10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bayley) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 6) presentedby Mr. Scullin, and agreed to.
– I received from Western Australia this morning a letter, in the course of which the writer says -
Our State has an importantcoal industry at Collie, with good prospects of another at Preston Valley. I would urge that any commission of inquiry that may’ he appointed to investigate the coal industry should include a representative having a thorough knowledge of our State coal.
If such a ‘commission is appointed, will the Prime Minister consider the proposal to give representation to Western Australian interests ?
– I have previously stated in the House that the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments have given consideration to the need for a full investigation of the coalmining industry, but think that the more immediate need is a reduction in the cost of coal to the consumer. In the event of the present negotiations being successful, and a commission being appointed to fully investigate the coal industry, the suggestion made by the honorable member will receive consideration.
– Having regard to the possibility of the present shipping trouble on the water-front causing a shortage of sugar in Tasmania, with consequent embarrassment to the manufacturers in that State, will the Prime Minister arrange for quantities of sugar to be sent there at once?
– I do not think it desirable to add anything at present to the statement I made in the House two days ago of the Government’s attitude towards this unfortunate dispute. I assure the honorable member, however, that the Government recognizes the necessity for the maintenance of shipping services to meet the ordinary requirements of the Commonwealth, and will endeavour to see that that is done.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence make available the report of the EngineerCommander on H.M.A.S. Moresby regarding the use of Bowen coal?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s request under the notice of the Acting Minister for Defence.
– Will the Postmaster-General lay on the table of the House the provisional complete details of the additions, alterations, and new buildings for his department mentioned in the schedule of Loan Act No. 2 ?
Roads - Cost of Royal Visit and Opening of Parliament House
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that this information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Pension of Mr. Kell - Officers’ Superannuation Fund
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Bank is being asked to furnish the information desired.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
By what authority, and by whom, were the rules of the officers’ superannuation fund of the Commonwealth Bank altered on the first day of July, 1.920?
– The rules were altered by the Board of the Commonwealth Bank with the consent of the Treasurer and the approval of Cabinet. The Commonwealth Bank regulations provide that the board may, with the consent of the Treasurer, make rules for the conduct of the superannuation fund.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are. as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether action was taken in accordance with the promise made to the House by his predecessor on the 31st May last (Ilansard, page 5400), regarding payment to divisional returning officers. If so, what were the details of such action?
– Yes. A report from the Public Service Board was obtained. The views of the Public Service Board are that the payment of overtime is not justified in these cases as overtime work was fully considered in the salaries at which the positions have been classified. Since the date mentioned (31st May) the officers in question lodged a plaint with the Arbitrator which did not include a claim for overtime. A determination by the Arbitrator on that plaint has now issued.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
As requests have been- made to the Tariff Board for a ‘view of the duty on cement, and as the board states that this can bc done only on instructions from the Minister for Trade and Customs, will he, in view of the many cogent reasons that have been advanced, instruct the Tariff Board to comply with the request for a review of the duty?
– The duty on Portland cement is1s. per cwt. under the British preferential tariff and1s. 6d. per cwt. under the general tariff. There has been no general request from users of cement for a reduction in the duty and, as the Australian manufacturers are in a position to supply the requirements of the Commonwealth, it is not proposed at present to refer the matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report.
asked the Minister for Home, and Territories, upon notice -
What is the latest data of the total population of the Federal Capital Territory, and the population of each suburb’ and district therein?
– The information required by the honorable member is contained in the following table: -
Expenditure on Aeroplanes.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable members questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - -
Investigations by Bacteriologist and Chemist.
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
Whether, in view of reports that the keeping qualities of some Australian butter is unsatisfactory, it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Dairy Bacteriologist and a Dairy Chemist, as recently reported, to make the necessary investigation with a view to ascertaining the cause?
– In the absence from Canberra of the Minister for Markets, I desire to inform the honorable member that the question of appointing a Dairy Bacteriologist and a Dairy Chemist to investigate dairy research matters in Australia is one which is now receiving the attention of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and, with that object in view, applications from qualified persons for appointment have been invited.
– With reference to the inquiry by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), on 4th September, in regard to the size of sacks imported, I have looked into the matter, and find that importations are carefully examined by the Customs Department to ensure that sacks arriving comply with the standard. The marked absence of complaints suggests that, on the whole, the examination is satisfactory, but it has recently been stated that sacks had arrived in Tasmania which were not in accord with the standard. Instructions were, therefore, issued to the collectors of customs to pay particular attention to the matter.
Appeals Against Promotions
– On the 11th September, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked -me the following questions, upon notice -
The Public Service Board has now furnished the following replies: - 1. (a) 698 appeals were lodged against 220 third division promotions during the year ended 30th June, 1927; (b) 925 appeals were lodged against 281 third division promotions during the year ended 30th June, 1928. 2. (a) 29 appeals were allowed during the year ended 30th June, 1927; (6) 36 appeals were allowed during the year ended 30th June, 1928.
Messrs. KIRKPATRICK’S Rentals.
– On the 11th September, 1928, the honorable member for Melbourne, (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions: -
I have communicated with the Commonwealth Bank in this matter, and the Governor of the bank has now drawn my attention to the replies given in the House of Representatives on the 29th August, 1917, when the following information was furnished : -
The Messrs. Kirkpatrick have the use of a space on the third floor, 27 ft. 11 in. by 25 ft.
II in., subdivided into two small offices and an architect’s drawing-room, with vestibule. No rent is paid.
The Messrs. Kirkpatrick are the bank’s architects, and the cleaning of the building, maintenance of lifts and electrical appliances, together with the general supervision of the building, are entirely under their control. A large portion of their time is also occupied in conferences with the bank’s officers on questions of premises and fittings at all branches, and, in addition to this, they look after all the bank’s maps and plans of premises, these services being given free, in lieu of paying rent.
The Governor of the bank adds that this firm has not been employed by the bank since early in 1924.
– On the 30th 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 6th September the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - -Eleventh Session, held at Geneva, May- June, 1928 -
Report of the Australian Government Delegate.
Report of the Australian Employers’ Delegate.
Report of the Australian Workers’ Delegate.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 24 of 1928 - Association of Draughtsmen.
.- I move -
I tabled this motion while the Commonwealth Parliament was meeting in Melbourne, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that it appeared on the first business paper that was issued after the Seat of Government had been transferred to Canberra. I tender my thanks to whoever conferred that honour upon me. The historian of the future will note the fact that a member of this Parliament was imbued with patriotic ideals, and endeavoured to have the Federal Capital Territory made the home of the research work necessary to advance the welfare of Australia. The motion is comprehensive, and if given effect, would insure the establishment of a great institution which would be of untold benefit to Australia. Only the national government could undertake a work of this magnitude. I have proposed that 20 square miles of territory be set aside for the purpose of the institution. That is not much to take from a total area of 900 square miles. I feel quite confident that if ever the Commonwealth Government feels that the present area of the Federal Capital Territory is insufficient to meet the needs of the nation, New South Wales will be quite prepared to grant whatever additional area may be necessary. Many important public bodies are already applying for sites in the national Capital. The Forestry Department, the National Museum of Zoology, the College of Surgeons, Dr. Tillyard’s Research Institution and the various churches of Australia have been granted sites, and I understand that the labour organizations of the Commonwealth and some other important bodies have made application for sites - showing how great minds run together. If such an institution as I suggest were established here, the national Capital would undoubtedly become a centre of learning and a Mecca for research students. When Lady Denham, wife of the Governor-General of the time, unveiled the plinth on the day that she named Canberra, the then Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. King O’Malley) made a speech from which I have extracted the following: -
To-day we are assembled on ground made famous through having been chosen as the permanent home of the Commonwealth Government, to publicly celebrate the commencement of operations at the capital of what will prove to be one of the world’s greatest nations. All subsequent Australian political history will concentrate its searchlight on this spot where we congregate, a magnetic centre of attraction to the eyes of countless generations still unborn, and forever the visible evidence of Australia’s national destiny.
Living in what is only the infancy of this mighty Commonwealth, we realize that through all successive ages numberless billions of human beings must appear on this horizon to suffer and enjoy the dispensations that belong to humanity. It requires no prophetic mind to peer into the vista of future centuries to behold stupendous events occurring here.
I trust that the expectations of the honorable gentleman will be realized. Difficulties invariably arise at the inception of any great national movement and we must not be unduly depressed by the difficulties which face us in establishing our national Capital. These seem to be considerable at the moment, but they will fade into insignificance with the passage of time. If I can persuade the Government to accept the motion that I have moved I shall feel that I have done a great deal for the benefit of humanity in general and Australians in particular. Many Australians have already done some famous research work. For instance, Mr. Farrar, who lived in this territory, was able literally to make two blades of grass grow where one grew formerly. His investigations made it possible for us to increase our wheat yield from 8 to 9 bushels to 16 or 18 bushels to the acre. His widow still lives in this territory. He died before the general public was fully aware of the importance of the work he had accomplished, and no memorial has been erected to bis memory although his name is known throughout the world.
I have sent a circular to all honorable members and to the members of State Parliaments as well as to all the professors of the State universities and also to our learned associations concerning the subject-matter of the motion. The opinion has been expressed by the Sydney Bulletin that the climate of the
Federal Capital Territory is too cold for the work contemplated; but I remind honorable members that countries in which great success in scientific research has been achieved have colder climates than that of Canberra. My health has been greatly improved since I have been here, and I think that most honorable members will agree that the climate is ni03t invigorating. Excellent research work has been done in Moscow, Paris, Edinburgh and Ottawa whose climates are decidedly colder than that of Canberra. Like all reformers I have had to face opposition in this matter, but the proposals that I shall outline merit close attention. Dr. Buchanan who has taken an active part in geological research, and Dr. Tilyard, the Government Entomologist, are already living in Canberra. If the proposal is carried out. other research workers will reside in the Territory, and they will be congenial company for one another. Dr. Buchanan, who is a brilliant member of his , profession, visited Great Britain twelve months ago, and when he explained the object of the museum of comparative anatomy proposed to be established in Canberra the proposal met with approbation on every hand. He realizes that leading men in the medical world will need to take a course of study in this institution before their training can be considered complete. Some persons in the various States naturally think that this work will overlap the activities of existing institutions, but I desire to disabuse their minds of fears in that direction. Subjects such as geology, biology, anatomy, veterinary science and the study of plant life cannot be thoroughly dealt with by the State universities, either through insufficiency of accommodation or lack of funds. Only a few months ago a deputation from the University of Melbourne applied to the Premier of Victoria for assistance to the tune of £120,000, and Mr. Hogan replied that, although he was heartily in sympathy with the deputation, the funds at the disposal of his Government were too limited to enable him to accord the help desired. The States provide funds for primary and technical education, but cannot raise sufficient revenue to cover the cost of university training and other higher forms of education. The funds of the States are limited because of the increasing needs of their growing populations. They are unable to provide the funds necessary to establish a research institute of this magnitude. The work which would be undertaken by this institute is not at present engaging the attention of our universities. This is a national undertaking. It should be situated in the Federal Territory, and placed under the control of the Common-, wealth Government and the representatives of the people in Parliament. What led me in the first place to move this motion was the following statement made by Senator Kingsmill in another chamber, on the 18th September, 1924:-
I desire now to refer to the Institute of Science and Industry. On many occasions I have discussed at considerable length that particular body. I do not want to be what our American cousins in their very expressive language call a “ kicker.” A kicker is a man who objects to everything, and never makes an alternative proposal; he is a man who confines himself to destructive criticism without in any way tempering his remarks with constructive criticism. Two methods have so far been adopted for dealing with scientific research. The first was the establishment of a body consisting largely of academic gentlemen, who talked about many things and did nothing. I say that they were academic gentlemen, because I had some friends on the body who were not quite so academic as their colleagues. One of those gentlemen told me that the greater part of one afternoon was devoted to an argument as to whether the secretary, in writing a certain letter, should use the word “ thrice “ or the words “ three times.” On the other hand there were on that body striking examples of practical men; but they were overwhelmed in this rush of academic argument that was going on with them the whole of the time, having found that that method of control was unsatisfactory.
If this institute were established in the Federal Territory, those employed in it would be able to concentrate on their work. They would not be subjected to interruptions that would be unavoidable if the institute were situated in a thickly populated centre. The Governor-General’s speech, of June, 1925, contained a reference to the provision of a central forestry school at Canberra, and at that time Senator Glasgow referred to the blow-fly pest in these words -
The blow-fly pest is largely responsible for the very slow increase in our flock of sheep.
I received a letter from the manager of a pastoral station who said he had a very fine lambing season. He had 25,000 lambs, and the fly nest was not very active; but if it became bad he said he would lose a large number of those lambs. It is customary to find shortlyafter the lambing season the flies become bad, and a large percentage of the lambs is lost.
Senator Guthrie, who has a considerable knowledge of the pastoral industry, at that time said -
It does not only affect the lambs ; the fly pest is causing Australia to lose from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 annually. Look at the curse of noxious weeds! It is realized that Queensland has under prickly pear greater areas th:in worn under cultivation i:i flip whole nf Autralia i
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) when making his first public address at the Sydney show, made special reference to research work. He said -
In no country would this question mean more than it docs to Australia, and he was confident if it was approached -with a wide vision, and a recognition of what might be achieved, that they would be able to bring about almost a revolution in the methods and efficiency of Australian productions. When it was remembered that 10 per cent, of the world’s productions was destroyed by insects every year, and that weeds were responsible for a further loss of 10 per cent.
That statement was made after I had tabled my motion in the House. I am quite satisfied that the Prime Minister was then seised of its importance, and was of the opinion that the establishment of a research institute would do much to prevent the loss sustained by the pastoral industry, because of the operations of the blow-fly and other pests. That is evidenced by the recent appointment of Dr. Tillyard, a noted entomologist, to carry out research work in the Federal Territory. If honorable members have read the pamphlet which I have circulated among them, they will know that I have taken great pains to present a complete case to them. I have endeavoured to impress upon those in authority that my object in moving the motion is to assist in the development of our industries. In England there is the Rockhamsted Experimental Station which deals mostly with such subjects as genetics, soil culture, &c. It was founded in 1843 by Sit J. B. Lawes, and for several years was carried on at his own expense. It was endowed by the Lawes Agricultural Trust to the amount of £1,000,000, and others gave substantial sums. In 1911, Mr. J. F. Mason built a bacteriological laboratory, and since then the Government of Great Britain has made annual grants to the institution. Since I tabled my motion on this subject, the Pastoralists Association of New South Wales has considered the matter, but it must be remembered that any scheme carried out by that body would be of little assistance to the small farmers who are not represented on the association. The large flocks in New South Wales are steadily diminishing as the big holdings are broken up, and in this respect the following figures are of interest: -
In 1891 there were 73 flocks in New South Wales of 100,000 and over. The total in those flocks was 10,400,000, or 17 per cent, of the total number of sheep in New South Wales. In 1923 there were only two such flocks, totalling 210,000 sheep and representing threefifths of 1 per cent, of the total flocks. Taking the Hocks between 50,000 and 100,000, in 1891 there Were 186 such flocks, constituting 20 per cent, of the total. In 1923 the number had shrunk from 186 to 24, and the percentage had dropped from 20 per cent, to 4^ per cent. Taking flocks between 20,000 and 50,000, in 1891 there were 491 such flocks, totalling 15,000,000 sheep, or 25 per cent, of the total. In 1923 there were only 137 such flocks, representing 12 per cent, of the total. The flocks between 10,000 and 20,000 in 1891 numbered 495, and in 1923 there were 350. Between 5.000 and 10,000 sheep there were 686 flocks in 1891, and 776 in 1923, the percentage of the total number having doubled. Between 2,000 and 5,000 sheep the number of flock-masters had increased from 1,700 in 1891 to 2,500 in 1923. That is to say, the flocks ranging from 2,00.1 to 5,000 now represent 22 per cent, of the total, whereas in 1891 they only represented 9 per cent, of the total. Flocks from 1.001 to 2,000 represent to-day 15 per cent, of the total, as against 5 per cent, in 1891. Flocks up to 1,000 represented 17 per cent, of thu total in 1923 as against 4/$ per cent, in 1891.
If this institute were established in the Federal Capital Territory, the members of the Pastoralists Association would be quick to avail themselves of its services, and it would be able to work in the interests of the small sheep farmers as well. We should do everything in our power to encourage more people to settle on the land by making conditions attractive for them, and to increase the chance of their being successful. In the course of my investigations into this subject, I met the editor of the Medical Journal of Australia. This is a very well-written journal, and the editor is a man of fine stamp. He treated me with the greatest courtesy, and gave me every encouragement to proceed with my work. The editor wrote the following article, which I regard as a distinct compliment to myself:
The conception lias been born of a desire to put the money collected by the Federal Government from the people of Australia to good use. The economic aspect of the proposal will appeal to every one concerned in the prosperity of Australia, for nothing can be more detrimental to her prosperity than a policy of parsimony in regard to the attack on diseases which destroy cattle and crops. Mr. West has foreseen the necessity of removing the temptation from future Treasurers of finding the sums set aside for this research a convenient source of money for divers purposes. He proposes that the capital sum of £1,000,000 sterling be set aside as an endowment in such a manner that encroachments could not be made on it. The interest, he estimates, would amount to approximately £50,000 a year. This annual sum would be additional to moneys spent by State Governments or by private individuals or public bodies on similar investigations. … As far as it goes Mr. West’s scheme is an admirable one if it is properly safeguarded. In its essence it may be described as a plan to put aside a large sum nf money for the advancement of veterinary and agricultural knowledge. £1,000,000 in “ these days of extravagant governments is not a large amount to invest in the safety of stock and crops. It would be easy to save this sum within a few years if certain diseases of cattle, sheep, and swine were studied and mastered. Added to this, direct application of newly-acquired knowledge to industrial undertakings, it must be remembered that all scientific work has a value that cannot be appraised. This part of the scheme must, therefore, be applauded, and unstinted support meted out to it.
The writer has mentioned two subjects, veterinary and agricultural science, to which we have never given adequate attention. From time to time small sums have been set aside by State Governments for scientific investigation, but when they have found it necessary to economize, these funds have been the first to suffer. Although in urging this scheme I have emphasized particularly the advantages that will accrue to agriculture, my intention is that ultimately it shall extend to commerce and industry. The lines of possible development are indicated by what is being done in. Queensland. Most of the men who take up land for sugar cultivation are in humble circumstances, and their earlier operations can be financed only by mortgage. The Colonial Sugar Refinery Company does a large amount of this business, and before accepting a mortgage tests the soil in order to discover what elements it lacks. The missing qualities are added by the use of fertilizers or by cropping with maize, and ploughing it in before the cobs develop. Expert advice is available to the cane-grower to enable him to get the best results from his land. “When the cane is cut samples are sent to the laboratory of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and if the sugar content is below normal, the chemists recommend what further treatment of the soil is necessary in order to improve the crop. We all know the benefits conferred on Australia by Farrar’s experiments in wheat breeding, and now in the sugar industry we see science brought to the aid of the grower to ensure that he is able to work the laud to the best advantage.
The proposal I have made is timely. Many of our returned soldiers who were placed on the land worked hard for a couple of years, and failed because they had planted crops for which the soil was not adapted. If the aid of science were made available, no man would plant a crop until he had a chemist’s certificate as to the constitution and capabilities of the soil.
The second part of my motion deals with the financial aspect of the matter. I have suggested an endowment of £1,000,000, the income from which should be devoted to laboratories, field equipment, the payment of scientific specialists, and the provision of research scholarships and fellowships open to science graduates at any Australian university. My idea is that the Commonwealth might lend £1,000,000 to a State Government for 20 or 30 years. The interest at 5 per cent, would produce £50,000 a year which would constitute the fund for financing this scheme. Neither the principal nor the interest would leave Australia. Possibly when the loan matured it would be still required by the State and could be renewed, thus ensuring a continuous income. I have not heard anybody suggest that that proposal is not financially sound. If I were a Treasurer I would adopt it unhesitatingly. I have also suggested an annual research congress and a triennial research congress to which eminent biologists, chemists, and other scientists should be invited. The meeting in conference of the best scientific brains of the Commonwealth would lead to the solution of many of our problems, and add considerably to existing knowledge. I have never attended a conference which did not give added wisdom to the delegates. Always the brushing of mind against mind, and the exchange of practical experiences, as well as theories, is of great educational value ; false notions have to make way for demonstrated truth. The action that I propose would unquestionably be for the good of the Australian people. However we may have progressed in the past, we must not overlook the fact that we are faced with stern competition from other countries. South America has been and is improving the quality of its stock, and South Africa is raising the breed of its sheep, having purchased Australian rams for that purpose. Earnest efforts are being made by other countries to capture the wool markets of the world, and unless those who are engaged in the industry in Australia keep abreast of the times, it will not be long before they lose the advantages they at present possess. What have we done to improve the quality of our beef ? There is very little sale for it now on the home market. It may be argued that drought and other causes are responsible. If that is so, we should endeavour to devise some means to minimize, if not to remove entirely, the ill effects that are thereby caused. Professor Maas attributes the wonderful progress that is being made by the United States of America to the steps that were taken many years ago to improve the standard of its primary and secondary products. Wealthy men in America and England have endowed similar institutions with millions; we have not the same opportunities. Surely we are not so bereft of reason as to be averse from giving prac-tical effect to ideas that will increase our national wealth, because they emanate from other countries!
The fifth paragraph of my motion suggests that the State Governments be invited to send their officers engaged in research work, also the chancellors, vicechancellors, deans, and professors of the science faculties of the several universities, to a convention for the purpose of drawing up, for submission to the Commonwealth Government, a constitution, rules, and regulations for the government of the institute. The Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse) is a member of a learned profession, and has occupied distinguished positions in our universities. He knows how sensitive are those connected with such institutions to any attempt to encroach upon their prerogatives. I have sought to guard against such a contingency, and have endeavoured to show that if this institute is established it will not work in opposition to our universities. They have special fields of research work to cover, and, in addition, are charged with the responsibility of educating the rising generation in different branches of knowledge. Thus their time is fully occupied. I should like to have further time to deal with the motion.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I second the motion, with the whole of which I agree. Those who read the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) will be impressed by the wealth of data he has furnished, and that he has been at considerable pains to collect. While I am privileged to continue a member of this honorable House, I shall do my best to see that any university which is established in Canberra admits students only upon examination, not upon the payment of fees. Such a practice is adopted in Western Australia. The reference to Victoria by the honorable member for East Sydney recalled to my mind a visit which was paid to the United States of America by Dr. Argyle, then Minister for Health in the Allan-Peacock Government. Without the authority of either the State or Federal Government he appealed for funds -to the Rockefeller Institute. I took strong exception to his action at the time, and advised his constituents to give a practical demonstration of their disapproval by returning his opponent at an election which was held during his absence from Australia. They did not accept that advice, but I believe that his absence influenced strongly the constituents of another Minister in the same Government, who lost his seat. A country which lost 60,000 men at the front, and which spent such a large amount as Australia spent in connexion with the war, is too rich to cadge from even a wealthy combination such as the Rockefeller Institute. I appreciate the assistance rendered by that institute in connexion with the research into the hookworm disease. That was spontaneous generosity, for which I am gratified to know that this Parliament passed a vote of thanks that was moved by Dr. Page, and seconded by me. If it will meet the convenience of the honorable member for East Sydney, and I understand that it will, I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Notices of motion No. 2 (Referendum for an amendment of the Constitution), and No. 3 (Compulsory Commonwealth Wheat Pool) postponed.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has in his name a notice of motion that Ordinance No. 9 of 1927 of the Territory of Central Australia, known as the Encouragement of Primary Production Ordinance, be disallowed. A few weeks ago he left Adelaide for the purpose of motoring through Central Australia. When he was somewhere in the middle of the continent he received word that Parliament had been called together somewhat earlier than he had anticipated. He will not be able to return to Canberra for a period of three weeks. I therefore move -
That notice of motion No. 4 be postponed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Notice of motion postponed.
I move -
That no claim for war pension can be rejected unless the Repatriation Department can show that the disability could not have been due to or aggravated by war service.
This matter was debated fully three or four months ago. In view of the fact that the session is nearing its end, and that a promise has been given to establish an appeal board to deal with claims for war pensions, no good purpose can be served by proceeding further with it. I desire to mention, however, that an appeal board will not by any means cover all that is intended by the motion. It will not be able to grant any further relief than judges who have heard claims for war pensions have found themselves able to grant. They have said in some cases that they would like to give a decision in favour of incapacitated soldiers; but that under the act the responsibility rested upon the soldier to show that the disease from which he suffers was due to war service, though if the onus were upon the Repatriation Department to prove the contrary, the chances were that the claims would have succeeded. I maintain that this responsibility should be placed upon the department. In numbers of cases men who were physically fit when they left Australia contracted tuberculosis a year or two after their return, although there were no traces of the disease in their families. Unfortunately, even an appeal board will not place them in a very much better position than that which they now occupy. The complete change of attitude of the Minister in charge of repatriation is surprising in view of his emphatic declarations on the 10th May last, that an appeal board was unnecessary. The honorable gentleman said on that occasion -
There, is no reason for the appointment of an appeal board in Australia, because we have something better in operation.
Later he said -
I have not the slighest hesitation in saying, nor has any other man who knows how the act is administered, that if it were not for a certain amount of underground engineering that is now taking place, this subject would never have been discussed in this House. Every one knows that this underground engineering is gradually increasing.
The honorable gentleman also said -
Any honorable member who voted for the motion and thus permitted the appointment of an appeal board ‘ would be doing an injustice to the returned men.
– So they would whilst I was able to do the work.
– I think it will be admitted in the light of what has happened, that at least some of those statements were most unfair and unjustified. Time has shown that the honorable member for Reid was amply justified in moving his. motion. It is surely significant that, the appeal boards have been promised only on the eve of an election and after a vigorous agitation by the various organizations of returned soldiers. It is curious, however, that no statement has been made as to the nature and the number of the appointments to be made. Perhaps the Minister will give us some information on these points. I should like him to inform us specifically how many boards will be appointed and when they will begin the hearing of cases. One board for the whole of the Commonwealth will not. be satisfactory. There should be one in each State. I should like the Minister to inform us of the qualifications which will be required in the persons who are appointed. Will the appointments be limited to medical practitioners or will other persons well qualified to determine the matters that will come up for consideration, be appointed? The people of Australia certainly desire that any doubt as to pension eligibility should be given to the applicant. I contend that the organizations of returned men should be represented on any appeal boards that arc set up. Our legislation should be amended to provide that the onus should be placed upon the department of proving that a man’s disability did not arise from war service. When this matter was being discussed in May last, I made a strong plea for the granting of a pension in one case in particular. I regret to say that within a fortnight of that time the man died and his widow and three children are now dependent on charity for their support. No help can be obtained from the Repatriation Department because of the unfair manner in which the act is operating. If I arn returned at the election on November 17th I shall certainly try to secure an amendment of the measure along the lines indicated in my motion.
.- I second the motion, but regret that the Minister in charge of repatriation does not seem inclined to discuss it. The onus of proving that a disability was 11Ot incurred on war service should rest upon the Repatriation Department and not upon the applicant for a pension. It is to be hoped that the appointment of the proposed appeal boards will overcome some of the difficulties at present experienced in administering the Repatriation Act. It must be apparent to all honorable members that it is impossible for the Minister in charge of this work to give personal consideration to every appeal that is made. Exception was taken by the Minister to certain criticisms of the present system made by the New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League in a circular issued some time ago, which stated that in thirteen appeal cases thirteen replies had been received in exactly similar terms, to the effect that the department’s previous decision was confirmed. The returned soldiers’ organizations contend that all appellants should be examined personally. In the past the appeals have been determined by the Minister and an advisory medical board, solely on documentary evidence. This system has proved entirely unsatisfactory.’ I trust that when the new arrangement becomes effective appellants will have the right to appear in person. Like the honorable member for Ballarat, I should like to know how long it will be before the boards - for there should certainly be one of them in each State; - will become operative. It has been suggested that it will be necessary for the Government to make extensive inquiries to ascertain how other countries deal with appeals, but I submit that it would be far better for the Government to consult with our returned soldier organizations on the matter. The appeal boards should be given as much discretion as possible, and the act should be administered in such a way that no hardships will be inflicted upon applicants. Hitherto, the Minister has exercised more discretion in administering the act than the measure confers upon him, and some of his decisions have been valuable to the returned soldiers and their dependents. The appeal boards should be given at. least as much discretion as the Minister has been exercising with the tacit approval of Parliament. It has been said that it would be unfair to establish appeal boards, for it would mean that once a decision had been given by a board, the case could not be reopened. Surely it should be competent for any case to be re-opened when additional evidence is forthcoming. It would, of course, be useless for a person to make constant appeals against previous decisions unless he had fresh evidence to submit; but men who are able to bring additional testimony in support of their claims, should be granted a hearing at any time. The appeal system of New Zealand has worked satisfactorily, and the returned soldiers of that dominion are delighted with it. We could probably not do better than adopt the New Zealand system; but whether we do that or not there is no justification for a long delay in setting up these boards. Had the motion that I moved last May been carried we should by this time have gathered all the information available on this subject, and it would have been possible to set up the boards immediately. Whether the appeal boards will be sympathetic or not depends largely upon the powers conferred upon them. In discussing this point on the 10th May, the Minister said -
I opposeany alteration of the present policy of the department, and I ask honorable members before voting on the motion to recognize that the appointment of an appeal board would do a groat injustice to those men who fought so bravely against a ruthless enemy.
It must be admitted now that those remarks were quite unwarranted. I trust that the Government will clothe the boards with full authority and give them all necessary powers.
I hope that the improvement of our repatriation methods will not end here. The suggestion has been made that soldier appellants against war pension assessments should have the right of free advice and assistance. In Canada soldier advisers have been appointed, and to them pensioners and their dependants may go for advice, assistance, and advocacy. It is desirable to introduce sonde such system in Australia. Since 1916, over 50,000 pension claims have been disallowed. In certain cases, as every honorable member knows, as the result of repeated representations, increased pensions have been secured for persons who have communicated with honorable members; but for every claimant who approaches an honorable member for assistance, there may be a thousand who do not know that they can obtain that assistance. As I argued in support of the motion that I submitted on this subject, this is an undesirable state of affairs, and the determination of war pensions and all questions relating to them should not be the subject of parliamentary discussion except in relation to broad matters of policy. Ever since my entry into this Parliament, in 1923 I have advocated the appointment of an appeal board, and I have carried that advocacy personally into the branches of the league. When the Minister was referring to underground engineering I do not know whether he had my action in mind, but I am not ashamed to admit that I have taken an active interest as a citizen in the returned soldiers’ organizations in my electorate. In the Homebush sub-branch of the league in my State I moved the original motion asking for an appeal board. That motion was debated by the State and Federal congresses, and ultimately became the accepted policy of the league. It was regarded as the best alternative to the present system, which undoubtedly has caused a good deal of criticism, and has not operated as well as might be expected. As the war recedes into the distance the assessment of war disabilities becomes increasingly difficult, as also does proof of the measure of aggravation caused by war service. Therefore, we are likely to have more criticism at the present time than has been met with heretofore. I hope that the Government, in determining its repatriation policy, will not limit itself to the mere constitution of an appeal board, but will also alter the method of assessing disabilities in the first instance. At the present time the soldier goes before a departmental medical officer who examines him, and submits a report which is accepted or qualified, or referred by officers of the Repatriation Department to another authority. It has been suggested to me by members of the Returned Soldiers’ League in New South Wales that in such a case the applicant for a war pension should have the right to submit his own medical evidence, and have his case argued, if necessary, by a medical representative. Undoubtedly a good deal of dissatisfaction has arisen over the cases in which it has been decided that the applicants are not entitled to pensions because their present disabilities are not due to war service. If it were possible to widen the ambit of the provision relating to the measure of aggravation of the disability caused by war service, the difficulty would be largely overcome. If the Government appoints an independent appeal board or boards in consultation with the soldiers’ organization much controversy will certainly be avoided. A good deal of the criticism of the present system is based on the belief that the ex-soldier appeals from Cæsar to Caesar. The department acts both as a court of trial and a court of appeal, and the appellant has no right to have his case put by his own representative. I suggest that, whatever reform comes from the Government’s action, the State Repatriation Boards as at present constituted should be abolished. They are more or less useless, like a fifth wheel to a coach. Nobody knows just where their jurisdiction begins or ends, or -what value they have been to the returned soldiers. They seem to act more as an advisory than as a deliberative body. The appointment of an independent appeal board and the abolition of the State Repatriation Boards are both desirable reforms. I am glad that the need for an appeal board has been recognized by the Government. After all the criticism that was directed by honorable members opposite to my motion, by which the discussion was initiated, and which was defeated on a division on party lines, I feel that I have some cause for congratulating myself.
– The motion submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) affirms that -
No claim for war pension can be rejected unless the Repatriation Department can show that the disability could not have been due to or aggravated by war service.
The honorable member pointed out, in a moderate speech, and with perfect clearness, that the rejection of claims for pensions is a matter that need not be considered now, because an appeal board has been promised. In practically the same breath he said that the appointment of an appeal board would not have the slightest effect on the matter raised by him, which is perfectly true. The whole speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), which dealt with the subject of the appointment of an appeal board, was entirely irrelevant to the present motion.
This subject has been discussed repeatedly in this chamber. Every country that has passed repatriation legislation has based it upon a definite principle. The principle underlying our Repatriation Act is that every ex-soldier shall have a claim for compensation for any disability caused by or aggravated by war service. - That is not what the motion submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat asks for. The adoption of his motion would mean that any ex-member of the Australian Imperial Force, man or woman, who may subsequent to discharge suffer from a disability, irrespective of whether it is due to an accident, injury, self-inflicted wound or other cause would be entitled to a war pension.
– The Minister knows that that is not so.
-That is what the motion means; it may not be what the honorable member intends. The motion means that any ex-member of the force suffering from injury or disease due to any cause whatever shall be entitled to a pension. It would be ridiculous to consider the granting of pensions on those lines. All the trouble in connexion with repatriation claims has arisen because of the difficulty of determining the cause of the disability from which the claimantis suffering. On the whole subject of repatriation administration, I adhere exactly to what I said in May last. I much regret that I shall not be able to continue the practice I adopted when I took charge of repatriation of personally reviewing cases brought under my notice by honorable members or by others. The returns of the appeal board of New Zealand show that 20 or 25 per cent, of the appeals have been granted. But since I took over the repatriation administration in 1925 47.1 per cent, of the appeals lodged have been upheld. Therefore, it must be admitted that our exsoldiers have not been penalized by the system followed. I quite agree with the honorable member for Reid that the board appointed should be one constituted in a manner calculated to serve the best interests of the soldiers. The bona fides of the Government in this matter are shown by the fact that inquiries are being made from many other countries as to the operation of their appeal boards. The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League has been asked to ascertain from kindred associations in other parts of the world what difficulties, if any, have arisen with regard to appeal courts. This shows that the Government desires to have an appeal court that will act in the best interests of the men.
– The honorable member for Reid contends that, when a claimant has proved that he was a soldier, and gives prima facie evidence that he is suffering from a war disability, the onus of showing that his particular disability was not due to war service should be on the department.
– Suppose that the department is informed that the claimant is now suffering from, say, tuberculosis, it asks the medical authorities whether they cannot possibly connect his disability with his. war service. If there is any reasonable ground, however slight, for believing that the disability is connected with war service, the appellant receives the benefit of the doubt.
– That is not the judges’ statement.
– I am not concerned with that now. I am dealing with the facts. We must have regard to the underlying principle of our Repatriation Act, which is, as I have said, that the disability on account of which a pension is claimed must be proved to be in some way connected with war service. The number of successful appeals in Australia is greater than in any other country; that in itself is evidence that the desire of the department is to connect the ex-soldier’s disability with his war service.
– On whom lies the onus of proving that the tuberculosis in the suppositious case mentioned by the Minister is the result of war service?
– The facts of service and of the presence of the disease being admitted, it has to be determined on medical evidence whether any connexion can be found between the service and the disability. If that can be done, the claimant receives all the benefits provided under the Repatriation Act.
.- I cannot agree with the statement of the Minister that, if the motion were carried, it would mean that an ex-soldier suffering from a disability, even from a wound selfinflicted, would be entitled to a pension. It would be easy for the department or the appeal board to prove that the disability from which the ex-soldier was suffering was not due to his war service. Regarding the extravagant instance given by the Minister of a self-inflicted wound, the position to-day is that if a returned soldier is suffering from a wound which was self-inflicted, unless there are records to prove that that wound was self-inflicted, he must be entitled to a pension. That of course is no argument against the motion.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 199.
General business and Orders of the Day postponed until after Government business.
Bill returned from, the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1026 and for other purposes.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Referendum Constitution Alteration Act 1906-1926, and is designed to effect three purposes. First, it suspends the operation of the section of the act which requires that a pamphlet setting out the two sides to the question to be referred to the electors shall bc printed and distributed to them before the referendum is held. The object of the second amendment is to avoid, so far as possible, informal voting upon the referendum; and thirdly, certain amendments are proposed which are consequential upon recent alterations to the Electoral Act.
Section 6a of the principal act provides that if within nine weeks of the passing through both Houses of a bill for the. alteration of the Constitution, arguments are forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer by a majority of the members of both Houses who voted in favour of the bill, and also by a majority of those who voted against the bill, they shall, within two months after the expiry of the nine weeks, and within a further limited period, be printed as a pamphlet, and posted to all the electors of the Commonwealth. That was done in 1913, when a referendum pamphlet was printed and posted to every elector. At that time the referendum was taken apart from a general election, and the electors had not had the benefit of the discussion of the question from political platforms which is incidental to a general election. The expenditure in that instance was considerable. The application of that provision to the forthcoming referendum would mean that a period of four months might be required to elapse before the referendum could be taken, and it is obviously desirable that this referendum shall be taken at the same time as the general elections. Otherwise the community would be involved in an additional expense of about £100,000. Having regard to the fact that on this occasion honorable members will be addressing their constituents, and will have the fullest opportunity of placing all the arguments for or against, before their constituents, there does not appear to be any need to expend the large sum of money that would be required if the procedure set out in the principal act were followed. In 1919, and again in 1926, the operation of the provision in the act was suspended, and it is asked that it be suspended again in the case of the forthcoming referendum.
Honorable members are aware that the voting for the House of Representatives and the Senate is conducted upon a preferential system, and that the electors are required to mark their preferences by placing figures in squares opposite the names of the candidates - “ 1 “ 2 “, “ 3 “, and so on. The ballot-paper for a referendum is in this form - “ Are you in favour of the proposed alteration of the Constitution?”, which is specified. There are squares opposite the words “Yes” and “No,” and the elector is directed to put a cross in one or the other according to the direction in which he desires to cast his vote.
– Why not amend ‘ the act?
– I shall come to that. The elector has now to vote on two sets of ballot-papers by putting numbers in squares, and on a third set by putting a cross opposite “ Yes “ or “ No.” There is thus a certain risk of confusion, and it is with the desire of reducing that as much as possible that clause 3 is proposed. It has been observed that when a referendum has been taken at the same time as a general election, the percentage of informal voting has been high. For example, in 1919 the informal votes were on one question no less than 9.7 per cent., and on the other 17.7 per cent. On the other hand, at the referendum of 1926, when only one ballot-paper was submitted to the electors, the informal votes were only 3.3 per cent, in the case of one question, and 5.8 per cent, in the case of the other. Clause 3 provides that when a referendum is held at the same time as a general election, a ballot-paper shall not be informal by reason only of the fact that the voter has indicated his vote by placing the figure “ 1 “ in one of the squares; and that in such a case the figure “ 1 “ shall be deemed to be equivalent to a cross.
– Previously, were many votes informal on that account?
– I shall obtain that information for the honorable member.
– I think that a good many votes were informal on that account.
– I believe so; but I have not official information on the point. It might be suggested that this difficulty could be overcome in another way, as undoubtedly it could, and there is room for a difference of opinion as to which method would most reduce informality in voting. It is suggested, on the recommendation of the electoral office, that the method proposed in the bill is really the most effective way. It is obviously impossible to introduce a system of placing crosses in squares on the ballot-papers for a general election for the House of Representatives and the Senate. Therefore, the question is, whether it might not be better to require voting by numbers in the case of a referendum. The arguments against that - which I do not suggest demonstrate mathematically that the adoption of such an arrangement would be a mistake - are for honorable members to consider and weigh. They are these: that there would be a risk of confusion in the minds of a number of electors if they were required to put “ 1 “ against “ Yes “ and “ 2 “ against “ No.” It might be considered by some voters that in placing “ 2 “ in a. square they were giving two votes for “ No “ and one vote for “ Yes “. The application of this principle might bring about a certain amount of that confusion. There is this further point : that in the case of a referendum there is no need for the figure “2” ; only the figure “1” is needed, and if electors were required to place “ 2 “ in the second square on a referendum ballot-paper, there might be a good many informal votes on the referendum. On the other hand, if it were provided that the electors should place only the figure 1 opposite the “ Yes “ or opposite the “ No,” there might be a risk of confusion in that this method of voting might be carried over to the general elections.
– Especially in cases where there were only two candidates.
– That is so. There is also this point which I consider to be relevant. When voting during a referendum, electors are in the habit of voting by means of a X in cases in which it is a plain question of “ Yes “ or “ No.” Recently there was a referendum in New South Wales, and there they followed the practice of placing a X opposite the “ Yes ” or “ No.”
– It is a pity that a uniform system has not been adopted.
– That may be so, but we must deal with matters as we find them. It is suggested that the best solution is not to make an alteration in the prescribed method of voting at referendums. No alteration can be made in the method of voting at a general election. That being so, it is suggested that the best way of overcoming the difficulty would be to introduce the system outlined in the clause which we are discussing. The effect of this amendment will be that a X in a square will be a valid vote and that the figure 1 in a square will also be a valid vote, whether or not the figure 2 is placed in the second square. This appears to me to be better than to alter the whole system by providing for the introduction of voting by placing the figures 1 and 2 in the squares. The proposed amendment seems to me to combine the advantages of all the proposals which have been brought under the consideration of the Government. Therefore, I ask honorable members to accept this provision as calculated to reduce the number of informal votes, and thus to assist towards ascertaining more accurately the real opinion of the electors. Clause 4 relates only to some amendments consequential upon the passing of the Electoral Act of 1928. The reference is altered from the Commonwealth Electoral Act “ 1918- 1925”, to “1918-1928 “; as sub-section 3 of section 115 of that act has been repealed, reference to that subsection in the act is proposed to be struck out.
– I agree with the proposal that we should not make a vote informal simply because an elector places the figure 1 opposite his preference. As a matter of fact, I have always held that view in regard to the Electoral Act generally. If there are only two candidates, the placing of a X opposite the elector’s choice should be regarded as a valid vote.
– It is so regarded now.
– Such a provision was inserted when the last amendments were made’ to the Electoral Act. Why should we not amend the Referendum Act so as to make it conform exactly with the Electoral Act? As things are, the elector is likely to become confused. This year we shall have a referendum simultaneously with an election, and two sets of ballotpapers will be issued. On one paper the elector will be instructed to indicate his choice by means of figures, and on the other he will be told to use a X. There will also be the Senate ballot-papers, which stipulate that voting must be done by placing figures in the squares. These different instructions will surely lead to confusion, and there is no need for it. The Attorney-General said that if the electors were required to put a 1 opposite “ Yes “, and a 2 opposite “ No “, some of them might think that they were giving two votes to “ No “. Would that not apply, too, when the electors were voting for parliamentary candidates, and were told to put 1 opposite their first preference, and 2 opposite their second preference ?
– It is an old trouble.
– I think that the act still insists upon the placing of 1 and 2 in the squares, even if there are only two candidates. I strongly urge that we should not send out two separate instructions during the one election campaign.
– There will be only one instruction on the ballot-paper: Electors will be instructed to vote by means of a X.
– -No doubt this may have the effect of reducing the number of informal votes for the referendum, but it will double the number of such votes for the general elections, especially if there are more than two candidates. It will also have the effect of increasing the number of informal votes for the Senate elections. I admit that a variety of methods have been used both in State and municipal elections, but we in the past have tried to get into the minds of federal electors that they should vote by means of figures. As things are, there is a possibility of the electors being confused through their receiving two different instructions from platform speakers. Electors should be instructed to vote by means of figures, but there should be a provision that the use of a X would not make the votes informal.
Queston resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Informal ballot-papers).
– I recognize that there is weight in what the Leader of the Opposition says, but I ask honorable members to consider what the appearance of a ballot-paper would be if his suggestion were adopted. Honorable members may see the form of the present ballot-paper set out in the schedule to the act. The instructions to the voter read -
The voter should indicate his vote as follows : -
If he approves of the proposed law, he should make a X in the square opposite the word “Yes”.
If he does not approve of the proposed law, he should make a X in the square opposite the word “No”.
Those directions are as plain as they could very well be. If the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition were adopted, these instructions would have to appear on the ballot-paper -
The voter should indicate his vote as follows : -
If he approves of the proposed law, he should place the figure 1 in the square opposite the word “ Yes “, and the figure 2 opposite the word “No”.
If he does not approve of the proposed law, he should place the figure 2 in the square opposite the word “Yes” and the figure 1 in the square opposite the word “ No “.
– Why not tell the elector that if he approves of “ Yes,” he should place the figure 1 opposite that word, or if he approves of “ No “ he should place the figure 1 opposite that word?
– That might also be considered. I understood that the idea was to make the voting on a referendum the same as for an election for Parliament, and that there should be a number opposite each of the possible alternatives. That would involve putting a 1 and 2 in every case. With these alternatives on the ballot-papers, the risk of confusing the elector would be considerably increased. Those electors who are likely to misunderstand the present instructions would be more likely to become confused if the instructions were such as have been suggested. The existing instructions are as plain as they can be, and the position really would be as follows : - If an elector puts a “ X “ opposite his preference, his vote is valid; if he has had instructions from the platform to the effect that it is desirable to vote by means of numbers, and has not remembered anything about putting crosses on the paper, his vote is still valid; if he places a figure 1 opposite his preference, whether or not he puts the figure 2 opposite the alternative, the vote is still accepted. Therefore, the confusion which is feared could not, in fact, arise. This amendment would serve its purpose, because it is expressly drawn to ensure that whether an elector votes by a cross or by means of a number, his vote is effective.
– What would be the effect if the elector were to put a 1 opposite “ Yes,” and the figure 2 opposite “No”?
– He would be regarded as voting for “ Yes.” The clause which we are considering would make his vote formal, whether the elector plo: his faith to a X, or whether, being of a mathematical turn of mind, he believes in the application of numerical methods to voting.
.- The act requires that there should be no mark on the ballot-paper other than that prescribed for signifying the intention of the voter, and if we provide that in connexion with a referendum a numeral should be acceptable in lieu of a cross, it does not necessarily mean that a ballotpaper having both a numeral and a cross will be invalid. I agree with the method suggested by the AttorneyGeneral, but there should be a distinct understanding that to use a cross on a House of Representatives ballot-paper, when only two candidates are offering, will not invalidate the vote. There is a general instruction that if the intention of the voter is clear the ballot-paper is to be regarded as valid. Some returning officers interpret a cross as showing the clear intention of the voter and treat the ballot-paper as valid ; others say that the cross might mean that the voter at first put the numeral “ 1 “ in the square and then changed his intention, and they treat the ballot-paper as informal.
– I support the view of the Leader of the Opposition. Under the Electoral Act we have adopted a numeral system of voting and we should educate the electors to use numerals on all occasions. The use of a cross in connexion with the referendum may mislead many electors into similarly marking the ballot-papers for the House of Representatives and thus cause considerable invalid voting. We require the use of a numeral for a House of Representatives election, and should make the electoral system uniform by adopting a similar method in. regard to the Referendum Bill. A further safeguard might be inserted that the use of a cross would not invalidate the vote. This course seems necessary as the use of a cross in voting for the election of members of Parliament makes the vote informal.
– That will be the effect of the provision in the bill, except that the statement is reversed.
– I suggest you reverse the provision in the bill.
.- The public may be confused by the literature issued by different parties in connexion with the general election. Voters seeing a cross in connexion with referendum directions as to how they should vote, may be misled into using that sign when voting for the Senate and the House of Representatives. Having adopted a preferential system of voting, we should endeavour to bring about uniformity and reduce invalid votes to a minimum. In order to obviate the risk of confusion, the AttorneyGeneral should assent to the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, in regard to which the committee is almost unanimous.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong- Attorney- not invalidated if it contains writing other than a mark in the square, but only if it contains any mark or writing indicating the identity of the voter. Specific reasons for informality are stated, but the act allows a vote to be effective if it shows clearly the voter’s intention. Therefore, a referendum ballot-paper with numeral marking would be valid. If the committee is of opinion that further consideration should be given to the method of carrying out a change which all are agreed is desirable in order to reduce informal voting, it may be well to report progress.
– The object we all are seeking to achieve is to reduce the number of informal votes. I have had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Chief Electoral Officer and he fears that if the bill were amended to require the use of a numeral on a referendum ballot-paper, but allowing a cross to be employed without invalidating the vote, informal voting would be increased in elections for the House of .Representatives when three or more candidates were offering. The elector might get the impression that if he merely indicated the candidate whom he wished to support he would record a valid vote. The matter requires further consideration, and if progress is reported the Attorney-General will have an opportunity to discuss the point further with the Chief Electoral Officer.
Motion (by Sir Neville Howse) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1026.
Bill, presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure has been introduced for what may be regarded as three broad purposes - (1) To fulfil a promise made by the Prime Minister during the last sittings, of Parliament that before the session ended action would be taken to insure to the residents of the Federal Capital Territory representation by an elected representative on the body administering the Territory; (2) to make clear the position of the Federal Capital Commission iv connexion with the supply of such requirements as water, electricity, &c. from the Territory to persons or bodies outside - for instance, the supply of electricity to Queanbeyan - and supplies of a similar nature to the Territory by persons or bodies outside, particularly the supply of electricity from the Burrinjuck scheme; and (3) to make an adjustment in regard to the capital liability of the Territory . as between the Federal Capital Commission and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
The new commission will consist of a chief commissioner, a second commissioner, and a third commissioner. The chief commissioner and the second commissioner will be appointed by the Governor-General, and the third commissioner will be elected. The tenure of office of the appointed commissioners is to be a peri:,c not exceeding five years. The elected commissioner will have a three years tenure. The third commissioner will ba entitled to attend and vote at all meetings of the commission, but will not otherwise take any part in any of the executive or administrative work of the commission. The election of the third commissioner is to be conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth under the provisions generally of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as applied to elections of members of the House of Representatives. It is proposed to confine the right to vote to ratepaying lessees of the Commission.
– Workmen will have no vote?
– Not unless they are ratepayers. Officers or employees of the Commission are precluded from nomination for election as third commissioner, likewise persons pecuniarily interested in any agreement with the Commission, except as shareholders of a company.
Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service will be eligible for appointment to the position of third commissioner, but officers of the section of the service which is directly concerned in the administration of the act will not be eligible for appointment.
– What department is that?
– The Department of Home and Territories. The bill provides for meetings of the commission to be held at not less than fortnightly intervals. At present, meetings of the commission may be convened as may be considered necessary by the Chief Commissioner, subject to any direction issued by the Minister. The remuneration of the Chief Commissioner will remain as at present - £3,000 a year - and that of the Second Commissioner will not exceed £2,000. That of the Third Commissioner will be by way of fees in accordance with his attendance at meetings of the Commission. The amount payable in such fees is not to exceed £250 per annum.
– It is a farce to fix such a small salary for the Third Commissioner.
– What sort of man will be attracted by such a salary?
– He will receive £5 5s. for each sitting of the Commission that he attends.
Section 14 of the act defines the powers of the Federal Capital Commission in relation to the supply of electricity, water, &c. Doubt has arisen as to the powers of the Commission to supply water and electricity to persons or bodies outside the Territory, and also as to the powers of the Commission to enter into agreements with persons or bodies outside the Territory for the supply of requirements to the. Territory. The Commission at present supplies water and electricity to the town of Queanbeyan, and is considering the desirableness of entering into an agreement with the Government of New South Wales for the supply of electricity to the Territory from the Burrinjuck system. The object of clauses 12 and 13 of the bill is to remove any doubt as to the powers of the Commission in respect of the foregoing matters.
Section 21 of the act provides that the Commission shall be liable for the amount expended by the Commonwealth in connexion with the establishment and administration of the Territory prior to the 1st January, 1925, with the stipulation that such provision shall not apply to the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in connexion with the control of Parliament House. It is considered that the Commission should be exempted from the liability for the expenditure incurred in connexion with the construction and maintenance of the railway from Queanbeyan to Canberra, and also with the expenditure in connexion with the survey of the proposed railway routes between Canberra and Jervis Bay and between Canberra and Yass. The responsibility for this expenditure is one that should rest upon the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. Clause 14 of the bill proposes to exempt the Commission from the , liability for this expenditure. The amount deducted from the Commission’s liability in respect of railway expenditure is £75,360 5s. 10d., of which £74,837 14s. 3d. is in respect of the railway from Queanbeyan to Canberra, and £522 lis. 7d. in respect of the survey of railway routes between Canberra and Jervis Bay and between Canberra and Yass. The Government recognizes the importance of giving those who pay rates in the Federal Capital Territory representation upon the Commission. The desire is to appoint a man who will discharge his duties in a manner similar to that in which aldermen discharge theirs. I believe that he will be of great value to the Commission, upon which he will have voting power equal to that of the other Commissioners. He will be able to take an active part in all matters pertaining to the progress of this Territory.
– If the bill is passed will the Chief Commissioner be appointed for a further period of five years ?
– The bill does not affect the Chief Commissioner, because the period of his appointment does not expire until November, 1929. The other two Commissioners who at present hold office will be affected. Only one of them can be re-appointed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair - resolved in the negative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 12th September (vide page 6655) on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - the Parliament - namely, “The President, £1,300” be agreed to.
– I wish first to congratulate the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) upon his early presentation of the budget. Every year since he has held that office he has introduced the budget at the earliest opportunity. On this occasion he brought it down on the day after Parliament reassembled. Such a practice gives satisfaction to honorable members. In the State Parliaments the budget is invariably presented late in the session. I know of cases in which the budget was presented when half the year with which it dealt had expired, and on one occasion the financial year was in its ninth month. In those circumstances a Treasurer has an easy task, because he can forecast for the balance of the year in the light of his returns during the first portion of it. The present Commonwealth Treasurer cannot have in the month of July reliable information regarding the seasonal prospects. The indications may be favorable, and yet the results may be disastrous. That was the case last year; it promised well, but there was a shortage of 50,000,000 “bushels in the wheatcrop. Such an occurrence must exercise a marked influence, upon the flow of imports, and affect every department that is concerned with finance.
It is particularly disadvantageous to a Federal Treasurer, who has to rely so largely upon customs receipts and the export of wool, wheat, and other primary products. It was only to be expected that in the circumstances the honorable gentleman’s forecast of receipts would not be realized.
Dr. Earle Page occupies a most unenviable position. Although he can congratulate himself upon having held the office of Treasurer for a period longer than any of his predecessors, at the same time he is subjected to criticism in the press and by honorable members of the Opposition when he has a surplus and also when there is a deficit. It appears to be a case of you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. The criticism that has been directed at this budget is not supported by the facts. Ever since the present Government assumed office the press of Australia has been urging that the annual surpluses should be devoted towards reducing taxation. Shortly after it came into power the Government made a considerable reduction in income tax, and on two subsequent occasions gave further relief in that direction. It has also lowered the land tax and amusement tax, and reduced the postage rate for letters from 2d. to 1½d. Those reductions represent an amount of £6,000,000. Oldage pensions have been raised during the last five or six years by 5s. a week, and the act has been liberalized in the direction of allowing a greater number of persons to come within its scope. The last financial year ended with a very small deficit.
– It is the biggest deficit since the establishment of federation.
– On the basis of population it is small compared with that which occurred recently in the State of New South Wales. Some persons argue that the deficit should be wiped out by an increase in taxation. They say that this is the first occasion upon which the Commonwealth Parliament has not adopted that course to restore the balance during the current year. I point out, however, that on former occasions when Parliament passed a special act to increase taxation it was found later to have been absolutely unnecessary. I have every reason to believe that we shall pull through this time without recourse to that expedient.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has stated that the estimate of customs receipts for the months of July and August has not been realized. On the other hand, a few days ago the Treasurer stated that those receipts were, if anything, in excess of his anticipations. If that is correct, the prospect of ending the year with a surplus looks particularly bright.
When the last budget was presented, honorable members of the Opposition were challenged by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to indicate directions in which savings could be effected. The only suggestion advanced was that of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who said he could save £4,500,000 by omitting the proposed vote for defence.
– Can the honorable member quote me to that effect? .
– I am trusting to my memory. The suggestion was made in an aside. Does the honorable member repudiate it ?
– I do, absolutely.
– If the honorable member denies having made the statement, I shall not press the point. Last evening, the Leader of the Opposition suggested several directions in which money could be saved; but the items to which he referred are as infinitesimal as a fly on the dome of a large cathedral. He asked a few pertinent questions in respect of small amounts, but did not deal with anything involving large sums. I have no doubt that effective replies will be made to the questions he asked, for the public business is being transacted by honorable men. Even if economies were effected along the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition our deficit would still be nearly as great as it is.
No honorable member has challenged any really big item in the budget. We all realize that a large proportion of our expenditure is due to the war and its aftermath. About £30,000,000 of the expenditure for which the Treasurer has budgeted is directly due to the war. We must honour the promises made to our soldiers, pay the interest on our war loans, ‘ and generally carry out our obligations in that regard. No one has suggested that any of these obligations should be repudiated. Our old-age and invalid pension scheme involves us in the expenditure of £10,000,000 per annum. These two items alone account for about 86 per cent, of our expenditure, and I do not think that any honorable member would suggest that they present possibilities of desirable economy. There is, as a matter of fact, very little room for big reductions in expenditure. The country is to be congratulated upon having such a sound and good administration.
The diminution of our customs revenue last year is accounted for by the marked decline in the importation of luxuries. Practically the whole of the £2,105,748 was lost because of a falling off in the importation of musical instruments, jewellery, wine and spirits, motor cars, and similar luxuries. We imported fewer of these items because we encountered a bad season.
This Government deserves credit for having reduced the per capita indebtedness of the nation from £66 4s. 3d. in 1922 to £59 15s. lOd. in 1928. If it continues in office long enough and carries on in the same fashion it will ultimately wipe out our national debt. The Leader of the Opposition last night quoted figures covering a six-year period to show that the affairs of the country were more effectively administered than during the six years of the Bruce-Page Government. I propose to give a few figures in support of the opposite contention. I have, taken figures covering the concluding three years’ operations of the last Labour Government, that is, from 1910 to 1913, and the last three years of the present administration. In its three years of office the Labour administration spent £9,147,951 from revenue on new works, naval construction, &c, and £1,208,078 from loan. . It paid less to the States, £7,116,230, by substituting the per capita payments for the provisions of the Braddon section. Its net expenditure, apart from loans, was therefore £2,031,731. Similar figures for the present Government are £6,171,470 from revenue; £21,781,299 from loan and £2,691,952 paid to th’e States. Its net expenditure, apart from loans, was therefore £8,862,000 on the three items mentioned. In the three years of the Labour administration, direct taxation increased by £1,564,000, and indirect taxation by £3,959,870. The increase per head in direct taxation was 6s. 7£d., and in indirect taxation 12s. 8id. making a total of 19s. 3Jd. In the last three years of the present administration direct taxation has decreased by £451,000 and indirect taxation has increased by £4,250,949. The decrease per head in indirect taxation has, therefore, been 4s. 6-Jd. and the increase in indirect taxation has been 6s. 3fd., making a net increase. of ls. 9d., as against the net Labour increase of 19s. 3d. I suggest, therefore, that the people would be wise to return the present Government with a majority at the coming election.
The increase in our debt in the year 1927-28 was £6,1S9,205. That looks serious, but an analysis of the position show that there is a simple explanation, of it. It will be remembered that during our debate on the proposed sale of the Commonwealth ships Ave were informed that it was estimated that the vessels were worth £7,000,000. They appeared on the national ledger as an asset worth £5,113,716; but, unfortunately, the highest tender received for them when they were offered for sale was £1,736,000.
– They were given away.
– It certainly would have paid the Government to give them away, and I think that we were fortunate to dispose of them for £1,736,000. But the sale of the vessels at that figure meant that we had to write off £3,377,716. This is the reason for the large increase in the debt for last financial year. In the six years that this Government has been in office the national debt has increased by only £8,166,052, so the Government’s achievements compare very favorably with those of any other Commonwealth or State administration.
It may be asked what the Government proposes to do to meet the deficit. It does not intend to increase direct taxation ; but it is saving expense in other directions. For instance, the grant to Tasmania will be decreased this year by £158,000 in consequence of the bill that we passed this week. We should also save about £150,000 in respect of the wine bounty. I know that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) and honorable members who represent Tasmania may not agree with these economies; but Parliament has approved of them in view of the stability now reached in the wine industry and the improved financial position of Tasmania.
I hold views in connexion with the Government’s public works- policy which may not be acceptable to some of my colleagues. I contend that when times are bad the Government should draw upon all its resources to maintain a vigorous public works policy. It should not tighten the purse strings, for thai only sets an example for private enterprise to follow. If, when times are bad, we can maintain our people in constant employment by providing public works, we should minimize the ‘difficulties of the community. Such a period is not opportune for the cutting down of expenditure from either loan or revenue if it can be avoided. The Government should be careful of its expenditure in good seasons when private enterprise has money available for undertakings which provide a lot of employment, so that it may have more money to spend when money is not available from other sources.
I was glad to hear the honorable member for Martin (Mr. G. Pratten) commend the Government last night for cooperating with the States in big national roads and housing schemes. When the federal aid roads scheme was first suggested in this Parliament, a few honorable members on both sides of the chamber opposed it; but time has proved the wisdom of it. The State of New South Wales has this year available about £4,000,000 for road work. The recent Labour administration in that State was not enamoured of the scheme, but the present Nationalist Government has signed the agreement. New South Wales is not yet reaping all the benefit that the scheme will yield her, for she has not been able to get her machinery in full working order. Hoad construction has been carried out all over New South Wales, and for this fact the Government deserves credit.
The intention of the Government to introduce a housing scheme was announced on the hustings three years ago. The sum of £20,000,000 has been allocated for that purpose, and I believe that three of the States propose to co-operate with the Commonwealth in this matter. The erection of homes under this scheme will relieve unemployment to a considerable extent, and the sooner the other hree States come into line the better it will be for the workers.
The operations of the Loan Council have resulted in the States obtaining money at a lower rate of interest than they previously paid. Despite what, has been said by the Opposition, the rate at which the Treasurer borrowed money in New York is lower than that paid by any other country except Canada since the late war. That is an effective answer to the criticism that the Treasurer has been extravagant in his administration. The Government has reduced our war indebtedness by £40,000,000. It is true that while we have been establishing a sinking fund for the discharge of the war debt, which was a dead weight for the nation to carry, large sums have been borrowed for various works. These, however, are largely of a revenue-producing character.
Generally speaking, I have nothing but praise for the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) ; but I have a few complaints to make to him this evening. He is naturally proud of his department for the great increase in the use of telephones. Country subscribers pay a lower rate than those in the city areas, and during the present Government’s term of office the number of telephones in use in the country has been more than doubled. In the last couple of years many country post-offices have been repaired, and others that were inadequate have been replaced by buildings that are a credit to the Commonwealth: I take exception, however, to the policy of retrenchment that has been practised lately. The employees of the department, on the whole, do not receive the remuneration that should be paid to them. The Post Office is looked upon as the Cinderella of the Service. There is a general clamour for cheap postal facilities, and the department is practically compelled to employ a large percentage of boys and youths. Young persons should not be required to work all night in telephone exchanges.
– If they were not, the service would have to be curtailed.
– I know that the Minister has not unlimited funds at ,his disposal. Australia has the lowest longdistance telephone rate in the world, and as the public desires to have a cheap service it is questionable whether cheapness should be the sole consideration. But complaint on this score has been made to me, and I bring it before the Minister. In 1926-27 the Post Office made a profit of about £350,000; but last year there was a deficit of about £47,000. Taking the operations over a number of years, however, it will be found that this department contributes considerable sums to the general revenue. I fail to see any justification for the recent dismissals of employees. To some extent, this action reflects on the Minister personally. If a post office is found to be able to do its work with one employee less than it previously had, the inference is that it has been overstaffed for some time. The residents of Bombala are indignant over the retrenchment that has taken place there. Can the Minister justify that action? The local post office is to be closed on Wednesday afternoons, but the residents are informed that the usual facilities will be available to them. If a young girl or a lad can attend to the postal requirements of that community on a Wednesday afternoon, why is not a similar staff sufficient to carry on the work of the office during the rest of the week? The statement of the department is absurd.
– There has been no curtailment of the facilities. The telephonic and telegraphic business is carried on as usual on Wednesday afternoons. The postal branch only is closed, as is every place of business in the town.
– I am ventilating the grievance as it has been stated to me by the local municipal council and other public bodies whose representations I have already placed before the Minister.
The post office at Bega is a substantial building, but it is antiquated and inadequate for the requirements of that important town. Not long ago a competition was held to decide the most beautiful town in New South Wales, and Bega would have won the prize if it had not been for its antiquated and disreputable post office. The commissioners who judged the competition made adverse comments on the public buildings of Bega. I hope that the Minister will take steps to provide a building worthy of the town.
In another direction also the department has embarked on a policy of retrenchment, with which I do not agree. In some towns in my electorate the department is utilizing the services of boys in the post office to do work which, for the last 30 years in one case and a shorter time in the others lias been performed by mail contractors. When the parents of the boys obtained positions for them in the post office, they felt that their sons were associated with a department which would foster in them a sense of personal dignity; but now they find that their boys are required to push a barrow containing mail bags two or three times a day between the railway station and the post office. The parents are naturally dissatisfied. These lads have to pass clerical examinations to enter the Service. Who can wonder if they decide to place them in different positions? A retrenchment policy of that kind should not be countenanced by the Minister.
In its last annual report, the Tariff Board exceeded its duty when it criticized members of this Parliament. The board was appointed to make certain investigations, and to submit reports thereon. Having done that, its responsibility ended, it* then remained for Parliament to approve, or otherwise, of its recommendations. While a guide to Parliament, its reports have not necessarily to be adopted by Parliament. I resent the tone of the board’s report.
I should like to see a permanent representative of Australia appointed to the League of Nations at Geneva. Besides being much more satisfactory than the present system of sending a representative to the League assemblies from time to time, the cost to Australia would be much less. Last year the cost of sending the Australian delegation to Geneva was about £7,000, whereas- only about £4,000 would have been necessary if Australia had a permanent representative there.
– A permanent representative at Geneva might get out of touch with Australia’s view-point.
– I hardly think that would happen; but, in any case, it could be prevented by our representative paying an occasional visit to Australia. The High Commissioner in London should have sufficient on his hands without being also our representative at Geneva. We need a permanent representative at the head-quarters of the League.
In order to meet cases of undoubted hardship the legislation dealing with oldage pensions should be amended in the direction of assisting wives or husbands who are living apart. Unfortunately, many married couples who do not wish their domestic affairs to be made public, and, therefore, do not approach the courts for judicial separations, or divorces, are unable to agree, and consequently live apart. Should one of them apply for an old-age pension, and the other be in receipt of a fairly substantial income, or possess property above a certain value, the application is refused by the department. The law should be altered to meet such cases. Surely we should not force these people to make their affairs public in the courts of the land. It should be sufficient in order to obtain a pension for an applicant to produce evidence that the other member of the union has not rendered any financial assistance for a considerable period. Legislation along the lines I have suggested would probably increase the total expenditure on old-age pensions; but that would be justified in the circumstances.
Should an Asiatic, who has lived in Australia for many years, obeying the laws of the land, and contributing his share of taxation, apply for an old-age pension, his application is rejected on the ground that he is an Asiatic. I realize that the law has been liberalized in the interests of the children of Asiatic parents, but a further amendment is necessary to meet the cases of such persons as those to whom I have referred.
In different parts of Australia, particularly New South Wales, there is scope for numbers of hydro-electric schemes. The Snowy River is not only one of the largest rivers in Australia, but it has also the most rapid flow. It carries more water to the sea in a given time than does any other Australian river. Moreover, itis one of our most permanent rivers. Officers of the New South Wales Government who have tested its flow and fall regard’ the Snowy River as the potential source of much electric power. It has been estimated that sufficient horse-power could be developed by the Snowy River to electrify the whole of the southern railway system of New South Wales, and supply the electric power and lighting requirements of Sydney, including its electric tramways, at a lower cost than at present. This is a matter which might well be investigated by the Development and Migration Commission. Mr. Corrin late Chief Engineer of “Works in New South Wales, has spoken in the highest terms of the Snowy River as a source of electric power. I consider that- if the waters now running to waste were harnessed, it should be possible to supply not only Sydney, but also many country districts with electric power. At one time a private company contemplated a hydroelectric scheme on this river. The manufacture of paper pulp in the Eden district received consideration. With a proper system of re-afforestation it should be possible to provide Australia’s paper requirements from that district. Already some samples of paper manufactured there have been tested with satisfactory results. In addition to providing a commodity for which there is a considerable demand in Australia such a scheme would provide work for many men. In other portions of Australia there are opportunities for the development of hydroelectric schemes; I understand that, before long, Canberra will receive its electric power from Burrinjuck. That scheme, large though it be, sinks into insignificance when compared with the possibilities of the Snowy River scheme. If certain concessions were granted, I believe that an English company would be willing to establish works there for the manufacture of aluminium supplies.
I am pleased that the Government contemplates completing the transfer of many public servants to Canberra earlier than was at first expected. Both the Mint and the Note Printing Department should be established here. If Canberra is to be indeed the national Capital, Government enterprises of that kind should be established here. With the early transfer of an additional number of public servants it will be necessary to provide further homes. I understand that only about 25 of the residences provided for public servants are now vacant. Reports that visitors to Canberra cannot obtain accommodation in the Commission’s hostels are damaging the reputation of the national Capital. People who otherwise would visit Canberra now pass it by. The people of Australia generally, are not aware of what has already been accomplished here. In the press and elsewhere it is frequently stated that about £10,500,000 has been expended in the Federal Capital. That is misleading, for the amount includes items which should not be debited against the establishment of the Capital. The cost of education of the children resident in the Territory is charged against the Federal Capital Commission.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner adjournment I was dealing with the cost of the establishment of Canberra, and this has been set down, at £10,500,000. I hold that the cost of services should not be a charge against the city. No other country town is similarly charged. I understand that the Government of New South Wales is paid so much for the education of the children here, and that is a charge against Canberra. The maintenance of the police station and the police force consisting of about a dozen men, is also charged against Canberra. When offences against the law occur in the Territory, the cases are heard in Queanbeyan, and any fines imposed are paid to the State Government. We cannot even make a profit out of our criminals. The cost of such services is not charged to any other country town.
– Canberra is not a country town.
– In comparison with the cities, the position is worse. If these costs were deleted I am assured by the late Minister for Home and Territories that Canberra would practically be a paying concern. It was anticipated this year that the return on the moneys invested in the lands and buildings of the Territory would be 5 per cent. These lands were taken over by the Commonwealth at a nominal figure, and in many cases they are under lease at so much a foot, so it is easy to understand why some slight percentage of interest should be returned on the money invested. I feel that as the years go by Canberra will be an asset indeed to the Commonwealth. As a result of its establishment, land values within 100 miles of the Territory have increased. Several new motor services have been inaugurated, and to -a certain extent, decentralization has taken place. I have no wish to criticize the. Federal Capital Commission harshly, as “did the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) yesterday, but I should like those workmen who reside in Queanbeyan to be given the privileges that are enjoyed by workmen residing in Canberra. Canberra workmen receive preference when work is offering. Many workmen have established their homes at Queanbeyan, and they are now unable to obtain work in the Territory because of the unfair decision of the Commission. It should not matter to that body whether their workmen reside in Bourke or Timbuctoo, so long as they present themselves for work at the ordinary starting hour and knock off at finishing time. Some of my constituents feel this injustice keenly. They are taxpayers of this country, and they contribute towards the upkeep of the Federal Capital.
– Queanbeyan has done very well out of Canberra.
– Yes, and Canberra has benefited because of the proximity of Queanbeyan. I again congratulate the Treasurer on the budget that he has presented under adverse circumstances. It was surely a great compliment to him that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the financial critic of the Labour party, could complain of extravagance only to the extent of a few thousands of pounds in a budget representing millions of pounds.
– I have listened attentively to the speeches that have been made during this debate; but there has been in them very little for me to answer on behalf of the Government, notwithstanding that there is a deficit on the transactions on the year just closed of some £2,600,000. I shall, however, reply to a few of the statements that have been made about our financial administration.
We all recognize the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) as one of the keenest debaters in this chamber. He possesses an extraordinarily analytical mind, and has a peculiar flair for finance and all cognate subjects, so that even before he obtained his present position he was always the member chosen by his party to discuss such matters. Therefore, when he addressed himself to the financial proposals of the Government I listened with the closest attention to what he had to say. As the head of the Government I was much gratified to find that he was quite unable to make out any particular case against us, and that he had to stretch almost to bursting point many of his alleged facts in order to get any ground at all for his criticism. He began his remarks by drawing attention to the deficit. He said that when this Government came into power in the year succeeding that in which I had been Treasurer of the Commonwealth in the administration of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) it found itself in the fortunate position of inheriting a surplus of some £7,400,000; but that now, at the end of the financial year 1927-28, there is a deficit of £2,600,000. He made the most of the contrast between those two situations. Notwithstanding that we had come into office when there was an overflowing Treasury, we had, he said, frittered away the whole of it in five years, and had also involved the country in a deficit of £2,600,000. He ended his statement there, as an indication of the hopelessness of the Government’s financial policy, leaving it to be inferred that we were to be utterly condemned for having so mishandled the finances of the Commonwealth.
I suggest that the honorable member, who is a master of figures, might at least have given the people the facts, and let them judge whether the Commonwealth finances had been mishandled. He quite omitted to mention what had been done during our term of office. He did not tell his hearers that £7,500,000 had been used for debt redemption; that a naval construction programme costing £7,400,000 had been provided for without the imposition of a single farthing of additional taxation upon the people of Australia; that an amount of £1,250,000 had been appropriated for main-road development and paid to the States. He totally ignored the fact that £350,000 had been found out of surpluses for the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and there are many other smaller payments out of revenue that he failed to mention. There was the vote of £200,000 for ‘‘civil aviation, the money used for the purchase of radium, for geophysical surveys, and for prospecting for oils and precious minerals. Those were some of the services which were paid for out of the revenue which he suggested we had frittered away. If we leave out of the calculation the last-named items, and take merely the redemption of debt, the naval construction programme, the main-road development, and the expenditure on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, we account for no less a sum than £16,500,000. The burden of the criticism of the honorable member was that £10,000,000 had disappeared, and there was nothing to show for it. That was the ground on which he said the Government should be severely censured by the people of this country. In view of the facts to which I have just drawn attention it will be seen how hard, pressed the honorable member was to find grounds upon which to condemn our financial administration. Indeed, it was evident that he could not make out a case at all if he made known to the people the facts, and he accordingly curtailed this part of his speech to a considerable extent.
The next complaint of the Leader of the Opposition was that we had a deficit, and had done nothing to provide for it. He did not say what he thought we should have done; he merely said that we had done nothing. I was greatly pleased to hear his case completely answered by the newly-elected member for Martin (Mr. Graham Pratten), who, in an admirable maiden speech, on which I think we all desire to congratulate him, compared the present position of Australia with that of a company which, after enjoying a period of prosperity, had come to a crisis in its affairs, and was making little or no profit. The honorable member for Martin pointed out that the directorate administering affairs of such a company would not take the drastic step of immediately stopping dividends or making economies which would disorganize the running of the business. He suggested that when a well-managed company experiences a temporary check it falls back on its reserve funds, and uses them to carry on until conditions improved. We propose to take a similar course. There are only two ways in which this deficit could be got rid of. We could make drastic economies and reductions throughout the Public Service, and curtail expenditure in regard to some of the various policies to which we are committed. The deficit could be completely cleared off by departing from policies that we have hitherto pursued, or by making such drastic cuts in the administration of our ordinary services as would bring about complete disorganization. Another method would be to increase taxation so as to bring in the additional revenue needed to wipe out the deficit. We should have been extremely ill advised had we pursued either course. It is most undesirable that there should be a large increase of taxation in Australia a.t this moment. We hear from honorable members, from the press, and from many other quarters that an increase of taxation would be one of the worst things that could happen in Australia at this juncture. The cry of most people is for the reduction of taxation. In these circumstances it is the wisest course to leave the position as it stands. I urge honorable members and the public generally not to become rattled because of a period of temporary depression, as I believe this will prove to be, and to give the country a chance to recover itself without disorganizing our expenditure to an extent that would cause serious alarm. This would not assist the country, but would further retard its progress, and cause greater trouble than we are nowexperiencing.
The Leader of the Opposition could make no suggestions for dealing with the problem ; he merely declared that it should be dealt with. As I have said, I think that the course we have taken is, in the circumstances, the wisest one.
The honorable member then spoke of what must happen if we are to obtain the revenue that we need, and remarked upon the quantity of imports that would be necessary to produce that revenue. The figure he took was £12,000,000, and he said that to raise such an amount would cause nothing short of a tragedy to the Commonwealth. In dealing with the Customs tariff, he again took a point which he has often taken, and which has become very nearly an obsession with him : he said that any increase in our imports would inevitably indicate that the country was going back. The honorable member should remember that the prosperity and wealth of Australia have been increasing of recent years, and that even in countries which are highly protected, when prosperity increases, requirements increase concurrently. Even a country which is providing the greater part of its requirements by its own production, will in such circumstances increase its importations from other countries. The greater the prosperity of a country the greater its imports will be, because as its wealth increases its requirements are augmented. Therefore, that part of the honorable member’s criticism did not cause me the slightest anxiety.
Seeking another position from which he could attack the Government, the Leader of the Opposition repeated a statement which he had previously made many times, and which, T remind him, was answered with the utmost clarity in the budget speech.
He claimed that taxation per head in Australia had increased by 4s. since 1922. He left it at that, considering that the mere mention of the figure constituted a condemnation of this Government. But lie did not place the whole of the facts before the committee. As it is dealt with so clearly in the budget speech, I shall refer to only two aspects of the matter. The first is that the payments to the States, over the period dealt with by the honorable member, increased by £4,000,000. That increase was due to the natural increase in the population of the States, and to the adoption of the Federal Aid Roads policy and the Financial Agreement. ^ Had we not increased our payments to the States, we should have repudiated the’ per capita payments, to which we were committed by statute. The second increase, about which the honorable member said nothing, amounts to £4,620,000, and represents the additional payments made during the period for old-age pensions. No one in this chamber has more strenuously advocated and supported the increases in old-age pensions which have been proposed by this Government than the honorable member. Those two items alone account for an increase of £8,620,000. Had they not been made, instead of our taxation increasing from £9 0s. 4d. to £9 4s. 4d. per head of population, it would have been reduced to £7 16s. 8d.
Next the honorable member dealt with periods of years, and figures so tremendous as almost to stagger the imagination. He contrasted two six-year periods, the six years preceding the regime of this Government, and the last six years, during most of which time this Government has been in office. He pointed out that, this Administration had received in revenue during the last six years £100,000,000: more than was received by the governments in power during the preceding six. years. The honorable member regarded: that as another indication of the extravagance of this Government, and as ground for the wholesale condemnation of our financial stewardship. But, in fairness to the public of Australia, the honorable member should have gone further, and should have placed the completed picture before them, so that they might form an impartial judgment. The honorable member should have pointed out that in the first year of the first six-year period, away back in the days of the war, the amount paid out of revenue for war services was £8,400,000; whereas in the last year of the second six-year period the amount paid out of revenue for such services was £29,000,000. If there is anything to be deduced from that, it is that the Government is entitled to a very considerable measure of credit for meeting such a large part of our war obligations out of revenue, whereas the previous administrations had met such obligations mostly out of loan money. Probably; had those previous governments possessed more courage, and met a greater” part of those obligations out of revenue many of the problems with which we are now faced would not exist. Thehonorable member also failed to mentionthat old-age pension payments for the first year of the six-year period amounted to- £3,450,000, whereas for the last year of the last, six-year period they amounted1 to £9,800,000. Surely it would have been but fair on the part of the honorable member to give those facts to the people of Australia, so they could better judge . whether that £100,000,000; had been, wisely spent. Still dealing: with the two/- periods which he mentioned, I shall instance four other items apparently overlooked by the Leader of the Opposition. This Government, during the second period of six years, spent upon old-age pensions £20,000,000 more than was spent by other governments in the first’ six-year period. It also spent out of revenue for war purposes in the last period £44,000,000 and on defence £13,000,000 more than was spent in the first six-year period for the same purposes. Further, it advanced £13,000,000 more to the States in the last period than was advanced in the first six-year period by other governments. Those payments account for £90,000,000 out of the total of £100,000,000 referred to by the honorable member. I suggest that his case must have been a very poor one, indeed, when he had to stretch his facts so far, and was not prepared to tell the whole story.
The honorable member also got on to another of his favourite topics, the adverse trade balance of Australia; but he did not deal with it very exhaustively on this occasion. He really only introduced it, to demonstrate how extremely wrong I was in a statement that he said I had made in regard to Great Britain. The honorable member - quite unwittingly, I am sure - did me a considerable injustice when he claimed that I had referred in a former speech to the adverse trade balance of Great Britain. He then proceeded to explain that Great Britain was a creditor nation, and told the committee that a gentleman who spent £12 a week, but who earned £10 a week, and received £2 in interest on his investments, was leading a perfectly respectable financial existence. But, if the honorable member will take the trouble to peruse the speech to which he referred, he will find that I did not in it speak of the trade position of Great Britain. I am aware that Great Britain is a creditor nation, with great investments abroad, and what are known as invisible exports. But the countries to which I referred were the United States of America, Germany and Canada. I suggest that the honorable member was a little hard pressed to establish a case when he had to, put into my mouth words which I had never uttered, alleging that I had drawn comparisons with a country to which I had never referred.
The next subject dealt with was the sinking fund. The Leader of the Opposition tried to suggest that the Government had not done anything at all in establishing a sinking fund. Apparently all the reductions which had been made in the national debt are entirely due to some policy which the Labour party of a previous day had put into operation. There are two comments which I wish to make in regard to that. The first is that I do not see what grounds the Leader of the Opposition and his friends have for taking credit for anything which the old Labour party might have done. The second is that the honorable gentleman’s argument was contradictory, because he drew most glowing pictures of the benefits derived from the policy initiated by a former Labour party, and the reduction of the national debt thereby, but he entirely disallowed our claim for credit for reducing the debt by a much greater amount. He cannot successfully maintain that this Government has been idle in the matter of debt redemption. Let me remind him of the Sinking Fund Act passed in 1923, a measure entirely different from any sinking fund provision operating in this country prior to that time. That act was forecast in the budget of 1922. Let me also remind honorable members of certain discussions which took place on the budget of 1922 when the present principle of debt redemption was adopted. That principle has received commendation in every part of the world where it has been considered, and particularly in the great financial centres, because it is a combination of a sinking fund and. a redemption fund, with the best characteristics of both. The Leader of the Opposition suggested in the course of his speech that the funds for debt redemption were being obtained out of the profits of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I did’ not. The Prime Minister should read my speech again.
– The honorable member suggested that an important contributing factor to the redemption of the debt was the profits of the bank. Assuming that these funds have played a considerable part in debt redemption, I would remind the honorable gentleman that it was entirely due to the action of this Government that they became available for that purpose.
– Half the profits of the bank always went to the redemption of the national debt.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. Prior to 1923 it was provided that half the profits of the bank should be available for the purpose of redeeming debentures issued by the bank, and that, in the event of the funds not being utilized for that purpose, they should be available for the redemption of the national debt. But the bank all along took up the attitude, and no one was able to induce it to depart from it, that notwithstanding that there were no debentures to redeem, it would not give up half its profits. The difficulty was overcome by the definite action of this Government, and ever since then half the profits of the Commonwealth Bank have gone to the redemption of the national debt of this country. The other source referred to as providing money for debt redemption was the profits derived from the note issue. Three-quarters of the profits from this source, amounting in all to £800,000 a year, are being paid to revenue and may be regarded as devoted to this purpose. That sum represents rather less than one-sixth of the total amount made available each year for debt redemption. It is a mere caricature of the facts to suggest, as the Leader of the Opposition has done, that the greater part of the money which this Government has devoted to debt redemption has been obtained from the Commonwealth Bank profits and the profits of the note issue.
The other point with which the Leader of the Opposition dealt was the Government’s borrowing policy, a topic in the discussion of which he always contrives to get into a state of considerable confusion. He makes any number of speeches condemning the borrowing of money, but he will fight with all his power against any reduction of expenditure. As soon as the Government shows any indication of putting into operation the policy which he has advocated, he becomes a strong supporter of. an entirely different policy, and urges that money be freely spent. The only way to obtain money for public works, if we are not to borrow, is to find it out of revenue. The Leader of the Opposition has never had the courage to say that he would have found £10,000,000 out of revenue in order’ to finance the public works of the country. I do not think that he is likely to advocate such a policy, because he recognizes how disastrous would be the effect on the community if, instead of borrowing money for capital works, what was required was obtained by increasing the taxation of the people. Thus he finds himself in a hopeless difficulty. He must advocate the spending of money to keep employed those who are already working, and, if possible, open up new avenues of employment for those out of work. But he cannot reconcile that with his avowed policy of ceasing to borrow money, and with his criticism of the Government for what he describes as its extravagant policy of borrowing. ‘
The Leader of the Opposition then dealt further with debt redemption, but he did not preface his remarks by pointing out the very satisfactory work that had been done by the Government in this direction. He made no mention of the great amount of debt redeemed; but dwelt upon the policy of borrowing overseas. It is right, therefore, that I should point out just what has been done in the way of debt redemption. The position is clearly set out in the budget speech of the Treasurer, which shows what has been done in regard to both war debts and ordinary debts. On the 30th June, 1922, the Commonwealth owed as its deadweight war debt £333,000,000, and on the 30th June, 1928, £294,000,000, a reduction over that period of six years of £39,000,000. The debt for works in June, 1922, was £32,000,000, and in June, 1928, was £79,000,000, an increase . of £47,000,000. Setting off the decrease in war debt against the increase in the ordinary debt, Australia’s debt in this period of six years increased by approximately £8,000,000. We must remember, however, that the deadweight debt which has been redeemed is represented by no assets at all. There is nothing to support it. With regard to the £47,000,000 which has been borrowed during the period under review, and which has resulted in an increase of £8,000,000 in the total national debt, the whole of that amount has been spent on reproductive works, no less than £24,000,000 of it being spent on capital works for the post office. On the whole of the £24,000,000 thus spent for the post office, the revenues of that department are sufficient to pay not only the interest, but also the sinking fund for debt redemption on the basis of 1£ per cent. In fairness to Australia, the Leader of the Opposition should have made some reference to the extraordinarily good position which has been brought about by the redemption of £39,000,000 of deadweight debt, and the substitution therefor of £47,000,000 of debt represented by reproductive assets. We must also remember that these operations have had an effect on the total indebtedness per head of the people of Australia. From the 30th June, 1922, to the 30th June, 1928, the war debt per head dropped from £60 9s. to £47 ls. 3d., and the debt for works increased per head from £5 15s. 3d. to £12 14s. 7d. But the total debt per head was ‘ reduced from £66 4s. 3d. in 1922 to £59 15s. lOd. in 1928, a decrease of £6 8s. 5d.
I come now to the gravamen of his complaint, which is that the Commonwealth has obtained the major portion of its loan requirements in the overseas market. What the honorable gentleman ought to have done when he laid emphasis on this phase of our financial policy was to point out that not only the Commonwealth, but also the several States had loan requirements to be met, and that as a deliberate act of policy it was agreed by the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States that the Commonwealth Government, during the period under review, should seek its loan requirements overseas, so as to leave the Australian market open to them. The Leader of the Opposition should have told the House that if the Commonwealth had been, a competitor in the Australian market there would have been disastrous competition between it and the States for any moneys available in Australia, and that the effect of this competition would have been to increase the interest rate, and consequently the taxation burden placed upon the people. All these facts should have been set out in the clearest language possible by the honorable gentleman if he had wished to place his case fairly before the people of Australia.
Having dealt with the matters to which I have alluded, the honorable gentleman proceeded to discuss what he suggested was a challenge which I had issued, that in dealing with the finances of the country he should dispense with criticism in general terms, present a specific suggestion as to what should be done, and explain in what way Commonwealth expenditure could be substantially reduced. I would remind the honorable gentleman that I have always dealt with Commonwealth finance along those lines. I have emphasized that the bulk of our expenditure may be placed in certain great divisions. There is war expenditure, defence expenditure, expenditure under special appropriations, expenditure on additions and new works, and the ordinary departmental expenditure. I have on several occasions in this House emphasized that the ordinary departmental expenditure represents only a small portion of our national outgoings, being about £3,000,000 per annum out of a total of a little over £50,000,000.’ I have said that whilst departmental expenditure may be reviewed, and possibly reduced, any economies effected in it could not materially affect the financial position of the Commonwealth, or bring substantial relief in taxation. But I have made it perfectly clear in every speech which I have delivered, that I would be glad to receive suggestions from the Government’s financial critics as to specific items in which considerable economies could be made. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition, in his speech of the other day, made no attempt to indicate how reductions could be made in our war expenditure, in the interest upon our war loan, or the contributions to our sinking fund, or our pension payments amounting to about £29,000,000 a year; nor had he anything to say concerning our defence expenditure, which is about £5,000,000 a year. He did not attack expenditure under special appropriations, which cover a number of items such as payments for invalid and old-age pensions, maternity bonus, and certain bounties, running into something like £13,000,000 or £14,000,000. He had nothing to say with regard to expenditure on additions and new works. Yet he devoted more than one-half of his time to criticizing a number of items in the Department of the Prime Minister. I propose to deal with what was said concerning the Prime Minister’s Department when the Estimates for that department are under review, and I suggest that it would have been more appropriate if he had deferred his objection to those items when we were dealing with them, instead of singling them out for special attention in the general budget debate. I was surprised that, in a speech upon the general financial position of the Commonwealth, he should have concentrated his attention on a number of petty details, involving payments of comparatively small amounts, and even payments to one individual. His speech in this respect was one of the most extraordinary utterances to which I have ever listened. But I cordially welcome his criticism, and, when we are dealing with the individual items, I shall explain the whole of them, I hope, to his satisfaction.
I turn now to another criticism of the budget. I had an opportunity to read to-day, the report of the speech delivered by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) in Melbourne lastnight. As honorable members are no doubt aware, the right honorable member never favours us by addressing his criticism of the Commonwealth financial policy from the floor of this House, where we would have an opportunity to deal with any points which he could raise; he retires to his constituency in Victoria, and delivers his criticism of Commonwealth finance at public meetings. . We could afford to ignore that criticism but for the fact that he was once a Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Probably, because he held the portfolio of Treasurer, more importance is attached to his observations than they would otherwise receive. For my own part I am not much concerned with what he may say, because when I was the Treasurer in a Government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the right honorable member for Balaclava saw fit to attack me in the same way as he has attacked every other Treasurer of the Commonwealth. On that occasion he went a little bit too far. He challenged certain figures which I had given in the budget, and declared that I was wrong by millions of pounds. It would be rather startling if the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, assisted as he is by the most competent body of officers with whom I have been associated, could be millions of pounds out in his budget figures. Nevertheless, the right honorable member insisted that my figures were altogether misleading and wrong. I need hardly say that we made a careful check of the figures before I made another speech, and ascertained there could be no doubt at all as to their accuracy. Shortly afterwards, I had occasion to go to Sydney and, in a speech which I delivered there, I dealt with his criticism, and pointed out that there was no justification whatever for his attack, or for the suggestion that the budget figures were inaccurate. The right honorable member had nothing to say in reply, so when I returned to Melbourne I said it all over again, and added that as he had not seen fit to substantiate his statement, I could only come to the conclusion that he was not the financial genius that we had all imagined him to be, and had been entirely mistaken in his figures, or, alternatively, that he knew that he was wrong, and was endeavouring to deceive the people. I left it to the right honorable gentleman to tell the people which conclusion was the correct one. From that day to this we have never heard a word from him on the subject. I think I am safe in saying, after that experience, that we know exactly how much importance to attach to any criticism he may have to offer concerning Commonwealth finance. Consequently, I do not propose to deal with the speech delivered by him in Melbourne last night, except to say that having read it I have definitely come to the conclusion that he is no more competent to criticize the finances of the Commonwealth to-day than he was in 1922, when I issued a challenge to him. ‘
– I listened with interest to the speech delivered by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and I can assure him that we, on this side of the House, accept the apology which he has offered to-night. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) delivered his criticism of the Budget on Tuesday night of last week. It has taken the Prime Minister all this time to get his facts together in reply. One would have thought that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), having delivered the budget, would have been prepared to reply immediately to the strictures of my leader; but, as I have stated, it was left to the Prime Minister to do this, and he has taken all this time to prepare his defence. One cannot be expected to challenge immediately the figures which the right honorable the Prime Minister has just presented to the House. I therefore do not propose to attempt to do so. As I listened to the right honorable gentleman, I cast my eyes around the chamber, and could not help thinking that since the fusion of parties took place several years ago, there has been a considerable amount of political wreckage going on. Originally, the Prime Minister of the fusion Government was the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). After a time he was deposed, and since then has been sitting behind the Government as a private member. Then, the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) was cast out of the Ministry to become High Commissioner in London, as also was the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden), whom every member of the House honours, did his job well, but was deprived of his portfolio. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) was shunted out of the Ministry, and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) suffered a similar fate. All about us we see ministerial wrecks. To-day the Government is controlled by two or three men, and because of mismanagement and bad legislation there is chaos throughout the country, and increasing unemployment. The Prime Minister holds also two portfolios ; a state of affairs without precedence in the history of the Commonwealth. One would think that the responsibilities of a Prime Minister were sufficiently great to keep him occupied; but the right honorable member for Flinders is also Minister for External Affairs, and since the death of Mr. Pratten, a man who adorned the treasury bench, and devoted the whole of his time and energy to his ministerial duties, he has held the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs. Is it possible for even the intellectual giant from Flinders-lane to do justice to two portfolios and administer the Prime Minister’s Department? I believe that if we had a live Minister for Trade and Customs devoting the whole of his time to his department, we would have a more effective tariff and more employment. But we cannot get the present Minister for Trade and Customs to even investigate urgent tariff matters. I turn now to the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), who, as Minister for Health, is responsible for the Federal administration of. health throughout the Commonwealth; but, being a glutton, like the Prime Minister, he attempts, also, to administer repatriation affairs. Thousands of soldiers have complained that they are unable to get justice, and the honorable gentleman has promised to look into each case individually. How can he do so when, in addition to being Minister in charge of Repatriation, he is also Minister for Home and Territories, and is responsible for the control of the Federal Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and the Pacific possessions of the Commonwealth? It is impossible for any one man to do justice to three portfolios of such importance. Six departments of the Commonwealth are managed by two Ministers, and four members of the Cabinet are without portfolios. Either the Prime Minister is not prepared to trust his followers with responsibility, or he thinks they have not the capacity to administer departments. If the Ministerial party had any backbone it would resent this reflection on its capacity, and would insist upon a re-allotment of the portfolios. The people will demand an explanation of these things.
The care with which the Prime Minister prepared his speech for to-night proved that he had been considerably disturbed by the . criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman spoke of the Government’s practice of economy, but every year since it has been in office, it has increased the naval and military expenditure. Australia is a signatory to the outlawry of war pact; if we are sincere in our professions of a desire to prevent war, we should give some practical proof of it. .
– The honorable member has always been opposed to war.
– The Creator did not intend that men should systematically destroy each other. I am a humble follower of the Great Reformer who said “ On earth peace; good-will toward men.” In 1909-10 the total expenditure on naval and military forces was £1,328,141. In 1924-25 the expenditure, including that on air services, had increased to £4,753,236 ; in 1925-26 it was £5,796,161 ; and in 1926-27, £7,379,018. It is scandalous that 6,000,000 people, isolated from other nations, should be spending £7,000,000 a year in preparations for war. The British Government has shown its earnestness in regard to disarmament. Speaking in the House of Lords this week, the First Lord of the Admiralty said that there were 40,000 fewer officers and men in the navy than in 1914. The British Government is genuinely reducing the expenditure on armaments and preparations for war; but the Commonwealth Government, notwithstanding the financial stringency, is increasing both naval and military expenditure.
The Prime Minister accused the Leader of the Opposition of devoting his attention to small matters. The criticism by my leader was well justified; we are trying to protect the revenue of the Commonwealth. Australia is represented in London by a High Commissioner. I do not know that he does anything except send out invitations to tea parties; but the expenditure on his office is gradually increasing. Heavy costs have been incurred in leasing a house for him, and he has been granted an allowance of £2,000 above his salary. The Government sent to London, Mr. Collins, formerly secretary of the Treasury, to act as financial adviser to the Commonwealth. He receives £2,000 a year, and £250 for entertainment expenses. That is waste of money. Another. £5,000 a year is expended on the maintenance of a Trade Commissioner and a staff in America. Surely our export trade to
America is not sufficient to warrant the maintenance of a commissioner there at such a heavy cost. We are unable to send manufactured goods to the United States of America, because we cannot compete with its mass production methods. Indeed we cannot supply our own markets. The Leader of the Opposition was doing his job well when he pointed out how money is being wasted by this Government. This morning I asked what had been the cost of the Royal visit to Canberra, in connexion with the opening of this Parliament. I do not say that Australia should be mean or paltry when entertaining members of the Royal Family; but I was astonished to learn that the entertainment of the Duke and Duchess of York and the other guests of the nation at Canberra had cost £120,000. There was no need for such lavish expenditure. In addition the Governor-General has been paid £1,000 for out-of-pocket expenses in connexion with the entertainment of the Royal party, His Excellency was a guest at all public functions; he paid for nothing. Already £75,000 has been lavishly spent on the Governor-General’s house at Yarralumla, and another £19,000 is provided on this year’s Estimates for repairing Government Houses. Where are the Government Houses that are to be repaired ? The Governor-General is given an additional allowance of £2,000 a year because he is compelled to live in the Federal Territory, where I do not suppose he spends more than one or two months in the year, while the public servant, who is compelled to live in Canberra all the year round, is given an allowance of only £50 a year to meet the extra cost of living in the Federal Capital Territory. The Government should be pleased to have these things pointed out, so that it may take steps to see that they do not occur again. The Right Honorable the Prime Minister has no right to condemn honorable members for criticism of this kind. Honorable members are sent here to criticize the Government’s financial proposals, and, if possible, see that no injustice is done to the public.
One thing to which the Labour party takes objection is the method adopted by the Government for tha control of the Federal Capital Territory. The Territory itself was developed to a considerable extent, the sewerage system of the capital was well in hand, the brickworks were in operation, the Hotel Canberra was completed, and the construction of Parliament House was well advanced when this Government appointed a Commission to control the Territory, paying the Chief Commissioner £5,000 a year, and two other Commissioners £2,500 a year. This led to the creation of another staff of architects, surveyors, and clerks ofworks when already we had all these officers in the Works and Railways Department under Mr. Murdoch, one of the best architects in the Commonwealth. It is costing £20,000 a year to have a Commission to control the Federal Capital Territory, but I hope that this item will be deleted from the Estimates and that the task of building the capital will be handed back to the Works and Railways Department.
It has been admitted by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that there is unemployment in Australia, as unfortunately there is unemployment in most of the countries of the world to-day. It is the duty of the Government to see what can be done to alleviate the distress that exists, but there is nothing in the Treasurer’s budget to indicate that the Government has any policy in that direction. Its policy is simply to spend money lavishly. The fact that Australia imported £160,000,000 worth of goods last year indicates that we are asking the people of other countries to do work that our own people should be doing. If, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) has pointed out, we had manufactured half of the goods we imported it would probably have provided employment for 100,000 Australians, and if the average weekly wage of this 100,000 had been £3 a week it would have meant the distribution in Australia last year of £15,000,000. Surely that would have had a beneficial effect upon the country. I have spoken to some big business men, who say that they are feeling the present depression, and that they wonder what is the cause of it. It is our huge importations that have brought it about. When the Treasurer borrows money overseas, the money does not come to Australia. The people who lend us money send us goods, and as long as we have goods coming from overseas we shall have unemployment in Australia.
If the Labour party is returned to power at the next election it will bring forward an effective protective tariff, it will employ as many people as possible, and will endeavour to set up a standard of living in Australia that will attract other people to this country. There will then be no need for assisting migrants by paying their passages. When the Fisher Government was in power the Labour party had a sound policy. There were no wild-cat schemes to attract people from overseas, yet there was a steady influx of immigrants, and the country was never more prosperous. Prosperity can be brought about again by the adoption of a sound policy of protection; by extending the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, and by keeping down the rate of interest. My friends opposite talk about cheapening the cost of production, but we cannot have cheap production while a high rate of interest has to be paid, for any money that is borrowed. The rate of interest can be brought down only by the Commonwealth Bank competing with private institutions. If the Labour party is returned to power it will not seek to injure any section of the community. Its aim will be to build up Australia and make it attractive to people from overseas, so that we shall have prosperity once more. We cannot have that prosperity while we have two Ministers trying to control six departments, and thinking that they are doing their work well. The Prime Minister has the support of all the big newspapers, which always put the best side to his case, but there must be something wrong when there is so much depression in a country with the great possibilities that Australia has. I know of no other country so blessed with natural gifts. Australia has a climate suitable for all classes of production. It has an abundance of everything that man requires. It has made marvellous strides. It was only 140 years ago that Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in Port Jackson and founded there a small settlement, to which he gave the name, Sydney. The 1,100 souls that constituted that community have now grown to 6,250,000, and to-day the city of Sydney is the second city of the Empire. And when we see the growth of the other cities of Australia - Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart, we cannot but marvel at the wonderful strides Australia has made within so short a period. Yet there are some in this Parliament who are always decrying their country; they are always talking about the number of strikes we have. There are strikes in every country. As a matter of fact, there will always be strikes while human nature is what it is, and while injustice is done; but the fact remains that -Australia has less industrial disturbance than any other part of the civilized world which enjoys conditions similar to those we enjoy. I challenge any honorable .member supporting the Government, which has been in office for about six years, to point to one piece of monumental legislation it has placed on the statute-book for the benefit of the people. It has simply confined its attention to undoing the work done by former Parliaments. Although Sir Denison Miller and a Deputy Governor managed the Commonwealth Bank through the whole period of the war, negotiated all the war loans of the Commonwealth, and succeeded in building up the bank to its present fine position, this Government saw fit to appoint a board of directors to control the institution, and among the directors appointed were men who were interested in private banks. Sir Samuel Horden was one of them. He is a splendid citizen, and 1 have nothing to say against him personally, but although he is a director of the Commonwealth Bank, he banks with the Union Bank. What need is there to pay Sir Samuel Horden £500 a year to be a director of the Commonwealth Bank? The Board of Directors is not extending the activities of the institution ; on the contrary, it is retarding them. All these matters will be placed before the people of the country,’ and they will be asked to give their judgment upon them. I welcome the appeal to the country. I shall ask the people to decide between the performances of the present Government and the programme that will be placed before them by the Labour party. -I shall ask them to compare the administration of the present Government with the excellent record of the Labour party when it was in power; and I feel sure that the verdict of that impartial jury, the people, will be in our favour.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) has dwelt on his favorite topic, the wonderful progress that Australia has made during the last 140 years, in the development of its cities, but I think it will be admitted by those who are interested in the development of Australia on right lines that its biggest curse is the way in which the big cities have attracted people who would have been better employed in developing our great tracts of undeveloped country. In the past too much attention has been paid to the needs of the cities, and too little to the development of the hinterland that supports the cities. The honorable member for South Sydney then proceeded to ask what the Government had done during the last six years. I am not concerned with the first three years of the period during which the present Government has been in office, because I was not then a member of this Parliament, but I know well what has happened during the last three years. There are two matters of importance which I will mention amongst others, one which brought about wonderful development in Australia, and another which resulted in great economy to the country. The first is the Federal Aid Roads policy, initiated by the present Government during the life of this Parliament. If an honorable member compares the state of the roads of to-day in the outback parts of Australia with their condition three years ago he will be filled with enthusiasm for the Federal Aid Roads policy. He will find in all the country districts nothing but praise for the Commonwealth Government, because of its action in passing the Federal Aid Roads Bill. In portions of my electorate men who frequently had to spend the whole day taking half a load through sand hills to a railway siding can now take two full loads a day without unduly taxing the strength of their teams. That has been brought about by the extra money made available by the Commonwealth to the States for the making of roads in country districts. Another action of the Government which was violently opposed by honorable members who sit opposite was the sale of that sink for good money, the Commonwealth Shipping Line. If the Government had done nothing else during .the last three years it would have deserved the thanks of the community. The only squealers are those who look for favours from the people who from time to time stir up trouble on the waterfront, usually when the primary producer has goods awaiting shipment overseas.
A great deal has been said in regard to unemployment. Admitte’dly it is fairly prevalent ; but it is practically confined to the cities; there is very little in the country districts. The principle difficulty there is to obtain workers for the work that has to be done. We have been told from time to time that the problem of unemployment would be solved by raising the tariff wall higher. That fairy story was told to me nearly three years ago. In the intervening period the tariff schedule has been raised twice; yet there is a greater amount of unemployment in the big cities at the present time than there has been previously in Australia’s history. Therefore, unemployment will not be cured by raising the tariff wall higher and still higher. If that policy was continued it would not be long before the only primary industries which are still able to carry on - those of wheat and wool - would cease to be profitable. I have heard it argued that the future of this country depends upon the development of secondary industries. Let us analyse that contention. If to-morrow there arose a set of circumstances which caused all secondary industries to be closed down, there would undoubtedly be a grave financial disaster, but the country would recover from it. If, on the o’ther hand, a set of circumstances caused the winding up of the whole of the primary industries, Australia would revert to a condition worse than that in which it stood when we took it from the blacks. The trouble during the last 26 years has been that, because the Commonwealth Parliament has had the task of developing the secondary industries, and the States the task of developing the primary industries, the assistance granted to the former has been altogether out of proportion to that received by the latter. During the last six years this Commonwealth
Government has realized that we havebeen working along wrong lines, and not paying sufficient attention to the great primary industries. It is the first Federal Government that has done anything for the primary producers. Profitable primary industries, such as the apple export industry, the fresh-fruit export industry generally, the wine export industry, the dairying export industry, and the meat export industry, are almost in the limbo of forgotten things. They had loaded upon them cost after cost until the stage was reached when the goose which laid the golden egg was killed. I shall cite a specific case to illustrate what absurdities have been committed. Not many months ago a tariff schedule was brought down which provided for the imposition of a duty of 60 per cent, on iron piping used for water reticulation, which is essential to the industry that, above all others, has enabled Australia to attain to its present position, and proved our salvation during the war period. I refer to the pastoral industry. At the present time it is the only primary industry really worth while. Its development is dependent upon two factors; it must have first, feed, and secondly, water. Nature is not kind in regard to the distribution of water in what may be regarded as the finest pastoral areas. There are practically no permanent streams, and the only means by which a large part of those areas can be developed is artesian boring and the reticulation of water from that source. Yet, what did we do? This great pastoral industry, without which Australia could not continue to carry on, had a further handicap placed upon it because some iron and steel magnates wished to start a factory in the vicinity of Sydney. The following is an extract from an article which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 7th July last, following upon an interview with the Surveyor-General of South Australia, Mr. T. E. ‘ Day, who is also- the chairman of the Pastoral Board. It states that he visited a large number of the stations in the north, and along the east-west line, returning through Tarcoola to Port Augusta, and then goes on to- say -
Tlie Surveyor-General praised the wholehearted efforts of the pastoralists in securing further supplies of water by boring. Unfortunately in some districts the water located was not fit for stock. In other cases, huge sums of money were being spent on private water schemes for the distribution of water from the bores. This was the only means whereby much of this country could be made of any use. On one station 23 miles of piping, a considerable portion of which was 3-inch, had been laid, and on one holding in the northwest 50 miles of piping had been laid by the owners at .a cost of £20,000. In some instances thousands of pounds had been spent on boring operations which had not been successful.
By imposing a 60 per cent, duty on such an absolute necessity as piping, this Parliament would. add to the already heavy expenditure of £20,000 an additional sum of £12,000. If this policy continues, the only goose that is left to lay golden eggs will be killed and eaten by the rapacious secondary industries. Then what will happen to those industries? What, too, will be the fate of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart? At the present time assistance is being given in large measure to all secondary industries. They receive from the primary industries scores of millions of pounds annually by way of higher prices for their goods. We are rapidly approaching the time when the wool and wheat industries also will require financial assistance ; and where is the money to come from? I am pleased to know that the Tariff Board had the pluck to risk the censure of some honorable members by giving us some very sound advice as the result of its investigations. It says that we must have a scientific tariff, and give proper consideration to the effect of new duties. That is what the Tariff Board ought to have been doing all along the line. The consumer and primary producer have been sacrificed to satisfy the greed of a few people in the favoured sheltered industries in the big cities, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney. The other day I received from the Adelaide Chamber of Manufacturers a letter requesting me, as a South Australian representative, to support the claim of South Australia to a grant of £750,000 from this Government, to recompense her for the disabilities under which she is suffering on account of federation. It states that the greatest disability is the high tariff. That is from the body in South Australia which is most interested in the establishment and extension of secondary industries. I do not know whether I was intended to read the letter in that way; but truth will out, and to me, as a South Australian, it is most unpalatable. I have been asked by members who sit on both sides of this chamber to support an ever-rising tariff year after year. I am prepared to give reasonable protection to an industry, to enable it to make a start, and to nurse it through its infancy; but it is about time that some industries, the protection of which has risen from 25 per cent, to well over 100 per cent., did a little for themselves. The other day a number of day-old chickens were purchased for my household. At the outset they were fed so well that a number of them died. Then my good wife cut down the food allowance, with the result that there have been no further deaths, and the remainder of the batch are in a flourishing condition. I suggest that some secondary industries have been too well fed in the past, with the result that they have developed industrial indigestion. It would be a good thing if their food supply was cut clown.
– A case of chickens coming home to roost, so to speak.
– Chickens are coming home to roost, all right. The woollen industry has made good progress in Australia. I have in my division one of the most efficient mills in Australia.
– What about Marrickville ?
– I have not been through the Marrickville mills, but the South Australian Woollen Company, which markets its Tweedvale product under the “ Onkaparinga “ brand, produces an article superior to anything that can be obtained anywhere else in the world; and it does so with relatively little tariff assistance. Because it manufactures high class goods its difficulty is to supply orders. Another industry which has made good progress with comparatively little tariff protection is agricultural implement making. I know of one company which has spent £5,000 during the last year or two in bringing its plant right up to date. What has been its reward for increasing its efficiency and so keeping down the price of its machines? It has been penalized by the Customs Department to the extent of £1,000 on the new plant that it has imported. That is the thanks that it gets from this Parliament for providing the farmers with first-class implements. Our “ protection-gone-mad “ policy has already killed most of our primary industries, and is now setting out to kill a number of our secondary industries.
The Adelaide Electric Supply Company, which provides electricity for Adelaide and suburbs, Port Adelaide and a number of country towns - it runs its lines out 130 miles north, and also south and east of the city - stated in its last report that the tariff policy of the Commonwealth is costing it £27,000 a year. The Navigation Act is costing it an additional £15,000 or £16,000 a year. The Navigation Act and the tariff are a tremendous handicap to South Australia. I commend these observations to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), in whose division the power station of the Adelaide Electric Supply Company is.
I listened last night with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). One of the pearls of wisdom which fell from his lips was that the great pastoral industry of Australia employed fewer men than any other industry, and that if it were in his power to do so he would soon rectify that, and force the pastoralists, large and small, to employ more men, increase their overhead costs, and ultimately cease operations. The pastoralists will be well advised to take every care to ensure that the present Government is kept in office.
A good deal has been said of late about the added value created by our secondary industries. I point out that the whole of the production of our primary industries is added value. A good deal of the socalled added value of our secondary industries is fictitious. We are able to market most of our primary products against world competition. We can sell our wool in competition with the wool grown in black-labour South Africa and our wheat in competition with wheat grown in low-wage countries overseas. As a matter of fact, the South African farmers are complaining that Australian flour is being dumped in their country at a lower price than flour can be produced there. While we can export our primary products everybody knows that, speaking in general terms, we are unable profitably to market any of our secondary products overseas. Our cost of production is so high that it would be hopeless for us to attempt to build up an export trade in secondary manufactures. If we could do so, Australia would be having a glorious future. It would be far better for us to concentrate our energies on establishing on a Arm basis a group of, say, three or four secondary industries at a time, than to try to become, as we are doing, a “ jack of all trades and master of none.”
Unfortunately, there is a good deal of unemployment in Australia. This is due to our huge tariff, which adds enormously to the cost of living, which, in turn, obliges the working man to seek continual increases in his wages. This in its turn, makes everything, including transport, dearer. This affects all primary industries and prevents them from developing as they should. The unemployment that exists at the moment has been contributed to considerably by the comparatively poor seasons which we have experienced during the last few years. Whenever the rainfall of Australia is 2 or 3 inches below the average we are in trouble.. We should be doing our utmost to establish large water conservation schemes, so that our primary producers would not be handicapped so severely in dry years. The Commonwealth Parliament would be well advised to assist the States to establish these water conservation schemes and reticulate water over large areas of country. Instead of doing so, it imposes a duty of 60 per cent, on water piping. That is a foolish policy. At present, in dry periods, many of our farmers have to spend a large proportion of their time in carting water when they should be engaged in fallowing and other farming operations.
It is tragic that some of our great primary industries are being strangled to satisfy the greed of some secondary manufacturers in Melbourne and Sydney. 1 am a protectionist who thinks. There are others who do not think. They are satisfied to harp on the word protection, because it has a sweet sound. They pay no heed to where our present disastrous policy is leading us. They remind me of the story of the old lady who used to pay rapt attention to the sermons of a certain missionary bishop. One day the bishop got the churchwarden to introduce the old lady to him. He asked her what it was in his sermons that kept her attention. She replied, “ Ah, my lord, it is that blessed word Mesopotamia.” It appeared to her to be the salvation of her soul. To some people the word protection is salvation. They see in it the only means of saving Australia. We are told that it is wicked to import anything, and that we should manufacture all our needs. The manufacturers of Sydney would not like to apply that policy to themselves. South Australia, on the other hand, would welcome a return to pre-federation days, when she did not have to carry Sydney and Melbourne on her back as she does at present.
From a pocket edition of the Commonwealth statistics, I find that the value of our wheat exports was £34,600,000 in 1924-25, £17,187,000 in 1925-26, and £20,785,000 in 1926-27. The probability is that last year the value of this export owing to the partial failure of the harvest, was considerably less than £20,000,000. During the three years period to which I have referred, Great Britain took wheat from us to the value of £28,000,000; Italy, £9,800,000; France, £7,100,000 and Japan, £6,700,000. The wool exports in those three years were valued at £55,580,000, £56,495,000, and £53,410,000 respectively, and if we add the scoured wool the respective values were £63,258,000, £63,203,000 and £60,093,000. Australia’s wheat and wool industries are its main sources of financial stability. The value of the wool exported to various countries during the three years under review is as follows: -
If a country is to prosper it must trade. When we sell goods to other countries, those countries will expect us to take goods from them in return. Much is heard about the need to make Australia selfcontained, but even the United States of America is not a self-contained country. It imports large quantities of goods, because it considers them the best procurable. A brother of mine informed me recently, after a trip to America and Great Britain, that some of the finest machinery used in the United States of America in connexion with railways, was manufactured in Great Britain. It was imported into America, despite the high tariff imposed on foreign goods. I yield to no one in my admiration of the inventive genius and capacity of the engineers of Australia ; but I. am not foolish enough to imagine that a country with a population of only 6,000,000 has no need to avail itself also of the best brains in the world to enable it to keep pace with the development occurring in other countries.
A good deal is heard about the number of persons employed in secondary industries. The figures quoted include all those employed in workshops and factories of every description, but many of them are not engaged in the production of new goods. How many of them are simply employed in repair work or in the selling of goods, as travellers are. We are told that increased protection must be granted to secondary industries to enable the men employed in them to retain their jobs. I do not agree with that. At least onehalf the number employed in the various industries would have work to do whether the goods they handle were made in Australia or imported from abroad. I hope that I shall not be misunderstood. I wish to make it quite clear that I am a protectionist - a reasonable, moderate and thinking protectionist. I believe that Australia has industries which, if properly managed and developed, would be able to produce goods second to none in the world, and capable of commanding a market abroad.
A good deal of hot air has been emitted from the other side of the chamber regarding the financial policy of the Government, but I have not heard any constructive criticism. Honorable members opposite constantly decry Australia. They evidently have a poor opinion of the employers and employees in secondary industries, because they suggest that these industries must be spoon-fed. The deficit of about £2,600,000 on the past year’s transactions, is almost entirely due to the unfavourable season, following comparatively bad seasons in the two years immediately preceding it. If honorable members opposite had been in charge of the Treasury they would probably have adopted some of the tricks practised by the last Labour government in South. Australia. They would have balanced the ledger somehow, and deceived the public. Last year the Commonwealth Government devoted to sinking funds for the reduction of debts and actual debt redemption nearly £5,000,000 of revenue derived from various sources. Within 50 years of the inception of the sinking fund our war debt will be wiped out. Provision has also been made to meet the cost of our public works, such as those under the control of the Post-. master-General’s Department, which provide from revenue a sufficient sinking fund payment to wipe out the cost during the lifetime of the works. Instead of devoting revenue to the purposes that I. have mentioned, the Governmentcould easily have concluded the year with a surplus and deceived the public. I have always admitted that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has one great fault as a politician - he is too honest. Whenever I have compared him with other Prime Ministers and State Premiers, the comparison has always been in favour of the present Prime Minister.
Some time ago the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) paid a visit to the Northern Territory. As a pastoralist the honorable member should know that the stock routes are not a true indication of the nature of the country, because the large numbers of stock travelling along them leave them bare.
– When I was there the country was enjoying the best season it had for years. The stock routes had not been eaten out.
– That is not so. Against the opinion of the honorable member, who spent a few weeks in that country travelling in a motor car, we have the experience of men who were born and reared in the country, and have great “faith in it.
– Many of them would get away from it if they could.
– The honorable member made some extraordinary statements when he returned from his trip. Among other things, he said that it would take £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 to construct a railway line from Alice Springs to the Katherine river. The distance between those two places is about 600 miles. Not long ago a tender of £1,700,000 was accepted for the construction of a railway about 300 miles in length from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. About half that work is now completed. The honorable member would have us believe that to build twice that length of railway would cost more than six times as much. I should be prepared to undertake the construction of that line for £5,000,000. On completion of the contract I should be a millionaire. I admit that beyond Alice Springs some of the country is more difficult from a railway construction point of view; but, even allowing a 50 per cent, increase on the cost per mile of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, the cost of the extension to the Katherine river would not exceed £5,100,000. The section now under construction to Alice Springs is being built by contract. We know what it will cost. The position is entirely different from that which obtained in connexion with the east-west railway, which was constructed by day labour, and which cost millions more than it would have done if it had been built by contract. My advice to the honorable member for Riverina is to have another look at the country.
– Most of it is not fit for a white man to live in. In the middle of winter the temperature is sometimes 100 degrees in the shade.
– That is a libel on the country. The centre of Australia1 has a climate which is peculiarly beneficial in cases of tuberculosis. More persons suffering from that dread disease have been cured in Central Australia than in any sanatorium in the country. At
Angorichina, in the Blinman district, there is a hostel controlled by the Tubercular Soldiers’ Aid Society which is doing wonderful work in the treatment of tubercular soldiers. Every one who goes there for treatment returns wonderfully improved in health. The provision of railways will mean the salvation of that country. In saying that I speak not as a South Australian, but as one who has the interests of all Australia at heart. There should be a railway running north and south across the centre of the continent, and from it feeder lines should be constructed running east and west to serve new country and to link up with existing lines. When they are built there will be an enormous development of the whole of the resources of the country. The honorable member for Riverina does not know to what extent tropical products can be grown in the Northern Territory. In the experimental garden that was carried on by the South Australian Government before the Commonwealth took over the Territory some of the finest rubber in the world was grown. Rice, sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee, and other tropical products were grown successfully at the Botanical Gardens, Port Darwin, under the care of Dr. Maurice Holtze and afterwards of Mr. Nicholas Holtze. It is unfortunate that the Territory has to be administered from a capital city thousands of miles away from it. To-day it costs £25 a ton to transport groceries from Adelaide to the Finke River Mission Station. It costs £8 a ton to the railhead at Oodnadatta, a distance of 600 miles from Adelaide and £17 a ton for transport by camel for a further distance of a little over 300 miles. How would the honorable member for Riverina like to develop his property if he had to pay £25 a ton for the transport of all groceries and machinery required there? He must be honest and admit that he could not carry on -profitably.
– The Northern Territory is not worth development.
– I am always prepared to accept the opinions of persons who are competent to judge, but I do not care to accept the opinion of one who has taken only a cursory trip by motor car through the country. I prefer to accept the opinions of those who have lived a long time in that country, who have been successful there, and whose fathers and grandfathers have lived and prospered there. Recently I was in conversation with a man who has been, in the Territory and he informed me that there are any amount of rich gold shows there. I know that there is one at Arltunga. It is impossible at present to develop those shows because of the enormous cost of transport. A show would need to be at least a 2-oz. to the ton proposition before any attempt could be made to develop it. Every known mineral and many precious stones have been found in the Northern Territory, but the trouble is that there is no ready means of transport. The shows have been simply picked at and abandoned. The first portion of the north-south railway was from Darwin to Pine Creek. The bill authorizing the construction of that railway was piloted through the South Australian House of Assembly by my father, the late Honorable John Langdon Parsons. .He resigned his portfolio to take up the position of Government Resident in the Northern Territory, so that he might supervise the works in progress there. When the line was under construction the South Australian Government, instead of following the repeated advice of my father to obtain suitable European labour to build that line, and after its completion to give them grants of land along the line, brought out Chinese coolies who, when the railway was completed, put their wages in their pockets and returned to their native land. I have been to Pine Creek and have seen a rich gold show there, but the cost of transport prohibits its development.
– Is there not a railway to Pine Creek?
– Yes ; but after its completion it was soon forgotten. The succeeding Labour Governments thought more about what was happening in Hindley and King William streets. Mr. Tennison Wood and other geologists have said that the Northern Territory is rich in mineral wealth, but it will never be exploited until cheap transport is provided. Practically every State owes its original development to mining activities, and the Northern Territory will develop only when a railway has been built to enable its mineral resources to be properly exploited. I regret that from time to time it is necessary for a South Australian representative to rise to answer the unfair and undeserving criticism that is levelled at the Northern Territory by certain honorable members in this chamber. I was pleased, some- time ago, to hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who is well qualified to judge, state in an excellent speech that that country produced the _ sweetest stock food that he had ever seen. And that statement was made after he personally investigated the country. If this Government, after completing the first section of the North- West railway, goes through with the project and links up the north with the south, and later joins it with the far-western lines of Queensland, it will do a fine statesmanlike action, and its name will be perpetuated as the first government that really grappled with the problem of linking the north with the south of Australia by railway. My little State of South Australia, small in numbers, but great in spirit and enterprise, built the telegraph line that connected the north with the south of Australia; and only recently I re-read some of the congratulatory messages which hailed that action as a most wonderful piece of work. It was a comparatively greater task than that now facing the Commonwealth Government in regard to this railway. The country was in an absolutely wild state. Those pioneers were always open to attacks by hostile blacks, and were subjected to severe hardships. To-day South Australia looks confidently to this Commonwealth Government to adopt a broad national outlook, and, at no distant date, to set about completing this railway so linking the north with the south; and also, ultimately, the east with the west of this great continent.
In committee (Consideration resumed. vide page 6695).
Clause 3 -
Section twenty-one of the principal act is amended by inserting at the end of sub-section 1 the following proviso:- “ Provided further that, in any case where the day fixed for the taking of the votes of the electors for the purposes of a referendum is the same as that fixed for the polling at an election, a ballot-paper shall not be informal by reason only of the fact that the voter has indicated his vote by placing the figure ‘ 1 ‘ in one of the squares on the ballot-paper, but in that event the figure ‘ 1 ‘ shall be deemed to be equivalent to a cross.”
– The Government has given consideration to the representations made in the course of the debate on this bill this afternoon, and is prepared to accept in substance the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition and supported by various other honorable members. I have had prepared and circulated amendments which will give effect to it. I move -
That the proviso be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ Provided further that a ballot-paper shall not be informal by reason only of the fact that the voter has indicated his vote by placing in one square the number 1 or a cross, and by leaving the other square blank, and in that case the cross shall be deemed to be equivalent to the figure 1.”
The effect of this amendment, in conjunction with other new provisions which must be proposed formally as new clauses, is that the system to be introduced for voting on a constitutional referendum, in general, will be that if an elector approves of the proposed law he shall place the number “1 “ in the square opposite the word v Yes “, and the number “ 2 “ in the square opposite the word “ No and vice versa if he desires to vote to the contrary. The new clauses that I intend to submit will amend the schedule to carry into effect this method of voting.
– Is there any need to provide for the number “ 2 “ ?
– The direction on the ballot-paper will be to put the numbers “ 1 “ and “ 2 “ in the respective squares, but this new proviso sets out that if a voter places “ 1 “ in one square and leaves the other blank his vote will be valid. If a cross, is put in one square and the other is left blank, that vote also will be valid.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause he added: -
Section fourteen of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ by marking it on the ballot-paper in accordance with the directions thereon “, and inserting in their stead the following words: - “in the following manner: -
This is an amendment of section 14 of the principal act which provides that at a referendum each elector shall indicate his vote “ by marking it on the ballot-paper in accordance with the directions thereon.” It is now proposed to substitute for those words the express, direction as to inserting the figures “1 “ and “ 2 ‘” in the squares. The effect of this new clause, in conjunction with the proviso which has already been accepted by the committee, will be that a vote at a referendum will be valid if the ballot-paper has on it either the figures “1” and “2”, or “1” and a blank, or a cross and a blank.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be added: -
The schedule is amended by omitting from Forms C and D the following words: - “ If he approves of the proposed law he should make a cross in the square opposite the word ‘Yes’;
If he does not approve of the proposed law he should make a cross in the square opposite the word ‘No’;” and inserting in their stead the following words : - “ If he approves of the proposed law he should place the number 1 in the square opposite the word ‘ Yes ‘ and the number 2 in the square opposite the word ‘ No ‘ ;
If he does not approve of the proposed law he should place the number 1 in the square opposite the word ‘ No ‘ and the number 2 in the square opposite the word Yes ‘.”
This will make the necessary consequential amendment in the form of the ballotpaper.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report, by leave, adopted, and bill, by leave, read a third time.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed) :
.- I rise to congratulate the Government on its budget, notwithstanding the fact that there is a deficit of £2,600,000. When we realize the recuperative powers of a country like Australia, such a deficit is a small matter. After listening to the Prime Minister, and noting the very explicit manner in which he explained the details of the Government’s financial policy, one cannot but feel satisfied that the present is a good budget for any Government to produce during a time like this. It must be remembered that we are passing through a very strenuous period, and that every State Government in the Commonwealth is budgeting for a deficit. This indicates a state of affairs which must inevitably be reflected in the finances of the Commonwealth. When the Prime Minister had finished his speech, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) sought to discredit the Government, and tried to lead the House to believe that it would be a good thing to have a Labour Government in power. Yet nearly every State in Australia has, at one time or another, been governed by a Labour Government, and there is not one of those Governments which has not had very heavy deficits. Even the Lyons Government, in the State which I represent, would have been in a worse financial position than any Nationalist Government ever found itself but for the assistance given by the Commonwealth. We, therefore, cannot accept as a criterion anything which Labour Governments have done, nor have we any reason to hope that a Labour Government could have done better this year than the present Federal Government has done. A further example of inefficient Labour administration is furnished in the record of the Labour
City Council in Sydney. Theirs was a record of chaos and loss. Nobody can deny these things, yet honorable members on the other side are prepared to accuse this Government of rash expenditure and maladministration. As a matter of fact, this Government has done exceptionally well, and if it is allowed to continue in office it will, I am satisfied, so successfully manage the affairs of the Commonwealth that it will be able next year to bring in a budget showing a surplus. There are one or two things in the budget of which I do not approve, but I recognize that it would be very difficult for any Treasurer to bring in a budget which would please every one.
I wish to refer to the operations of the Development and Migration Commission, which appears as one of the first items in the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department. That commission has been in existence for some years, but I am unable to see that it has been of any material benefit to Tasmania, more especially as we in that State have had to foot the bill to the extent of £36,000 for its investigations. The commissioners went to Tasmania, and after making their inquiries, advised the primary producers to produce more and still more, yet what is the actual position? We find that there are 1,000,000 bushels of apples lying on the ground, and no market can be found for them. Other fruits such as peaches and apricots are also rotting for want of a market. It is useless for this commission to tell the people of Australia to produce more when we have not the markets in which to sell our produce. Markets are what we need now more than anything else. Before the war we could sell apples on the English market at 10s. to 12s. a case, and make a profit. To-day, that price is of no use to the growers. It is not the fault of the market ; the trouble is caused by the high costs that have been loaded on to the producers. That is what has made a bad market.
– Then why blame the commission ?
– -The commission should find new markets. The orchardist would not need anybody to tell him to produce if he were able to find a market for what he produces. Only the other day I read that an orchardist in New South Wales ‘ had grubbed out 7,000 trees. That does not look as if fruit-growing .is a profitable industry. I propose to show how it is possible to afford substantial relief to the peach and apricot growers of Tasmania, as well as at Shepparton in Victoria, Leeton in New South Wales, and many other centres throughout the Commonwealth. It is a scandal that up to the present so much of their produce should have been allowed to rot on the ground. Last season no less than 2,000 tons of peaches were lost in the Shepparton district alone, because of the difficulty in marketing the produce. It is true that the Commonwealth Government has assisted producers by the payment to canners of a bounty of ls. 6d. per doz. 30-oz. tins; but the bounty amounted to only £5,000 last year, and, therefore, it did not affect a considerable proportion of the fruit crop. If jam manufacturers could obtain sugar at a reasonable price they would be willing to pay Id. a lb. for all this surplus fruit. Practically the whole of it could be utilized. If the manufacturers ‘ bought it at the price stated, the growers would get £9 6s. 8d. a ton, and the manufacturers would be able to find a market for the jam in Australia. I am afraid that honorable members do not fully appreciate the decline in the sale of jam in the Australian market. The Sugar Board sells Australian sugar in New Zealand at £21 10s. a ton, but Australian manufacturers are obliged to pay £30 6s. a ton for it.
– Manufacturers get a rebate for the quantity of sugar used in all jam manufactured for export.
– They get no rebate on jam manufactured for consumption in Australia. As I have stated, they are compelled to pay £30 6s. a ton, or 3£d. a lb. for all sugar used by them for the manufacture of jam to be consumed in the Commonwealth. If the amount of the bounty were paid to the Sugar Board, that body could supply sugar to manufacturers at £21 a ton, and the manufacturers would then be in a position to handle thousands of tons of fruit which at present is allowed to rot on the ground. The adoption of this policy would benefit, not only the fruit-growers, but also the manufacturers and consumers of jam to a much greater extent than the payment of the present bounty. If the fruit-growing industry is to progress we must eliminate all waste. Only in this way can we expect to encourage the man on the land. What is the use of making provision for the payment of a paltry bounty if fruit-growers are unable to dispose of their crops? It is extraordinary that under the agreement with the Queensland Government, over 200,000 tons of surplus raw sugar is exported from Australia and sold principally to England at £11, f.o.b. Australian ports. It should not be necessary to do this. If it were manufactured in Australia as mill-white or second-grade sugar, it would be good enough for the manufacture of jam, and it could be sold to our manufacturers at £21 10s. a ton.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and practically every member of this House, is continually urging that the home market is the best market. But what are we doing to develop it? It cannot be argued that the sale of Australian sugar to Great Britain and New Zealand at a price below that at which it is sold to Australian manufacturers, is likely to bring about this result. If this surplus sugar were made available to Australian manufacturers at £21 10s. a ton they would be in a position to purchase the surplus fruit at £9 6s. 8d. a ton for the manufacture of jam for the home market. There would then be more employment for the man on the land, more employment in our factories, the producers would benefit, the people would get cheaper jam, and the community generally would benefit. Prior to the war jam was sold in Australia at 6d. lb. To-day, largely owing to the effect of Arbitration Court awards, the people have to pay from 9d. to l0d. lb. . for it.
– The quantity of sugar used in the manufacture of a pound of jam does not affect the market price.
– I have just stated that Arbitration Court awards are, in the main, responsible for the increased price of sugar, and my contentionis that, if second-grade sugar could be supplied to jam manufacturers at a lower price, the fruit-growers would be able to dispose of their surplus crop. The figures relating to exports of jam, and jam manufactured for consumption in Australia, are alarming. In 1919-20 our exports totalled 44,000,000 lb. In 1920-21 they had declined to 14,000,000 lb., and in 1926-27 to the insignificant total of 2,300,000 lb.- a decrease of 41,000,000 lb. on the figures for 1919-20. In 1912, when our population was 4,700,000, the total of jam manufactured and consumed in Australia was 85,800,000 lb., representing a consumption’ of 18 lb. per head. In 1925-26, when our population was 6,100,000, the total was 67,300,000 lb., representing a consumption of 11 lb. per head. It will be seen from these figures that there has been a remarkable decline in the quantity of jam manufactured for both the export and home markets. Until our manufacturers get sugar at a reasonable price there will not be much prospect of building up the home market. The agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments provides that sugar used for the manufacture of jam for export shall be sold at world’s parity. I have gone into this matter very carefully with the departmental officers concerned. It has taken me several months to get any satisfaction or information from them. They appeared to be reluctant to give it to me; but finally I was able to force it out of the department. I find that, in fixing world’s parity, the department takes the lowest price paid for sugar at a particular time, and to that price it adds £1 a ton freight, as if we were getting our sugar from Cuba. The manufacturers are not allowed to use imported sugar; therefore the extra charge of £1 should not be levied.
– The honorable member knows that Cuban supplies control the parity price.
– We are dealing not with Cuban sugar, but with Australian sugar. Mr. Berchdolf, who represents Nestle and Company, the largest users of sugar in Australia, agrees with me that the £1 should not be charged. I am advised that sugar from Belgium can be landed, c.i.f., Australian ports, at £15 17s. 6d.; yet our manufacturers are paying £17 7s. 6d. as parity price. How can they compote with the manufacturers in Belgium and Holland who are getting their sugar for £14 a ton ?
– The Australian manufacturers receive a preference from Great Britain.
– They are receiving practically no preference. The manufacturers in Tasmania found it unprofitable to export jam overseas and almost unprofitable to manufacture for Australian consumption. The only solution of their problem waa to build a large factory in Africa, send Australian fruit pulp there, and convert it into jam by cheap labour and cheap sugar. That expedient explains why the export of jam has decreased from 44,000,000 lb. in 1919-20 to 2,300,000 lb. in 1926-27. I shall continue my remarks to-morrow.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280913_reps_10_119/>.