12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Accompanied by honorable members I waited this day upon His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at Government House and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech at the opening of the Parliament, which was agreed toby the House on the 21st inst. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply-
I receive with much pleasure the Address which has been adopted by the House ofRepresentatives in reply to the speech which I delivered on the occasion of the opening of the first session of the twelfth Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I thank you for your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether the Government has yet considered an amendment of the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act ?
– The compensation acts in force in the various States are being studied with a view to the introduction of an amending bill early in the New Year.
Mr.R. GREEN. - Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the result of the conference held in Sydney yesterday between the mine-owners and the representatives of the miners?
– The very fact that the conference was adjourned until to-day indicates that no result was reached yesterday. I understand that the conference is still sitting.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the report in the press of some observations made by representatives of overseas and interstate ship-owners in Melbourne relating to the waterfront, and a letter said to have been received by him from the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane. Is the Attorney-General aware that pressure is being brought to bear by a non-union body at Bowen, Queensland, to coerce members of the Waterside Workers Federation into joining the non-union association? If so, has he any comment to make on the matter?
– The honorable member was good enough to advise me of his intention to ask this question. I have received a lengthy communication from Mr. Brown, secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane.I did not consider myself free to make the letter available for publication, but, apparently, it has reached the press through another channel. It is quite true, as was stated by the representatives of the shipping companies, that the people, at the recent general election, endorsed the policy of Commonwealth arbitration, and that endorsement carries with it an obligation to accept the awards of the Arbitration Court. Members of the Government have always advocated observance of the awards of the court, and the present Government does so still. The ship-owners are reported to have quoted Chief Judge Dethridge as having expressed himself in opposition to the principle of preference in awards. I have no comment to offer on any observations the learned judge may have thought fit to make in his judicial capacity, but it is desirable that the attitude of the Government should be fully understood. It has a mandate to make industrial arbitration effective. Arbitration always has rested upon organization, which, in practice, means trade unionism, and it follows that the Government will set its face against any attempt to break down or even discourage existing trade unions, and will view with disfavour and suspicion the continued existence of any association of employees whose origin is traceable to an endeavour to displace trade unionists in a time of industrial conflict. For the sake of peace in industry it is highly desirable that these facts should be recognized. In regard to an endeavour which it is stated is being made at Bowen by a non-unionist organization to coerce members of the Waterside Workers Federation into joining that body, it follows from what I have already said that the Government will reprobate any such activity on the part of a nonunionist organization.
– This is a very full statement in answer to a question.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral to answer the question, and not to enter into a debate.
– I have no intention to enter into a debate. I was asked whether I had any comment to make upon the allegation that coercion has been exercised on numbers of the Waterside Workers Federation at Bowen by a nonunionist organization. My answer is that, as Attorney-General, I have communicated with the representatives of all the interests concerned for the purpose of conveying to them the Government’s view and discouraging any action of the character alleged.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of any good reason why the Sydney Trades and Labour Council has decided not to participate in the Peace Conference convened by the Commonwealth Government, and to instruct its delegates to endeavour to prevent the Australasian Council of Trade Unions from participating?
– I have not received from any Trades and Labour Council intimation of any action such as the honorable member has indicated.
– With a view to basing a an es ti on upon it, I quote the following paragraph from the report of the British Economic Mission on the pastoral industry -
Wi” heard in ninny q !mrt frs nf n dangerous tendency toward* deterioration in tlie quality of wool, owing to the “ small men “ not being able to obtain first class stud stock, as the “ big nien “ are, and having to be content with buying the rejected stock of their larger neighbours.
In view of that statement, and as it is reported in the press that an exceptionally large number of stud sheep is being shipped from Australia to South Africa and Russia, will the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) give the House an indication whether the Government intends to take early action to prevent this serious sapping of the main source of our national wealth?
– I have noticed that and many other statements. Having taken a keen interest in this matter, and having looked closely into it, I may say that immediate action is contemplated, and I propose to make an announcement to the House on the subject later in the day.
– Can the Minister say whether the sheep referred to as being exported from Australia are really of the standard which is usually regarded in this country as that of stud sheep?
– I have made inquiries into that matter also, and I shall refer to it, too, when I make the announcement.
– In view of the fact that the coal miners have a federal award, under the Industrial Peace Act, and the New South Wales Government proposes to endeavour to engage men to work at lower rates than are specified in the award, does the Prime Minister intend to take action to restrain the State Government from committing a breach of the award ?
– There is an award in the coal mining industry under the Industrial Peace Act, and it will be the duty of this Government to see that its terms are observed by those who employ miners. I cannot answer a hypothetical question as to what will be done in the event of a breach of the award, and I suggest to the honorable member that we might let the matter rest where it is at present, seeing that the Conference sitting in Sydney has not yet concluded its deliberations.
– Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House whether New South Wales is a party to any of the awards that are believed to exist in the coal mining industry?
– I am not in a position to answer that or any similar question now. Nor do I think it would be proper for me to reply to such a question at this stage.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home Affairs been drawn to a paragraph appearing in the Sydney Sun of yesterday, which states -
A number of Commission employees received Christmas boxes yesterday, in the form of notices of dismissal. They will expire on Saturday, December 21.
In the past, it has been the custom of the Commission to provide money as Christmas relief employment, but nothing has been promised so far this year.
Will the custom which was observed hy the previous Government be continued during the coming Christmas season in relation to the unemployed at Canberra and in North Australia?
– The subject of unemployment in the Northern Territory and at Canberra has occupied a good deal of my attention since the Government assumed office. I am still investigating it, and will do everything possible to relieve the situation in the near future.
– Is it to be understood that the Government intends to extend the date of expiry of the notices of dismissal that have been served upon the persons referred to by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) until at least some time in the new year?
– The matter is now receiving consideration.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the Associated Fruit Growers of Australia a letter protesting against the permission granted to import 6,000 cherry trees from Japan, the ground of objection being that with the trees the disease known as “fireblight” might be introduced? If he has received such a letter, will he state whether the Government proposes to take any action to meet the wishes of the orchardists ?
– I have received communications on this matter from orchardists. The Consul-General for Japan called on me some few weeks ago and offered, in the name of his Government, the gift of 6,000 Japanese cherry trees for planting in the Federal Capital Territory. I had the matter inquired into by the forestry authorities at Canberra, and was assured that there was no objection to the acceptance of the gift. Having received that assurance, I accepted Japan’s most generous offer. Later, the question was raised that there might be danger of introducing the disease known as “ fireblight,” and the matter was then referred to the Public Health Department. I had an interview with Dr. Cumpston on the subject, and he told me of the precautions taken. It was proposed to ask the Japanese authorities to reduce the number of trees to 1,000, and the fullest possible precautions against the introduction of disease were to be taken. Even since this was announced, expressions of great fear have been heard. I do not pretend to be an expert on this subject, but I give the House the assurance that if there is the slightest doubt the Consul-General for Japan will be informed that the Government regrets its inability to accept the gift. The Consul-General, however, has anticipated us in that regard, and has graciously said that if danger of the introduction of disease is feared, or if there is any anxiety on the matter at all, Japan would not feel at all slighted if the gift were not accepted. I have left the matter in the hands of the health authorities for a further report.
Black Steel Sheets
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to the statement that, since the imposition of the new Customs duties, Messrs. John Lysaght and Co. have advanced the price of black steel sheets by £1 per ton, which is alleged to be the equivalent of a 5 per cent. increase? Will the Minister cause inquiry to be made as to whether this increase is justified, in view of the fact that other Australian industries are penalized, and also in view of the Prime Minister’s assurance that every such increase will be carefully examined ?
– I repeat the assurance already given by the Prime Minister that if manufacturers attempt to exploit the public by means of the protection afforded them in the new tariff schedule, or if they act detrimentally to the country, they will be brought to book for it.
– In the event of a particular manufacturer attempting to exploit the new duties to the disadvantage of the public, what definite steps will the Government take?
– If a particular manufacturer exploits the public by fixing an exorbitant price for his goods, he will soon lose his business through the competition of other manufacturers; but if there is a general attempt to exploit the public by manufacturers acting in association, the Government will lift the tariff from them.
– Is it not a fact that under our bounties system in the event of an application for a duty on sheet iron being granted the existing bounty ceases? Is is not also a fact that the company to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) referred, intends to establish works in Australia for the manufacture of all its products, and that it has undertaken to pay the duty on all material imported during the transitional stage ?
– The honorable member will hardly expect me to go into all those details in reply to a question. It. is well known that immediately a duty is imposed a bounty ceases. Other points in relation to the duty on the items mentioned, will be dealt with fully during the tariff debate.
Industrial Powers - Abolition of State Parliaments
– Can the Prime Minister inform me when it is proposed to take another referendum, with the object of seeking full industrial powers for the Commonwealth Parliament? When such a referendum is being taken will the Government, in the interests of efficiency and economy, also take a referendum on the question of the abolition of State Parliaments, with a view to avoiding future conflicts and duplication in administration?
– It is not the practice to make announcements of Government policy in reply to questions. The House will be given an opportunity to discuss proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. When such proposals are introduced they will be fully explained. I am not in a position to say when the proposals will be brought down.
– Yesterday I asked the Postmaster-General a question in relation to the establishment of rural automatic telephone exchanges in Australia. Is he yet in a position to make a statement on the subject?
– I have pleasure in giving the honorable member the following information: -
Springvale, Victoria, 7th May, 1927, 100 line unit.
Barep, Victoria, 28th July, 1927, 25 line unit.
Deer Park, Victoria, 2nd October, 1927, 50 line unit.
Vermont, Victoria, 9th December, 1927, 50 line unit.
The principal advantages of automatic working in country areas are: -
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a circular letter issued by one of the private banks in which clients having overdrafts are reminded that such overdrafts must be paid on demand, and that, such clients had better make arrangements for private finance? In view of the fact, that some of these clients have securities deposited with the bank valued at. approximately three times the amount of their overdraft, will he institute inquiries to ascertain the reason for such action by the bank, and will he endeavour to make arrangements for the Commonwealth Bank to accommodate the people so notified who may desire to avail themselves of the facilities of the national bank?
– The honorable member was good enough to intimate to me that he intended to ask this question. I had not heard of the circular until he drew my attention to it. The Government is now giving attention to the suggestion made in the second part of the question. The subject, though important, is delicate. It is hoped that the Government will be able to take some action which will result in easier credit conditions for persons who desire to carry on their business in the ordinary way.
Dismissal of Temporary Employees
– In connexion with the statement made yesterday by the PostmasterGeneral relative to the dismissal of temporary employees in the Postal Department, will the Minister be good enough to indicate whether any arbitrary period of service will be fixed as a condition of continued employment for these persons? Will he also give an assurance that preference will be given to married men with large families?
– It is not proposed to fix an arbitrary period of service as a qualification for continuous employment; but I have no hesitation in saying that preference will be given to married men with large families.
– When does the PostmasterGeneral expect to be in a position to make a statement to the House as to the negotiations which at present are taking place in regard to wireless and cable communication ?
– The question is under consideration, and I hope to be able to make a statement to the House at an early date.
Chamois Leather - Arsenic - Cotton
– Will the Minister cause to be laid on the table of the House the Tariff Board’s reports regarding chamois leather and arsenic?
– If practicable, those reports will be laid on the table of the House at an early date.
– Has the Government adopted the Tariff Board’s recommendation in respect of the cottongrowers’ request for increased bounty, and will he lay on the table of the House, for the information of honorable members, the hoard’s report on the cotton industry?
– As soon as practicable, the honorable member will be put in possession of the Tariff Board’s report on cotton.
– In view of the indefinite answers given by various Ministers to questions regarding unemployment, will the Prime Minister take steps to prevent the wholesale dismissals of Government employees or, at least, hold them over until after Christmas?
– I am not aware of any wholesale dismissals since this Government has been in office, though I am aware that there have been notices of dismissal dating back to the administration of the previous government. I am also aware that in every instance in which work has been available for the employment of men under notice of dismissal, there have been no dismissals.
Mr. John Brown
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a certain Mr. John Brown claims to have paid in income taxation over £70,000 for the year 1927, and that after paying this sum, he had only the measly sum of £123,000 upon which to live for the year? Will the Prime Minister make inquiries to ascertain whether this Mr. John Brown is identical with the coal baron who, in conjunction with other coal-owners, has for the past nine months been endeavouring to starve his workers into accepting a standard of living far below that permitted by the basic wage ?
– I am not aware of the amount of any person’s income taxation - John Brown or another’s - nor have I any intention of making inquiries to ascertain the income taxation of any individual.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a prominent article in the Sydney Labour Daily, of to-day’s date, in which it is stated that the “ Malolo brings grave scourge to Sydney, crew stricken with disease; men demand proper attention; seaman dead from complaint.” The article goes on to say that one passenger, taken off the boat at Melbourne, died, and that 80 others are suffering from a certain disease, but are allowed to roam about the city unmolested. I should like to know from the Minister what his department intends doing in this matter ?
– I shall be delighted to answer any question, without notice, which any honorable member may put to me, provided that I know in advance the nature of the question that is to be asked, and am thus enabled to make a spontaneous answer when the question is put. If that is not done, I must ask that questions be placed on the notice-paper, so that my answers may be fully considered, and may not conflict with anything that I have said in the past, or may say in the future.
Statement by Minister for Health.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister, whether the statement of the Minister for Health, made on Saturday last, with regard to the Commonwealth Bank, is to be regarded as the matured and definite policy of the Government?
– I ask the honorable member to submit the statement to me, so that I may read it.
Lectures by Brig.-General Dodds, A.G.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Willhe make available to members of the House the text of the lectures now being given in the State capitals by Brigadier-General Dodds, Adjutant-General, in regard to the new system of military training; or, if copies are not available, will he have same prepared and supplied to honorable members.
– There is no full copy of the lecture available; but a report published in the Melbourne Age of 19th . November embodies the main points of the lecture.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the particulars asked for on 8th March and 10th September, 1929, by the honorable member for Melbourne, will the Minister, from the information that is in his department, bring such particulars up to date, as requested in the following questions: - 1.How many officials in the Commonwealth Public Service on 30th June, 1914, and 30th June, 1929, respectively, drew salaries of £1,000 per annum, and upwards ?
What are the names, positions and salaries of the above officials?
What are the amounts of allowances, severally drawn by such officials for such years ?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The latest available figures for the Commonwealth, viz., as at 31st October, 1929. are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With reference to his answer yesterday to aquestion by the honorable member for Corangamite, concerning training in the Australian Navy, what number of men receive petty officers’ pay amongst the 717 referred to in paragraph 2 (b) ?
– Inquiry will be made to ascertain if this information can be obtained.
Tender for Telephone Cross Arms - Promotion of Officers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Grant to Western Australia
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the unequal effects of the tariff between States, does the Government intend to make a further special grant to Western Australia to compensate that State for the disproportionate amount it will bear of the subsidies to production comprised in the increased tariff?
– The Government will give due consideration to any claim made by Western Australia or any other State for special financial assistance.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. I have not seen the cablemessage referred to, but I have seen press messages indicating that the committee has completed its report.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amount and value respectively of onions have been imported into the Commonwealth during the last twelve months, from (a) Japan, (5) New Zealand, and’ (c) elsewhere?
– The statistics are recorded in financial years. The following are the figures for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1929 : -
Recall of Employees by Wireless.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– On the 22nd November the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) asked whether the Defence Department had any control over lauding grounds used for civil aviation purposes in Australia. I am now in a position to give the honorable member the following information: -
Landing grounds for civil aviation purposes fall within two categories, i.e., those sites which have been acquired or leased by the Commonwealth and are controlled by the Civil Aviation Branch of the Defence Department, and those sites which are under the control of municipal or private authorities, and which have been licensed as aerodromes.
Stock may, in certain cases, have been allowed to graze on aerodrome sites which are infrequently used by aircraft, in order’ to keep the grass down.’ The total prohibition of the grazing of stock on aerodromes would prevent in many instances grounds being made available for use as aerodromes. Any possibility of trouble arising from stock being on the aerodrome is obviated when pilots take the precaution of notifying aerodrome proprietors of their intention to land on such aerodromes.
In regard to Tamworth, it is pointed out that there is no departmental or licensed aerodromes at this town, and it would appear, therefore, that the trouble experienced by the pilot of the machine referred to by the honorable member would have been obviated if the precaution had been taken of making the customary arrangements in regard to the removal of stock.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked me without notice, certain questions relating to the use of joint electoral rolls for Commonwealth and State purposes. I now desire to inform him that joint electoral rolls have been in operation in Tasmania since 1909, in South Australia since 1921, and in Victoria since 1924. An arrangement has been entered into with the New South Wales Government for a joint electoral roll, but the matter has necessarily been in abeyance pending the State redistribution, which, however, is now completed. The first joint roll in this State will be based upon the existing Commonwealth divisions and the new State electorates, and, it is anticipated, will be compiled early next year. The States of Queensland and Western Australia have repeatedly been asked by the Commonwealth to enter into an arrangement for joint rolls. The present Premier of Queensland has announced his intention of introducing the necessary enabling legislation which, it is hoped, will be done at an early date. The Chief Electoral Officer visited Western Australia in 1924 at the invitation of the Premier of that State, and conferred with the State authorities in regard to the matter, with the result that bills have been introduced on two occasions in the Legislative Assembly and passed by that House but, inasmuch as other subjects were contained in the bills, they failed to pass the Legislative Council. The matter is still in abeyance in that State, but further representations are being made to the Premier.
– On the 22nd November the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers : -
Those are the official replies. I understand, however, that the manufacturers of Sanatogen insist that chemists shall be the sole selling agents.
Service between Tasmania and the Mainland - Personal Explanation.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) asked me, without notice, a question respecting the installation of a system of wireless telephony between Tasmania and the Mainland. Unintentionally, I replied incorrectly that tenders for such a system had not been called. I now wish to inform him that tenders have been called, but that the department is not in a position to accept one until further investigations have been made generally into the proposition.
The following papers were presented : -
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Sixth Annual Report, for year ended 30th June, 1929.
War ServiceHomes Act - Report of the War Service Homes Commission for year ended 30th June, 1929, together with Statements and Balance-sheet.
Ordered to be printed.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted to 30th September, 1929.
Debate resumed from 26 th November (vide page 262), on motion by Mr. Theodore -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill makes provision for a grant by the Commonwealth to South Australia to compensate that State for any disabilities under which it may be labouring on account of federation. After hearing some of the speeches that were delivered during yesterday’s sitting of this House, one might be pardoned for believing that the measure is concerned more with the unification of the railway gauges of Australia or the rehabilitation of the railway system of South Australia.
I congratulate my colleague, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) on his clearly thought-out and comprehensive contribution to the debate. It was fitting that his first speech in this House should be in defence of the State that he helps to represent. Any examination of this question must embrace a consideration of the geographical position of South Australia, which renders it unable to compete in the manufacture of commodities with the more closely populated States of the Commonwealth. It is totally lacking in coal supplies, and has not the necessary water supplies to produce electrical power cheaply. It will be seen, therefore, that South Australia has to rely almost entirely upon agricultural production for meeting its obligations. Even the development of its agricultural resources is rendered difficult and costly by reason of the geographical features of the State. Large unproductive tracts have to be bridged by railways in order to reach the more productive areas, thus making the development of the railway system a severe drain upon national resources.’ The northern areas of the State are not( well served with water, and various schemes for water conservation have proved very costly. In . view of these facts, it is only natural that South Australia has found it impossible to meet its obligations under the tariff in the same way as the more favoured States have been able to do. Those other States, by reason of their greater population, their more central position, and .their possession of raw materials, have, to a very great extent, become the manufacturing States of the Commonwealth, and have been able to reap the benefits of our protective tariff. I do not propose, on this occasion, to go into a lengthy discussion of the tariff. I shall confine myself largely to quoting from the writings of those who have investigated the finances of South Australia and the opinions expressed by members of the Economic Committee which investigated her disabilities. I shall quote first from an article by Professor Melville, written conjointly with Mr. Wainwright, and read before the Economic Society of Australia. Professor Melville, in his article, examines the position from the standpoint of South Australia seceding from the
Commonwealth. On page 10 of the article he states -
The people of South Australia are paying to protected industries a subsidy of £6.34 per head, or £3,500,000 per annum, being the price paid for protected goods manufactured locally over and above that at which they could be imported. Protected industries in South Australia are receiving £3.93 per head, or £2,170,000 per annum more than the price at which the goods they make could be imported. Most of this £2,170,000 is part of the above £3,500,000, but a part is paid to South Australian industries by consumers in other States. As South Australia exports to other States from £3,500,000 to £4,000,000 worth of protected goods, the subsidy so paid to South Australian industries by consumers in other States probably amounts to about £700,000 per annum. The consumers in South Australia are, therefore, paying to protected industries in this State about £1,470,000 and to protected industries in other Sttaes about £2,030,000. The above argument is set out more clearly in the following table: -
If South Australia were to secede from the Commonwealth, she could import from overseas protected goods now imported from other States. The relative positions can be clearly seen, if we assume that South Australia were to charge the existing Customs duty on such goods and prevent their manufacture in the State by the imposition of an equivalent excise tax. The goods could then be sold to the South Austraiian consumer at their present price, but the State would collect an extra £2,030,000 by way of Customs duties. Customs duties on goods now imported from overseas, together with the excise duty and direct taxation now collected in South Australia by the Commonwealth Government, would be sufficient to pay for an equitable proportion of the war obligations of the Commonwealth, for defence, and for all the other additional expenditure which the State would consequently incur. The act of secession would therefore benefit the revenues of South Australia to the extent of about £2,030,000 per annum. From this, however, the State would probably pay for some years compensation to those Soutli Australian industries whose goods would be excluded from the interstatemarket. Probably, about £700,000 per annum would be needed temporarily for this purpose, but the State would still benefit immediately to the extent of about £1,330,000 per annum.”
Because South Australia is so largely an agricultural State, it follows that she derives little, or no benefit from a protective tariff. The difficulties experienced by that State are caused first by the tariff, secondly by the operation of the Federal Arbitration Court, and thirdly by the Navigation Act. The imposts made by the Arbitration Court are such as cannot be passed on, and must be added to the taxation burdens borne by the people. The Navigation Act, so far as South Australia is concerned, has undoubtedly had the effect of raising the cost of production to manufacturers. The difference between the cost of coal in New South Wales at 18s. 9d. per ton, and in South Australia at £2 5s. a ton, is such that manufacturers in South Australia are unable to compete, exceptby exercising the most rigid economy, with those in other States. I take the view that Professor Melville is correct in the opinions expressed in the article I have just quoted.
In further reference to the same matter, I propose. now to quote from the report issued by the special committee which inquired a short while ago into the operation and effect of the tariff in Australia. That committee consisted of Professor Brigden, Professor Copeland and Messrs. Dyason, Giblin and Wickens, and on page 230 of their report they state -
The subsidies to production through the tariff are £36m., which would average all round £6 per head of population. But if the £36m. is distributed among States in proportion to the quantity of protected industry, the amount per head will vary greatly from
State to State, as shown approximately in the following table: -
These amounts are additions made to the income per head in each State, and no immediate deduction can be made as to the consequent effect on State revenue. But it is to be noticed that the subsidies to Victoria and Queensland are twice as great as those to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
We next inquire in what proportion these subsidies are contributed by the different States in paying the excess prices of protected Australian products. We have found that these excess costs arc borne in the last resort partly by luxury expenditure and fixed incomes and protected production itself, but most of all by the export industries. Without attempting to give a full distribution of costs on these lines, we may say that the result is to make the burden per head of Victoria and Queensland, which have relatively small exports, much below the general average, with the other States above the average and Western Australia particularly high.
So it comes about that the same two States, Victoria and Queensland, both get the greatest increase to income per head and pay least per head for it; New South Wales is in a middle position; and the other three States both receive least and pay most, with Western Australia in a somewhat worse position than South Australia and Tasmania. It is to be noted that these three States are all claimants for special Commonwealth assistance.
The effect on State revenue from these combined causes is obvious, though not easily measurable. Still more difficult to measure with our inadequate data is the probably more important effect of the loss of export production which would have taken place without the excess costs of the tariff (paragraph 4). This will depend amongst other things on the varying degree to which the natural resources in each State would respond to a given decrease in production costs, a matter on which we have noted our ignorance in paragraph 134 of the report. We will only say that the discriminating effect on the revenue of different States appears to be substantial on account of the causes considered both in this paragraph and the preceding one.
It is natural that the harmful effects of the tariff should express themselves most acutely as difficulties of State finance. The effects are not felt directly by landowners, nor in the check to production. Land generally (Joes not decline in value, nor does it go out of production. It merely fails to respond adequately to development expenditure, and insofar as State assistance succeeds in cancelling thu tariff costs borne by the farmers, it does so at State expense. The State taxpayers are called upon to meet deficits on railways (the capital and working expenses of which are inflated because of the tariff), because tariff costs do not allow of freights being raised. The State finances therefore bear a substantial share of the tariff costs.
The States which enjoy more than their proportional share of the benefits of protected industries may be able to afford this result. Their taxable capacity is increased through the protected industries established in their territories. But opposite results are experienced in the other States. Their taxable capacity is lowered, so that their rates of taxation have to be increased; industry is further encouraged to concentrate in the more fortunate States, and the cumulative effects which follow intensify the inequalities created by the tariff itself.
That statement adequately sets out the effect of the tariff upon South Australia. Primary production is developing steadily, and in respect of rural pursuits that State is probably one of the most progressive in the Commonwealth. The various governments of the State have given generous assistance .to rural production by teaching the most scientific methods. But notwithstanding the agricultural and pastoral progress of the State, its burden of taxation has increased during the last few years, until to-day, including the motor tax, it amounts to £6 Ss. 9d. per head of the population, the highest average rate in the Commonwealth. I hope, however, that nothing which has been said in this debate will create the impression that South Australia is down and out. Nothing could be further from the truth.
– Hear hear ! I t docs not need this grant.
– I am endeavouring to prove that it does need the money. As an agricultural State it does not receive from the tariff those benefits which accrue to other States having cheap power and huge manufacturing industries. South Australia has experienced a succession of droughts, which in some districts have lasted for four years. The people in the stricken areas are facing their difficulties with remarkable courage, and I have no doubt that the faith and energy of her people will soon restore the State to financial independence. The railway rehabilitation . scheme has been alleged to be the principal cause of the existing financial stringency. Perhaps the Webb scheme was too ambitious; but it is probable .that if considerable reorganization had not been undertaken many of the lines would soon not have been fit to travel on. To-day, however, South Australia has one of the best and most up-to-date railway systems in the Commonwealth. Losses on the operation of the railways are common to all the States, and I am certain -that if the seasons had been favorable and more transport business had been available the deficit on the South Australian system would have been much smaller.
I regret that during this debate an endeavour has been made to allocate to particular parties or governments the blame for the existing state of affairs. Every government, whether Liberal or Labour, has done its best in the interests of the State. While the policy of rehabilitating the railways has been in progress both Liberal and Labour governments have held office, and the whole blame cannot bc placed on the shoulders of any one party or ministry. The rebuilding of the Adelaide railway station was undertaken.during the Labour regime, and we are told that it is the only payable portion of the whole scheme of rehabilitation. Nothing is gained by endeavouring to make party political capital out of this issue; certainly South Australian representatives should concern themselves only with getting for their State the assistance it needs. Unfortunately the Government has not seen its way to give full effect to the recommendations of the royal commission. I and other honorable members from South Australia waited upon the former Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in Melbourne to urge that those recommendations should be carried out in their entirety. Then the general election intervened, and when a change of government took place I hoped that the new Ministry would take its courage in its hands and give the full measure of assistance that was recommended. That has not been done, and having regard to the state of the Commonwealth finances I know it would be futile to press the Government to be more generous at this stage. The proposal contained in the bill is perhaps a little more liberal than that made by the last Government, because South Australia will receive in the first year £360,000 in cash instead of only £300,000 in cash, and conditional relief to the amount of £60,000. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has indicated his intention to move an amendment ; but I cannot support it, because I am opposed to any action by the Commonwealth which could be construed as an effort to force the hands of the State. I do not suggest that that is the intention of the honorable member. I am prepared to accept the recommendations of the royal commission that inquired into the disabilities of South Australia in that regard, rather than agree to the suggestion of the honorable member. That commission recommended that, during the two-year period for which the State should be assisted, the position should be reviewed by a permanent commission, or some other body appointed by the Government. Confirmation of that view is found in the report of the royal commission on the Constitution, which states, at page 249 -
We think that important duties may be carried out by an interstate commission in addition to those mentioned in the Constitution and in the act of 1912. In the section of this report dealing with the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States (section xix.), reference is made to the sums of money granted from time to time to the States of Western Australia and to Tasmania, and to the grant to South Australia recently recommended by a royal commission. These grants were recommended partly on the ground that the finances of a State had been adversely affected by federation and partly on the ground that the State was in financial difficulties. We think that a permanent body should be established which should continuously watch the effect of Federal laws and administrative machinery on the various States, and should be in a position to advise, either with orwithout a special inquiry, whenever applications for grants are made to the Commonwealth.
It would be far better to adopt that course than to accept the amendment indicated by the honorable member for Gippsland, because the matter raised by him is really that of the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. The other States are under an obligation to South Australia, particularly those enjoying the huge benefits given to manufacturers under the tariff. Mr. F. N. Simpson, the chairman of the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures, recently stated -
South Australia annually imports from other States in excess of what she exports: -
My State has not the requisite cheap power to enable it to compete with the other States in manufactures. I warmly support the bill, and I hope that at the end of three years South Australia will be in such a position that it will not need to apply again to the Commonwealth for assistance.
.-I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) that it must not be concluded that South Australia is financially on the rocks. I have a great admiration for that State, and I realize that the conditions that have affected it since federation have had similar influence in Western Australia; therefore, I have great pleasure in supporting the bill. If South Australia had not entered the federation no application of this nature would have been necessary to-day. I need make no apology for my attitude. Of all the States, Western Australia has been the greatest sufferer through federation, and South Australia and Tasmania have also been placed at a great disadvantage. Time after time impertinent suggestions have been made to the effect that sops and doles have been granted to the three States that I have mentioned, while no recognition is given to the fact that Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have benefited enormously under . federation. We also find stupid statements made by Commonwealth officials, and even by royal commissions regarding the financial effects of federation. For instance, on page 32 of the royal commission on the finances of South Australia as affected by federation, it is suggested that Queensland, Western
Australia, Tasmania and South Australia have benefited under federation, while New South Wales and Victoria have sustained enormous losses. It should be realized that huge consignments of goods intended for, say, Queensland, are landed in New South Wales, while similar quantities of goods landed in Victoria are reexported to South Australia and Western Australia, and the credit, so far as the collection of Customs revenue is concerned, is given to Victoria. Western Australia’s imports from the eastern States annually amount to something between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000. Unless the matter of re-export is carefully taken into account, there is no justification for the statement that the Customs revenue earned in New South Wales and Victoria is much in excess of that obtained in the other States. In further consideration of the suggestion that sops and doles are granted to the smaller States, let us look at the return that I obtained in August, 1926, published on page 4771 of Hansard, vol. 114. It was there stated that New South Wales had received in bounties on iron and steel, during the four years ended the 30th June, 1926, no less than £664,000; since then, probably another £700,000- has been so granted. Bounties paid on shale, sulphur, canned fruit, meat, and wines in the last seven or eight years amount to at least £1,500,000. I have now asked for the latest return showing the sums granted to industries during the last seven years by way of bounties, or other assistance. We find that in Victoria the loss on fruit and flax pools during the four years ended the 30th June, 1926, amounted to £363,000; on canned fruit £70,000; on wine export, £56,000; and on dried fruit, £159,000. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries, for which £245,000 was granted, were erected in Melbourne at huge expense to the Commonwealth, and have enabled the people of Victoria to obtain petrol at a lower price than that paid by consumers in the other States. In Queensland, meat export was responsible for the payment of £227,000, Canned fruit for £10,000, cotton growing for £46,000, and fruit and flax for £29,000. In South Australia, up to the time of the presentation of the return from which I am quoting, £150,000 had been granted in four years in connexion with wine export and £54,000 by way of sulphur bounty. In Western Australia, however, the principal assistance given to shippers was £20,000 for meat export. Included in the return supplied to me was the sum expended in connexion with the outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia, but that, of course, was due to the operation of the quarantine laws, and could hardly be regarded as assistance to the State. It will thus he seen that so far as doles are concerned New South Wales and Victoria, in addition to the value of protection duties, has received about the same financial assistance as the other States.
The tariff has caused enormous difficulties in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. My State is chiefly concerned with primary production, and so is South Australia. I thought in the early days that the latter State would become an important manufacturing State but most of its manufactures are apparently slowly dying owing to economic conditions due to federal legislation. The table on page 43 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Finances of South Australia as affected by federation shows that Western Australia .has 8,777 acres per 1,000 of its population under cultivation, South Australia 6,857 acres, Victoria 2,766 acres, and New South Wales only 1,957 acres. It will be seen that the area under crop in Western Australia and South Australia is much greater in proportion to the population than in the other States. But the big increase in the cost of production since 1920 has occurred under the expensive conditions created by the heavy tariffs that have been in operation since that date. Victoria and New South Wales were able to develop their States under the cheap labour and development conditions of earlier days.
South Australia’s difficulties have been increased by her reduced return per acre in recent years on account of poor seasons. A return which I have obtained in respect of Western Australia gives the following interesting information respecting the value received by the farmer per acre from land under crop: -
Should there be a further fall in values the position of the wheat grower, with still higher costs of production, will be very grave indeed. Unlike Western Australia, South Australia has suffered during the last year. No. one can say yet what the return for 1930 will be. South Australia has not enjoyed a really good season for the last two or three years. The State Government has imposed taxation up to what it considers the maximum capacity of the people to pay; but has not been able by this means to balance the ledger.
I congratulate the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) on his broad conception of the policy required to be adopted for the development of the Commonwealth. He pointed out that, under existing conditions, it was almost impossible for people to make a success of life in the interior and northern parts of Australia. .Nothing is more vital to the welfare of this nation than an increase in population, and I urge the Prime Minister, irrespective of his fiscal views, to endeavour to secure such amendments of the Constitution as will make it possible for us to get people to go into the empty spaces in the interior and northern parts of the continent. I suggest that the Government should make it possible for settlers who go into these uninviting parts to secure their goods duty free from the cheapest markets of the world. If this policy were adopted for the next 25 years I am confident that people would pioneer these at present unattractive areas.
– Would the honorable member fill the interior and the north with blackfellows?
– I have not suggested anything of the kind. Let us give the white man a chance to make good. At present we seem to be doing our utmost to ruin him, or to discourage him. Everything that a man needs to develop the interior is expensive, but should be made available at a reasonable cost. If, for 25 years, persons who were prepared to pioneer the north were allowed freely to buy in the cheapest markets of the world without restriction of shipping they would have the opportunity of making good. They would then be able to obtain equipment, to undertake water conservation schemes, and to establish up-to-date homesteads, with good herds and flocks, and could look to the future with some confidence. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) recognizes that something must be done in this direction. Like many others he sees how essential it is that we should people and develop the huge tracts of country in Australia that are at present unoccupied. We ought to try to get white people to undertake this work, but before we can expect them to do so we must make the conditions reasonably attractive.
I cannot congratulate the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) upon his speech. His main contention was that South Australia was entitled to the assistance .proposed to be given under this bill because she had expended huge sums on her railways. The report of the commission does not give any support to that view. I do not intend to offer any opinion upon the wisdom or otherwise of the railways rehabilitation scheme which has been set on foot in South Australia; but I regret that some honorable members have attempted to make political capital for one party against another and have forgotten that the welfare of the State should be their first consideration. It has been urged in many quarters that the Commonwealth and State’ Governments should borrow money anywhere at any price to carry on public works to ensure employment for the people. The South Australian Government seems to have done this to some extent, but has been condemned for it.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) suggested that the printing presses should work overtime so that millions of Commonwealth notes could be made available to tide us over our difficulties. That policy would be suicidal. 1 do not blame the present administration for the existing economic difficulties. These have been the result of the policy which has been adopted over a period of years. South Australia is undoubtedly suffering from the effects of federation. The dual control of industry has created appalling losses, but the intrusion of the Commonwealth in the fixing of conditions on the railways of the States has entailed a greatly increased expenditure over which the State has no control. The absurdity of appointing a lawyer to fix the conditions of the huge ramifications of our railways is palpably absurd and ridiculous. The control of the railways should not be taken out of the hands of the States in this fashion.
The coastal provisions of the Navigation Act have also adversely affected South Australia to a serious extent. This State has no coal resources, and has to import all the coal required for her railways and industrial enterprises. In 1914 the State paid 19s.3d. per ton for coal for her railways and her total expenditure under that heading was £174,000. Comparative figures for 1923 were 38s. 2d. and £343,000; and for 1927, 42s. 3d. and £565,000. Seeing that the railways have to transport the produce of the State to the seaboard for transit to the markets of the world, it will be apparent that this increase is serious. South Australia has no great natural resources and no means of generating power for industrial purposes except by the importation of coal. Years ago, when coal could be obtained at a reasonable price, the State had a number of flourishing industries, but these have died or are dying. Three years ago Sir George Julius, in a speech at Hobart, made telling reference to the industrial development that had occurred in the United States of America because cheap and ample power was available in that country. South Australia is not in that happy position. She has an important motor-body building industry operating, but has to import practically all the timber required for it. The coastal provisions of the Navigation Act make it more expensive to ship timber from Launceston or Sydney to Adelaide, than from the Baltic or Vancouver. [Quorum formed.] En some cases the freight is 200 per cent. greater on local timber than on the imported article.
– Has South Australia anything worth having?
– Yes ; she has courage. She has not been agitating in this parliament year in and year out for special privileges for small groups of secondary manufacturers. The granting of some of these requests has caused the worker to pay 5s.a pair for cotton sox that could previously be bought for 6d.
The Murray Waters Agreement has placed a heavy burden upon South Australia, though she became a party to it with her eyes open. A number of the water schemes of the State cannot become profitable until more settlement occurs. The people of the State are at present taxed to the extent of £7 17s. per head of population. This is the second highest average rate in Australia.
The disastrous seasons of recent years, and the serious effect of federation and the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act entitle South Australia to the assistance now proposed to be given. I think that a good case has been made out for the assistance offered to South Australia by the Commonwealth Government. I hope, also, that the Treasurer will take into consideration the commendation of the royal commission that some relief be given to that State in regard to its obligations under the Main Roads Act, which are pressing heavily upon it just at present.
I hope to be instrumental in making the three less populous States realize that it is through the Senate alone that they will be able to get national justice. The smaller States should combine together to elect senators who will go to the Senate for the purpose of protecting their interests, irrespective of party altogether, and thus make that chamber what it was meant to be, the guardian of State interests, and a house of review. If the new tariff increases the cost of production, as I assume it will, the future development of Western Australia will be endangered. While I donot like to suggest the idea of secession, I am afraid that the continuation of the economic policy of the Government, both past and present, will lead to the growth of a feeling on the part of our people that it is more desirable for Western Australia, in its own interests, to secede from rather than to remain in the federation.
– I did not intend to join in this discussion, but I now wish to make a few observations respecting the statements of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. ‘ Gregory). .1 think that it has been disclosed that no proper recognition has been given to the development and the character of instrumentalities’ in industry. This is borne out by the fact that the South Australian railways are not a paying proposition. This position has rapidly developed because of a lack of coordination between the States and the Commonwealth as to definite action in industry that may affect, to some extent the whole of Australia. This is causing an economic inconsistency that is applicable not only to South Australia, but also to our primary industries, which are causing so much concern to the individual States. Mr. Reid. a responsible officer of the Railways Department of New South “Wales, has been associated with that department for upwards of 50 years, and in that time has travelled a great deal. He considers that the country is producing less than it produced 40 years ago. Is not South Australia, like the other States, gravely concerned with the gradual encroachment of private commercial institutions upon the functions and operations of government utilities? I admit that the railways of South Australia are not paying, but neither are those of the other States. After hearing the speech of the honorable member . for Swan (Mr. Gregory) we must realize that the development of an instrumentality or industry may be affected at any time, according to the rapid improvement and development of machinery and mechanical appliances. Just where is this going to stop? I do not believe that the inauguration of federation developed this inconsistency in South Australian industry. Generally inconsistency has developed because of changing methods and -increased competition from other countries.
That brings me to this point. Just where is the functioning of a State or of the Commonwealth going to cease, and where does its responsibility end? I do not object to the allocation of this money to meet the immediate and pressing requirements of South Australia, but I am seised of the necessity of carefully reviewing the whole system. We have nothing to indicate that the actual centre of activity may be removed from one State to another at any particular stage of development, nor have we any assurance that a request and a continual number of requests will not come from different parts of the Commonwealth at any -time for financial assistance to enable a State or part of a State to maintain its individual credit. It is time that we considered whether the burden of responsibility and the maintenance of industry are not too great for sections of the people who may be situated in any particular part of Australia. Each State at present has sovereign powers. It has definite and grave responsibilities, and it is called upon, because of external competition, to meet serious obligations in respect of the maintenance of industry, particularly primary industries. The Commonwealth Parliament has enormous powers of taxation and means of obtaining money for the ‘ functioning of government, but the powers of the States to obtain money are limited, and to maintain the state of sovereignty they are compelled on variousoccasions to ask the Commonwealth for a grant to enable them to carry on their ordinary business undertakings. It is time that some real economic organization was established to bring about cooperation and harmony in the actual functioning of business undertakings. While the present federal system obtains between the Commonwealth and the States some action in that direction must be taken to obviate these repeated requests for assistance. At the present time the existence of a State depends upon theproper maintenance of its primary industries. Railways are a contributing factor towards their maintenance, but there is serious competition developing which places an extra burden upon the States in their efforts to serve by railway the individuals who, in a remote locality,, are developing their primary industries. That is applicable particularly toSouth Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland. In centres where a certain amount of improvement hasbeen effected, and the population and industry are more firmly established, we find continuous motor services competing more than successfully with the railways.
This development is a matter of national importance and is worthy of the utmost consideration. It has a direct bearing upon the action which it is now suggested should be taken by the Commonwealth, because the bad condition of the South Australian railways has caused the South Australian Government to make a request to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. “We should seriously consider the whole means of transit, at the same time realizing that while we have a division of functions as between the Commonwealth and the States, and private-owned institutions competing with State-owned railways this extraordinary and undesirable position is going to become worse. Another development that we must consider so as to define clearly some line of action as between the Commonwealth and the States is the concentrating of energy and money, which is gradually taking place, and which tends to make the position of Australia more difficult. Take, for instance, the rapidly diminishing value of our primary products, such as wool and wheat. Our annual income from those commodities is decreasing. We have no understanding between the States and the Commonwealth which would enable concerted action to be taken to investigate scientifically the possibilities of developing revenue from our primary production. The States are independent of each other, and their climates vary. If the Commonwealth, with the assistance of the States, organized the marketing of our products we should probably be able to increase our revenue considerably. It may be advisable, in existing circumstances, to make this grant to South Australia unconditionally; but I should like the money to be expended in the setting up of an organization that would assist the primary producer who is already established to produce a better quality and a greater quantity of primary commodities, than that it should be expended in the provision of railway communication to unsettled localities, however fertile the land in those localities may be. Any action taken by this Parliament should be in the direction of stabilizing established industries with a view to lessening international competition and giving greater security to the people of Australia. Within the last two years there have been violent fluctuations in the price of wool in Australia, with effects adverse to every State in the Commonwealth. Primary producers are not placed in possession of knowledge that would enable them to assign a reason for the fluctuations that occur in the value of the commodities they produce. Since the present Government took office an investigation has been made with respect to the cost of collection and distribution of wool, and it has been found that there has been an increase of about 11 per cent, in the case of inferior qualities and of about 20 per cent, in the case of the fine, soft-handling qualities. I am not acquainted with the factors that have contributed to that increase, and there is no channel through which such knowledge could be conveyed to the growers. Last year the South Australian wheatgrower was led by certain organizations and press statements to believe that his wheat was worth only 3s. 7d. a bushel. There was a poor harvest in that State, and a considerable quantity of it was sold at that figure; but immediately afterwards the value in the world’s market was shown to be about 4s. 9d. a bushel. If the money that it is proposed to give to South Australia was utilized in developing an economic organization, whose duty it would be to make the producer familiar with the circumstances that surround the collection and sale of his commodity, greater prosperity would ensue, not only to that State, hut also to every other State in the Commonwealth. I shall vote for the granting of the sum specified in the bill, but I should like to be given some idea of the advantages that are likely to accrue or of the organization that may be set up as a result of this action now or similar action in the future. The production in New South Wales to-day is no greater than it was 40. years ago. What is the reason? The expenditure has been tremendous, and the people are just as anxious now as ever they were to apply their energy to the cultivation of the land.
– The country is strangled by the cities.
– Within recent years our finances have not been administered in such a way as to add to the development of our primary industries or give encouragement to individual settlers.
No government within recent years has done more than did the last administration to divert the expenditure of large sums of money to the big centres of population. Human energy, properly applied to the lands of Australia, could overcome any difficulty. The farming section of the community is willing to apply that energy, provided it is given the assistance of some organization. Many men are anxious to engage in developmental work to increase the carrying capacity of our lands and the volume of our production, but because of the low price of wheat and violent fluctuations in the value of wool, they are not able to obtain sufficient credit to carry out necessary works. If it was widely recognized that the Commonwealth was prepared to assist to organize industry upon an economic basis, both internally and externally, and to enable the occupier of land to obtain sufficient credit to carry on the operations of his holding, there would be a greater sense of security. Although in the future the necessities of the people in different parts of Australia must be duly recognized, the extent to which the Commonwealth is willing to co-operate with the States in maintaining and developing their industries should be clearly defined, so that action similar to this may not bc necessary.
– If this question were to be judged on the arguments advanced by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) when bo introduced the bill I am confident that there would be an almost unanimous vote against the proposal. Although I listened very attentively to the honorable gentleman, I heard no argument which would convince any person that the proposed expenditure is justified. The report of the commission - valuable, comprehensive, judicial and illuminating as it is - gives no substantial reason why this grant should be made to South Australia. I have perused it very carefully, and on the evidence adduced in it, I am at a loss to understand . how the commissioners could recommend that financial assistance should be granted to that State. The speeches of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) also convince one that that State is not suffer ing any disabilities as a result of federation, but that, on the contrary, the position in which it now finds itself has been caused by the mismanagement of . its Governments.
– The commission gave other reasons.
– J shall deal with those in a moment. At page 8 of the report the following appears -
In our opinion the revelations made in the reports of this committee - a special finance committee - concerning State finance, State Treasury figures, railway finance, the railway rehabilitation scheme, uneconomic developmental schemes, and State commitments, were of such a nature as to stir the community, and doubtless the official witnesses were influenced by the special committee’s criticism of the policies and administrative practices of the State itself. The result appeared to us to be a much modified criticism of federation a? being the cause of all their troubles.
In a later paragraph the commission reported that for a period of thirteen years following upon the inauguration of federation, South Australia suffered no disabilities that it could recognize as having been due to federation ; that it was only within the last ten years or so that evil days had fallen upon the State ; and that the blame had quite unwarrantably been laid upon the operation of federal laws. [Quorum formed.’) The commission states that in the course of evidence given by the UnderTreasurer it was elicited that the provision for depreciation of wasting assets had been very limited, and that large amounts of interest and administrative expenses in connexion with soldier settlements had improperly been charged to loan account ; further, that certain interest on irrigation works had been wrongly capitalized, and contributions to sinking fund bad been discontinued for a period of six years to 30th June, 1921. In paragraph 14. page 12, of the commission’s report, occurs the following statement: -
Government for relief from part of the capital indebtedness.
Let us how examine the borrowing policy of South Australia for the eight years from 1920 to 1928. During that period South Australia’s indebtedness increased Ivy 116 per cent., or £68 12s. 2d. per head of population, and this money was not expended on reproductive works. The Auditor-General for South Australia, dealing with this aspect of the matter, says -
The rapid growth of the public debt revealed by the above figures would not be so disturbing if the expenditure created an income which would provide for the interest on the bulk of it, but such has not been the case, as the deficit on interest account each year clearly shows. That the State has been overborrowing is not open to question, but the problem of reducing the animal loan expenditure is a very difficult one.
The commission, in its report, goes on to say-
This increase would not be so alarming were it not for the fact that a large proportion of the expenditure has been on uneconomic works. The revenue producing assets, which have been constructed from loan moneys, are expected to pay not only working expenses, but also the interest on the capital and a reasonable sinking fund contribution. In many cases the rev- enue derived is insufficient to meet the whole of the interest charges, and in some the working expenses, and, where this is so, the balance nf interest must be met from the general revenue of the state. . . . From the foregoing statements it will be apparent that the present unsatisfactory financial position lias gradually evolved over a scries of years and that the serious deficits in the last two years are due chiefly to losses on the railways and on works of a developmental character.”
Let us now examine the position in ngurd to railways. What was known as n rehabilitation scheme was undertaken at an estimated cost of £4,500,000, and it was stated that the effect of this expenditure would be an annual saving of not less than £673,500. Instead, however, of that result being achieved, the actual expenditure from loans during the five years ended the 30th June, 1928, has been £11,444,192, and the annual interest liability of the railways has been increased by approximately £526,000. How can that be ascribed to Commonwealth legislation ? South Australia’s troubles are due to overborrowing and losses on railway administration. Those are purely domestie troubles under the control of the State
Government, and have nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth, or Commonwealth legislation. The position is made worse by this fact: In the report is a statement that Mr. Webb, the Railway Commissioner, advised the Government that the railway scheme would cost not £4,500,000, but double that sum; yet, despite the fact that this information was before the Government of South Australia, it went on with the proposal. The South Australian Government is now asking for a grant of £500,000 a year. Clearly if it had not gone into this railway scheme which has increased its annual commitments by £500,000, it would not need to approach the Commonwealth for assistance.
Dealing with the subject of soldier settlement the report of the commission states -
In South Australia practically the whole of the expenditure of this administration has been paid from loan moneys, and the losses have been serious, amounting to £2,923,248. Of this amount £567,000 is being written off by the Commonwealth from the capital indebtedness due by the” State. In addition to this there has ‘ been an indirect loss of £2,170,230, which, it is claimed, had arisen as a result of the pressure for the preparation of irrigated lands for soldier settlement. . . . It was pointed out by the State Hydraulic Engineer that most of the water schemes were in an unsatisfactory financial position, and the Auditor-General’s report shows that consolidated revenue has to bear a heavy’ annual charge on country water works, amounting at present to nearly £300,000 per annum.
Reference has been made to the Murray
River Waters scheme but it must be remembered that South Australia went into thic bargain with her eyes open. She agreed with New South Wales and Victoria, to bear with them an equal share of the cost, of the work. The original estimated cost of the work was £4,663,000. Of this the Commonwealth Government undertook to contribute £1,000,000, and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia £1,221,000. The latest estimate of the cost of the work, however, is £14,000,000, so that South Australia’s contribution will eventually amount to £3,500,000. The simple fact is that South Australia made a very bad bargain.
– South Australia has morn to gain from the scheme than has any other State.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is as it may be, yet in proportion to her population she was not entitled to pay as much as the other States. Nevertheless, she went into the matter with her eyes open, and has only herself to blame for the position in which she finds herself. If South Australia has made mistakes and mismanaged her affairs she has, I submit, no more right to come to the Commonwealth. Parliament for relief than has any other State. It is a bad precedent to admit that the Commonwealth should contribute to the revenue of a State simply because she has mismanaged her affairs.
– Does the honorable member say that if we had had control of our own tariff we would not have had more manufactures than we have to-day?
– I am coming to that in a minute. On page 30 of the commission’s report there is set out a list of the advantages which South Australia has enjoyed as a result of federation, and of which we have heard nothing up to the present during the course of this debate. According to the report of the commission those advantages are -
– Has not the Commonwealth obtained the worth of that money?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is not the point; we are discussing the advantages to South Australia. In any case, I do not think that the Commonwealth has received the worth of its money. Other benefits enumerated by the commission are -
Salt and sandalwood production along the line has been made possible, the latter being a source of considerable revenue to the State.
State railway revenues and harbour dues have benefited.
In the opinion of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, had South Australia not delayed in throwing open the country for settlement, there would have been more progress.
Under an agreement between the Com monwealth and the State of South Australia, dated 18th September, 1925, the Commonwealth will bear the cost of: -
The House has a right to expect that all the facts, and not merely half of them, shall be put before it. The fact that South Australia has been receiving such a large proportion of the bounties paid by the Commonwealth Government is proof that that State has not been so unfairly treated as its special pleaders allege. Many of the disabilities under which South Australia claims to be suffering, are common to all States. That is particularly true of “ the tremendous increase in the total Customs collections, reducing the proportion from a 50 per cent. return to the State in 1910, to one of 17 per cent. at the present time”. When New South Wales accepted in lieu of the 75 per cent. return of Customs revenue, a payment of 25s. per head, it was relieved, as South Australia was relieved, of the cost of old-age aud invalid pensions. The people of the States realized that when they accepted, under the financial agreement, a lump sum payment from the Commonwealth, they agreed to forego for ever a proportion of the ever-increasing revenue which the Commonwealth derives from Customs and Excise through the increase of population. In that regard South Australia is not as badly off as are some of the other States. “ The decrease in the purchasing power of money “ is not peculiar to South Australia. “ The entry of the Commonwealth into the field of direct taxation “ has affected all States alike. Similarly, all States have experienced “ the effect of the war on general economic conditions,” and “ the high level of wages and prices of materials consequent upon the operation of the Commonwealth Arbitration awards, the Navigation Act, and the continual increases in the Customs Tariff “. It is well to remember that some of the foremost advocates of the policy of high protection, the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, and the Navigation Act, were South Australians ; in fact the first federal tariff was framed by the late C. C. Kingston, a former Premier of that State. All States have experienced “ the higher cost of developmental schemes,” although, possibly, some of them have not mismanaged them as South Australia seems to have done. Despite the tariff, Holden’s large motor body works have been developed in South Australia, and surely if one manufacturing enterprise can flourish, others can do so. One argument put forward by the South Australian witnesses in regard to the tariff was -
Experience has shown conclusively that the local manufacturers in nearly every case take advantage of the margin of protection afforded by the tarin”, and they arc compelled to do so, because the unions, as soon as they see that there is any margin, go straight to the Arbitration Court for an increase in wages.
The South Australian manufacturer is not the only one who has been taken advantage of regarding the margin of protection afforded by the tariff, so far as the workers are concerned. Ever since the Labour party adumbrated its policy of “ new protection “, the unions have known that they could get their share of the increased duties by apply- ; ing to the Arbitration Court for higher wages instead of asking Parliament to apportion the benefits between the manufacturer and the worker, and at the same time fix the price to the consumer. The practice of which South Australia claims to be a victim has been in general application throughout the Commonwealth. Paragraph 46 of the report of the royal commission included this passage -
Many of the difficulties to-day in South Australia were unhesitatingly attributed to the decision of the High Court with regard to State instrumentalities. It was pointed out to us that the increases in wages on the South Australian railways since 1923 amount to £345,000 and the major portion is due to the awards of the Federal Arbitration Court. When the State Arbitration Court issues an award covering wages and conditions affecting Government departments, the State Parliament has the inherent right to say whether it will approve or disapprove of the increased expenditure. The contrary is the case with an award of the Federal Arbitration Court when adjudicating on State instrumentalities. Over such an award the State Legislature can exercise no check whatever. The federal award must be obeyed whatever the consequences may be to the financial position of the State. Whether or not a State Arbitration Court would have imposed a similar burden is a matter impossible to determine, but in any case the State itself would have been wholly responsible and the complaints on this score now constantly made would have been without foundation. The effect of the present anomalous position ‘ in which one sovereign authority decrees the amount to be disbursed while another sovereign authority is left with the obligation to find the money must, if continued, lead to still greater confusion in the finances of South Australia.
In regard to the interference by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with State instrumentalities, South Australia suffers no disadvantage that is not shared by other States. More than anything else these awards have embarrassed the finances of the States, and were largely responsible for the monetary difficulties experienced by the last two Governments in New South Wales. Every State Minister has protested against the control of State instrumentalities by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the present Federal Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), when Premier of Queensland, made the most clear and forceful objection to this system that has been uttered by any public man. Recently efforts were made by the Nationalist party to relieve the States of the financial difficulties which Commonwealth control of their instrumentalities was causing, but their intentions were misrepresented, their leaders were maligned, and the people were gulled into the belief that they were attempting to attack the wages of the workers. The analysis 1 have made of the report justifies the statement 1 made at the outset of my remarks, that it is difficult to find justification for the recommendation of the royal commission that a substantial grant should be made by the Commonwealth to South Australia. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), in the course of his defence of the bill, stated that the Australian workman is the most capable in the world. J agree with the honorable member. Wo member of the Opposition has ever said anything to the contrary. The honorable member for Fremantle set up a bogy for the mere satisfaction of knocking it down. We who sit in Opposition in this chamber have always paid tribute to the capabilities of the Australian working ‘man, and his achievements when working for himself or free from union regulation. But I have no hesitation in saying that he is a vastly different person when his output is regulated by union tyranny.
– How does the honorable member connect these remarks with the bill?
– 1 am pointing out that the volume of work done by an employee is not affected by Commonwealth legislation in South Australia any more than in any other State. The honorable member for Fremantle complained also that interest at the rate of 5% per cent, is being paid by a stricken world for borrowed money. The honorable member did not explain fully what he meant by. that remark. Does he propose to take their money from the hundreds of thousands of workers who have invested their savings in war and Government loans “ at the rates of interest that this stricken world is paying?” This is merely one of the windy phrases of mob oratory, an echo of the recent election speeches. When a State .makes an application for financial assistance, and the request is supported by honorable members on both sides of the House, great moral courage is required on the part of a Government to refuse it. Apparently the bill will be passed, but not with any assistance from me. To my mind the malady which needs curing is too deepseated to bc cured by the granting of more or less eleemosynary assistance to certain States. We have to ask ourselves where this process of giving financial assistance to the States is to end. Already the question has been asked whether Western Australia is to continue to receive a grant when the payments already authorized have been made.
– We want more.
– Yes. I am afraid that the position will not be improved until the relations between the Commonwealth and the States are reviewed in the light of our experience of the last quarter of a century, by the making of certain alterations ami adjustments that, to my mind, are necessary. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say to-day that he proposed to afford an opportunity for the discussion of constitutional changes. It seems to me that, while the principle of equal representation of the States in the Senate is observed, we should hesitate before taking any further powers from the States and transferring them to the Commonwealth; but that is another matter.
.- The whole subject raised by this bill is of the greatest possible importance to the Commonwealth and ‘ also . to the States generally. South Australia is the third of the six States that have come to thi? Parliament for financial assistance, and 1 think that the time has arrived when, apart from the reports that we have had from various commissions, we should ask ourselves the cause of the declining strength of the smaller States and the injurious centralization that has occurred in the larger States. We need to find ii solution of the problem of properly and impartially distributing legislative powers between the Commonwealth and the States. At the present time two of the States are governing all the others, and their policy is detrimental to the smaller States. The smaller States were induced to enter the federation by virtue of the fact that equal representation in the Senate was to be give to each of the sis States. It was thought that the Senate would be genuinely a States’ house. But it has become a party house, just as this chamber lias. Humanly speaking, is it possible in this era of party government to alter the present system, if the Constitution remains unchanged? The Senate now affords no safeguard; the party that has the largest number in the House of Representatives governs Australia, and determines certain factors in the economic life of the people. Consider for a moment t,he representation of the States in this House. There are 28 members representing New South “Wales, twenty from Victoria, ten from Queensland, seven from South Australia, five from Western Australia, five from Tasmania, and one from the Northern Territory. In a House of 70 members, the members from two States can pass legislation against the wish of all the others.
– Why should they not have that power, since the representation is according to population?
– The honorable member must recognize that we still have State boundaries, and State instrumentalities have to be maintained within those boundaries by certain citizens of the Commonwealth resident in those States. It is just at that point that the shoe is pinching the smaller States. The increase in the cost of living, due to legislation passed by this Parliament, most seriously affects several of the States. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) raised an important point last evening when he showed the difference in the value of £1 in the hand of a citizen in one part of Australia and the value of that sum in the possession of a citizen in another portion of the Commonwealth. That does not suggest that all our people are living on an equality. Certain disadvantages have to be suffered by States such as Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia, and these have been clearly set out by the royal commission that inquired into the matter. Broadly speaking, those disabilities are due to the operation of the tariff and the Navigation Act. The tariff is clearly shown, not only by royal commissions, but also by the British Economic Mission and the Australian Tariff Inquiry Committee, to be giving a dole of £44,000,000 a year to the manufacturing industries of Australia. That sum is paid in the form of protection to classes of industries, and it has to be provided by other classes of industries, chiefly by the primary producer. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) mentioned to-day that Western Australia, last year, purchased £9,000,000 worth of goods from the Eastern States, which bought less than £1,500,000 worth of goods from Western Australia, causing an adverse trade balance of £7,500,000.
The money sent from Western Australia was spent in the dearest market in the world, and, on top of that, the highest freights in the world, due to the operation of the Navigation Act, were paid by its importers. This means that money from Western Australia has been used to employ people in Victoria and New South Wales, and the expenditure of that money has resulted in profits for manufacturers in those States. The Parliaments of those States have levied taxation upon those profits; but the Parliament of Western Australia has no power to tax the profits made from money sent out of that State.
Prior to federation, barriers were erected between the States, which could regulate their own tariffs; but those barriers are now thrown down, and a huge tariff wall lias been built round Australia. When the grant of £300,000 a year was made to Western Australia, the Pratten tariff nullified the benefit of that gram in one stroke. It would be interesting to know how much of the additional £2,485,000 to be raised by increased income taxes and increased tariff protection will be paid by South Australia. These are problems that this House should face. South Australia, next to Western Australia, possibly, has suffered more than any other State through the operation of the Navigation Act. It is singularly lacking in coal and timber supplies. It requires seaborne freight. It used to have a considerable trade in timber with Tasmania and Western Australia, but that has been destroyed, largely because of the effects of the Navigation Act. It is now more costly to bring timber from Tasmania and Western Australia to South Australia than from the United States of America. The freight on coal shipped to -South Australia has handicapped that “State tremendously. The practice of making arbitration awards according to cost of living has sent up the cost of production. South Australia depends largely on its export of primary products, and the cost of primary production there, as in Western Australia, has been increased by Commonwealth legislation. The cost of producing a bushel of wheat is now about double what it was in 1914. Other countries have taken steps since the war to bring about a return to pre-war standards, and to reduce their production costs to enable’ them to compete in the markets of the world. To do that in this Parliament would not hurt the working man, because the cost of living would be reduced and the purchasing power of wages increased. I remember the Prime Minister, when sitting on the Opposition side of the House, saying that he would like the House to consider such problems as these in a nonparty spirit. I recall that he furnished some remarkable statistics on that occasion. He pointed out that every increase in the tariff brought about increased unemployment, and yet this Government now professes to hope to relieve- unemployment by an increase in the tariff. That will put an extra burden on the shoulders of those who are really producing the wealth of Australia, and it must be added to the £40,000,000 that has already been granted to the secondary industries, thereby increasing unemployment. The Prime Minister has not given effect to the views that he expressed when he was Leader of the Opposition, for the result of the introduction of the new tariff schedule must be to increase, and not lift the burdens on the producers, and to increase, and not reduce unemployment. There is no royal road to prosperity except on the solid basis of competition. South Australia will find it a hard task to meet the increased cost of production, which must- occur through the application of the new duties.
The views that I am expressing on our economic position are not mine only ; they are also those of Mr. Collier, the Labour Premier of Western Australia who is, in my opinion, the nearest approach to a statesman of any Labour Premier I have known. The following extract from the West Australian of the 19th October, indicates Mr. Collier’s opinion, and also gives a hint to the Federal Parliament.
Speaking at a reception in the lesser Town Hall, Narrogin, this morning, the Premier (Mr. Collier) said he sometimes felt that a very considerable portion of the people did not realize that Australia was dependent almost entirely on the wealth produced from the primary industries. ‘ When people realized that a fall in the price of wool meant a reduction in the national income of about £30,000,000 they appreciated the importance of the primary industries. He hoped that members of the Federal Parliament would be mindful of the fact that prosperity was not brought about in the cities, but that Australia’s future progress and prosperity depended entirely upon the manner in which Parliament realized that it was the primary industries that were the source of its wealth. The party that endeavoured to place burdens or difficulties in the way of those engaged in primary industries was doing a dis-service to Australia.
Speaking on another occasion Mr. Collier said that -
He hoped that the Federal Parliament would not continue to pile burdens on to the primary producers through the customs.
Mr. Collier is a man of wide experience. The position of South Australia is similar to that of Western Australia. An analysis of the situation will show that the increased cost of production, and the increased cost of living must rest ultimately upon primary production. Thi? makes our primary producing industries unattractive.
It is unfortunate that the voting power of this Parliament resides principally in our cities; however, I ask the representatives of city constituencies not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, but to give it a chance to lay more eggs. It is interesting to note that the rate of primary production is not increasing in New South Wales, although big increases have occurred in Western Australia.
– Notwithstanding the disabilities under which that State suffers?
– In discussing this matter with the last Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), I pointed out that federation had laid extremely heavy burdens upon Western Australia, and that she had found it more disadvantageous than advantageous. The Bruce-Page Government was more considerate for Western Australia than any previous administration. I told the Prime Minister on that occasion that when the crash came - not “when it may come “ - Western Australia would be better able to meet it than any other State, because she was engaged in developing substantial primary industries and was not building tiddly-winking, exotic, secondary industries. There is no doubt whatever that a crash must come. Our present economic policy seems to be to apply palliatives to the disease from which we are suffering. That is all that this Government is doing. There is nothing constructive in the policy that it has so far put forward. Western Australia will be able to withstand the crash more effectively than the other States, because she is producing more wealth per head of - population than the other States. She is engaged in an heroic attempt to develop nearly onethird of the continent. If Western Australia were able to deal in an open market her adverse trade balance with the EastStates could be reduced by nearly £3,000,000.
I shall support the bill, although it is a palliative, and does not reach the seat of the trouble. In the existing circumstances, it is essential that this Parliament should do all that it can to assist the weaker States which have suffered through federation. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said, there is no desire on the part of the people of Western Australia to secede from the Commonwealth, but there is a tremendous temptation to do it. This piling on of duties, with its consequent increase in the cost of living and cost of production, is making the burden of our people a lm 0S1 . u n bearable.
I trust that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) will be accepted by the Government.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the payment of the proposed grant should be withheld in the meantime?
– That is not suggested.
– There is a great deal to be said in favour of the amendment. It would enable a thorough investigation of the position to be made during next year.
.- I should not have spoken at any length on this bill but for the fact that certain statements have been made that should be refuted, and certain arguments brought forward which have little substance in them. It is a constitutional Commonwealth obligation to assist any State in distress. No State should be allowed to suffer disabilities in a union of States into a Commonwealth, nor should the progress of any State be allowed to be hindered. It would not be in the best interests of the Commonwealth for this Parliament to allow any State to lag behind the others in development. It is interesting to note that on every occasion when assistance has been pro- posed to one of the smaller “or less developed States the representatives of the larger States have willingly sponsored it.
I deprecate “the attempt of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) to introduce a party political atmosphere into this debate, and to try to make political capital for a particular party in the State. Subjects of this nature should be above party politics. If we ever try to buy and sell the votes of the States in this Parliament it will be a sorry day for the Commonwealth. Some of the statements of the honorable member were not in accordance with the facts. The original request of the South Australian Government was that the Commonwealth should! grant it immediately £750,000 in one year.. The last Commonwealth Government corresponded with the State Government on the subject, and, after pointing out that no data had been submitted to enable it to justify in its Parliament the making of such a grant, proposed that an independent royal commission should be set up to investigate the whole .position. That was done, and the commission recommended a grant of £500,000 a year for two years, and I do not think that any honorable member would . accuse the members of that commission of partiality. The proposal now before us does not fully grant the request of the
South Australian Government, nor does it give complete effect to the recommendations of the commission. The Treasurer should have given us the reason for this. He did not do so, nor did he make any proposal to permanently cure the ills from which the State is suffering. For this reason, the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland should be agreed to. It would enable us to formulate a policy that might get South Australia out of its difficulties.
It must be agreed that the introduction last Thursday of the new tariff schedule was a staggering blow to South Australia. The increases in the tariff may be beneficial to certain manufacturing industries in some of the States, but they can be of no benefit whatever to South Australia. The royal commission was definite in regard to the effect of the tariff upon that State. It observed in its report -
After the most careful consideration of this evidence, our conclusion is that inequalities have arisen in the incidence of the general tariff policy of the Commonwealth. These inequalities arise, however, as we have already pointed out, from the natural conditions . of the several States, each of which differs from the others in area, fertility, geographical position, climatic conditions, and natural en- _ownments . generally. They are, however, inseparable from any policy aiming at the creation and maintenance of secondary industries over a large continent. It needs no elaborate statistics to prove that those States whose industries are primary and agricultural, and whose staple products depend largely upon the price ruling in the world’s markets, must feel the burden of this general protective policy more acutely. South Australia fulfils these conditions more fully perhaps than any other State, and feels the burden correspondingly.
For the reasons I have given here, I have always been prepared to consider reasonable requests for assistance by the Commonwealth to States which depend almost entirely upon primary production.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) accused the previous administration of dilatoriness in dealing with the request of the South Australian Government. An examination of the facts does not bear out that charge. When the request for assistance to South Australia came to hand the royal commission was set up. It submitted its report on the 29th March last. There was no opportunity of dealing with its recommenda- l)r. Earle Page. lions until the 1929-30 budget proposals were under consideration when it was dealt with. Manifestly, nothing could be done in the concluding quarter of the financial year in the way of making a big grant to South Australia. The previous Government dealt with the matter at the earliest possible moment. It was glad to do so, because the people of South Australia had made honest and courageous efforts to meet the situation before it applied to the Commonwealth. The royal commission was enormously impressed by the spirit shown in facing its difficulties. When Tasmania made an application for assistance some years ago the request was granted upon that Static showing its readiness to bring its taxation burden into line with the mainland States. But South Australia had already imposed very heavy taxation upon her people in an heroic attempt to balance her accounts. That State increased its taxation by over £1,000,000 in one year, the actual increase in direct taxation being almost £2 per head.
– I have no doubt that, had a Labour Treasurer been responsible for that, he would have been criticized as much as I was respecting my regime in Queensland.
– Had the honorable member, when Treasurer of Queensland, approached the Commonwealth Government for assistance, I should have been much impressed if he had shown me that he had levied additional taxation to assist that State to recover from an almost hopeless condition. Before South Australia approached the Commonwealth at all, it made- a definite effort to assist itself. Its taxation was increased to the point of becoming the second highest in the Commonwealth. If municipal taxation is excluded, it became the highest taxed State in Australia. In 1927-28, the taxation per head, excluding municipal taxation, was, in South Australia £6 8s. 9d., and in Queensland £5 19s. 2d. The average for Australia was £4 19s. lOd. Including municipal taxation, the amounts of taxation per head respectively were- £7 17s. 9d., £8 14s. 7d., and £7 5s. lid. The percentage to total production was - South Australia, 6.77 ; Queensland, 7.40; and Australia, 5.93. It is’ beyond all doubt that a grant of £360,000 for this year, roughly equal to 13s. 4d. per head, will give substantial relief to South Australia. It is of no use simply to grant this money and to allow the matter to stand there. “We must seek for permanent relief. I agree Avith the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that the general policy of the late Government was directed to such permanent relief by elimination of duplication in arbitration, the amendment of the Navigation Act, the imposition of a scientific tariff, and the settlement of the coal dispute. Our efforts were directed at the root causes of the difficulties not only of South Australia, but also of the other States and the Commonwealth. Attempts were made, as well, to bring to an end the coal deadlock, so as to provide cheaper coal for New South Wales and interstate use. That would have been a material contribution to the financial rectification of South Australia. On examining the position of that State, we find an obvious cause for its financial position, and that is the enormous increase in the debt service charge on taxation, due mainly to losses ou railways and other developmental works. In 1922-23 there was a debt service charge to be met by taxation of £695,922. In 1927-2S that charge had increased to £2,051,647, practically three times as much as in 1922-23. This enormous increase has undoubtedly been the main cause in embarrassing the financial position of South Australia. There has also been, at the same time, an enormous increase in the debt per head, [n 1907 it was £73 6s., and in 1928 £159 12s. 5d. During the last nine years the debt per head has increased by 95 per cent., while the increase in population has been only 23 per cent. The AuditorGeneral commented on the fact that this huge increase of debt had not been accompanied by an increase in works that were immediately reproductive in character. This has resulted in continuous deficits for the past thirteen years. The report of the Auditor-General shows that for the last thirteen years South Australia has had deficits, which have cumulatively helped to bring it “to its present position. It seems to me that there are four causes that have had a definite effect upon the finances of
South Australia, and that might, to some degree, be remedied to give permanent relief. The first cause is the River Murray agreement, towards which South Australia contributes one-fourth of the cost. It has been pointed out that South Australia entered into that agreement with its eyes open, but we must not forget that its natural resources are not so great as those of New South Wales or Victoria, nor is its population, over which to distribute the burden of debt until there are definite returns from the work, so great. As a result South Australia is feeling this huge liability very much indeed. It has been suggested that there should be a conference of the three States concerned and the Commonwealth to discuss whether South Australia should have some discriminatory concession made to it. If a conference were held, along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) to deal with the railway problem, that would present a favorable opportunity to raise the question whether there should be some modification of the Murray Waters Agreement in order to give some permanent relief by way of discriminating concessions to South Australia.
– Would not the other States be entitled to attend the conference?
– That would be a matter for them to decide. If New South Wales and Victoria do not agree between themselves to give South Australia a certain measure of direct relief in that way, they will certainly contribute to that relief in another way. As the biggest taxpayers in the Commonwealth, they contribute a great deal of the Commonwealth revenue, and therefore participate in that degree in the grant to South Australia. By giving direct relief to South Australia we may obviate the granting of a subsidy by the Commonwealth. The second cause of South Australia’s distress is the loss on soldier settlement. Mr. Justice Pike’s report on that subject has now been received, and one of his recommendations is that a concession of something like £40,000 a year should be made toSouth Australia. If that were made, it would undoubtedly improve that State’s financial position by giving it some permanent relief. I understand that the Commonwealth Government intends to adopt that report and to make that concession to South Australia. The third cause is said to be the Main Roads Agreement. New South Wales and Victoria and, I think, Western Australia and Queensland have built, under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, various roads which would have been constructed in the ordinary course of events in their ordinary programmes. Those four States have found themselves able to bring inside the ambit of their ordinary road scheme portion of the Federal Aid Roads programme, with the result that their actual road work has, to that degree, been assisted by federal action, lt seems to me that it should be possible for South Australia to follow that example so as to relieve its road liabilities, but if that is found impossible, it could be assisted in some other way. The conduct of the Federal Aid Roads Board and the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the position of Tasmania shows clearly that there is no difficulty in securing a slight modification of the disposition of the moneys advanced under the Main Roads Agreement by mutual arrangement in conference with all the States. If similar action were taken in the case of South Australia, its position could be thereby relieved. The three causes of financial stress that I have dealt with are small indeed compared with the position of the South Australian railways. That is the real difficulty. In 1913-14 the railway expenses amounted to £1,587,223, and in 1927-28 to £3,542,532; an increase of 118 per cent. During the first twelve or thirteen years of federation there was a profit each year on the railways, totalling altogether £2,300,000. During the next eight years the losses, totalled £1,751,000. The other States were practically in a similar position. During the last six years, South Australia has had three small surpluses, totalling £100,000, and three large deficits, totalling £1,500,000. That State might have staggered along and perhaps righted itself, had it not been for the coup de grace given by the railway rehabilitation scheme, which was adopted by the South Australian Parliament some eight or ten years ago. That scheme was originally estimated to cost £4,500,000, but apparently the Railway Commissioner’s estimate for this work was between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000, because a private letter that he wrote at that time disclosed the fact that he considered that an extra £4,246,000 would be required over and above the original estimate. Had the South Australian Parliament known of the Commissioner’s revised estimate, the scheme might not have been agreed to. The actual sum spent on this work has been £11,000,000. There has been apparently no compensat-ing return for that expenditure. The completion of this scheme has caused an increased annua) interest burden of £526,000. Although the Railway Commissioner anticipated an annual saving of £673,500, the actual increase in working expenses, exclusive of interest, was £567,432. The only sound thing to do is to face the railway position, and in giving South Australia a grant along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland and the late Government we are benefiting the railway systems of Australia generally. It is beyond doubt that if a 4 ft. 8.£ in. gauge railway ran from Adelaide to Perth, or even to Kalgoorlie, the traffic over the line would materially increase. There would also be a considerable’ saving of time. We now have the opportunity to bring into line with most of the other States, the State of South Australia, which has- everything to gain and nothing to lose by the construction of a 4 ft. 8J in. gauge railway between Fort Augusta and Adelaide. Had South Australia, instead of carrying out its rehabilitation scheme, adopted the scheme for the unification of gauges, as suggested in 1920, by this time practically the whole of its railways could have been rehabilitated on the basis of a 4 ft. 8-J- in. gauge, at a cost of only £1,630,000 to South Australia. But it is too late now to cry over spilt milk. It is our duty to ensure that whatever money is made available to the States in the future will be used wisely. If we can prevent an unnecessary capital expenditure of some £325,000, as has been shown by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), it seems to me that this Parliament would be failing in its duty not to use every effort- to make that saving. It is a reasonable proposition, and I trust that the Government will agree to it. We should tackle the problem of railways, and also ascertain whether South Australia could not be assisted by modifying to some degree its obligations under the MainRoads Agreement and the Murray Waters Agreement by means of a conference such as he suggests.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Payment for financial assistance to South Australia.)
.- I move -
That the following proviso be added to the clause: - “Provided that before any payment is made hereunder in the year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty, a conference shall be held between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia upon the subject of the provision of a 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge railway line between Adelaide, and Port Augusta without the use of a third rail between Salisbury and Port Augusta.”
I dealt at some length with this matter yesterday, and it is not necessary to repeat what I then said. I wish, however, to bring before honorable members one or two points, the first of which is that it is competent for this Parliament to attach to this grant any condition it might think fit, because the Constitution specifically makes that provision. The inclusion of this proviso would not make the proposed payments subject to an amendment of the railway agreement. The effect would be merely to ensure the holding of a conference at some time convenient to the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia before the second year’s payment was made. The payments would continue even if the conference should prove unsuccessful. My reason for moving the amendment is that such a conference might prove very fruitful. It is proposed to make a special grant to South Australia because of various disabilities under which it issuffering. Those disabilities have been at least accentuated by heavy railway losses. The Commonwealth Government is a party to an agreement which will involve both it and the South Australian Government in heavy expendiure, and if it is carried out as it now stands the already crushing overhead burden on the railways in South Australia will be added to. The last Government placed before the South Australian Government an alternative proposal which, so far, it has not seen fit to accept. That was to provide a standard gauge line from Adelaide to Port Augusta. Under it the Commonwealth would save £250,000 and South Australia £75,000, a total of £325,000. The total cost of the third rail proposal embodied in the existing agreement would be £380,000 to the Commonwealth, and £75,000 to South Australia, £455,000 in all. To achieve substantially the same result by connecting the Bed Hill to Salisbury section to standard gauge and confining the third rail to the short section between Adelaide and Salisbury would not cost more than £130,000 at most, a saving of £325,000 to the people of Australia. The conversion of the line from Salisbury to Red Hill to a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. would remove the necessity of providing a third rail from Red Hill to a point opposite Port Pirie at the expense of the State.
– What is the estimated cost of the work that the honorable member suggests should be carried out?
– The cost of building the line from Red Hill to Port Augusta would be in the neighbourhood of £735,000 ; but that does not enter into the question, for the simple reason that that cost would be the same whether the existing agreement or the proposal advanced by the late Government was carried out. The only difference is that if the third rail proposal embodied in the agreement were modified as I suggest, a saving of £325,000 undoubtedly would be made. In those circumstances honorable members surely will regard it as fitting that this bill should contain a provision requiring a conference to be held to see if a mutually satisfactory alternative can be found, thus avoiding unnecessary expenditure on the third rail proposal, and the further accentuation of the existing difficulties in South Australia, which are largely the result of heavy overhead railway charges. I urge the Treasurer to regard the amendment as innocuous, and to accept it. If he will not do so, I appeal to him to at least give me an assurance that a conference on this matter will be convened. I believe that much good would come from it.
– I am unable to accept the amendment. I cannot see that anything would be accomplished by inserting it in the bill. The object of the honorable member apparently is to obtain from this committee an expression of opinion in favour of his proposal, the acceptance of which would give moral support to the Government if it were inclined to adopt his views. Perhaps in my second-reading speech I did not state as explicity as T might have done that the Government does not desire to attach any condition to this grant in either this year or the next two succeeding years. We have carefully considered the report of the royal commission and the various representations that have been made to if. by the South Australian Government, as well as the correspondence that has been exchanged between that Government and the Commonwealth Government with respect to the grant. As a result we have decided to make available this year as much as we can afford - £360,000 - and to spread the balance of £640,000 over the next two years, without making any condition regarding the manner in which the money shall be utilized, and without using the grant to extort from South Australia its consent to an agreement that might be distasteful to it. We do not deny that it is within the power of the Commonwealth Government to attach a condition to a special grant to any State; but we consider that it would be entirely wrong to use the financial stress of a State to coerce it into agreeing to something, which might be in the nature of an interference with its domestic policy; though, in come circumstances, there might be justification for attaching coercive conditions. The cases made out for both South Australia and Tasmania however, demand a settlement upon their respective merits, without any attempt to take advantage of their necessities to enforce upon thom a policy to which they are opposed. That does not mean that what the honorable member has been contending for in relation to the Adelaide to Port Augusta railway, which has the support of quite a number of honorable members of this committee, should not hi1 the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and South Australia. My predilections lie strongly in the direction of a 4ft. 8^ in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Adelaide. I was a member of different conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers that were held from 1920 until about 1923, at which the question of a uniform gauge was frequently the subject of discussion and consultation. I think it will be conceded by those who attended those conferences that I supported every scheme for the adoption by the various States of the uniform gauge idea. It was largely because I supported the proposal in 1920 and 1921 that an agreement was ultimately made between Queensland, New South Wales and the Commonwealth to construct the first portion between Grafton and South Brisbane. I offered no resistance to that, because I considered that it would be a good thing to give effect to the first part of the recommendation of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the question of a uniform gauge. Under the agreement “each State concerned and the Commonwealth have certain obligations: For some reason a considerable amount of resistance was offered by South Australia. While Sir Henry Barwell was Premier the resistance of his Government was greater than that of any other State or any other authority in Australia. I believe that a forceful case can be made out for the construction of a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge line from Adelaide to Port Augusta. That, in my opinion, would be better than the proposal embodied in the agreement between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government, known as the Bruce-Gunn agreement. But surely we can discuss that matter with the South Australian authorities without attempting to exert, pressure upon them under this measure!
– Will the honorable gentleman undertake to raise the matter at an early date?
– I should not be surprised if it is raised before the end of this year. It is likely that the Prime Minister will call a conference of Premiers to consider the Federal Aid Roads Fund, and the agreement relating to it.
Such a conference would provide an opportunity for the discussion of this question with the South Australian authorities. Whether it will occur between now and the end of the year I cannot, of course, say; but I give the assurance that the question of having some definite agreement relating to a standard gauge railway between Adelaide and Port. Augusta will be discussed with the South - Australian Government with a view to arriving at an agreement satisfactory to both parties.
– On the assurance of i lie Treasurer that that conference will bc called, I am prepared to withdraw thu amendment.
– I do not say that a conference will be convened, but the matter will be the subject of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Governments.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- In view of what has been said by the Treasurer, in regard to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), it does not appear to me that any particular advantage is to be gained by pressing the matter. The Treasurer has said that the Government is prepared to take up and discuss with the Government of South Australia at as early an opportunity as can reasonably be found, the subject of unification of railway gauges as it affects South Australia. The report of the commission on South Australian disabilities has itself directed attention to certain difficulties which exist in South Australia owing to the fact that several breaks in railway gauge occur in that State, and it appeared to the last Government that the occasion of making a grant to South Australia might very reasonably be used as an opportunity for discussing the matter of railway gauges. In view of the assurance which has been given by the Treasurer on behalf of the Government, I suggest to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that the object which he desired to achieve by his amendment has, in effect, been attained.
.- Although the Treasurer has not seen fit to accept my amendment, I feel that my purpose has been served in that he has recognized the desirability of going further with the matter I suggested, and has undertaken to conduct negotiations with South Australia as soon as possible with that object in view. Therefore, T ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 203) on motion by Mr. Theodore -
That the bill lie now read, a second time.
.- The presentation of this measure and its passage through Parliament, will mark the final stage of one of the most important acts passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, because it constitutes the first practical step towards bringing about the unification of railway gauges in Australia. It is very interesting to me, looking round this chamber, to recall the allnight sitting during which the bill authorizing the construction of this railway was put through the House. I notice that there are now on the front Government benches four supporters of that measure sitting side - by side with four of its former opponents, but I am glad to see all are united in support of the present bill. I wish to congratulate them on at last seeing the light, and upon having put unification of railway gauges in the. policy of their party. I also wish to express my pleasure that Victoria, which in 1923 was strongly opposed to the general carrying out of a unification policy, is now just as strongly in favour of it. The importance to the national economy of the unification of railway gauges in Australia cannot, in my opinion, be overestimated. At this time, when it is so common a practice to utter jeremiads to the effect that particular public works will not pay, it is worth while to point out that this one will prove a payable proposition from the very start. For many years the unification of railway gauges in Australia was the subject of general discussion. The matter was finally brought down to earth at a conference of Premiers in 1920, when it was agreed that one-fifth of the cost was to be borne by the Commonwealth, and four-fifths by the States on a per capita basis. Nothing was done, however, in the way of determining what actual work was to be put in hand, until 1924, when the Bruce-Page Government brought forward the proposal to build a railway from Grafton to South Brisbane. The completion of this section will effect an immense saving in carrying on interstate trade and commerce, and will assist in the internal development of the States. The unification of railway gauges between the capitals will remove interstate barriers in. a way never before attempted, and- will enable Australian producers to compete more successfully with their overseas rivals. It will also aid materially in the development and progress of the inland towns of Australia. The value of the unification of railway gauges has been stressed by the experience of the last few years, especially in connexion with the severe droughts that have prevailed in a number of States. When Queensland was in the throes of a drought it was found impossible to transport fodder quickly and economically from Victoria owing to the two breaks of railway gauge - one at Albury, and the other at Wallangarra. It is interesting to note that this first step in the policy of unification is not merely a pulling up of old rails to be laid down in another place, but is actually the construction of a new developmental line, opening up new country. The area through which this line goes is perhaps the most fertile in Australia, with a plentiful rainfall, good natural waterways, and high productive capacity. In the past, however, it has been so isolated, and so distant by the existing means of communication from its exporting centres, that development has been retarded. Kyogle is only 70 miles from Brisbane, which will now be an export port; whereas prior to the con- struction of this line, its produce had to be railed 500 miles to Sydney for export.
– Is Kyogle in the honorable member’s electorate?
– No ; it is in the electorate of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). Not only will this railway, when completed, open np very valuable country in Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales, which has too long been denied opportunities for development, but it will prove a very valuable factor in building up tourist .traffic through this most fertile and picturesque northern river district. I believe that this area is destined to become a Mecca for tourists, not only from other parts of Australia, but from overseas as well. With a proper organization for advertising its attractions, there is no reason why we should not bring a large amount of tourist revenue from overseas, and sell the scenery along this line in the manner adopted by other countries, to their immense benefit. The effect of the completion of this undertaking upon our national economy will also be important. Not only will it cut 100 miles off the journey between Sydney and Brisbane, but it will provide a route at no point higher than 800 feet above sea level in place of the present one, which climbs at one point to a height of 4,500 feet. This will make for cheaper haulage, and will save seven hours in the journey between the two capitals. It will also make possible the carriage of tropical fruit, such as bananas, paw paws, strawberries, pineapples, mangoes, and custard apples from Queensland to southern markets in a condition fit for human consumption; those fruits, now a luxury in southern cities, will be brought within the reach of every one. Other food items will also be cheapened. For instance, Queensland is now the chief cattle-producing State of the Commonwealth. There are in the State 7,000,000 cattle, there being 14,000,000 in the whole of Australia. The completion of this line will enable beef from the north to be brought to southern markets without transhipment and in much shorter time. I am pleased to observe that preparation has already been made for this anticipated development by the construction of suitable abattoirs in Brisbane itself. The completion of this line will give the lie to the dismal prophecies made in the past by the opponents of railway unification. What is happening in connexion with this section I am satisfied will also happen when unification is extended to other parts of the Commonwealth.
While on this matter, I wish to deal with certain financial aspects of the proposal, which are misunderstood, and which have often been misrepresented in the past. When the original bill was before Parliament the arguments based on these financial arrangements were used in an effort to prevent the passage of the measure. As honorable members are aware, certain States not directly interested in the construction of this line from Grafton to South Brisbane refused to participate in the undertaking. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth went on with the work in conjunction with Queensland and New South Wales, taking upon itself the whole of the liability which the other States would have assumed had they come in as full partners. This was done on the understanding that if at some subsequent time those non-participating States desired the unification of their own railway systems, they should undertake that share of the cost of the Grafton to South Brisbane scheme which had been assumed by the Commonwealth on their behalf. The Commonwealth Government endeavoured to protect the nonparticipating States by insisting that the money available after the payment of working expenses should be utilized in the following way: First, for the payment of interest on the liability attaching to the States not directly interested in the line; secondly, for the payment of interest on the expenditure incurred by the States of New South Wales and Queensland as constructing and operating authorities; thirdly, for the payment of interest on the Commonwealth contribution of one-fifth; and, finally, any balance of profits remaining was to be divided by mutual agreement between the States of New South Wales and Queensland. To the 30th June, 1929, the total expenditure on the line was £3,845,815, of which the Commonwealth provided £2,157,288, representing its own one- fifth, or about £769,000, and approximately £1,380,000 paid on behalf of the non-participating States; New South Wales provided £1,28S,639; and Queensland £459,888. The last-named State has benefited materially because the work has been undertaken on a national scale as South Australia would have benefited if it had unified its railways instead of rehabilitating them on a 5 ft. 3 in. basis, and Queensland will indirectly gain further through the improved facilities for marketing its products in the south. I do not believe that any portion of the Commonwealth will suffer any disadvantage from this undertaking, because, from the day it is completed, it will pay its own way. In fact, when the first portion was being constructed along the north coast of New South Wales, the further it progressed the more profitable it became, and at the present time, even with the breaks of gauge at Tweed Heads and the Clarence River, it is profitable. When it is complete it will connect two great centres of population - at one end Sydney with 1,250,000 people, and at the other end Brisbane with 300,000 people - whilst along the route of the line about 450,000 people are settled. The area through which the railway will pass is the most densely settled in Australia, and probably the most fertile and productive, and its attractions for tourists are second to none in the Commonwealth. I have not the slightest doubt that the line will pay interest, not merely on the debt incurred on behalf of the non-participating States, but also on the amounts provided by the Commonwealth and the two constructing authorities. The Commonwealth sought to safeguard the States which were not immediately concerned by insisting that the construction should be by contract, and when the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland desired that their Railways Commissioners should have an opportunity to carry out the work, we insisted that their sealed estimates should be regarded as firm tenders, plus an allowance of about £25,500 for engineering supervision. As a result of that condition the Queensland Government is said to have sustained certain losses, because the work was not carried out at the cost originally estimated ; but the price tendered was a firm contract, and the constructing authority is not entitled to any reimbursement by the Commonwealth any more than an outside contractor would be. The need for the additional amounts for which this hill provides arises from a provision in the contract for increasing or decreasing the price paid to the constructing authorities according to the quantities of material to be shifted, or in accordance with the variation of industrial conditions in either State. The last Commonwealth Government, however, questioned certain items claimed by the Government of New South Wales, and asked the Attorney-General’s Department for a legal opinion as tq the Commonwealth’s liability. I refer to amounts charged in respect of the increased freights for the carriage of construction material, and a further sum of £20,000 in respect of the closing down of the works on account of the shortage of money in 1927-28. The Commonwealth Government contended that the Government of New South Wales was directly responsible for the increase of freight, but the State authorities were able to maintain successfully that that increase was the result of general industrial conditions. We contended, also, that no claim should have been made on account of the Commonwealth Treasurer not finding all the money required in 1927-28, because the constructing authorities were told early in the year the exact amount of money that would be available to them, and although they said that they were obliged to slow down the work through insufficiency of funds, they had £100,000 in hand at the end of the year. However, these claims are minor items in a total cost of £4,350,000, and as the Commonwealth’s objections could not be legally sustained, I do not press my criticism further. In conclusion, I express .my pleasure at the fact that this work is almost complete and that it represents a first instalment of the greater project for unifying the railway gauges throughout Australia. From the outset this line will be a profitable undertaking, offsetting the tales of disaster and woe that are related of so many of our public works.
– Whilst I am not a supporter of the complete unification of railway gauges throughout Australia, I realize that the uniform section from Grafton to South Brisbane will.be of advantage to every section of the community, and that the expenditure involved will be warranted by the results.
– So would* the other unification schemes.
– Possibly. ; if so, it rests with the governments of the other States to make an arrangement with the Commonwealth similar to that, made by the Governments of Queensland and’ New South Wales.
– 1 am under the impression that the honorable member criticized the Government of Queensland because of that arrangement.
– No; but many of us in the Queensland Parliament were concerned lest the construction of the second section by day labour under Queensland Government contract should prove more costly than the railway commissioner had estimated. We feared that if contracts carried out on the day labour system, upon which the State Government insisted cost more than their tender, then some of the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the cost of the line would be lost, to Queensland. However, the undertaking has not turned out badly, the increased expenditure being due mainly to works that were not included in the original estimate.
– What was responsible for the increased costs in Queensland ?
– Partly the increased earth works, and partly the day labour system in the construction of the first section. The second section was built by the Queensland Government as contractors with special arrangements to pass on certain increased cost. Of the original estimated cost of £4,000,000. about £2,000,000 was to he expended within the State of Queensland, which had only to find £468,613. As 1,100 men would be employed in Queensland, the State was not only to receive a considerable direct advantage from the expenditure, but would also benefit later by being able to land its products in the Sydney market more quickly, more cheaply, and in better condition. That is particularly true of. cattle and perishable fruits, such as paw paws, custard apples, and other luxurious tropical products of the northern State. Whilst we believe that, in some respects, Queensland was receiving the major share of the benefits, we also felt that the railway was a great national undertaking and would be of advantage to the whole of the Commonwealth. This bill for the appropriation of a further sum of £350,000 is vastly different from that proposing a grant in aid of the State of South Australia. So far the people of Queensland have been able to fight their own battles, and the fertility and productive capacity of the State are such that T hope it will never have to ask the Commonwealth to assist it out of financial difficulties. This expenditure is incurred for national reasons and was proposed by the Commonwealth to the State; the advantages arising from it will be shared by all the people of Australia. If it be financially practicable to unify the gauges of the railways connecting the other capital cities, that work should be put in hand, but a general unification of railway gauges throughout Australia, or even throughout Queensland is beyond our capacity for some years. The section of railway from Grafton to South Brisbane will not only improve the transport facilities and develop an improved market for the perishable products of the north, but will also open up further land for settlement. Therefore, the expenditure involved is thoroughly justified.
.- I regret the necessity for the introduction of this bill. In 1924 it was estimated that £3,500,000 was required to enable the standard gauge from Brisbane to South Grafton line to be built. In 1926, a request was made for a further sum of £500,000, and of that Parliament approved. Now we have another application for £350,000. I hope that this is the last occasion on which we shall be asked to make further grants to make possible the completion of this important railway, which represents the first step towards the unification of the gauges of the railways connecting Brisbane with Perth.
– I think that I explained on the second reading of the bill that £350,000 will probably not cover the total cost of the work; but another bill of this nature will not have to be brought down, because if any additional expenditure is necessary it can be included in the ordinary annua] loan appropriation.
– It is gratifying to know that this will be the last application to Parliament for further funds for the construction of the line. In 1920, the royal commission on the unification of railway gauges recommended the conversion of the lines between Brisbane and Perth to the 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge, and I regret to find that, even in the present debate, representatives of South Australia have attempted to defend the action of that State in constructing new railways on the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge. It is pointed out that the bill is made necessary because of the increase in wages provided for in the contracts between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, because of the increased cost of constructing the permanent way, and because the council entrusted with the building of the line found it necessary to close down the works for a period owing to the shortage of money. Another reason given for the additional cost of the. work is the high cost of land resumption in Queensland and New South Wales, and the extra cost of services and materials in both those States. Further, it is stated that the line passes through broken country, and, with the heavy rainfall, and the danger of land slides, additional bridges have been required, and certain unforeseen concrete works have had to be carried out. I hope that this work will be so solidly constructed that there will not be a repetition of the request for further funds. The Treasurer explained that provision had been made for additional watering places and trucking facilities. I remind him now of an application that I have been continually making for the provision of trucking yards at or near Bromelton, in the Beaudesert district, one of the largest cattle raising areas in southern Queensland.
– What answer did the honorable member receive from the late Minister for Works and Railways on that subject?
– The reply was that the matter was receiving consideration. The answer is a stereotyped one, but I trust that the present Treasurer, although he has now left Queensland, will fully recognize the claims of that State, and make it a condition on which the extra grant is made that adequate trucking facilities will be provided near Bromelton which is centrally situated to serve the Boonah and Beaudesert districts and surrounding districts and the important districts further afield within droving distance. He knows well that the district to be served by the line comprises some of the best country in southern Queensland, and I hope that for a long time it will be able to supply the markets of Brisbane and Sydney with first class cattle. I was privileged to accompany the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), on the occasion of the turning of the first sod in connexion with the construction of the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane. That was towards the end of 1927, and at that time the Lang Government promised that, undoubtedly, the railway would be opened for traffic in March of this year. We are now approaching the end of the year, and still there is no prospect of it being opened in 1929. Queensland has pressed ahead with the scheme vigorously, and today the whole of the earth works and bridges in that State have been completed. Every week-end excursions are run to the border of New South Wales on this route, and if the Government will expedite the construction of the tunnel and the bridge across the Clarence river, there should be no difficulty in using this railway at an early date, as a standard gauge line between Brisbane and Sydney.
– Who is responsible for the construction of the bridge over the Clarence river?
– The New South Wales authorities. I hope that the money expended on this line will not remain unused until the completion of the bridge across the Clarence. I hope the work will be pushed on as far as South Grafton, and as soon as it is completed that arrangements will he made to run trains as far as South Grafton as early as possible so as to ensure some return for the money expended on the line. Every effort should be made to have the railway made available for passenger and goods traffic at the earliest possible date. I desire the Treasurer to let me know what sums are to be paid out of the new advance to Queensland and New South Wales respectively for the work being done in those States. The districts to be served by the lines, both in New South Wales and Queensland, are among the richest in Australia. In Queensland, this railway should stimulate interstate trade and commerce, because the portion of southern Queensland that it will serve, has a remarkably good rainfall and fertile soils. Some of the best land in the Commonwealth will be made available for closer settlement by the construction of this railway, although today it is practically isolated from markets. The line will provide an outlet from Queensland, not only for cattle, but also for soft fruits, such as bananas, paw paws, strawberries and custard apples. By eliminating the present break of gauge, it will provide quick transport from Brisbane to Sydney, where produce from the north will arrive in a fresher condition than is possible under the present railway arrangements. The saving in the time of transit will be T hours, and the reduction in the freight charges should be considerable. Since the first step has been taken in the direction of the unification of the railway gauges between Brisbane and Fremantle as recommended by the Royal Commission on Uniform Gauges in 1921. I hope that the present Government will follow the good example of the late administration, and see that provision is made between Adelaide and Port Augusta, and between Kalgoorlie and Perth, for standard gauge lines. It is most unfortunate that our transcontinental railway from Port Augusta to- Kalgoorlie cannot be utilized to the full, because of the present breaks of gauge. The Commonwealth Government should lose no time in doing all in its power to induce the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia to push ahead with that work.
It is most gratifying to me to know that the scheme launched by the late Government is now nearing completion, and I hope that the line will be opened for traffic at an early date.
– We have heard many speeches from members for Queensland and New South Wales on this bill, and I hope that it will not be regarded as an intrusion for a mere Victorian to discuss it. Queensland and New South Wales are to receive grants from the Commonwealth amounting to about £870,000, or about one-fifth of the total cost of the work.
– They are not grants.
– At any rate, the Commonwealth is paying the money. Much time was spent to-day and yesterday, mostly by honorable members from South Australia, in the discussion of a bill for the granting to that State of £1,000,000, and measures were recently passed authorizing special grants to Tasmania and Western Australia, so it seems that the States of Australia, with the exception of Victoria, are to receive large sums from the Commonwealth. It is rather remarkable that honorable members from Victoria, who are usually most backward in their demands, have not made a request for a special grant to that State. That is my only reason for speaking on this occasion. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has informed us that there is much fine scenery in his electorate, and that the construction of the line will attract tourists to the north coast district of New South Wales. I heard from the last speaker that good cattle, rolling prairies and succulent grass are to be found in his district, which is to be served by the line. I venture to say that, as requests are being made for grants for other parts of the Commonwealth, I had better put in a word for my own constituency. Corangamite has some of the finest scenery in the world, and it is as well that honorable members should know it. Perhaps they have never visited Apollo Bay, Lorne or Port Campbell. These districts are most beautiful, and they all need railways. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr.
Earle Page) said that this railway would attract people from all parts of Australia to see something of northern New South Wales. I suggest that a railway should be built to serve the coastal district that I have mentioned, for its beauties are such that they would attract people from all parts of the world. Mention has been made of cattle. Any one who knows anything of the western district of Victoria knows that the best cattle in the world are raised there. It appears to me that the honorable members who have represented Victorian constituencies in this Parliament in the past have been far too modest in their demands. I, therefore, describe the beauties of the district which I represent with the object of perhaps pressing a claim later for railway facilities. Victoria might even go so far as to urge that a railway should be built direct from Albury to Canberra with the object of serving the southern States. However, I shall not press that at the moment.
– Will the honorable member say a good word forFawkner?
– I live inFawkner, and know that it has a good representative in this Parliament. That constituency already possesses between 8 and 10 railway stations. I intended to move an amendment that the Treasurer should confer with the Premier of Victoria with the object of making a grant for railway purposes in Corangamite,. but I see that he is nodding in what seems to me to be approval, so I shall not actually move in the direction I have indicated.
.- The broad national aspect of this subject was fully debated when the bill for the first appropriation for the building of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line was introduced. I am afraid that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat is not very well informed on the subject, but due allowance must be made for the fact that he has been absent from this House for many years. Victoria was not a party to the agreement to construct the line under notice. This is an appropriate opportunity for me to observe that this work really marks the beginning of the unification of the railway gauges of Australia.
L have no desire to criticize adversely any part of my native land, and no doubt Corangamite is an attractive district; but it. is not part of the duty of this Parliament to build railways in particular constituencies to serve parochial or tourist ends. The attitude adopted by the honorable member for Corangamite is typical of the limited outlook of some honorable members of this chamber. Victoria, and to some extent South Australia, has consistently opposed all proposals for the unification of our railway gauges, and in doing so has adopted a short-sighted policy which is to be deplored. Possibly when Western Australia lias sufficient money, if ever, she will build a 4 ft. 8$ in. gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Perth or Fremantle, and so bring one step nearer the completion of a standard gauge railway from Sydney to Perth, through Hay and Port Augusta.
Australia has been rightly termed by some of our military advisers, “ a continent of islands.” Our means of internal transport are extraordinarily disorganized. Travelling from Brisbane to Perth, one is obliged to change trains at Wallangarra, Sydney, Albury, Melbourne, Adelaide, Terowie, Port Augusta, and Kalgoorlie. If ever our railways are required for defence purposes, this will be a calamity. The sooner we have a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge direct from east to west, the better it will he. I hope that we shall hear no more speeches of the kind delivered to-night by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch).
Seeing that a bill has been passed by this House to-day to make available to South Australia the first instalment of a grant of £1,000,000, that Western Australia and Tasmania have previously received grants from this Parliament, and that, in due course, Queensland may also be an applicant for assistance, it is high time for those States to do a little to help the remaining two States.
Kyogle, which will be one of the termini of this railway, is in my electorate, and when the Treasurer introduced this bill last week, I endeavoured to obtain some information from him with respect to the compensation that will be paid in connexion with that line. The honorable gentleman was obviously unprepared to deliver the speech to which we listened. All he did was to read the report on the subject prepared by his departmental officers. Consequently, I cannot congratulate him on the amount of information he supplied to honorable members. Seeing that this is the first railway in the building of which the Commonwealth has participated as a partner with the States, it is essential that we should have the fullest information about it. What is being done on this occasion may be used as a precedent for the future. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the Treasurer was not able to give us more specific information. The subject of compensation was not mentioned by him, although he said something about larger quantities, having to be taken out than those specified in the contract, in consequence of floods occurring during the progress of the work. I believe that an amount for compensation is included in this proposed vote; but it may surprise honorable members to learn that many of the persons whose land in and around Kyogle was resumed for the purpose of the railway have been refused compensation on the ground that the advantages they will reap through the building of the line will more than outweigh the disadvantages that they will suffer through losing some of their property. The gentleman upon whose report this decision was reached is named Hunt, who, in addition to being the New South Wales Government railways’ estate agent, is also in charge of the railway refreshment rooms. It may be true that some persons will benefit considerably by . the building of the line; but others will suffer severe hardships. I have in mind the case of a dairy-farmer who had 17 acres of a farm of 59 acres taken from him. In other words, nearly one-third of his holding was resumed for the purpose of the railway. His land was worth about £60 or £70 per acre. Possibly 59 acres was a fair holding for the district; but. 42 acres is altogether too small to ensure an adequate return. This man had his property reduced in value by approximately £1,000, and was not given Id. in compensation. That is an extreme case; but I know that other persons have lost between 10 and 15 acres of their farms without receiving any compensation for it.
– Why did not the settlers take their case to court?
– I believe that there was some legal difficulty in the way. That alternative was discussed by the association formed to look after the interests of the settlers. I understand that counsel’s opinion was obtained, but that the legal costs and the fear of an adverse verdict deterred the settlers from taking action. That may be only temporarily. In many cases 8 or 10 acres of land have been arbitrarily resumed, and no compensation paid, the reason given by the agent of the New South Wales Railway Department being that the value of the remaining property would be enhanced . by the construction of the line. At present the terminus of the railway is at Kyogle. The settlers who are situated within a short distance of that town do not benefit in any way, because there is no railway station or siding close to them. The first station out is 12 miles from Kyogle. In actual fact, the value of the land of these settlers has been decreased, not only by the construction of the railway through their properties, but also by the general lowering of the values of the adjoining properties. As to the question of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan), the settlers will be faced with further expense if it is decided to contest in the courts the arbitrary resumption of these lands. This is the first railway that the Commonwealth has built in any of the States, and any precedent set up in this case may be followed in the future. It is, therefore, just as well to settle this controversy once and for all. Another factor that may interfere with the traffic on this line is the Queensland Government’s habit of discriminating in railway freights. Take, for example, the carriage of flour. New South Wales flour carried over the Queensland railways has to bear three times the freight charged on Queensland flour. That, I consider, is distinctly unconstitutional. I sincerely hope that our representative and the New South Wales representative on the Railway Council will make sure that when this line is opened there will be no discrimination in freights as between State and State. I had occasion previously to draw attention to this prac tice. When the Treasurer wasPremier of Queensland I drew his attention to the discrimination which was taking place at that time in respect of the carriage of timber on the Queensland railways, and it is to be hoped that when this line crosses the border into Queensland the pernicious system of discriminating against the goods of other States will not be adopted. This railway, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) should have been opened in March last. There has been unnecessary delay in its construction, not only on the part of the Railway Council in overcoming certain difficulties of tunnelling at Grady’s Gap, but also on the part of the New South Wales Government in building the bridge across the River Clarence. That work was to have started during the régime of the Lang Government. Tenders were called, and at the time of the turning of the first sod at Kyogle, the then Minister for Railways in New South Wales, said that he was pleased that for the building of the bridge a tender lower than the departmental estimate had been received from an Australian firm. So far asI remember the cost of the bridge was £300,000. Yet what happened? I find that that tender was. not accepted. The New South Wales Government decided to carry out the work departmentally, despite the fact that the tender from an outside firm was considerably lower than the departmental estimate. The New South Wales Government shelved the building of that line for over twelve months. The sooner the bridge is completed to permit of traffic from South Brisbane to Sydney, the sooner the line will pay. The main delay in its construction was caused by the refusal of the Lang Government to go on with the work. For a considerable time it haggled the point whether the Commonwealth or States should build the line. I am glad to say that the Commonwealth did not fall into the trap set by the Lang Government, and New South Wales eventually set about the building of the bridge. I suggest that immediate steps be taken by the Railway Council to have the bridge completed as soon as possible for the convenience, not only of the Commonwealth, but of the two States concerned. It is the opinion of the railway commissioners that so soon as this line is open for through traffic it will be a paying proposition. It is expected to carry more traffic than any other line in New South Wales with the exception of the main line from Sydney to Melbourne. I regret that it has been necessary to provide an additional sum of £350,000 for the completion of this work, but I am glad to know that the Commonwealth Government, having set its hand to the plough, is prepared to finish the furrow.
– There are one or two points raised by honorable members to which I wish to reply. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) wishes to know the allocation of the additional amount as between the two States. From the information before me, which is based upon the revised Estimates of the Railway Council, which is controlling this work, it- appears that about £290,000 of the additional amount asked for will be needed to meet the increased requirements of New South Wales, and about £60,000 for the requirements of Queensland.
– Can the Treasurer give the details of the expenditure?
– Yes. In connexion with the standardization of the railway from North Grafton to Kyogle the increased estimate will absorb £143,000. That is the increase in the the revised estimate over and above the original estimate. That section of the line from Kyogle to the Queensland border will absorb £103,000. Rails, materials and other works in Queensland will absorb £60,000 and rails, materials and other works in New South Wales will absorb £44,000. That is how the revised estimate is split up.
– Evidently the original estimate was a rough calculation.
– When introducing the second reading of the bill, I stated that information received from the Railway Council seemed to indicate that the quantities of material involved in the construction of the line were arrived at approximately. As payments to contractors are made on a quantity basis according to measurements, &c, the payments would increase or decrease if the quantities were found to be more or less than originally estimated. The quantities are ascertained only as the earth-works, cuttings, and formations are completed. I take it that from the nature of the contract entered into, there was no actual necessity for the exercise of precision in arriving at the quantities, because whatever they were they would be paid for. Had a contract been let involving a specific sum for the completion of the work, it would have been much more important for the calculations to he precise, but because of the nature of this con: tract that element did not enter into it. There is, therefore, no need to cavil al the fact that the quantities have been found to be a little more than originally estimated. The royal commission on the uniform gauge, when it made its report in 1921 estimated that the cost of construction of this section would be £2,914,000, but the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales and Queensland, and the Railway Council, which is charged with the responsibility of carrying out this work, did not accept that estimate. They estimated that the work would cost at least £4,000,000. It is now found that it will cost about £4,350,000.
– The estimate of £4,000,000 was only a rough calculation.
– It was approximate. I think that on the information supplied by the Railway Council we have sufficient justification for granting the additional amount that is being asked for under this bill. That hi what this House is mainly concerned with. We are not’ really concerned with the history or the merits of the line. The House has accepted the principle of a standard gauge railway between Grafton and South Brisbane in order to complete the first section of the unification of gauges. That principle was endorsed before this bill was introduced, and this amount of £350,000 will enable the Railway Council to complete works already approved by Parliament.
– Has any amount been provided in the way of compensation for land resumption ?
– Compensation wa? mentioned as one of the causes of the increased cost of the railway. I take iv that it is covered by the item “Rails. material and other works,” on account of which the additional cost is £60,000 in the case of Queensland, and £44,000 in the case of New South Wales. I shall have further inquiries made with respect to this matter, and supply the honorable member with the information at a later date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and, by leave, passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this action to enable the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) to make a statement that he promised earlier in the day, and to give honorable members an opportunity to comment briefly upon it.
– In compliance with the promise that I made this afternoon, I now inform honorable members that a proclamation under the Customs Act has been issued requiring the consent of the Minister for Trade and Customs to be obtained before stud sheep are exported from the Commonwealth. Before he grants such consent the Minister must be satisfied that the proposed exportation will not be harmful to the best interests of Australia. No restriction will be imposed, and no action taken in the direction of placing an embargo upon ordinary shipments of sheep from Australia. I recommended the adoption of this course to my colleagues in the Cabinet only after I had given the matter very careful consideration. Since assuming office, both I and my colleagues have been greatly concerned regarding the critical position of the wool industry in Australia, and the question of exercising some control ‘over the export of stud sheep has claimed my attention during the last four weeks. My inquiries culminated yesterday in a deputation, including the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), the honorable member for Indi (Mr.
Jones), the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Cusack), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis), and other honorable members representing country constituencies on this side of the House, which waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and myself. From the representations that were then made it was clear that action would have to be taken quickly. This cannot in any way be regarded as an unfriendly action towards any country; it is taken wholly and solely in what we believe to be the best interests of Australia, and its wool growers. I am animated by the sole desire to do what I conceive to be to the advantage of our primary producers; and I have the unqualified support of other members of the Cabinet. During the last four weeks I have been inundated by correspondence from all parts of Australia, I have received numerous deputations, and I have interviewed many individuals. At least nine-tenths of the persons with whom I have been in touch have expressed themselves in favour of some control over the export of stud sheep. A small section of those who have written to me have expressed the view that action in the direction of imposing an embargo - a term that is not applicable to this action - ought to have been taken years ago, and that to take it now is tantamount to locking the stable door after the animal which the stable housed had escaped. It may be said that, whether it be due to climate, soil or any other cause, there appears to be a decided tendency in other countries towards the loss of type and weight in their wool product unless their flocks are replenished regularly by the infusion of fresh blood such as that which Australia has been supplying. It is considered highly probable that if those supplies are withdrawn Australia will revert in a few years to the position that it formerly occupied in the wool market. That seems to be the most sensible and convincing answer to the suggestion that this action is being taken too late. I have been greatly impressed by the statement of those who have travelled in countries to which we have been sending our stud sheep, that they need a regular infusion of new blood to enable them to maintain the standard to which they have raised their flocks as a result of purchases from
Australia. It is not too much to say thai the export of our best stud flocks in past years is one of the reasons why Australia is now encountering serious competition with her finest quality wools. This is certainly having a very pronounced effect upon the present wool market. In taking this action I am supported by the opinion of many wool-growers throughout Australia. It is understood by every one, of course, that the Federal Government is restricted by constitutional limitations in what it can do to bring about the very necessary stabilization of the wool market; but this is one of the things it can do. I feel convinced that the course now being adopted by the Government is the right one, and that time will prove the wisdom of our action.
.- The subject raised by the Minister’s announcement is of profound importance to Australia, not only from the point of view of the wool industry, but also from the point of view of the relations which exist, or ought to exist, between Australia and other countries. “We are all aware that opinion is divided on this matter in Australia, in part because there is division of interests. There are those whose interest it is to export stud sheep, and those who regard their interests as better conserved by the prohibition “of that export. I think all agree that the wool industry is the most important in Australia, and any action directed towards the conservation and extension of that industry on sound lines will have the general support of members of this House. If such action is not likely to antagonize any other country upon which Australia depends in relation to corresponding trade, such, for example, as the importation of stud stock, it would be difficult to raise any objection to what is proposed. South Africa, which prohibits the exportation of ostriches and ostrich eggs, can hardly object if Australia prohibits the exportation of stud sheep. I suggest, however, that other considerations may arise regarding the position of Great Britain. We in Australia import from Great Britain stud stock, and it is most important that, subject to certain restrictions occasioned by the existence of disease in parts of the British Isles, that there should be no interference with the freedom of Australia to obtain the best strains of cattle, horses and pigs, and even certain breeds of sheep from Great Britain.
The power which I understand ii is proposed to take is to be exercised by the Minister to prohibit the exportation of stud sheep in cases in which such exportation would be prejudicial to the interests of Australia. That is a very wide power, and is provided for in section 112 of the Custom* Act. Under that section the GovernorGeneral may by proclamation prohibit thi? exportation of any goods, the exportation of which would, in his opinion, be harmful to the Commonwealth. That section, as I read it, requires a proclamation to be made by the Governor-General, and apparently every shipment would have to be consider’ d. on its merits. Accordingly, it appears to me on a first view that th, form of proclamation proposed would require separate permission to be obtained in the case of each lot which it is proposed to export. That, in my opinion, is a doubtful power to repose in the hands of the Government. I suggest that what is intended might be done better by means of a description or definition of the goods to be exported. Perhaps it is not practicable to define “ stud sheep “ by reference to price or otherwise, or by reference to records in pedigree books ; but it should not be impossible to arrive at some satisfactory definition.
There are two points which might receive consideration before this proclamation is put into effect. We must recognize that it is within the power of the Government to do this thing by executive action. It is unnecessary for the Government to invite the approval of the House, although a report must be made under section 112, sub-section 3, of the act, when a proclamation is made under the paragraph to which I have referred. Without commenting further upon the information placed before the House by the Minister - which information seems rather general in terms having regard to the great importance of the subject - I suggest that consideration should he given, first, to whether it is not possible and wise, if this exportation is prohibited, to draw a distinction between countries in the Empire which have no prohibition of exports to Australia in operation, and other countries; and secondly, whether provision should not be made for the carrying out of “existing contracts. I believe that, as a general rule, in the exercise of any of the powers contained in the Customs Act, very great care is taken to see that no injustice is done to individuals who have acted under the law, and in the belief that the law would continue in operation. Without expressing a definite view on the subject, upon which I, personally, feel I need further information, and without committing the Opposition on the matter, T urge that consideration be given to the two points I have raised, namely, the countries to which the prohibition should apply, and the protection of existing contracts.
.- I wish to congratulate the Minister upon his decision to prohibit the exportation of stud sheep from Australia. One of the main factors in the decline of Australian wool values is the competition from other countries, and this competition has been materially assisted by the export of pure-bred sheep from Australia. During the last two years the price of wool per bale in Australia has fallen from about £24! to £12. In New South Wales it has been estimated by those who are competent to form an opinion that the actual cost of producing a bale of Australian wool works out on an average at £14. Therefore, the price received for wool this year is less than the cost of production. Realizing that the nation’s credit, to a great extent, depends upon securing a price for this commodity which will, at least, cover the cost of production, and return to the producer a reasonable rate of interest on his capital, honorable members must recognize the need for taking definite action, so far as the powers of the Commonwealth Government will permit, to lessen the effect of outside competition by restricting the export of stud sheep from this, country. Australia has the benefit of a climate which permits of the production of a class of wool superior to that which can be grown in any other country unless the growers there constantly replenish their studs from Aus tralia. Those familiar with the industry are fully aware of this fact. Even in Australia, sheep grazing on certain kinds of land, and under certain climatic conditions, will develop finer and softer wool of a kind in great demand for manufacturing purposes, and for which we receive prices greatly in excess of those paid for other sorts of wool. This fact was emphasized by the recent Sydney wool sales. One lot of wool produced under specially favorable climatic conditions, and on suitable soil, was sold for 34½d. per lb., while wool from other parts of the State - no doubt affected by the dry weather - realized only 13d. and 14d. per lb. I draw attention to this aspect of the matter to show the influence which climate and soil has upon the value of wool. The placing of restrictions upon the exportation of sheep has an important bearing upon the raising of the general standard of Australia’s wool clip by the improvement of our flocks. This improvement can be effected by making it easier for growers to obtain a good class of sheep. In the past, sheep men have experienced difficulty in securing stock capable of producing the class of wool which it is desirable we should raise. At the Sydney sales, local buyers have been continuously outbid by foreign competitors. The smaller growers have realized the necessity for improving the standard of their wool in respect of both density and spinning qualities, and to that end it is essential that they shall be able to secure some of the better class stud sheep. It would be to the advantage of the Australian wool industry if the whole of the ill-bred sheep that produce the harsher qualities of wool were killed off, and superior types of sheep were made available to the holders, who either cannot get them or cannot afford to pay the prices offered by exporters. The average individual farmer in the more closely settled areas may be engaged in the scientific production of wheat on 500 acres, whilst the remainder of his holding of 1,500 acres may be applied to the production of an inferior class of wool, the value of which is being depreciated by the competition of substitutes manufactured in France and other countries. If the income from wool is to continue to be an important factor in
Australia’s solvency, immediate action must be taken to counter overseas competition by the production of the softer wools and of those possessing higher spinning qualities. One means of achieving that object is the prohibition of the export of stud sheep to competing countries.
We must regard South Africa as a very serious rival in wool production, in respect of both quality and quantity, and experts declare that production of fine wool can be continued in the Union only by the introduction of Australian stud sheep. I am not one of those who take exception to the scientific investigations conducted by the Development and Migration Commission, and I hope that whatever be the fate of that body in the near future, some, at any rate,’of its functions will be carried on by some other competent authority. An investigation into the future of the wool-growing industry might give us some indication of the probable effect of South African competition. It is absolutely essential that the individual land-holder shall realize that an obligation rests upon him to improve his flocks, and probably the action which this Government has proposed will indicate to him the seriousness ©f overseas competition, and the readiness of this Parliament to assist him to acquire improved stock.
I do not regard the competition of overseas buyers as the sole reason for the violent fluctuations in wool prices, which have had a detrimental effect upon the industry. There does not appear to be any economic justification for them. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has stated that, before passing this legislation, we should consider the probable effect it will have upon countries which so far have placed no undue restriction on the export of stud stock to Australia. I remind him of the importance of the wool-growing industry to Australia, and the necessity for maintaining prices which will at least cover the cost of production and help maintain the financial stability of the country. I have never been able to discover that the woolbuyers show any consideration for the growers, and the operations of Bradford buyers have not tended to secure to the producer the prices which he would otherwise have obtained. Various countries have from time to time taken action to restrict the export of live stock or birds from which they were receiving large revenues, and the Australian wool industry has reached a stage when it is imperative that the Commonwealth shall take action to safeguard it and stabilize one of the mainstays of our national credit. The Leader of the Opposition also said that a definition of stud sheep would be difficult. I suggest that ‘ in operating this restriction on exports the officers of the Crown should take precautions against the depletion of any particular class of sheep to such an extent as to interfere seriously with the maintenance of our flocks. The prices of ordinary ewes in the middle west, the far west and the northwest of New South Wales vary from about 15s. to 17s. per head; on the southern tablelands and in the northeastern portion of the State prices are probably higher. Therefore, the fact that Russia is paying £3 3s. per head for 3,000 ewes indicates that they are of a special quality, and will be utilized in the production of that class of wool which is in most demand by manufacturers. Rather than permit 3,000 high class ewes to be exported, it would be better to reorganize the industry in such a way as would permit of 3,000 inferior sheep on highly capitalized land in the middle-west being fattened off and superior breeding ewes substituted. The breeding of distinct types of sheep and the improvement of wool quality are essential if we are to maintain the high prices now obtainable for our wool, despite the unscientific methods of marketing it. The production of high class wool can be extended if proper encouragement is given to the improvement of flocks by making available to the individual growers the stock that is at present being exported. Therefore one must he seised of “the importance of this matter, and I bring it under the notice of honorable members in all seriousness. A large number of the smaller growers would like to get rid of their inferior sheep and breed a better type; but, owing to the increased price obtained for wool after the war, land suitable for the grazing of sheep now has a higher capitalized value than in years gone by. Through adverse climatic conditions in the greater part of the woolproducing areas of Australia in the last two years, and the extraordinary fluctuations in the value of the commodity, pastoralists have not that sense of financial security that is required to enable them to improve their flocks.
I desire the Government to take further action than that indicated by the Ministry. Other countries, in order to protect their own interests, have taken extreme steps against Australia, even going so far as to compel their people to wear apparel made from classes of material manufactured from coarser wools than those grown in Australia. The United States of America now has an embargo against the importation of our raw material equal to 17d. per lb. That surely emphasizes the fact that we should not pay undue regard to the domestic feelings of some countries, since they have shown no consideration for us. Selfpreservation is the first law of nature, and the Minister, in taking this action, belated though it may be, has realized that we must establish “a definite organization to protect the industry. If this course had been adopted ten years ago, Australia, perhaps, would have been in a much more favorable position than that in which she now finds herself. Trance, unless she can secure large numbers of sheep of the better class from Australia, will be unable to realize ber ambition in the direction of the development of the pastoral industry. According to scientific information available to us, South Africa, despite an energetic policy of pastoral development, has not the climatic conditions required to enable it to become a serious competitor of Australia in the production of soft wools.
– What effect will the Government’s action have on the meat supply of the Australian people?
– It will not affect it in any way. Land suitable for pastoral purposes will carry as many well-bred as ill-bred sheep, and there should be no diminution in the supply of mutton suitable for export purposes.
.- It seems to me that the wool industry, which is the largest in Australia, should be kept above party considerations, because it carries Australia on its back, and it has helped us through some very difficult periods. The men who conduct it have shown, repeatedly, that they are quite able to run their own business. They have developed their flocks in such a way as to increase enormously the weight of the fleece. They have thoroughly organized their handling and selling arrangements, and if there is one industry in the world in which the organizers, the capable men who have been managing the industry for years, should have been consulted before such an action as that announced to-night was taken, it is the great wool industry of Australia. The Minister promised a few days ago that, before anything was done by the Government, he would consult those interested in the industry. I now ask him whether he has conferred with the great organizations that control it? Honorable members opposite think - and I agree with them - that the leaders and organizers of the workers are entitled to speak for them.’ Surely, therefore, the farmers and settlers, stock-owners, and graziers associations of Australia should have been consulted by. the Minister. I ask him whether they have been so consulted. He said that he had received thousands of letters ; but he did not tell us whether the writers had any standing in the wool industry. I have an open mind as to the right course to pursue, and I am prepared to be guided absolutely by the leaders of the industry. If they had been consulted by the Minister, he would have received definite advice, not merely as to the class of sheep, if any, that should be prohibited from being exported from Australia, but also as to the methods that should be adopted in connexion with the whole matter. Why has the Minister not consulted them? The export of sheep has gone on for many years, and yet, apparently, all that is necessary to galvanize the Minister into action is a hole-and-corner deputation of Labour members in the House. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who has raised this subject in the House, and has a notice of motion on the business-paper relating to it, was not even informed of the deputation. That is no way in which to treat the industry. I urge the Minister to get into touch with the organizations that I have mentioned. Their representatives are quite prepared to come to Canberra.
– I consulted the Farmers and Settlers Association, whose secretary told me that that organization, at a recent conference, had carried a motion, by a majority of five to one, in favour of the action taken by the Government. The soldier settlers are another body that I have consulted. I have had their representatives here for a month.
– Those men represent only one State ; but I point out that there are federal organizations of farmers, graziers, and stock-owners, who are willing to come to Canberra and discuss the matter with the Minister. They would be able to give him practical advice that would be of real value. The late Government was always prepared to, and always did, consult the unions in regard to industrial matters; but I am informed to-night that the leaders of the organizations interested in sheep-grazing have not been consulted. I hope that, before taking further action, the Minister will get into touch with them.
.- I. was pleased to hear the observations on this subject of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons). Most honorable members will remember that for nearly two and a half years I have had a notice of motion on the business-paper with the object of inducing this House and the Government to take a deeper interest than has been shown in the past in the breeding of both cattle and sheep. About £10,000,000 is lost annually owing to the prevalence of noxious weeds, and another £10,000,000 is lost by insect pests. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that the Government should have consulted the graziers and stock-owners associations; but I point out that those bodies have no love for Australia. They never give any attention to the breeding of improved types of sheep.
– Talk about Woolloomooloo !
– Better men than the honorable member come from that suburb of Sydney. The sheep-owners and graziers are most indifferent as to the type of sheep produced in Australia. We all have to admit that the wool industry has played an important part in the progress of this country, and that the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales, two years ago, after my motion had been tabled in this House, decided to raise £200,000 for the purpose of establishing a laboratory for the purpose of encouraging the breeding of improved types of cattle and sheep; but, up to the present time, that body has not raised £14,000. Mr. McMasters, with whom I have been in correspondence on this subject for the last couple of months, has donated £20,000 for the purpose of improving sheep-breeding methods and establishing the necessary animal laboratory. I wrote to the Prime Minister and asked him what he intended to do with the gift. He referred the matter to Senator Sir George Pearce, and Senator Sir George Pearce referred it to Sir George Julius, the President of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I had hoped that the Commonwealth Government would supplement the McMaster gift. He referred the matter to Senator Association was an amount sufficient to establish an animal laboratory in the Federal Capital Territory which would be a credit to Australia. But unfortunately Sir George Julius has been influenced by the Sydney University, with the result that it is now proposed to establish the laboratory in the Sydney University grounds adjacent to the Prince Alfred Hospital which is situated in one of the most congested areas in Sydney. In giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, Sir George Julius stated that such an institution would require from 500 to 1,000 acres of land. It is necessary if the experiments it conducts are to be useful that the animals should be pastured under natural conditions and not artifically fed like pigs in a sty. I am glad that the Secretary of the Prince Alfred Hospital is strongly opposed to the Sydney University scheme. The hospital may have to be enlarged. It is too small for the present needs. He knows, too, that it would be inadvisable to have an animal laboratory so close to the hospital. I, therefore, still hope that we may be able to establish the laboratory in the Federal Capital Territory, where any amount of room is available, and where certain research work is at present being carried out by Dr. Tillyard, one of the world’s leading authorities on entomology. Research will also proceed here in the Botany laboratory and in the institution, of which the Museum of Zoology, housing the collections of Sir Colin Mackenzie, forms part. I am doing my best to interest the various learned societies in this subject and have bad voluminous correspondence with them during the last two or three years. The Graziers’ Association has been courteous in its communications with me and I have a great respect for it. I trust that we may shortly see the McMaster gift and the gift of the graziers put to good use in the direction I have indicated.
I regret that I did not hear the statement of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) in regard to the export of stud sheep. Although I represent an industrial constituency I realize the importance of the wool industry to Australia. Our breeders of sheep and cattle should do their utmost to improve their flocks and herds. The Argentine has given us an illustration of what can be done in this regard. Ten years ago the cattle running on the prairies of that country weighed between 6 cwt. and 7 cwt. per beast. The Government engaged Mr. Mass from an American University to report upon and direct a scheme for the improvement of the cattle. His work has been so effective that to-day the average weight of the cattle running on the Argentine prairies is between 12 cwt. and 14 cwt. per beast. It would be a national calamity for us to disregard the value of scientific research on such a subject as this.
This Government was returned to power because the country had grown tired of the muddling methods of the previous administration. I am sure that it will justify the confidence reposed in it by the electors. The action it has already taken to prevent the indiscriminate exportation of stud stock from Australia is praiseworthy. I believe that we can look to it to take such steps as may be necessary to make available to our pastoralists and farmers the results of scientific and industrial research on the subjects in which they are interested. I have referred on previous occasions to the incalculable value of the work done by Mr. Farrer in this very Territory in the direction of improving our wheat yield. Mr. Farrer revolutionized our wheat-growing methods, and his discoveries have proved to be valuable throughout the world.We ought to be able to find a means to improve our flocks and herds and I believe we shall do so. I commend the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) for the interest they have shown on this subject.
– During the last Parliament I had on the business paper a notice of motion, which I again placed on the business paper as soon as this Parliament assembled, to secure the affirmation that this House is of the opinion that the export of stud sheep is not in the best interests of Australia, and that legislation should be immediately introduced to prevent such exportation. I understand that this afternoon the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) received a deputation on this subject, and he mentioned, among those present at it, several honorable members on that side of the House. I wish to protest against the discourtesy shown me by the Minister in not advising me of that deputation. I am very much interested in this subject, and on more than one occasion I have asked the Minister when, if ever, he intended to take action to stop the export of our stud merino sheep.
– I assure the honorable member that no discourtesy was intended. The deputation was quite impromptu. Two members came to see me in any room and others joined them and this subject, among others, was discussed.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that no discourtesy was intended. Shortly after I was elected to this Parliament in 1922, and on several occasions subsequently, I stressed the need to stop the export of our stud sheep. Unfortunately nothing was done. Even associations of sheep producers did not, until recently, interest themselves in this matter. At the last annual meeting of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, a motion to prevent the export of stud sheep was defeated, but only by a small majority. At the last Soldier Settlers Conference held in New South. Wales in July and August last, a motion moved by me to prohibit the export of stud sheep was carried with only one dissentient. The Farmers and Settlers Association carried a similar motion, practically unanimously. There is more behind this agitation than appears on the surface. The first sheep arrived in Australia in 1788. There were some 29 ewes brought here from Bengal. Macarthurs sheep were brought here in 1793, and Mr. Macarthur was the first to try to improve the breed of sheep in Australia. In 1796 there were only 1,531 sheep in this country, hut in 1891 we had 106,000,000 sheep, the record number for Australia. We produced in that year 1,400,000 bales of wool. Last year, 37 years afterwards, the number of sheep was approximately the same as in 1891, but the number of bales of wool had actually doubled. Macarthurs sheep were supposed to be particularly good sheep because of 3 or 4 lb. of wool being cut from each of them. Nowadays it is not at all uncommon for a ram to yield from 20 to 30 lb. of wool. That shows the immense improvement that has taken place in the production of our wool, and it is for that reason that other countries desire our stud sheep. I am referring purely to merino sheep. I had intended, when my motion was before the House, to amend it by the insertion of the word “ merino It would he really of no advantage to us to prohibit the export of other types of sheep. It is rather surprising to learn how far abroad our stud sheep have gone. This morning, in answer to a question, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) informed me that . between the 1st July, 1919, and the 30th June of this year, we exported to the Union of South Africa, 11,165 sheep valued at £287,955. Those figures clearly show that we are permitting a sister dominion to poach on our preserves to an alarming extent. We exported to New Zealand 4,503 sheep valued at £44,032 ; to Japan, 3,284 sheep valued at £31,077; and to Russia, 2,031 sheep valued at £6,017. The total number of sheep that we have exported during the last ten years is 22,511, representing a value of £389,043. An incident which brought this matter into prominence recently, and mad« it a distinctly urgent one, was the shipment of 5,000 stud sheep from Australia to Russia. That, I have been credibly informed, is only the first portion of a shipment which will total between 20,000 and 30,000 sheep. It has often been said that Australia rides on the sheep’s hack. For several years our income from wool alone has been in the neighbourhood of £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 annually. Wool has been one of our principal means of support. It is the opinion of many persons that the growing of wool is confined to a few wealthy people; but such is not the case. The honorable member -who has just resumed his seat suggested that the growing of wool is a hig man’s game. He also said that the sheep men were a menace to Australia. He may be interested to learn that there are only 3,000 flocks in Australia numbering more than 5,000 sheep, and that 95 per cent, of the flocks have fewer than that number. The average flock is only 1,250. Approximately 80,000 families are directly dependent upon wool-growing for their livelihood. Therefore, although a few men are iu the wool business in a big way, the industry is well ‘ distributed throughout the community. That is why associations such as the Farmers and Settlers Association, which represents the small farmers, and the Soldier Settlers Association, were able to carry resolutions against the export of stud sheep. The bigger breeders who have engaged in the export business do not number more than 20 or 30. They may receive as much as five thousand guineas for a ram ; but we, as custodians of the welfare of the people, should not aid and abet them in breaking down this, our most profitable industry. The price of wool has dropped materially as the result of the entry of South Africa into the field. It is expected that this year that dominion will produce no fewer than 1,000,000 hales of wool, compared with 2,800,000 bales in Australia. A few years ago the quality of their wool was poor, but to-day it approximates closely to the finer qualities that attract wool buyers to Australia from all over the world. It was said at one time that South Africa did not require to import any further stud sheep from Australia, but it is now admitted by both South Africans and our own breeders that unless they have a continual influx of good blood from this country, the quality of their wool will have a tendency to deteriorate. Russia has now come into the field, and is entering seriously into competition with Australia. “Wool has been largely superseded by synthetic wool, artificial silk and real silk, more particularly for wearing apparel. If Russia can grow a fine quality wool on the steppes and plateaux of Siberia and Manchuria, the result will be to reduce still further the income that we receive from this commodity, and our power to control the market. “We occupy a particularly fortunate position in that, we possess about 16 per cent, of the total number of sheep in the world and produce 27 per cent, of the world’s wool requirements. Our production of the better quality merino wool represents over 50 per cent, of the world’s output. That demonstrates the dominant position that we occupy, and the longer we can retain it the better it will be for this country. Therefore, we should not allow a small number of breeders to export their stud sheep overseas and build up formidable competition in other countries. Our flock masters have rendered signal service in having improved the quality of the wool as well as the body of the sheep for carcass purposes ; but that does not confer upon them the right to do a similar service for some other country. It has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that South Africa has refused to allow us to import ostriches from that country. There is really nothing to prevent any country from keeping to itself that which it has built up or something in the production of which it has predominated, just as Australia has predominated in the production of merino wool. I do not congratulate the Government on taking a step which is long overdue. Had it not done so it would have been recreant to its duty. I may say that when I spoke in this House about placing an embargo upon the export of breeding stock, honorable members who are now on the Treasury benches, and who were then on the Opposition benches, remained silent.
– The honorable member must have been deaf.
– I was not deaf. There is no need to congratulate the Government for doing the right thing. At long last, it is carrying out one of the promises it made to the electors. I am sure that it will not be able to carry out very many of the other promises made to the electors. I suggest the insertion of the word “ merino “ in the proclamation because the export of various long wool types of sheep will not injure Australia. If that is done, and the proclamation issued by the Minister is quite o.k., I shall take the opportunity to withdraw the motion of which I have given notice
. I rise to support the Minister in the action taken by him as representative of the Government. In passing, I ‘should like to say that I entirely disagree with that portion of the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), in which the honorable member said that the wool-growers and stockowners of Australia were callous about the welfare of the country. I am quite confident that the honorable member was mistaken. He explained later on that he did not know what was being discussed; but I am anxious that the attitude of members of the Labour party towards the primary producers should not be misrepresented. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) found fault with the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) for not bringing to Canberra the representatives of -those who control the wool industry, in order to consult them upon this matter; but, in view of the assurance of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), that the Farmers and Settlers Association is largely representative of the small land-owners - they constitute approximately seven-tenths of the small woolgrowers - and the resolution carried by that body in favour of the embargo on the export of stud sheep, I think it would have been a waste of the time and the money of the organization to dp so. In any case, a government incapable of seeing what was required, or knowing what was required, and not taking the necessary action, would deserve to meet the fate that befell the previous Government, which refused to accede to the request of its supporters to take the action, which the present Government has taken. The honorable member for Richmond asserts that nothing was heard about the embargo on the export of stud sheep from members of this side of the House, when they were in opposition; it may have been that when they saw that the representations made by a follower of the then Government were ignored, they realized that there was very little hope of attention being paid to their own representations. However, the statement of the honorable member was entirely wrong. Honorable members of the Labour party have continually asked that some action should be taken, in this regard.
– I asked several times that it should he done.
– Quite so. Opposition to the placing of an embargo on the export of stud stock comes only from those who are interested in carrying on this export trade for their own profit. It is right to say that a great deal of the income of Australia is derived from our wool industry. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that those who control the industry could well be left to watch over their own interests, but I remember reading some time ago an article in the press in which Mr. Stirton, a prominent grazier whose name is a household word throughout Australia, pointed out what is happening in the various wool exchanges. of Australia. He showed how under the very noses of, and without a protest from, those who are supposed to control the industry, the Australian wool-growers lose anything up to £19,000,000 a year through the practice of what is known as lot splitting. The gentlemen referred to by the right honorable member for Cowper have neglected to apply themselves to an endeavour to prevent that avoidance of competition in our wool exchanges which brings about this annual loss. Those who attend wool sales will sec one man bidding for a line of wool and others standing down; but immediately the wool is knocked down to him there is a rush of others to him to get their share of the lot he has secured. Free competition does not exist in our wool exchanges to-day, and the sufferer is the small man who has not sufficient influence with the wool agencies to allow him to get that precedence in the disposal of his wool which is accorded to the hig squatters. The question of an embargo was the subject of a very close vote at the last conference of graziers held in New South Wales. Delegates subsequently told me that had they realized the importance of the question, and that the principal men who were opposed to the embargo were the exporters of stud sheep, they would have voted for it. The proclamation proposed to be issued will give the Minister the power to allow sheep to be exported provided he is of opinion that their export will not be detrimental to the best interests of Australia. Therefore no one can complain that the embargo will he too harsh. As a matter of fact it will not be an embargo in the strict sense of the word. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) that we should have a comprehensive scheme for the improvement of our flocks and herds, and I hope that at a later date, when the Government gets fairly into its stride, we shall be ‘ able to surmount the constitutional difficulties which prevent Commonwealth action in this respect, or secure the co-operation of the States. We may then be able to do something to improve the flocks of our sheep-owners so that many of the poor quality flocks that are to-day responsible for the reduced incomes of the small wool-owners, may be gradually eliminated and replaced by sheep of better class.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has pointed out that we should be careful lest we give serious offence to other people. I would point out that where the interests of other countries are concerned they do not consider us. The newspapers during the last few days have been full of the sayings and doings of tourists from another country adjacent to the Pacific. The trade of that country with Australia runs into millions annually, yet only recently, in order to build up its own synthetic wool industry - which is not yet even on a commercial basis - their Government placed what amounts to a prohibitive tariff on the importation of greasy wool. We have spent millions of pounds in placing returned soldiers on the land to grow fruit, and particularly citrus fruit, yet ships trading between Australia and the United States of America must dump their Australian fruit overboard ‘before entering American territorial waters. The time is rotten-ripe for the advent of an Australian Government that will place the interests of Australia first, no matter whom we may offend. We do not export stud sheep to Great Britain, so no injury will be done in that quarter. As to South Africa, it should be remembered that that State has a huge black population, and is in a favourable position to compete against us by the employment of cheap labour. We should remember, also, that when ostrich feathers were at a premium, and we desired to build up an ostrich farming industry in Australia, South Africa prohibited the exportation of ostriches and ostrich eggs. Arabia, which is only a half -civilised country, has placed an embargo on the exportation nf Arab horses. Angora has an embargo upon the exportation of goats. Those countries are ‘not concerned whether they give offence or not, and I am tired of hearing ‘this perpetual cry from responsible persons in Australia that we should be careful lest we give offence to other countries.
From information that I have at my disposal it appears that the great disadvantage under which small wool-growers in Australia labour is the competition they have to face from Russian and South African buyers of stud sheep. I have been told that with those who are buying for the Russian Government “ the sky is the limit “ when it comes to price. These buyers “pick i lie eyes “ out of the stud flocks, and leave the culls, if I may apply the expression in this case, for the Australian buyers. Frequently the Australian buyer has to pay as much for the second grade stock ns the foreign buyer paid for the first grade. The small wool-grower who wants only one or two stud rams cannot afford to pay £20 or £30 in railway fares to visit the stud farms, nor do the stud masters want to be bothered yarding their stud rams in order to sell one or two. In the past the small growers have been able to purchase their requirements at the annual wool sales in Sydney. At the last sale, however, I saw pen after pen being sold to Russian and South African agents. The bids are raised half a guinea a time, and over and over again the second last bid was that of an. Australian, while the last was that of a Russian or South African agent. Thus, all the stud master received for selling his stock to an outside buyer was the extra half guinea, but the local growers knew that no matter how much higher they went they would still be outbid. I am sure that the action of the Minister in this matter will be endorsed by 99 per cent, of the wool-growers of Australia. If, after the prohibition has been in operation for some time, it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Minister that it is necessary in the interests of the stud masters to raise the embargo, it can easily be done. I feel confident, however, that with the introduction of an organized scheme of flock improvement in Australia we can absorb all the stud sheep now being sold out of the country. lt has been suggested, I understand, that the stud masters should be compensated for the loss of this foreign trade. I do not agree with that, and, in any case, I cannot see on -what basis it would be possible to assess the compensation payable to them. Furthermore, I would remind the stud masters, particularly in New South Wales, that they have enjoyed great assistance from the State during drought time, when their sheep have been carried on the railways one way free. They should be prepared to make some little sacrifice, if necessary, for the good of the wool industry. I do not think that they will have to accept lower prices, but even if they do it would be well for them to forego the small present advantage in order that we may retain for Australia the tremendous market in fine wool which has been built up iti the past/ If we allow our best stud stock to be exported it will not be long before we shall have lost our commanding position in the fine wool market and the stud masters will have lost their local market for their stud sheep.
– I question the wisdom of the Government’s proposal to .place an embargo upon the exportation of stud sheep from Australia, though while questioning its wisdom, I appreciate its sincerity. My chief regret is that the Government has decided upon its course of action “without giving this House an opportunity to discuss adequately this highly important matter. The right honorable member for Cowper, the Leader of the Country Party (Dr. Earle Page), relevantly asked the Leader of the Government whether any action had been taken to consult the organized wool-growers of Australia. The reply was that the Government has consulted the Farmers and Settlers Association and the Soldiers Settlers Association of New South “Wales. I submit that those two bodies represent so infinitesimal a proportion of the woolgrowers of Australia, that their opinion is quite inconsiderable.
– It would not do for the honorable member to make that statement in a country electorate.
– I am quite prepared to make it in a country electorate, just as I am prepared to make it in this House. I can divorce entirely from my review of the position the 20 or 30 stud masters of Australia. I do not think that their interests in the matter should be considered one way or another. The question is, whether the wool-growers of Australia, the people most concerned, are themselves in favour of the proposal. There is amongst those wool-growers a complete division of opinion on the pros and cons of this issue. So far as I know, the only organizations which definitely represent the interests of the wool-growers of Australia are the United Graziers Association of Queensland, the Graziers Association of New South Wales, and corresponding bodies in the other States. In Queensland, the matter is at present the subject of a referendum that is being conducted among the wool-growers, and so far as I am aware, the result is not yet available. In
New South Wales, the constituted authority that is capable of speaking for the wool-growers of that State has expressed so divided an opinion that nobody should take it as a mandate to go ahead with this proposal in the precipitate fashion adopted by the Government. I am not aware that any of the other States have expressed definite views on the proposal. The difference of opinion amongst wool-growers on the subject is so definite that it ought not to be ignored. It indicates that there is room for further deliberation on the subject:
I submit that wool prices, wool stabilization, and similar matters have little bearing on the precise question whether we shall or shall not sanction the export of our stud sheep or, I should say, our flock sheep, for I make a difference between the two. I do not think that the stud masters of Australia would agree to large exportations of stud, as distinct from flock rams. It is the flock and not the stud rams that are being exported.
– What about the 4,000-guinea ram that was exported?
– It may be possible to cite an isolated case here and there of the export of high-priced stud sheep;- but when lots of 3,000 or 20,000 rams were acquired for Russia and other countries, in anticipation of the imposition of this embargo, flock and not stud rams were concerned.
On the broader issue I suggest that the damage has already been done. If this proposal had been carried twenty years ago, the objects which honorable members opposite seek to achieve might have been effected. They cannot be now.. The flocks in South Africa are definitely established. If this embargo is imposed upon the exportation of sheep from Australia, it will not mean that the flocks of South Africa will be wiped out or even seriously deteriorated. South Africa can get all the fresh blood that she needs from other Countries where merino sheep have been established for many years. I submit that if Australia has anything to object to in this matter - and I believe that she has - it is not the further export of sheep; that is not going to affect the position now. It will be in the export of Australian managers, who will be sought after by the stud and flock masters of
South Africa in an endeavour to keep their sheep at the standard of perfection to which they have attained, and to go even further, that Australia will suffer.
– We had better put an embargo on them.
– That, of course, is an absurdity. I believe that the day is not far distant- when Australia will have to consider very seriously important matters in connexion with the stabilisation of the wool industry, and that day will come far sooner than many people expect. But that is a subject upon which f shall reserve my comments for a future occasion. I shall merely add that’ in the near future, when considering stabilisation proposals, Australia will not be able, effectively, to consummate such proposals without the co-operation of New Zealand and South Africa. Anything that we may now do, belatedly, to put an embargo on the export of our flock rams, may seriously affect our position when we may have to approach South Africa to ask for her co-operation in a broad scheme of stabilisation. This precipitate action - and I term it so advisedly - on the part of the Government has been brought about very largely by a newspaper scare that has been worked up in the last few weeks.
– That is not so.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, but I reserve my right to presume that that scare had something to do with the Government’s proposal.
– Not at all. I inquired all about the sheep to which the honorable member refers.
– At any rate, during the last few weeks scare articles have appeared in the press concerning the export of stud sheep from Australia. The practice of exporting stud sheep from this country has persisted for a number of years, and I do not think that the scare would have developed to such dimensions had not the South Africans, Russians, French and others acquiring our flock rams become suspicious that the Government had in contemplation the placing of an embargo on the export of such sheep. That is the explanation of the recent increase in the export of sheep. I do not propose to discuss the ethics of placing a special ban on the export of sheep to South Africa, but I suggest that em1 bargoes on exports’ of any kind are bad in essence, and should not be persisted in.
.- Although the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) questions the wisdom of the action which the Government proposes to take, the Deputy Governor of Queensland said recently -
He did not think it would be far wrong to advocate an embargo upon the export of stud sheep from Australia.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), said that he had interested himself in this matter since 1922, and that a notice of motion relating to it was on the business-paper for a considerable time while the Bruce-Page Government was in office. The expedition displayed by the present Government in dealing with the matter contrasts very favorably with the inaction of its predecessors. I agree with the honorable member for Darling Downs that considerable damage has already been done to the wool-growing industry of Australia by the export of stud sheep during the last twenty years, but the proposed proclamation will prevent an extension of the evil. “ Early this year, after reading a very sensible article published in the Melbourne Herald under the heading “ Selling the goose that lays the golden eggs,” I wrote a letter to that journal, in which I quoted statistics showing the strides that South Africa and Russia have made in the production of the finer classes of wool. In the year 1926, the production of wool in the Commonwealth was 833,739,000 lb.; in 1927, 924,411,000 lb. an increase of 10.8 per cent. South Africa in 1926 produced 190,000,000 lb. and in 1927, 240,000,000 lb., or an increase of 26 per cent. Russia in 1926 produced 116,000,000 lb. and in 1927, 237,000,000 lb., or an increase of 104 per cent.
– That was without the help of Australian stud sheep.
– Those figures show that the countries to which Australian stud sheep are being exported are fast becoming our serious rivals in wool production. In 1927, Australia was responsible for over 26 per cent, of the world’s wool production, and of fine merino wool the share of the Commonwealth was 50 per cent. In regard to this industry our slogan should be “ What we have, we hold.” The Leader of the Country party said that this matter is being made a party question. It is a national (matter, because wool is the main source of our wealth and the embargo on the export of stud sheep will bc one means of enabling us to hold what we have. “Last week, the agricultural society of the large and flourishing town of Wangaratta carried a motion supporting the proposed action of the Commonwealth Government. Recently a Riverina woolgrower, writing from South Africa, said that the principal flocks there are under’ the management of experienced sheep men, and that the pastures in Natal are largely similar to those in Australia. He considers that Australia will hold its own in the production of mutton, owing to the gamey flavour of the South African article, but in the production of wool South Africa will he on terms with the Commonwealth within twenty years. That statement is an additional justification for preventing further export of our stud sheep. Dealing with the pastoral industry the .British Economic Mission said -
We heard in many quarters of a dangerous tendency towards deterioration in the quality of wool owing to small men not being able to obtain first-class stud stock as the big men arc, and having to be content with buying the rejected stock of their larger neighbours.
If we allow the best stud stock to be exported to South Africa and Russia, the small men will have even less chance of improving their flocks. I am opposed to the suggestion that stud masters should be compensated for being deprived of their overseas market. The States should purchase these stud sheep from the stud masters and sell them to the smaller sheep farmers in the same way that stud bulls are now sold to dairy farmers in Victoria. That would overcome the difficulty foreseen by the British Economic Mission. Should the Labour party return to office in Victoria after the forthcoming elections it will probably introduce a scheme by which dairy farmers will be able to obtain breeding cows on the same basis that, they now obtain stud bulls. 1 congratulate the Government on the action it has taken in connexion with stud sheep. Unfortunately, it has been, taken rather late, for already a great deal of damage has been done to our wool industry by the export of stud sheep in the past. That damage cannot be repaired, but the proclamation will have the effect of preventing it from increasing.
– I desire to refer only to the precipitancy of the action of the Government in this matter. In an unofficial way, and without realizing the seriousness of his remarks, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) recently did an indirect injury to the wool-growing industry. Soon after his assumption of office he stated in an interview that he proposed to change the- fashion in gentlemen’s summer clothing. Changes of fashion, rather than the increased production, of wool in South Africa, are the chief cause of thu recent slump in wool values, for they have meant the wearing of less woollen clothing. The people of the United States of America, with their centrally heated homes, closed motor cars, and heavier overcoats, now wear less woollen clothing than they did. That is particularly’ noticeable in the case of women’s clothing. No person with the interests of the wool-growers at heart would seek to change further the existing fashion in dress. I do not question the good faith of the Minister in advocating a change of fashion. He probably did not realize its effect on the price of wool. Nor do I question the good faith of the Government now in taking what is almost panicky action in regard to the export of stud sheep. It has already been mentioned that there are probably not more than 20 or 30 flocks of stud sheep in Australia. Those flocks probably do not number more than 200,000 ewes in all. It is unthinkable that the stud masters owning those sheep would hurriedly export any big proportion of their main asset. Honorable members are not justified in their fear that, if further immediate shipments of stud sheep leave Australia a serious blow will be struck at the Australian wool industry. Numbers of the sheep which have already been exported were undoubtedly of a very much higher average quality than would be any large numbers of sheep exported in a hurry to-day. There was no justification for the illconsidered and hasty action of the Government. Indeed, the Minister gave very little information to justify it. He said that he had received considerable correspondence about exporting stud sheep, and that the Government’s proposal to place an embargo on their export had the support of the Farmers and Settlers Association as well as of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League. I remind him that the former association is comprised chiefly of wheat growers, and that the latter body contains a large number of fruit growers. The Minister did not say that he had the support of the Graziers Association of .New South Wales, or associated bodies in the other States. He knows that those bodies are inquiring into the matter. He should have waited until those associations, comprising men with the largest financial stake in the industry, whose eggs are, as it were, in the one wool basket, they having no alternative crop of wheat to rely upon should their wool returns not be satisfactory, had expressed their views. I have to-day received a telegram from a stud master in South Australia, one of the younger families of prominent stud masters in Australia which, in one or two generations, has built up one of the most celebrated studs in Australia. He, in common with other stud masters in districts where the drought has been severe, is experiencing a difficult time. The raising of stud lambs is expensive. If a stud-master cannot obtain a return in a year of drought, his industry is seriously affected. These constituents of mine tried months ago to obtain a market in South Africa for some of their sheep, which owing to the drought, they were unable to sell in Australia.- Now we find that the Minister and other honorable members opposite, not one of whom has a first-hand, intimate connexion with the industry, and no principal stake of his own in it, has rushed in and placed a very severe restriction upon export, which practically amounts to an embargo. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that, at any rate, the export of sheep that were sold bona fide on some date, say, a fortnight or three weeks ago, will be permitted. There are other matters that are relative to the general subject under discussion, but this point has not been raised by any other honorable member, and I hope that before the House rises to-night, or failing that, to-morrow, the Minister will be able to define the policy of the Government in administering the new regulation.
– All these points will receive due consideration at the hands of the Minister. Any special cases will be considered, and every opportunity will be given to those concerned to present them.
– 1 thank the Minister for that assurance. The severity of the regulation, of course, will depend upon the spirit in which it is administered. From the general expression of opinion from the -Government side, I had had some misgivings as to the lines on which it would be applied; but, in view of the assurance given, I shall not detain the House further with remarks of a general nature.
Before concluding, I think that it is perhaps due to myself to make an observation by way of a personal explanation. Some honorable members may happen to know that I am intimately connected with one of the oldest stud sheepbreeding families in Australia, and for that reason they may think that I am financially interested to a considerable extent in the export of stud sheep. As a matter of fact, on my own stud property I have not been lucky enough to sell one sheep to those oversea buyers whose prices, it is said, “ touch the sky.” As to the other members of my family, I can assure the House that not 2 per cent, and probably less than 1 per cent, of their interests in the pastoral industry in the last ten years has been in the export of stud sheep.
.- It is rather late in the evening for one to make his debut as a speaker in this Parliament, but I cannot let the occasion pass without congratulating the Government on the step that it has taken in protecting one of Australia’s greatest industries. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) said that no consideration should be given to studmasters who export stud sheep. I think that it would be very unfair on the part of any Government to adopt that attitude, andI do not believe for a moment that that is the intention of the Government. But the first duty of any Ministry is to give sympathetic consideration to the claims of the wool-growers. The demands of our own country should be satisfied beforethe best of our sheep are exported to enable the wool-growing industry in other countries to be improved. One realizes the disadvantages suffered by the small wool-growers of Australia, owing to the cost of purchasing stud stock for the improvement of their flocks. They have to compete with countries which are producing wool at a cost of £6 or £7 a bale, while in Australia the cost is as high as £17 a bale. When a number of large leases fell in in Queensland, it was suggested by the State Government of which I was a member that a certain area should be offered to the Bruce-Page Government, which was asked, through its department of Science an Industry, to establish a selection for the raising of stud stock, in order to improve the flocks of Australia. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government did not avail itself of that offer. Since then, certain pastoral companies, whose leases have fallen in, have been granted larger areas on giving an undertaking to raise stud sheep to supply the needs of the wool growers of Australia. If I understand the proclamation rightly, it means that the export of the best of our stud sheep is to be prevented, for the time being. It is unnecessary to allow the exportation of stud sheep to continue until such time as a referendum on the matter could be taken of the woolgrowers of Australia. During the recent election the case was stated freely from every platform in my electorate, and my district carries as many sheep as that of any other honorable member. On every occasion when the matter was discussed in Kennedy, 90 per cent. of the woolgrowers were in favour of an embargo on the export of stud sheep. The proclamation can be removed at any time, if it is found to cause hardship. I think that the Government has adopted the right course, in view of the number of sheep that have been exported since it assumed office. Evidently the woolgrowing interests in other countries anticipate that the present Government will protect the industries of Australia, instead of permitting the export of sheep to cheap labour countries to the detriment of, not only the woolgrowers, but also the workers engaged in the industry. We all know what happened in the sugar industry. Immediately the Government placed an embargo upon the employment of Kanaka labour, so-called patriots of the type to be found in the Nationalist party, transferred their activities to cheap labour countries for the purpose of producing sugar there in competition with sugar grown in Australia under white labour conditions. We shall probably have the same experience in the wool industry. Nationalists and so-called patriots, regarding the pounds, shillings, and pence aspect of the industry, will grow wool in cheap labour countries to the detriment of the Australian product. Personally, I believe that the majority of those directly concerned in wool growing will appreciate the action of the Government in prohibiting the export of our stud flocks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19291127_reps_12_122/>.