported to have said on that occasion -
Staggering as we are under a burden of accumulated debt, and determined as we are that nothing shall be spent that is not absolutely necessary, we are asked to agree to the expenditure of another ?150,000 on this precious Capital site.
– Then so long as things are merely kept alive the honorable member is content.
– I am content until the time arrives when we shall be justified in incurring further expenditure in regard to that site.
In vol. 99, page 8048, of Hansard, the honorable gentleman, in discussing a proposal for the erection of a hostel in Canberra, is reported to have said -
Although Australia has to carry huge financial obligations involving very heavy’ taxation, the Minister tells us that now is our opportunity to launch out on larger expenditure, and so increase still further our financial burden….. Until our obligations as a result of the war are to some extent discharged, and we have returned to more normal times, we should not undertake any more expenditure than is necessary.
I submit, therefore, that my statement of his argument was quite accurate.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who is interjecting, made an impassioned appeal last night for economy in public expenditure. I submit that if the honorable member were quite honest in his appeal he would not have urged with such vigour the construction of the North-south railway. He would have been prepared to take other than a South Australian view on the subject, and would have recognized that it is highly improbable that this railway will pay even the cost of axle grease. This Parliament agreed to the passage of that bill simply because it recognized that it was under a liability to South Australia. I should have been much better pleased personally had the cost of the railway come out of revenue, and not out of loan. ‘ Seeing that the honorable member for Wakefield was so anxious to incur that extravagant expenditure, he does not come before us with altogether clean hands, so to speak, in pleading for economy on this occasion.
– (Mr. Duncan Hughes). - I allowed the honorable member for Parramatta to use the words “ not honest “ in discussing the actions of the honorable member for Wakefield; but he is now suggesting that the honorable member does not come before us with “ clean hands.” The repetition of such suggestions is not desirable, though I am sure that the honorable member for Parramatta has not made them offensively.
– I was speaking of political honesty, sir. If objection is taken to my remarks may I say that the appeal of the honorable member for Wakefield for economy on this occasion comes with greatly lessened force because of his appeal for expenditure on the other occasions to which I have referred.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) made a statement earlier in this debate that the proposed GoulburnCanberra road was unnecessary. He advocated that a road should be constructed from Canberra to Tumut.
– That area is not served by a railway.
– Most parts of it have reasonably good access to railway facilities. I submit that the provision of good roads to Canberra is essential to the development and prosperity of the city. We should have a good road from here to Sydney, and another from here to Melbourne. I believe that there is something to be said for the construction of the road mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina.
– We have two good roads from Melbourne to the New South Wales border.
– And Commonwealth money is being spent on them at present, to improve them.
– But only under the Federal Aid Roads scheme.
– The Tumut road would be one of the best tourists roads we could have. Tasmania has shown us the value of catering for tourists traffic; but unfortunately she submits tourists to both an inward and outward poll tax, The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) opposed any expenditure on the construction of the Canberra-Goulburn road because they wanted certain work done in their own electorates.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable member said he wanted a lighthouse built at King Island.
– That is not in my electorate.
– Well, I do not understand the explanation of the honorable member’s riddle. He certainly desired that the money should be spent in Tasmania, instead of in New South Wales, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) took a similar view. It ill becomes the honorable member for Franklin to advance such a plea, because no State has been more generously treated by the Commonwealth than has Tasmania. It has been the spoilt child of the federation.
– Yes, it has been spoiled all right as a result of federation.
– Tasmania gets everything it asks for, and the more it receives the more it wants. I also remind the honorable member for Franklin that New South Wales will furnish about £45 17 s. out of every £100 spent by the Commonwealth on the proposed road, while Tasmania’s contribution wilt be something under 30s. for each £100, in proportion with the amount of Commonwealth revenue that is collected there. The Government of New South Wales has treated the Commonwealth Government generously by assisting it in this manner. I find it hard to believe that the States represented by some of the honorable members who oppose this expenditure would have dealt nearly as generously with the. Commonwealth as has New South Wales. This road will primarily give access to the Federal Capital, and will reduce by about 10 miles the distance between Sydney and Canberra. Since it is a new road, I can quite understand the New South Wales Government saying that it is not able to find for it 15s. in the £1, as would be required under the federal roads agreement. The money provided under that agreement is allocated in such a way that if we had waited for the road to be constructed under it at least ten years would have elapsed before the completion of the work. The New South Wales Government is pledged to a progressive policy with regard to the two principal roads south from Sydney, and recognizes that it is desirable to co-operate with the Commonwealth in the construction of this important highway to the national capital. Consequently, the New South Wales Government is prepared to bear one-third of the total cost. In all the ‘circumstances, this is a generous attitude on the part of New South Wales, and the Commonwealth has done well to enter into the arrangement.
I shall not deal at any length with the subject of the war memorial. I was rather surprised at some honorable members opposite objecting to the expenditure proposed in that direction on the ground that the money could be better applied to other purposes. A considerable outcry has been heard in the Federal Capital concerning the reduction in the building programme, and the turning away of many workmen, including skilled artisans. If the construction of the memorial is delayed until there is no other work to be proceeded with, it will be put off for a long time. The undertaking has been recommended by the Public Works Committee and approved by this Parliament, and as ten years have elapsed since the war I think it is quite time we went on with the work. Every other nation that participated in the late war has provided a memorial to its fallen soldiers; but we have no purely national memorial in Australia built by the Commonwealth, and in my opinion, we should no longer postpone the commencement of this work. If it means a little sacrifice in other directions, it is only appropriate that sacrifice should be made to enable the war memorial to be erected.
– I shall direct my remarks to the two items that have been the subject of numerous speeches, namely, the proposed grants for the Canberra-Goulburn road and the war memorial. I strongly object to the granting of £75,000 for the road referred to, first of all on the ground that the procedure adopted is. decidedly wrong. The work is one of great magnitude, and although the New South Wales Government, in common with other State Governments, has entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth for the construction of roads, this item provides for a special grant in aid of the State in addition to all the other Federal roads money. The reason given is that this road will lead to the national capital, and, in a sense, we are under an obligation to make trafficable roads towards Sydney, and, as the Treasurer put it, in all other directions. The Minister laid down the principle that this particular road led in the most important direction, and was, therefore, to receive first attention. Reference was made by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) to the generosity of the New South Wales Government. He administered a lecture to honorable members on all sides, and talked of parochialism. The honorable member has always been a staunch advocate of Canberra, and it might be suggested - although I would not think of doing so - that his special interest in it is due to the fact that he is a New South Wales member, and represents a Sydney constituency.
I merely make this observation to show that the same ungenerous motives which the honorable member has attributed to others can quite easily be attributed to himself, and very effectively too. There has not been one argument used in support of the expenditure of this money upon the Goulburn road that could not with greater force be used in support of a similar expenditure upon the road to Tumut. The procedure that we are adopting is wrong.
– What is wrong with it?
– It is wrong in the sense that there has been a definite scheme laid down by the Commonwealth for the construction and maintenance of main roads in the various States. Amongst those roads could very well be included the road from Goulburn to Canberra, because, as I interpret the specifications, it comes within the class of road eligible for the federal roads grant. Yet the New South Wales Government has not placed this road in that category. It has made no attempt to expend one penny of the federal grant upon it. It has expended its money in other directions, and the Commonwealth Government is now taking over the greater part of the obligation in connexion with that road. That procedure is altogether wrong. Honorable members have referred to the generosity of the New South Wales Government. Let us examine the position. Within the borders of New South Wales territory the Federal Capital City has been established. I have no objection to that. It is hardly necessary for me to say that I have consistently supported the establishment of the capital city, not that I was enthusiastic about it in principle, but an agreement having been made, I considered that it should be given effect. I therefore had something to do with the pushing forward of the works and buildings at Canberra. The New South Wales Government, and particularly the people of Sydney were always strong advocates of the expenditure of money in this city, and the pressure to build the city came from that direction. The city has now been established within the borders of New South Wales, and upon it has been expended £10,000,000 of the people’s money. That has indirectly and indirectly benefited, financially and otherwise, the State of New South Wales. I believe that at least one administration in that State promised, as an incentive to the Commonwealth Government to push forward with Canberra, to build a railway from Yass to Canberra.
– The New South “Wales Government undertook to do that.
– Did not New South Wales surrender this territory to the Commonwealth ?
– Yes, and it did so gladly. I do not desire at this stage to discuss the motives which actuated the Commonwealth Government in establishing Canberra. The point that I am making is that the New South Wales Government, whose generosity we are expected to admire, promised to expend nearly half a million pounds in constructing a permanent railway from Yass to Canberra.
– From Yass to the border of the territory.
– That is so.
– The Commonwealth Government failed to carry out its obligations under that arrangement.
– I am referring to the fact that the New South Wales Government offered to expend nearly half a million pounds to build a railway from Yass to the border of this Territory, and yet apparently is to-day not prepared to expend a far less sum in constructing a road to give access to Sydney.
– The New South Wales Government proposes to expend £66,000.
– Provided that the States expend twice that amount on the road in question. I have mentioned the road to Tumut. Although I do not advocate its construction, I contend that from the point of view of development the Commonwealth would get better value for its money if it constructed that road instead of the road from Goulburn to Canberra. In view of our present financial position, it is unwise to expend this money. Notonly is the procedure wrong, but the time is most inopportune. Yesterday the Treasurer budgeted for a deficit of £2,600,000. He proposed nothing for the liquidation of that deficit. It is intended merely to hand it on to good old posterity. Among the budget proposals is the cur»ailment of many important public works, some of which, when completed, will be decidedly reproductive. We are curtailing these works, and yet one of the first items on the Estimates under discussion provides for the expenditure of £75,000 upon the road from Goulburn to Canberra. I venture to suggest that the people of this country will take decided objection to that item.
I wish now to refer to the National War Memorial to be erected at Canberra. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) stated this morning in his temperate, well-reasoned, and obviously sincere speech, this is a very difficult question. Any honorable member who suggests the suspension of this work - no one would suggest its abandonment - should make his position clear, and I propose to do that. It would certainly be unwise to expend the sum of £50,000 forthwith on this work. I yield to no one in my admiration for the sacrifices of those whom this memorial is to honour, but as other honorable members have said, there are thousands of war memorials throughout the length and breadth of this country. They are in every tiny bush hamlet. But there is a far greater memorial to these men ; their deeds are enshrined in the minds and hearts of the people of Australia, and that memorial will grow with the years.
I strongly object to the proposed expenditure of £75,000 on the road from Goulburn to Canberra. If the Government postponed this work that would have the approval of the overwhelming majority of the people. We have tens of thousands of returned soldiers settled upon the land in the various States, and they are to-day experiencing great hardships. Some of them are in a most deplorable position. We are under an obligation to them as well as to those who made the supreme sacrifice; and for the reasons I have given I consider that the Government would be well advised to postpone the expenditure of £50,000 on the Australian War Memorial. So far as the expenditure on the GoulburnCanberraroad is concerned, I believe that honorable members on both sides of the chamber have made out an unanswerable case in favour of the item being struck off the Estimates.
, -It is practically needless for me to say that I am interested in all roads that lead to Canberra. Yet while I take a parochial interest in everything that directly affects this city, I hope at the same time I adopt a broad national outlook on matters generally. On several occasions in this chamber I have advocated that Canberra should be well served with roads, particularly roads connecting it with Yass and Goulburn. Now £75,000 has been allocated for the construction of a new road between Goulburn and Canberra, and the project has but my reluctant support. This road came up for discussion when I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament at least two and a half years ago, and I remember the protest that then arose from people who held land along other routes. Those people were informed that their protests could not be considered, as arrangements had already been made between the Commonwealth and State Governments to construct the road. Already a considerable amount of money has been spent on the work, and people have been induced to take up land along the route. Recently I was in the Lake George district, and found that many people have invested their money’ there, believing that the road, having been started, will be completed. The Commonwealth Government is under an obligation to those people, and should carry out the undertaking that it entered into with the New South Wales Government. Originally I thought that the road was not justified, as it shortens the distance between Goulburn and Canberra by but a comparatively few miles, and roads already exist between the two cities through Tarago, and through Gunning and Gundaroo. I still think it would have been wiser to spend the money on the existing routes. The road through Tarago has been used excessively because of the establishment of Canberra, and I consider that the Commonwealth Government should subsidize its maintenance until the new road via Collector is completed, as the authorities concerned find themselves unable to maintain it adequately because of the abnoraml traffic. I intend to support the action of the Government in allocating this money, as I believe’ that it is merely honoring a contract already entered into. It would, indeed, be a calamity if the Government went back on this proposal now that the work has begun, and people have been induced to invest their money in the locality on the understanding that the Government would build the road.
– What obligation is the Commonwealth Government under to the New South Wales Government in this matter ?
– I am unable to say precisely, but I know that a contract was made between the two governments. I base my reasoning- on information which is in possession of the man in the street. In spite of the statements of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) I believe that the New South Wales Government has dealt very generously with the Commonwealth Government in regard to the construction of this road. Although the road is serving only a very small portion of New South Wales, and became necessary purely because of the establishment of Canberra, the New South Wales Government is finding one-third of the cost.
– Can the honorable member say whether the road at present under construction is in the hands of the Federal or of the State Government?
– Like all other main roads, it is being carried out by the Main Roads Board of New South Wales, but the Government of New South Wales is under no obligation to build a road to the boundary of the Federal Capital Territory. Whatever may be embodied in the agreement between the two governments, I am confident that it imposes an obligation upon the Commonwealth Government, otherwise the road would not have been started. Had this occurred a year or two ago I should not have voted for it, although it passes through my electorate.
– Are there not two other roads between Canberra and Goulburn?
– Yes, one via Tarago and Bungendore and the other via Gunning and Gundaroo. The road through Collector runs between the two. Personally, I would rather have seen the money expended on the existing roads; but it would be a breach of faith with both the people concerned and the New South Wales Government to cancel the contract. I am aware that another road has been proposed by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), which I do not oppose. It is contended that it would be very difficult to construct that road, but the time may come when it will have consideration. Canberra has been established, and if it is to develop properly it will have to be served by good main roads from the north, south, east, and west, and the Minister will have to carry out all undertakings into which he may have entered.
It has been stated that the road via Collector will also serve as portion of the road between Canberra and Jervis Bay. I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government is bound to construct a road between Canberra and Jervis Bay just as much as it is bound to fulfil its promise to build the north-south railway. That road was promised when the Government of New South Wales ceded portion df its territory to the Commonwealth Government, and the obligation must be honoured. It is necessary for Canberra to have a port.
– How far is Jervis Bay from Canberra?
– About 100 miles, but a port is necessary to the Federal Capital, and this road will assist in maintaining communication with it. Too much money has already been spent on the road to allow the Government to withdraw from the undertaking, and, in addition, it must always be kept in mind that there is an obligation to be honoured. The War Memorial should be proceeded with as soon as possible. Honorable members have preached economy, but practically every one who has advocated economy in regard to the War Memorial and the road to Canberra has suggested increased expenditure in his own electorate.
– The honorable member is in the happy position of being able to ask for this thing to be done, and of having the money spent in his own electorate at the same time.
– If the honorable member only understood the position he would realize that I am not in a very happy position, not nearly so happy as it might appear. I contend that the War
Memorial should be started, notwithstanding the fact that the national finances are not in a flourishing condition. There is nothing very generous in building a memorial to your glorious dead when your Treasury is overflowing. The time for us to act is now, when many of the people who were associated with the soldiers are still alive. Now is the opportune time to prove that this tribute comes from the heart of the people. To delay now might be interpreted, not as an act of economy, but as indicating the fact that we are getting away from the period of the war, and wish to spend the money in another direction. That is the interpretation that, will be placed by outsiders on any further postponement. This War Memorial has been talked about for years, and now, if we vote against the spending of the first £50,000, it will be difficult for us to establish our sincerity of purpose in regard to it.
.- It seems to me that I have been saved the necessity of condensation in regard to this branch of the Estimates by the fact that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), in opening the debate laid his finger upon two matters of importance which were likely to provoke discussion, and the debate from that moment has proceeded exclusively along the lines thus suggested. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) spoke on these two subjects for half an hour in the aggregate, devoting almost the whole of his speech to an impassioned address in support of the new CanberraGoulburnroad, and leaving but a minute or two for his few perfunctory observations on the question of the War Memorial to the soldiers. While the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking, he came into conflict with those whom H. G. Wells would describe as his passionate friends - the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and the still more passionate friend, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). In the course of my experience I have had the honour of instructing the honorable member for Fawkner, but I have never been under the obligation hitherto of defending him, although I have no doubt that, if I found myself in the dock on any serious charge, I should be prepared for the moment to sink party differences, and seek his assistance. Were the charge too serious for that to be given, he would, no doubt, grant me the necessary extension of rope. I have been greatly interested in this discussion on the subject of the construction of main roads. It is a common saying that all roads lead to Rome. Applying this maxim to Australia we may say that all roads lead to Canberra, and that such roads should be matters of first consideration, but after all we must be logical in these matters. It is obvious that if this road from Goulburn to the Capital is to be constructed wholly or principally by the Commonwealth Government, facilities must be given also to those deserving people who desire to get to Goulburn in order that they may reach Canberra. No patriotic Australian, therefore, would think of opposing a substantial grant from the Commonwealth Treasury for the building of a road from Sydney to Goulburn in order that the nation’s interests might be properly recognized. But, after all, what is the use of main arterial roads if the feeders to those roads, the smaller roads leading from the more remote places to the main roads, are not also put in order. Therefore it seems to me only logical that in order that people may flock to Canberra in their thousands and hundreds of thousands all roads in Australia should be brought as near to perfection as possible. And when one has established that proposition as incontrovertible, one can recognize the logic of the honorable member from Tasmania who said that his State had no main road to Canberra at all, and that steps should be taken so that this deficiency might be supplied as soon as possible.
– As the honorable member for Fawkner says “ Q.E.D.”, but I hope that my argument, though sound, will not be taken as serious. I agree with those who say that it is idle to speak of the serious state of Australia’s finances unless we are prepared to take practical steps to stem the tide of expenditure. I have regarded the position for some time past as one of the utmost gravity. There is need to effect economy in Australia, and having the various avenues of expenditure open before us we should apply to them a most critical eye and keen intelligence for the purpose of discerning what proposals for expenditure can be done without for the time being, if not permanently. It is hard for me to imagine at the moment a less urgent matter than the construction of a tourist road from Goulburn to the Federal Territory. It must be obvious to the least-informed person that such a road will serve the pleasure rather than the needs of that cultivated section of the Australian people who have leisure to travel by motor to observe the beauty of Canberra and enjoy its excellent climate. It is curious that one cannot discuss this matter in this Parliament without being met with a great deal of churlish criticism from certain persons who happen to be resident in the State of New South Wales, and who imagine that there is on the part of those of us who live outside that State some parochial prejudice against the Federal Capital Territory. I remind” those persons that the Federal Capital Territory belongs to us just as much as it does to them; that our interest in it is just as great as theirs, and that our pride in it is just as bright and as strong as theirs can possibly be. As a matter of fact, in the State of Victoria I haveseveral times spoken in favour of the Capital. I have always declined to join with, those who ridicule it. I have always tried to persuade the people of the Commonwealth that the site for the Capital was well chosen, that Canberra has an ideal climate, and that it is destined to be a city of which the nation may well be proud. But the details of the methods by which the Territory is being developed are another matter. The more one loves the Capital and admires it, the less can one appreciate a great deal of what is being done in the process of its development. I have no desire to make a general survey of the Federal Capital at the present moment,* but I take leave to say, without any reflection on the present administration, that so far a tremendous amount of the people’s money has been wasted in its construction. I am, therefore, totally opposed to the proposed expenditure of money on this main road. I think there is no call for it at the moment. I do not know whether there will be any call for it in the more distant future, but in the present state of Australia’s finances I regard provision for it on the Estimates as absolutely inexcusable.
I turn now for a moment to a proposed expenditure which is of so much greater importance that I almost hesitate to bracket it with a proposal to spend money on main roads. It was for that reason I criticized the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) for disposing of the War Memorial with a few perfunctory remarks, and devoting the greater part of his very earnest address to the much less important question of the road between Goulburn and the Federal Capital Territory. The War Memorial is a vastly more important matter, because it raises considerations other than those of mere economy. I have no doubt that the intention underlying the proposal to spend money on such a memorial is that honour should be done alike to our living soldiei’3 and the honoured dead. I should like to do them honour to the limit of my small powers for the ideals which they served, and for the suffering and sacrifices which they bore. I should like that honour to be done to them in the first place in the hearts of the people; I know that it is being done in the homes which the war has left desolate. I should like to honour them in service to the afflicted, relief to the suffering, in the provision of homes for the homeless, and in taking the burdens from the shoulders of those who are grievously overburdened. I should like to do honour along those lines to the soldiers who returned, and to those who did not return. There are a great many practical methods by which substantial service can and ought to be done to those men who in its hour of need served their’ country in the spirit to which I have referred, and the Government has in many respects fallen very short in making just recompense and provision for them. I was in this chamber not long ago when a discussion took place in regard to the appointment of an appeal board. That discussion arose out of the fact that the Minister in charge of Repatriation was being constantly called upon to consider the applications of returned men who were seeking repatriation relief on account of broken health caused, as they said, by their war service, or, as the department would have them believe, by something which had nothing whatever to do with their war service. I have heard Ministers say that in these matters it is the practice of the department to give the returned soldiers the benefit of the doubt, and I know very well that the present Minister in charge of this matter is entirely sympathetic ; but I have had many cases brought under his notice in which an element of very substantial doubt has been raised by duly qualified medical practitioners in favour of the returned men, and the doubt has been resolved, not in favour of the applicants, but in favour of the department. Whatever the Minister may feel about the matter, the fact remains that in many cases much loss than justice is being done to the returned soldiers. These are not men who in their health and strength come seeking subsidies ; they are men who in their health and strength offered their services and are to-day so broken by sickness that they are compelled to ask us to make good the promises we made to them when they enlisted. I claim that rather than spend money on a perfectly useless memorial, the law which prevents these men from getting relief might well be liberalized in their favour, even if it costs a large sum to do that. Money could bc more advantageously, humanely, and justly spent in removing the grievous, and in most cases real, disabilities suffered by men on the land, in removing the grievances of a great many others in respect of their war service homes or their pensions, and possibly in giving further relief to widows and orphans, than upon the war memorial which it is proposed to erect in the capital city of Australia. I am not one who has no respect for the sentiment of a nation. On the contrary, I have the greatest respect for sentiment and for things spiritual; I do not agree with those who believe that life ends in corruption. On the tomb in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London of the great architect, Sir Christopher Wren, are these words) “ If you seek his memorial, lookaround.” Those who look around upon that great building which he designed can there see evidence of his master mind; the building itself is his greatest memorial. And, alas, those who seek a memorial of the war, something to keep it in their minds and hearts, have not far to seek! The evidence of its devastation and desolation are still evident on every hand. So long as the present generation lasts the memory of the dreadful tragedy of the war will remain. I am one- of those who believe that no useful purpose can be served by preserving the memory of the war as war. I was led to believe that when the nations acclaimed the recent act of the representatives of the civilized powers in signing a pact for the outlawing of war they applauded the invitation to the people of the world not to remember the war, but to forget it, and to look ahead to a brighter and better era in which there would bo none. I believe that that was the spirit animating the members of the League of Nations and those who invited the representatives of the Powers to cross the seas to America with the object of reducing armaments with a view to bringing about a lasting peace among, the peoples of the civilized world. Those things I believed, and hoped that some practical result would be achieved. But what is this useless and most expensive memorial designed to do except to remind succeeding generations that we engaged in a bloody conflict, extending over four years, with our brothers and sisters of another nation, who, like ourselves, were members of the white race? Long after the feeling of hostility has been forgotten, and the absurd prejudices that gave rise to the war have been laid aside and buried in oblivion, this memorial, if erected, will record that we fought - as doubtless most men believe that we did - a just war against a barbarous and unjust people. It may be - I hope otherwise - that the day will come when we as a nation shall engage in hostilities with other nations than those against whom we recently fought. And it may be that future generations will be asked to erect further useless memorials of the kind now contemplated. Bather than erect such memorials, let us relieve the distress, the suffering, the loss, arising out of the last war ; let us pay the debts that we incurred in connexion with it; let us, if possible, forget the last war and the tragedies and follies associated with it, and devote our energies to the building of a new world, based on a better understanding among the nations. Probably the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has no desire to be associated with me in matters of policy, but I desire to endorse what he said yesterday on this subject, when he opposed the expenditure of money on a war memorial in the circumstances now existing. This matter is one of fundamental importance; it is not a question merely of economy, and I do not on that ground, important though it be, base my objection to the erection of a war memorial.
I repeat that we on this side shall examine every item in the Estimates with a view to finding where savings can be made, for we believe that we should hesitate to spend even £1 if it can legitimately be saved. The nation is weighted with debt which, .so far, the Government has propounded no scheme to liquidate. While I oppose expenditure on a war memorial for economic reasons, my opposition to it rests rather upon the considerations which I have endeavoured shortly to advance, and in which I believe most strongly.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed - ‘
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Recently a deputation awaited upon the Prime Minister to ask him to define what is meant by “ public control “ in the event of that issue being favoured to-morrow by the residents of the Federal Capital Territory. A good deal of discussion has taken place within the territory as to whether “ public control “ means control by the Commonwealth Government, the Federal Capital Commission, or the residents themselves on lines similar to those adopted at Renmark, in South Australia. In to-day’s press there appears an announcement that at a meeting to-night the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Poster) will make an authoritative statement as to the meaning of “ public control.” I should be glad to know whether the Prime Minister has given authority for the opinions of the Government in this matter to be made known to the people per medium of the honorable member for Wakefield.
– I have not been asked to do anything of the kind suggested by the honorable member. Had I been asked to do so I should have refused. I have merely been asked to explain the history of the Renmark Hotel, which is conducted on the Gothenburg system. Probably I shall not influence one vote.
– The advertisement states that the honorable member will make an authoritative statement as to what “ public control “ in the Territory means.
– In that case, I shall preface my remarks by saying that I shall not tell them anything of the kind.
– In reply to the question which was addressed to me by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), I merely desire to endorse the statement of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that, notwithstanding what may have appeared in the press, the remarks of that honorable member to-night will not be those of a spokesman for the Government, but merely an expression of his own views. I have no doubt that he will greatly assist those residents of the Federal Capital Territory who hear his address, by outlining for their consideration the system of public control that operates in Renmark and in other places with which he is acquainted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 August 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280831_reps_10_119/>.