10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As honorable members are aware, a vacancy has occurred in the representation of the electoral division of West Sydney.
It has been announced in this House that a dissolution of the House will be sought at an early date, with a view to the holding of the general election on Saturday, the 17th November next.
I have made careful inquiry and I find that, if a writ were issued and the shortest reasonable periods allowed between the issue of the writ and the nominations, and between the nominations and the polling, it is almost certain that the session would have concluded and the dissolution of the House have taken place before the date of the polling.
Therefore, I do not propose to issue a writ, under existing circumstances, for the vacant division.
Mr. COOK brought up the reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works together with minutes of evidence relating to the proposed establishment of automatic telephone exchanges at Cairns (Queensland) and City West (Melbourne) and the conversion of the South Melbourne automatic exchange to six-figure working.
Ordered to be printed.
– The Department of
Public Health has imported a certain quantity of radium, which I understand has been distributed in different centres. Will the Minister inform me why such an important centre as Ballarat has not shared An the distribution ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter immediately. It is probable that Bendigo received a supply because a federal laboratory is established there. I shall let the honorable member have all the facts to-morrow.
Bounty on Coal
– Will the Prime
Minister state whether there is any truth in the report published in the Sydney press that there is a probability of the Government granting a bounty or subsidy upon the production of coal in and its export from Australia?
– I have already made a statement in this House with respect to the negotiations that are being carried on by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Bavin, with those connected with the coalmining industry. I have no further statement about the matter to make at the present time.
allowances to charitable Institutions.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House of the date when hospitals and charitable institutions will receive the increased allowance referred to in the budget speech for the maintenance of invalid and old-age pensioners who are inmates of them?
– The increases will be available when the measures authorizing them have been passed through Parliament, and been assented to by the Governor-General and proclaimed.
– -Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has yet appointed a dairy bacteriologist and dairy chemist ?
– I believe that no such appointments have yet been made ; but if the honorable member will place on the notice-paper a question relating to the matter I shall ascertain the exact position.
– Some days ago I asked the Prime Minister a question relating to the importation of sacks. Those that have been imported vary greatly in size, and many do not conform to the standard of the Chapman sack. The right honorable gentleman promised to see if any action could be taken. Have inquiries been made, and has he arrived at any conclusion?
– I have not yet received a report upon the matter.
– Has the Minister for Health received a report in connexion with the International Cancer Conference held recently? If he has, is be able to make a statement to the House, particularly in relation to the dominant view in regard to radium treatment?
– I have received an unofficial report, and also letters from personal friends, about the work that was done at the big conference held recently in London. In view of the arrangements that have been made with respect to the distribution and use of radium, I propose to make a statement on the subject when the estimates of the Department of Public Health are under consideration.
– Has the Prime Minister read the report which has- appeared in the Melbourne press to the effect that, while crossing from Tasmania to the mainland, the steamer Loongana exhausted her supply of coal, an event which might have resulted in a great calamity? Is it the intention of the Government to take any action in the matter ?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers, but I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether Mr. Justice Pike’s report upon land settlement problems in relation to returned soldiers has yet been finalized? If it has not, is there any possibility of its being made available before the end of this session?
– Mr. Justice Pike’s report has not yet been finalized, and I fear that there is no hope that it will be available before this House rises. Two or three weeks ago, in answer to a question, I indicated the exact position in regard to the report.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories at an early date review the passport system ? Will he also consider immediately the wisdom of not requiring passports for persons travelling to Eiji, a trip which occupies only a few days ? The New Zealand Government has already abolished the system in respect of travel between the Dominion and Eiji.
– I have already taken steps to exempt travellers leaving Sydney on a round trip to Fiji from the obligation to obtain passports, and intend to review the whole system at an early date.
– Seeing that the Prime
Minister and Premier of New South Wales appear to be anxious to do something to reducethe price of coal, will the Prime Minister promise that in any negotiations that may be carried on with the proprietors of the coal mines he will have attention drawn to the manner in which coal shares have been watered? One effective way of reducing the price of coal to the consumers would be to bring the capital value of the mines down to a reasonable figure.
– If any immediate action is found to be possible for reducing the price of coal, a corollary to it will be a full investigation of the coal industry, and should that occur one matter that would be inquired into would unquestionably be that referred to by the honorable member;
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
When will the new reprint of the Commonwealth Electoral Rolls for Western Australia be available?
– The rolls for the divisions of Forrest, Kalgoorlie, and Swan are now available. Those for Fremantle and Perth will be available on the 15th and 22nd of this month, respectively.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the recent serious attacks on two residents by blacks in Central Australia, with the . apparent view of securing food supplies, will he cause inquiries to be made with a view to esablishing a. cattle station in that territory on which the natives may find employment and secure food supplies, on similar lines to the Moola Bulla Station established for that purpose in the East Kimberley district by the Government of Western Australia?
– The suggestion made by the honorable member will receive consideration, in the light of the recommendations made by the officer o.f the Queensland Government, who is now engaged upon an investigation into aboriginal affairs in Central Australia and North Australia.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 30th August the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the Prime Minister the following question: -
Is the Prime Minister aware of a ‘recent notice which appeared in the press, calling attention to the prevalence of the foot and mouth disease in the Argentine and Java? If so, will he take the necessary steps to prevent the importation into Australia of kapok from Java, for the protection of the Australian cattle industry and the assistance of the local cotton-growing industry, which could, without difficulty, supply cotton lint as a substitute for kapok?
It is considered that there is no danger of foot and mouth disease being introduced into Australia in kapok, and that action in the direction suggested would not be justified under the quarantine.
– On the 31st August the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 30th August the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions: -
Is it a fact . that Queensland could produce the whole of Great Britain’s requirements of sugar if the necessary preference were given by the British Government? 5. (a) Has he read the recent statements made by Sir Benjamin Morgan, Chairman of the British Empire Producers’ Association, indicating that he intended on his return to England to recommend to the British” Government that a greater measure of preference be given to Australian sugar?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Kingdom are prepared for calendar years only. The following statement gives the importations for the calendar years 1926, 1927 and the first six months of 1928: -
(1st January, 1928, to 30th June, 1928), £490,366.
Figures on which an estimate for 1927-28 could be made are not yet available.
The last-mentioned estimates have been prepared from the Australian export figures for the periods indicated, the information not being available from the United Kingdom publications to hand. Figures on which an estimate for 1927-28 could be made are not yet available.
– On 5th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
I ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard, the detailed statement of the work of the Conciliation Commissioner. I am sure that it will be of interest to honorable members.
The following papers were presented
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Eighth Annual Report by the Trustees, 1st July, 1927, to 30th June, 1928 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest for the Technical Education of Soldiers’ Children.)
Ordered to be printed.
Tariff Board Report and Recommendation - Sewing Threads and Sewing Cottons.
Debate resumed from 11th September (vide page 6552), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Having examined the bill that was introduced by the Treasurer last evening, I find that it gives effect to what Parliament thought had been done when it last amended the principal act. “We extended exemptions to show grounds, but the word “ sole “ has been interpreted in such a way that a number of show- grounds have not been exempted. The intention was that they should be exempted, and I think that it is the general desire of members that they should. The other amendments to be made by the present bill are of a machinery character only, preventing some taxpayers from evading their responsibilities or extending the time allowed for obtaining exemption from payment by delaying the. sending in of appeals. Generally speaking, these other amendments are designed to tighten np the law, and as the explanation given by the Treasurer seems to have covered the whole* bill, I do not intend to delay the House by debating it further on the second reading.
– Although I do not consider the amendments to be made by the bill of great importance, I am sorry that opportunity was not given to members to consider the remarks made by the Treasurer in moving its second reading yesterday.. The Hansard report of his speech is not yet available, nor has any newspaper report of it been received. It is, therefore, a little difficult to know exactly why some of the provisions of the bill are considered necessary. The provision exempting show grounds is desirable, because as the act has been construed, practically every agricultural1 society in Australia would be deprived of the relief intended to be given by previous legislation. Nearly every show ground in this country lies vacant for the greater part of the year, and if the agricultural society which owns it can let it, and make money thereby, it is all to the benefit of the society. The real test seems to be that revenue derived from the renting of these grounds should be actually devoted to the purposes of the society, and not to the benefit of private persons. I myself brought before the notice of the Treasurer an instance of the unfair operation possible under the existing law, and I am glad that the alteration .contained in the bill is to be made.
The amendment in clause 3 relating to reference of appeals to a board appears to be a justifiable alteration of the present law, because the new provision applies only in the case of default by the taxpayer, in which case the forfeiture of his deposit is made mandatory.
As the amendment made by clause 4 arises out of an amendment which I moved in this chamber last December, and which met with the general approval of members on both sides, I confess that, while the alteration does not seem to me to be highly important, I am unable to see why it is proposed. The arrangement which I suggested has been in force only since the end of last year, and there has been little time to ascertain whether it is working well or ill. I must dissociate myself from responsibility for any flaw that there may be in the actual wording adopted last year, because I agreed to withdraw my amendment to allow of the substitution of a form and proviso drafted by the Government. The Treasurer said at that time that that amendment had been carefully examined by the Taxation Department and by the legal officers of the Crown. If it is now necessary to alter it the fault does not lie with me, although I was the original mover in the matter.
I should like the Treasurer, in replying, or when the bill reaches the committee stage, to explain the reason for the addition of a sub-clause providing that where, in the opinion of the court, there is unreasonable delay on the part of the appellant in setting an appeal down for hearing, the court may, upon application by the respondent, dismiss the appeal for want of prosecution. The ordinary procedure, whether a matter is referred to the High Court or the Supreme Court, or to a board, is for the taxpayer to request the Commissioner to bring the matter before the body in question. In other words, the taxpayer is practically always the appellant. Occasionally, when a justice of the High Court has heard the case, and has decided against the Commissioner, and the latter wishes to carry the matter to the full High Court, the Commissioner would become the appellant; but in 49 land tax cases out of 50, and possibly in 99 cases out of 100, the appellant is the taxpayer. Up to the present time all he has had to do has been to request the Commissioner to have the matter set down for hearing, and the only assurance I am asking for is that the effect of this clause will not be, directly or indirectly, to throw the responsibility for having the appeal set down for hearing upon the taxpayer and not upon the Commissioner. I imagine that there is no such intention, and that it is intended that this clause shall apply equally to the Commissioner and the taxpayer. But as the appellant is practically always the taxpayer, I ask whether it is intended that this amendment shall overrule the general custom by which the taxpayer requests the Commissioner to have the matter set down for hearing, and the setting down is done by the Taxation Department through the Commissioner. I should be glad of the Treasurer’s assurance on that point, so that it may be made perfectly clear.
.- The concession granted by the Treasurer to agricultural societies will be appreciated; but I take this further opportunity of bringing under the notice of the Minister and the chief commissioner administering this act, the fact that for many years land values have appreciated because Australia has enjoyed prosperity in her primary industries. Of course, exception cannot be taken to revaluations with a view to making fair assessments; but now the tide appears to have turned. World values of primary products are receding, and the seasons are now less favorable than they were. Generally speaking, the valuations now made do not reflect present conditions. I want the Treasurer to indicate in his reply how long a period is likely to be covered by the re-valuations recently made. Many landholders have been hard hit by them, because they are now experiencing their second bad year. This vitally affects some of the* hardest working people in Australia. There is nothing agitating the minds of the rural people to-day more than the values placed upon their properties at a time when their industries are suffering. I do not ask the Treasurer to interfere with the administration of the act; but I have a right to point out that recently revised valuations have placed an increased tax on land at a time when, in principle, we are reducing taxation. We have in this chamber deliberately reduced taxation with a view to relieving the community, but because of this process of putting high values on land relief has not been given to a very deserving section. I wish to bring this matter to the ear of the Treasurer, and I hope to that of the department. The recent re-valuations of land are placing severe hardships upon the rural parts of Australia, and I think, also, on the metropolitan areas, with which I am not so familiar.
– What was the date of the re-valuations?
– They have been made quite recently, and in many cases the effect has been severe indeed. An additional capital levy has been made upon men at a time when their industry has been hard hit, and this at a time when cognizance should be taken of the general condition of Australian rural industries. In many cases the men holding large areas of land are not the best off. Although they hold large areas they may have a comparatively small equity in them, and they are taxed not only upon the equity but upon the mortgage as well. I stress once again the fact that the recent revaluations are pressing very hard indeed upon land-holders, and they are receiving no benefit at all from the concessions that have recently been made by this chamber.
.- Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), I do not intend to oppose the bill, but I should like to have some more information about it from the Treasurer, particularly in regard to the exemption from taxation of agricultural shows and shows of like character. Most of the shows that are held in the various cities each year a*re glorified shopping centres. At the Sydney Show is sold drapery, ladies’ underwear, machinery, motor cars, and all kinds of articles. The salesmen there enter into competition with the shopkeepers of Sydney, who have to pay Federal and State taxes and municipal rates and taxes. It is not fair that shows run on such lines should be exempt from taxation. I should not object to this concession being made in the case of an agricultural show that is held in a country district ; but it is quite unnecessary to exempt from taxation shows held in the various capital cities. I am connected with the Sydney Trades Hall, and that institution does not make one penny profit. There is a mortgage on the property, yet we have to pay land tax. At one time we paid £40 in taxation, but now, because of improvements and. re-valuations, we are paying £400. The Commonwealth Government is facing a large deficit for the current year, and yet it is now asking us to exempt the Sydney Show from taxation. I cannot understand why this Government continually grants taxation concessions to the privileged classes. Every year the burden of taxation is being placed more on the shoulders of the wage earners. I hope that the few words that I have uttered will bear fruit, and that the Government will levy taxation on those who are well able to bear it.
– I am -sorry that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has on this occasion departed from his usual broad outlook and descended to the level of parish pump politics. Surely a great institution like the Sydney Show should be exempt from taxation. It caters for the whole of the people of Australia, and any profits that are made are placed into a fund for future exhibitions. We should be proud of such an institution, and I am pleased that the Treasurer has seen fit to exempt it from taxation.
I wish to say a word or two in support of what the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Eodgers) has said in respect of land valuation. I do not suppose that land values in Tasmania have increased at all except in the case of pastoral properties, which have advanced in value during recent years.
– It is true that the honorable member for Wannon referred to that subject, but I did not call him to order because I was expecting him to connect his remarks with the amending bill. He failed to do that. I cannot permit the honorable member for Wilmot to discuss land valuations.
– Any person who objects to a valuation may approach the Appeal Board, and as that board is referred to in the bill, surely my. remarks have some connexion with the subject before the House. I ask the Treasurer to look into this matter, because the valuers have a habit of taking, as a guide, the price realized for a property which, as everybody in the vicinity knows, has been sold at considerably above its normal value. There should be some means of lowering valuations much more quickly than they are lowered at present. During good seasons properties may be sold to advantage, and in that case there is no objection to increased valuations;, but when bad seasons prevail valuations should be lowered. Properties in Tasmania, with the exception of pastoral properties, have been gradually declining in value for some years ; in fact, it is difficult to sell land at all. Those land-holders who are heavily mortgaged are in a most unfortunate position. The valuers have a tendency to increase valuations unnecessarily, and there is no proper opportunity of getting them reduced when bad seasons set in.
– In reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), who has complained of the exemption of show grounds from taxation, I should like to point out that what is being done under the bill is really to give effect to what was the original intention of Parliament. Quite recently the Crown Law Department pointed out to the Commissioner of Taxation that the use of the word “solely” in the act makes it necessary for the Commissioner to tax show grounds, and this amendment is proposed to prevent the department from having to do what no honorable member intended should be done.
Regarding the subject raised by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), I would inform him that it is only to prevent delay that it is proposed to add another sub-section to section 49. It is quite obvious that when an opportunity is offered to a taxpayer to be recouped and to have his taxation refunded, he will have no incentive to go on with a case, especially if he has a chance of losing it. At present, however, an appellant alone can set down an appeal for hearing; all that the department can do is to transmit the appeal to the court, and await further action by the appellant. This provision is to deal with cases in which appellants take no action. It is reasonable that in such circumstances the department should not have to refund money for the period for which the appellant has caused delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (References to Board).
– It has been suggested that some hardship has been done to taxpayers by reason of the present state of the law, and the existing system of valuation. Last year an effort was made to correct any disability to which the taxpayer might be subject, first by providing him with a Valuation Board of Appeal and assuring him of representation on that board, and secondly by substituting triennal for annual valuations. That system was begun on the 30th June, 1927, so that the next valuation will be on the 30th June, 1930. No provision exists for making revaluations between those dates. A deputation waited upon me recently in Melbourne, and placed before me arguments somewhat similar to those employed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). The speakers pointed out that 1926 and 1927 were the years of peak inflation. I asked them whether they would be willing to go back to the system of annual valuation in order to overcome this disability, and their unanimous declaration was that they preferred triennal valuations, even though some hardship might be inflicted. However, there is very accessible machinery in existence for having the actual valuations revised. Boards have been appointed in every State, and each large sectional interest has its own board to look after its valuations. Thus all classes of taxpayers have an opportunity of getting their cases reviewed.
– I am thankful to the Treasurer for his statement as far as it goes, but it does not specifically deal with the point which I raised. I have not challenged the act, nor the availability of means for seeking redress when the land-holder and the taxing department disagree on values. I was rather seeking to impress upon the Treasurer and the chief taxing officer thai the present range of valuations for taxing purposes is working hardships. That range has been raised all round, and is based on the good years during which high values ruled. Those values are now receding. World values for primary products are falling, bringing about a corresponding diminution in land values. I leave it to the land-holders themselves to say whether annual or triennial valuations would suit them better. Annual valuations would, I know, cause a great expense to the department, and be a perpetual source of pinpricking to the land holder. I cannot help feeling that we are to-day commercializing values which ruled a year or two ago, but which do not exist to-day. It is a matter of common knowledge that, in the main, land propositions are not paying to-day. I make that statement with a fair knowledge of the position. There are exceptions, of course; but it is dreadful to think that in a great continent such as thi3 so many of our primary industries are not paying their way. This is certainly not the time for land-holders to have their valuations increased. I wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer, and through him, the attention of his responsible officers, to one phase of land valuation. Australia has lately been following the practice of the Old Country in the matter of topdressing pasture land. In good rainfall districts a substantial increase in the carrying capacity has been brought about by this means, but it is costly. I ask the Treasurer, does he think that the improvement brought about by top-dressing is part of the unimproved value of the land? Is it not merely part of the improved value? To-day the land-holder is being taxed for his industry, his judgment, and for the scientific application of pasture-improving methods to the land. I hold that the value created by an increased carrying capacity rightly belongs to the land-holder, and- not to the taxing master.
– The honorable member is protesting against the principle on which the valuation is made.
– I am not protesting so much against the principle. I am not in favour of land taxation, as the honorable member knows. Land is the only form of wealth which is taxed in Australia, and I see no more reason why a land-holder should be taxed on the value of his land than why a man holding Government bonds should be taxed on the value of his holding.
– That is not my point. Is it the honorable member’s objection that the person who is valuing the land is doing so on unsound principles, by taking into consideration the improvement made by the land-holder himself?
– I am familiar with the formula for ascertaining the improved and unimproved value of land. When that formula was evolved neither the taxing master nor the Government ever thought about the improvement of pastures by means of top-dressing, and therefore such improvement was not provided for. I believe that to-day this improvement is being commercialized by the taxing master, instead of its being left to the land-holder. I maintain that the Treasury would get the benefit of this improvement eventually through increased income tax. It is our duty in this Parliament to point out, if possible, what are the fundamental principles to be applied to the ascertainment of the unimproved value of land. To-day, laud valuations are being increased at a time when, if the valuing were done on proper principles, values would be fixed at a much lower figure than was the case three or four years ago when produce was bringing better prices. On top of a bad season last year, and with the prospect of another bad one this year, these higher valuations are placing staggering burdens on the shoulders of land-holders.
– What remedy does the honorable member suggest?
– I suggest a lower range of taxing values. I maintain that re-valuations should not be based on values which the department thinks are obtainable, but which I, in common with other land-holders, believe are not obtainable. No authority in this country can fix land values for any period ahead.
– It is a matter of judgment.
– It is more than a matter of judgment ; changing conditions play a very big part. I want the Government to realize that both production and world prices are on the decline, and yet values are rising.
– Those are facts upon which judgment should be based.
– I am endeavouring to inform the mind of the taxing master from my place in this committee, because it is not within my province to interview him personally. In some cases the values were doubled at the recent triennial valuations.
– Are not values based on sales?
– In a good many cases, they are. That is one of the most fallacious bases that has ever been adopted. The values that are obtained at isolated sales are not reliable, because in the majority of cases the conditions are unusual. An adjoining land-owner will pay more than the proper value for land which will enlarge his holding. Similarly, the tenant of a property in a metropolitan area will give more than the land is worth so that he may continue to carry on his business there. I know of sales that have been effected at a price far above the productive value of the land. The basis upon which valuations are made ought to be the fair productive value, taking into consideration the prices ruling in the markets of the world, in the one case, and in the other the fair rental value, having regard to the state of trade at the particular time at which they are made. I sympathize with the Taxation Department, and do not wish to be regarded as one who is attempting to harass or pinprick responsible officers; but I desire it to be thoroughly realized that today land values are altogether too high. They were forced up in good years, and they have remained up because of the capacity of some persons to outbid others. All that I ask is that the matter be brought to the notice of the department in the hope that it will realize that world prices for Australian primary products are falling, and that land-owners have passed through an extraordinarily difficult period. If we experience a bounteous rainfall shortly we shall have a magnificent year; but if we do not, the cheerful anticipations of the Treasurer, will not be realized.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has raised the question of valuations which, he says, have been based upon values that were obtained some years ago, when prices were high. I remind him that, when it was proposed he lent his support to the principle of triennial valuations. I opposed it, because it- causes injustice in two ways. With falling values, triennial valuations hit the land-owner, and when values are rising the department suffers. Values cannot be fixed for a period of three years in localities where they fluctuate rapidly. There are very rapid fluctuations in the values of suburban lands, and under the system of triennial valuations the department has been the loser’. I believe that we should revert to annual valuations, leaving the administration to apply the principle according to its best judgment. There are many places which the valuers would not need to visit for many years, because of the unchanging conditions. In those cases the valuations and assessments would be the same each year. But where it was found necessary, the department should have the right to review valuations annually, as is done by the municipalities for rating purposes.
– The values of municipal lands are based on the triennial valuations of the Valuer-General.
– Municipalities in Victoria value annually all property for rating purposes.
– They do not lower the values.
– Because in practically all cases, the values of those lands appreciate.
– In country with which the honorable member is familiar the value of the land has fallen in a few years by from £30 to £40 an acre.
– I believe that we have passed through a period of land value inflation, and if inflated values are adopted throughout there will be cases of overvaluation. I suggest that that should be the basis of any criticism that is offered. The honorable member for Wannon has raised rather too many points. In the first place he has objected to the high range of valuations. It does not matter whether valuations are high or low so long as they are correct. Before I shall be willing to make a pronouncement upon the matter I must be furnished with evidence that the department has over-valued. In such a case there surely is the right of appeal. If the Valuations Board is not carrying out the intention of Parliament, criticism should be directed against it. So far, I have not heard of any instances of over-valuation; but, on the contrary, there is evidence that the board’s valuations have been challenged in certain cases, and approved.
– Does the honorable member not know that two or three deputations have waited on the Treasurer ?
– With respect to the composition of the board, not with respect to valuations.
-I know that a deputation waited upon the honorable gentleman to discuss the personnel of the board. That, however, is another matter. The honorable member for Wannon has referred to drought conditions. I point out to him that the act contains a special section which was designed to deal with cases of hardship, and I have never heard of the complaint having been made that the Hardships Board has not recognized adverse conditions due to either drought or any other cause.
– If there is one thing that a self-respecting land-owner wishes to avoid, it is to go on his knees to a board.
– It is not a question of a man going on his knees to a board. All he need do is to put his application before the board, setting out the facts of the case and the merits of his claim. As a matter of fact the amendment recently incorporated in the act made the provision rather wider than it should be, because under it a man can secure the remission of some of his tax on the ground that he has suffered hardship in a portion of his estate. He may have one holding in Queensland and another in Victoria. Under the amendment to which I have referred he would be relieved of the liability to pay tax in respect of his Queensland property if it had experienced drought conditions, even though he had had a bountiful season in Victoria, and because of that fact his aggregate income was greater than in other years. That is an overgenerous provision. I admit that we should not ask a man to pay taxation when he has not received any revenue from an estate. Under our income tax law, taxation is assessed only on the income actually received. The land tax is assumed to be based upon the return which the land will give. If any exceptional circumstances, such as a drought, should arise, they must be taken into consideration, to the extent that hardship to the land-owner is thereby caused. The honorable member for Wannon has referred to the case of a land-owner who top-dresses his laud, and has said that the added value due to that top-dressing is taken in as unimproved value. If that practice is adopted, the valuer does not know his work. I should like to know whether the honorable member can cite a specific case. If he can do so I shall join forces with him in an attempt to have the matter put right. I am not afraid to approach the board; and it should be approached if what the honorable member has said is correct.
– I suggest that the honorable member ask the Treasurer whether exemption is being granted.
– It is a question of the interpretation of the act and the definition of “ unimproved value.”
– There is no question of exemption on account of top-dressing. The act provides that the valuer must regard the land as though it were in its unimproved state. If a man spends 10s., £1, or even £10 an acre, on improvements such as clearing, draining, removing rock or top-dressing, and the unimproved value is fixed in the light of the improved state of the land, the act is being defied.
– That is why it is so difficult to ascertain the unimproved value.
– It has not proved an insurmountable difficulty. Unlike mathematics, the fixing of values is not an exact science, but depends on the opinion and judgment of those who are qualified to determine them. I cannot imagine a valuer going on to a property that had been top-dressed, or improved in any other way, and fixing the unimproved value on the basis of its productivity. If the honorable member can prove that that is being done I shall lend my support to an attempt to have the matter rectified.
– As a matter of fact the matter has been raised several times, but I cannot say offhand whether it has been allowed or disallowed. I have brought it to the attention of the Treasurer with a view to ascertaining what practice is adopted.
– I am fairly sure the honorable member will find that he is in error. There would be no specific deduction from the value of the land because of top-dressing. It is undoubted that the value of land is raised by top-dressing it. If the honorable member held 1,000 acres, and top-dressed 500 acres, he would find in the event of his desiring to sell that he would obtain a much higher price for the portion that had been top-dressed. The state of growth upon it would be sufficient, to induce an expert to pay a higher price for it.
– The effect of topdressing is not permanent.
– So soon as it ceased to have an effect, the productive value of the land would decline to that extent.
– I was not attacking the Commissioner. I merely pointed out that this was one of the factors that had the effect of increasing the market value of the land, and that that value in turn is taken as a basis in determining the unimproved value.
– The honorable member knows that every improvement has that result. If you drain land, sweeten it, clear it of scrub, and provide it with water channels, you naturally increase its selling price, because you add to its productivity. But that does not necessarily increase its unimproved value. Its unimproved value is given to it by the community. It is a well recognized principle that the taxation of the unearned increment in the value of land is probably the most equitable form of obtaining revenue. No one makes the land, and no one can add an acre to its area. The community, as a whole, creates its unimproved value.
– The man and his family who work it have a good deal to do with that.
– The principle that I have stated is fairly generally accepted in these days. If the application of it causes hardships, they should be removed. The honorable member. for Wannon was quite within his rights in introducing a discussion on this subject, but only one of his arguments carries much weight. -If he can establish that no account has been taken of the value of top dressing, it should be considered.
– What I say is that top dressing is a great factor in increasing the value of land.
-That is obvious. If a house is put up on a vacant allotment the value of the land is increased.
– Consideration should be given to the permanence or otherwise of improvements.
– The unimproved value of land is its value, irrespective of top dressing or any other improvements. Two or three years ago certain criticisms were made of our methods of valuing land ; but I read in the last report of the Commissioner a most effective answer to the critics to which there has, so far, been no reply. Tests were made in specific cases to demonstrate the soundness or otherwise of the criticisms levelled against the valuations, and in every case the board’s valuations were justified. So far as I know there has been no definite objection to the personnel of the board, although some time ago a deputation to the Treasurer made suggestions in this connexion. I was not at all convinced of the soundness of the case that was presented on that occasion. The fact that a member of the board was at one time an officer of the Taxation Department certainly should not be taken as a proof of his incapacity, but rather as prima facie evidence of his ability. A man trained in the department is not necessarily biased. We need on our valuation boards impartial men of sound character, with wide knowledge of, and training in, valuation work. It seems to me to be natural to go to the department for such men.
– You do not get a knowledge of and training in land valuation in a department.
– -That is just where it is to be obtained.
– Not at all. Men associated with the buying, selling, and working of land are the best judges of its value.
– A practical man may know the value of the land in his own locality, but may be all astray if taken into a strange district. A man may be a skilful farmer, but a poor land valuer.
– He would know what land yields.
– So would a departmental man.
– A man who works in an office is not nearly so likely to value land correctly as a land salesman.
– But the departmental field men have all the necessary knowledge to form a sound judgment. The departmental land valuers are not office men, but field men. They inspect the land and obtain information as to the yields secured from it. They almost invariably base their values upon sound data. The. training pf these men makes them expert in the business, and assuming that they are not incapable or dishonest, they are the best men that we could obtain to do this work. There should be no question as to .where a man received his earlier training.
– It was not a valuer who was complained of.
– I understood that the complaint was that one of the members of the board was formerly an officer of the department.
– He was not a land valuer.
– The honorable member for Wannon has not given one specific case of an increase in the unimproved value of land because of top-dressing. I am no advocate of over-valuing land in any way ; but when the honorable member speaks about the high range of values, he should remember that while there has been a reduction in land taxation, more money has been received from this source than formerly, and that arrears have been collected which should have been collected long ago. He should also remember that there has been a big increase in the value of city land. As a matter of fact, the taxation of city land yields more than the taxation of country land.
.- As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, there are city land values and rural land values. Increases in the valuation of land are brought about largely by the people who pay high prices for properties which they acquire. It must be admitted that an increase in the capital value of land tends to increase the unimproved value of it. I know of cases of land in my district having been sold for a figure considerably in excess of the price previously paid for it. This has affected both the capital and unimproved value. It has also led to a particular block being shown in the departmental returns at a higher valuation than similar land adjacent to it. One thing that we need above all else is a uniform valuation for Federal, State, municipal and probate purposes. At present there is a considerable difference in the valuation for each of these purposes. A uniform valuation can only be arrived at by the experts of each authority acting in consultation. It cannot be expected that a man operating in one district principally will be able accurately to value the land in a different district to which he is almost a stranger. I suppose that we could talk until to-morrow morning on the principles which underlie the determination of the unimproved valuation of land without coming to any agreement on the subject; but undoubtedly experience shows that an increase in the capital value causes an increase in the unimproved value of it, although I do not say that it should do so. Many people are under the mistaken idea that purchasers of land receive the benefit of an unearned increment every time a property changes hands; but that is not so. I admit that in a new district there may be an unearned increment with each transaction for a while. For instance, five years ago when I was in Western Australia land in a certain district was being sold for fi an acre. It has since changed hands for £4 an acre. But a similar increase in price is not likely to continue for any length of time. Quite often a purchaser has to pay every penny of the value of the land which he buys. The Leader of the Opposition had a good deal to say about top-dressing. It needs the eye of an expert to detect whether land has been top-dressed or not. In most cases a valuer would need to have specific knowledge in regard to this matter to justify him in taking it into consideration. It is only natural that when land changes hands at a profit to the seller, the valuer should take that into consideration. What we require from the Treasurer and his land valuers is equity and uniformity. In my own district there are great discrepancies in the value of the land and that should not be so.
– As honorable members know, I am in favour of land value taxation as perhaps the soundest and most scientific principle of taxation that has been devised; and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it does not matter whether the valuation is high or low, provided it is fair and correct. That seems to me to be the crux of the matter. It is difficult, of course, in many cases for a correct valuation of land to be arrived at by any body of men, because of the many circumstances that have to be taken into account. The tendency of recent years has been to over-value land considerably and cause an inflation, which sooner or later results in a corresponding slump, bringing in its train privation and hardship. For some considerable time we have reached the saturation point in land valuation with respect to both country and city properties. Those who require land for special purposes, subdivisional land boomers and speculators are largely responsible for this inflation. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that in Victoria, at any rate, he had not heard of any cases in which land had been over-valued; but I could give him instances that have come under my notice of land in Victoria that has been excessively over-valued. At Burwood, a suburb of Melbourne, certain land was subdivided about four years ago and sold at about 12s. a foot, and since the sale it has not been improved to any appreciable extent. I believe that three or four small weatherboard cottages have been erected in the vicinity ; but no roads and no services such as water, gas, or electricity have been supplied. Yet the value placed upon that land is nearly 400 per cent higher than the sale price, and the municipal assessment is based upon the Government valuation.
– Was that valuation consistent with the price at which the blocks were selling?
– ApTparently not, as in some cases the owners are trying to sell the land at less than half the amount of the valuation. In New South Wales also many instances of excessive over-valuation have come under my notice. In the cities values are often forced up to heights beyond the wildest dreams of those who formerly held the land, and this is done by persons who require certain sites for special purposes. The circumstances attending the acquisition of such land are not always taken into full account in assessing the values of surrounding properties. One departmental officer came to me on a certain occasion and spoke about land in the district in which I live. He gave as a reason for the sudden inflation of the values placed on land in that neighbourhood the fact that a certain piece of land had been sold recently for about £20 a foot, and that three years ago it could have been obtained for half that price. But the person who paid the higher price required the land for a particular purpose, and that fact was not sufficient to justify the high valuation placed upon the surrounding land nearly all of which had already been built upon. Much depends on the capabilities of those who are entrusted with the work of valuation. Those who find that they have been the victims of over-valuation, or have had such cases brought under their notice, are justified in drawing the attention of the ValuerGeneral and his officers to those circumstances, and asking the Treasurer to require his officers to consider whether any better means of arriving at the true value can be devised than the rough and ready method of fixing it according to prices paid for particular blocks that have been purchased for special purposes. It is important that a sound basis of land valuation should be arrived at so that we may the sooner realize the unwisdom of taxing industry and thrift.
– In reply to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), I point out that under the act taxation is levied on the unimproved and not on the improved value.
– One value has a bearing on the other.
– That is so; but the various appeals to the court indicate that difficult problems arise. It is worth considering the position as set out under the law. “ Improved value,” in relation to land, is defined as the capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona fide seller would require. “Unimproved value,” in relation to land, means the capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona-fide seller would require, assuming that the improvements, if any, thereon or appertaining thereto, and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title had not been made. “Value of improvements,” in relation to land, means the added value which the improvements give to the land at the date of valuation, irrespective of the cost of the improvements. It was held by the High Court, in the case of Campbell v. Deputy Federal Commissioner of Land Tax for New South Wales, in 1915, that the unimproved value of land may be ascertained by comparison with the prices obtained for similar land in the neighbourhood in a state of nature. It was held also that the value of the improvements may be ascertained by ascertaining the improved value and deducting the unimproved value of land in the neighbourhood in a state of nature as shown by sales from the improved value. Both those judicial observations show that what is intended to be taxed is the unimproved value of the land, and not the improved value, whether improved by the addition of superphosphates, by the ring-barking of the trees, or in any other way. It is competent for any taxpayer who is aggrieved by his assessment to establish the fact that the valuation has not been arrived at by giving consideration to various improvements that have been made. If he can establish that, he ought to be able to obtain a favorable decision, not only from the Commissioner, but also from the Valuation Board, and ultimately, if necessary, from the court.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page), read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from 11th September (vide page 6561), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item of the Estimates . under Division 1. - The Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,300,” be agreed to.
– I would, not have participated in this debate at such a late hour in the life of the Parliament but for the hope that some criticism of the past administration might influence the future policy of the Government. We are approaching a general election, and shortly the Prime Minister will be announcing the policy of his party for the new Parliament, and I hope that it will promise a distinct change from the policy adopted by the Government during recent years. I listened with attention last night to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Undoubtedly many of his comments were sound. Both Commonwealth and State Governments have been guilty of extravagance, which has encouraged prodigal habits in the people. The curse of Australia to-day is extravagance, coupled with insufficient production.
For the second time in the last twelve months we are threatened with a hold-up of industry through trouble on the waterfront, and the Government has been obliged to issue a warning to those who are endeavouring to bring about the disorganization of transport. I do not agree with the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition towards this matter. Having placed an Arbitration Act upon the statute-book and appointed judges to give awards in industry - and no one will say . that the judge who dealt with the waterside workers’ case is not always fair and just to all parties - it is the duty of all sections to obey the law, and it is particularly the duty of honorable members to support its enforcement. If we allow contempt of the law to develop, we do not know to what dangerous limits it may extend. The attitude of some sections of the community towards the law amounts to incipient revolution. I have always opposed the Commonwealth arbitration law, believing that it trespasses in a domain that should be left entirely to the States. Its whole history has been characterized by absurdity, and year after year amendments are introduced in the hopeless endeavour to make it an effective instrument for the preservation of peace in industry. However, this Parliament, having placed such a law upon the statute-book, it is the duty of the Government to insist on its observance.
I have criticized many features of the Government’s policy, but I find no promise of salvation in the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition. In a speech delivered in Perth he expressed the belief that unemployment and other industrial difficulties of Australia are due to the tariff wall not being high enough to shut out imports. Would it not be madness to prohibit imports? How can we fraternize with the other nations of the world unless we are prepared to trade with them? But the honorable member says that if his party is returned to power it will endeavour to build up a tariff like the wall of China in order to keep out imported goods. In support of his policy he quoted some significant figures. He showed that in every group of five years in the 30 years from 1892 to 1922 Australian overseas trade had shown a credit balance, the annual excess of exports over imports averaging £10,000,000 ; but since 1922 the excess of imports over exports had averaged £9,000,000 per annum, “ a strange reversal of form.” Up to 1921 there was moderation in fiscal matters; although political camps were divided into freetraders and protectionists, the latter were satisfied with a policy of moderate duties. Some of us supported even lower duties, but there was not then the grave danger to the primary industries that exists to-day. In 1921, however, this Parliament went mad; no duty was too high to receive its approval. A majority of members on both sides of the House was willing to vote for any duty recommended by the Minister. The result, is told in the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition. Up to 1922 Australian trade showed a big excess of exports over imports, and since then there has been “ a strange reversal of form.” That is clearly due to the ever-increasing burden placed on the primary producer. The honorable gentleman’s own figures prove that the policy of excessive protection has been disastrous to Australia; yet he will ask the people to return him to power in order that he and his party may impose still higher duties. I know the Australian workers; they are as fine a lot as their fellows in any other part of the world if they are left alone. But they know that a man who fails to abide by the decision of the union bosses has little chance of getting employment. Because of the enormous duties imposed upon the necessaries of life, ranging up to 200 per cent, on children’s socks, there is a constant increase in the cost of living; inevitably wages rise in sympathy. Some manufacturers have asked this Parliament to repeal the Arbitration Act, and impose higher duties against imports, so that they may control the local markets. It would not be a wise policy, even for the Labour party, to accede to that request. As the cost of production is increased, wages also must be advanced, and what is the result? As the Prime Minister said the other day, for many years Australia has been living on the sheep’s back. “We have received magnificent prices for our wool, and have found a ready market for it abroad. But the records of the Income Tax Commissioner show that because of the high cost of production the pastoralists have not been making a great amount of money. In regard to wheat production, I have on other occasions shown that comparing the four years immediately preceding the war with the last four years, there has been an increase of 50.5 per cent, in the export value of wheat; but the cost of production has increased 78 per cent. If the Statistician’s figures are correct, the wheat-grower should receive approximately ls. per bushel more for his wheat in order to be as well off as he was when he was receiving only 3s. lOd. per bushel. I asked the Prime Minister to-day whether it is the inten-
Mr. Gregory. tion of the Government to offer a bounty for the production of coal, but he declined to answer. Such a policy would be the worst possible advertisement for Australia. This country has magnificentresources of coal, and should be able to supply our own people cheaply, and build up a big export trade. Unfortunately, the price of coal has risen since pre-war years from lis. to 24s. per ton. In an article published in the West Australian, the writer, Mr. Burston, said that the price of coke in Great Britain was 12s. per ton; in the United States of America, 12s. 2d.; and at Broken Hill, 30s. This Parliament is seeking to build up by high duties the key industry of iron and steel production. The products of that industry are required by all the other manufacturing industries, and these high duties must inevitably increase their cost of production. The coal mines should not only be producing cheap fuel for the development of power but should also be exporting extensively, thus finding remunerative employment for thousands of our people. Notwithstanding the high-tariff protection, the Newcastle Steel Works experience difficulties in producing at a profit. In the old days, South Australia had fine machinery factories which could compete under freetrade conditions against the imports from England and America on the Western Australian market; but to-day coal in South Australia costs from 42s. to 44s. per ton, and coal is now being imported from England for the State railways. Small wonder that the people of that State are complaining of the results of federation. I urge honorable members to read the Tariff Board’s report upon coal, and the cost of transport owing to the conditions imposed by the Navigation Act. How is it possible for our industries to develop when there is so much ridiculous interference by wretched legislation designed to preserve industrial peace? It is our duty to give equity and justice to all sections of the community. If a concession is to be given to one section it should be given to the producers on the land rather than to the people in the cities. Our object should be to encourage the settlement and development of our huge continent, rather* than by artificial conditions to attract the people from the country to the cities.
Are we justified in giving to the city conditions that cannot be given to the country? If the primary industries are destroyed, before long grass will be growing in the city streets. We cannot export a single commodity that we manufacture, and any concessions we can afford to give should go to the man on the land, who alone produces an exportable commodity. He asks only for fair play, and conditions equal to those enjoyed by other sections of the community. The Leader of the Opposition has emphasized the wonderful export trade of Australia during the 30 years preceding 1921. Subsequently heavy duties were imposed and further additions have been made in almost every session. The Tariff Board’s last report states -
Again and again applications are made for tariff assistance commensurate with the. difference in costs of production in Australia and abroad. Many applications have succeeded, and the tariff wall is markedly rising. In the customs tariff 1908 there were only eight items which provided ad valorem duties of 40 per cent, or over.
Amongst those were boots and hats; hut nobody will claim that any of these highly-protected industries have made real progress.
– Our factories make a very decent hat.
– They are able to get the cheapest fur in the world, and they should be able to export hats. But we have no market abroad for either hats or boots. The Tariff Board’s report continues -
Of these, six were 40 per cent, and the remaining two 45 per cent. In the existing customs tariff there are 259 items or subitems, which provide ad valorem rates of 40 per cent, or over as set out hereunder: -
The disparity, comparing 1908 with 1928 m duties framed on specific lines, i.e., per ton, per gallon, per lb., and the like, is probably equally great as the disparity existing in the ad valorem rates.
Having regard to those figures, the enormous increase in the tariff since 1921, and the unemployment resulting from the policy of successive Governments, will the Labour party’s policy of fiscal extremism give better results? Honorable members must realize that we are approaching the breaking..point.
– Why does the honorable member continue to support the Government ?
– Because the alternative offered by the Labour party is worse. The Leader of the Opposition advocates absolute protection for the industries of this country.
– Hear, hear!
– The primary industries cannot stand more of this treatment. In the Mount Morgan mine £15,000,000 worth of ore has been abandoned. Would any other country in the world allow such wealth to remain undeveloped? The Broken Hill mines, at one time employing thousands of men, were closing down because of the decrease in the price of lead and zinc. The proprietors are not philanthropists, and they refuse to continue their works at a loss. At one mine in Western Australia, there are a million tons of ore exposed. That ore is worth 36s. a ton ; yet because of the operation of the Arbitration Court the proprietors were compelled to close down. That mine could easily employ 200 men, and the result of their labour would enable 1,000 others to be employed elsewhere in Australia.
Mr.Fenton. - That is a great argument.
– I know that the honorable member favours the argument that the huge population in the cities represents consumers who assist in marketing our products. Unfortunately we have increased the cost of production enormously, and this restricts production and creates unemployment. As the honorable the Leader of the Opposition has said, we are a debtor nation. We borrow money overseas. Who has to carry (He debt? It is the producer. He has to send his produce overseas, compete with low-wage countries, and take what prices are offering. The whole thing is absolutely tragic. Let me put before honorable members the views of the large organizations associated with primary industries.
The Pastoral Advisory Committee of Australia, in a long statement, says that a young country like Australia requires cheap materials to enable it to pursue a proper developmental policy, and urges a lower tariff. The Victorian Country party condemns our policy of borrowing, the high tariff, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the Navigation Act. The agricultural section of the Liberal Union of South Australia, in a resolution which it ‘ recently passed, roundly condemns the tariff. The Victorian Country party,’ in a clear and concise report, utterly condemns the high tariff policy of this Government. Western Australia is most emphatic in its statement that there must be a big reduction in the tariff. About three weeks ago, wheat for October delivery in Great Britain dropped ls. 6d. a bushel, and if the price to the Australian grower falls to about 3s. 6d. or 3s. 8d. a bushel or if there is a bad harvest, the cry for separation in Western Australia will be difficult to stop.
– Does the honorable member blame the tariff for that?
– Under the tariff and the Navigation Act, the people of Western Australia have been robbed long enough by the people of Melbourne and Sydney. It is the duty of every honorable member to see that equal justice is done to the people of Australia. Honorable members have referred to the assistance that has been given by the Federal Government, but that financial help is surely due to Western Australia. The great need of Australia to-day is to people this country. We have the policy of a White Australia. We have an enormous country, equal in size to the United States of America. That nation has a population of 120,000,000, but we have one of only 6,000,000. Who would support us and our White Australia policy at the table of the League of Nations ? Great Britain for one, though I do not believe that it fully approves the White Australia policy. The United States of America might also, support us. Is there any other nation that would support our policy? I do not think so. We must bring people to this country to assist in developing it.
– That is what we are doing.
– The Commonwealth statistics show that at the rate of increase in population from 1921 to 1926, it would take Melbourne 22 years and the rest of Victoria 200 years, to double the present population.
We must produce wealth if we are to provide employment, and that wealth can be produced only in the country. I did hope, when the Government’s policy speech was delivered, that there would be a departure from the policy of the past. We were promised a decrease in borrowing, yet a big Loan Bill was before this chamber the other day, and it looks as if we are to have a continuation of large borrowings. There has indeed been an era of lavish expenditure not only by this Parliament, but also by all the other parliaments of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition pointed to certain items that could be left out of the Estimates altogether. We must economize. Last year the taxation levied on the people of Australia, Commonwealth and State, amounted to £87,000,000. In addition, municipal taxation amounted to £14,000,000. That burden was borne by only 6,250,000 of people. It is a terrible drain on this country. The more we borrow the more our taxation will increase. The more we appoint public servants and inspectors and officials, the more the Government interferes with the functions of private enterprise, the more the interest bill will increase. The citizens of Australia have to provide the wealth with which to meet our commitments. It is too big a burden for them and there must be a reduction. From 1926, to 1927 the increase in Commonwealth and State taxation was no less than £10,000,000. It was £77,000,000 in 1926, and £S7,000,000 in 1927. I wish to impress it upon the House that we cannot continue to expend money in this extravagant fashion. Would not the money be better spent by the people themselves in the employment of labour to carry out reproductive works, than wasted by the Government as has been the case in Canberra and other places. I know of one road in Western Australia, a stretch of ten miles from Perth to Fremantle, which has cost £130,000, and it is not even done in concrete, but only in macadam. The present taxation is unprecedented. Another consideration is the great increase in the interest bill. The average rate of interest on our national indebtedness has increased from £3 5s. or £3 7s. per cent, in pre-war days, to over £5 at the present time. The rate keeps mounting up as 3$ per cent, loans have to be renewed at 5i per cent, and 5£ per cent. I object also to government interference in industry, with its natural corollary of unemployment. We cannot have constant interruptions such as the shipping industry is subjected to without increasing the general cost to the community. The bill must be paid by some one, and it is the community who pays it. I hope that members of both parties in this Parliament will try to induce capital and labour to come together as is being done in England, and to realize that they can carry on only by co-operating with one another.
– And by a system of payment by results.
– Where it is possible I hope there will be a sharing of profits, thus making it clear to the workers that the employers’ interests are their interests as well. Only the other day we passed through this Parliament a Loan Bill, giving authority to borrow £10,700,000. We have been borrowing too extensively. Our loan indebtedness in 1927 was approximately £1,043,000,000. I expect that ‘ it is close upon £1,100,000,000 by now. We are borrowing on an average from £33,000,000 to £35,000,000 a year, and have started this year with a loan bill of £10,700,000. The States will come along later for their share of borrowed money to carry on public work3.
I wish to deal particularly with the expenditure that is being carried on in the Federal Capital. I was one of those who was opposed to coming here at all. I think that a mistake was made in the first place : Canberra is too remote. Now that we are here, however, it is the duty of every one to make the best of it. We cannot go away, and every honorable member must do his best to make this place a credit to Australia. During the nine years I held the position of Chairman of the Public Works Committee, I always maintained that the Commonwealth Government buildings should be at least equal, if not superior, to any other building in a town. I am one of those, also, who like to see value for money spent. Any honorable member who has taken notice of the expenditure in Canberra during the last three years would be a traitor to his trust if he did not say boldly just what he thought of it. I have never before seen such wasteful expenditure, such lack of supervision, and such wretched workmanship as have been apparent in the building of Canberra. A little while ago I was motored through the suburbs of Adelaide by Mr. Beaumont, and was delighted to see the beautiful bitumen roads which have been laid down there at a third of the cost of the Canberra roads. Compare the bitumen footpaths which have been laid down in Canberra with those that may be seen in any other city, and it will be evident that the standard of workmanship here is very low. Another instance of extravagant expenditure is furnished in the building of Parliament House. No one would object to the estimate being exceeded by, say £40,000, but this building cost £660,000, or practically three times the amount of the original estimate. The beautiful native timbers with which the building is adorned were all bought before the war, and were not affected by the subsequent highness of prices. There is a brickyard in the Territory whose plant cost, I suppose, anything from £60,000 to £70,000, yet the bricks cost £6 5s. a thousand, and a minimum charge of 13s. a thousand is made for delivery. Contractors who build cottages here have to sign a form to the effect that they will buy all bricks, tiles, window frames and ironmongery from the Commission. I had great trouble in getting one of these tender forms. In answer to my request for one, I received a curt note from the Commission giving a list of prices charged. “I demanded a tender form. An officer was sent up to Parliament House to tell me that I had been given all the information I wanted. I discovered that the form stipulated that the contractor should buy certain articles from the Commission, and contractors have told me that they could buy to better advantage elsewhere. Nothing could be more disgraceful than the way in which money has been wasted on the Governor-General’s residence. That.money might just as well have been thrown into the river, because there is nothing to show for it. I mentioned the other night that I intended to speak about this. In the course of a private conversation with a fellow member at the Wellington Hotel, we discussed the Commission, and I referred to the necessity for a big change here. I hope there will be a big change. There should be some one in the character of a government nominee working in conjunction with a municipal representative, and there should be somebody in charge with a knowledge of civic matters. When the Commonwealth Bank authorities erected their building at Civic Centre, and were about to put up their sign in the lettering usually employed by them throughout Australia, the Commission refused to permit Gothic lettering to be used, and insisted on the use of Roman letters. Was there ever such an example of utter stupidity? Eventually the hank got its own way. I was aware that the Government had its liason officers, but I did not previously know that the Federal Capital Commission also had some. I have here a letter written to me by the Chief Commissioner, in which he refers to the conversation which I had in the Hotel Wellington with another member of Parliament. In his letter he states -
I am advised that you referred to me as being “dull, lazy, and a big bluff”; and that Sir John Harrison was “ an old fool “ ; and that your remarks were made in the hearing of certain- public servants, members of the parliamentary staff, and some of the hotel staff.
I did not say those things, but I did speak of bluffing, and I was at the time thinking of the difficulty I had experienced in obtaining the specifications for the billiard table at Parliament House, and the tender forms to which I have previously referred. The Chief Commissioner’s letter continues -
At the moment I do not propose to discuss anything except your making remarks derogatory to the Federal Capital Commissioners in the hearing of employees of the Commission. I amsure that you will appreciate the reasons actuating me when I ask if you would be so good as to refrain from expressing your opinions of Federal Capital Commissioners in the hearing of their employees.
The letter contains a covert threat, and in my reply I gave the Chief Commissioner distinctly to understand that I resented his impertinence in sending such a letter to me. My letter contained this paragraph -
Your memo, contains a covert threat which I resent. I am advised that this is not the first time you have adopted this method, but in this instance I propose to give your impertinence the fullest publicity.
I am convinced that there should be some change in the constitution of the Federal Capital Commission. When a suggestion was made to me some time ago that I should support the request of the people of Canberra for a representative in Parliament, I declined to do so, but I stated that I would support a request for representation in the civic government of the Capital. I hope that there will be some amendment of the law by which residents may obtain civic representation, and that we shall obtain as Chief Commissioner a person possessing some civic knowledge - not one who seems determined to pursue a policy of exasperating pin-pricking. I regard myself as a public trustee, and I am getting tired of seeing money spent in such an extravagant fashion. I have no objection to the erection of magnificent buildings here, provided the country can afford it ; but when we place in the hands of any public authority the money borrowed on behalf of the people of Australia, it is our bounden duty to see that that money is well spent. I believe that I am voicing the opinion of nearly every member of this Parliament when I say that I have never before seen money so wastefully expended as in Canberra.
– Yet the honorable member himself voted for this system.
– I believe that it would be a good system if we had good men to administer it. If we had had at the head of the Commission a good man with sound civic knowledge, the Commission would have been a success. It has been a disastrous experience, and I trust that in the future different methods will be adopted.
– It would be a good thing if we scrapped the whole scheme.
– We are here now, and must make the best of it. I shall do all that I can to assist in making Canberra a city of which every person in
Australia will be proud; although I was very strongly opposed to the Seat of Government being established here, and still consider that is was not a wise policy to put it here.
We have had brought down an important amendment to our income tax laws. If this Parliament had been sitting either in Melbourne or Sydney I and other honorable members would have been able to get into touch immediately with taxation officers, and others who have a knowledge of the subject, and obtain from them information which would place us in a position to decide whether we should support or oppose the measure. That is not possible here. The lobbyist can come here when he wishes to obtain some advantage, and therefore no hardship is imposed upon him, but as this Parliament nowadays interests itself so largely in, industrial matters, we should be able to obtain information that will enable us to legislate in the manner that is best calculated to promote the welfare of the community.
I hope that, in the future, the policy of the Government will be one of less borrowing, and that keen regard will be had for the economic position that has developed in Australia. I trust that the Government will appoint an economic committee of three absolutely independent gentlemen, to make inquiries and report directly to Parliament. Let us obtain the services of three leading men, and by propaganda try to educate the people of Australia to a true appreciation of the present economic position. If the policy advocated by honorable members who sit opposite is the most advantageous for Australia, it will probably be recommended. To my mind, it is almost a piece of impertinence for the Tariff Board to suggest that, after it has inquired into the conditions of an industry and made its report to Parliament, the Government, or even Parliament itself, does wrong if it refuses to adopt its recommendation. It is merely an advisory body, whose duty ends when it has presented its report to Parliament. If the people are made to. understand the truth of our economic position, there will probably grow up a better feeling between political parties, which will tend to make our relations more amicable in the future than they have been in the past. Letus hope that the new Parliament that will shortly be elected will work with the sole object of advancing the best interests of Australia and the Empire.
– Upon rising to address this House for the first time, I am assailed by very conflicting feelings. I feel somewhat uneasy in these unaccustomed surroundings, because I realize that I possess only a limited knowledge of the rules that govern parliamentary etiquette and debate. I feel with deep regret the circumstances which caused me to offer myself as a candidate for election to the Commonwealth Parliament and would that the late honorable member for Martin had been spared to continue to discharge in this Parliament the duties that he had so ably and so tirelessly carried out during the past eleven years. Fate, however, has intervened, and the electors of Martin have honored me by electing me to represent them in this chamber, and I accept the trust with a full realization of th( responsibilities that devolve upon me. I am also proud of the privilege of being a member of the great party that sits on this side of the House.
During the brief period that I have been here I have listened with considerable interest and close attention to the budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and the debate thereon, and have come to the conclusion that the Government is to be heartily congratulated upon the able manner in which it has administered the financial affairs of this country since it assumed office. The effects of any financial policy cannot be gauged in a short period ; some time must elapse before results are noticeable. The definite policy which has been pursued by this Government of co-operating with the Governments of the States in an endeavour to effect an adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States is worthy of special mention and praise. That is a question which has vexed and worried almost every Commonwealth government since the inauguration of federation. If this Government, which has succeeded in coordinating borrowing, through the agency of the Australian Loan Council, and by this means has done away with unnecessary competition on the money market overseas, had no other achievement than that to its credit, it would deserve well of the people of Australia. But such is not the case; for in addition to its many solemn obligations, such as the meeting of expenditure due to the war, and the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, it has carried out an immense programme which has benefited all sections of the community. The primary producers have been assisted by way of bounties, and local manufacturers have benefited as a result of the efforts of the Government to co-ordinate the activities of primary and secondary industries by the granting of bounties and the imposition of a protective tariff. May I say at this juncture that I hope it will continue to be the policy of the Government to afford adequate protection to any Australian industry worth-while. The legislation which gave effect to the Government’s housing policy has proved advantageous to a large section of the community which did not come within the ambit of the schemes that are in’ operation in the different States. Those people can now acquire homes of their own without being obliged to purchase them privately on the time-payment system. The Government is deserving of great praise for having given effect to this scheme without creating another huge government department.
I wish to make a passing reference to the deficit. I do not claim to have an intimate knowledge of public finance, but I imagine that its characteristics are similar to those of a large business undertaking. When a well organized, well managed business has over a number of years realized fully the expectations of its directorate, and because of circumstances beyond its control finds its profits have shrunk into losses, it does not suggest putting up the shutters, either temporarily or permanently, but adjusts its organization to meet the existing conditions. It does not pay dividends, nor does it call upon its shareholders for extra capital, but relies upon its reserves of money and other resources to carry it through to a better year. That is exactly the position in which the Government now finds itself. Because of the deficit it does not contemplate the curtailment of its programme. It has not called upon its shareholders, the people of Australia, to increase their contributions ; but proposes to adjust its organization to meet the existing conditions, and relies on the huge resources of the Commonwealth to enable it to recover next year. I compliment this Government on its efficient financial administration, and express the faith and belief that so long -as it continues in office we need have no fear for the welfare of Australia and the greatfuture that lies before us.
.- I tender my congratulations to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) upon his maiden speech in this Parliament. I was pleased to learn, from the sentiments that he expressed, that in the matter of tariff reform he is following in the footsteps of his worthy uncle.
The criticism of the budget which has been offered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), has caused the Government and its supporters to put on their thinking caps. Although in other respects the speech of the honorable member for Martin was an admirable one I cannot endorse the commendations that he showered upon the Government in regard to its financial administration. When it assumed office it came into the wonderful inheritance of an accumulated surplus of £7,400,000. The intervening period has been mostly prosperous, yet to-day it has a deficit of £2,600,000. Such a financial record ought not to evoke congratulations. I should look to a gambling saloon rather than to a business house to furnish a parallel case. In the last five years, the expenditure has been rash and illconsidered. The Leader of the Opposition last night enumerated a long list of items the expenditure upon which; in the majority of instances, will bring hardly a penny in return. At page 13 of the budget papers that have been distributed by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) I find figures showing the surplus or deficiency,, and the accumulated surplus, at the close of each financial year, from 1907-8 to 1928-29. I do not believe in traversing in a protracted fashion the ancient history of politics; but sometimes it is as well to consider events in retrospect as . well as in prospect. In the year’ 1910 the people of Australia awakened to the necessity for changing the Government from a fusion or pact government to one that was supported by followers who were unitedly behind a programme designed to advance the welfare of Australia. They saw fit to return the Labour party to power in both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament, with overwhelming majorities. What was the result? The Fusion administration left the Labour Government, led by Mr. Andrew Fisher, a deficit of £656,000. In its first year the Fisher Government converted this into a surplus of £1,837,000. At the end of its three year period, after having carried out from revenue and not from loan moneys, one of the most vigorous public works policies Australia has ever had, it showed a surplus of £2,643,000. At the following election the people made a mistake, and returned the Cook-Irvine party with a majority of one. That Government in fifteen months’ operations swallowed the Labour surplus of £2,643,000 and showed a deficit of £1,224,000. An election was held in 1914 which will be remembered, among other things, for Sir Joseph Cook’s slogan “ Do not swap horses while crossing the stream.” But the people practically repeated their vote of 1910, and another Labour Government came into office. In its first year, during which Australia experienced one of the most disastrous droughts in her history, it converted the deficit of £1,224,000, left by Sir Joseph Cook, into a surplus of £3,000,000. From that time until the present Government assumed control of our affairs surpluses were accumulated, which reached the grand total of £7,428,000. This shows conclusively that the Labour party is able not only to administer the affairs of the country more effectively than its opponents, but also to keep public works of the right kind in hand and maintain the people in regular employment and maintain handsome surpluses. The present Government, on the other hand, is now showing a deficit of £2,628,000. These figures speak for themselves.
I always like to quote independent testimony in submitting a case. I propose now to inform honorable members of some things that the financial policeman of the Commonwealth, the AuditorGeneral, has to say about the administration of the present Treasurer. It is the duty of the Auditor-General to draw attention to any matters in connexion with the public finances which he considers to be out of order or capable of improvement. In passing, I repeat what I have said in previous budget debates, that the report of the AuditorGeneral, or at least a summary of it, and also the report of the Public Service Board, should be in the hands of honorable members each year before they are called upon to discuss the Budget and Estimates. In the report of the Auditor-General for 1926-27, which is the last that has been made available to us, I find the following: -
In reporting upon the Treasurer’s accounts for the year 1925-26, I drew attention to the want of uniformity in treating sums which were transferred from the Consolidated Revenue to trust fund for expenditure in the subsequent year. In the accounts of the year 192fi-27 the previous methods have been con-, tinned. Whilst raising no question as to the legality of the procedure, I unhesitatingly say that the method of presenting the accounts is such as to obscure the true position.
Some honorable members are liable in the excitement of a debate to make statements which they would afterwards like to withdraw, but the statements of the. Auditor-General are made only after a quiet and careful consideration of the whole of the facts. This official has at his command all the information that can be obtained about the public finances, and he may call to his assistance some of the most capable and experienced officers in the Public Service. . His words are clear and definite. In my opinion a Treasurer who is guilty of obscuring the true financial position should not only be reprimanded severely, but removed from office. The following is another extract from the report of the AuditorGeneral : -
As an indication of the confusion arising from the practice followed, it may be pointed out that the surplus brought forward from 1925-26, viz., £285,897, and which was included in the allocation above mentioned for expenditure in 1927-28, was the sum which on the 30th June, 1926, was transferred to trust fund for expenditure in 1926-27, and which was actually expended in ] 920-27, as stated in the footnote to the Treasurer’s statement on page 6. This would give the impression that the same amount is to be expended twice.
This appears to me to be an entirely wrong practice. The report makes a comparison of the expenditure out of the
Consolidated Revenue Fund for the years 1921-22 to 1925-26 inclusive, as stated in the Year-Book and in the Treasurer’s account. The total according to the YearBooh was £340,607,928 and according to the Treasurer’s accounts, £336,775,496. After setting out a table giving the details for each year the Auditor-General states -
This comparison shows a discrepancy approaching £4,000,000 on the total, marked divergencies being exhibited in each of the years. That there should be no ambiguity in the accounts is of the first importance, and that it should be possible for such large differences to occur between two official publications issued by the Commonwealth as to the expenditure out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund alone demonstrates the need for improvement.
Those quotations speak for themselves, and undoubtedly show that a great need exists for improving our bookkeeping methods, eliminating the possibility of confusion, and stating the accounts with greater clarity.
I wish to make a few .observations upon certain aspects of the borrowing policy of the Government. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), while indulging in his usual tirade about the cost of production made a few remarks on this subject. It is only fair to the honorable member to point out that while some of his colleagues on the Government side of the committee lose no opportunity of accusing the Australian workman of going slow he emphatically declared that there were no better workers in the world than those of Australia.
– They are always on strike.
– I should like to hear the first class Australian workman give an opinion of the quantity and quality of the work of some of their critics in this chamber. It would be eloquent, , ,1 am sure. The honorable member for Swan had a good deal to say about the cost of production and secondary industries generally, but he only briefly touched upon the important subject of, overseas borrowing. At the beginning of the late war Australia borrowed £36,000,000 at from 4 per cent, to 4J per cent. ; and when the loans matured those that could not be redeemed had to be renewed at 5 per cent, and 5$ per cent. While the first loans were issued at par, the later loans were taken up at £98 10s. We therefore obtained £520,000 less from the moneylenders, and the extra annual interest bill amounted to £365,000. Those who claim to be conversant with the financial situation ask how a reduction in the interest rate is to be effected. I remind the committee that two or three years ago Denmark was paying about 6 per cent, for her money, but has now reduced the rate to 4 per cent, and 4^ per cent. Why should Australia hesitate to take action to bring about a similar reduction in her interest charges? The honorable member for Swan said that the combined debts of the Commonwealth and the States now amounted to £1,100,000,000.
– According to the budget figures, the total .debt seems to be £1,076,000,000.
– That is approximately the sum mentioned by the honorable member for Swan, which is probably nearer the correct amount than that indicated in the budget papers. Australia has a leakage in interest every week, in round figures, of £1,000,000. I am referring to the Federal and State debts combined; they all have to be met by the same body of taxpayers.
The total sum advanced to clients by the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks for the carrying on of our industries amounts to about £200,000,000 per annum. The Commonwealth Bank, ever since its inception, has consistently kept down the rate of interest on advances and overdrafts, and it is safe to say that the rate it has charged has been at least 1 per cent, lower than that exacted by the private banks. I remember hearing the late Mr. Tudor say that at one stage of his career he obtained overdrafts from two banks. One of these was the Commonwealth Bank, to which he paid 6 per cent, for the advance, while to the private institution he was required to pay 7 per cent. . The Commonwealth Bank, which was established by the Labour party, has had a remarkable influence in keeping down the rate of interest in Australia during the past fifteen or sixteen years, and between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 by that means has been saved to the country.
– I know a case in which the Commonwealth Bank charged 1 per cent, higher for an advance than the rate payable to a private bank.
– I challenge the honorable member to furnish proof of that statement. If the late Sir Denison Miller had lived during the term of office of the present Government either he would have resigned from the bank, or the Government would not have appointed a board of directors. In view of the bank’s wonderful record, it would have taken a mighty strong government to remove Sir Denison Miller from his position as governor, because he had a firm faith in keeping it as a check upon private banks. If this institution were properly backed by the Commonwealth Government, I am satisfied that the interest bill of Australia could be reduced. The bank has already saved the country millions of pounds without Government assistance. A reduction of 1 per cent, in the interest rate charged on the gross debt of the Commonwealth and the States would mean a saving of £10,000,000 per annum.
– We should first put a stop to borrowing.
– There is a line of safety which, if followed, would mean prosperity to the people. There is another line, which has been taken by the present Government, and is leading fast in the direction of disaster. The Government has behind it a majority that will follow it down any devious path that it cares to take. During the war period the operations of the Commonwealth Bank saved us £6,000,000 in the flotation of loans, and the institution now has a reserve fund of about £6,000,000. Half of its profits are devoted to national debt redemption, and this amount together with the contributions from the note issue earnings form a considerable part of the debt redemption fund which has been created. Labour administrations have done more in high finance for the advancement of Australia than all other- governments since federation.
On the fiscal issue the honorable member for Swan takes an entirely different view from mine. He states that the continuance of our protective policy will bring about considerable trouble in industry. If I have made a correct’ study of the history of other countries, two of them stand out prominently. I refer to the United States of America and Germany, and their success is due largely to the fact that they have given.careful attention to the encouragement of secondary as well as primary production. I realize that Great Britain has done exceptionally well, considering her population and the size of her territory. It will be seen from an examination of the source of her revenue that a considerable proportion of it is obtained through the customs houseThere are in the British House of Commons many Labour members who would be willing to institute in England a protectionist policy similar to that existing in Australia. Germany adopted a protectionist policy. Hamilton, one of the founders of the republic of the United States of America, was one of the pioneer protectionists of the world. The United States of America, like Australia, is a country rich in natural resources, and by a process of rapid development, it attracted an immense population, numbering to-day about 120,000,000. The population of Germany to-day, notwithstanding the ravages of the war, is about 75,000,000. Those two countries, in their rapid development, their civilization, their arts, science and manufactures stand pre-eminent among the nations of the world, mainly because they consistently carried out, over a long period of years, a definite policy of protection. What is good for the United States of America and Germany is good for a young country like Australia. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) expressed the hope that this Government would evolve a policy in relation to the economic conditions in Australia that would lead to some diminution of the high duties now prevailing throughout Australia.
– Has this Government, ever had a policy?
– I wish to find that out. The 78th annual report of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce contains under the heading of Commonwealth Tariff Board, the following statement: -
Mr. C. Harding Brown represented this chamber at a deputation from the Associated Chambers of ‘ Commerce, under the leadership of the President, Mr. Alfred Bright, C.B.E., which waited upon the Prime Minister, in Melbourne on the 11th April, to present the following resolution, adopted at the Hobart Conference, viz: - “ This conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia is of the opinion that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth Government should initiate the most complete inquiry into the effects of the fiscal policy upon the entire economic life of the Commonwealth, and believes that this can be best accomplished by broadening the basis and increasing the status of the Tariff Board, and endowing it with scientific character; and adds “ That the associated president be asked to arrange with the Prime Minister to receive a deputation comprising one representative of each capital chamber for the purpose of presenting and discussing the above resolution.”
This resolution took the place of all the motions relating to fiscal policy on the conference agenda-paper, including that sent from the Adelaide chamber.
Speaking on behalf of this chamber, the Adelaide representative, while emphasizing the desirability of the most complete inquiry being made into the effects of the fiscal- policy upon the economic life of the Commonwealth, supported the remarks of the Federal President in stating the case in general terms that no indictment was intended on the settled policy of protection.
The Prime Minister gave a sympathetic hearing to the deputation, and promised that every consideration would be given to the request contained in the resolution.
That statement is innocuous, because it specifically makes no indictment against the settled policy of the country. My belief is that at ‘ the back of the minds of those associated with the Chamber of Commerce, and quite likely with the Associated Chambers of Commerce also, there is a certain dissatisfaction with the present tariff. I am afraid that the Prime Minister has been susceptible to the influence of the deputation, because he has since frequently made use of the expression, “We are out for a scientific tariff.” The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) was present at the annual conference of the Country party which passed a resolution asking for a scientific tariff. Of course, the honorable member tried to soothe the members of his party by saying that if it were not for the revenue received through the customs, it would not be possible to pay bounties for wine, fruits, and other primary products. That to me is a peculiar view to take of the protectionist policy.
We should not receive any considerable revenue from the tariff at all. A truly protective tariff would protect our industries, bring about a great extension of production and manufacture, employ many more thousands of citizens, and increase by leaps and bounds the prosperity of the country. The year before last our imports reached the peak period and something like £164,716,594 worth of goods were imported into Australia. It has been estimated that we could have manufactured £80;000,000 worth of those goods. If we were manufacturing goods to that value there would’ be no unemployment in Australia. We have the raw materials; but, unfortunately, these are exported and manufactured into articles under conditions which would not be tolerated for one moment in Australia. The finished article is sent to Australia, warehoused in Flinders-lane and Yorkstreet, and later placed on the Australian market in competition with the products of our own manufacture. Taking the manufactures of fats alone, £3,000,000 worth of goods were imported into Australia last year. The raw material is exported in barrels to be manufactured into articles in other parts of the world. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) showed clearly the other night that the cotton industry is in dire need of some measure of tariff assistance. We produce the raw material, and surely we should be able . to manufacture our own requirements. If we were to manufacture one-third of the articles imported intoAustralia there would be no need for any Australian man or woman to be unemployed. The expansion of industries means increased employment and wealth. During the last twelve months 100,000 persons were unemployed in Australia. The loss of wages in consequence has at a conservative estimate been £15,600,000. That is not the only loss to the community. It is well known that when a man or woman is unemployed, and not engaged in some vigorous occupation, deterioration takes place in the human frame. There is a moral and mental decline, also. We should be ashamed to know that Australian men and women are living on the bread line, and many others practically starving, and this in a country overflowing with foodstuffs and raw materials.
We must try to so organize our economic resources that unemployment will be reduced to a minimum. The Treasurer’s super-optimism, to ‘use no stronger term, is indicated by his unblushing audacity in estimating that the revenue from customs this year will be £2,000,000 more than it was last year. The first two months of the financial year have shown a considerable decline in imports, and I anticipate that in the twelve months the total value of any imports will be from £20,000,000 to £24,000,000 less than in 1927-28. How then does the Treasurer expect to get an extra £2,000,000 in customs duties? The honorable gentleman should be able to estimate his receipts and expenditure better than any one else, but unfortunately all his forecasts have been erratic; sometimes he has erred on the right side but never has he been accurate. Probably the reason is that he disregards the advice of his experts and gives full play to his own optimism. I should not mourn a reduction in imports, but, unfortunately, we are not manufacturing our own requirements to an extent that will compensate for any serious decline in customs revenue.
I remind the committee that within the next six years State debts amounting to £145,000,000, and Commonwealth debts amounting to nearly £90,000,000, totalling £235,000,000, will mature, and if in the interval the Treasurer is allowed to continue his policy of dash, rash, and splash, we shall find ourselves even worse beset by financial trials and difficulties than we are now.
Unemployment is one of the big problems that we must solve ; I have already alluded to the loss of money and efficiency it causes. Australia, a young country with immense riches, with so much to do and so little done, is not to be compared with older countries in which the major developmental work is already done. . It should be able to provide employment for all. But, unfortunately, there is a lack of co-ordination and co-operation between governments and other employing authorities. The Prime Minister, when asked to provide work for the unemployed, treated the matter as one of no concern to him, and discounted figures quoted by honorable members on this side as to the numbers affected. A few months ago I learned from the union books in Melbourne that 70,000 unionists in Victoria alone were out of work. We know that unemployment is considerable in New South Wales also, and,, that there is serious depression in the coal-mining industry and at Broken Hill. The number of men out of work throughout Australia may be conservatively estimated at 100,000, and the Federal Government should be the first to concern itself in providing a remedy. I may be reminded that the Government appointed a royal commission to report upon unemployment, national insurance and kindred subjects, but the problem cannot be disposed of in that way. The’ duty of this Parliament is to so order things that employment will be provided for all. I believe that a more protective tariff will increase the avenues of employment, but apart from that, Federal and State Governments, local governing bodies, employers, employees and would-be employees must tackle the problem. All that is required is organization; means of getting the necessary money can be devised. The Victorian Labour Government, although it has been in office for only twelve months and succeeded to a depleted treasury, has already done wonders in providing employment. It is the unfortunate lot of Labour Governments in both Commonwealth and State spheres to assume office after fusionists and pact parties have so muddled the finances that the treasury chest is empty. Notwithstanding that handicap, they do succeed in finding work for those who need it. The Treasurer’s own budget speech shows that he has reduced the Commonwealth from a position of affluence to one of comparative poverty. In regard to the causes of unemployment, I obtain confirmation of my own views from authorities whose political opinions are the opposite from mine. Mr. J. Lavington Bonython, President of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, said at the annual meeting of that body recently -
Private enterprise has suffered to some extent from a restriction of credit, due perhaps, more to the lack of confidence in the immediate future of trade and industry than to a marked depletion of capital reserves.
Mr. Bonython is a son of the proprietor of that great Adelaide newspaper the Advertiser, and because of his business interests and associations, is well qualified to measure the financial pulse of the community. I believe that private enterprise has suffered from restriction of credit to a greater extent than many are prepared to admit. I quote now from the report of the National Insurance Commission, drafted, presumably, by the chairman, who is a staunch supporter of the present Commonwealth Government -
Currency and Credit. - The opinion has been expressed that the action of those who control the supply of currency and credit has an appreciable influence on employment, and that a restriction of credit is associated with a price fall and with an increase in unemployment, whilst an increase in the supply of credit is associated with a price rise and with a reduction of unemployment. Further, that a restriction of credit may accelerate a crisis, and that at periods when there is a lack of loan money owing to caution on the part of financial institutions, there is a consequent increase of unemployment in some industries. There is no doubt that the question of providing adequate financial machinery to meet the necessary expansion of industry is of extreme importance, and requires serious consideration. It is said to be the co-operation of the monetary authorities that has had the effect of producing the amelioration of the trade conditions in other countries.
That reveals a serious aspect of our economic position. Men who- have been engaged in business for a long period and have known fat years and lean years, declare that the lack of credit allowed by financial institutions has compelled them to curtail their operations and dismiss employees. I am not jealous of persons who are more richly endowed with this world’s goods than I am, but I do say that it is wrong that about twelve men should be in a position to decide what credit the Australian people shall have for the carrying on of their work and industries. That is too great a power to leave in the hands of a few men who are concerned only with the interests of their, shareholders, and are reckless of the disaster that may result from a contraction of credit. The manufacturers, primary producers, and the workers are at their mercy. To those who ask why we should interfere with the operations of the financial institutions, I reply that Parliament is constantly legislating to restrict the activities and freedom of the individual. In modern society, men and women may not do as they choose ; their conduct must conform to the requirements of the community. They are made to remember that every man is more or less his brother’s keeper.
Sitting suspended from 6.14- to 8 p.m.
– It is almost impossible to estimate the total amount of damage suffered by a country through extensive unemployment. Figures quoted by the Royal Commission on National Insurance show that in 1921, when the last census was taken,practically 50 per cent, of the unemployment then existing was due to scarcity of employment, and only 3 per cent, to industrial unrest. In its report the commission stated -
According to the 1921 census results, of 159,080 persons recorded as unemployed, 74,843, or 47.1 per cent.,stated that their unemployment was due to scarcity of employment; 39,350, or 24.7 per cent., to illness; 4,802, or 3 per cent., to accident; 4,539, or 2.9 per cent., to industrial disputes; 2,139, or 1.3 per cent., to old age; 25,991, or 16.3 per cent., to other causes; and 7,416, or 4.7 per cent., cause not stated; taking all the causes into consideration, 29 per cent, of the unemployment in Australia at the time of the 1921 census was stated to be due to sickness, accident or old age.
That effectually disposes of the argument which, for political purposes, is often advanced in this chamber, that our unemployment is largely due to the prevalence of industrial trouble. If this country is to rid itself of unemployment, it must evolve a better system of organization, from the Federal Government itself right down to the smallest employing unit. Gibes have frequently been thrown at the Australian workman by members of this Parliament, and, in this respect, it is interesting to hear what Mr. W. R. Morris, the English motor manufacturer, has to say about the British workman. Addressing a meeting consisting largely of employers, he said -
There are no workmen in the world to touch our British workmen as men and as workers. They are simply in a class by themselves. I have always known this. When I was in America recently it was good to hear people say the same - and they should know. I have found that the working man is vitally interested in, and proud of, his firm if it is a success. He knows that his work is all right. He likes to feel that the work of those above him is also all right. His opinion of inefficiency in high places is never flattering. Inefficiency rouses his contempt almost as much as injustice.
Henry Ford gives much, the same testimony about American “workmen. It has been shown that in America, which is the best organized country in the world with the exception of Germany, 70 per cent, of inefficiency and waste in industry is due to inefficiency in management and ownership. The percentage is likely to be higher in Australia. “Workmen in Australia are of the same stock as the British workmen, and display the same good qualities. If proof of this be necessary, it can be found in the high tributes paid by British captains of industry to the Australian workmen who were employed in munition factories in England during the war.
The Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly referred to arrears in the payment of Federal land tax. I admit that during the last financial year some pressure appears to have been applied, because large sums have been paid iff these arrears. Also, as the result of one particular case, the income tax collections have benefited very materially. Were it not for these unexpected payments, the deficit would have been very much greater than it is. Instead of its being £2,628,000, it would have been over £4,100,000. I believe that the taxpayers should have every opportunity of defending themselves against unjust impositions, but it appears to me that in regard 10 both land and income taxation there has been a consistent and organized attempt to evade paying taxes. On page 5 of the report of the Tax Commissioner it is shown that the total arrears of land tax alone amount to £1,113,000. It seems to me that the rich man, either by evasion or by discovering some pretext for delay in placing his case before the court of appeal, can dodge for a considerable time the payment of his just dues. The Treasurer is belatedly trying to close up some of the loopholes by which the wealthy taxpayers are escaping their responsibilities for the time being, at any rate. At the end of the Labour Government’s administration, the total amount of land tax arrears was only £93, while in the first year of the administration succeeding the Labour Government, the arrears amounted to £82,000. From then on they mounted steadily, until they now total the huge sum of £1,113,000. This tax im- ‘ posed by the Federal Labour Government of 1910-13 does not affect any but the wealthy, and fairly wealthy taxpayers. An exemption of £5,000 unimproved value is allowed, so that a person must have property worth more than that before he can be levied upon at all. The tax was imposed for a double purpose, first to increase revenue, and to help to meet out of revenue some of those charges which this Government has been consistently paying out of loan money, and secondly, to break up large estates. As the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is probably pleased to remember, over £200,000,000 worth of land has been subdivided since this tax came into operation, thus enabling a larger number of people to gain a living on the land. In view of the fact that for the first time in our Federal history we have the largest deficit, the Treasurer should take steps to stir up those who are hanging back with the payment of their taxes. In regard to income tax, I cannot help referring to a case which has recently been prominently before the public. I am very much surprised that there should ever be a government in this country prepared to be bought off instead of prosecuting those who, by fraud and other means, have succeeded in evading their tax responsibilities for many years.
It is one of the biggest scandals that has arisen in the political life of Australia that men could practically buy themselves out of gaol. That was effected merely because certain people were able to put down £500,000 sterling.
– To which case is the honorable member referring?
– To that very glaring case of the Abrahams brothers, which came up for discussion in this House, and which- is dealt with very lengthily in the Eleventh Report of the Commissioner of Taxation. The nefarious practices of the Abrahams brothers were first discovered at Perth, in Western Australia, and the denouement occurred when the authorities blew up a safe in Melbourne which contained documents disclosing the immense arrears of taxation due by those brothers. The report of the Commissioner of Taxation discloses that arrears of income tax to the amount of £2,176,953 are due to the people of Australia. That, when added to arrears of land tax, makes a total arrears of nearly £3,500,000. The report contains pages enumerating the names of about 150 people who have been prosecuted for not paying their taxation, but the list contains none of the names of the big taxpayers who have evaded taxation. It is the poor people of the community who are prosecuted and mulct in fines and costs. Those who are able to buy themselves out, like Kidman and the Abrahams brothers, escape the arm of the law. Mr. Watt, member for Balaclava, dealing with the Abrahams case, and that the action of the Government gave more than point to the statement “ There is one law for the rich and another for the poor.” Assuredly, this is a rich man’s Government, and it has been so for a number of years. It came into power with a treasury containing a surplus of over £7,000,000, and now announces a deficit of £2,600,000. During the interim it has not in any way relieved the burden on the poorer classes of the community, but it has vastly improved the condition of the rich. Not only have the rich been permitted to leave their taxes unpaid, but large amounts of taxation have been remitted to them. The time has come for a clean-up of the Augean stable, and the sooner it occurs the better. None of those deplorable practices occurred when Labour was in office. On the last occasion when this party took possession of the Treasury bench, there was a negligible amount of arrears of taxation, but this has now assumed vast proportions. One of the charges against the Abrahams brothers read -
For that within three years preceding the commencement of this action did by divers wilful acts, defaults, neglects, frauds, arts, and contrivances, by divers means avoided, or attempted to avoid, assessment of taxation contrary to section US of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-25.
Had such a charge been preferred against any poor person in the community he would have been lodged behind prison bars, with a term of imprisonment commensurate with the offence.
I shall not traverse the ground that was so- thoroughly covered by my leader last night; but I record my amazement at the number of commissions and boards which have been appointed by this Government. One can scarcely travel anywhere in the Commonwealth without stumbling over a board or commission, and in many cases their services are not worth a half-penny to the people of Australia. Honorable members opposite would not squander their own resources in that fashion, and in my opinion the individuals guilty of wasting the resources of the community are much more culpable than the burglar who enters a house and robs an individual. The Government has had a brain wave and is importing an alleged “Big Pour “ from the United Kingdom, who are to guide us in our financial administration. Eight of the twelve Ministers of this Government have had trips to the other side of the world at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia, and in addition those unfortunate taxpayers have had to defray the expenses of many experts as well. Sir Henry Cowan, Sir Robert Horne and Mr. Amery, and the British Empire Parliamentary Delegation under the chairmanship of Lord Salisbury have visited Australia. Quite a host of smaller fry have been imported under the pretence of assisting us in our government. Superimposed on these extravagances we have the maintenance of a High Commissioner and his retinue in London, while six of our States have Agents-General in that city with their staffs. What are all those people doing to advertise Australia? Are they advertising our country? They are paid well to do so. The Manufacturers’ Journal asks the pertiment question apropos the “Big Four,” “What can they tell us about Australia?” and ridicules the delegation. There is one man who intends to visit Australia next year, uninvited, and at his own expense, who, in my humble judgment, possesses greater business capacity than all the rest of those people put together. I refer to Sir Eric Geddes. I object to all that extravagant expenditure. Honorable members opposite appear to imagine that they have at their disposal an inexhaustible Fortunatus’ purse, but fortunately the taxpayers of Australia will shortly have an opportunity to call them to book. I do not altogether blame the Treasurer, bad as he is. I understand that he is a prince in his own profession, but, undoubtedly in politics and finance he is more of a “ Page “ than an “ Earl.” But I also blame those who, in a meek and mild fashion, follow the honorable gentleman into deep and devious paths, blindly supporting him and his leader in everything. The right honorable member forBalaclava (Mr. Watt) declared that he would not put up with what some people submit to in their dog-like obedience to the behests of their political masters, and it is rather a pity that other honorable members opposite have not the courage to voice a similar protest.
The time is opportune for a complete overhaul of our financial administration. Those who have made such an awful mess of the affairs of Australia should be deposed from office. They will be associated for all time with a disgraceful record that is devoid of any action of a statesmanlike character, that is characterized by big deficits, and an atrocious financial stewardship. Under their regime unemployment is rampant, business is bad, and the people are crying out for relief. My only consolation is that, in a short time those people will have an opportunity to rid themselves of this inept and extravagant incubus, and to substitute for it a party that has always displayed capacity for sound and intelligent legislation and administration.
– I have listened carefully to the adverse criticism that has been levelled at the Government in connexion with the introduction of this budget. I differ altogether from the views expressed, and consider that, on the whole, this is an excellent budget. In view of the difficult time through which Australia has recently passed, the Treasurer has done particularly well in having to announce only a comparatively small deficit. Listening to honorable members opposite, one might imagine that it is an easy matter to administer a department which has the handling of £63,000,000 annually, and end the financial year with the surplus estimated at the beginning of the year. Is there any honorable member opposite who has the capacity to control the finances of Australia so well that the debit balance would not exceed £2,500,000? We have just passed through one of the worst seasons that Australia has experienced. Millions of sheep have been lost. The wheat-growers harvested a very poor crop. The financial stringency has been most severe, and the value of our imports was £2,000,000 less than was anticipated. When all the facts are considered, the Treasurer’s record is an excellent one. Although I think it would have been better if some of the items which appear in the Estimates had been omitted, on the whole I feel bound to congratulate the Treasurer upon his careful husbanding of the finances. Dr. Earle Page is an able Treasurer, if not one of the most able who have held office since the establishment of federation, and he deserves commendation for his achievements. I congratulate the Government also upon the reductions in taxation it has made during the period it has been in office.
One of the most important matters that we have to discuss is the tariff.I have always been a moderate protectionist. I do not believe in high protection. Some of the duties at present are altogether too high.
– What is the duty on rice ?
– It is a very moderate duty - about 30 per cent. In the majority of instances customs duties do not benefit the primary producer. Woolgrowing and wheat-growing are two of our principal primary industries. The wool-growers never derive any advantage from the tariff, and the wheat-growers are assisted by it only rarely. The growing of rice is essential on the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, and the industry has been successfully established there. Those who are engaged in it deserve the encouragement of a moderate tariff. So long as protection is the accepted policy of this country, the primary producers have as good a right to a fair share of it as those who are engaged in secondary industries. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) quoted this afternoon some illuminating figures which showed to what a tremendous extent some duties have increased since 1908. Whereas then there were only eight items which carried a duty of 40 per cent., at the present time there is a large number upon which the duty exceeds 60 per cent., in addition to which there is a heavy natural protection in the shape of freight and handling charges, which are estimated to average from 30 per cent, to 50 per cent., upon goods that are imported into Australia. Any industry which cannot carry on with a duty of from 40 per cent, to 45 per cent, in addition to that natural protection, does not deserve to prosper. There must be inefficient management, an insufficient output for the wages received, or some other drawback. Whenever there is a revision of the tariff schedule, a number of duties are increased. As a result, the cost of production is rising, and the primary producers, who provide 96 per cent, of the goods which are exported, and who represent 73 per cent, of Australia’s wealth, are penalized. When the cost of living rises in sympathy with an increase in the cost of production, the wages of the workers are advanced. They are perfectly justified in claiming greater remuneration when their outlay is increased. Then the manufacturers find that they cannot continue to produce without higher duties. Thus the vicious circle continues. Where ‘ is it going to end? Who is benefitting from the present policy? The workers may think that they are; but investigation proves that the effective wage to-day is very little higher than it was prior to the war. I do not wish it to be thought that I am opposed to high wages. I favour wages being as high as possible, so long as full value is given in return. But now the manufacturers arc not benefitting, and the consumers and primary producers are penalized. The sooner this vicious circle is broken the better for all concerned, including the workers. The honorable member for Maribyrnong expressed the view that is generally voiced by honorable members who sit opposite, that we should have prohibitive duties which will prevent the goods of other countries from entering Australia, and thus secure the local market for Australian industries. Under such a system we should all be worse off than we are at present. The direct taxation would have to be doubled at least, because the £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 which is now received from customs duties would be lost, and would have to be made good in some other way. How many industries could stand it? There would be a wholesale closing down, with a consequent dismissal of large numbers of workmen, and the position in regard to unemployment would become more acute. I am astonished that the report of the industrial delegation to the United States of America has not brought home to honorable members opposite a realization of the fact that the one thing which would benefit the working man of this country is the system which obtains in America of co-operation between employers and employees, the result of which is complete amity, which is so badly needed in the industrial life of Australia. Under the system of payment by results the workers of America receive more than those of any other country. I have never heard honorable members opposite advocate the adoption of that system here.
– Nor would the honorable member advocate it if he knew anything about it.
– The workers of America know something about it, and they are in favour of it. If it is to their advantage, why should it not be of advantage also to the workers of Australia? The report of the delegation) is most illuminating. It proves beyond doubt that co-operation between employers and employees has greatly benefited both sections. The output of that country has increased by from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent., and everybody is prosperous. I cannot conceive why honorable members opposite, who are so concerned for the welfare of the workers, do not advise them to insist upon the institution of that system.
– The shearers work for piece-work rates.
– Very much to their own advantage. Why do not honorable members opposite advise the workers generally to agitate for the system to be applied to them?
– Lt does not suit every industry.
– It has a general application in the United States of America. Our honorable friends opposite should also advise their followers to save the money that they now waste on strikes, and follow the example which is set by the workers of the United States of America, some of whom own 25 of the banks that are established in that country, while many others hold shares in the big companies in which they are employed. The American workers are in a much better position than the workers of any other country. They drive their own motor cars to work, and generally are in a prosperous position. There is no reason why the Australian workers should not be similarly prosperous. We could get as good results from the system of payment by results as the Americans get from it.
– What about compulsory arbitration ?
– The workers of the United States of America and Canada will not have compulsory arbitration on their minds. They know that they are infinitely better off without it. I am opposed to the system. It causes enmity between employers and employees when there should be friendship, goodwill, and co-operation. The system is compulsory only in name. When it suits the workers to do so they flout the awards of the court. I believe that the time is not far distant when the whole system will be scrapped.
I notice that the loss on the Commonwealth railways last year was £227,578, and the expenditure this year is to be £900,000. The construction of the line through North and Central Australia cannot be justified. I should not object to the building of the North-South line if it were to pass through good country; but there is no future for the extremely poor districts which it will serve. I inspected this country two years ago, and am of the opinion that we are wasting the money we are spending in putting a railway through it. Oodnadatta has been served by a railway for the last 35 years, but the population of the town aud district is smaller now than when the railway was opened for traffic. Its rainfall is only 4J inches per annum, and the country carries only one beast to the square mile.
– Alice Springs has a rainfall of 11 inches.
– I admit that there is a patch of fair country around Alice Springs; but for 200 miles beyond Oodnadatta the average rainfall does not exceed 7 inches anywhere, and only one season out of every three is any good. If the country were improved it might carry about one sheep to 25 acres ; but it would not pay to improve it. Even the country around Alice Springs is only second or third class cattle country. Beyond Alice Springs there is a patch which has a slightly better rainfall, but it is sour cattle country, capable of carrying for a short time while the grass is green, only four or five beasts per square mile. As soon as the herbage loses its freshness it has to be burnt off. Afterwards a little green grass shoots up, but it is not capable of carrying more than one or two cattle to the square mile.
– What about the Burt Plains?
– That is somewhat better; but even it is poor country. It could not carry more than one sheep to 12 or 14 acres.
– How far east, and west of the main telegraph line did the honorable member go?
– I made my inquiries of many people who knew the country for great distances east and west of the telegraph line. There is worse country than I saw on either side of the line. Seeing that the railway to Oodnadatta has not become a paying proposition after 35 years, and that settlement in the country that it serves has declined, there is no hope of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs section ever becoming profitable. Only one passenger train runs to Oodnadatta every fortnight, and there are occasional stock trains. The freight rates on the Alice Springs line will be so high that pastoralists will not be able to pay them. The only hope of the line ever paying is that a rich mineral discovery may be made, and I do not think that that is likely. I realize that the line is being built in fulfilment of an obligation to the South Australian Government. I have never suggested that the contract should be repudiated; but I contend that if the people of South Australia realized how poor this country is they would agree to the cancellation of the contract, for they would realize that the line must become a heavy burden to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. It would pay the Commonwealth Government to compensate the South Australian Government for the cancellation of the contract. We should be well out of the business if we paid South Australia £1,000,000, or even £2,000,000 in hard cash in lieu of building the line. I trust that the through line will never be completed. It would cost from £10,000,000 to £12,000,000 to link up the two points of the existing railways.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his estimate?
– The Public Works Committee has reported on the matter. Its estimate of the cost was not so high as I have stated, but every one knows that at least 25 per cent, has to be added to the estimated cost of these works to cover unforeseen contingencies. It is regrettable that while we are building this line to serve poor country, good country, such as that on the Barkly Tablelands, is not being developed. This country is as good as that of Western Queensland. It is capable of just as great development as the country around Longreach, Winton, and Hughenden, which has been settled for many years and is carrying a large number of sheep. In my opinion the Barkly Tablelands could carry from 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 sheep. The Commonwealth would be well advised to build a railway from Stoney Island through Boorooloola to Anthony’s Lagoon, or nearly as far as that. It would cost less than the Oodnadatta to Alice Springy line, and pass through infinitely better country. The Victoria River country should also be developed. I regret that the line from the Katherine River to Daly Waters has been started, for it will pass through poor cattle country, which is not worth the expenditure of so much money. A good deal of this country has been available for settlement for years, and could be had even now at a peppercorn rental, but no one will settle upon it. Of what use is it, therefore, to spend millions of money in attempting to develop it? I am not sure that it was even a payable proposition to build the railway from Darwin to Pine Creek; but I am firmly of belief that the railway should not have been extended beyond that point.
It has been said very truly that the sheep is carrying Australia on its back. Fortunately our wool is bringing a good price, but I want to disabuse honorable members’ minds of the idea that immense profits are being made by those engaged in the wool industry. I know something about this subject, because I have been a wool-grower for 40 years. Although we are at present getting considerably more than double the price we got for our product before the war, the costs of growing wool have increased in proportion, and taxation is so much higher that the profits of wool-growers are less than before the war. I do not know what will become of Australia if the price of this commodity should fall to any extent.
I am pleased to observe that the Treasurer says that the Estimates have been prepared with a view to ‘ the greatest economy compatible with the efficient discharge of the public services, and that a continuous departmental economy campaign will be maintained throughout the year. That is most reassuring. I believe that the Government is doing its utmost to exercise economy, and I feel sure that it will continue to carry out that policy.
.- The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), after giving the Government every credit for its budget, immediately proceeded to blame it for its injudicious building of railways and for placing duties on every commodity except that in which his own electorate is interested. The honorable member talked of moderate protection, and then made the admission that rice grown in his electorate is protected by a duty of 30 per cent, or 40 per cent. I should be glad if some of the big secondary industries of Australia could get protection to the extent of 30 per cent, or 40 per cent. Honorable members of the Country party have been led to do some most inconsistent things in regard to the customs tariff. While opposed generally to the imposition of protective duties, on one occasion they asked for and obtained a duty of 800 per cent, on onions. Every one knows that onions are not imported into Australia unless, perhaps, there happens to be a local shortage. The effect of the effort of honorable members of the Country party has been to frame a tariff which, although ostensibly for the benefit of the primary producer, in reality never benefits him.
The honorable member for Riverina claims that the whole of the distress now prevalent in Australia can be traced to the fact that Australians, unlike Americans, will not work at piece-work rates. I can assure the honorable member that all Americans do not work at piece-work rates, and that the men engaged in two of our greatest industries - shearing and mining - are engaged at piece-work rates. If the honorable member is really anxious to ascertain the cause of the prevailing depression, he ought to see to what extent many of our mining concerns and business firms are over-capitalized. Where, for instance, £100,000 is quite sufficient to develop a mine or build up an industry, stock has been watered to such an extent that the mine or the industry is expected to earn a profit on £300,000 or £400,000. I hope that the efforts now being made to recover the overseas market for the coalmining industry will be successful; but I can assure the honorable member that the bridge between having and not having an overseas trade is not represented by the earnings of the miners.
– Surely the honorable member is wrong.
-It can be worked out easily enough. The average earning of a miner in different mines is about 4s. 2d. a ton, yet coal is retailed in Melbourne at about £3 a ton. Thus if the miners worked for nothing it would not affect the position. The trouble in the coal-mining industry is due to the issuing of bonus shares to conceal profits, and the watering of stock to such an extent that the earnings are not sufficient to enable dividends to be paid.
– That may be so in regard to coal-mining, but that is only one industry out of many.
– It applies in other industries, too. It is wrong to permit stock to be watered. The only capital employed in an industry should be that upon which it is possible to pay dividends out of the earnings.
Mr.Rodgers. - All of our standards have been inflated, and Australia is the only country in the world that refuses to write them down.
– That is so. The honorable member for Riverina has lauded the Treasurer for his budget. Before the amalgamation of the Nationalist and Country parties, the present Treasurer attacked the Nationalist Government for its lavish, or as he termed it, wasteful expenditure. The words he used were, “ I am at the head of a party that will put the searchlight upon the extravagance of this Nationalist Government.” But now he is a member of a Ministry which has come to Parliament with the worst deficit we have had since federation. After the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) yesterday, can any one say that the Government has been careful to avoid unnecessary expenditure, or that any other Government has indulged in more wasteful expenditure than we have had during the last twelve months? Commission after commission has been appointed at great cost to the Commonwealth.
– Can the honorable member say that any commission has been appointed that has been unnecessary?
– I can say that the Government has not acted on the report of any of the commissions it has appointed. When we moved from Melbourne to Canberra we were to have a constitutional session, but the Government cheated the people in that respect by appointing a costly commission to go around the country examining people who have not worked under our Constitution, and it gave the chairman of the commission a Prime Minister’s salary and a big travelling allowance. Is that how to exercise economy in a time of stress? Prior to the present financial year the cost of boards and commissions appointed by the Government was £250,000. Can we not see in the Federal Capital Territory, evidence of wilful waste, due to bad management which the Government will not check, or to some other unexplained’ cause? Money has been spent not on utilities or on things necessary for the development of the Capital, but upon a Governor-General’s residence. Already £70,000 has been spent on that building, and it is proposed to spend £26,000 more, for no other purpose than to spoil an old homestead that should have been preserved for all time.
– It would have fallen down in another couple of years.
– If it had fallen down we could have built an up-to-date Governor-General’s residence for half the amount of money spent on repairs to Yarralumla. Yet the honorable member for Riverina claims that he is supporting an economy Government. The way in which the Federal Capital Territory is being developed from the outside instead of the centre, has necessitated the construction of unnecessary sewerage tunnels, water mains and electric lighting mains. That is not evidence of economy. One would think from the action that has been taken that the desire has been to damn the capital in the eyes of Australia and of the whole world. The Government would be well advised to take a tighter hold of the situation,
I recollect a member of this Parliament, when it met in Melbourne, exclaiming “ What is a million ?” but the present Government seems unconcerned about the fact that the Commonwealth has ‘ a deficit on the year’s transactions of over £2,500,000. Ministers are prepared to postpone the discharge of that debt, but they do not remind the taxpayers that interest will have to be paid on that sum until the liability has been met. Why should Australia borrow money from the United States of America? No matter how high we may erect our tariff wall it will be impossible to exclude American goods, because in the final settlement we must accept goods from that country to the extent of the money borrowed in that quarter.
– What is the honorable member’s remedy?
– We should do what a Labour government did during the late war, and float loans locally. That government was assured that it could not be done, but it borrowed in Australia the money required to prosecute the war. In that way the interest that had to be paid was circulated in the country. It would be advantageous to raise internal loans rather than borrow abroad even if 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, additional interest had to be paid.
– Would that policy not starve local industries?
– Certainly not, because the interest paid on the loans would be circulated in Australia. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), although a supporter of the Government, admits that he is not proud of its budget.
I have admitted in the past that the north-south railway line should be constructed on the direct route followed by the overland telegraph line between Darwin and Adelaide; but if better country could be served by making a slight deviation from that direct route, it would be in the interests of the Commonwealth to make that deviation, and there would be no . breach of the agreement with South Australia. The fact that a railway will not pay at the outset is not necessarily a good reason for rejecting the proposal. With the application of science to agriculture it is reasonable to suppose that the land opened up by the north-south railway will eventually be brought into profitable occupation. It is necessary to bridge this continent by railways from north to south and from east to west. Other countries, such as America, have done that, irrespective of the character of the land over which their railways have passed. The Grand Trunk line of Canada does not traverse country that is entirely good, but it was built for the purpose of providing the “ all red “ route from Great Britain to Australia. The north-south railway will no doubt prove of great value to the Empire in years to come, when the population of Australia will have become much greater than it is at the present time. This budget will be known as that of a government that has failed to carry out its promises to the people and has spent public money unwisely, leaving a large deficit.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that that fine old ship, the Oonah, which is trading to Tasmania at the present time, is not considered suitable for the tourist traffic. Those interested in that trade desire that a better vessel be placed in the running during the ensuing summer. It is suggested that the Loongana would be a ‘ more suitable steamer for this service.
Some time ago I asked the Minister for Trade aud Customs to have a bell buoy placed at the mouth of the Tamar River. This would be most useful in assisting navigation, especially in the event of fogs. A sum of money has been placed on the Estimates for lighthouses, &c. ; but I understand that the grant has been cut down so severely that the department may not be able to carry out all the works that are considered necessary. If the customs authorities, guided by their experts as to the most important works to be done, say that there is not sufficient money available for the purpose of providing the buoy to which I have referred, I hope that the Treasurer will see that the necessary amount is made available so that the buoy can be placed in position before next winter. I understand that the work is estimated to cost about £2,350. If this work is not done the consequences to shipping may be serious.
I protest against the way in which the shipping service between Sydney and Hobart has been conducted. It is not now equal to the service that was provided 50 or 60 years ago. Cargo vessels are certainly running; but, owing to shipping holdups, the Tasmanian producers are suffering severe hardship. Grave complaints are already heard on the wharves at Hobart on this account. It seems unthinkable that there should not be a satisfactory shipping service between such ports as Sydney and Hobart. The Government has refused all requests to grant a subsidy to this service. I believe that the Bombala has been placed in the running; but the fares have been raised. The high fares charged on coastal steamers by increasing costs is one of the causes of unemployment. The people of Australia should be encouraged to travel and to trade between the various ports. Although no subsidy has been granted to this service, I hope that before next season the Government will see that adequate shipping facilities will have been provided between these important ports.
Though the budget may not be all that we desire, still considering the statutory commitments of the Government and the circumstances generally, it would be difficult for the situation to be handled more satisfactorily than it has been by the Prime Minister and those associated with him. Honorable members opposite have stressed the fact that the financial year closed with a fairly substantial deficit; but that was due largely to the fact that our customs receipts, which are our principal source of revenue, declined considerably during the last financial year. They have also mentioned that, although the Nationalists inherited a surplus, which has gradually been increased from year to year, they are now faced with a deficit. If the accumulated surpluses had been squandered there would be some justification for complaint, but a study of the manner in which the money has been disposed of shows that it has been spent in wiping off a portion of our national debt, and in providing between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 for defence purposes. With a return of good seasons there is every probability of the receipts from customs duties reaching the amount which the Treasurer estimates, although I think it rather high; but if the revenue from this source should decline still further, the Government will know how to deal with the situation even though it may be necessary to impose additional taxation in order to adjust our finances.
A good deal has been said concerning unemployment, but until its real cause is determined we shall always have to contend with this problem. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the only remedy for unemployment is higher customs duties, but those imposed on some commodities are at present too high. Some of the higher duties seriously affect primary production, upon which our financial stability very largely depends. If it were not for our exports of wool, wheat, and other primary products there would be comparatively little money coming into the Commonwealth, and consequently the people would not have the means to purchase the products of our secondary industries. Unfortunately, the cost of production in Australia is too high to enable us to satisfactorily compete with overseas manufacturers, and our national debt has increased in greater ratio than our population or production.
Mr.Gregory. - Production has not increased at all.
– Unfortunately, it has not. The industrial unrest which is so prevalent in Australia is largely responsible for the high cost of manufacturing and the diminution of primary production. Under more peaceful industrial conditions Australia would be in a more prosperous condition than it is today, and would attract desirable settlers from other parts of the world, to follow in the steps of those grand old pioneers from Scotland and other parts of the Empire, who performed such useful work in the initial stages of our development. Honorable members opposite who are afraid to extend a welcome to even their own kith and kin maintain that migrants should not be allowed to come to Australia until every person in the community is profitably employed. They seem to overlook the important fact that every new arrival provides employment for those already here. The Government has adopted a reasonable migration policy, and 1 am hopeful that many of the recommendations of the Development and Migration Commission, which, has done good work, will be adopted. Honorable members opposite consider that there has been an unusually heavy influx of Italians; but as a result of the negotiations into which the Prime Minister has entered with the Italian authorities the number of arrivals in the future is likely to be restricted. 1 understand that fully 98 per cent, of the migrants reaching Australia are of British stock.
– They are not. The honorable member should study the figures.
– They were until recently, and I understand that it is the Government’s intention to maintain that percentage. If the Labour party were in power in this Parliament it would not dare to prevent Italians from settling in Australia.
– It would, until the conditions were better.
– It would not have the courage to tell a foreign nation that it did not want its people to settle here. Honorable members opposite would not dare to tell any foreign power that its people are not to come here, and even if they did do that, what support would they receive from the Old Country, or even from the Labour members in the
House of Commons ? The British Labour party would not countenance any such action.
– That would not concern us.
– What would be the attitude of honorable members opposite if the Labour party gained office in the Federal Parliament and Mr. Jock Garden forced his doctrine of internationalism down their throats? To him all men are brothers.
– The honorable member is the humble servant of the Cascade Brewery and the Van Dieman’s Land company.
– I am nothing of the sort. Both those institutions are outside my electorate, and I have no interest whatever in them.
I advocate the cessation of borrowing, as far as possible, and I am glad that the Government has seen fit to curtail its borrowing policy to some extent. We all admit that we cannot have financial stagnation, and I personally believe that the Government is alive to the situation and can handle it as well as any one else. I am quite satisfied that the Treasurer will exercise economy, and at the same time keep the wheels of industry moving.
I regret that little or nothing has been done by the workers and the employers to bring about industrial peace,, but I hope that an improvement in their relations will take place in the near future, because that would do more than anything else to bring about financial stability. The arbitration system is keeping apart the two parties to industry. A recent award has caused the present strike on the waterfront. The men would be willing to come to some arrangement with the ship-owners, but the law, as it stands, does not permit of that. The law is not a good one, but still, while it exists it has to be observed. Mr. Justice Higgins laid down a basis for arriving at a living wage, but unfortunately it does not work well in practice. He fixed the living wage on the basis that it must provide for a man, his wife, and three children. The single man receives the same wages as the married man, and yet his living expenses would be less than half that of the married man with a family. He insists on getting a wage equal to that of a married man on the ground that he does as much work. If an award prescribes a wage of £6 a week in a certain industry, whether it can stand it or not, that wage must be paid. It would be far better for the employer and the employee to meet together and to come to an arrangement to accept a lower wage until such time as the conditions in the industry improved. I believe in good wages but an industry cannot afford to pay a basic wage of £6 a week unless that wage is earned and a reasonable profit shown to the employer. That is one of the bugbears in the economic life in Australia. The union secretaries and officials will not permit the men to settle amicably their differences with their employers, because they are afraid that once friendly relations are established they will lose control of the men and their jobs will be lost. The unions are antagonistic to any form of profit-sharing. If that system were adopted in Australia, the men would work to their full capacity, and waste in industry would be greatly eliminated. Fraud could be prevented by the scheme being first approved by a public registrar. To-day, because of the attitude of the union officials, the whole of the waterfront is in turmoil. I do hope that when the next budget is presented a decrease in the public debt and a marked increase in our production and population will have taken place.
– I listened attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson). They consisted mainly of a request for additional steamers to be placed on the runs from Sydney to Hobart and from Melbourne to Launceston. He dealt with many abstract questions of which he had little knowledge. He made a futile attempt to bolster up this Government, which is unrivalled in its maladministration of the finances of this country. To-day the Federal and State Governments are faced with falling revenues. No constructive policy is being promulgated to improve our position, and it is our duty, as representatives of the people, to take some action and to suggest means whereby the Government may bring about financial stability. Every true statesman realizes that he occupies his position not merely to receive from time to time the emoluments of office, but in order to serve the interests of the people, and to maintain the high and honorable traditions associated with British administration. Since the unfortunate schism in the Labour party some years ago, Australia has suffered materially in that there has not been brought forward constructive legislation for the benefit of the people. Thoughtful men throughout Australia have lost confidence in the present administration. They admit that the Prime Minister is an energetic man; but they realize that his very activity constitutes a danger to the country. Where activity is not associated with ability, much damage can result. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) spoke in a pessimistic strain regarding the Northern Territory. If it takes 4 square miles of country to provide sustenance for one cow, it would indeed be difficult to obtain sufficient milk for a cup of tea. The honorable member complained of the route of the proposed railway to serve that territory, and prophesied that, if it were constructed, the receipts would not pay for the axle grease used. I remind him that thirteen of the existing railways in New South Wales come within that category.
– But they have assisted settlement.
– The people in the cities have to pay the interest on the cost of those unprofitable lines.
The honorable member had a good deal to say about the value of the wool industry. It is true that our wool crop is worth many millions of pounds per annum, but the wool industry employs less labour in proportion to the returns than does any other industry in this country.
Honorable members opposite blame the Arbitration Court for many of the ills now afflicting this country. When they suggest that the activities of the court are associated only with waterside workers and members of the Seamen’s Union, they display their ignorance of the ramifications of the arbitration system. There is hardly an industry in Australia which does not come within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. It is many years since I first advocated arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes. I feel grateful that so long ago I was vouchsafed sufficient wisdom to advocate a system which has been productive of so much good. Arbitration has insured to the workers of this country a share of the wealth they have produced. I am a greater believer in arbitration to-day than ever. I believe in redressing wrongs by constitutional means. Some honorable members, whose antipathy to the arbitration system arises from ignorance and prejudice, appear to fear the consequences of the producers of the country’s wealth obtaining a share of it. The day is fast coming when men with such warped views of life will no longer occupy seats in the Parliaments of this country.
The honorable member for Riverina also advocated piece-work. I know something of this system. I have a vivid recollection of some of its effects in my boyhood days. I have seen women struggling along the streets with huge bundles of clothing which they had made at home for a few pence, or a few shillings, for a dozen articles. 1 know something of the miserable hovels in which they dwelt, and of the mental and physical torture they suffered. I know, too, that the conditions under which they worked tended to bring out their worst attributes. Men and women cannot be high-minded if continually faced with the struggle to keep body and soul together. Whenever I hear any person advocating piece-work I am forced to the conclusion that he has never experienced the struggle for existence, and feel tempted to say, “You know nothing about it.”
I sincerely hope that the budget before us is the last to be introduced by the muddlers who for several years have occupied the Treasury bench. Unfortunately, for this country, the press does not take the same interest in the budget that was taken in the days of Henry Parkes, William McMillan, George Dibbs, John See, and others. In those clays and later, when Labour was in office in the federal arena, we had sound administration. We do not get that to-day from the composite Ministry; this unholy combination is destroying all the administrative systems.
In his budget speech the Treasurer congratulated himself on the amounts he had paid away in bounties, at the instance of a party he had deserted in order to become a Minister in the composite government. The honorable gentleman has never shown any financial capacity. Having the advice of an expert staff, he should have known the possibility of a decline in revenue. I knew that the receipts from customs and excise could not continue at the abnormal figures of recent years; our markets were being flooded with overseas goods and that could not be allowed to go on. The Treasurer should have had enough foresight to provide against the inevitable fall of revenue. He has not yet told us how he proposes to dispose of the deficit; like Micawber, he is waiting for something to turn up, but there is no prospect of anything helpful turning up. Business men in the capital cities have realized for a long time that the industrial and financial outlook is dark. Notwithstanding that, the Government has continued borrowing abroad to the maximum of the country’s credit, and if only for that should be evicted from office. Unfortunately, the Government has been wetnursed by supporters and newspapers by whom the truth has been hidden. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have told the truth to the people as well as we are able to do without the assistance of the press; we warned the country of what was likely to happen. I see no prospect of salvation for Australia unless there is a change of government in the Federal sphere. There is hope from the constructive policy of the Labour party, but the policy of the present Government is merely destructive.
Unemployment is a burning question in the old world and here, and neither the British Parliament nor this Parliament can ignore it. To-day the world is producing more than ever before in its history, and yet is not giving employment to 50 per cent, of its people. One reason is that machinery has largely displaced the worker. Do honorable members think that the capitalists alone should benefit from the economies resulting from the inventions of science, and that the workers should be ruthlessly thrust aside? In Sydney men who have given loyal service to big business firms for 30 years are- told that they are no longer required, and young’ men or girls are -Drought in to take their places. Some of these men who at 50 years of age have been thrown on the industrial scrap heap have applied to me for work, but what can I do for them? I cannot send them to the Public Service Commissioner because they are over 45 years of age, and for the same reason they are not likely to get employment from big commercial enterprises, who insist upon the maximum of energy and efficiency in their employees. Hundreds of boys were engaged as street sweepers by the .Sydney City Council with an assurance that if they showed themselves willing and active permanent employment would he found for them as they advanced in years. Eight hundred of these workers have been discharged since the present Civic Commission has been in office. Some of them have been engaged in that work for ten to fifteen years, and what is going to become of them? ‘ No other establishment will take them. The same sort of thing is taking place in the banks, where male clerks are being discharged, and girls put in their places. At the Cockatoo dock there is some of the finest plant and machinery in the world, purchased at heavy cost, yet the Government proposes to close it up, and to throw a large number of workers out of employment. When it was decided to build two cruisers to protect Australia, the Government sent to the other side of the world for them, and had them built out of loan money. They will last for only ten years, and will then be taken outBide the Heads and sunk. Compare that with the statesmanlike action of the Labour Government when it was in power. The cruisers Melbourne and Sydney, and also the battleship Australia, were built out of revenue, and, when the time came for them to be scrapped, there was not 3d. debt on them.
I have drawn attention to the present policy of excessive borrowing. This Government has borrowed millions of pounds for the Postal Department. When the Labour Government assumed office, it set aside out of revenue £3,000,000 for postal development. We established the Commonwealth Bank, the only’ one in the world to be started without one penny of capital. Sir Hugh Denison commenced in a small office with six chairs, and prevailed on the Scotch Treasurer, Mr. Andrew Fisher, to make him a grant of £11,000. In a few years’ time the bank had built up a capital of over £4,000,000. At the present time, however, all those in control of the bank have interests in’ private banks, and they are not such idiots as not to look after their own private interests. The Commonwealth Bank, in common with other banks, is now curtailing credit, and whenever that is done there is sure to be unemployment. The position is made still worse by the conversion of loans at high rates of interest. The Labour Government was always able to float its loans at par; but this Government cannot get better terms than 98 at 54 per. cent. This is the first Federal Government which has been faced with a deficit, and yet nothing is being done to meet the situation. It is no pleasure to mo to speak in this strain; because I am naturally optimistic. I have great faith in Australia ; but I have no faith in this Government, nor. in its fetish of private enterprise. The last election was won by the Government, not on its merits, but by exploiting the seamen. It assisted to reduce their wages from £10 to £9 a month merely to swell the dividends of overseas capitalists. But now the people are beginning to realize that a change is essential, and that this Government is absolutely callous to the public welfare. It .has squandered money incessantly, and has appointed commission after commission merely to blind the eyes of the people. That work should have been done by the people’s representatives. At present there is a commission inquiring into the Federal Constitution. It is costing £300 a week, and is quite useless. To show how futile it is I instance the type of evidence given before it. One witness stated that he wa9 breeding rabbits with fur that was 7 inches long, and that he needed an alteration of the Constitution to- permit him to breed . rabbits with fur only 6 inches long. Another witness, a King’s Counsel, and a very able gentleman, gave valuable evidence, but his efforts’ were stultified. He criticized the conduct of this Government, the quality of the representatives in our Senate, whom he described as noodles, and the stupidity of having a multiplicity of State parliaments. The chairman of the commission checked him, and stated that the commission was not appointed to deal with that subject. I fail to see why it was appointed. Its report will be voluminous and will cost a small fortune to print, and the whole thing will achieve nothing. If any alteration is to be made to the Constitution it must emanate from this Parliament, and be submitted to the people of Australia by referendum. Then there was the Commission on National Insurance. The German nation introduced a scheme of unemployment insurance at least 50 years ago, and it was quite unnecessary for us to waste time on an extended inquiry when the Government had no intention to proceed with the matter. The whole thing was merely a subterfuge. Actually this Government is strongly opposed to tho passing of such a scheme, which would antagonize many of its strongest supporters, including the medical fraternity. When the problem eventually comes up for discussion in this chamber the Prime Minister will road an elaborately prepared secondreading speech - and that will be the last that we shall hear of the whole thing. The Development and Migration Commission perambulated the country to no purpose and submitted an extremely wordy report that will never he properly read by anybody. The only important subject with which it deals is embraced in one-third of a page. It points out that our unemployed is caused mainly through youths going to work too early in life, and eventually being thrown on the market as unskilled labourers. When Sir John O’Shanassy was asked in the Victorian Parliament about 50 years ago, “ What shall we do with our boys ? “ his reply was, in the words of London Punch, “Marry them to our girls.” The question of the employment of our growing youths causes me a considerable degree of concern. There are in and around Sydney four of the largest technical schools in Australia, and annually I play a part in the distribution of the prizes that have been won by the students. I am probably the father of technical education in the State of New South Wales’. When I am asked by the parents of the boys for advice as to where they can be placed, I am unable to point to any openings for them in a skilled trade. This is a matter that should be taken up in earnest by honorable members generally. When the Labour party was in power it did not send abroad orders for products that only skilled workmen could turn out; it endeavoured to provide new avenues for the employment of our own tradesmen and mechanics. Australia will not progress and become stable until employment is found for the whole of its people. Unemployment is the cause of all discontent; it breeds criminals and mental defectives. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and other freetraders who sit in this chamber wish to have purchased abroad the whole of our requirements of manufactured goods - they would keep our people down to the level of hewers of wood and drawers of water. The German Empire has re-‘ covered rapidly from tho ravages .of the war, merely because it is manufacturing on a large scale. The United States of America occupies a similar position. The ships that trade on the American coast are built in that country. The attitude of the Prime Minister of Australia is in sharp contrast to that of the leaders of the United States of’ America. In his blundering stupidity he effected the sale of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which was assisting the primary producer by conveying his commodities to the London and other markets at a time when they were most readily absorbed, and by that sale he placed us at the mercy of a combine that has neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned. How can we expect anything but unemployment while such a senseless practice is followed ? The Treasurer has not suggested any effective measures for wiping out the deficit and placing the ship of State again upon an even keel. The Government is borrowing at the rate of £40,000,000 a year. A Cabinet consisting of South Sea Islanders, if provided with ample, funds, would administer the affairs of this country much better than the present Ministry. Ability in administration is not necessary when the finances are buoyant, but when there is a shortage of money good management is essential. This Government lacks capacity. Ever since the split occurred in the ranks of the Australian Labour party this country has gone steadily to the bad in regard to both legislation and administration. The Government of which Sir Joseph Cook was Prime Minister consisted of two parties, and was designated a fusion. The electors did not take long to decide upon making a change. I feel confident that the time is not far distant when a similar fate will befall the present Government. The Prime Minister is watching the position very closely, and if he sees a chance of obtaining an advantage over his opponents he will seize it with avidity. For a while he was disposed to precipitate a general election because of the actions of a stowaway on one of the vessels that formerly belonged to the Commonwealth Line. Fancy a unit of the Royal Navy being requisitioned to quell a disturbance caused by one man ! Ever since the occurrence the Commonwealth Government has been a laughing stock in Great Britain for having taken notice of such an insignificant happening. The whole affair was concocted with the object of creating a panic so that the Government could rush to the country.” Presumably it would have laid the blame at the door of trade unionism. When honorable members opposite feel inclined to revile trade unionists they should hesitate, because in the ranks of unionism are members of the medical and legal professions, journalists, surveyors, school teachers, public servants and bank clerks. The Government has a large majority and there is no reason why it should not complete its legislative programme instead of rushing to the country. Evidently it thinks that a big strike may occur, and that it may thereby win some votes. But the intelligence of the Australian electors is too great to allow them to be gulled in that way. There is no doubt whatever that a fusion government such as we have at present is injurious to the Commonwealth. We should be better off if we had a straight out Tory administration. When Labour was in office it was able to maintain a credit balance year after year. The present administration is not fit to black the shoes of the last Labour Government. We had no need to bring out travelling showmen to tell us how to govern the country. Undoubtedly the “ big four “ which is shortly to visit the Commonwealth will endeavour to foster British interests at the expense of Australia. The delegation is composed of sharp-witted business men who may be trusted to look after themselves. One thing that pleased me abou the Secretary of State for the Dominions, Mr. Amery, was that he did not forget for a moment while he was in Australia that he was a member of the British Government. He made no secret of the fact that his object was to make Australians hewers of wood and drawers of water for Great Britain. He said to us, in effect, “ Shut your eyes and open your mouth and see what I will send you.” It will be much the same with the business delegation which is coming here. 1 shall not neglect to call upon these gentlemen and tell them that, although we are glad to see them, we know how to conduct our own affairs.
It is extraordinary to me that the Government has not given us any indication of how it proposes to meet the deficits in its accounts. Our only hope lies in a change of Government. The present Ministry has lost the confidence of the people. When we go to the country presently, all sorts of wild statements will be made by Government supporters concerning the Labour party. But we have nothing to fear. The people will not be gulled, even by cries such as that once raised against us that we were against the marriage tie. We do not mind the Prime Minister seizing the first opportunity to get to the country because we know that eventually there must be a change. The Prime Minister is a pastmaster at fixing dates for elections. But there is a limit to activities of this sort. The Artful Dodger, as we know, cannot last for ever. No doubt the right honorable gentleman has a splendid staff. If I were Prime Minister with the staff that now assists the right honorable gentleman.
I should “shake the people up a bit.” The right honorable gentleman must laugh to himself when he goes home after saying nothing in a great many words. There is actually nothing in what he says, but the people think there is. He must often say to his dear wife, “ What a great time I have had. Are not these people stupid? I have fooled them again. It will not last long, but let us make hay while the sun shines.” He is not a bad fellow personally, but I have a look at him from the view-point of what is best for my electors. I have nothing to live for now except to do what I can for Australia. My time is short. I know I cannot go on for ever. I note the ironical laughter of honorable members; but I remind them that no one can speak at length unless he is possessed of brains. I am able to speak at length to-night only because I have made a close study of everyday life, and not merely matters of the passing moment. It is my firm belief that we can do a lot to improve the condition of our people. We can bring about a better state of civilization by removing some of the avariciousness that is now displayed. We could improve civilization if those who are elected to legislative halls would use their thinking capacities, and keep abreast of the times by reading literature or even newspapers. Sir Henry Parkes once told me that he was a great reader of newspapers, but his advice was “ Read them, but when it comes to a vote, vote the opposite to what the newspapers advise you to do.” Honorable members opposite might accept that advice. It is not my desire to be a teacher; but I am anxious to impress on honorable members that when they are elected to a Parliament, they have received the highest gift in the nation, and they should utilize it to the best of their ability to try to remove some of the evils that confront society to-day. For instance, they should try to remove the evil of unemployment. Wherever I go during the coming campaign I shall make that one of the planks in my platform. Unemployment is the breeding ground of ‘ all discontent in a community. It is a most miserable thing for a man with a wife and children to enter the home on Friday night without his pay envelope, or for a man to have to hump his swag through the country seeking employment. I advise honorable members to read some of our gaol records. A couple of prisoners have written to ask me to visit them in gaol, and I propose to do so next week. I knew them years ago when they were wont to attend the church I attended; but through lack of employment they afterwards did things which they should not have done. Honorable members should think of the many evils which are due to unemployment. Every worker employed is a producer. Every producer is a creator of wealth which can be utilized for the good of the general community. I should like leave to continue my address to-morrow, but by their expressions of disapproval I can see that Government supporters will not grant me that leave. They do not like to hear the truth. All that I have said to-night is gospel truth. I have simply tried to impress on honorable members the need for giving thought to the evils in our midst. I have said nothing unworthy of any man of honour, nothing but that which should cause even the dullest of minds to think, or cause the brightest of minds to become still more active. If I have said anything that is likely to interfere with my return at the next election, I am prepared to accept the consequences. The thoughts to which I have given expression are those of a man who believes that there is much to be done to improve the conditions of the people of Australia. There is, for instance, much to be done to remove the avariciousness of a section of the community and to improve the health of the people.
I have tried to imbue the committee with the principles that were laid down by the Labour movement many years ago. In my youth I was trained as a Chartist in the principles of humanitarianism that are irresistible as a foundation for national liberty. I remember the fight in England for adult suffrage. I recall that some of my fellow countrymen were transported to Australia for seven years for trying to raise the wages of agricultural labourers from 7s. to 8s. a week. Reared in such an atmosphere it is impossible for me to express opinions other than those that I have voiced to-night. I have endeavoured to show that the Government has not conducted the affairs of the Commonwealth in a way that will lead to permanent prosperity. When the party with which I am associated was in power it placed on the statute-book measures of a national character. There was nothing parochial about its legislation. It showed that men of brains could be found among the ranks of those who toil with their hands. I remember the late Judge Lilley addressing a friendly society gathering in Queensland many years ago, and prophesying that the brainy people of the future would be the sons of men who engage in physical labour, and I have never forgotten the truth of that remark. I hope that I have said nothing to offend honorable members, but, if I have done so, it is due to my early training.
– The Government must answer for this budget.
– Undoubtedly. I do not know how honorable members, opposite can have the effrontery to face the electors in view of the Government’s unenviable record. Nothing has occurred to cause a financial drain sufficiently great to justify a deficit. The Government, has relieved large lessees of taxes to the extern of £1,600,000, and has also spent large sums on bounties in order to please the Corner party. It knew all the time that a decline in customs and excise revenue would occur.
I intend to refer briefly to the loan conversion policy of the Government. The only redeeming feature is that it has agreed to consolidate Federal and State loans. When the Labour party is returned to power I shall advocate that, instead of placing short-dated conversion loans on the market, we consolidate our debts and issue consols. I would do what great financiers have done in circumstances such as those existing in Australia. I am quite content to follow men like Walpole, Gladstone, and Goschen. They would never consent to 41/2 per cent, loans such as Australia’s war loans being converted at £98 10s., and currying the increased rate of 51/2 per cent, and 6 per cent. People who are willing to permit that method of finance must be foolish, indeed. I read the Sydney Bulletin so much at one time that it was almost my Bible. It was always a pleasure to me to read the interesting leaders of such democratic men as Mr. Edmunds and Mr. Archibald. But the Bulletin has changed hands and is not what it was. It is time the Government adopted a different method of raising loans, and ceased to bleed the people. The number of gilt-edged securities should be reduced, and our finances adjusted in such a way that an opportunity will offer to borrow money at lower rates of interest than prevail to-day. Apparently the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and those associated with him do not believe that a change is necessary, but the leading financial authorities disagree with them. The problem of our borrowing policy has to be tackled. At present a tremendous amount of money has to be paid in interest before the general community derive any benefit from the revenue collected. I have expressed my opinions upon our financial position somewhat fully in the hope that they may be of some value to the Government, the members of which I have endeavored to enlighten. Conditions alter very rapidly, and if the Government is unable to successfully grapple with the great problems which are confronting the Commonwealth to-day, it should make room for those who are competent to do so. 1 shall reserve any further comment I haveto make on the administration of this Government untilI am addressing the electors, which I hope to do at an early date.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am reported on page 6402 of Hansard as having said, when speaking the other night on the Loan Bill, that “ The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) is reported to have said that the Government should not continue to bring out migrants while so many of our own people are unemployed.” If by a slip of the tongue I did refer to the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) I was in error. I have either been misreported, or I made a mistake, as I intended to refer to the honorable member for Denison (Sir John Gellibrand).
– The honorable member did refer to the honorable member for Denison.
– I am fairly certain thatI did.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280912_reps_10_119/>.