10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories a reply to the question I asked yesterday regarding the location of the head-quarters of the electoral branch of his department?
– I have ascertained that the Chief Electoral Officer is now stationed at Canberra.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the approximate capital cost of a rural automatic telephone exchange for 50 subscribers’ lines ?
– The sets now being operated by the department were made from standard parts, and therefore were rather costly; but sets are being manufactured for the department by British firms which will cost about £10 per subscriber’s line.
– Having regard to the length of time occupied in preceding years by the general debate on the budget, and the comparatively short time allowed for dealing with the items on the Estimates, will the Prime Minister afford honorable members ample opportunity on this occasion to discuss the departmental estimates in detail?
– The details of the Estimates will be considered as soon as the budget debate is concluded. It will be for honorable members to decide how long the detailed consideration of departmental estimates shall take.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the following paragraph published in the Sydney Sun of the 18th September : -
Store Robbed fob Food.
Tamworth, Tuesday. At the Tamworth Quarter Sessions Francis Arthur Goodreid and Michael McGill pleaded guilty to a charge of breaking and entering a shop at Drake, and stealing groceries. John McGill, brother of one of the accused, pleaded guilty to stealing.
Counsel for the defence explained that the men -were down and out, and wanted food. The two brothers were Scotch migrants, and the other an Englishman with a good war record.
Judge Mocatta said that they had walked from Stanthorpe, in Queensland. It was a pity that young men who were prepared to work could not get it, and he questioned the policy of migrants coming to Australia when there was no work for them.
The accused were remanded.
Will the right honorable gentleman divert the whole or part of the £300,000 provided on the Estimates for assisted passages to migrants to the relief of distress among migrants and others already in Australia ?
– I have not seen the paragraph quoted by the honorable member, but I remind him that British migrants reach Australia in compliance with either requisitions by the State Governments or nominations approved by them. It would be necessary for me to make full inquiries into an individual case before I could express any opinion on it.
Mr.- WEST.- In 1926 a sum of £1,800 was placed on the Estimates for the establishment of a wireless station at Lord Howe Island. An honorable member who has just returned from the island informs me that no steps have been taken to establish that station, and that the islanders cannot understand the callous indifference of the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in making statements. The object of a question is the eliciting of information.
– This is a very serious matter. The Postmaster-General says it is the concern of the Minister for Home and Territories and the latter says that the Postmaster-General is responsible. While these two Ministers are disputing the people of the island are deprived of an urgently needed service.
– Order ! The honorable member must ask a question, and not debate the matter.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories explain why the amount placed on the Estimates in 1926 has not been expended?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter immediately, and let the honorable member have a reply.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether any appointments have yet been made to the proposed film censorship board? If so who are the appointees and what are their qualifications ?
– No appointments have yet been made.
– In view of the large number of persons unemployed in Canberra and the surrounding districts, will the Minister for Home and Territories state whether any public works are likely to be started in the near future which will relieve the present distress?
– The question is now under consideration and inquiries are being made. I hope at an early date to have some definite works started, with the object of absorbing a majority of the married men in the Territory who are now unemployed.
– On the 5th September, I wrote to the War Service Homes Commission in Melbourne, asking for copies of correspondence between the commission and the Braybrook Shire Council and other bodies concerning complaints about the drainage of the soldiers’ homes in the Sunshine group. I also intimated to the Minister for Works and Railways that I intended to ventilate the matter in this chamber. I have received this reply from the secretary of the commission : -
I duly received yours of the 5th instant, following which the Minister advised me that you proposed to discuss in the House the question of drainage at the Sunshine group. In those circumstances, I regret that your request cannot be complied with at this stage, but the Minister proposes to make full particulars available to you later on.
I ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether it is the practice of the War Service Homes Commission to refuse honorable members information which they desire for use in the House, lest damaging facts might be disclosed ?
– The secretary of the War Service Homes Commission had no authority to make the correspondence available. Had the honorable member applied to me I would have considered his request.
– Is it not a fact that J approached the Minister within the precincts of this House, and asked for the information, when he informed me that it would not be made available to me?
– It is not a fact. The honorable member met me at the door of the chamber, and threatened me with the action he proposed to take when the Estimates were under consideration. I informed him- that I- was prepared to make a full reply to any accusation he had to make. I should like to say further that no honorable member has had more consideration than the honorable member for Corio in connexion with war service homes, and especially those at Sunshine.
– I understood the Minister to say that it was not a fact that I had approached him concerning- complaints in connexion with the war service homes in the Sunshine group. If that is so, will the Minister explain why the secretary of the department has written stating that he proposes to make full particulars available to me later on ?
– When I was entering the chamber the other day, the honorable member for Corio told me, in a threatening manner, what he proposed to do. He did not ask me if I would make the correspondence available, and the matter ended there. In the meantime, he applied to. the secretary for a copy of the correspondence, and, because of the manner in which the honorable member expressed himself, I called for a report. It was because I had done so that the secretary of the department knew that I proposed to make a statement. That statement has been prepared - I am sure it will satisfy the honorable member - and I propose to make it when the opportunity offers.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if the information with which I was supplied some days ago, in the form of a return concerning the production of sulphur and sulphuric acid in Australia, and the bounties paid to the firms manufacturing such commodities, can be supplied as an answer to a question, so that the information may be published in Hansard?
– I shall see if the information can be supplied in the manner suggested by the honorable member.
– I ask the Treasurer if any arrangements are being made by the Commonwealth Bank officials handling the Commonwealth housing scheme for the appointment of authorities in country towns and districts to receive and deal with the applications from country residents?
– Provision is made in the Commonwealth Housing Act for certain approved and prescribed authorities to obtain advances under the Commonwealth Housing Act. No such applications have been received from country authorities.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that many of the buildings now used for post offices in the tropic north are totally inadequate to the requirements of the people in that portion of Australia ? If that is so, will he call for a report as to the suitability of such offices, and, if necessary, take action in accordance with the reports received?
– Every effort is being made to maintain postal premises in good repair, and, so far as money is available, to carry out renovations in country districts. There are many places entitled to new post offices; but the department must in the ‘first instance devote its attention to the development of mail and telephonic services which are so necessary throughout Australia.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a request from the Victorian Government, or from any authority in Victoria, in reference to the effect of the Government’s proposals upon the production of the State coal mine, and the manufacture of briquettes ? Does the Government propose to take any action to protect those interests?
– I have not received any communication from the Victorian Government, but I have had a letter from, I think, the underground manager of the Wonthaggi mine about a public meeting to be held in Wonthaggi to-morrow, together with a copy of a resolution to be submitted at that meeting. In regard to the second portion of the honorable member’s question, I refer him to the answer I gave yesterday when I indicated that the Government’s proposal affected only, the export trade and trade between the States.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the statement made in Victoria that in the event of a reduction in the price of coal sent to that . State, the State coal mine at Wonthaggi and the briquettes producing plant at Yallourn will be closed? If that is so, will the right honorable gentleman take into con sideration the effect of the Government’s proposal upon Victorian industries before coming to any decision?
– The proposals of the Government relate to coal exported not from New South Wales only, but from any State. The reduction in the price of coal contemplated is 5s. a ton, and with 4s. of that reduction in price the Commonwealth is not in any way concerned; it will be the result of an arrangement between the Government of New South Wales and the mine-owners and the miners of the State. The Commonwealth is involved only in relation to a further reduction of ls. per ton in respect of coal exported. Any effect upon Victorian industries will be occasioned by the action of the New South Wales Government and those interested in the coal-mining industry in that State, and it will be for the Government of Victoria and other State Governments to determine whether action should be taken to bring about a similar reduction within the borders of the other States. As to the effect upon the Yallourn scheme and the supply of electrical power, I would point out that it is anticipated that if the proposed scheme is adopted, there may be a permanent reduction in the price of coal, which will be of great advantage to those in control of transport services and also to manufacturers throughout Australia. It will be for the Yallourn authorities to take that very seriously into account, and place themselves upon a competitive basis, not merely for the first year in which assistance will be granted, but for later years, when the reduction may take effect without any assistance.
SERVICE of A. J. McPherson- Contracts.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
United Kingdom. Mr. McDougall possesses outstanding qualifications, particularly in connexion with all phases of British Empire and international trade and commerce, and was for some time engaged in the dried fruits business in Australia.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained.
Tariff Board’s Report
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the report of the Tariff Board in ‘regard to felt hats was completed some months ago; if so, when does he propose to make it available?
– Yes. The Tariff Board’s report was unfavorable to the request made on behalf of this industry. As the Board is making further inquiries into certain aspects of the wool felt hat industry, it is not proposed to table the first report at present.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether any decision has been arrived at concerning the request for the establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Victoria Park, Western Australia? .
– The matter is now under consideration, with a view to preparation of a proposal in this connexion for submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether anything has yet been done in regard to the large importation of Calif ornian dried fruits; if not, when does he propose to take action to protect the local industry?
– Yes. Importers of Californian sultanas are being required to deposit sums sufficient to cover possible dumping duty, pending inquiry by the Tariff Board. Departmental inquiries made into importations of Californian prunes elicited the fact that the duty paid landed cost thereof was higher than the selling price of Australian prunes.
Mk. J. R. COLLINS.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Importations and Sales
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am not in possession of the information asked for but will make inquiries.
Transfer of Staffs - Roads - Cost of Bricks
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government has under consideration at present a scheme whereby the departments at present located inMelbourne will be transferred to Canberra as early as possible, but tentative dates for the transfers have not been fixed.
– On the 13th September, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
On the 18 th September reference was made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to the apparent high cost of bricks in Canberra, which he stated is £6 5s. per 1,000 at the kiln as compared with £31s. and £3 3s. in Melbourne, and he asked if some reduction could not be made. In the first place it is necessary to make a correction, as the price to the general public for ordinary common bricks in Canberra at the kiln is £5 5s. per 1,000 and not £6 5s., and a special reduction to £4 16s. per 1,000 has already been made for cottage construction for public servants. The Federal Capital Commission has given the closest attention to the question of brick manufacture with the object of bringing down the costs as far as possible. There are certain circumstances, however, which govern the production and cost of bricks, and it is necessary that these should be carefully regarded when considering comparative prices. The special factors which operate at Canberra to affect the cost of brick production, however, are as follow: -
The commission has not detailed knowledge of the conditions under which bricks are produced at the kilns in Melbourne mentioned by the honorable member, but it has made a careful comparison of the cost of manufacture at Canberra - under the “ semi-plastic “ system - with the cost in Sydney of bricks produced by the “ dry-press “ process. The following figures are therefore given showing the estimated cost per 1,000 bricks based on one machine with an output of 10,000 bricks per day of eight hours : -
The following charges should be added to the cost of the bricks produced in Canberra: - Depreciation, 4s. 9d. ; interest, 6s.; management, 2s. 6d.; holiday pay, ls. 6d. ; stacking, 2s.; moulds (special), 3d. ; making a grand’ total of £4 lis. 4d. This comparison of course is based on conditions which have not been realizable in Canberra owing to the intermittent nature of the demand, which has not rendered it possible for the kilns to operate continuously at maximum capacity. The actual cost has therefore fluctuated from time to time, and £5 5s. represents a fair average cost. It has been explained that a concession has already been made on the average cost by charging at the rate of £4 16s. per 1,000 for the bricks used in connexion with homes built for public servants. The site for the brickworks was chosen many years ago after careful expert investigation as being the best available. Nowhere in Canberra could the manufacture of bricks by the “dry press” process be” relied upon. At the same time it should be stated that by the “ semi-plastic “ process a much superior brick has been produced. The commission is satisfied that the plant installed is suitable and the management efficient. It has obtained the best expert criticism it could on all aspects of the matter with the object of adopting any expedient which might have the effect of reducing the price of bricks. In view of the special factors that have been explained, it appears that the only likely possibility of effecting a small reduction of the cost of bricks would be a steady maximum production, but this is, of course, dependent upon a continuous demand which cannot be guaranteed at the present time. It will thus be seen that a superficial comparison of the cost of manufacture of bricks in different places cannot be accepted and that the controlling factors - such as the conditions of raw material, labour, and other costs - must in each case be ascertained and examined before a reliable opinion can be formed.
Preference to Australian Manufacturers
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and a reply . will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Allowance for use of Cars.
asked the Minister for
Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Territories for the past six months are £240 1s. 9d. and £212 15s. 7d., respectively. These amounts cover all running for official use, inclusive of a considerable mileage outside the Territory, and also the conveyance of departmental officers in circumstances where otherwise heavy expense would be incurred for railway fares, and other transport expenses.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the information desired by the honorable member will be furnished as soon- as possible.
– On the 6th September, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: - 1 and 2. Total administrative cost, £720,602. Total costs - Building, £621,700; site, £379,800. The High Commissioner’s office advises that it is practically impossible to estimate the values of the building and site, but that there is no doubt both would show a considerable increase on cost.
– On the 11th
September, Dr. Maloney asked the
Treasurer a number of questions regarding coinage and notes. Most of the information desired by the honorable member was given in my reply, but, in regardto the question whether the majority of tellers in the various banks would welcome the making of notes of different sizes, I stated that inquiries would be made. I have since taken this matter up with the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank and am advised that the board has given the question of the size of notes the most careful consideration and, in this connexion, has not only had the advantage of the advice of the general manager of the note printing works, who was lately brought from England, but has had that of its own officers who are used to handling notes at the tellers’ counters. The board has thus been able to determine the best means of dealing with the question of the size of notes and considers that, to invite further opinions, would only lead to complications without any practical advantage. In the circumstances I do not think it necessary to approach all the other banks with a view to ascertaining the opinions of tellers.
– 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 : - 1 and 2. Quantities of marble are not recorded, but the following figures furnish the value for the periods mentioned! -
Pension of Mr. Kell
– On the 13th September, 1928, the honorable member for Cook asked the following questions : -
I have now received the following information from the Commonwealth Bank : -
The pension being paid to Mr. Kell is strictly in accord with his rights under the superannuation regulations as amended in June, 192C, he having complied with all the conditions provided under these during his term of appointment to the bank. The bank does not feel called upon to enter upon details connected with the business of the institution.
– On the 14th Sep tember the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Josiah Francis) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to supply the honorable member with the following information : -
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1928.
Superannuation Act - Sixth Report of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, 1927-28.
Ordered to be printed.
Federal Capital Commission - Report for quarter ended 30th June, 1928.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to employment in relation to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.
– I object. I understand that the object of the motion is that the Prime Minister may have leave to introduce a bill to deal with trade and commerce between Australia and foreign countries and between the States. As a matter of fact, trade and commerce with foreign countries has been conducted up to the present without restriction under the present law. When this Government went to the electors in 1925, it sought a mandate from the people to bring about industrial peace. During the last three years it has introduced and passed a number of measures, including the Crimes Act, and an amended Arbitration Act, under which it has unlimited power to deal with employment in relation to trade and commerce. What greater power does it require than that which it already possesses? Cannot this Government, under the existing law, do all that it is proposed to do under this new bill? What is the need for such a measure at this particular juncture?
We were told that the amended Arbitration Act would make it possible to ensure peace, order and good government in this country, and that under the Crimes Act the Government would be in a position to maintain peace, order and good government. Actually, under the Crimes Act it has all the power that it needs in the event of any situation arising that threatens to interfere with trade and commerce between Australia and other countries. Has it not the power to declare certain organizations unlawful associations, and similarly to take the necessary action against any person who may in the opinion of the Government be doing an unlawful act ? There is no limit to the power which this Government possesses if it cares to exercise it. I say, therefore, that there is no necessity for the introduction of this bill, to occupy public attention by its discussion. We are not unaware of what is behind this move. The Government desires to display this measure as a political poster. That is what it is after. We are led to believe that the legislation proposed ‘is necessary in order to enable the Government to control trade and commerce. I presume that under this proposed new law the Government will have authority to deal with1 such firms as Paterson, Laing and Bruce, which for 40 years has offered the most determined opposition to the trade union movement. During that time it has kept its gang of hired thugs to beat down any one who stood for trade unionism. This Government now proposes to do something to stimulate employment in relation to trade and “commerce. Does it propose to deal with firms like that I have just mentioned, which only a few weeks ago was haled before the courts for having acted in defiance of the industrial laws of this country. Only the other day, I noticed a report in the public press that this firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce, which presumably stands for peace, order and good government, and for the maintenance of our industrial laws and for fair dealing as between master and man, had a number of thieves amongst, its employees. Evidence given in the course of the trial disclosed that a number of these men were in receipt of only £3 and £4 a week, and I presume that the bill which this Government proposes to introduce will enable it still more effectively to suppress the facts in prosecutions of that nature.
What justification can the Prime Minister offer for the introduction of the bill at this time? Already the Government possesses all the powers that it is seeking. There is nothing that it could not do, if it had the will, to preserve peace, order, and good government and to promote employment in this country. At the last election the Government kept its gang of thugs, its urgers, creating trouble along the waterfront. These men were to be seen at work in Western Australia. They are well supplied with money. A few months later they were to be found in South Australian ports, and later m Queensland ports. After they had done their dirty work, they were to be found in good jobs, in the “ get-together “ league, and supplied with hotels and businesses. We have been told that the funds with which they have been paid came from some communistic source; that the money came from Moscow. It comes from the Employers’ Federation, which reaps some advantage from the employment of these political thugs, whose purpose seems to be to defeat the efforts of those who are doing their utmost to ensure peace upon the waterfront. These hired urgers are making the path of the real leaders of the working class more and more difficult. After their dirty work is done, after the elections are over, they are given decent jobs and so retire into the background.
This Government has power to regulate trade and commerce on the waterfront. It has power to deal with employment and with the tying up of vessels upon this coast. They have seen men meeting together in conference in different parts of the Commonwealth, and coming to certain decisions in secret conclave. There is a law against such gatherings, and it could have been given effect. But this Government did not put that law into operation. It did not want to suppress the trouble in the bud, or to seize the leaders at that moment. It wanted the trouble to grow, and the dislocation of work upon the waterfront to take place. The Government waited until these men were able to take control, and were again creating disturbances on the waterfront. There is a Crimes Act upon the statute-book, and what cannot be done under that legislation? The Government may declare any organization to be a seditious one. It can declare any utterance or word to be seditious. It is a seditious act for any one to bring about disaffection and dissatisfaction between one body of men and another. There is not a single thing that does not come under the purview of the Crimes Act. The Government can declare every workman upon the waterfront to be a member of an unlawful organization. It can prosecute and punish with imprisonment for from one to three years any man in this country who offers one penny to the men on the waterfront who are involved in this trouble. It can punish with imprisonment for from one to three years any man who offers any woman on the waterfront a crust of bread. But the Government does not wish to use its powers.
In 1917 when Mr. Hughes was Prime Minister, the first Unlawful Associations Act was passed. Under it the Industrial Workers of the World was declared an unlawful association. It disappeared after the war, but was re-enacted in the form of the Crimes Act. Under the Unlawful Associations Act any organization could be declared illegal or unlawful. There was a penalty for belonging to such an organization. Although this Government could, under the Crimes Act, declare any organization to be a pernicious and unlawful institution, no action has been taken by it. Certain institutions are allowed to flourish in the land and to publish their propaganda in the leading newspapers. Who supplies the funds to keep them going ? It is said that the funds come from Moscow. Government supporters say that the men on the waterfront, who are at present dislocating trade, are communists. There is published in Sydney a newspaper known as the Communist Journal. Why not declare that an unlawful publication ? Who supplies it with money? It is not Moscow, but the gentlemen behind the Nationalist party. They keep the communists fat, and pander to them.
– I remind the honorable member that we are discussing a motion for leave to introduce a bill in relation to employment, and I ask him to confine his remarks to that subject.
– I am dealing with employment upon the waterfront. Honorable members behind the Government may laugh, but let me remind them that in Western Australia two years ago there was a representative of the I.W.W. fomenting a dispute on the waterfront. When that trouble was over, he went to Queensland on the same errand. He is now in Sydney. Who pays that man? Just prior to the last elections there were other men in Queensland fomenting trouble. They are now in good jobs, and who gave them those good jobs? It was not Moscow. Those men are not friends of the Labour party. This Government had power to take action against them, but nothing was done. They were fed, fostered and pampered by this Government. They were its urgers, procurers, and agents provocateurs. The bill which the Prime Minister is now seeking to introduce to deal with the trouble on the waterfront is a sham, a delusion, and a snare.
– The honorable member seems to be very frightened of it.
– Why should I be frightened of it? I am not. It would be infinitely better for all political ‘parties, and particularly the Labour party in this House, if the Government would put the laws of this country into operation. If it applied those laws, which it says are necessary to establish peace and good order on the waterfront, what a Godsend it would be to the members of this House. But it dares not do that. The Nationalist party is a gutless party. There is nothing in the bill to be frightened of. It is but a sham, a fraud, and a delusion. It is not being introduced to meet a public necessity, because any extraordinary position that arises can be adequately dealt with under existing legislation.
– It is a placard.
– It is a poster. I protest against leave being granted to introduce a bill of this character. It is not in the public interests. If it is passed, it will be nothing more than a duplication and repetition of legislation that is already upon the statute-book. It may look like iron, but it is only a painted lath. This Government has no guts. It is seeking to place its responsibility upon the States. If this bill is passed, will it be put into operation? No. The Government will do no more than it did at the last election, and that was to take action against two individuals who afterwards obtained damages for unlawful detention. As a protest against the bill I ask that leave to introduce it be not granted. It is nothing more than a sham and a delusion, and illustrates clearly the hypocrisy of this Government.
– I remind the honorable member who has just spoken that the motion before the House is for leave to introduce a bill. The House has not yet any knowledge of what is contained in that bill, and perhaps it would have been better for the honorable member to reserve his remarks until he had seen it, and I had had an opportunity of explaining it.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) put -
That the bill be now read a first time.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I ask leave to move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that leave be granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
– Then leave is refused.
– I ask permission of the House to make a short statement in regard to the business.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable gentleman have leave to make such a statement?
– Is the statement to be about the bill or about other business ?
– I ask leave to make a statement about the business of the House.
– If the Prime Minister will indicate what it is that he wants leave to make a statement about, we will consider his request.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister be given leave to make a statement?
– I rise to ask a question.
– The matter cannot be debated.
– -I do not wish to debate it.I wish to ask a question, and suggest that I am entitled to do so. Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to conclude his statement with a motion?
– The Prime Minister has not indicated that he has any such intention. If there is any objection permission cannot be granted. Is it the pleasure of the House that such permission should be given?
Opposition Members. - No.
– Leave is refused.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 19th September (vide page 6949) on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division ]. - The Parliament - namely, “The President, f 1,300” be agreed to.
.- Last evening, when progress was reported, I was replying to certain criticisms which appeared recently in the press of the sugar industry in North Queensland. The writer of the letter, “ J. A. Burke,” said, in effect, that a grave debacle had taken place in North Queensland owing to the prevailing conditions. That statement is entirely wrong and misleading. This press contributor stated that various towns in North Queensland were in a decadent condition. I challenge him, or any honorable member of this Parliament, to produce evidence that the towns in the ‘ sugar districts of North Queensland do not compare more than favorably in civic pride and administration, and general prosperity, with towns of similar population anywhere else in Australia. My reply to the contributor’s statement that a grave state of affairs exists in North Queensland is that the sugar industry,. from Port Douglas to Mackay, represents an investment of about £30,000,000, “ and maintains directly and indirectly a population equal to that of Tasmania. Last year the sugar harvest that went through Mackay alone was valued at about £2,000,000, and the harvest in the area from Port Douglas to Mackay returned products valued at about £12,000,000. In these circumstances, it- is not necessary for me to labour this subject. The plain fact is that the sugar industry has enabled us to settle and develop these northern tropical areas which are contiguous to the teeming millions of the East. “Who can deny this fact? The romantic progress that has occurred there, however, has been, and still is, dependent upon the continuance of the sugar embargo. “ J. A. Burke “ criticizes the sugar embargo, and objects most strongly to the wage-earners in the sugar areas receiving the ruling remuneration for their services. I contend that these workers should be well paid for their services. There are, however, two factors which challenge the continued prosperity of - our sugar districts. The first is that we have a limited market for these products and are compelled to confine our profitable operations almost exclusively to Australia. When we reach a stage of overproduction, we are forced to export our surplus sugar to the English market and accept world’s parity. There are at least 250,000 people dependent directly and indirectly upon our sugar industry, and in it is invested a capital amount of £30,000,000. Those people and that capital rely absolutely upon the embargo that has been granted by the Bruce-Page Government, which has made possible the carrying on of our wonderful industry, so enabling us to people the distant parts of north-east Australia. But much yet remains to be done. It is not advisable that in such an important national industry, we should be compelled to restrict production, and to dispose of our over-production overseas at world’s parity and at a loss to the producers. There is a problem to be faced by the Government, and I hope that it will receive urgent consideration, and that an endeavour will be made further to expand the sugar industry on safe and stable lines. No avenue should be left unexploited in the endeavour to bring that desirable state of affairs into existence. The sugar industry is truly developmental in nature, and has been aptly described as a national industry, although it is mainly concentrated in Queensland. Quite recently Sir Benjamin Morgan, an eminent British economist who has for many years occupied distinguished positions in Great Britain and who, I understand, has the ear of the British Government, visited our sugar areas and was tremendously impressed with what he saw. He recognized that there is unlimited room for expansion in the industry, and stated that he was prepared to recommend to the British Government that it should accept another 300,000 to 400,000 tons of sugar annually, and assist the industry by granting a further £3 to the preferential treatment’ now given to empire sugar. It appeared as if we had found a solution of our problem of over-production. But if the proposal is closely analysed it will be seen that it confers little advantage upon the industry, and although it has brought about an increased interest m the subject it offers no economic key to the solution.
– Is not the cure for over-production a reduction of production?
– That would certainly effect a cure, but the honorable member must admit that such a drastic course is most undesirable when it adversely affects an important national industry. We possess all the conditions suitable for a great production of sugar under White Australian conditions, and those in the industry are animated by a desire to increase production. But that can be carried only to that length which enables producers to obtain a satisfactory return for their efforts under our peculiar standards of production. The suggestion of Sir Benjamin Morgan really does not afford a solution of the problem. On the contrary, its adoption might artificially stimulate the industry to such an extent that a great deal more land would be placed under cultivation, the capacity of the mills increased, and probably it might even bring about the erection of additional mills. Then, if by some mischance a party came into power in Great Britain which was not prepared to continue the reciprocal arrangements instituted by the Baldwin Government, our sugar industry would receive a setback from which it would never recover. I urge the Government to leave no stone unturned in an endeavour to collaborate with the British Government to design a scheme which will effectively allow us to bring about a proper expansion of the industry on safe economic lines.
There may be a momentary retrogression in the sugar industry, but it is due chiefly to the regrettable industrial unrest that has prevailed in the sugar areas for a number of years, and which has brought about a continual interruption of the wheels of industry. Recently I indicated that Cooktown, a port in the far north of Queensland which is entirely dependent upon an intermittent shipping service to obtain the necessities of life, is- now completely isolated through lack of shipping communication. with the southern ports, and its inhabitants are being subjected to very severe hardships. Later reports indicate that a chaotic condition of affairs exists along . the whole of our eastern waterfront. It is no exaggeration to say that millions of pounds worth of commodities are held up by this maritime disturbance, and as most of those commodities are paid for on delivery it means that a vast amount of money is tied up, and that the wheels of industry are spragged. The Government has made certain provisions to cope with the situation and if sane and reasonable counsels do not prevail with those who are causing the upheaval, I hope that the Government will take firm action in dealing with the situation. The subject of industrial strife has received considerable attention from this House recently, but although much has been said, little has been done. The time is ripe for the Government to take the matter in hand and indicate to the people of Australia that it is not prepared to stand idly by while our industry is dislocated through the action of a few recalcitrants who are not prepared to accept the advice of their executives and are entirely regardless of the effect of their action on producers, consumers and the public at large. We have had to submit to the dislocation of industry at the most critical period of the year. This year the sugar areas have suffered a dry spell and the growth of cane in many instances has not progressed in a satisfactory manner. But the recoverable sugar content is exceedingly high and its richness counteracts the deficiency in the weight of the cane. This is a striking tribute to the efficiency of the growers. Just when that cane should be harvested and milled the whole industry is held up by industrial disturbance. Already one mill has ceased operations and others must soon follow suit. There will be a repercussion of such inactivity upon the railways, cane cutters, farmers and the community generally, to the detriment of Australia. I regret exceedingly that that state of affairs has come to pass and I trust that the Government, if its appeal to reason is in vain, will take the necessary action to ensure that those engaged in the sugar industry are privileged to conduct their own affairs to the best advantage.
I wish, to congratulate the PostmasterGeneral, and the Minister for Works and Railways, upon the decision to instal a new automatic telephone exchange at Cairns, and to renovate the post office. Cairns is one of the most progressive sugar cities in Australia, and for too long it has had to get along with a post office which has Deen hopelessly inadequate to deal with the business offering. Yesterday the House passed an enabling measure authorizing the department to proceed at once with these works. The Minister for Works and Railways said that the accommodation to be provided would suffice for only a limited time, and that he anticipated an increase in revenue in the immediate future. That statement shows a recognition of the progress which is taking place throughout my electorate, a fact that is appreciated by every member of this House. The rapid expansion of business in the various post offices throughout that area is an effective answer to the calamity howlers and dismal prophets who insist that the north is going back. The PostmasterGeneral should realize that the type of building which is suitable for a temperate climate is not satisfactory in the north, and I trust that he will have an investigation made into the conditions under which postal officials have to work in many of the smaller offices in northern Queensland. Some of these offices are built of sheets of galvanized iron and are an actual menace to the health of those who have to work in them.
I propose to deal cursorily with the subject of tobacco culture in Australia. The Government recently appointed as Director of Tobacco Culture a gentleman who has had wide and successful experience in this class of work in America, and who is also familiar with conditions prevailing in other tobacco-growing countries. No country in the world offers greater possibilities than does Queensland for the successful production of tobacco leaf. Much experimentation will be required in order to determine the class of leaf which is the most suitable. I understand that the Director of Tobacco Culture has expressed himself as being highly pleased with the leaf submitted to him by growers in the more remote north. There is an unlimited area in the tablelands of
Queensland, more particularly iu the electorate of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis), which is entirely suitable for tobaccogrowing. I am sorry that the honorable member for Kennedy is not here now, as I know that he is keenly interested in the development of the tobacco industry. However, it is not only in the far northern areas that tobacco can be successfully grown. For years past a very high-grade leaf has been produced in other parts of Queensland. I hope that the Government will deal generously with this industry, and will make available sufficient money for carrying out the necessary experiments.
.- Last night two honorable members on the opposite side made speeches in which they dealt with the existing waterside dispute, and it was evident that they would like tosee the waterside workers ruthlessly flogged into submission by the Government.
– They are not asked to submit to the Government dictates, but to obey an award of the Arbitration Court.
– The men concerned in the industry are quite convinced that the judge did not understand the position, and for that reason imposed conditions which are not compatible with common sense, or equity. The honorable member who has just interjected claimed to know something of the workers’ conditions, because he had both worked with them, and had employed them. I worked iu a factory for seventeen years, and I know more about the conditions obtaining in the industry with which I was concerned,than could be known by any outsider. Therefore, I can readily believe that the waterside workers are more familiar with their industry and its conditions than any one else could be, and I am inclined to listen to them with respect when they say that the new award is an impossible one. Instead of using the big stick method advocated by some honorable members, the Government should, I think, make some effort to understand the workers’ point of view. The waterside workers, as a portion of our community, are playing their part in the creation of wealth. The Commonwealth will have a fine story to tell of its achievements more particularly during the last ten years since the war, and taking things by and large there is very little room for complaint about the workers of this country.
The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) has referred to tobacco culture. For a long time I have thought that the cultivation of tobacco in Australia has been neglected, and I support the honorable member’s contention that if we are to absorb the migrants we desire to come to Australia, it will be the duty of the Government to give a stimulus to tobacco culture. As a factory worker I started at a wage of 8s. a week, and at the end, when I was a married man, -I was receiving the magnificent sum of 39s. a week. I was a steady smoker in those days; I smoked od an average a quarter of a pound of tobacco a week. Multiply that quantity by 52 and consider the amount of excise duty I paid yearly. Compared with the ability of the individual to pay, it will be found that the excise duty on tobacco is one of the heaviest of Australian taxes.
The honorable member for Herbert spoke of the need for alterations to the post office at Cairns. His remarks struck a sympathetic chord in my heart because I have been most assiduous in my attempts to get a new post office in the eastern portion of Adelaide. The business done in that part of the city amply justifies the erection of a new post office there. As I have previously said the present building has been described as a ben roost. It is not paying much of a compliment to the hen roost. When the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was a private member -and was criticizing the budget presented by the then Treasurer, be said -
I have previously referred to the post office at Mildura, which is a disgrace to civilization and can only be compared with the Black Hole of Calcutta.
– There is a good post office at Mildura now.
– If . I could only bring about a similar result in regard to the post office in the eastern end of Adelaide I should be satisfied.
– The honorable mem- her had better take me to see it.
– The Postmaster-General has already seen’ the building and knows that what I am saying is quite correct. A few days ago I said that if the Commonwealth could afford to spend £133,000 on the reconditioning of the Goulburn to Canberra-road, to which I did not object, it could” easily have made provision on the Estimates for the erection of a new post office in the eastern part of Adelaide. The Postmaster-General has informed me that the new post office in George-street, Sydney, has cost £32,000. The amount is not a staggering one and I do not think it is too much for me to ask the Postmaster-General to provide a building of the same suitable type in Bundlestreet, Adelaide. If the PostmasterGeneral, having heard the Treasurer’s comparison of the Mildura post office with the Black Hole of Calcutta, could proceed with the erection of a new post office in Mildura, I think he will admit that I have a better claim for the erection of a new post office in the eastern portion of Adelaide. Much more revenue is obtained from the eastern portion of Adelaide than from Mildura. The citizens are entitled to a post office commensurate with the importance of the capital.
I desire to be fair in discussing the budget. I intend to read a few extracts from speeches delivered by the present Treasurer in 1921, when he attacked the then Treasurer, Sir Joseph Cook. His accusation was that Sir Joseph Cook did not budget in the best interests of Australia, and the Treasurer of the day characterized the present Treasurer’s remarks as insulting and blackguardly. In October, 1921, Dr. Earle Page, as a private member, went so far as to accuse the then Treasurer of “ dummying “ his estimates, and making misleading statements in connexion with them. He furnished figures that were claimed by him to prove that his argument was sound. On the 25th November, 1921, le said -
With regard to practically all the departments, it is my intention to attempt to bring about a reduction of the Estimates by, in effect, rationing the departments, and insisting upon their being conducted within the limit thus set.
At that time the present Treasurer probably did not anticipate that the time would come when he would be deserving of similar criticism, and would be called upon to take a dose of his own medicine. He quoted a big table of figures, giving the expenditure of 1921-22, and showed the increase that had taken place as compared with the expenditure for 1913-14. I intend to make a similar comparison, but not such an exhaustive one. He was asked at the time whether the figures were authentic, and he replied that they had been audited by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), and were reliable. I have not had the assistance of a certified accountant, and I cannot be expected to give as much detail as the Treasurer did on that occasion.
Sitting suspended from 18.45 to 2.30 p.m.
– In 1921 the Treasurer was a fervent advocate of economy and led the people to believe that the revenues of the Commonwealth were not being applied to the purposes for which they were collected and appropriated by Parliament. In fact, chaos reigned supreme in the Treasury, and he as the leader of the economy party intended to see that the collection and expenditure of public moneys was properly managed. He bitterly criticized the cost of departments and said that his policy would be to ration them and make them live within the allotted sums. Throughout a virulent speech he asserted that the finances were managed in a slipshod manner, and in consequence the Commonwealth was going to the dogs. The departments, he said, were overmanned and did not work long enough hours; either the working hours should be increased or the number of employees should be reduced. One naturally expected that when he took charge of the Treasury he would proceed to practise what he preached, and that his example would be at least as good as his precept. And no Treasurer has ever been in a better position to live within his means. He has been more fortunate than his predecessors in that the public coffers have always been overflowing. But the conditions with which he found fault in 1921 are even worse to-day. Six years of office is a good apprenticeship; an improver in any trade who does not become a good journeyman after six years is regarded as a “dud.” The Treasurer when a private member contended that the taxpayers were being heavily burdened through bungling and maladministration and advocated the rationing of departments. Let us see how the departmental expenditure in the year he took charge compares with that of to-day -
The Treasurer might justly have been expected at least to live within the income that he criticized as unwarrantably extravagant, but even in his own department, where his master mind should have had full play, the expenditure has increased. I have on a previous occasion quoted the honorable gentleman’s criticism of the Treasurer of 1921, and I think it is worthy of repetition -
The best method is to live within one’s income so as to reduce indebtedness, and at the same time to have the reputation of being anxious to continue to do so. The worst way is for all the Australian governments to join in a rake’s progress of budgeting for a deficit. Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, and now the Commonwealth Government have all done this.
It is strange, indeed, to see the honorable gentleman parading in the plumes which he so unsparingly condemned when worn by his predecessor. He said then that the States were financial rakes. Today he is the greatest rake in the Commonwealth. Having been six years in office, he has had ample opportunity to rectify the faults which he criticized in 1921, and, having failed to do so, he should either frankly admit that at that time he did not know what he was talking about, or that, having climbed to office, he is content to play the same game as his predecessor. He said in the speech from which I have already quoted -
The Treasurer has resorted to taking out of loan funds £923,794 for post office works, notwithstanding that that department is estimated to make a profit of £1,800,000, a difference between £9,300,000 of revenue and £7,500,000, the cost of ordinary services, which he swooped into general revenue, and he proposes to spend from loan funds instead of revenue £162,000 on passage money for assisted immigrants, which under no circumstances can be considered a charge against loans.
To-day the Treasurer is making money available from loan funds for expenditure upon postal works and upon migration. The honorable gentleman had the presumption to declare in effect that no clrcumstances could arise which would justify expenditure from loan to provide passages for assisted immigrants, and if he was right then he cannot justify the item in the Loan Bill introduced by him a few days ago of £300,000 for the passages of assisted migrants. The conditions to-day are not comparable with those iri 1921, when he could find no justification for expending in this way half the sum he proposes to expend this year on the same service. He made a further reference to the Postal Department -
I desire to enter an emphatic objection to taking from the Postal Department the profits it’ makes and crediting them to general revenue, while compelling the department to construct the greater part of its new works out of loan funds.
By this practice the department, year by year, is carrying an increased burden. In my opinion the profits that sometimes accrue in this department should be reserved to the department, so that it can extend its facilities as much as possible. Last year this House granted £9,060,000 to the PostmasterGeneral, £1,391,000 of which was not used.
The present Treasurer stated on that occasion that postal works should be constructed out of revenue - that was the policy adopted during the Labour regime - but apparently from what has since transpired he did not know what he was talking about. Surely he has had an opportunity to give effect to the principles which he so strongly advocated when he made a very bitter attack upon the Treasurer. He has said that he would ration the departments, and that the whole system of Federal finance should be changed, in some cases by adopting the principles which the Labour party applied. Notwithstanding his utterances on that occasion, we now find him, after a period of unprecedented prosperity, handling national finance in such a way that he has to announce a deficit of £2,600,000, which is to be placed to a suspense account. When similar action was taken by the Treasurer in a Labour Administration in South Australia, in connexion with a railway deficit of £590,000, the Liberals strongly criticized the action of the Government. The Railway Commissioner, who was an American railway expert, said that the amount should be placed to a suspense account and liquidated from future revenue ; but the Opposition so strongly opposed it that the Government went to the country and the Liberals misrepresented the whole position in such a way that the Labour party was defeated. The Liberal party said that it would square the ledger; but instead of doing so it came out, after its first year in office, with a deficit of £250,000. The Federal Treasurer, like Micawber, is always waiting for something to turn up. He is relying upon the future productivity of the Commonwealth to return him sufficient to liquidate the deficit which has been placed to a suspense account. It is amazing to compare the statements of the Treasurer when he was a private member with his action as a Minister of the Crown. He also made the following interesting utterance concerning Australia’s indebtedness: -
The result of this method of dealing with our war indebtedness and the sinking fund is that Australia’s State and Federal debts together total £798,750,000. This is equal to £160 per head of the population, and £040 per bread-winner.
Our present debt is approximately £1,100,000,000, and if my calculations are correct the debt per head of the population is now nearly £180 instead of £160 as it was then. I do not know what the amount is per bread-winner, as I am not aware of the basis upon which the Treasurer obtained his figures. The national debt has increased, as also have other financial obligations of the Commonwealth. The result of the Treasurer’s handling of our finances is the antithesis of what he said it would be, if the Country party was sufficiently powerful to assume control. It is time the people should realize what he and the Government with which he is associated is doing. I believe that when the electors become aware of the facts, and realize the position in connexion with Australia’s development and future financial prospects, they will make a very drastic change. They do not believe in treasurers who do not practise what they preach. Let us see what this “ Dismal Jimmy “ of whom I am speaking said concerning Australia’s industries at that time. On page 12031 of Hansard he is reported as having said -
What have we available to spend on the conduct of our Government? A glance at the sources of our national income will show us that prices for our principal products are approximating those before the war. Wool is about the pre-war level, butter is rapidly falling, hides are down, meat is almost unsaleable, sugar has dropped, jam is a drug on the market, timber mills have ceased working in many parts of the Commonwealth, mining operations generally are suspended, and wheat is falling. All the primary products are in a slump, which may last for years.
If that is not the utterance of a Dismal Jimmy, I do not know what it is. According to his statement, there was hardly an industry out of which the bottom was not dropping. I have quoted the Treassurers’ words when he was criticizing, as I am to-day, the Treasurer who was then in office. It was in connexion with a subsequent budget that the present Treasurer made the famous remark, “I intend to turn on the light and make them drop the loot.” Who was getting away with it? Are we to assume that, as a result of the light being turned on, we are in our present position, notwithstanding that during the whole of his term of office the conditions had never been better? He has submitted a budget showing a deficit of over a quarter of a million, and a heavier national debt than we have ever had before. In addition, we are sending move overseas in interest than we have ever done before. I now ask the Treasurer to tell us in what way he is giving effect to the principles which he then enunciated, and to explain if wool has ever been back to pre-war prices, whether wheat has fallen, or whether the jam manufacturing and other industries have collapsed. We are producing more than we can find markets for, and the dismal utterances of the Treasurer at that time cannot be substantiated. If time permitted I should quote many interesting statements of the Treasurer, but they are all as ridiculous or as misleading as those which I have already given. Here is another -
Last year we had a trade balance against us of £32,000,000, our imports exceeding our exports by that amount; this year our exports which pay practically the whole of our external interest, and a good proportion of our income tax, are less in quantity, and our imports, which must pay the whole of our customs duties, have slumped to the extent of nearly 40 per cent. Despite this, the Treasurer has budgeted for this revenue from the optimistic side.
He was referring to Sir Joseph Cook, who apparently differs little from Dr. Earle Page. Is he not budgeting in the same way as the predecessor whom he criticized? The only difference is that he is actually the Treasurer of to-day. I do not wish to score off the Treasurer; but he is in a most unenviable position. I merely want to find out who is telling the truth. It may be said that I, as a factory-bred fellow, do not understand all the intricacies of finance, but as one with a certain amount of knowledge in every-day affairs, I cannot but be amazed at the Treasurer’s advocacy of certain principles which he has failed to apply when he has the opportunity. I once advocated the issue of incontrovertible notes for use within the Commonwealth, and the South Australian Treasurer at that time, Mr. Crawford Vaughan, conferred with the Under-Treasurer, Mr. Gill, as to whether such a system was compatible with sound finance. The Under-Treasurer told him that it was suitable for internal transactions, and that, if the State had control of its own currency, there was nothing wrong with the principle. We have lived to see such a system in operation. To-day we are using such a note, and it is effecting the same purpose that would be effected if it had a pound’s worth of gold behind it, because it is backed up by the assets of the Commonwealth. At the time when I made that suggestion I was told by a person whose knowledge of mathematics was greater than mine that I was a fool. My common sense, however, led me to believe that there was nothing unsound in my contention; and- time has, demonstrated its wisdom. Force of circumstances compelled us to resort to the use of inconvertible paper, and the Commonwealth has not suffered thereby. When conflicting statements are made by those who are supposed to be acquainted with the subject, I may be excused if I fall slightly into error in the deductions I draw from the facts. When the people realize the truth, the present financial policy will be altered.
Our interest bill at the present time amounts to over £1,000,000 a week. We have continued to borrow until we have almost reached the bursting point. When the powers that be considered it essential to float a loan to enable Australia to discharge her war obligations, Mr. Fisher, as Prime Minister and Treasurer, called into conference with him the heads of the banks, the stock exchange, and other financial institutions. It was decided to borrow £20,000,000 within the confines of the Commonwealth. Acting upon the advice of the high priests of finance, Mr. Fisher decided to accept that sum in four instalments of £5,000,000 each. A leading article in the Adelaide Register, which discussed that memorable loan, “ let the cat out of the bag “ when it said it was well that the money was to be used within the Commonwealth to purchase equipment for the soldiers and to pay them, because it would be spent within the Commonwealth, and thus circulate through the different channels of industry, returning eventually to the source from which it was originally obtained, and thus be available when the next instalment of £5,000,000 was required. I believe that that is what happened; and the financiers imposed upon a bleeding and suffering community an interest rate of 4^ per cent., which has remained with us ever since. The matter was discussed in this chamber, those who took part in the discussion including ex-Treasurers, who might be presumed to be the high priests of finance. No less a person than the present right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who had just retired from the position of Premier and Treasurer of Victoria, and who ought to have known something of the way in which the financial machine worked, stated in this assembly on the 21st July, 1915, that the Fisher Government had been well advised to accept the loan in five instalments, because it was practically an impossibility to take £20,000,000 in one sum out of industry; and that, if such a course were followed, it would strike at the root of our commercial life. His inference was that the financial equilibrium of the Commonwealth would be upset. But what happened after he made that doleful utterance? Within a period of five years, no less a sum than £300,000,000 had been taken from the very people from whom he said that £20,000,000 could not be taken without causing injury to industry and resulting in financial chaos. We have lived to see what can be done in regard to finance when the devil drives. Unfortunately, we had to pay the controllers of finance the price that they demanded. In a little over ten years those who put their money into war loans will have received the whole of it back in interest, and the Commonwealth will still owe the original amount. Yet the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) says that the national debt is being reduced ! The people are being misled ; they do not realize the truth of the matter. During the last ten years, we have established a record in regard to production that has no parallel in the history of the Commonwealth. Despite the doleful picture painted by the Treasurer, Australia was never more stable than she is at the present time; yet hundreds of thousands of persons are unemployed, the development that should take place is being retarded instead of expanded, and large estates are becoming larger instead of being broken up. Sir William Irvine frequently made in the Commonwealth Parliament the statement that, “ Finance is government and government is finance.” If we accept that dictum, we must admit that this Government has made a muddle of the affairs of the Commonwealth. We should be a happy, thriving, prosperous people, but we have never experienced worse conditions than those through which Australia is passing to-day.
– The budget which I delivered three weeks ago has been subjected to a searching criticism in all quarters. It would appear, however, that it has an absolutely sound basis, because practically the whole of the criticism has been directed, not at the present state of the finances, but to a speech which I delivered seven years ago. That is the text upon which the whole story of criticism and attack has been built up.
It may be as well if I deal briefly with the remarks that fell from the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Yates), when he compared the statements that I made seven years ago with the present position. I shall take three items in this budget and examine them in the light of those statements, to show that this Government is giving effect to the principles that I then enunciated. Those principles were sound then, and their soundness cannot be challenged today. The honorable member for Adelaide said that I suggested it would be a good thing to ration the departments so as to keep down their expenditure. In that year a sum of £2,911,000 was provided for departmental expenditure. This year there is being provided £3,114,000, notwithstanding the fact that in the intervening period the population has increased1 by 800,000 persons and additional activities have to be provided for, such as the Department of Markets, the expansion of the Health Department, to collect increases in customs revenue, and in connexion with the administration of the Old-age Pensions Department. In that seven years an iron control has been kept of departmental expenditure, with the result that to-day the cost per head is only 9s. 10d., compared with 10s. 7d. in 1921-22, and the total amount is very little greater, despite the expansion of our activities rendered necessary hy the increase of population and humanitarian measures we have passed.
The conduct of the post office has again been pointed to as an example of what ought not to be done. In 1921, when I made the references that have been quoted, - the post office was being used as a taxing machine. In that year surplus receipts exceeding £1,000,000 were paid into ‘ Consolidated Revenue. But immediately this Government came into office it said “ We shall regard the post office as a public utility, and shall not use it to tax the people indirectly ; the money it earns will be utilized in extending the services it provides, or we will reduce charges so that it does not tax.” That practice has been adopted throughout. Last year the loss on a largely expanded post office was £44,000. My charge against the post office administration in 1921 was that if it charged for postal, telegraphic and telephonic services more than was justified, the excess of revenue over expenditure should be applied to the extension of those services, and should not be placed in the revenue account, and so relieve other sources of taxation. That policy has been carried out by this Government.
Dealing with the subject of the national debt, I said that steps should be taken to insure that debts should be incurred only to make provision for reproductive works, and that the dead weight war debt should be wiped out at the earliest moment. I pointed out that the prices of our exports were then moderately high, and that they might gradually decline over the ensuing 20 or 30 years with decline in price levels with the result that 2 or 3 bushels of wheat or 2 or 3 bales of wool would be required to do what it was possible to do in reducing war debt at that time with only one. We have since reduced the unproductive war debt by no less than £40,000,000. Although we have borrowed for reproductive works, we have made provision for not only interest payments on these works, but also a 30s. per cent, sinking fund on post office works and 10s. per cent, on other works. Although the total indebtedness of the Commonwealth has increased in the last six years by £8,000,000, the debt per head has actually declined from £66 to £60. Those figures absolutely justify the speech that I made seven years ago, as well as this year’s budget and the general financial policy of the Government.
Certain criticisms have been levelled also against the budget for this year. Those criticisms have been concentrated on one particular point, and that is the deficit in the accounts of this year. We have been held up to derision and scorn because we have placed this deficit in suspense. It is suggested that that is an unusual practice, and that the Government has introduced a “ trust-to-luck “ budget. We are, on that account, condemned. It is much more satisfactory to place the deficit of last year in suspense rather than do what is being done in Queensland this year, and that is to budget for’ a deficit on this year’s accounts, doing nothing whatever to deal with the old accumulated deficit.
– The Treasurer is doing that.
– No. I am making provision sp that the revenue of this year will more than meet the expenses of this year. We have placed the deficit in suspense, and that is a reasonable thing to do, considering the financial history of the Commonwealth since the war. This is the third time in eleven years that there has been a serious decline in the customs revenue of this country, and, in each case, a deficit has resulted. On practically every other occasion the customs revenue has exceeded the estimates, with the result that when special provision has been made by imposing additional taxation, to try to recoup the deficit immediately, there has been a huge surplus in the next year, which has more than met the deficit of the preceding year. For instance, that was the position in 1916-17. Customs and excise revenue then totalled £15,600,000. In 1917-18 there was a slump in imports, with a resultant decrease in customs revenue to £13,224,000. To meet that decrease, additional taxation was imposed to bring in £3,000,000. The customs revenue for the next year amounted to £17,422,000, or more than £4,000,000 more than the revenue of the previous year. A similar thing happened in 1922-23. In 1921-22 there was a decrease of £4,200,000, and in 1922-23 there was an increase of £5,200,000. The experience of Australia is that there may be one, or two lean years during a period of six or eight years. We are generally able to anticipate good seasons over a considerable part of this great continent for four or five years out of every six years.
I come now to the treatment of our present deficit, and, in judging the action of the Government, it is worth while looking at what has been done in the States. Unfortunately, deficits in the States have been usual, and cause little comment, but they are unusual in the Commonwealth. When “'’the Federal
Labour Government came into office in 1910, it raided the trust funds to meet a deficit. By special act it took £450,000 out of the trust funds to meet that deficit. The various States have had deficits during the last few years. The last Labour Government in New South Wales had, on the 30th June, 1927, a deficit amounting to £3,246,000. No provision has been made to remove this debit balance, and moneys standing to the credit of special deposits account and trust accounts,, are used as’ cover against the overdrafts on Consolidated Revenue Trust Account. The present State Government is funding its deficit, which is tantamount to making it a permanent loan. Victoria, under the Public Accounts Advance Act of 1924, made special provision to fund the deficit. It is made a permanent loan on the people of the country. In Queensland the deficit is carried forward, the credit balance in loan fund being set off against the revenue deficit. This year the Queensland Government is budgeting for a deficit in the accounts of the year, and making no provision to meet that position.
In South Australia there was, on the 30th June, 1927, a deficit of £i,050,000. That was carried forward and financed out of interest accrued but not due. In Western Australia the deficit in June, 1924, was funded. In’ Tasmania there was an accumulated deficit of £555,000, which has been partly funded. To make certain that these deficits would be satisfactorily dealt with from the point of view of the public and the investors in our Australian stocks, in the financial agreement special notice was taken of deficits, and provision was made so that the funding of deficits by the States should not be regarded as an ordinary investment on account of public works. First of all, the Commonwealth was not to be liable for any part of the sinking fund, and secondly, the State had to provide a sinking fund of not less than 4 per cent. We know, from our experience and that, of- other countries, that there are three alternative methods of dealing with a deficit. First of all, taxation can be increased immediately to remove the deficit. I submit that in a year of depression, especially at a time like the present, when we are just beginning to rise above the depression, it would be unwise to ask the people of Australia to provide, in one year, £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 by way of extra taxation, which we might be able to remit the succeeding year, and which would undoubtedly be an immediate burden upon industry and preventing it from making a quick recovery. The second alternative is to fund the deficit and make it part of the permanent debt.’ With our experience of the last six years, during which we have used accumulated surpluses of £7,500,000 to wipe out debts in addition to the provision of sinking funds, and provided some £7,400,000 for naval construction, besides other moneys for developmental works, it would be unwise to fund the deficit and make it a permanent debt. The third alternative is to hold the deficit in suspense, hoping to eliminate it before we further reduce taxation. That is what the Government is doing at present.
Besides the criticism of the Commonwealth deficit, certain criticism of Commonwealth accounts has appeared, both inside and outside of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) compared two periods. He took the six years before this Government took office and the six years during which it has been in office, and he showed that there had been an expenditure of £100,000,000 more in the last six years than in the preceding six years. It would be interesting to examine the records of the States during “those periods and to compare the various items of expenditure with those of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in a masterly speech a few days ago showed conclusively how this £100,000,000 had been expended. It was due, first, to the failure of previous governments to pay for the war out of current taxation, thus necessitating our present interest payments. We have had an extra expenditure of £44,000,000 for war purposes. We expended an extra £13,000,000 on defence, and paid £13,000,000 more to the States. Old-age pensioners received an additional £20,000,000. There is, therefore, no need for me to refer further to criticism that has been completely answered.
I shall content myself by replying to other criticisms which have been made outside Parliament by certain members of the Labour party. These criticisms relate generally to the treatment of the Commonwealth finances. I have in my hands a copy of the Labour campaign Manual, which has been edited by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). It contains the most gross distortion of figures that I have ever seen. Actual figures are taken, but by means of cunningly-designed paragraphs a completely wrong impression has been given. The whole treatment of the Commonwealth finances is disingenuous. The second chapter of this manual purports to show that there has been a huge increase in expenditure from 1921-22 to 1927-2S, of from £65,000,000 to £79,000,000. Those figures represent gross expenditure, but the honorable member for Dalley in his publication does not make that clear. He has failed to refer to such items as the payment of interest on loans raised on behalf of the States. They are State debts. The States use the monies and they pay interest to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth iu turn pays it to the creditors. The honorable member for Dalley completely omits reference to such a fact. In 1921-22 these interest payments amounted to £911,250, and in 1927-28 to £2,861,000. The honorable member for Dalley also forgets to say that there has been an increase in the special payments to Tasmania and Western Australia. In 1921-22, £85,000 was granted to Tasmania, and in 1927-28 £378,000. Honorable members opposite supported the Tasmanian grant bill when it was discussed in this chamber, and it was passed unanimously. Yet the honorable member for Dalley states in his manual that because of these payments the Commonwealth expenditure has been grossly extravagant, and suggests that we have incurred expense unnecessarily.
– Is this the Theodore who was at one time Treasurer of Queensland ?
– Yes, and I shall later deal with his record over the period of years that he has taken in respect of the Commonwealth finances. The special payment to Western Australia in 1927-28 was £300,000. Another item which appears in the 1927-28 accounts, but which, did not appear in the 1921-22 accounts, is an amount of £820,000 paid as a contribution to the sinking funds of the States. That payment commenced last year under the financial agreement. The honorable member for Dalley has made no mention at all of that fact, but simply infers that all expenditure has been unjustified. Another item is the payment of £2,000,000 for Federal aid roads. In 1921-22 the total post office figures were £9,000,000, now they are £12,400,000. The old-age pensions have increased from £5,380,000 to £9,790,000. Bounties have increased from £29,000 to £891,000, and payment for naval construction, other than from surplus, was £770,000 in 1927-28. The increase in expenditure on the items that I have named during the two periods taken, amounts approximately to £14,620,000, which is more than the gross increase shown in the manual compiled by the honorable member for Dalley. The comparison of the gross expenditure for the two years, without any reference to old-age pensions, post office, naval construction, roads, and other items, is altogether misleading. The honorable member for Dalley says that this Government is guilty of gross extravagance. The Manual says-
It might be objected that some of this expenditure, such as the interest bill, repatriation services and pensions cannot be controlled by the Treasurer. Then take some of the departmental expenditure, most of which is subject to administrative control. It will be seen there have been substantial increases in nearly every department.
Therefore, the Manual purports to take the departmental expenditure “ mostof which is subject to administrative control.” I ask honorable members to pay particular attention to those statements.
Mr. Theodore then goes on to discuss different departments. He says that the expenditure in the Prime Minister’s Department in 1921-22 was £733,000, while in 1926-27 it was £1,325,000. But there is a simple explanation of this, which is to be found, not in Mr. Theodore’s book, but in the public accounts. Mr. Theodore suggests that he is excluding interest charges, but to make up his figures he immediately includes an amount of £567,000, which represents the increase in interest and sinking fund charges in 1926-27 as against 1921-22. That really makes up the difference between the two amounts. He then gives certain figures for the Treasurer’s Department, which show that in 1921-22 the department spent £6,984,000, while in 1926-27 it spent £10,503,000. The increase is accounted for by increased pension payments, although Mr. Theodore says that such payments are not controlled by the Treasurer, and that he is ignoring old-age pension expenditure. Can anything more unfair be imagined? Could any greater distortion of the facts be resorted to? The Department of Trade and Customs is next referred to. It is stated that its departmental expenditure in 1921-22 was £889,000, while in 1926-27 it was £1,877,000. ‘ It would appear from that statement that the Minister has exercised a very lax control of the department; but the explanation is that £751,000 of the increase is accounted for by bounties paid in respect of iron and steel, cotton, wine, and so on. The honorable member has lumped this expenditure into the departmental account, and says, “ Look how the expenditure has grown!” The place to find the true facts is, of course, not Mr. Theodore’s book, but the published Governmental accounts. We have, in these Labour campaign notes, a gross distortion of figures. Such a misleading document has rarely, if ever, been published before.
We hear a good deal, from time . to time, about the alleged humanitarian policy of the Labour party. We are told that Labour is always careful of the poor of the country, and that it alone has ever done anything to relieve destitution and distress; whereas the Government has always been careful to grease the fatted pig and look after the wealthy classes in the community. To test the. accuracy of this allegation I propose to compare the expenditure on old-age pensions during a five-year period when the Labour party was almost continuously in office with similar expenditure during the five complete years this Government has been in office. The Labour party in its term of office paid £10,400,000 in old-age pensions, whereas this Government has paid £40,186,000. The Leader of the Opposition, in his usual disingenuous fashion, was careful to conceal these facts when he discussed the financial record of the Government, although everybody and all parties agree that this expenditure is justified, except when political capital may be made out of a concealment of the facts, as in the present instance. It is shameful that the suffering of the destitute and aged poor of the community should be dragged into the arena of party politics by honorable members opposite. During the Labour party’s period of five years the average amount of pension paid per fortnight was 19s. 5d., and the average cost of administration was £1 15s. 4d. for each £100 of pension payments. During the administration of this Government the average fortnightly pension payment has been 38s. 5d. and the average cost of administering this legislation, £1 4s. 3d. per £100. It will be seen therefore how little ground there is for the charge of honorable members opposite that the Government has cared only for the wealthy -classes of the community, or that its administration compares unfavorably. The Labour Manual, from which I am quoting, has been used by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and other honorable members opposite who have participated in this debate.
– Is the book available to the public?
– Yes ; for the price of 6d. It goes on to state that the taxation per head of the population is 12s. 4d. more now than it was when the Government assumed office. The taxation per head in 1921-22 was £9 0s. 4d.; but it has to be remembered that approximately £1,500,000 obtained from the post office annually in those days was included in the Consolidated Revenue Fund or roughly 5s. per head. It is estimated that the amount of taxation per head this year will be £9 4s. 4d. ; but the increase of 4s. per head is far more than accounted for by the increased payments that have been made to the States.- We are paying £4,000,000 more annually to the States now than we paid in 1921-22. If the payments to the States’ had remained stationary, the per capita taxation this year would have been only £811s.8d., compared with £9 0s. 4d. in 1921-22, notwithstanding that we are paying £4,600,000 more in old-age pensions now than we were then. The amount in old-age pensions in itself accounts for about 14s. per head. We are also paying an amount which approximates 6s. per head in road grant. It will be seen that these two amounts alone account for 20s.
The Manual goes on to allege that the manner in which this Government is levying taxation is crushing the poorer classes in the community, and that such remissions in taxation as have been made have benefited only the wealthy people. Another allegation is that the taxation of the workers has been increased. Nowhere in the booklet is there the slightest reference to the improved position, from the taxation stand-point, of persons with low incomes. What are the facts ? In 1924 the present Government increased the exemption to £300. The exemption in 1921 was £100. It was altered to £200 in 1922, when the present Prime Minister was Treasurer. The present £300 exemption disappears at £1,200, whereas previously the exemption disappeared at £800. The present Government has made concessions in respect of medical expenses, which disappear at £800; child allowances, which have been increased to £50 a child, and in many other ways. Many concessions have been made to farmers who are opening up new country. As a matter of fact, the number of individual taxpayers has been reduced from 753,000 in 1922 to 231,000 in 1927. In other words, there are nearly 522,000 fewer individual taxpayers to-day than when the Government assumed office. That is a complete answer to the statement that we have not helped the poorer people.
The Manual gives a most interesting calculation which purports to show how the 1927 income taxation remissions operate. It is as follows: -
There also appears in association with that table the statement that while a man with a large income receives the benefit of a remission, of so much taxation, the man with the smaller income receives only a lesser benefit. The obvious answer, of course, is that the rate of remission is the same in both cases, and that naturally the man with the large income receives a greater remission than the man with a small income. I propose to give some figures to show how advantageous the remissions in taxation that have been made by this Government are to the man with a small income. There is plenty of reference in this Manual to persons who draw an income of £100,000 and upwards. Unfortunately for the Taxation Department such incomes are comparatively few in number. If there were more of them, many more of the poorer people in the community could be relieved of some of the taxation that they now have to pay. The following tables set out the actual position of various classes of persons who draw comparatively small incomes -
That is a complete answer to the statement that the Government has given no consideration whatever to persons who have only small or moderate incomes. The Government is not at all concerned about the extravagant statements of this pamphlet, for it knows very well that the people through their actual income tax payments generally realize that they are paying less taxation to-day than they paid in 1922 on a similar income.
A number of statements are made in the Manual about the laud taxation policy of the Government. It is said that we have completely destroyed the effectiveness of this tax. That is a ridiculous statement. The land taxation rates are practically the same now as when they were imposed by the Labour party. Last year we received from this field of taxation about 50 per cent, more than was obtained from it in pre-war days, and this year we should receive approximately 30 per cent, more than before the war. While dealing with this question of taxation, it is interesting to compare what has happened durng the life of this Government with what took place during the time the Fisher Government had control of the Commonwealth finances. We have heard much from honorable members on the opposite side in favour of a reduction of indirect taxation, and an’ increase in direct taxation. Yet they have fought many times against a decrease in direct taxation, and, in particular, fought very hard against our proposal to reduce the postage rate from 2d. to l£d. Honorable members fought the Government for two days and two nights on that proposal to reduce postal rates by 25 per cent. Too many pages of Hansard are devoted to the debate for there to be any doubt upon that point.
Let us see how the taxation record of the Fisher Government compares with that of the present administration. There was no direct Commonwealth taxation in 1910. The Labour Government introduced the land tax, which yielded £1,564,000 in 1912-13, equivalent to an increase per head in direct taxation of 6s. 7Jd. At the same time indirect taxation increased from £11,593,165 in 1909-10, to £15,553,035 in 1912-13, an increase of 34 per cent. Thus the actual increase in indirect taxation was £3,960,000, equivalent to an increase per head of population of 12s. 8$d. This, together with the increase in direct taxation, made a total increase of the taxation of the people of 19s. 3$d. per head. That was Labour’s record for the three years during which it was in office. Let us compare that with the record of the present Government for the last three years. During the period from 1924-25 to 1927-28, there was a reduction in direct taxation of £451,781, or 4s. 6£d. per head. In 1924-25, the amount collected was £15,642,909, and in 1927-2S it was £15,191,128. In 1924-25, £37,192,781 was collected in indirect taxation, and in 1927-28, the amount collected was £41,446,730, an increase of £4,253,949, or 12 .per cent., as compared with an increase of 34 per cent, during the three years that a Labour Government was in office. During the Labour party’s reign of three years there was an increase of taxation, direct and indirect, of 19s. 3¾d. a head ; during the last three years of this Government’s term of office, taxation has increased by only ls. 9Jd. a head. Under the Labour Government the increase in taxation per head was almost twelve times as great as the increase under the present Government during the last three years.
Let us now consider what was spent during the two periods we are comparing, and the purposes for which the money was used. It is desirable to do this because it might be argued by members of the Opposition that the huge increase in taxation which took place during the Labour Government’s term of office was due to the action of that Government in instituting a bigger public works and naval construction programme, and paying for the work out of revenue rather than out of loan money. During the three years from 1910 to 1912-13, the Fisher Government provided for “ additions, new works, buildings, &c”, £6,319,438, and for naval construction, £2,828,513, a total of £9,147,951 out of revenue. At the same time it spent £1,202,078 out of loan money. Unfortunately for the Labour Government’s record, however, their payments to the States during this period were less by £7,116,230 than those made by the preceding government for a corresponding period. Therefore, the Fisher Government actually provided out of revenue for the works and purposes I have mentioned a net increase of only £2,031,721 during the period under review. On the other hand, during the last three years this Government has spent out of revenue on new works and naval construction £6,171,470, while payments to the States were increased by £2,691,000, making a total of £8,863,000 spent out of revenue. Thus we have spent on these outstanding items practically four time.3 as much as the Labour Government did, and we have increased taxation by only ls. 9d. a head, as compared with the Labour Government’s increase of 19s. 3d. a head. Labour party representatives claim that their government was
Or. Earle Page. the greater provider of employment, and that it initiated and carried out a big public works programme. They charge this government with bringing about unemployment, because, amongst other things, it provided only £1,000,000 for work on the Hume reservoir this year. They make charges such as those, and the next moment they blame us for borrowing any money at all, either hero or overseas. During these years £21,781,299 was spent out of loan money on reproductive public works, mostly for the extension of postal facilities, and for such undertakings as the Kyogle-Brisbane railway. The Labour Government spent only £10,350,000 on similar works, while it deducted £7,716,000 from Commonwealth payments to the States, thus preventing the States from spending that amount on their own public works.
– Does not the significance of these figures depend upon the amount qf, general revenue obtained by the respective Governments?
– The Leader of the Opposition, in his criticism of the Government, compared the period of six years prior to this Government coming into office, when price levels were altogether different, with the six years during which this Government has been in power, and he charges the Government with meeting its revenue commitments out of loan money. I claim that the comparison which I am making is at least as fair as that made by the Leader of the Opposition, or by the writer of this manual. I claim that during the last three years the record of this Government, in regard to public works, naval construction, and State finances, has been more satisfactory than that of the Fisher Government.
I propose now to discuss the subject of the public debt, about which similarly grossly misleading statements have been made as about our public works programme. In this manual there is a statement to the effect that the public debt has been increased during the regime of this Government from £415,000,000 to £494,000,000. That is given as the gross increase in the public debt, and the inference is allowed to be drawn that it has been due to the expenditure of this Government. The facts are, however, that the Commonwealth’s own debt has increased during the last six years by only £8,000,000- from £364,000,000 to £372,000,000. If we go back seven years the increase has been £15,000,000; but it is suggested in the manual that there has been an increase of £79,000,000 in four years. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) knows better than I do how the increase in the debt has been brought about, because he was one of the State Premiers who concurred in the borrowing of £68,000,000 by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the States, which State debt has been included in the figures quoted. The manner in which the public debt has been built up has been frequently explained. There has been an increase in the debt for public works of £48,000,000, and a decrease in the dead weight of war debt of approximately £40,000,000.
The manual says that a Labour Government would be infinitely preferable to any other kind, because Labour Governments can keep down the rate of interest. It says that the Fisher Government was able to borrow money fifteen years ago at 4 per cent., and afterwards at 4£ per cent. Itthen refers to the loans raised by the present Government, and says that because we have had to .borrow money in London at 99£, and pay 5 per cent, interest, and pay 4$ per cent, interest on loans raised at 92-^ in New York, our record cannot compare with that of the Labour Government. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has asked me whether the comparisons I have been making are fair. I ask him whether the comparison made in this book are fair to the present Government? The honorable member for Dalley is not justified in saying that while the Nationalists are in office higher interest rates are charged for money raised in Australia than for money obtained abroad. It is grotesque and absurd for a man with the honorable member’s record in regard to the raising of loan money to make that statement. When he was in power in Queensland he dragged the credit of that State in the mud. He made it impossible for that State to borrow money on the London market. He was forced to raise loans in Australia, and for money obtained in New York he paid a higher interest rate than was charged elsewhere. Finally, he was permitted to return to the London market but only after definitely undertaking to remove certain repudiations which had occurred in. Queensland. In April, 1924, he -went to London and issued a loan at 5-) per cent, at £99 10s., the interest yield being £5 12s. 4d. Three weeks earlier South Australia had issued a 5 per cent, loan at £98, the interest yield on that being £5 3s. 6d. In the month following the issue of the Queensland loan, the Commonwealth issued a loan of £10,000,000 at 5 per cent, at par. The Queensland loan, therefore, carried an interest rate of 12s. 4d. per cent, more than the Commonwealth rate, and 8s. lOd. per cent, in excess of the South Australian rate. In addition, the honorable member for Dalley was not able to obtain his loan for such a long term as those for which the Commonwealth and South Australian loans were taken up, which would greatly increase his costs of conversion subsequently.
One of the most unscrupulous statements ever published in connexion with national finance is that contained in the manual to which I have referred, headed, “Nationalists create underwriting monopoly.” The manual goes on to assert that for many years one agent had acted for the various States in the raising of loans. It is stated that for many years the various States had always made their loan arrangements through Nivison and Company. Even the honorable member for Dalley, when Premier of Queensland, always did his borrowing through that house. The manual goes on to say that there is no need to do such a thing, and that, because we as a Commonwealth have continued with Nivison and Company, we are guilty of creating an underwriting monopoly. The position in regard to borrowing in the Commonwealth is that since. 1924 our loans have been raised under the aegis of the Federal Loan Council, which consists of a representative of the Commonwealth Government and representatives of the various State Governments. At no period during the existence of this body has it not had Labour representatives upon it. Every action taken by the Loan Council in connexion with borrowing has been taken with the unanimous concurrence of Labour governments. The honorable member for Dalley was for a time a member of that council, and he knows as well as every other member of it exactly what the position was. All the time he was a member, he and his Labour confreres were parties to the unanimous decisions arrived at by the council. The action taken was not that of the Nationalist party, the Country party, or the Labour party; but it was the joint action of the members of the Loan Council, which was representative of all the Governments in Australia. The honorable member’s attempt to extract electioneering ammunition from the policy of the Loan Council is one of the most mischievous things that has ever been done in Australia, so far as the maintenance of the financial credit of the Commonwealth is concerned, and is absolutely unjustifiable on these facts, Which are known to every financier in Australia.
The honorable member goes on to point Out in this manual that the present Government has created an underwriting monopoly in New York. He was in office in Queensland when we first went into the subject of dealing with New York, and he knows why we went there for money. If the honorable member had complaints to make against the action taken, he should have ventilated them before the Loan Council and not in a pamphlet of this nature. He declares that we have created this underwriting monopoly “entirely to fill the pockets of the men who find campaign funds for the Nationalists.” He was one of the Labour men who sat in the Loan Council, and those men will repudiate the honorable member’s base suggestion just as strongly as I do. Yet this manual is issued with the official imprimatur of the Labour party upon it. In attacking the Commonwealth Government in this way tin its handling of the public debt problem the Labour party is backing about the worst possible horse in the race, because it is recognized not only in Australia, but also in every other country, that the efforts of the present Government to place the finances of the Commonwealth on a sound basis are the most comprehensive and constructive that have ever been put forward in this country. This was admitted by practically every honorable member two or three weeks ago in .discussing the bill for the referendum to authorize an extension of the powers of the Commonwealth to enable it to deal with Commonwealth and State debts. Although this Government has been twitted with having borrowed £8,000,000 more than was owing in 1922, the States have in the same time increased their debts by about £200,000,000 and I have never heard special attention drawn to that fact by any opposing critic. The Commonwealth Government has endeavoured to keep down loan expenditure and improve the credit of Australia. It has secured more favorable interest rates for its new loans than would have been charged if the Loan Council had not been established.
Sometimes the Labour party ceases condemning this Government for its financial proposals, and condescends to praise it on account of the provision of a sinking fund to wipe out the national debt. The reason for this is that it claims credit for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, and declares that the profits from that bank, and from the note issue are responsible for the sinking fund. But what are the facts? Before the act by which the establishment of the fund was authorized was passed in 1923, the profits of the bank that should have been applied to that purpose were not so used. The Labour party had an opportunity to do this ; but it was left for a Nationalist Government to do it in 1920. This Ministry in 1923 brought down a comprehensive measure which not only placed the public debt on a satisfactory basis, but made provision for the redemption of both the old and the new debt. The profits from 1922 to 192S from the note issue amounted to something like £6,000,000, but out of the revenue of this country about £30,000,000 has been paid for debt redemption. I am glad to have been able to refute the statements that have been made by our opponents, and to show what gross distortions of the truth they are. There is no foundation for the innuendoes and suggestions contained in them.
Motion agreed to.
Remainder of the proposed vote, “The Parliament (£77,958),” agreed to.
PRIME Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote. £361.020.
– In my speech on the budget I said that I would deal at this stage with the specific items to which attention had been drawn by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), this being the most suitable opportunity for doing so.
The first item to which exception was taken was the payment of £906 for a liaison officer of the External Affairs branch of the Prime Minister’s Department in London. It has been on the Estimates for some years, and has not previously been challenged. I am rather surprised that exception is now taken to it, because the results obtained for this expenditure are among the most valuable provided for on the Estimates. At the Imperial Conference in 1923, when-it was recognized that the great self-governing dominions should be consulted as to the Empire’s foreign policy, I discussed this matter with two British Prime Ministers ; with Mr. Baldwin, and, when he was defeated at the election, with Mr. Ramsay Macdonald. Both cordially agreed to the proposal that a liaison officer appointed by the Commonwealth should be attached to the Foreign Office, so that Australia might be kept closely in touch with developments of British foreign policy. An appointment was not made at that time, but Mr. Leeper, an Australian, who was in the Foreign Office, was detailed by Mr. Macdonald to visit the Commonwealth, and discuss with us here the proper organization in Australia of an External Affairs Department. After that consultation a liaison officer was appointed in London, and such success has attended the appointment that at the last Imperial Conference several of the dominion governments discussed with the Government of Great Britain the adoption of a similar course. If by some, extraordinary jest of fate honorable members opposite should ever attain to office in this Parliament they will be extremely grateful for the existence of a liaison officer in Great Britain, particularly as during the last five years we hay# been able to build up in the Department of External Affairs complete files in regard to all important matters affecting the policy of the Empire, so that within an hour a Minister may by reference to them get the fullest detail not only con.cerning the immediate issue, but also the precedent circumstances out of which it has arisen. Nobody who understands the value of the service that is being rendered by the liaison officer will challenge this expenditure.
The next item questioned by the Leader of the Opposition was the appointment of Mr. Collins to act as financial advisor in London to the Commonwealth Government. After the Loan Council had been brought into existence and the borrowing of Commonwealth and States had been co-ordinated, the council found itself hampered in determining where to borrow, the rates of interest to be paid; and the price of issue, in the absence pf an expert advisor in London with the necessary knowledge of Australian public finance and completely independent pf any financial organization in Great Britain. The appointment of Mr. Collins to act as financial advisor in London was cordially endorsed by the State Governments and the Loan Council, and experience has shown that it was a very wise step, for unquestionably by the advice he has been able to give regarding loan rates, prices, times, and places of issue, the Australian taxpayers have been saved large sums of money. The cost of that office cannot be fairly criticized by any one who has a full knowledge of the facts.
The Leader of the Opposition challenged the increase ‘ in the amount provided for advertising under the direction of the High Commissioner in London. The expenditure of some money upon publicity in Great Britain will be approved by every honorable member;, but opinions may differ as to the amount’. In my opinion the only criticism that can be directed against the sum provided in the estimates is that it is insufficient: The item shows an increase of £3,000 which is mainly, if not wholly due, to Australian propaganda matter published in special numbers of the Times, Daily. Telegraph, Daily Mail, Graphic and other papers on the occasion- of the Opening of the Federal Parliament in Canberra by the Duke and Duchess of York. On that occasion Australia was very prominently before the people in Great Britain, and I think the High Commissioner’s office was justified in incurring extra expenditure to assist in making those historical issues of special advertising value to the Commonwealth. The whole of that expenditure has to be met in the current financial year.
The criticism by the Leader of the Opposition of the proposed expenditure on the official residence of the High Commissioner raises the question whether such a residence should be provided. On both my visits to Great Britain during the last five years I have discussed this matter with other visiting Australians, and they were unanimously of opinion that it was eminently desirable that an official residence should be provided for the High Commissioner, so that his status as representative of this great country might be worthily maintained. But the particular thing that seemed to disturb the Leader of the Opposition was that, having provided an official residence, we. have continued the amount of £2,000, which has appeared on the estimates in previous years for an official residence) in addition to the salary of £3,000. That amount of £2,000 has on Various occasions been the subject of discussion between Governments and the successive High Commissioners, each of whom was of opinion that £5,000 was the minimum sum upon which his office could be adequately maintained. Indeed, it seemed doubtful whether, even with that amount, the High Commissioner Could maintain his position worthily, re- turn the hospitality extended to him officially, and also offer entertainment On behalf of the Commonwealth to distinguished people. Thus the understanding has grown up and been accepted by all governments, Labour and non-Labour, that the £2,000 provided for an official residence was not really a separate vote for that particular purpose, but was part of the total remuneration of £5,000. Having purchased for the High Commissioner an official residence, we had to decide whether’ this allowance of £2,000 should be reduced. The Government is convinced that even when the High Commissioner is adequately housed free of cost, £5,000 is the minimum sum upon which he can discharge the duties which the people of Australia have entrusted to him. This matter must be regarded from another angle. Too often a person holding an official position finds it impossible on the salary provided to maintain his office with appropriate dignity. Consequently, when appointments are to be made, the field of selection is limited to persons who have sufficient private means to be able to supplement the official salary. Honorable members will agree that that is a most undesirable state of affairs, and realizing that, the Government has deliberately continued the allowance at £5,000, notwithstanding that an official residence is now provided.
The position of Australian Commissioner in the United States of America was created with the authority of Parliament, and the withdrawal of our representative from New York would have an extremely bad effect upon public opinion in that country. At a time when the relations between the Englishspeaking peoples throughout the world are daily becoming more cordial - a development that may be a tremendous factor in the maintenance of the world’s peace - we should be ill-advised to take such a retrograde step. The committee should know, however, that the whole question of Australian representation in America is being reviewed by the Government at the present time, and after the general election it will be necessary to take further action in regard to what may be termed diplomatic representation, and probably also trade representation. Therefore, I cannot hold out any promise of a reduction in this item.
– What benefit has the Commonwealth derived from this representation in America?
– The honorable member is thinking of the office in terms of trade. I find it extremely difficult to point to any development of trade between Australia and the United States of America in consequence of the creation of this office; indeed the present position of our trade with that country is extremely unsatisfactory, and when the subject of representation in America is reviewed, the Parliament probably will desire to discuss the possibility of increasing the consumption of Australian goods in the United States of America by means of special trade representation. Honorable members understand, however, that our Commissioner in America is not a commercial agent; he is the diplomatic representative of Australia, and his presence in America has kept before the people of that country the existence of this Commonwealth, particularly by means of visits to various societies, associations and universities. For the sake of bur national prestige, Australian representation in the United States of America is wise, and at this time in the world’s history, when two of our sister dominions have recently increased the status of their representation there, the Commonwealth would be ill-advised to discontinue the system that has obtained for the last few years.
– Is he an ambassador? If not, what is he?
– He is not an ambassador. The honorable gentleman is acquainted with the attitude that has been adopted by the Government in regard to the appointment of an ambassador. On a more suitable occasion, that matter might be discussed in this chamber. At present I am dealing only with the expenditure, which in any event is not a very heavy item, and, compared with what we should have to pay if we had to maintain an ambassador, is very light.
The next item questioned was that providing for expenditure in connexion with the proposal for the holding in Australia of a British Empire Exhibition. The honorable gentleman has taken unqualified exception to that expenditure, because this Parliament did not pass the bill which was submitted for the holding of the exhibition in 1932. I point out, however, that it had to be incurred, so that the whole position might be examined. It would have been altogether out of the question to present to this Parliament a bill providing for such an exhibition, before steps had been taken to determine the organization that would be necessary, and to formulate plans with respect to it.
– It was an ill-considered proposal.
– It would have been very much more ill-considered if the Government had approached Parliament before it had made preliminary investigations. It is not my purpose to discuss on this occasion the question whether the exhibition ought to be held. I merely point out that the subject has been discussed by a conference of the representatives of every self-governing dominion in the British Empire, and the decision arrived at was that such exhibitions are most desirable.
The honorable gentleman referred also to the expenditure connected with the visit to Australia of Mr. Amery, the Secretary of State for the Dominions. I regret that this matter has been raised, because Mr. Amery was the guest of the Commonwealth during his stay here, and his tour was conducted jointly by the Commonwealth and the States, each of which accepted the responsibility of sharing the cost. Mr. Amery was received most cordially wherever he travelled. I offer no apology for the expenditure. It is only what a great country like Australia should incur to entertain in a fitting, manner the first Minister of the. British Crown who has visited Australia while still in office.
The honorable gentleman drew attention to the expenditure of £26,600 .upon Government House. The object of that expenditure is to meet the cost of upkeep of the establishments of the GovernorGeneral in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. It includes the purchase of furniture, the installation of the telephone service, and every other cost involved in the maintenance of those three residences’. There is also an amount which represents rental paid to the Victorian Government.During the period for which the Commonwealth has had the use of what .’is commonly known as Federal Government House in Melbourne, it has .not been asked to pay any rent, but it has been responsible ‘ for the maintenance of .the building and all its appurtenances. Upon the transfer of the seat of government. lb Canberra however, the question of rental was raised by the State Government. “It happened that just at that time the building which was used as a residence1 ‘for the State Governor was required by the owners, and the State Government had either to purchase it or acquire another property. After considerable discussion, the Commonwealth Government agreed to make an annual payment towards the cost of acquiring “ Stonnington.” These Estimates make provision for two of those payments, because an agreement was not arrived at in time to make any provision last year. I believe that the matter was settled only six or nine months ago.
– What was the amount of the back payment?
A further question raised was that of the expenditure incurred by the Development and Migration Commission. I shall deal first with the expenditure as a whole, and show to what extent it has increased since the appointment of the commission. I wish to make it clear and definite that the amount of £127,000 to which the honorable gentleman referred is not wholly new expenditure. When the commission came into being, it took over, in London and Australia, the whole of an existing organization which was dealing with the question of migration to Australia. The annual cost of that organization at the time was in the region of £80,000 or £90,000. I propose to deal with the different items of expenditure seriatim. The first relates to the organization which was taken over by the commission. The estimated expenditure for 1927-28 at the Australian end was £45,000, but the amount actually expended was only £36,000. The provision for the present year is £42,000. The figures relating to the ‘ London organization are £34,000, £32,000, and £34,000 respectively. In both of those cases there is not a substantial variation. The next item relates to investigations by the commission. The estimate last year was £20,000, and the expenditure £25,000, while the provision for this year is £25,000. The criticism, not of this Government particularly, but of governments generally in Australia, is based, not upon the amount of their expenditure, but upon the wisdom of incurring it. There are many persons who have a great deal to say about loan expenditure, but when pressed they invariably admit that they are not opposed to such expenditure if it is wisely incurred and will give, either directly or indirectly, a return equivalent to or greater than the burden of interest thereby imposed. Many of the schemes that have been launched in Australia are open to criticism on the ground that the expenditure has not been wisely incurred, and that great savings could have been effected if a little forethought had been exercised. In my opinion, the main work of the Development and Migration Commission is to investigate schemes which involve the expenditure of loan money, and to endeavour to ensure that only those are embarked upon which will give the return to which I have alluded. It has established contact with the governments of all the States. Committees have been set up to handle questions of the internal development of the States, and to endeavour to lay down a programme covering a period of years. A number ‘of schemes have been submitted by different States, and investigated by the commission. It cannot be denied that we shall save money if the best possible advice is obtained regarding the schemes that are submitted. It is not possible for any man to possess a knowledge of, or to have had experience in regard to all the matters related to different schemes that are likely to be submitted, affecting mining, irrigation, agriculture, pastoral and railway propositions, and many other activities. The. course pursued has been that of seeking the advice of technical experts upon technical matters. That, I submit, is the right principle to adopt. Some votes might be reduced without causing substantial harm to Australia. To reduce this vote would be a tragic blunder, because, in that event, these schemes involving an expenditure of millions of pounds would not be fully and exhaustively examined byabody of experts and specialists. Some of the schemes under consideration at present are of considerable magnitude. Western Australia contemplates the opening up of some 8,000,000 acres of land and the establishment of over 3,000 farms. The expenditure on that work is estimated at about £10,000,000. Before entering into such a scheme, surely it is worth while spending a little money now to v. make certain that we are proceeding on right lines. I offer no apology for this expenditure. The item relating to the Fairbridge Farm School is a small one. No figure is set down for the present year, and I do not think that the item was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. The next item . concerns the cost of establishing and maintaining State reception and farm training depots, and the expenditure set down for this year is £14,900. I do not wish to weary the committee by giving the full details of this item. The expenditure consists of a payment of £9,400 to the Scheyville, Training Farm in New South Wales. Up to the present, that farm has mainly been used for training boys brought out under the Dreadnought scheme. The New South Wales Government has now signed the £34,000,000 migration agreement, and the cost of maintaining the farm will be shared by the British Government, the Government of New South Wales, and the Commonwealth Government each contributing one-third of the expenditure. At present the Commonwealth is bearing half of the cost. The amount set down for the Elcho Training Farm in Victoria is £2,500, and for the group settlement training scheme in Western Australia, £3,000; making altogether a total expenditure of £14,900. Under the agreement with the British Government, the States may establish training farms, inside their own areas, and the Commonwealth .and British Governments will each bear onethird of the expense in respect of capital and maintenance. That arrangement applies to the Scheyville and Elcho training farms. The Victorian farm has been used as a depot to which migrants are taken immediately upon their arrival, in order to keep them out of, and away from, the cities. Western Australia has no training . farm system, but it trains migrants at the group settlements. The expenditure set down for that is £3,000. It should be borne in mind that the Commonwealth is bound under the agreement to provide for expenditure of the nature set out in this item. The next item relates to subsidies to voluntary organizations, such as the New Settlers League. The organizations covered are the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Salvation Army, the Riverview Farm, the Returned Soldiers and other additional efforts. All these organizations are ‘concerned with the care of the migrant- after arrival here. They make certain that he is, in effect, all he purports- to be,, and they see that he is properly and effectively settled. This expenditure is wise, .and it would be a great mistake to curtail it.
I think that I have now covered all the items that the Leao,r of the .Opposition raised. In regard to the Development and Migration .Commissions expenditure, the Leader of the Opposition will see that once we get away from’ the general argument as to whether we should expend any money at all upon migration, the main point is to centre our attention upon the amount that is to be expended or provided for investment. I have dealt with that subject at some length because I feel strongly that .the commission is one of the most valuable institutions in Australia, and, therefore,, it would be a great pity to reduce the vote.
This investment- is necessary not only in respect of the £34,000,000 agreement and schemes under it, but also in respect of many other things. One ‘of these is the recent investigation into the gold-mining industry of Australia. Without that inquiry the goldfields of Kalgoorlie would not be in the position in which they are to-day. Because of this investigation we have discovered that the real difficulty lies not so much in granting financial assistance to the industry, But in bringing about an amalgamation of the interests on the Kalgoorlie fields. , A large number of economies can be effected by getting rid of duplication of staffs and power plants,- and by dealing with questions affecting- the fields on one common basis. It has also been suggested that the sum of £250,000 should be provided to assist the, industry in respect- of new plant, provided that the plant cannot be made in Australia, or can be made here, but only at a much higher cost than the imported article. I shall not say anything about that policy at this stage. I merely suggest that this Parliament would not have been in the position to give a considered decision in respect of the best method to adopt to assist thegoldmining industry, had not the report of the Development and Migration Commission been available.
Another example is the settlement of the River Murray Valley. That scheme has been progressing for about twelve years under the supervision of the three states that touch upon the river Murray - New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. There has been no co-ordination at all among those States in developing and planting their areas. The anomaly must be rectified unless we are to have a repetition of past difficulties. Let me give One illustration. Some three years ago New South Wales established ricegrowing on the Murrumbidgee area, and that industry is now able to provide the whole of the rice requirements of Australia. Another State, facing the problem of developing its irrigated areas, and seeing the success achieved in rice-growing in the Murrumbidgee area at Leeton, is now proceeding to put its own areas under rice. The result will be that we shall have an over-production of rice for home consumption. No one has yet ascertained whether there is any possibility of finding an export market. We must get rid of this lack of co-ordination. At the beginning of the year a conference between the Commonwealth and the States was held at Canberra, and the settlement of the Murray River Valley was discussed. It was probably one of the most successful conferences that we have had. It was realized that there was a danger of the Murray River scheme failing because of the catchment area being destroyed, and the flow of the river diverted. The States agreed to take steps to protect the catchment area, and also laid down a basis of co-ordination. That is not a Commonwealth matter. We have nothing to do with the irrigation areas, but we helped! the three States concerned to arrive at an agreement regarding the development of the River Murray Valley.
The problem that we are always faced with is to get some central body that will bring the interested parties together and carry out the necessary investigations. That work is being done to-day by the Development and Migration Commission. It is better done by that body because it is non-political. It has no political complexion at all. I am convinced that as time passes this institution will become more and more established in the national life of Australia. Governments will come and go, and very soon the political complexion of the Government which established the commission will be forgotten. The Development and Migration Commission is to-day negotiating with Western Australia regarding one of the biggest projects in Australia. ‘ The Government of that State belongs to a political party quite different from that with which the Commonwealth Government is connected. It is inevitable that at times, when governments of different political views confer together, the national interest must be forgotten. To-day the Commonwealth Government is really outside of this scheme. It is being considered, on the one hand, by the Development and Migration Commission, and, on the other hand, by the committee established by the Western Australian Government, lt is therefore most undesirable that this vote for investigation purposes should be curtailed. The work of the commission is of the utmost value to Australia.
I forgot to mention one other item and that is the amount of £2,000 appearing on the Estimates this year as Canberra allowance to the Governor-General. This Parliament decided that the Seat of Government should be moved to Canberra, and that the Governor-General should have a residence here. When the GovernorGeneral is here he must maintain an; establishment, and that, of course, adds to his expenses. So it is necessary to pay him an allowance, unless we dispose of one of the Government Houses in the States. That .1 think would be undesirable. The Government House in Victoria should be maintained. It will be many years before we shall be able to build in the Federal Capital our permanent Government House. From time to time, visits are paid to Australia of a most important character. We had the Duke and Duchess of York here for the opening of Parliament, and recently we have had visits from the American Squadron and the British Special Service Squadron. On such occasions it is desirable that our Governor-General should be able to entertain in a manner in keeping with the dignity of his position. Government House, Melbourne, is the only place where it is possible for him to entertain on this scale. It would be undesirable, at least until we can build a monumental Government House in Canberra, for us to vacate Government House in Melbourne. The Governor-General has been put to additional expense by reason of the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, which should not be placed upon his shoulders. If he is called upon to bear additional expenditure of that description, we shall reach the position that only rich men who can afford to entertain from their private means will be able to accept the position of Governor-General of the Commonwealth. I am sure that we do not wish that. It is highly desirable, rather, that we shall be able to invite gentlemen of the calibre that we desire to accept office as Governor-General irrespective of their private wealth. The Governor-General should be able to maintain his position with appropriate dignity upon his salary and without drawing upon his private means. Consequently this additional vote is proposed.
One other matter to which I should refer relates to the expenditure which the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth must incur in the maintenance of his position as its first citizen, and although it is a little difficult for me to discuss, I feel that my duty to my successors requires that I should bring it under notice. The Prime Minister of Australia cannot maintain his position and an official residence upon the salary at present provided for the office; but must meet part of his expenses out of his private means. There may come a Prime Minister who cannot do this without considerable sacrifice, and honorable members must sooner or later give consideration to the fact. If a successor in this office was not able to meet the expenses of the position without sacrifice, I should certainly support some increase in the remuneration of the office. He should not be called upon to provide money from private sources to maintain with dignity his honorable position, and to fulfil the responsibilities and duties of the office as Australia would desire.
– I have waited with interest to hear the explanation of the Prime Minister of the specific items of expenditure in the proposed vote for his department to which I referred in my budget speech. The Prime Minister stated in his budget speech that that was not the proper place to raise such questions, but he was properly reminded by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that it was in the previous budget debate that he had challenged honorable members to refer to specific items when suggesting that the Government should reduce its expenditure. I am not concerned about where the explanation should be made so long as it is made. It certainly has not been made so far. The right honorable gentleman indulged in a number of generalities in regard to my questions a few minutes ago, but gave no satisfactory explanation of any one specific item that I had mentioned. He said that I had referred only to small items; but I remind him that it is the aggregation of small items that makes the big amount.
I criticized the proposed vote of £908 for a liaison officer in London. The Prime Minister said that that expenditure had not been challenged hitherto. My reply is that both the method of appointing this officer and the amount of his remuneration were severely criticized by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) when the appointment was first made. The Prime Minister has not shown that the expenditure is justified. He has said something about receiving valuable information, and has referred to a file that is in existence somewhere. The information and the file should both be made available to honorable members of this House. I am sceptical as to the value of that information. I cannot see any necessity for continuing this office. Surely one of the numerous staff in the High Commissioner’s office in London could do this work.
The Prime Minister said that the appointment of the financial advisor to the High Commissioner was absolutely necessary, and that this officer had been able to save the general taxpayer large sums of money. The right honorable gentleman has not mentioned one loan that has been obtained at a cheaper price or a lower rate of interest because of the activities of this officer. Let us get down to the facts and avoid generalities. It is. all very well to speak vaguely and solemnly about the value of this officer, but we want to know what he has actually done to justify his appointment. I challenge the Prime Minister to indicate one specific saving that would warrant us in voting the £2,000 for salary and the £250 for’ entertainment expenditure to this officer, to say nothing of the £500 which he costs us in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank.
The next item that I questioned in my budget speech was the proposed vote of £2,500 for advertising in connexion with the High Commissioner’s office. I pointed out that although a similar amount was voted last year, the actual expenditure totalled £5,548. Why was the vote exceeded by more than £3,000? How many extra Parliaments are we to have inside and outside of Australia? The Prime Minister stated that extra expenditure had been incurred in connexion with advertising in certain special editions of London newspapers which were published at the time of the opening of Parliament at Canberra. What was the nature of those advertisements? Copies of them should be made available to us so that we may determine whether this money was wisely or foolishly spent. No member of the Government would have spent money in advertising his own business in special editions of those newspapers. The Prime Minister also said that we did not advertise Australia enough, yet the proposed vote for this purpose this year is only the same as last year. It is time that lavish expenditure of this kind was discontinued.
I also asked why £2,000 was being voted towards the expenses of an official residence for the High Commissioner, seeing that only last year we spent £9,900 in purchasing the lease of a residence for him, and provided £65.0 as ;the annual upkeep for it. We should not vote both the £650 and the £2,000 for the one purpose. The High Commissioner should not have it both ways. The Prime- Minister said that the gentleman who accepted this office required a remuneration of £5,000 in addition to an official residence. If that is so, we should not camouflage the facts by voting the ordinary salary and adding £2,000 to it under the false description of residential expenses. A good deal has been said at different times about the necessity for maintaining this position with proper dignity. We are told that the High Commissioner must entertain, attend certain dinners, and spend money in other extravagant ways. Seeing that Australia is loaded down with debt, that the Commonwealth and State Governments are showing deficits in their budgets, and that we have more unemployed in the country now than ever before, we should refuse to be soothed by pleasant talk of dignity. There is no justification whatever for this expenditure.
Another item that I challenged was the proposed vote of £5,000 for the position of Australian Commissioner in the United States of America. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) pertinently asked whether this gentleman was an ambassador or a trade commissioner. The Prime Minister told us that he was not a trade commissioner. He also admitted that our trade with’ the United States of America is unsatisfactory. He went further, and said that next year we should have to reconsider this fact with a view to appointing to the United States of America both a trade commissioner and an ambassador or some such -officer.
– I have said on several occasions that I do not subscribe to the view that we should have an ambassador I said a few minutes ago that the whole position would have to be reconsidered from both the trade and general representation viewpoint.
– That practically amounts to saying that two officers need to be appointed. It is of no use to talk about maintaining harmonious international relationships by appointing trade commissioners. That is not the way to do it. I should not raise any objection to this expenditure if it could be jusified but I have been fairly industrious in my investigations to ascertain whether there is any sound reason for continuing this office, and have been able to find none. It was a surprise to us to hear the Prime Minister says that the appointee to this office is not a trade commissioner. We should be told exactly what he is and what he does.
An item appears in this proposed vote of £2,271 as preliminary expenditure in connexion with an exhibition which has not been and will not be held. That money was improperly spent. The Government should have brought down an appropriation bill to authorize a preliminnary expenditure in regard to the matter. This Parliament surely has a right to be consulted about such expenditure. It was an unauthorized and wicked waste of public money. I believe that men were actually chosen to control the exhibition, showing that everything was taken for granted. Apparently it was assumed that the members of this Parliament would always be dumb dogs; but in this case the Government was disappointed. When the bill was before Parliament, the Prime Minister was the only one who spoke in favour of it. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) pulverized his arguments. Even yet we do not know where this sum of £2,000 odd has gone.
There is shown here a sum of £127,618 for the administration of the Development and Migration Commission. In 1924-25 the sum devoted to migration purposes was £63,000, or less than half the present estimate. I ask for an explanation of this increase. The Development and Migration Commission is not bringing any more migrants to Australia than were coming before, yet the cost of administration has doubled. The sum which I have quoted does not include the salaries of the commissioners. What have we to .show for all this money?
– The commission has presented some very fine reports.
– The cost of the Australian organization has increased by £6,000 ; no explanation has been given of that. I propose to deal with the commission’s reports, to which the honorable member for Swan has referred. We have been given to understand that it would be a calamity if we were deprived of the benefit of these valuable reports, which have cost us £25,000 to obtain. It is maintained that, as a result of these reports, we have been able to save large sums of money. That sounds well; but when particulars are given, they are not impressive. The Prime Minister spoke of the report dealing with the Murrumbidgee irrigation lands where rice is grown. I ask, did the investigating officers of the commission grow any of the rice, or even prove that it could be grown ? Nothing was done by those officers which resulted in the production of rice at Leeton; but as the result of their investigations some people were prevented from growing rice so that too much would not be produced. We were also told about the wonderful report which the commission presented on the dried-fruit industry, and the settlements along the Murray Valley. Summed up, the report contained only one thing, namely, advice to the settlers to stop growing dried fruits.
– One of the main recommendations was that there were too many packing sheds. As a result, a conference has been called, and it is probable that the number of sheds will be greatly reduced.
– That is a detail; but the real burden of the report was that planting should be restricted. As a matter of fact, before the report was presented, before the investigation was even started, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and myself went through the district on a week’s tour of inspection, and we came away absolutely convinced that there was not one person in the Mildura and Red Cliffs areas who was not thinking the same thing as was contained in that report. Many of them, indeed, were shouting it from the house-tops. There was no need to spend thousands of pounds to find that out. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has spoken many times in this House, and has given honorable members the same information that is contained in the report. The Development and Migration Commission presented a report on the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. Was there one thing in that report which was not already known, or which could be described as conveying information of value to this Parliament?
– Yes, in appendix 1, which dealt with the price of gold.
– The report tells something about the price of gold, and that is all. I have read it carefully, and it does not contain one suggestion that would be of any practical help to the industry. The other night I listened to the -honorable member for Franklin (Mr.
Seabrook) criticizing the commission’s reports dealing with Tasmania. Those reports contained two suggestions. One was that the Tasmanians should develop the industry for producing fat lambs for export. Why, they cannot produce enough fat lambs to feed themselves, and they can get double the price on the home market for what they produce that they can obtain overseas ! That was one “brain-wave.” Another brilliant suggestion was that the Tasmanians should produce strawberries, and sell them in Brisbane. The thing is so ridiculous as not to need comment. Yet we are paying £25,000 for suggestions of that kind. If the commission would justify the spending of this money it should deliver the goods, but it is not doing so. An item of £3,000 placed on the Estimates to cover the expense of preparing special reports by the investigating officers. Special reports, if the term means anything at all, should cover unforeseen items, but no such items are enumerated, and no explanation has been given of this amount, which increases the expenditure from £25,000 to £28,000. There is another item of £14,900 for the establishment of farm training depots in which to train immigrants brought from overseas. We have tens of thousands of young men in Australia now, well trained by their fathers to take up farming, but they are unable to obtain suitable land. There are scores of applicants for every block of land which is thrown open, and yet the Government proposes , to establish farms to train boys and men from overseas.
– I receive dozens of letters every week from practical farmers and their sons inquiring for land.
– I have no doubt of it. Here is an item of £4,000 for training domestics brought here as immigrants. Where is that training being done, and what is the justification for the expenditure? No answer has been received to these queries. Further, the sum of £11,310 is to be devoted as a subsidy to voluntary organizations for the aftercare of migrants. The Prime Minister has told us that the duty of these organizations is to see that the migrants are effectively settled. I maintain that no such thing is being done as effectively settling the great majority of immigrants. These organizations provide most of the immigrants upon arrival with work in the country. When that work “ cuts out “ in a few weeks, or a few months, the newcomers are turned adrift, and nobody is any longer concerned with their after-care. There are more immigrants in the industrial suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney than in the country districts of Australia. Yet the voluntary organizations are drawing subsidies to the extent of £11,310, while the immigrants are walking the streets looking for work.
Here is an item for which no satisfactory reason was given, although I asked for one. Why has the salary paid to the Development and Migration Commissioners increased from £9,262 in 1926 to £13,250 in 1928-29? What is the reason for this increase of £4,000? So far as I know, there has been no increase in the number of Commissioners, and if there has,- there ought not to have been.
– While Mr. Nathan was a member of the commission he drew no salary.
– What has happened between 1926-27 and the present time to increase the salary expenditure by £4,000?
– Another man has been appointed in Mr. Nathan’s place, and this man is drawing a salary.
– Can the honorable member for Warringah justify the payment of £13,250 to the four Commissioners? -
– Nor can any one else. Unfortunately this amount comes under Appropriation, and we cannot vote against it.
– The honorable member can move a reduction of the item of £42,000 odd for salaries, &c, and by that means can protest against the salary payments to the Commissioners.
– Very well, we shall do that, and we shall then see whether the honorable member for Warringah will vote against the item of which he does not approve. A sum of £1,356 has been paid to the Advisory Committee on National Insurance. The sum of £11,495 was .paid to the royal commission which investigated the subject; and after it had completed its work an advisory committee of one man, Senator Millen, was appointed. When he had finished, three other investigating officers were appointed, and they were given £600. All these items were questioned. I do not say that the expenditure is not justifiable, but some explanation should have been given regarding it. No answer has been given to the criticism that £30,000 was paid last year for royal commissions and another £6,000 for a commission to the United States of America. This Government has spent £36,000 in one year for investigating commissions, apart from the permanent boards and commissions to which it has handed over administrative work. No attempt has been made to justify this expenditure. The Prime Minister calls these matters petty details, although they mean an expenditure in the aggregate of half a million.
The sum of £2,216 was spent on the visit of the Secretary of State for the Dominions, Mr. Amery, and the Prime Minister expressed pained surprise that I should raise this matter, because Mr. Amery was the guest of the Commonwealth. I take no exception to the visitor being entertained at a dinner at Canberra, but one dinner does not explain an expenditure of over £2,000.
– There were other dinners in Mr. Amery’s honor.
– I know of no others. On the same- page as that on which this item appears, I notice that £1,000 is provided for relieving distress among returned soldiers and unemployed. There are not many big dinners for them.
I have already referred to the allowance paid to the Governor-General, and asked why £2,000 is to be granted to him, because of his having to live at Canberra. I also .inquired why repairs to Government Houses during the year were estimated to cost £26,600. The Prime Minister furnished me with the same answer to the two inquiries. He said that £26,000 was provided for “repairs, fittings, furniture, lighting, &c,” at the Government Houses in Melbourne, . Sydney and Canberra. It does not cost ths Governor-General much more to live in Canberra than to live in Melbourne. A long story was made about the two years’ delay iu handing over the Government House in Melbourne to the State authorities; but the Prime Minister has not attempted to justify the increase in the salary of the Governor-General by granting a Canberra allowance of £2,000, except by saying that this Parliament ordered the removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra. I might mention that it also ordered the removal of a large number of public servants, some of whom are paid as little as £39 per annum to enable them to meet the extra cost of living here.
.- I do not know whether honorable members have a right to discuss all the items mentioned under the Prime Minister’s Department. I daresay that if I insisted on my rights I could deal with individual items just as the Prime Minister did. Since he has been in office, he has had a. strong desire to be well informed about international affairs, and he has said that he is much assisted by having certain officers in London in close touch with the British Foreign Office. He mentioned this afternoon that files are kept in the foreign affairs branch of ‘his department relating to all matters of international moment, and if a change of government took place, the new Ministry could immediately make itself familiar with matters of Imperial foreign policy. I point out that important communications between the British Government and a dominion government on matters of foreign policy are invariably made direct from Minister to Minister, and it seems to me that Australia could be kept as well informed through being supplied with copies of documents by the British Foreign Office as by having a special representative there. There should be an interchange of information between the British and the dominion office. This would save a good deal of expense.
I notice on one page that the salary provided for the liaison officer in Great Britain has been increased from £882 to £906, but on the opposite page I see that this officer and a clerk are to receive a “ cost of living “ allowance of £312 and a “living away from home” allowance of £165, bringing the total expenditure to £1,383. The Government may ask why honorable members should trouble about small items such as these, but taken in the aggregate they amount to enormous sums. In matters of public finance we should remember that if we take care of the pence the pounds will take care of themselves.
A sum is provided for “ advertising in Great Britain.” I should not mind if that were the only expenditure incurred under that heading, but the High Commissioner’s office costs between £60,000 and £70,000 although each State has an Agent-General with a staff in London and agencies throughout the United Kingdom. Talk about advertising Australia! The Prime Minister has been twice to the Old Country in four years. Of his colleagues, past and present, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), Sir George Pearce, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), ex-Senator Sir Victor Wilson, and Senators Sir William Glasgow and McLachlan, have made trips to the other side of the world. Eight of the twelve Ministers have been abroad, as well as Mr. Gepp, Chairman of the Development and Migration Commission, and Mr. Julius, Chairman of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research;they are poor representatives indeed if they have not been able to advertise the Commonwealth.
– ‘Some of them would like Australia to be governed from the other side of the world.
– Some people do show that tendency, but all danger of that sort was removed years ago by the early radicals. Reference has been made to the visits to Australia of Mr. Amery, Secretary of State for the Dominions, Sir Robert Home, and Sir Henry Cowan. In addition, the Empire Parliamentary Association assembled in Australia representatives of all the parliaments of the British Dominions. A strong delegation from the -mother- of parliaments included Lord Salisbury, representing the British Government, and Mr. Arthur Henderson, representing the British Labour party. Prominent bankers, including one of the head men in the Bank of England, have been to Australia in recent years, and now the Commonwealth is to be involved in further expenditure in connexion with the visit of “ the Big Four,” who are to teach us how to run the country. It is time we accepted our responsibilities, as did Australia’s political pioneers. They did not search here and there for experts to do their job, but took the responsibility upon themselves. To-day the duties of Federal Ministers are farmed out to irresponsible individuals. Boards and commissions are appointed, and sometimes investigations and reports are duplicated and even quadrupled. The Development and Migration Commission visited Tasmania, and, at considerable expense to the people of that State and the ‘ Commonwealth, prepared reports which well-informed citizens declare disclose nothing which was not already known. What is the use of republishing at heavy cost information which is already in the possession of Federal and State departments? Many of the reports prepared at great expense of money, time and labour, are either pigeon-holed or thrown into the waste-paper basket. The fact will be disclosed sooner or later that the report of one commission which was travelling and taking evidence throughout Australia for four months has been discarded. and ignored and a body of experts has been paid high fees to evolve a scheme of national insurance for presentation to this Parliament. It is high time that this wasteful expenditure was discontinued. It is all very well to talk of the need for entertaining distinguished visitors and housing luxuriously the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and the High Commissioner, but such expenditure . is not fair to the general public at. a time when thousands of our own brothers and sisters are without even a crust. The halls of Australia should resound with denunciation of the wicked extravagance practised by this Government ever since it has been in office. Some of the items on the Estimates amaze me, and I hope that honorable members will avail themselves of this opportunity to thoroughly probe them. The honorable member for Swan “(Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and other honorable members opposite^ have trenchantly criticized the financial proposals of the- Government. I am waiting to hear more from them. If they want to let their constituents know of the mess the Government is making of the Commonwealth finances the opportunity is presented to them now. Perhaps out of the abundance of their wisdom they may be able to give me some guidance. The honorable member for Henty, who professes to be a student of finance, has gone so far as to apply to the Treasurer epithets for which he might well have been called to order. Looking through the Estimates, I see evidence of the expenditure of many thousands of pounds to obtain information that is already in the possession of Government departments. I wonder why high-salaried officers are appointed with expensive staffs at this time of financial stringency. Despite the fact that last year ended with a deficit of £2,600,000, and that there is a prospect of a further deficit in the coming financial year, the Government is not attempting to make up the leeway, and the Prime Minister lightly glosses over the financial defects pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition. The committee should be satisfied with nothing less than a complete scrutiny and explanation of every detail in the Estimates, so that honorable members may have sufficient knowledge to record an intelligent vote for or against them. The Prime Minister, with an air of omniscience, gave to the committee all the information he considered necessary, but the Leader of the Opposition drew attention to many items, amounting to thousands of pounds, in regard to which the right honorable gentleman had not uttered one word of explanation. Even if the majority of honorable members are satisfied with the Government’s management of the finances, I am certain their constituents will not be.
.- I propose. to refer briefly to the High Commissioner’s office, the conduct of which came under my observation when I was in London. The first impression of an Australian visitor to Australia House is that the atmosphere of it is not different from that of any other London building except the offices of the High Commissioners of other dominions. It certainly lacks an Australian atmosphere. At the inquiry counter of the migration office one meets clerks who have never visited Australia, and apparently have not read about it. I say nothing derogatory of Sir Granville Ryrie. Despite his love of inordinate military display, and his tendency to be what a former member of this House called “ a gilt spurred rooster,” he is, I believe, animated by true Australian sentiments. On that account, I approve of his appointment; but I met only three prominent Australian officials at Australia House, namely, Mr. Trumble, formerly of the Defence -Department; Mr. Caruccan; and a gentleman in the library, whose name I do not recollect. An Australian is first met by a so-called entertainments officer, whose principal duty appears to be to balance his monocle on the side of his face, and whose chief concern is to get the upper class Australians into English society. He exhibits a remarkable degree of discrimination. Unless one adopts the Cambridge accent, which is affected by one or two honorable members who sit in this chamber - ineffectively, in my opinion - one has no chance of getting into society. I could not help being struck by the deep distress in the voice of this gentleman during the course of a conversation that he was holding over the telephone, because a wretched Australian had attended a King’s levee, or something of the sort, in full dress uniform, but had forgotten his sword. The whole assemblage was in a ferment because of the forgetfulness of a “ heathen “ from a distant place called Australia, which this gentleman has never seen. The sooner the office is staffed with Australians who are imbued with the Australian spirit the better. There is a different atmosphere in the office of the High Commissioner for Canada. There, the majority of the employees are Canadian born, and endeavour to instil into callers Canadian ideals. It is no wonder that, when the average unsophisticated Australian encounters this entertainments officer, he or she feels unworthy to enter and take part in the high life of society, and gravitates to the library, is given common sense advice by the excellent official there, and while waiting for the ship to return spends the time in reading Australian newspapers.
I wish to learn the directions in which the sum of £26,790, which appears in the estimates for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is to be spent. I am aware, of course, that investigations have been, made in regard to entomology in Australia. Those officers to whom is delegated the duty of investigating scientific subjects are worthy men, and possess high attainments. I should like the Prime Minister to explain the position in regard to the entomological inquiries into the buffalo fly pest, which has taken such a heavy toll of the cattle in the Kimberley district and the Northern Territory. Mr. Murnane, who is a very capable officer, went .up there, but although he made a lengthy inquiry he was unable to discover a parasite which would destroy the buffalo fly. “We have been told that the Kimberley horse disease was caused by the horses eating what is known as white wood, and that a remedy for it has been discovered. But old timers who have been in the district for 30 or 40 years and - immodestly, from the point of view of the department - claim to possess some knowledge of the country, say that horses on the Moola Bulla station, which has white wood growing all over it, are immune from the disease, and that white wood is a special diet with them. These matters ought to be explained by the Prime Minister, who apparently is the only gentleman in this Parliament who possesses a knowledge of the subject.
The right honorable gentleman attempted to justify the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission by saying that wonderful results had accrued, and that large sums had been saved, in consequence of its inquiry into the gold-mining industry. I have the greatest respect for the attainments of the chairman of the commission, Mr. Gepp; but I point out that this is the age of specialists, and no man, no matter how talented he may be, can pretend to have a general all-round knowledge of a large number of subjects. Mr. Gepp’s knowledge of other matters may be profound, but of gold-mining he knows absolutely nothing. It cannot be expected, therefore, that he can make a final pronouncement touching the reasons for the decline of gold-mining in this country, and the methods that should be adopted to rehabilitate it. As might have been expected in the circumstances, his summing up of the position has proved most disappointing to those who are acquainted with the industry. A report was called for on the 28th August, 1926, and was furnished to the Government on the 31st May last. Those who are interested in the gold-mining industry expected to be supplied with a Valuable recommendation. But only two or three proposals have been advanced, and by no stretch of the imagination can they be expected to assist the industry. In any event, the Government must first show a willingness to give effect to them. One of the most promising gold developments in Australia has taken place in the Willuna country, which is practically in the centre of Western Australia. A syndicate has been formed, with capital from not only Australia but also London and South Africa. The South Africans are very shrewd men in mining matters. The sum of £200,000 was spent on a pilot plant, not to deal with the ore, but to demonstrate what scheme is necessary to work the immense bodies of ore that arc known to be present. After a trial extending over a period of two years, these men are satisfied that the ore can be worked pofitably. It is now proposed to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds upon machinery, and plans are being prepared of the plant that will be necessary. If the Government will adopt the first recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission, it can assist this proposition. These men have written repeatedly to both Mr. Gepp and the Prime Minister, asking that the Government should forego the duty on the machinery if it has to be imported, or bear the additional cost if it can be manufactured in Australia. Such a proposal does not clash with our protectionist policy. If the Australian manufacturer can manufacture the machinery required for the development of this great goldmining proposition, of which there is no parallel in Australia, he will be given the work, so long as the Commonwealth Government is prepared to pay the difference between the cost of the Australian and the imported article. The commission has made that recommendation in regard to new ‘ gold-mining machinery that may be required anywhere in Australia. I sincerely hope that the Government will announce its readiness to give effect to this recommendation, and that the machinery will be made in Australia by Australian workmenl I wrote to the Prime Minister recently on the subject, and I hope that before I leave Canberra my efforts will be crowned with success. Of the eleven recommendations of the commission, this is the only one worth while. There is some reference to special assistance being given from the £36,000 left over from the precious metals prospecting fund. We well remember the passage of that act. The then Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr), doubtless filled with enthusiasm and energy, thought that it would assist the gold-mining industry.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Earlier in my speech I was dealing with the arrangements made at the High Commissioner’s office in London for the reception of Australian visitors. The High Commissioner himself is an Australian of a fine type, and imbued with the spirit of Australian nationalism; but unfortunately his office is staffed with persons other than Australians. Most of the officers know nothing of this country, and Australian visitors making inquiries there can obtain no reliable information. It is our duty as Australian patriots to appoint Australians to the High Commissioner’s office. At present only three Australians, including the High Commissioner, are in that office. The entertainments officer is an absolute scream. He wears a monocle. He was transferred by the late Prime Minister to Australia for a brief period, but he took the earliest opportunity to return to London to mingle with the bright lights of society. This gentleman interests himself in entertaining only those persons who, he considers, are of the upper strata, and by that I mean the social climber. He speaks with an accent reminiscent of Cambridge, which is seldom used in Australia except by one or two members of this chamber. The average Australian visitor is repulsed by this gentleman’s haughty manner. The High Commissioner’s office is in a splendid position, and it should be staffed with Australians. The Canadian and New* Zealand offices are staffed with officers who were born in those countries, and they therefore are able to give authentic information to visitors.
I wish now to refer to entomological investigations, for which an amount of £26,790 is set down. The item does not appear in any previous year.
– It is a new item.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister what Mr. Murnane’s duties were when he visited the northern part of Western Australia. He is an excellent officer, but I have never been able to find out the result of his inquiries. I know that his investigation switched from the Buffalo fly pest to the Kimberly horse disease. He told the old-timers there that the Kimberly horse disease was caused through the horses in that district feeding on white wood, a plant which abounds in that part of Australia. It is well known that white wood grows in abundance on the Moola Bulla station in the interior. The horses feed freely on it, in fact, it is” their. staff of life. Yet the Kimberly horse disease is unknown on that station. I understand that parasites were brought out from Great Britain to prey on the Buffalo fly. When they arrived at Melbourne they were found to be of the wrong species, and prompt measures were taken to destroy them. I wish to know whether an effective means has been discovered of countering the Buffalo fly pest.
The Prime Minister, in an endeavour to justify the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission, stated that its report on the gold-mining industry contained some very valuable information. I would remind him that this investigation began on the 28.th August, 1926, and the report was in the hands of the Government on the 31st May last. Nothing has since been done to give effect to any of the recommendations of the commission. The Prime Minister said that its report showed that the goldmining industry did not require financial assistance ; that the industry must fend for itself by the mines amalgamating and dispensing with the duplication of staffs and . plant. Honorable members will agree that Mr. Gepp, the chairman of the commission, is a man of considerable knowledge ; but I submit that this is an age of specialization, and no man can be expected to be an expert in a dozen different classes of work. The people interested in gold-mining are very disappointed with the report. When the Prime Minister suggested that no financial assistance was required, I presume that he had at the back of his mind the agitation which has been going on for some time for a bounty on gold. That was not mentioned in the report? I have heard the right honorable gentleman say that it would be uneconomic to assist the gold-mining industry by granting a bounty on production. That could be applied to every industry in Australia in connexion with which a bounty is paid. It could be applied to the doradillo grape industry. Most industries in Australia are assisted either by a bounty or by a protective tariff. I suppose that the -Japanese are as shrewd as any other people in the world. To stabilize the currency of Japan, that great empire decided to produce her own gold. Small quantities of gold had been found there, but the ore was of poor grade, and unpayable, so for years that country has given a bounty of 25 per cent, on the production of gold. The report of the Development and Migration Commission suggests -only one real reform, and that is in regard to the remission of duties on mining machinery. It is suggested that if the machinery cannot be manufactured in Australia it should be imported free of duty, and that if it can be manufactured in Australia the difference between the cost here and abroad should be met by the Commonwealth Government. The Wiluna goldmine is the most promising show in Western Australia. The company has already expended £200,000 on a plant to be used in ascertaining whether the ore is payable, and it is on the eve of expending £800,000 on other equipment. According to a bulletin of recent date, the company also proposes to install a plant to treat 40,000 tons of ore a month. There are millions of tons of ore exposed in one portion of the mine. This company has prepared a list of its machinery requirements, and has written asking for information. I trust that the Prime Minister will, in this case, agree to a remission of duty.
Mr. A. Green.
.- The Government has appointed a liaison officer in London for the purpose of informing its mind on European developments. It is really a semi-ambassadorial office, following on the lines of European custom. While it may be necessary for European Governments to watch the affairs of other countries, that is not necessary so far as Australia is concerned. This officer has little need for informing the Government of what’ is happening in Persia, Germany, or any other country. We consider that an expenditure of £1,000 is too little for any benefit to be derived from this source. I move -
That the item “Liaison Officer (London) £906 “ be omitted.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has asked me certain specific questions about the proposed vote of £26,000 for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for “ entomological investigations.” Last year the Commonwealth obtained the services of Dr. Tillyard, who is probably one of the most distinguished entomologists in the world, and provision is now being made for the conduct under his direction of co-ordinated entomological work upon a definite plan.
As to the buffalo fly pest, I should like to be able to tell him that we are on the way to a successful solution of this serious trouble, but I cannot do so; though I am glad to be able to say in regard to the Kimberly horse disease that, in the opinion of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, this problem has been solved;
– The people in my electorate do not appear to think so
– Almost every question relating to animal and plant diseases presents extraordinary difficulties, and very few people, excluding the experts, are prepared to express a definite opinion upon them. But the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are convinced that the problem of the Kimberly horse disease has been solved. I am sure that the honorable member will join with me in the hope that our scientists are right and the pessimists wrong.
I agree with him that this is the age of the specialist; hut I point out to him that the investigation into the goldmining industry, referred to in the report of the Development and Migration Commission, was conducted by specialists. The actual investigation was made in connexion with the Kalgoorlie mines. Three specialists were engaged upon it, one of whom was Mr. Wainwright, who acted as chairman. The report, in so far as it affects the Kalgoorlie area, is based upon the report of these expert gentlemen. I do not propose to follow the honorable member into a discussion upon the economic merits or demerits of a gold bounty, but I must correct the wrong impression which he seems to entertain, that I said that there was no way in which financial assistance could be given to the gold-mining industry.
– The right honorable gentleman said that he had a bounty on gold in mind.
– I made my position perfectly clear and definite to even the honorable gentleman’s constituents in Kalgoorlie, with whom I held two lengthy meetings. I think that he will agree that I was frank in discussing this matter with them. I was dealing at that time with the position of the industry in Kalgoorlie, and when I spoke of a certain consolidation that must take place to cut down overhead expenses, I was dealing in general with Kalgoorlie, and in particular with the Golden Mile.
The other point to which the honorable member referred concerned the recommendations of the commission for assisting the industry to install new plant so that greater efficiency might be obtained. I do not intend at this moment to announce the Government’s policy on that subject, but we have given very earnest consideration to the. whole problem, and an announcement in regard to it will be made very shortly.
Reference has been made to the number of Australians employed at Australia House in London. I assure the honorable member that his figure of “three” is entirely wrong. In reply to a question the other day. I stated that there were 58 Australians on the Australia House staff, in addition to 24 persons who had previously lived in Australia. It would involve the Commonwealth in heavy and unjustifiable expense to send Australians to London to serve as typists, and to fill other minor offices; but all the senior members of the staff, who come into contact with persons who desire information about Australia are Australians, and in touch with Australian affairs. The High Commissioner’s office is part of the Prime Minister’s Department, and a system is in operation which limits the time which officers may spend in Great Britain to three years. They are then returned to Australia, and other officers sent to take their place. This is practically the scheme that the honorable member has suggested.
– What about the entertainments officer who wears a monocle?
– I have met that gentleman, but it is hardly desirable that we should discuss individual officers on the floor of this chamber.
– That gentleman is not an Australian.
– I cannot say off-hand whether he is or not.
– In view of the comparatively small number of Australians employed on the staff of Australia House, will the Prime Minister explain why it is proposed to vote £6,000 for cost of living allowances?
– I cannot give the honorable member the exact details in regard to that, but when I was in Great Britain in 1923, this whole question was investigated, and it was decided that so far as . possible the Australian Public Service in London should be placed upon the same basis as the British Public Service in regard to the cost of living allowance. The allowance is paid not only to officers seconded from Australia, but also to officers engaged in Great Britain. If the honorable member desires further details I shall obtain them for him.
I come now to the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley).
– I intend also to move for a reduction in the proposed vote for the Paris agency. Perhaps the Prime Minister will deal with both items.
– I shall deal first with the liaison officer. The Government certainly could not agree to a reduction in that item. Our liaison officer in London is probably, one of the most valuable public servants we have abroad at present. I have already pointed out that as the result of the work done in this office we have built up in Australia a complete foreign affairs record.
– Could not such records be obtained through the British Foreign Office?
– Prior to the war Australia, arid other parts of the Empire for that matter, were riot much concerned with British foreign policy. It was only when we received such a sharp lesson upon the outbreak of the war, and found that at any time we might be involved in a life and death struggle without having any sufficient information on the subject, that we, in common with the other self-governing dominions, felt it necessary to take steps to guard against such an eventuality. It will be realized that it is not sufficient to have simply current information on any serious question of foreign policy. The whole ‘ history of a subject , is needed to enable a sound judgment to be formed upon it. In the last four years we have built up in Australia as complete a set of records on foreign matters as is to be found in any other part of the Empire. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that these records should be made available to honorable members.- I can assure him and honorable members generally, that if they desire information on any matter of foreign policy, and apply to the External Affairs branch of my department for it, the fullest particulars will be made available to them. The only information that could not be disclosed would be such as is contained in confidential documents which the British Government has forwarded to us, but has not given us authority to publish.
– Apart from such secret information, I have received a good deal of useful information from the department.
– On all such matters as those affecting the League of Nations and the pact for the outlawry of war, the officers of the department would be glad to provide honorable members with the fullest, possible information.
– The only information I was able to obtain about the pact for the outlawry of war was some newspaper cuttings.
– Did the honorable member consult the officers of the department?
– I sent my secretary for some information, and all that he was given was newspaper cuttings.
– If the honorable member had sent for Dr. Henderson, the head of the department, I am sure that he would have been given entirely satisfactory information. I think he would be amazed to find how complete the information is. The other item which the honorable member suggested might be reduced was that relating to the Paris agency. The expenditure on that agency is extraordinarily low. Mr. Voss has been acting in Paris since just after the war, and I am sure that no Australian who has come into touch with him in Paris would agree to any reduction in this amount. All Australians, whether they have travelled to Paris for pleasure, or for the purpose of establishing commercial relations, have been received with courtesy, and afforded every possible assistance by Mr. Voss. The advice of such visitors would, I feel sure, be to increase this amount rather than reduce it.
– I was in London in 1926, and had an opportunity of meeting the liaison” officer who has been referred to in the course of this discussion. I am quite satisfied from what I saw of him, and as a result of the discussions I had with the High Commissioner, that this officer is rendering valuable service to Australia. If the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader were more fully acquainted with the work which he is doing, they would not move for the striking out of this item. His office is situated in’ Whitehall, -near that of Sir Maurice
Hankey, Secretary to the British Cabinet, with whom our liaison officer is constantly in touch. The work he is doing cannot be measured by the miserly salary which he receives, but by the very real service which he is rendering Australia.
I do not know of any officer in the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service who is doing more valuable work than Mr. Voss is carrying out in Paris. His office is situated in the British Chamber of Commerce Buildings, and he is in touch with all the business interests of Paris. He has been, to a large extent, instrumental in developing trade relations between Australia and France. Instead of limiting, the amount of money devoted to this agency to a paltry £900 a year, it would be better to increase it to £5,000 a year, thereby enabling much more valuable work to be done. If we are not prepared to remunerate our Paris agent properly we should consider whether it would not be better to do without one. As it is, this officer cannot afford to pay a typist more than £2 a week. He has in his office a very competent secretary who has been of great assistance to hundreds of Australians passing through Paris.
– The office is really a tourist bureau, although it is called a commercial agency.
– That remark shows that the honorable member does not know anything about the matter. The office in Paris is being conducted on such parsimonious lines that hundreds of persons who call there on their way to Great Britain are unable to obtain all the information they want, because the staff is not large enough. I do not know what is this gentleman’s official title; but he is in reality an Australian commercial agent in Paris. All French citizens who are desirous of obtaining commercial information about Australia communicate with Mr. Voss, and he supplies them with what they want. He is an ex-soldier who has married a French wife, and he is in touch with all the big business interests of Paris. Australia House is rendering a very real service to the Commonwealth. Like every public institution it has its critics, and every officer in it is criticized in one way or another by some of the thousands of persons who go there. Nevertheless, I have heard hundreds of persons express the utmost satisfaction regarding the treatment they have received at Australia House. If people have real business to conduct there, they need only’ apply to the proper officer, when they will be treated with civility, and supplied .with all the information which it is possible to give them. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred in particular to one officer, who was adorned with a monocle. I presume that the man he had in mind was Mr. Ellison, who is an Australian by birth.
– That is not true; he was not born in Australia.
– He was born in South Australia.
– If the honorable member looks up the records he will see that that is not true.
– I am repeating what the gentleman himself told me. He said that he was a native of the State of South Australia, and I have every reason to believe that that is true, and that the records will confirm what he said.
– Will the honorable member withdraw his statement and apologize if he finds it to be otherwise?
– Apologize? Certainly not. There seems to be a great deal of misapprehension regarding the purpose of Australia House. I disapprove of the principle of letters of introduction to the High Commissioner being given indiscriminately to every supporter of every member of Parliament. The High Commissioner told me that he had received over 2,500 persons who came from Australia bearing such letters. If we have a High Commissioner in London who is charged with the duty of dealing with the British Government in matters affecting Australia and its external affairs, surely his time should not be taken up with interviewing 2,500 people of varying degrees of importance. Many of them have the strangest ideas regarding the duties of the High Commissioner.
I was shown one letter from a woman who complained that she had been in London for five or six weeks, and had not yet received an invitation to any concert or function. She seemed to believe that functions of this kind were arranged for the entertainment of visitors from Australia. I do not envy the officials of Australia House who have to deal with some of those who go there for information. Australia House is well worth every penny that is spent on it. It is well staffed, and the officers, from the High Commissioner downwards, are deserving of something better than the torrents of adverse criticism poured upon them by disappointed Australian citizens who visit the place.
.- It appears to me that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), though he complains of the time that officials of Australia House have had to devote to other visitors, himself occupied a good deal of their attention while he was in London. If we were to have a discriminating inquiry as to who are the nicest people, and entitled to be received at Australia House and who are members of hoi polloi, the Australian democracy, and should not be received there, I should be sorry indeed to see the honorable memiber for Warringah constituted the judge.
– There would not be much chance for the honorable member in that case.
– That is exactly what I realize. The reception of visitors at Australia House would then proceed on party lines. I should like to have had a more elaborate address from the honorable member as to what constitute these varying degrees of importance from his point of view. I am not yet quite satisfied that Australia House is performing any useful function at all, certainly none commensurate with the expense incurred by it and its outward trappings; but I think that its usefulness would be manifested by at least affording information to citizens from the country that meets the expenditure upon it. I listened to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) with interest and edification, and thank him for the distinctly Australian sentiment which he imported into his address as a counterblast to the parochial and class view taken by the honorable member for Warringah. There should be on the staff of Australia House at least a sufficient number of persons to enable them to be courteous and informative to citizens of this “ no mean country.”
– The High Commissioner should not be asked to see every visitorperson ally.
– I can imagine what Sir Granville Ryrie would say if he werehe required to interview personally a greater number of ‘ persons than he thought should see in the circumstances. We had experience of him in this Parliament long before we made the acquaintance of the representative of the drawing room class who now holds the Warringah seat. At all events I think that Sir Granville is well able to look after himself. I do not go so far as to say that he ever had outstanding qualifications for his present position. In my opinion his appointment was a pleasant jest. We all regard him as a good fellow but utterlv unfitted for the job into which he was foisted. Amiable and honest, he was a suitable man to represent the Tony electorate of Warringah.
I remind the Prime Minister of a promise made the other day from his place at the table. I made a quotation from the Melbourne Herald as to the relative costs of the upkeep of Canada House and Australia House. I have no information to back the statement contained in that newspaper, but it was claimed to be authoritative, and it stated that the cost of upkeep of Australia House, which was given in detail, was ten times as great as that of Canada House. I have heard this evening that most of the officers employed at Canada House are Canadian born, while many of those at Australia House are English born and monocle trained. I should like Australia House to be typical of Australia. It has cost, and it continues to cost, this country a great deal of money. I support the proposed omission of this item.
– I notice an item -of £20,000 for investigations by the Development and Migration Commission. Some time ago this bod? furnished an excellent report on the dried fruits industry, and the difficulties under which the growers are labouring. It suggested methods by which further markets for dried fruits could be obtained.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that item at this stage. -Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) [8.55]. - I have dealt with most of the matters that have been raised. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition , (Mr. Blakeley) has proposed a direct reduction of the vote, and I have already spoken on the items to which exception has been taken.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has drawn attention to a comparison of the cost of Australia House with that of Canada House, and has referred to a question which he submitted to me in this chamber a few days ago. I am taking steps to -ascertain the basis of the comparison published in the newspaper quotation which the honorable member read, but it has been impossible yet to obtain the figures covering the activities included in -estimating the cost of Canada House. In that quotation a mistake has been made in the conversion of dollars into pounds. Until I receive the information that is needed I shall not be in a position to reply to the honorable member’s question.
Question - That the item “Liaison officer (London) £906,” be omitted (Mr. Blakeley’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
Thai the item “ Commercial Agency, Paris, £975,” be omitted.
Nobody is more in favour of the proper organization of overseas trade than I am, and I have from time to time advocated an extension of our commercial representation abroad. But reports which I have read, and which have been endorsed by the honorable member for Warringah, indicate that the Paris commercial agency is little more than’ a bureau for supplying information to Australian tourists regarding exchange, hotels, ‘and the latest musical comedy. The testimony I have heard to-night has not convinced me that this agency has any commercial value. Paris is only one hour’s journey by air from London, and our representation there could be well attended to by Australia House. This Government is gradually creating jobs of this kind and increasing the expenditure. For that I hold the Prime Minister mainly responsible. A commercial representative in the Far East was appointed, but after some years the office was not considered to have achieved sufficient success to warrant its continuance. If Australia is to be adequately represented commercially in customer countries, Paris is not the first place that should receive such attention. We have no representative in Germany, although the trade with that country is probably as great as, if not greater than, that with Prance. If the volume of trade is to be the determining factor we should certainly have a trade representative in Japan. Obviously Australia is not financially able to establish commercial agencies in every country with which it trades, and so far as one can learn, our representation in Paris cannot be justified as a business proposition.
.- In connexion with the vote of £47,249 for the Public Service Board, I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a glaring injustice to a temporary employee in the Postal Department. The principle involved possibly affects a very large number of men. Mr. Franklin, a returned soldier, was employed in the department for two years, and then was summarily dismissed on the ground that his war service had not been satisfactory. The facts are that this man served in the field for four years and was wounded at Villers Bretonneaux and Pozieres, and surely any unsatisfactory feature of his war service is offset by the fact that he was twice wounded and is in receipt of a pension of £1 ls. per week. I understand that the only blemish on his record is that he was absent without leave for 60 days, but he reported back in France for duty. No fair-minded man would tolerate the administration of the preference to soldiers regulation with such harshness as to regard 60 days absence without leave as unsatisfactory service, disqualifying the offender for public employment. The Repatriation Department did not consider that Franklin’s misdemeanor disqualified him for a gratuity and the other privileges given to returned soldiers on their discharge. I brought this matter under the notice of the Chairman of the Public Service Board (Mr. Skewes) ; the only reply I received was that the preference to returned soldiers was confined to persons who enlisted prior to 11th November, 1918, ‘and served in the war with a satisfactory record. If the regulation is to be interpreted in that fashion, Government interference is necessary, or the terms of eligibility should be widened.
– Was this man absent for 60 days consecutively?
– Yes; but he returned to duty and was punished. He has expiated his military “ sins “ and should not now, ten years later, be persecuted. He was engaged by the Postal Department on the 24th May, 1926, and the explanation of his dismissal given by the department is that it is not possible to meet all the departmental requirements by the engagement of returned soldiers entitled to preference; Mr. Franklin was told that his engagement was subject to his military service having been satisfactory, and that although it was found that his record was unsatisfactory his employment was not disturbed. That is true; it was not disturbed until he had been in the department for two years. I appeal to the Prime Minister to direct the Public Service Board not to interpret the regulations in such a harsh manner as to cause the dismissal of a married returned soldier with a family at a time when unemployment is particularly acute.
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances of this case, but 1 shall inquire of the Public Service Board as to the principle upon which it is operating the regulation providing for prefference to returned soldiers.” Without making any comment on the merits of the case mentioned by the honorable member, I remind him that we must be just to the soldiers as a whole, and must not be unduly influenced by sympathy for the individual. The opportunities for the employment of returned soldiers being limited, consideration must be given to the military records of the applicants, and a married man with a clean discharge should certainly have preference’ over another whose record was blemished.
Amendment (by Mr. Scullin) put -
That the item “ Allowance to GovernorGeneral for residence at Canberra, £2,000 “ be omitted.
The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That under Division 13, High Commissioner’s office, £62,304, the item “ Financial Adviser to the High Commissioner, £2,000 “ be omitted.
The gentleman in question, Mr. Collins, was an officer of the Treasury Department for a number of years, and was sent to London by the present government to watch its interests in connexion with the flotation of loans. It must be admitted that loans have not been floated on more favorable terms since he has been . over there. He receives an allowance of £250 a year for entertainment purposes. What, exactly, does that signify? Before his departure from Australia, he was a director of the Commonwealth Bank; and I find that since he has been in London he has been drawing £500 a yea’r for acting in a similar capacity there. His total emoluments are greater than those of the Prime Minister of Australia. The influence of one man would not be very great if the financiers were averse from lending money to Australia. I asked the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) questions relating to the positions held by Mr. Collins, and he was evasive when he replied that that gentleman is not a director of the Commonwealth Bank, but an adviser to the Bank in London.
– He is a member of the Advisory Board.
– The Advisory Board consists only of himself. He has been drawing £500 a year and travelling expenses for discharging the duties of that office. Considering the state of our finances, this item should be disallowed, and Mr. Collins should be returned to Australia.
– I spoke upon this matter at some length early this afternoon”, therefore, all I need do now is remind the committee that the position held by Mr. Collins is that of adviser not only to the Commonwealth Government, but also to the Loan Council. His appointment to that position has been approved and endorsed by the whole of the States who are members of the Loan Council. If the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) were to question any State Premier, he would be told that Mr. Collins renders most valuable services, and that for the flotation of Australian loans, it would be distinctly unfortunate if he were withdrawn from London.
Question - That the item proposed to be omitted be so omitted- put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
Thatthe item “Allowance to High Commissioner for expenses of official residence, £2,000,” be omitted.
This appears to me to be an unnecessary charge to make upon the Commonwealth when we consider that last year we purchased for the High Commissioner the lease of an official residence and furnishings, at a cost of £9,900, also a motor car at £394. Those privileges were not extended to his predecessors. In addition to the allowance for the expenses of official residence, he is to receive an allowance of £650 for its upkeep. Those two items are new. I suppose that next year, if this Government remains in power, we shall find still more perquisites attached to the position of High Commissioner. It appears to me that the deeper this Government gets into debt, the more it provides luxuries for those who are well able to afford them. I am not a cheese-paring individual. I believe in paying good value for services rendered whether inside or out of this country, but this is reckless expenditure at a time when we can ill afford it. I ask the committee to relieve the taxpayers of this additional burden.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) length this afternoon, and I shall not repeat what I then said. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong will give the committee an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the item.
Question - That the item proposed to be omitted be so omitted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That under Division 14 Australian Commissioner in United States of America, £10,881, the item “ Commissioner £3,000” be omitted:
The money proposed to be voted for the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America could be saved without any disadvantage to Australia. The Leader of the Opposition has, in my judgment, already made out a sound case in this regard, and the Prime Minister gave a most unconvincing reply to it. The right honorable gentleman stated that the Commissioner in the United States of
America really represented Australia there. The suggestion is that he is something more than a trade commissioner. When I asked by interjection whether he was an ambassador, the Prime Minister replied- that he was not, and said in effect that it was contrary to the policy of the Government to appoint persons to ambassadorial positions. In the circumstances, I should like to know exactly what duties this officer is expected to perform. One of the most amazing claims made by the Prime Minister was that the retention of this office had some effect in maintaining world peace. My reading of history teaches me that the boosting of trade by one country against another has never made for peace, but has frequently had the opposite effect. Most of us have heard of trade wars. It has not been shown, so far, that we are justified in spending £3,000 in- salary for this officer. There has been sufficient time to prove the usefulness or otherwise of the position. I submit that no benefits to Australia have come from the appointment. “ The goods,” so to speak, “ have not been delivered.” We could begin to cut down expenditure by agreeing to my amendment. It is idle for the Prime Minister to reply to the criticism of specific items of expenditure by generalities. That gets us nowhere. In the critical state of our finances we should not be talking high falutin nonsense about keeping Australia’s name before the public. Australia is on the map, and we should endeavour to develop her resources in a practical way. Then, in due time, she would become a centre of attraction, and it would not be necessary for her to hang on to the coat tails of old-world, civilization. This is an item upon which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) could show his desire for economy. He and some other honorable members opposite have talked a good deal about cutting down expenses. I suggest that the time has arrived to cease talking and begin voting. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has also had a lot to say about economy. Perhaps he, remembering the homely advice that he must have had at his mother’s knee, to the effect that if we look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves, might well look after these few pence, to wit, £3,000. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) is also a financial reformer and he may give us his vote. There would be nothing to be ashamed of in voting with the Labour party to secure some substantial’ economies. So far honorable members on this side of the committee, being in a minority, have not been able to work their will in these financial matters, but with a clear conscience and in a good cause they intend to persist in their endeavours to cut down public expenditure where it can be done without ill-effect to the general” community. It may be quite true that the Commissioner in the United States of America has gathered a distinguished social circle about him, but so far as I can learn he has done nothing to foster Australian trade or to improve Australia’s standing in America. Consequently I confidently ask honorable members opposite who believe in economy to vote for my amendment.
.- I support the amendment. So far six different persons have held this office, and none of them has been able to make a success of it. Our trade balance with America is on the wrong side. We are importing a great deal from America, but sending very little there. I noticed in a Melbourne paper last week, that although sultanas are £61 per ton in Australia they , are only £45 per ton in America. America is a primary producing country. Her methods and machinery are thoroughly up to date, and we have very little prospect of developing a big business with her in primary products. When it comes to secondary manufactures, the position from our point of view is still worse. In these circumstances it is a waste of money for us to appoint a trade commissioner. Such an officer is not needed simply to assist Australian visitors to find their way about the United States of America, for there is a bureau in New York which can do infinitely more for visitors from Australia than an Australian Commissioner can do for them. We have no Commissioner in the United States of America at the present time, and Australia is losing nothing in his absence. If it is not necessary to have a commissioner there now, why not cut out this item altogether? Perhaps the Government is keeping the position open for one of its disappointed supporters. The last commissioner, Sir Hugh Denison, made an elaborate report suggesting that the office should be turned into an ambassadorship, so as to give him a glorified position - something wholly at variance with Australian sentiment. Even the Prime Minister apparently did not believe that there was any need for such an ornamental office. The Government would be very wise not to involve Australia in this unnecessary expenditure. The High Commissionership in London is a very different thing from the position of commissioner in New York. Here is a chance for honorable members on the other side to join with us in preventing the wasteful expenditure of this money at a time when the country is facing a deficit of £2,600,000. Why do we need a commissioner in the United States pf America? The Americans do not want our trade. They are a selfcontained community, and I hope that we shall try to emulate them in the high standard of living which they have obtained.
– It is instructive to notice how these motions for reductions are following one another to-night. So far as I can understand it, the attitude of honorable members opposite is that Australia should have no representative anywhere overseas. . It was suggested first of all that the liaison officer attached to the Foreign Office was quite an unnecessary person. It has been moved that the financial adviser in London, Mr. Collins, who is a very able financier, should be withdrawn from Great Britain, or at least that his salary should not be paid. Part of the allowances for the High Commissioner were to be cut out, and Australia’s representative in Paris was not to be paid. Now it is proposed that the Australian representative in the United States of America should also be done away with. I suggest that the total amount which it is proposed to save by these means does not exceed £10,000 a year. The amount on the Estimates for the financial adviser is £2,000, the allowance for the High Commissioner £2,000, and the amount for the representative in Paris £975.
– We are objecting to additional sums being voted on this occasion.
– The remuneration for the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America is put down at £3,000 and £2,000. At the present time no such official exists, and unless one is appointed there will be no expenditure under this head. I admit that the High Commissioner’s salary is not included in the sum of £10,000 which I have mentioned, nor yet is the cost of the lease of his house. It remains true, however, that for about £10,000 a year we are obtaining information which the Prime Minister - the only person who can know its worth - has tola us is of the highest value. As our representatives in America we have for years had men who have ranked among the leading citizens of Australia. The High Commissioner has been getting allowances which enable him to entertain on a proper scale. It is known to every one in Australia, except those who do not want to know, that it is extraordinarily difficult to get suitable persons to accept these positions. Do honorable members opposite seriously suggest that we should send to other parts of the world representatives who could not afford to carry out their duties in. a manner which would do credit to Australia ? Are they to receive entertainment from the countries to which they are accredited, and not return that hospitality? It is essential that any one sent overseas should be able to do justice to his position, and to the country which he represents. It is particularly important at the present time that we should be represented in other countries. Everybody knows that the nations of the world have, during the last few years, been coming closer together. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), whom I have always regarded as an advocate of peace, suggesting that we should cease to be represented in the United States of America. How often has one heard arguments put forward on the other side regarding the necessity for round-table discussions by the nations of the problems with which they are confronted?
– Is war brewing with the United States of America?
– I do not suggest that, but I say that the possibility of war with any country will be decreased by having this country adequately represented there. Particularly is this the case with a country like the. United States of America, with which we have much in common. We should have a man there who can appear at various functions, and can keep this Government advised as to the general opinions prevailing in official circles.
– Is he to be an ambassador of peace, or a vendor of wool ?
– There is no need for him to be an ambassador. I ask the honorable member for Darling, how are we to get the information which we require if we do not have representatives, in the countries in which we are interested? Does he suggest that we are to sponge on the embassies of Great Britain ? We are already well served by the British embassies, who do not grudge giving us what assistance they can, but surely the honorable gentleman does not suggest that the whole of the expense incurred in meeting our requirements in this direction should be borne by the British taxpayer. Are we to regard ourselves as a self-contained unit, having no relations with other parts of the world? Do we ever realize that we are a nation of only 6,000,000 people, and that the United States of America has a population of 120,000,000 people? Do we never think about the great number of coloured people to the north of Australia? In spite of these things it is proposed that we should abolish the few links which we now have with other countries, merely for the sake of saving £10,000 or - if honorable members like that better - £20,000 a year. Suppose it was suggested that we should reduce the payment to workmen by 6d. a week, cr 6d. a year for that matter, would there not be a tremendous outcry? Yet it is proposed to cut down the remuneration of Australia’s representatives, who are really outstanding men with great responsibilities to bear. As it is, we are getting their services cheaply, and it would be an ill day for every one concerned if the series of motions moved by the other side were agreed to.
.- The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) has thought fit, after sitting silent and voting quietly up to now, to give us a lecture on the proposal of honorable members on this side to effect economies. He has suggested that the proposed economies are paltry things totalling only £10,000. Either he has not looked at the Estimates, or he has not understood what he has been voting on during the last hour. We do not propose abolishing our representation in the High Commissioner’s office or elsewhere, but we are trying, during a time when Australia is faced with a financial stringency, to put the pruning knife into the evermounting expenditure. We object to increasing the vote for the High Commissionership by a further £2,000, and in* this we claim that we are doing a service to the people of Australia. The honorable member said that there would be a tremendous outcry if it were proposed to cut down the wages of the worker by 6d. a day. I say that if it were proposed to double the wages of the worker there would he a much greater outcry, yet that is what is being done in respect of the men of whom we are speaking. The High Commissioner is in receipt of a salary of £3,000 a year, and receives a further allowance of £2,000 for an official residence. That amount has been paid for years. Recently the Government leased a residence for him, but it still provides him with the allowance of £2,000 a year for a residence. Does the honorable member justify that?
– Certainly I do.
– I fully expected that he would, but he would not be prepared to accord similar treatment to a man whom he had working for him on the basic wage. All we propose to do is to cut out the allowance of £2,000 for the residence.
Like the Prime Minister, the honorable member for Boothby made a special feature of the wonderful value of the representation which was afforded us by the Trade Commissioner in the United States of America. When that commissioner was appointed, the one justification for the appoinment was that he would represent the commercial interests of this country. It is denied that he is an ambassador, and no one can say what he is. One would think that honorable members opposite were not Australians. In what way has this country sponged on Britain?
– For its defence.
– Whenever Australia has taken up arms it has been done to assist Britain. It has stood to its obligations and has sponged on nobody. It is time honorable members opposite displayed an Australian sentiment, instead of forgetting their own country and always looking across the seas. If we wish to preserve the silken thread that binds us to the British family of nations let us encourage sound sentiment. The commissioner to the United States of America was appointed as a trade commissioner, and when we ask the Government to justify the appointment we are told that he is not a trade commissioner. It is not proposed to fill the vacant position for six months. If this officer is of use to Australia, can we afford to leave the position vacant for so long? Does the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) imagine that the representative of Australia in the United States of America would be invited- to take part in discussions there on matters of peace?
-hughes. - I did not suggest that.
– The honorable member twitted the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) with betraying the principles of peace for which he stood in moving for a reduction in this item. I invite the honorable member for Boothby to endeavour to justify his vote to increase large salaries, thus causing ever-mounting expenditure. Can he justify the Canberra allowance of £2,000 for the Governor-General, who spends only a few weeks in the year here, while public servants who have to live here continuously receive an allowance of only £39? Can he justify the expenditure of over £26,000 for furniture, fittings and upkeep of the Government Houses, when £70,000 has already been spent in additions to Yarralumla, in view of the deficit and the reduction of expenditure on public works which has thrown thousands of men out of work?
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) invited me to join him in voting to strike out the item relating to the commissioner- to the United States of America. I regret that I cannot accept his kind invitation. When the loan estimates were under consideration I voted against two items, and I then said that on every other item that was challenged I would oppose the expenditure unless the Government could justify it. In this particular instance I am satisfied with the explanation given by the Prime Minister. I take leave to doubt the sincerity of the desire for economy expressed by honorable members of the Opposition, in view of the fact that to-day the trade of Australia is being held up and dislocated by a handful of supporters of the honorable gentlemen opposite, without one word of protest from them.
– That is not correct.
– Those honorable members talk about cutting out £2,000 here and £3,000 there, but they have nothing to say against a section of their followers who are causing Australia losses running into over £1,000,000.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has assured us that, if any proposed expenditure cannot be justified by the Government, he will vote for a reduction in the items. I wish to help the honorable member to vote according to his conscience, because I know how sincere he is in matters of this kind. I am quite in accord with the proposal to strike out the item of £3,000 for the salary of the Commissioner to the United States of America, and £2,000 for his allowance, making a reduction of £5,000. This action could be justified on the ground that for the last twelve months the work has been done by the official secretary, who is paid a salary of £1,012, and receives an additional allowance of £400. This officer, Mr. Dow, was the man behind the gun when we had a commissioner in New York, and the fact that his salary has been raised to the extent of £412 shows that the Government recognizes that he has done useful work. I visited the office in New York when the Commissioner was there, having several matters to bring under its notice, and on every occasion Mr. Dow was the officer with whom I had to deal. The honorable member for Bootbby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) must realize that whatever fripperies are considered necessary in the Old Country, they can be dispensed with to advantage in the United States of America. The representative of that country never used to present himself at Buckingham Palace in court dress. The people of that democratic country are not impressed by useless displays of finery. They admire plain men like Abraham Lincoln, the rail splitter, and Garfield, the canal boy - giant intellects that have come from the ranks of the workers. On several occasions, when Parliament sat in Melbourne, the honorable member for Boothby voted against increases in the invalid and old-age pension on the ground of the expense involved. Now he raises the question of Australian representation in the United States of America for the purpose of promoting peace, but I maintain that war between that country and the British Empire is impossible. On the frontier of 3,000 miles between Canada and the United. States of America there is neither soldier nor policeman. On the road from Vancouver into the United States of America there is an arch with the American flag on one side and the British flag on the other. Over the arch are inscribed the words “ Children of one common mother.” No ornamental officer whom Australia might appoint to a position in New York would give the plain, practical people of America a better opinion of Australia than they now hold.
Question: - That the item proposed to be omitted be so omitted (Mr. Brennan’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The Council of Defence consists of the Prime Minister, as chairman; the Minister of Defence; any other Minister whom the Prime Minister may summon; the heads of the military, naval and air services; and certain other experts, including Sir John Monash and Sir Brudenell White. It is only an advisory body to consider the general defence policy of the Commonwealth, and meets not more than once a year. This amount of £25 is provided to cover any expenditure incidental to the meeting. Last year there was no expenditure.
.- For the Development and Migration Commission an amount of £127,618 is provided. Again we are confronted with an alarming and irresponsible increase of expenditure. Apparently, under the present Administration, unlimited expansion of departmental expenditure is permitted. In 1926-27 the expenditure on the salaries of the commissioners was £9,262; in 1927-28 it was £10,796; and on these estimates £13,256 is provided, showing an increase in two years of approximately £4,000. There are four commissioners, and one wonders where this money is going. What do ministerial supporters intend to do about this increase ?
– Vote for it.
– I have not the slightest doubt that they will, notwithstanding that the greasing of the fat pig is being carried to excess. It appears that this Ministry exists to create jobs for its f riends. As a protest against this increase in salaries, I move -
That under Division 17, Development and Migration Commission, £127,618, the item “ Australian organization, Salaries, &c., £42,093,” be reduced by £4,000.
– The increase in this vote does not signify an increase of payments to the individual commissioners. The commission did not come into operation until about August, 1926, and the expenditure in 1926-27 was for less than the full year. In the following financial year one commissionership was not filled, Sir Charles Nathan accepting in lieu of salary an allowance of £1,000 for expenses ; thus the full amount of salaries was not spent in that year. In the current financial year, for the first time, the full amount will have to be paid, namely, £5,000 to the chairman ; £4,500 to the second commissioner ; £2,500 to the third commissioner; and £1,750 to the fourth commissioner.
Question - That the item proposed to be reduced be so reduced - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the second reading of the bill ‘be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed).
Proposed vote, £361,020.
Mr. GREGORY (Swan [10.55].- I am somewhat disturbed regarding the increased cost of carrying on the Development and Migration Commission. It is a question whether it is not becoming too extravagant in its methods. I daresay that the reports it has presented are indicative of its having done good work: but at the same time I am led to believe that an expensive department is being built up. I urge upon the Prime Minister the need for exercising the greatest care, so that its expenditure may be restricted ; otherwise, very drastic steps may have to be taken in the future
.- C move -
That Division 17, “Development and Migration Commission, £127,018 “, be reduced by £50,000.
I propose to justify the amendment by a review of the tremendous growth that has taken place in the expenditure of this department. In the Estimates for 1924- 25 the sum of £63,000 was provided. Subsequent Estimates contained the. following provision : -
It will thus be seen that this year’s proposed vote is more than double that for 1924-25. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has pointed out, the expenses are approaching such an excessive figure that we should draw the attention of the Government to the seriousness of the position and demand that a halt be called. If ever there was a time for the reduction of a vote dealing with immigration matters, it surely is the present, when we have such a large army of persons in Australia who are unable to find employment or obtain the necessaries of life. I feel that I am acting in accordance with public feeling in the Commonwealth. The people are becoming alarmed at the tremendous sums involved in the administration of, and the investigations conducted by those who to-day are in charge of migration matters in the Commonwealth. Excessive expenditure is being incurred not only in Australia, but also in London. We have to wipe off the very heavy deficit referred to by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in his budget speech, and the outlook is not so promising as we should like it to be. I therefore, commend to the committee the proposal that this vote be reduced by £50,000. Such an action on our part would be a practical demonstration of our desire to effect economies and put right the finances of the country.
.- I wish to discuss one or two items in connexion with the Development and Migration Commission. This body has been investigating a number of problems in
Australia, one being the problem of unemployment. It has been stated by honorable members opposite that the Commonwealth Government has been responsible for bringing assisted migrants to this country. From time to time this charge has been levelled against the Govern* ment, and it has always been refuted. The fact is that assisted migrants are being brought here by the Commonwealth Government at the request of the State Governments. The Development and Migration Commission has studied a number of Australian industries. Let us look at the coal industry. I find from the migration figures that during the regime of the late Lang Government in New South Wales no fewer than 1,243 assisted migrants, miners by occupation, were brought to New South Wales, notwithstanding that there was lack of employment on the coal-fields. The nomination papers of those migrants were endorsed by the then Minister for Mines, Mr. Baddeley, and by the then Leader ‘of the Government, Mr. Lang. I mention that fact to show that the Labour Government of New South Wales was responsible for bringing miners into this country to add to the unemployment on the coal-fields.
– That statement is not true.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member is out of order.
– The statement is true, and it must be a very unpleasant, and strong pill for honorable members opposite to swallow. Recently the Development and Migration Commission investigated the dried fruits industry. Its report on that industry has been of great value to the growers, and they are trying to give effect to a number of the commission’s recommendations. I suggest that an investigation should also be made of the wine industry. Recently the wine bounty was reduced, and members who opposed that reduction stated at the time that a critical position would inevitably arise. Unfortunately that position has arisen. It is therefore the duty of this Parliament to give the growers some relief. This I think might best be accomplished by the Development, and Migration Commission making a thorough investigation of the industry. At the time of the reduction of the bounty it was prophesied that the export of wine would cease. I find from information supplied to me by the Prime Minister last week that the export of wine for the three months ending the 31st August last year was 2,032,766 gallons, and for the corresponding period this year, 227,762 gallons, and most of this was contracted for before the bounty reduction took place. The Berri distillery in South Australia has 300,000 gallons of wine unsold. Mr. Hugo Gramp, of Messrs. G. Gramp and Sons has informed me that he cannot sell a gallon of wine. The co-operative distillery at Griffith, in New South Wales, has 70,000 gallons of wine for sale and cannot sell one gallon.
– The honorable member is discussing a subject that is beyond the scope of the item before the committee.
– I am referring to an item of £25,000 for investigation. I consider that the wine industry should be investigated by the Development and Migration Commission, and I am giving my reasons for that.
– I suggest that the honorable member reserve his remarks until the Customs Department is under consideration.
– The wine industry is in a grave position. Millions of pounds have been expended in settling returned soldiers on the river Murray and elsewhere, and unless some assistance is given to them they will be ruined, and their blocks abandoned, and the consequent loss to the Commonwealth will be enormous.
– I was not present in the chamber during the early part of the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons), but I gathered from what I heard that he accuses Mr. Baddeley, an ex-Minister of the Government of New South Wales, of being responsible for bringing into Australia a number of miners, and in that way adding to the unemployment on the coal-fields. The honorable member has falsely accused a gentleman who is unable to defend himself. The statement of the honorable member for Angas is untrue. When
Mr. Baddeley was Minister of Mines he went to England and advised the miners there of the bad conditions obtaining on the coal-fields of New South Wales. He visited other countries and obtained the latest information on coal-mining with a view to improving the position of the industry here. Neither he nor the Labour Government of that time was associated with the immigration policy of the Commonwealth. I advise the honorable member for Angas to be sure of his facts before he again attempts to make a vile accusation against a prominent member of the New South Wales Parliament.
.- For the enlightenment of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) I shall repeat what I said previously. During the time that the Lang Government held office 1,243 miners came to Australia as assisted migrants, and Mr. Baddeley, the then Minister for Mines, and Mr. Lang, the Premier, endorsed the nomination papers of those miners. They came out here under the State migration policy, and their advent necessarily helped to swell the unemployment on the coal-fields.
.- I wish to refer to the item providing £4,000 for training domestic servants. It has always appeared to me that girls and young women should naturally be able to undertake domestic duties. We might just as well put on the Estimates a sum of £1,000 for teaching boys to learn cricket and football. Every boy knows how to play football, just as every girl should know how t« perform the ordinary domestic duties of the household. This expenditure is not justified. The whole proposal is ridiculous. I had eight daughters and every one of them naturally learnt how to perform household duties. The Government should not spend a large sum in training young women in domestic work. I hope that the committee will show its disapproval of this proposal.
.- I dealt fairly fully this afternoon with the matters which relate to the Development and Migration Commission, and it is unnecessary to repeat what I said then. The figure which should have been used in comparison with the expenditure for the year 1924-25, is not £76,000. I spoke at some length about the £25,000 set down lor “Investigations.” There are additional amounts here which are not comparable with the original expenditure. I have indicated the views of the Government, and it is now for the committee to express its opinion.
I advise the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) not to make a big point during his election campaign of the folly of bringing properly-trained domestic servants to Australia, because if he does he may find himself in a difficult position,the of the greatest needs of the wives of our outback settlers is domestic help. The object of this training is to ensure that the girls who come to Australia shall be capable of performing ordinary domestic duties. There is no suggestion that training shall be given in the higher branches of domestic science.
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced beso reduced. (Mr. Makin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment negatived. -
Proposed vote agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. GREGORY (Swan) [11.841. - I asked a question a few days ago of the Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse), about the price of bricks manufactured at the commission’s brickyard. I stated that the price of bricks in Melbourne was £31s. a 1,000, as against £6 5s. a 1,000 charged in Canberra. The reply which I received to my question was to the effect that bricks were sold to private citizens at the commission’s kiln for £5 5s. a 1,000, and not £6 5s. a 1,000. That would create the impression that the retail price in Canberra is only £5 5s. a 1,000. I obtained a copy of the tender form issued by the commission, and on that form there was a list of the various prices charged by the commission for bricks. The price was £6 5s. per thousand. It is well known that there are second-class as well as first-class bricks; but the Melbourne bricks, the price of which I quoted, are first-class. I wish my correction to appear in Hansard, as otherwise, a wrong impression may prevail.
– I shall have inquiries made, and if the fact is as stated by the honorable member for Swan (Mr.. Gregory) I shall have the matter rectified tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280920_reps_10_119/>.