12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Mr. F. T. Sung, Consul-General in Australia for China, is reported to have said recently -
Australia had the opportunity to develop an export trade to China sufficiently large to lift her out of the trough of depression to a wave of prosperity. It would be to the advantage of the various chambers of commerce and manufacturers to send competent business men to China to make a general survey of the needs of Chinese markets. The Chinese Government would welcome an Australian trade commissioner appointed by the Commonwealth Government.
I ask the Prime Minister whether any consideration has been given by the Commonwealth Government to the trade representation of Australia in China ?
-Yes. The Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) has been investigating thoroughly the trade representation of Australia in all countries where profitable markets might be developed.
– A returned soldier, who has appealed to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, has received a letter from the New South Wales Branch of theRepatriation Commission, dated 13th May, which states, inter alia -
Owing to your position on the waiting list, I am unable to state at present when the appeal is likely to be heard, but on the present indications it is not likely to be before the end of the year.
If the tribunal is overloaded with work, will the Minister in charge ofRepatriation consider the appointment, temporarily, of another board, so that appeals may be heard within a reasonable time?
– The Entitlement Appeal Tribunal commenced to function in July last and has since dealt with thousands of cases. Fully two-thirds of the. appeals have been heard; they are being received at the rate of 50 a month, and are being disposed of at the rate of 150 a month. In those circumstances there is no justification for the appointment of an additional tribunal at a cost of many thousands of pounds.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a copy of the resolution of the economic section of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science regarding the desirability of taking a decennial census next year? If so, has the Government considered the matter ?
– The resolution has been received, but full consideration had been given to the matter before any representations were received from that body, and the reasons why the Government has postponed the census were announced to the House.
– According to newspaper reports Australia will receive approximately £2,750,000 as its share of the German reparations loan recently floated in London. Will the Treasurer inform the House whether that figure is correct and if so whether he intends to use that windfall to offset any reduction that may occur in the subsequent annual receipts from this source?
– The amount that Australia will receive as its share of the recent reparations loan has been exaggerated in the newspaper reports. If the honorable member will give notice of a question on this subject, I shall let him have a considered reply.
Use of Imported Materials
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as having said that Mr. H. P. Brown, Director of Postal Services, “ has persistently pursued a policy in favour of foreign interests.” In view of this accusation against Mr. Brown, who is unable to defend himself, will the PostmasterGeneral place all the facts before the House ?
– The honorable member for Martin has given notice of a question regarding importations by my department during the time that Mr. Brown has been Director of Postal Services. I hope to furnish a reply later this week. At the proper time the full facts in regard to the use of imported material by the department will be furnished to the House.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), whether the report of the Tariff Board regarding its recent inquiry into the timber industry is available to honorable members. In connexion with that inquiry did the board adopt the extraordinary course of taking unsworn evidence from witnesses who were not subject to crossexamination ?
– It is not usual to make the reports of the Tariff Board available to honorable members before the Government has acted upon them. On two previous occasions the board had spent months in a thorough investigation of the timber industry, and it was considered inadvisable to incur the expense of an inquiry in each State to cover the same ground again. The more expeditious and less expensive procedure of a conference was adopted, and representatives of all timber interests in Australia met the board in Melbourne. Doubtless, in due course the board’s report on that conference will be made available to the House.
– The press forecasts that another tariff schedule will be introduced by the Government this week. If that is correct, the schedule will be the “ severalth “ tabled by the Government during the few months that it has been in office. In order to give the business people of Australia a chance to stabilize their businesses, will the Prime Minister refrain from this continual alteration of the tariff?
– I have no answer to make to such a question.
– Will the Prime Minister intimate whether answers to questions appearing on the notice-paper are prepared regardless of cost, or is the value of the answer weighed against the cost of preparation?
– Answers to questions placed on the notice-paper are not prepared regardless of cost. I have carefully investigated the subject, and on occasion have even given the instruction that where the cost of preparing an answer is considerable, representation should be made to the member who has given notice of the question to ascertain whether the desired information could not be obtained in a less expensive manner. I urge honorable members to consider that aspect of the matter. It is frequently found that the information sought can be obtained more expeditiously than by placing a long list of questions on the notice-paper, and when this has been pointed out to honorable members, they have been most reasonable. While on the subject, may I mention that it would be to the convenience of the departments if honorable members refrained from placing questions on Friday’s business paper? The move to Canberra has, in some instances, separated officers from their sources of information. Frequently questions appearing on Friday’s business sheet could just as well be asked on Thursday, or on the following Tuesday.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for Home Affairs has issued instructions to postpone the elections for the Darwin Town Council pending the promulgation of an ordinance which will institute universal franchise in lieu of the ratepayers’ franchise now existing in that centre? Has the honorable gentleman received any protests from residents of Darwin in the matter, and is it correct that the present town council has resigned as a protest against the action of the Government?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ yes “ ; that to the second question, “ no.”
Secession From Commonwealth
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Transfer to New South Wales Department
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (a) If the present bill before the Parliament of New South Wales becomes law the former Commonwealth officers, who were transferred to the State Taxation Department and who are now State officers, will become subject to a reduction of £86s. 8d. per cent. in their salaries; (b) the transferred officers would be subject to the unemployment levy of 3d, in the £1; (c) and (d) it is understood by the State Commissioner of Taxation, Sydney, that the New South Wales Government has intimated that State officers will be rationed in their work to the extent of two weeks off duty without pay per annum, and that there will be an increase of half an hour per day from Monday till Friday inclusive each week in their hours of duty.
New South Wales Allocation
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 12th June the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked me questions regarding a report which is being prepared on the subject of intensification of production in the dairying industry. I have had inquiries made as to the position and I have ascertained that the report is not yet finalized, but that it is expected it will be available in about a month’s time.
– On the 13th June, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions, upon notice-
What are the total amounts and values for each year since the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the imports of wattle bark and wattle bark extracts from South Africa into Australia?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Wattle bark and wattle bark extracts were not recorded separately prior to the financial year 1922-23. The following figures are supplied for the years 1922-23 to 1928-29, inclusive: -
– On 13th June, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked the following question, upon notice -
What are the total quantities of (a) Oregon; (b) Baltic pine; (c) hemlock; (d) spruce; (e) redwood; (f) cedar; (g) kauri; and (h) Pacific maple, imported during 1928-29, and the countries of origin in each case?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
With the exception of redwood, the timbers referred to in (a) to (h) are not recorded separately in the import statistics. The following statement”A” sets out the quantities of dressed and undressed timber imported during the year 1928-29 according to country of origin and this statement includes the importations of redwood set out in statement “b”:-
Galvanized Iron and Light Steel Bails - Deck Spikes - Woollen Yarns - Blankets - Woollen Piece Goods - Woollen Apparel - Whisky - Brushware - Tractor Valves - Havelock Tobacco - Agricultural Machinery - Dry Cell Batteries - Cartridges - Sparking Plugs - Paper - Lead - Associations of Distributors - Steel - Investigation op Prices.
– by leave - From time to time statements have been made by various honorable members to the effect that, owing to the tariff, prices have increased ; and underlying these statements is a suggestion that Australian manufacturers are taking undue advantage of the tariff to increase prices. In addition, the Acting Minister for Customs (Mr. Forde) has received a number of letters alleging increases in prices. Inquiry has shown that some of these statements referred to imported goods - others referred to Australianmade goods. Certain complaints have been investigated with the following results : -
The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked, “ Is it true that the price of 9-ft. galvanized iron sheets has been raised from 3s.10d. to 5s. a sheet -that of light steel rails from £18 to £20 per ton, and that of deck spikes from 28s. to 34s. per cwt?” Inquiries by the Customs Department proved that there had not been any increase in the price of Australian-made galvanized iron. Imported English galvanized iron had been increased by 3d. per sheet. The reason given for that increase was the high rate of exchange.Representatives of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. and the Australian Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. definitely state that there has been no increase in the’ price of light steel rails, the representative of the latter company stating that the price is considerably below £18 per ton. If the honorable member will furnish details of any particular transaction the matter will be further pursued;.
In regard to deck spikes, there is a number of manufacturers in the various States, but only one firm could be found which had increased its price, namely, Lowe Bro3., of Sydney, who increased their price of i-inch, deck spikes from 25s. to 28s. per cwt, and the price of f-inch duck spikes from 26s. to 29s. per cwt. on the ground that they were selling below cost. The increased’ prices are within the range of prices, namely 27s. 6d. to 30s, per cwt. charged by competitors in New South Wales, and which have been constant for some time.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked certain questions about the prices of Australian woollen yarns. On investigation it was found that there had been no increases in prices, but, on the other hand, substantial reductions, ranging from 6d. to 11-Jd. per lb., had been made. These reductions took place after the imposition of the new duties, and full details were supplied by the Minister when replying to the question. Typical examples of the reductions are - 60s. quality, 20’s. count, reduced from 6s. 5d. per lb. to 5s. 9d. per lb., 64s. quality, 24’s. count, from 5s. lOd. to 5s. Id. Inquiry in New South Wales shows that mule spun yarns are the kind usually used for knitting jersey cloth, and that the prices of such yarns have dropped approximately 9d. per lb. since October, 1929. A typical example is that while the price of 64s. quality, 24’s. count, in October, 1929, was 5s. lOd. per lb., the present price is 5s. Id. per lb. net.
Complaints have been made that there have been no decreases in the price of Australian blankets, woollen piece goods and woollen articles of apparel, despite the drop in the wool market. Inquiries show that the blankets offering this year are heavier than those offered last season, and that there has been a reduction in price when calculated on a per pound basis. The evidence clearly shows that reductions have been made in the prices of woollen piece goods as well as in woollen garments.
Allegations have been made as to the increase in the price of Australian whisky. Although the excise duty, which is an added cost to distillers, was increased by 2s. per gallon in August, 1929, the whole of the increase has not been passed on by the distillers. It was found, however, that members of the United Licensed Victuallers’ Association had increased their prices by more than the increase in the excise duty.
The Geelong Butter Factory Proprietary Limited complained to the Minister about the increased price of certain brushware. No increase in duty on brushware had been made for over two years before the time the complaint was lodged, but the supplier, a Mr. Clarke, of Thornbury, Victoria, had endorsed his invoice, “Prices in some lines advanced on account of new tariff.”
The President, Country Progressive Party Branch, Mitiamo, wrote to the Department, through the member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), complaining that valves for Fordson tractors had been increased from 2s. to 6s. These valves are imported, and, as there is no increase in duty on them, there was no justification for any increase in the price.
A complaint was made by a Brisbane resident to the Acting Minister regarding an increase in price of Havelock tobacco; the increase was due to the increased import duty on tobacco leaf and not to any extra protection granted to manufacturers.
Certain questions were asked by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), regarding prices of agricultural appliances manufactured by H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited. The right honorable member for Cowper brought under notice a circular letter issued by H. V. McKay (Queensland) Limited, dated the 19th May, 1930, intimating an. increase in price of chain and pulley yokes,. In reply I have to state that the existing duties on these goods have been in force since 1921. The company has advised the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs that the increased price is due to the increased cost of imported raw materials. As there was no increase of duty in the recent schedules on these yokes they were not covered by the undertaking given to the Government by the company mentioned and other agricultural implement makers.
The honorable member for Forrest asked whether a list would be furnished showing the reductions made on agricultural machinery by H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited.
T shall lay on the table of the House a statement, furnished by the general manager of the company, showing the amount of reduction in selling prices on 89 different lines where the 5 per cent, reduction has been made. The general manager in furnishing this information stated - “If we supplied the full lists, namely, with every variation in style of each type of implement, it would make a very long document. We have, therefore, abbreviated the list, but at the same time it covers the information desired by Mr, Prowse.”
Complaint was received that Widdis Diamond Dry Cells Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, had increased its price of a certain battery by 3d. each. On representations being made to the company it agreed to revert to the old price. The explanation given by the company for the increase in price was that an outside costing- expert was brought in to check the company’s costs of production and it was found that on this line a loss was being made. In justice to this company it must be stated that on a postal contract the price quoted was over £2,500 less than that quoted previously for a precisely similar contract.
Another complaint was made that Ammunition (Nobel) Limited had increased the price of cartridges by 5 per cent. The company stated that the increase was due to slackness in business and high rate of exchange payable on some of their raw materials. The matter has been investigated by the department and’ definite proof obtained that the increase in price was determined by the company prior to the resolution imposing the surcharges being tabled in the House.
Complaint was received from Redcliffs that prices of Australian sparking plugs had been increased from 4s. 6d. to 7s. Inquiries show that the retail price of 4s. 6d. is printed on each carton so that purchasers may know the correct price.
The particular garage which quoted 7s. for the Australian sparking plug was also quoting 7s. for the imported, and as it was at a place remotely situated it appears that the garage proprietor was taking advantage of the increase in price of the imported plugs to obtain a greater profit on the Australian.
The Australian Publishers’ Federation Sydney, complained that paper traders had increased the price of paper by 10 per cent. This was imported paper and inquiry showed that the increase was not due to increased duties, but owing to the adverse rate of exchange.
A complaint was made that the Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited had increased the price of lead by los. per ton. There is no duty on lead so that the tariff cannot be blamed for the increase in price. The company explains that its price is based on average London quotations and figures have been produced to show that the prices at which users of Australian lead have been able to obtain it in Australia are lower than the London quotes.
Representations have been made by honorable members from time to time to the effect that certain Australian industries are controlling the distribution and sale of their products by selling only to members of associations and other merchants who bind themselves to re-sell under certain conditions, and it is alleged that by these means exorbitant profits are made to the detriment of the general public. This question has been raised from time to time, and in response to a question by ‘the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in 1917, a copy of the agreement which must be signed by purchasers of iron and steel from’ the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was laid upon the table of the House. I also propose to lay on the table of the House a copy of the present form’ of agreement.
On the 4th April last the honorable member for Swan read a telegram received by him from Sweetman and Company, Perth, wherein it was stated that some steel merchants in Western Australia are compelled to import because Australian manufacturers refuse to supply them at the same rates and conditions as a few of their own “ pet “ distribution houses. The matter was fully investigated by an officer of the Customs Department in Western Australia, and it was found that the complainant had not approached the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for supplies, and, as a matter of fact, he was surprised when informed by the investigation officer that the conditions laid down by the company for the purchase of iron and steel merchant bars did not apply to structural shapes which are sold to any one. During this inquiry the investigating officer was informed that the distribution of certain hardware articles is controlled by an association known as the Hardware Association, with many offshoots, such as the Steel Association, Linseed Oil Association and White Lead Association, and these associations control the distribution of the following articles: - Malleable pipe fittings, steel rope, mild steel merchant bars, lead sheet, and pipe, sheet glass (English or Continental), bolts and nuts, white lead, linseed oil and galvanized iron.
Lead sheet and pipe is free from Great Britain and there is a duty of 15 per cent, from elsewhere, and up to the present time sheet glass used in Australia has all been imported, so that in these two cases it cannot be held that the tariff in any way assists traders to exploit the public. With respect to the other lines investigations will be made.
It is no doubt equitable that a trader should be able to obtain a reasonable profit on the sale of goods, but what the Government has to guard against is that manufacturers are not taking undue advantage of the protection afforded by the tariff by charging unnecessarily high prices, acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public or acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods. Under paragraph h of subsection 1 of section 15 of the Tariff Board Act these questions can be investigated by the Tariff Board, and if it be found that an Australian industry is taking undue advantage of the tariff in any of the manners set forth, the Government can then consider what action should be taken against the particular industry. With the limited powers the Commonwealth has in regard to internal trading it would appear that the only manner whereby salutary action could be taken against the offenders would be by removal of the protection afforded by the tariff. As a preliminary to an inquiry by the Tariff Board, the Government proposes to depute an accountant of the Customs Department to investigate the methods of trading adopted by certain industries with a view to ascertaining whether there is a prima facie case for submission to the Tariff Board for full inquiry.
The following papers were presented : -
Agricultural Implements and Machines - List of H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited showing articles the prices of which have been reduced by 5 per cent.
Arrangement between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Steel Associations and -others, regarding the supply - of Steel and the prices to be charged for certain Steel Products.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1930 - No. 11 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1929-30.
Debate resumed from 14th May (vide page 1740), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- There is no doubt that the action of the Government in bringing forward this bill demonstrates to the public at large and to this House in particular that its motto invariably is to “ go it blind.” Shortly , after it came into power it introduced a number of drastic tariff proposals, and many weeks afterwards we had the spectacle of the Tariff Board inquiring whether duties should be levied on items upon which the Government had already imposed heavy additional duties. We had an exactly similar experience in its action with regard to defence. The system of compulsory military training was abolished without reference to Parliament and without adequate provision being made for another system to take its place. The Government also placed an embargo upon the importation of certain goods without any adequate inquiry as to the wisdom or otherwise of that course of action. Last- week it made available £1,000,000 to the several States without any conditions whatever to enable them to deal with the problem of unemployment, and yet it pleads that it cannot make the necessary financial provision to conduct the decennial census - a proceeding which I venture to suggest is of supreme importance, as it would enable students of Australia’s commercial and industrial position to diagnose the ills from which this country is suffering at the’ present time. Moreover, the taking of the census would provide employment for a considerable number of people, who, because of the clerical nature of their avocations in ordinary circumstances, are not able to avail themselves of the remedial measures for unemployment undertaken by the various governments which mostly deal with outside works requiring only manual labour.
Australia is economically sick, and the Government, by introducing this measure to abolish the Development and Migration Commission, is sacking the expert who is in a position to diagnose the illness and suggest the remedy. It is apparent that the main feature and the main factor in Australia’s present economic sickness is the lack of co-ordination in all those activities of government which have to do with the development of this country. Our history teems with examples of this nature.
– The right honorable member’s party was in office for six years and did nothing.
– The interjection of the honorable member is almost too stupid to call for rebuttal. Australia’s present position is due to causes which nave brought about similar conditions in other countries.. The honorable member’s interjection is disproved almost daily by statements of the Leader of the Government as to the real causes of our trouble. During the six years of the Bruce-Page Administration more was achieved in the direction of co-ordinating the activities of Governments, Commonwealth and State, than had been done prior to or since federation. I need only remind honorable members of its action in bringing about co-ordination in loan flotations. The financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States makes provision for sinking funds in respect of all loans and places the financial transactions of the Commonwealth and the States on a sound basis. During its term of office, also, it introduced and passed important proposals relating to road construction, which brought about the co-operation of all the governments of Australia in a national plan, and, per medium of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, brought about a substantial measure of coordination in scientific research. No one can deny that the Development and Migration Commission was responsible for co-ordinating not only the activities of the various State Governments, but also the work of the permanent heads of State departments. Prior to its appointment, this co-operation in the carrying out of important work was conspicuous by its absence.
Australia is suffering to-day because of this lack of co-ordination in the past and also because all our eggs have been more or less in two or three baskets. Our prosperity depends very largely upon the economic success of two or three of our primary industries. Prosperity in the wool industry, for example, has a very important bearing upon the economic position of the Commonwealth. What we need is more diversification of production so that if one industry suffers because of low prices or unfavorable seasonal conditions, other vigorous industries will be able to carry the ship of State into fairly smooth financial waters.
If one cares to examine the mistakes in development that have taken place in the history of Australia, one must be impressed by the fact that, almost without exception, they have been due to ignorance of the economic possibilities of certain lines of policy; to a lack of knowledge of the physical and geographical features of the Commonwealth and the commercial and manufacturing opportunities of its various parts. One mistake that springs to mind is the trouble that has arisen over the geographical boundaries of certain States. The huge province of Riverina which, geographically and commercially, should be linked up with Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, is in the State of New South Wales. No one can doubt that, for this reason, the development of the Riverina has been seriously retarded. The original boundaries of
New South “Wales and Victoria were drawn with the intention of incorporating Riverina with Victoria, but because of lack of precision and lack of knowledge of basic conditions, it remained with New South Wales. Another mistake, due to lack of knowledge of the future possibilities, and one which has caused tremendous loss to the people of Australia, is the difference in the railway gauges of the several States. Every State railway administration is in financial trouble because it is unable to join in a scheme to pool its rolling-stock so as to meet, adequately, seasonal demands with the minimum of capital cost. The present, difficulties in South Australia have been accentuated by heavy expenditure incurred in recent years to standardize the railway gauges in that State. Another matter in which we have blundered because we lacked precise information, is soldier land settlement. During the last ten or twelve years the State Governments have spent no less than £53,000,000 in the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, and according to the report furnished by Mr. Justice Pike recently, they have lost about £24,000,000 or 40 per cent, of the total sum invested in the various soldier land settlement enterprises. This failure has been due to ignorance of the real position and absence of cooperation between the Governments concerned. Practically every State Government launched proposals, irrespective of what other States were doing, and in the carrying out of the works themselves there was a conspicuous lack of knowledge. Had the commission then been in existence, a preliminary investigation by it of a number of soldier settlement schemes would have discovered inherent faults, and the people of Australia would have been saved heavy expenditure on such proposals. Mr. Justice Pike’s report, tabled in this House on the 22nd October, 1925, contains at page 12 the following passage : - “ The result of the investigations of the commission into the complaints made by the settlers clearly points to the fact that there was an entire lack of business acumen and foresight in regard to the opening up of the areas, inasmuch as no thought appears to have been given to the question whether the areas, when developed and settled, could be run on a commercial basis, that is to say, whether cost of supplying water, including interest on capital expenditure and sinking fund on pumping plants could be covered by a reasonable water rate. It is, in the opinion of the commission, extraordinary that without this basie information the department should have recommended the opening of areas. The heavy losses incurred in the orchard propositions at Wall and Neeta and the Holder Division of the Waikerie Irrigation Area, and the annual losses in working other settled areas are, undoubtedly, the result of the capital costs being under estimated and the failure to have a pro forma working balancesheet prepared for each area, as such information, would, undoubtedly, have prevented the opening up of many of these areas.
Dealing with th« same situation, he continued -
There was also no attempt to have a soil survey made in any of the areas (except Pompoota) prior to the work of the development being commended, and in his evidence, Mr. Mcintosh, formerly Director of Irrigation, admitted that he depended on his own general knowledge of the country and the surveyors’ reports on the surface indication of the land, and in some cases (notably the Loveday Division of the Dobdogla Irrigation Area) there does not appear to have been even any general description by a surveyor prior to the work of development being commenced.
Those are two instances in which huge losses were incurred because the undertakings were begun without full knowledge and investigation.
– The losses were incurred because the State Government would not settle the soldiers on good land elsewhere.
– It all comes back to the same point - ignorance of basic conditions.
– It was not ignorance; there was more in it than that.
– Losses were incurred on good land at Redcliffs, as the honorable member must know. Those losses were directly due to lack of knowledge, and lack of co-ordination between the State Governments when they began to put into effect their soldier settlement schemes. Six or seven years ago the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) mentioned in this House that three separate State Governments had launched schemes for the settlement of soldier settlers on land to grow doradillo grapes, and that each settlement was’ in itself sufficient to produce all the doradillo grapes for which there was any demand. That sort of thing applies also to many branches of the fruit-growing industry in Australia as it has been conducted since the war. In regard to the soldier . settlements in the Goulburn Valley, the Government has spent over £700,000 in the way of bounties and other forms of assistance, because the growers found themselves in difficulties directly due to the lack of co-ordination between the Government and other repatriation authorities and lack of information as to possible markets. Not only has there ‘ been a total direct loss of £24,000,000 on the soldier land settlement schemes, but there have been further heavy demands upon the public purse for the payment of bounties, and for making good the losses on the operation of marketing pools. There has also been the incalculable loss of energy and time expended by many active and gallant settlers. The same thing applies to a large extent to the Murray River Waters Scheme. It was begun fifteen or sixteen years ago without any proper consideration being given to the future. No scientific examination of the soil was made, and the work waa undertaken upon faulty estimates, no allowance being made for the fact that it would probably cost a great deal more than was allowed for in the tentative estimates submitted by the engineers. The report of the British Economic Mission, an impartial body which investigated this undertaking among others, has this to say, not only about the Murray River Waters Scheme, but about all the schemes of land settlement undertaken during and since the war -
Further, in some cases where governments have undertaken schemes of development with the best intentions and motives they have, we believe, undertaken them without adequate preliminary investigation and without sufficient use and co-ordination of the expert scientific and technical knowledge which might have been made available to them from the resources of their own departments. We have, for instance, come across cases where an area has been laid out for an irrigation scheme without a preliminary soil survey to make sure of the suitability of the ground for the purposes for which the irrigation has been provided. Again, where schemes have been undertaken which should have involved the co-operation of more than ohe State, as for example, the scheme involving the use of the waters of the Murray River, they have been started without such co-operation and without a combined survey of the probable markets for the produce which it was contemplated would result from the use of the waters.
The report then goes on to deal with the attempts that have been made to lock the stable door after the horse has been stolen. It says -
The authorities concerned, namely the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth, are indeed now striving -in concert with one another to rectify the past; but their difficulties, which are undoubtedly great, would have been less if there had been combined investigation by them, all of the possibilities of the scheme and of its probable financial results, in the light of a coordination of all the expert and scientific knowledge available to them, before any considerable expenditure was incurred by any of them. .
It is pointed out thai no investigation was made as to the value of. the land which would be submerged when the scheme was completed. It has been suggested by those whose opinion should be respected, that this land might have been more productive than the bulk of the land which was to be irrigated.
– That is not true of South Australia.
– It is true of the Upper Murray. The report continues -
Meanwhile the Murray River Advisory Committee has been entrusted with the by jio means easy task” of advising on the question to what purposes the new areas of land, which will bo made irrigable by means of the Hume reservoir, can be profitably put, having regard to the difficulty of disposing of the produce from the irrigation areas already existing, and on the extent to which any profits which may fairly be anticipated from the new irrigable areas will outweight the loss which must be occasioned by the submerging of valuable land already in use above the site of the Hume reservoir, when the dam is completed.
In fact, it has been stated on many occasions that, instead of one huge dam, a number of smaller ones should have been constructed higher up the river. In this way the same quantity of water could have been stored at less cost, and no great area of land would have been submerged.
– Surely tha.t is a matter for engineers to consider, not one for thb commission ?
– That is so, and the commission was formed to ensure that such schemes should he submitted to the competent judgment of engineers.
An example of the good work done by the Commission is furnished by the attempt of the Government of the Prime Minister’s own State to build the Nowingi railway. The proposal came before the Development and Migration Commission when it was suggested that the line should be built under the £34,000,000 Migration Agreement. It was then learned that the project had been undertaken without expert advice having been obtained from the railway engineers, or from the Minister in charge of the Water Commission. The Development and Migration Commission was able, not only to impose a check upon expenditure under the migration agreement, but also to assist in securing co-operation between the heads of various State Government departments, and to bring about consultations between them and the Commonwealth experts if need should arise. Such co-operation has already been achieved in connexion with the goldfields’ problem in Western Australia, where the work following upon the report of the Development and Migration Commission has been attended by substantial benefit to the industry. Before taking action, the late Government always sought expert advice, but the present Government seems to regard Ministers as omniscient and not in need of such advice. Senator Daly has stated that the present Government’s policy is to place all governmental activities directly under ministerial control. That the policy of obtaining expert advice in connexion with complicated and technical matters is commended by all economic thinkers, is shown clearly in the report of the British Economic Mission, which visited Australia about two years ago -
We welcome the creation of the Development and Migration Commission and of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. So far as borrowing by the States is concerned, the Development and Migration Commission has a definite locus standi only when it is proposed that a loan should be raised under what is known as the £34,000,000 Agreement, to which we shall have occasion to refer again hereafter, because the Development and Migration Commission is a body created by and responsible to the Commonwealth Government, and it is only when State loans are raised under the £34,000,000 Agreement that the Commonwealth Government is directly concerned in them. Nevertheless there is, naturally and properly, a strong inducement afforded to State Governments wishing to borrow for schemes of development to bring their schemes within the scope of the agreement because of the material assistance given under it by the British and Commonwealth Governments; and the machinery provided through the Development and Migration Commission for the preliminary investigation of such schemes is well calculated to ensure that they shall be of the character which we have indicated above as being, in our opinion, necessary. The Development and Migration Commission is in a position not only to bring its own critical faculty to bear on the projects laid before it and to give its valuable services for their perfection, but also working as it does through committees established in each State, to secure that collection and coordination of available knowledge before schemes are undertaken which, as we have said, has too often been lacking in the past. The Development and Migration Commission is, in short, the nucleus of combined and coordinated effort for prudent development; and for the work which it has done upon the subjects especially referred to it by the Commonwealth Government, as well as for what has been done in consequence, we have nothing but praise to offer.
That is the opinion of an independent authority. During the. recent election campaign the Labour party, in an endeavour to belittle the Bruce-Page Government, criticized it for having appointed the Development and Migration Commission, and promised that if given .the opportunity, it would abolish that . body and revert to the old system which had resulted in so much difficulty and loss. Bather than seek the advice of experts before embarking on a project, the present Government is prepared to leap before it looks. It is prepared to drive the country further into debt by proceeding with non-reproductive work which will not even pay interest, rather than seek the advice of others before commencing them. The Government is completely reversing the procedure that all other countries are being forced to follow. Even the British Labour Government has realized the wisdom of being guided by the advice of experts. It has appointed an Economic Advisory Council, comprising men of all shades of political opinion, among whom is Sir Josiah Stamp, the noted economist. That council examines and reports on the economic position of proposed governmental undertakings. In the United States of America there is a Commerce Commission, and, in Canada, a Conservation Commission whose functions are very similar to those which have been carried out so well in Australia by the Development and Migration Commission during the last three years.
– They have not prevented a catastrophe in regard to marketing.
– The Development and Migration Commission has submitted a very valuable report in connexion with our dried fruits industry - a report which must assist to direct our minds along the right lines. Instead of expecting governments to do everything for us, we should merely seek from them inspiration and data, and then tackle our problems ourselves.
– The right honorable gentleman has misunderstood me. I referred to the Canadian and United States organizations which have not prevented a catastrophe in connexion with the flooding of markets. The Commerce Commission has no’t prevented the uprooting of 20,000 acres of sultanas in California.
– The Commerce Commission to which I referred was appointed by President Hoover within the last eighteen months or two years. The best brains of the United States of America have been brought together in the Federal Farm Board with a view to the co-ordination of various activities and the elimination of waste. To that principle there can surely be no objection. The trouble in Australia is that these matters have become mixed up with local politics. That is much to be deplored. The influence of party politics has emasculated and rendered sterile a body which was capable of doing an enormous amount of good. Rather than spend a few thousand pounds for a year or two - because ultimately the Commission will have to be re-appointed - the Government is risking the loss of millions of pounds; and all because it has not the courage to say that its propaganda during the election campaign had no basis in fact. Senator Daly has admitted since his assumption of ministerial office that he -was astonished with the work being done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which he now states is of incalculable value to Australia. He said that the only thing wrong with it was that the previous government had not sufficiently boosted the work it was doing. With that body the Development and
Migration Commission has been in close co-operation. The policy of the Government, as announced during the election campaign, has been modified since the Government assumed office. Instead of going ahead blindly without the guidance of the Development and Migration Commission as its policy then was, the Government now states that it will be only one-fourth blind, and that during three-fourths of the year it will merely blink its eye. In other words, it now says that it will avail itself of the services of Mr. Gepp, the chairman of the Development and Migration Commission, for three months in each year at his original rate of pay. The Government now recognizes the value of Mr. Gepp’s services and does not want to lose them entirely. Mr. Gepp is to come and go. No worse policy could be conceived. Instead of a commission, the Government proposes to have an advisory council. Evidently it believes that there is more virtue in an “ advisory council” than in a “commission”; that an advisory council, being a less wooden body than a board or a commission of exactly the same personnel will be able with a quarter of an eye to do better work than a commission with unimpaired sight could do. The essential difference between the Bruce-Page , Government’ and the present Government is that the former was prepared to be guided by expert advice while the latter is not. A person who is in ill-health does not seek advice from a butcher, but from a doctor. Similarly governments, when confronted with difficulties, should seek advice from experts. However much the Government’ seeks to camouflage the position, the fact remains that it cannot do without the gentlemen who comprise the Development and Migration Commission. It is, therefore, not dispensing with their services. But in order to keep the letter of its promise to the electors, it is abolishing the commission, as such, while actually dividing its work among the various departments. Mr. Mulvany is to be given another job; but he will still carry out some of his old duties. Mr. Gepp will be retained for three months each year at the same rate of salary that he was previously paid. Mr. Devereux is to be retained ; but the graziers of Australia will pay a proportion of his salary..
Mr. Gunn’s salary is to be reduced, but, as a compensation, his term of office is to be extended. It is clear that the present Government in its inner heart appraises brains as the late Government did ; it differs from the Bruce-Page Government in that it has not the courage to say openly that additional brains ought to be available for the guidance of the Government, particularly in difficult times like the present, but camouflages their use in this way.
The commission was doing invaluable work when the Government decided to abolish it. Australia is now faced with the problem of a huge number of people out of work. I suppose that about 15 per cent, of the workers in this country are out of employment. Even in good times, 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, of the population are unable to obtain work, and one of the main objects of bringing the Development and Migration Commission into being was to make an intensive study of the various industries in order to discover which should be selected for development, and the extent to which their expansion should be encouraged. It was desired to reduce unemployment to a lower minimum, even in prosperous times, and to make certain that in bad times Australia would have its eggs in many baskets, and be sure that, in the great majority of cases, they would be readily saleable so that increased and more continuous employment would be available. The commission made an investigation, for instance, into the conditions in the dried fruits industry. It pointed out that, in its opinion, there should be a halt in the planting of vines. It stated that governments had been dealing with the industry in a haphazard and unsatisfactory way, and I understand that its recommendation in that regard will be acted upon. I believe that practically all the reports published by the commission are highly prized by those who appreciate the subjects dealt with, and they are being used as school text, “books throughout Australia. That is evidence of the value of the work bring done.
The commission in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is- now investigating the conditions in the dairying industry, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) mentioned to-day that its report on that subject will soon be available. It was asked to investigate the whole position in regard to dairying in order to discover what causes the high costs of production that prevent the expansion of the industry. There is no question that dairying is particularly suitable for development in Australia to the highest degree possible, because no other industry tends so much to encourage home-making, and the keeping of boys and girls under parental care. It should be the definite aim of this Parliament to make the conditions in the industry such that it will be profitable and provide conditions of employment equivalent in standard to those in any other industry, whether primary or secondary. Care should be taken to see that the quality of dairy products is such as that they command a ready sale on the world’s market. This investigation is being undertaken by the commission in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The commission has also dealt with the problem of unemployment. At the last election the Labour party brought forward proposals for relieving unemployment. There were to be unemployment councils and labour bureaux throughout the States; but practically all the measures then proposed were those that the commission had suggested to the various governments of Australia two years previously. Those governments were brought together in conference late in 1928 by the Bruce-Page Government. The State Governments were requested to take steps to form labour bureaux, and several have done so.
– Labour bureaux and unemployment councils operated before that time.
– This proposal was designed to produce uniform action by appointing in each State a stabilization committee, so that it would be possible to transfer activities from an industry which might be languishing, to one which might be prosperous. It is true that efforts had been made in that direction, but. the results had been unsatisfactory and no co-operation existed..
What the late Government wished to discover was the best means of achieving the desired result, and the commission submitted a practical proposal. I venture to think that the ultimate decision will largely accord with the recommendations of the commission.
Take the various proposals that have been reviewed by this body. I need mention only two to show the enormous saving of public money that has resulted from its activities. I shall refer to the Nowingi railway scheme in Victoria, which would have involved a total expenditure of some £700,000 or £800,000. The proposal was sanctioned by the State Government, and then it was brought under the notice of the Development and Migration Commission as an undertaking that might be regarded as a migration venture. The commission examined the whole position, made inquiries from the Railways Commissioners of Victoria, the Water Commission and the Agricultural Department, and it found that the prospects of the success of the scheme were almost negligible. The result was that the work was not undertaken as a migration scheme, and Australia was saved the expense of having hundreds, and, possibly, thousands of men being unprofitably placed on the land, in an out-back district, when costs of production are so high and other difficulties are so great that even the- present settlers are in deplorable circumstances.
Then we have the instance of the Dawson Valley scheme in Queensland, which was undertaken by the State Government there without preliminary investigation. The expenditure involved was, roughly, £3,370,000, and it was found by the commission that this scheme, which had been approved by the Queensland Government, and actually embarked upon, was not justified. It was discovered that the expected crops, upon which the success of the scheme depended, were not likely to be payable because they would have very little chance, if any, of immediate sale and the soil was not adapted to growing them satisfactorily. If that scheme is ever carried into effect, the work will be done on a different scale and in a different way from that in which it was launched at the outset and with quite different objects.
The Prime Minister said that tha present is a bad time for us to embark on new schemes of this nature; but, in 1928, the objection of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) to the Development and Migration Commission was the fact that it was preventing schemes of development from being put in operation. His actual words were -
It is a somewhat ironical commentary on the success of the commission that two of its reports have resulted in curtailing development and reducing settlement.
Yet we are now told to examine every project to make certain that we shall not be spending our money on unproductive development, which would pile up huge interest bills and the only body that can do that impartially and with the experts’ confidence, is being destroyed. I have mentioned facts that are beyond dispute. Many instances, apart from the two I have given, could be quoted to show that the commission has saved Australia millions of pounds by preventing the carrying out. of unproductive public works. [Quorum formed.) Settlement failures, notably in Victoria, have been ascribed to the faulty advice given by the Development and Migration Commission, but as a matter of fact those settlement schemes were initiated before the commission came into existence, and during the last three or four years the commission has been endeavouring to find means whereby they might be put on a sound basis that would at least give some hope for the future.
The Prime Minister suggests that Australia has failed to act up to its migration commitments under the £34,000,000 agreement with Great Britain. The Development and Migration Commission was brought into being first of all to try to secure a proper selection of industries for development, and secondly to deal with undertakings under the agreement entered into by the British Government, the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments to try to secure the speedier development of Australia than would otherwise have been possible if the various Australian Governments had to pay the full rate of interest on money borrowed for developmental works. The co-operation achieved between the three - the British Government, the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the States, is a matter for congratulation and represents a spirit which, I think, we should do well to try to enlarge. It was first conceived in the mind of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). As Prime Minister at the time he brought forward a scheme which he was able to get endorsed at the Imperial Conference held in 1921, under which the Imperial Government was to give certain assistance towards migration, and engagements were entered into for land settlement schemes in Victoria and Western Australia. There was, however, a lack of proper supervision or policing under that scheme, and in 1925, when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister, a new agreement was .drawn up, which covered all the States and was designed not only to see that those who settled on the land would have a reasonable chance of success, but also to provide that money should be made available for the States to carry out works of various kinds which would definitely assist the progress of Australia.
– It was for migrants only.
– That is not so. A certain number of migrants had to be taken during the ten years, and the number had to correspond to the amount of money .that was being given to us in the way of .interest concessions by the British Government. The actual money made available could be spent in all sorts of directions so long as the provision was obeyed, which .said that at the same time a certain number of migrants should be absorbed in Australia. That number very slightly .exceeded the normal flow to Australia and absorption of British migrants without special assistance in previous years. Now that the honorable member has raised the question, I want to point out that when the British Economic Mission was in Australia it laid it .down .that each State should not be regarded as necessarily hav-
- Ula to carry the whole onus of settling the migrants that might come out ito Australia .under the terms .of the agreement ,a,n:d in proportion to the expenditure incurred by it in connexion with -the scheme. T;he amission was prepared -to ne*commend ito the -British .Government, and I understand ,that the latter was peer pared to accept the proposition, that, in future, and indeed for the past, because it was to operate over . the whole ten years of the agreement every migrant to Australia should be taken into account irrespective of the State in which he settled. The point the mission established was that because of agricultural settlement in Western Australia, although it might be absorbing a comparatively few migrants at a heavy cost, a market was created for goods manufactured in the Eastern States, thereby permitting the absorption of men in secondary industries or in the distribution of goods. It dealt with the position on page 12 of its report as follows : -
From the point of view of migration a special- difficulty presents itself. Under the £34,000,000 Agreement each State undertaking an approved scheme binds itself to accept a certain number of assisted migrants proportionate to the capital expenditure incurred in the scheme. This obligation to take a specific quota of migrants in respect of each approved scheme is apt to cause embarrassment to the States, though we have no doubt at all of their complete desire to fulfil it. We have already observed that the opportunities for migration offered by recent developments in Western Australia have been taken advantage of by persons arriving from the Eastern States, whose settlement in Western Australia the Government of that State is of course powerless to prevent, even if it wished to do so.
The agreement had really helped the settlement of Western Australia by Eastern Australians.
Similar effects would be likely to follow from similar causes in the other mainly primary producing States. Moreover it has to be borne in mind that the immigration which follows from the successful extension of primary production is caused in part directly and in part, perhaps in the main, indirectly. The immigration directly caused comes to the locality where the extension of primary production is taking place. It sets up an increased demand for the products of secondary industries, and the immigration indirectly caused results from .this demand. The secondary industries are mainly established in the great manufacturing States of New South Wales .and Victoria, so that it .is to be anticipated that the successful development of primary industries in the other States will, so far as its indirect results are concerned, be reflected in increased immigration into New South Wales and Victoria. It follows that the primary producing States are likely to have .difficulty in absorbing their prescribed quotas of migrants, though the obligation to do so will remain .upon .them, while on the other hand the manufacturing : States being able to point to the increased immigration within their borders -will >be able “to’ satisfy their obligations in the matter without difficulty, really as the result of what has been done in other States.
These considerations lead us to suggest that it might be well if it were possible to secure the concurrence of all the Governments concerned, that is to say, the British Government, the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments, in such an amendment of the agreement as would provide that the funds made available under it might be used not only for schemes involving the acceptance of specific numbers of migrants by the individual States, but also for work calculated to promote migration into Australia generally.
The British Government was thus prepared to meet the position very fairly by enabling the money made available under the £34,000,000 agreement to be used for the development of primary agricultural States such as Western Australia or South Australia by men from the Eastern States, although the ultimate quota was made up by an increase in the manufacturing population in the Eastern States.
The Prime Minister says that Australia has failed to keep the agreement. From what I can understand since the beginning of 1921, approximately 200,000 migrants have arrived in Australia, and since the agreement, 100,000. As the agreement involves the expenditure by Australia of £75 for each migrant, a migration of 100,000 represents an expenditure on development of £7,500,000 and a migration of 200,000 an expenditure of £15,000,000. The interest on these sums represents the interest concession made by the British Government over a period of ten years.
– The right honorable member speaks of it- as a gift, but it is really a loan.
– It is not a loan; it is a gift of interest. Having had the experience of having to operate the agreement for four or five years, I ought to know something about it, I tried to induce the British Government themselves to make the loan to Australia, but without success. The British Government offered, however, to pay half the interest on £34,000,000 for, five years, and a third of the interest on the same amount for another five years, and Australia had to carry out certain obligations. The £34,000,000 itself had to be borrowed by the Commonwealth Government which in turn informed the States that it would make a concession to them of one-third of the interest for ten years to enable them to carry out developmental work which otherwise they could not have undertaken.
– Has not the £34,000,000 to be repaid?
– It is a loan raised by the Commonwealth and could have been raised anywhere; but the point is that the interest for which the British Government agreed to hold itself liable would amount to over £7,500,000.
– That interest equals the amount of passage money the Commonwealth had to pay, and then the Commonwealth had the obligation of settling the migrants.
– There seems to be an impression abroad that a migrant is some one we should fear and should not receive with open arms. The right honorable gentleman stands for the development of secondary industries. How can we expect to extend our local market if we do not encourage migrants to settle in Australia? It has been suggested that migrants are a liability upon the Commonwealth, but according to the figures supplied by Mr. Bruce, when Prime Minister, assisted migrants brought money to Australia, during a period of five years, amounting to no less than £2,565,000, and nominated and assisted migrants £5,000,000 fresh capital during that period. From March, 1921, to June, 1930, the total expenditure of the Commonwealth in connexion with migration was approximately £1,482,386, so that the amount actually spent during a period of eight years was much less than the amount of capital brought to Australia by migrants during the period of five years. We also have the advantage of additional citizens of the Commonwealth added to our numbers to help to develop this country. The passage and landing money and medical fees advanced to migrants during that period amounted to £420,509, while the amount repaid was £267,499, showing that the great bulk of them were able, as a result of being satisfactorily settled in Australia, to repay the passage money advanced to them: I strongly deprecate the suggestion that migrants should be prevented from coming to Australia, even though periods of depression do occur. It should be the policy of the Government to welcome people of our own kith and kin, as an increased population will not only result in an extension of our home market .and assist to make our railways and other services more profitable, but will also help to maintain the standard of living, increase production - increase our national wealth - and have the effect of reducing the taxation per head of population and the interest per head payable on our non-productive debt due to the war, or unsatisfactory methods of development. In that regard I am sharply opposed to the Government’s method of dealing with this subject. There is no question we shall come very quickly,- after the present depression has passed, to a stage at which we shall desire to have migrants coming to this country. When a previous Labour Government was in office, large numbers of British migrants came to Australia, and the increased population, instead of being a danger, undoubtedly helped us.
– But the system was organized then.
– And now it is to be disorganized. I strongly object to the Prime Minister and those supporting him advertising the fact that Australia is in financial difficulties. Although we are faced with economic and financial troubles, and doubtless shall be again, I deprecate the Prime Minister giving so much publicity to our position. Many of the methods adopted by this Government to deal with tine situation have been spectacular and unsatisfactory, and cannot even, be regarded as a palliative. Migration tends to check itself when the conditions in Australia are depressed. That is shown by the fact that during the depression of 1921, when the percentage of unemployment was 11.5, only 1,284 migrants came to Australia because of the difficulty in finding employment, whereas in 1926, when conditions were more satisfactory, and the percentage of unemployment was about 6 per cent, approximately 30,000 migrants arrived.
– A lot of lies have been told to prospective migrants.
– That is not so, so far as the Governments of Australia are concerned.
– I have spoken to some of them.
– I have met many who have been comfortably settled in Australia, who are proving good citizens and are helping us to meet our obligations. During the first quarter of the present financial year the number of assisted migrants dropped to approximately 3,000; and for the last couple of years, in view of the depression, there has been a steady diminution in the number of passages paid for. In the Estimates for 1926-27, £348,000 was provided for assisted passages, of which only £248,000 was spent. In 1927-28 £261,000 was spent. In 1928-29, although £300,000 was estimated only £132,000 was spent, and this year the estimate was still lower, at £100,000. That amount does not represent the total expenditure on migration, as the British Government and the migrants themselves give a quota of the passage money.
– The British Government lends a quota.
– It gives a certain quota; it does not lend it at all. If the passage money of an assisted migrant cost £33, the British Government, the Commonwealth Government, and the migrant would each contribute £11. The figures I quoted a short time ago showed the extent to which repayments of the amounts advanced to the migrant himself to make up his third, have been made. The British Government, does not lend the money for this purpose, but actually gives one-third of the passage money of each assisted British migrant.
– What were the obligations of the Government under the migration agreement?
– As my time is limited I cannot quote them in detail, but they are set out in the Migration Agreement, at the end of the first report of the Development and Migration Commission. The agreement between the British and Commonwealth Governments, which was signed on the 8th April, 1925, provides for the expenditure of £34,000,000 on approved undertakings such as the Wyangla Dam, the Dawson Valley scheme, hydro-electric undertakings, railways and other such projects. The agreement provides that for every £75 spent on an approved undertaking a State must undertake to absorb one assisted migrant within ten years from the 8th April, 1925.They could be absorbed within three or four years subsequent to the spending of the money, and the development might be such as to provide employment for thousands. In every ten thousand assisted migrants there must be migrant families aggregating 3,750 persons. Special conditions relating to moneys employed in settlement on farms are also provided. The position in regard to farms generally is that one half of the available farms were to be allotted to migrants and one half to Australians who wished to settle on the land. A migrant who has been resident in Australia for three years is regarded as a migrant.
– The £75 was a portion of the loan which we had to raise.
– Yes. The British Government pays one-half of the interest for five years, and one-third of the interest for another five years. It also pays one-third of the passage money of assisted migrants coming to this country.
– There was nothing very generous about those terms.
– They meant an interest concession of something like £8,000,000 on the total of £34,000,000.
– Under the agreement Great Britainwas to pay half the interest for five years on the £75 expended on each migrant, then one-third of the interest for the next five years, and nothing at all after that.
– No one will deny that this concession on the part of Great Britainwasvery generous.
– Not at all.
– Before the agreement was entered into, Australia had to bear the whole of the expense connected withmigration.
Mr.Crouch. - Under the agreement, Great Britain saved, by way of the dole, £39 on each migrant to Australia.
– The honorable member mayexplain his attitude towards Great Britain and theBritish Empireat his leisure.
This attempton the part of theGovernment towipe outthe Development and Migration Commis sion is astupid blunder-. Quite apart from the question of migration it is essential that there should exist in Australiasome body which is continuously reviewing all the industries of Australia, selecting those onwhich we should concentrate, and acting in close collaboration and co-operation with the permanent heads of the various. State departments which are concerned with the development of this country. A little while ago many of the State departments were more or less watertight bodies, having little or no relation with each other, and it was only at the instance of the Development and Migration Commision that the permanent heads of certain departments met together to discuss their general plans in dealing with the whole problem of the development of thiscountry. At this time, when we are suffering from so many economic disorders, it is essential that we should dispel the existing ignorance of our resources at the earliest possible moment. Let me give an instance. In my own electorate there is an area of land which was controlled by the Forestry Department and not by the Lands Department. Because of that we found it practically impossible to have it examined for the purpose of settlement. The question wasput to the Development and Migration Commission whether this area could not be developed in a general way by expending upon it portion of the money made available under the migration agreement and obtainable at cheap interest. The Development and Migration Commission collaborated with the Forestry Department, the Lands Department and the Works Department of NewSouth Walesand as a result an examination was made of that area. Whether the commission is to continue its work or not,it cannot bedenied that its activity led to the development of a plan to utilize a region which otherwise might have remained in a virgin state for the next 150 years. That was possible onlybecause of thecollaboration andco-operation whichtook place between the State departments at the instance of the commission.[Quorum formed.] Atthis critical time in our national history, constructive, expert, and technical advice is needed more than it has been at any other period. We need it much more in troublesome times than we do in days of prosperity. No matter how indigent a country may be, it can always afford to pay for the best brains of the community and to turn them to national problems. In fact, it cannot afford not to get the best brains at such a. time. It is false economy to cut down expenditure without expert knowledge. It is true economy to use the limited amount of loan money at our disposal in carrying out only essential works which have been discussed, criticized, and examined from every point of view. The Government, in consequence of the propaganda that the Labour party used at the last elections, is disbanding this commission and placing many of its officers in the various government departments. I urge the Government to use these officers in continuing the work of the commission, which has been already of great value to Australia, so that we may secure and mobilize the best brains of Australia, in an effort to build up, not only its commerce and private undertakings, but also the public development of this great nation in such a way as to ensure that unemployment will be at a minimum, that production will be continually on the increase, that the cost of production .will be reduced without altering the conditions and standards of our workers, and that the industries which it brings into being will be able, in good and bad times, to employ the men engaged in them profitably, and under decent living conditions.
.- I regret the introduction of this bill, because I feel that it has been brought down merely in an attempt to justify the Labour party’s ill-considered criticism of the Development and Migration Commission, during the last election campaign, although at that time it had not the faintest conception of the work of that body. In another place Senator Daly has, since the activities of this commission have been under his control, expressed surprise at the responsible nature of the work that is being carried out by it, particularly in regard to the development of our resources. Regardless of that fact, the Labour party, now that it is, much to its surprise, in office, intends, at the dictation of those who are prompting it from outside, to abolish this commission, in accordance with its undertaking to do away with all boards and commissions. Up to date, only two commissions have been attacked by the Government: the Development and Migration Commission and the Federal Capital Commission, but neither of these is to be completely disbanded ; they are only to be crippled. The Government has recognized the efficiency of their work and, rather than disband them altogether, it is only reconstructing them and absorbing most of the officers concerned in government departments. These bodies are really being continued, but in mangled and crippled form. That is the only result of the ill-considered propaganda of the Labour party at the last election.
I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to withdraw the bill and to allow the Development and Migration Commission to continue its effective work. The act which constituted this commission was passed in 1926. It has, therefore, only had three years in which to function. For a “long time its activities were in the direction of carrying out necessary preliminary work, and it is only at this stage that it has been able to make any headway. The commission has gained considerable experience during the last three years, and it should be permitted to continue its good work for the ultimate benefit of Australia generally.
The principal requirements in Australia to-day are the development ‘ of our primary and secondary industries, particularly the former, and increased population. We cannot exploit to the fullest extent our natural resources unless we have cheap money. The function of the Development and Migration Commission has been to carry out, in conjunction with the States, schemes that it considered would make for the rapid development of those resources with the cheap money made available under the agreement between the Commonwealth and British Governments. We must depend on Great Britain to provide a market for the largest part of our primary products. By carrying out- the agreement into which we have entered we shall not only assist in making Great
Britain prosperous but also become prosperous ourselves, because we shall have a lasting and an ever-increasing market for the commodities that we produce. Our prosperity depends upon our finding markets overseas for those commodities. It is imperative for us to co-operate with Great Britain if we wish to develop our primary industries. If we do that, we shall bring about a condition of affairs that will be mutually beneficial. The act which brought the Development and Migration Commission into existence laid upon it the duty of giving consideration to all matters in relation to the development of the resources of the Commonwealth, whether by co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth, or otherwise.
Australia has never faced adequately her problems of development. We have not had a stock-taking of our resources, so as to determine what can be regarded as natural resources, with a view to concentrating on their development. That work was entrusted to the Development and Migration Commission, and if it were not mangled as the Government proposes by this bill it would continue to carry it out. “We have not yet ascertained what commodities we now import can be produced profitably in Australia. We have concentrated on the development of industries that experience has taught we were ill-advised to touch. If a prior investigation had been made of them, much money and time would have been saved. The development of the doradillo grape industry in the Murray river area is a striking example of misapplied effort. We would not have had that experience if an investigation had first been made to see whether a market was available for our production. The huge amount that this Parliament has provided by way of bounty to assist the growers of doradillo grapes would have been saved if a body similar to the Development and Migration Commission had investigated the proposal before the returned soldiers and other settlers were placed on those areas. Many mistakes have been prevented by the commission in the expenditure of the funds that have been made available under the migration agreement. I urge the Government not to destroy the commission or hamper its activities at the behest of the extreme members of its outside organizations. Before I resume my seat I shall endeavour to show that it has been of lasting benefit to Australia, and that in the best interests of Australia it should continue to function.
At the present time it is incumbent upon both this House and the country generally to consider seriously the attitude that ought to be adopted towards migration. On the question of the development of Australia there cannot be any hesitation. We must do all that lies within our power to advance its development. That can best be done by availing ourselves of the money that Great Britain is prepared to advance under the migration agreement. The migrants who come to Australia, whether under the terms of. that agreement or by any other means, must be nominated by the States. If the States are satisfied that with this money they can develop their areas and absorb migrants they should be allowed to do so. The scheme provides for the settling of an equal number of Australian citizens and British migrants. We must not shirk our responsibility in the matter. During periods of depression those who conduct businesses explore every avenue to ascertain the directions in which development is most likely to take place.. Similarly in every well-governed country the Government adopts every means available to promote development, and refrains from exhibiting a pessimistic outlook. That is the attitude which should be adopted in Australia to-day. We should not decline to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself to develop our country. A body similar to the Development and Migration Commission, which the Government proposes to destroy, has recently been set up in Great Britain by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Government. It is known as the Advisory Economic Council. Its functions are to ascertain what steps should be taken to cope with business depression and to deal with unemployment and development. Those are identical with the functions that have been carried out by the Development and Migration Commission ; yet the Government proposes to destroy that body! No more striking tribute has ever been paid to its work than that of Mr. Collier, who, until recently, was Labour Premier of Western Australia. Millions of pounds will be spent in that State to aid its development, as a result of the activities of the commission, the State Government cooperating with the Commonwealth Government in the matter. Mr. Collier was one of the first to deplore the proposal of this Government to destroy the commission; and he paid a glowing tribute to the valuable work that it did in co-operation with his Government to assist in developing his State.
The haphazard methods that have been applied to land settlement in the past constitute a sorry record. The attempts to repatriate our soldiers by placing them on the land have had most unfortunate results. In this direction Australia has squandered at least £12,000,000; and a similar if not a greater sum has been lost by the soldiers, who, in addition, have wasted many years of their lives. This huge loss would have been avoided if a body such as the Development and Migration Commission had investigated the different schemes before they were put in hand. The Development and Migration Commission has saved Australia enormous sums by its examination of schemes that have been submitted by the States. Had it been functioning at the time that soldier repatriation schemes were embarked upon in Queensland there would not have been the sad spectacle of large numbers of soldiers being placed on the land at Beerburrum. This land, being regarded as unsuitable for agriculture or fruit-growing, had many years ago been handed over to the Defence Department for use as an artillery range, but the Labour Government of Queensland, of which the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) was Premier, selected the area for the settlement of returned soldiers. These unfortunate men were put on the land to grow pineapples and other fruits, for which the land was quite unfitted. Had the State Government examined the project as the commission would have done, an immense sum of repatriation money, and the capital of the soldiers would have been saved, and their health and spirit would not have been undermined by undertaking an im possible task. After years of struggling against adversity, these unfortunate men, ruined in pocket, and broken in spirit, had to relinquish their holdings.
Many other examples of lack of investigation before developmental schemes were undertaken could be quoted. The River Murray irrigation scheme is a notably unfortunate instance. Immediately after the war, dried fruits were bringing a high price in Great Britain because Greece, Smyrna, and Turkey had not resumed export to that market. The State Governments secured an area of approximately 300,000 acres in the River Murray Valley for the production of dried fruits by soldier settlers. The area was fenced and cleared, and £800,000 of borrowed money was utilized in its development. Without making a proper analysis of the soil, the land was surveyed and channelled and a costly pumping plant was installed. Later, the discovery was made that the soil was saline, and not one settler has been placed there or is ever likely to be. The pumping plant has been removed and the rest of the expenditure is written off as loss. Had this scheme been submitted to such a body as the Development and Migration Commission a soil survey would have been made in the preliminary stages, and a costly error would have been avoided. The wisdom of that procedure was shown in connexion with the Dawson Valley scheme in Queensland. The then Premier of the State (Mr. Theodore) sought to take advantage of the £34,000,000 migration agreement with Great Britain to involve his State in an expenditure of £3,370,000 upon the irrigation of the Dawson Valley. The State was practically committed to the scheme, but when application was made to the Commonwealth Government for a loan under the migration agreement, an investigation was conducted by the Development and Migration Commission which obtained technical reports from Mr. T. Hill, Chief Engineer of the Commonwealth Works and Railways Department; Mr. C. C. Halkyard, hydraulic engineer in the employ of the Hydro Electric Department of Tasmania; Mr. W. G. Wells, cotton specialist; Mr. G. V. Brookes, Instructor in Agriculture; Mr. C. McGrath,
Chief Instructor of Dairying, and Mr. W. G. Browne, Instructor in Sheep and Wool. All of the four officers last named were employed in the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock. When the commission asked for what purpose the area was to be irrigated, the Queensland Government said that it would be used for dairying and cotton-growing amongst other industries. The commission thereupon asked the Queensland Dairy Expert his opinion of the area from a dairying point of view, and his re”ply was unfavorable. When he was asked, “ Have you not reported that to your Government?” he replied, “I have never been asked for a report.” Next, the commission inquired of the cotton expert, who expressed- the view that cottongrowing would not be a success in that area. He was asked why he had not advised his Government to that effect and he answered, “I have never been asked.” As a result of the commission’s report, the scheme has been deferred, pending experiments to discover for what purposes the- area is suited,, and the possibility of finding markets for what it may produce. But for this inquiry, nearly £4,000,000 would possibly have been wasted.
In Victoria, also, the taxpayers were saved millions of pounds through the activities of the Development and Migration Commission. The first Hogan Administration desired to take advantage of the cheap money available under the migration scheme to build a railway to Nowingi in the far north-western Mallee. The Railways Standing Committee of the Victorian Parliament had recommended the project and application was made to the Commonwealth for the necessary money. When the commission was asked to investigate the matter, one of the firstwitnesses it called was the Railways Commissioner, Mr. Clapp. When he was asked what he thought of the railway from the point of view of his department, he said, “ It is rotten “. In answer to a further question he said that he had not been invited by the Victorian Government to express an opinion. The commission said to him, “ Seeing you will have to operate this railway, what will be the result of building it ?” He replied, “ A heavy loss.” The commission ascertained also that the provision of a water supply had not been investigated. It is not surprising that it reported unfavorably on the project.
The time available will not permit me to mention in detail the work of the commission, or to show how much it has saved to the taxpayers by advising against foolish and unprofitable developmental undertakings. It is sufficient to say that it saved Australia many millions of pounds by preventing the launching of ill-considered schemes. It has approved of other projects which are commercially sound, involving the expenditure of £8,000,000, and has deferred, for future consideration, proposals estimated to cost £5,000,000. In addition to its work under the migration agreement, it has prepared valuable reports on the dried and canned fruits industry, for which it has been highly commended by the press in Australia and abroad. It inquired exhaustively into the causes and curses of unemployment, and, if its report had been acted on, the present depression, involving the idleness of 15 per cent, of our workers would have been much less acute.
The commission prepared an exhaustive report on the general development of Tasmania and its internal transport. That State has been in financial difficulties for many years, and its people claim that federal legislation has retarded its development. It has been receiving from the Commonwealth substantial grants inaid, and this year it is applying for £500,000. The Bruce-Page Government instructed the commission to investigate the financial and economic conditions of the State, and many of its recommendations are now in successful operation.. The agricultural and dairying industrieshave been almost completely revolutionized and other industries of theisland State are in a much improved condition. On the problem of internal transport, which is causing much concern to the State Government, thecommission brought expert knowledge tobear, and the Premier of Tasmania informed me recently that the reports and recommendations of that body have been invaluable. The commission, in cooperation with the Council for Scientific: and Industrial Research, has .been investigating the possibility of intensifying dairy production. This industry is vital to Australia’s development and prosperity, and I am confident that it will benefit considerably by the commission’s recommendation. Unfortunately, the present Government proposes to abandon this expert counsel, and blindly, make decisions on big problems of development. As a result we may expect a repetition of the disastrous experiences in connexion with soldier, settlement. This decision is typical of the policy of the Government. Tho provisions of the Tariff Board Act require the Government to submit tariff proposals to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, before placing them ‘before Parliament. Yet this Government, a mouth after it assumed office, brought down a huge tariff schedule covering, hundreds of items without having first submitted it to the board. After placing it on the table and allowing it to Operate, it then submitted it to the Tariff Board for its hasty consideration and recommendation. Another example of illadvised and precipitous action on the part of the Government was the abolition of compulsory military training.
– Order! The honorable member can scarcely connect that subject with this debate.
– I contend that the action of the Government in abolishing the Development and Migration Commission is merely a continuity of that policy.
– I cannot permit the honorable member to review, on this debate, the whole of the activities of the Government.
– I do not propose to do so. Without waiting to investigate the problem or to have a proper scheme prepared, the Government abolished compulsory military training. As a result the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) is compelled, day after day, to announce re-arrangements and further details concerning that ill-digested project. The Government appears to be determined to perpetuate the reprehensible policy of illconsidered and precipitate action that brought about disaster in connexion with our soldier settlement. This is. an age of specialists. The Development and Migration. Commission was inaugurated in order that the Government of the day should have the assistance of some of the best brains in the country when carrying out its plans of development and migration. Yet this Government has. persistently refused to accept the advice of that body, preferring to follow its own course and muddle through. I urge the Government to stay its hand in this matter, and to give heed to the views of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) as expressed in another place. That gentleman, who originally condemned the Development and Migration Commission, admitted, on mature consideration, that what he had learned concerning its activities created a new impression in his mind. He even stated that the Bruce-Page Government did not advertise the commission sufficiently for its good work, and admitted that if its efforts were given proper publicity many people would change their views with regard to its usefulness. I submit that a very strong case can be made out for the continuation of this body, although I admit that halt could be called in regard to its migration activities. [Quorum- formed.)
.- This bill represents another step in the work of destruction in which this Government is engaging. The Government is particularly impatient and resentful of special knowledge and skilled criticism. Accordingly, in several directions, it is dispensing with requirements of existing laws which necessitate the obtaining of such knowledge and the submission of projects to such criticism. The Tariff Board is being ignored. Three hundred items are brought down without any reference to it, and the board is asked to report on them after the Government has declared its policy. A director of economic research is not to be appointed. It is not desired that the proposals of the Government shall bo subjected to any skilled economic inquiry. In this bill, we have a proposal to abolish the Development and Migration Commission.
I propose to deal with the principle that underlies the Development and Migration- Act. If one refers to the speech of the right honorable the Prime
Minister when introducing the bill, one must wonder why this action is being taken. It is the speech of a Minister who knows that he has a majority behind him, and who also knows that that majority is prepared to vote, probably silently, without understanding and without reasons being given for the policy suggested by the Government. It would perhaps be awkward if some honorable members opposite were allowed to rise and give reasons, as they presented themselves to their minds, for supporting the policy of the Government in this matter. Before, and during the general election, the Government went so far in condemning the Development and Migration Commission that it now has to take some action. I have sufficient respect for the ability of themembers of the Government to be prepared to believe that when they became acquainted with the facts of the case they were very sorry that they had gone so far in their political endeavours to discredit their opponents. When the Development and Migration Bill was introduced it was opposed, not because there were real objections to it, but because it was brought in by the Government of the day, and the campaign having once started, was continued, and continued up to the last elections.
The subjects with which the commission deals are development and migration. The remarks of the Prime Minister were confined entirely to the subject of migration. Everybody in this House recognizes that, under any government, there would now be a diminution of expenditure on migration. The stream of migration is naturally stopping, and it is unnecessary to take any action to curtail it at present. When a country is attractive migrants will come to it; but when it is unattractive, it is quite unnecessary to take any action to restrain their entry. The Bruce-Page Government had already curtailed the estimates of expenditure on migration, and I agree that there should now be a diminution.
The more important aspect of the commission has always appeared to me to be development. The act is based upon the principle that development should be undertaken in advance of or concurrently with migration, and that there should be openings for migrants before they are allowed to come to Australia under any assisted scheme. Any other person, subject to the requirements of our Immigration Act, is entitled to enter Australia and take his own chances. That principle must commend itself to every honorable member on both sides of the House, but it has been the practice and fashion, only for political purposes, to attack the first act founded on that principle, in spite of the fact that that principle has been loudly acclaimed by honorable members opposite for many years. The act provides that the powers and functions of the commission shall include certain matters in relation to the development of Australia, and certain other matters in relation to migration to Australia. In regard to the former, it reads -
The making of reports and recommendations to the Minister upon matters dealt with by the Commission in pursuance of any of the last three preceding subparagraphs ;
The functions of the commission under these provisions, apart altogether from the migration agreement, include the taking of a general economic survey of Australia. If ever there was a time when such a survey by skilled and competent persons with wide knowledge and experience was desirable, and indeed necessary, it is the present. Unfortunately, it is at this very time that the Government proposes to disband the commission and distribute its staff between government departments, so that they will work in the ordinary atmosphere of the Prime Minister’s Department and that of the Transport Department. It is alleged that the work will be done better if performed by departmental officers in the ordinary way, and it is also alleged that the existence of the commission was a negation of governmental responsibility. It is suggested that the abolition of the commission is based upon the principle of restoring ministerial responsibility. Those allegations, of course, are without any foundation whatever, as any one who takes the trouble to read the act .will realize. It is quite true that the act provides that the Government shall not approve of any scheme under the migration agreement unless it has been favorably reported upon and recommended by the commission, but subparagraph 2 of section 14 provides that “ the Commonwealth may approve of any such undertaking or scheme if each House of the Parliament by resolution approves of the undertaking or scheme.” In other words there is a limitation upon the power of Ministers, but the act still leaves to Ministers full responsibility for any scheme that they approve, and in no way derogates from or diminishes that responsibility.
The act does impose on Ministers the necessity of coming to Parliament for its approval before they disagree with a recommendation of the commission disapproving of a particular scheme under the agreement. I submit that that is an entirely sound principle. We have” seen in Australia, for too many years, schemes of development entered upon merely with the object of gaining votes. I can quite understand this Government being anxious to remove this obstacle to the old style of politics in which it apparently believes. The late Government believed in getting the best assistance from all quarters before proceeding with the expenditure of the people’s money. It believed in consulting experts upon subjects regarding which the advice and assistance of experts was considered desirable and necessary. I will even admit that the late Government did not believe that a particular citizen, who happened to be included in a Commonwealth Ministry, thereby became an expert in all matters relating to industry or the development of Australia.
I was interested to read among the many remarkable messages from London that have been published in the Australian press since the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) has been there the report of a meeting which he was said to have addressed in that city. It will be understood that I am referring merely to newspaper reports; but they have not been contradicted. According to one such report Mr. Fenton, addressing a meeting in London, called the attention of his audience to the fact that the price of Commonwealth, stock was much higher in Australia than in London. This, he said, showed that the people of Australia had confidence in their own country. Perhaps observations of that kind could be made with impunity in the presence of some audiences, but for a Minister of the Commonwealth to be unaware, when speaking before persons of the calibre he was then addressing, that the fact to which he referred was merely an indication of the depression of the Australian currency in London, was somewhat amazing. Mr. Fenton is also reported to have made the interesting announcement that the present Government was restoring the principle of ministerial responsibility, as was indicated by its proposal to abolish the Development and Migration Commission. Unfortunately for the Government, many people of the city of London know the personnel of the Development and Migration Commission, and I have no doubt they would feel far more satisfied that the development of Australia was proceeding on sound lines if the advice of the commission were retained, than if they knew that it was being remitted to the ordinary game of politics under the present Ministry.
I believe that the Government is proceeding on entirely wrong and unsound lines. It is putting back the hands of the clock many years, and reverting to the bad old days of political control when developmental projects were considered in terms of votes. I cannot help wondering what is likely to happen in regard to the Hume Weir. In the Murray Valley some £33,000,000 has been spent on irrigation work. The Development and Migration Commission has been conducting an inquiry into the possibility of the development of the Murray Valley. Settlements in this valley produce a large quantity of dried and canned fruits. Honorable members know the economic position of those industries, and those on both sides of the House will view with some apprehension any proposal for their extension under the present marketing conditions.
– There is no danger of that.
– I hope not, but the honorable member knows that if there is a chance of generous government assistance, many persons will engage in the industry who would not otherwise think of doing so. He must be aware, I think, that despite the difficulties which have confronted the fruit-growing industry in recent years, further areas have been planted with a view to producing fruit for canning, and new vineyards have been established. In view of these facts it is impossible to say that there is no risk of these industries extending even at the present time. The difficulty is that individuals without guidance are not, as a general rule, in a position to judge of the ultimate prospects of all industry in which they are engaging as new men. Many of our citizens are engaged in fruitgrowing in the Murray Valley. The Hume dam has been constructed up to a certain level, and water is being impounded. There is a proposal to construct it to the height originally intended, and to impound an enormously greater quantity of water. An inquiry is being made now by the Development and Migration Commission as to the economic possiblities of the water if impounded. That obviously involves a consideration of the value of the land upon which the water is to be used, the cost of bringing the water to the land, and the value of the land behind the weir - much of it high quality land - which will be flooded. It also involves consideration of the economic possibilities of the industries which could be established upon the irrigated land. That is obviously an inquiry of very great complication, and immense importance. I sincerely hope that the fullest facilities will be available to what will be, I am afraid, the depleted staff of the commission, so that we may have a proper examination of the position before Parliament is asked to commit the country to any further expenditure upon the Hume dam. There are political reasons of an obvious character why some honorable members may be enthusiastic in urging further expenditure in this direc tion, but I suggest that the House ought to have the fullest information as to the economic possibilities of using the land which it is proposed to irrigate. That is exactly the work for which the Development and Migration Commission was established. It is work which, in Australia, can only be done, when Commonwealth and States are concerned, by a large measure of cooperation between Commonwealth and State Governments. Honorable members who have any experience of administration, or indeed, of public life, are aware of the jealousies which often arise between different departments engaged in similar activities, and they are also aware, no doubt, that in some cases there is jealousy of certain Commonwealth activities by a State department, or State departmental officers. That was one of the matters which was borne in mind when the Development and Migration Commission was set up. It was seen that if the work for which the commission was appointed was to be done effectively, it must be done very largely in cooperation with the State Governments. Accordingly, instead of making the commission an ordinary government department - as the remnants of it are now proposed to be made - it was constituted as a different body on a different footing from other departments, but with a Minister still in charge of its activities. The standing, ability, and recognized capacity of the members of the commission were such that it successfully established most cordial relations with all State departments’. It is doubtful whether it would have been possible for a Commonwealth department of the ordinary kind to do that, but the standing of the members of the commission was so high that this very difficult establishment of relations was successfully accomplished.
The commission is to be congratulated on the work it has done. It has already rendered very great service to Australia as a whole, and practically to every State of the Commonwealth individually. As I have previously pointed out, the commission has saved its cost thousands of times over. It is now to cease. No longer is there to be a body of this standing to which developmental projects can be referred with the assurance of competent, independent, non-political investigation. In the future, officers of a department, acting in every particular under the direction of a Minister, are to handle these matters, and we shall be back to the bad old days of politics, from which I had hoped we were emerging, when v expenditure of public money derived by taxation was governed largely by political considerations such as the gaining of votes, instead of by the merits of the proposal involved.
I think that the Government is taking a retrograde step, a fact of which it is itself uneasily self-conscious. I hope that in the future the Government will realize that the fact of an individual being a member of a government does not entitle him to regard himself as skilled in matters of which his past experience has taught him nothing; and I trust it will come to realize that it is worth employing the best brains of the country on some of the country’s most important work. I oppose the bill.
.- At an earlier stage in the debate the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) showed so much interest in the matter under discussion that I felt reluctant to rise, thinking that these gentlemen would give honorable members some opportunity of learning the faith that is in them. However, as one of those gentlemen still retains his seat, and as the other has fled from the chamber, I must address myself to this subject without the enlightenment that might otherwise have been given to me.
– The supporters of the Government can offer no support to this bill except their votes.
– It is votes that count.
– Yes, votes count. Honorable members opposite can vote in favour of this bill, but they cannot justify it by logical argument. The bill proposes to wipe out the whole of the Development and Migration Act of 1926 with the exception of the section which relates to the migration agreement, or what is more commonly known as the £34,000,000 agreement. The commission, as a commission, is to disappear. The Government, after its carping criticism while in opposition of the commission and of all its works, had to justify itself before the people of Australia, and could do so only by taking what might be regarded as drastic action. Therefore, the commission must go. But while the commission, as a commission, must go, one cannot help being struck by the remarkable fact that it is, nevertheless, so indispensable to the Government that its component parts - its personnel and staff - are to be largely retained in one way or another. As has been already pointed out by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), the chairman is being retained, on a part-time basis and is to be paid by the Government for that time at the same rate of salary as he enjoyed previously. The deputy chairman is to be retained to give the whole of his time to woolmarketing problems. He, too, is to receive his former salary, paid partly by the Government, and partly by the wool industry. Mr. Gunn’s term is to be actually extended for a number of years. The other member of the commission, Mr. Mulvany, is to go back to the Markets Department, and the Government is endeavouring to solve the embarrassing problem of having two capable permanent heads in one department by unnecessarily, as I think, splitting that department into two sections. So much for the commission. As for the staff, a3 far as I can understand, the major portion of it is also to be retained. Surely no government, no matter what promises it. made to the people on the hustings in order to secure its return, could offer a better testimony to the value of the commission than this grudging retention of the essential units of the commission while, allegedly, dismembering the commission itself.
It has to be remembered that the greater part of the activities of the commission was related to developmental works. [Quorum formed.] Its chief concern was to solve the problem of properly and efficiently developing this country. In my opinion, even if not one migrant was brought to Australia for years, there would still have been ample reason for the existence of the commission. Foi some years past many primary industries as well as industrial and other business concerns in Australia have experienced great difficulty in profitably extending their operations, and the commission was doing valuable work in inquiring into the faults of our existing system, and pointing to ways in which industry could be expanded.
The necessity for the commission or some similar organization became evident when the £34,000,000 agreement was signed between the Commonwealth and British Governments, together with the concomitant agreements between the Commonwealth and State Governments. Before dealing in some detail with the major portion of that agreement I wish to refer to some of the minor provisions, because at an earlier stage in the debate the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), appeared to be deeply interested in it, and obviously was not conversant with its terms. On several occasions he interjected, stating that all financial assistance rendered by the British Government in payment of the fares of migrants from Great Britain to Australia had to be refunded. The honorable member is in error. Under the agreement the sum paid to the various shipping companies for the passage of an adult migrant to Australia is £33. Unmarried male migrants are required to’ contribute one-half of the fare - £16 10s. Of the balance, one-half is paid by the British Government and onehalf by the Commonwealth Government. That amount does not have to be repaid to either Government. All that any migrant is expected to repay is money advanced to him by the Commonwealth Government by way of loan towards the amount he is required to find as his proportion of the steamer fare. This repayment is usually at the rate of £1 a month without interest. In the case of a family consisting of a father, mother and one or more children, the fares are divided into three parts, payable, one-third by the migrant, one-third by the British Government and one-third by the Commonwealth Government. The migrant is not expected to repay any portion of these governmental contributions. Migrants under the age of twelve years are brought in free so far as payment by the individual is concerned, but the shipping companies have to be paid one-half fare, which is divided between the Commonwealth and British Governments. For migrants between the ages of twelve and seventeen years, full steamer fare has to be paid, of which, sum the migrant pays one-sixth and the British and Commonwealth Governments are responsible for the balance. I mention these facts fox the special edification of the honorable member for .Corangamite.
I turn now to the major portion of the agreement, under which Great Britain undertakes to provide a substantial part of the interest due by Australia on money borrowed from Great Britain up to £34,000,000 spread over ten years for developmental schemes mutually agreed upon by the States, the Commonwealth and Great Britain as being calculated to enable Australia to support a larger population than it could before. It is not laid down in the agreement that developmental works must necessarily be of a particular kind. All that the British Government asks is that its representatives in Australia shall be satisfied tha* the works carried out under the agreement are of such a character as will enable this country to support more people.
– We see the migrants now in the ranks of our army of unemployed.
– In 3926, when the Development and Migration Bill was before the House, there was no expectation of an economic depression such as we have experienced in the last two years. There seemed to be no doubt of our ability to maintain, or even increase, theprewar rate of inflow of British migrants. Many critics of the £34,000,000- agreement seem not to realize that even if we had only been able to maintain the pre-war rate of influx of British migrants the agreement would have been of immense Value to the Commonwealth. They appear to be under the impression that because we had entered into an agreement with the British Government for borrowing £34,000,000 on remarkably easy interest terms, we were to be compelled to absorb an impossible number of oversea settlers. The agreement contains no such provision, and I repeat that, if we had been able to maintain the prewar rate of influx, we should have been entitled to the use of the major portion of the £34,000,000 of cheap money. Certainly, if we had been able to slightly increase over a ten-year period our absorptive capacity we could have taken full advantage of the British Government’s offer.
Earlier in the debate, interjections from honorable members opposite appeared to indicate their belief that Australia would be required to repay the whole of the loan. It is true that the sum mentioned is a loan, but the agreement contains certain provisions of the existence of which some honorable members appear to be unaware. It may interest them to know that for every £1,000,000 which we obtain by way of loan from Great Britain under this arrangement, the British Government rnakes us a gift of £200,000, representing interest capitalized for which the British Government is responsible. As I. have pointed out, the agreement provides that Great Britain shall be responsible for one-half of the interest charge for the first five years, and one-third for the remaining five years of the agreement.
– Now tell us of the advantages which Great Britain receives under the agreement.
– Let me repeat that the capitalized equivalent of the interest for which Great Britain will be responsible during the ten-year period of the loan is exactly £200,000 in respect of every £1,000,000 which the Commonwealth borrows under the agreement, so that if Australia had been in a position to take advantage of the whole of the loans, totalling £34,000,000, under this agreement this country would have received, as a gift from the Mother Country, the equivalent of about £7,000,000.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) wishes to know what advantages Great Britain is getting in return for this loan. I again remind him that the Mother Country does not require Australia to absorb one more settler than it had been absorbing prior to the signing of the agreement. I put it to the honorable member for Angas that if he were in business he would be in an exceedingly happy position if he could obtain as much loan money as he required for the development of his business at less than 1 per cent, for the first five years, and about If per cent, for the second five years. This is the amount which the States are required to find under the agreement, taking into consideration the interest concessions made by the British Government to the Commonwealth, plus interest concessions by the Commonwealth to the States. It has to be remembered that whilst the British Government makes substantial concessions to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Government, in its turn, makes to the States further concessions as generous, almost, as are those made by Great Britain to the Commonwealth. On all sums borrowed by the Commonwealth for the States and used under this agreement for developmental purposes, the British Government will for five years provide one-half the interest charge and the Commonwealth Government one-third, so that only one-sixth of the interest bill is paid by a State Government during that period. For the next five-year period the British, Commonwealth, and State Governments each pay one-third of the interest due. Even if the money were borrowed at 6 per cent. - and loans have generally been floated at less than that figure - it would cost the State 1 per cent, for the first five years, and 2 per cent, for the second five-year period of the loan. It is always in the first few years of a developmental work that the interest bill is difficult to meet; but it may be assumed that if money has been wisely spent the interest liabilities, at any rate, may be met after the first ten years. The honorable member persists in interjecting that by taking advantage of this agreement we are adding to unemployment; but I point out that the provision in regard to the use of this money is permissive. If w-e find that we can use the money and we desire to use it we may draw upon it, but we are not bound to use it. If we can absorb a limited number of migrants a specified amount of money is available to us; but we are not compelled to absorb a single migrant. If circumstances make it unwise for us to receive additional migrants, as at the present »time we may simply abstain from drawing upon any of this cheap money; but if, on the other hand, a few thousand migrants a year trickle into Australia, as they have been doing, we become entitled to the use of this money on the basis set out. In these circumstances it is extraordinary to me that honorable members opposite have taken their present stand.
– Does the honorable member think that the British Government has not noticed the diminution in the stream of migrants?
– I do not think the British Government could anticipate with greater accuracy than any other government the course of events. In all the circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that States should desire to avail themselves of this unique opportunity of obtaining money for developmental works on such remarkably generous terms. The States have been treated generously, not only by the British Government, but also by the Commonwealth Government, which has undertaken to bear part of the interest obligation. There is always a danger associated with the use of very cheap money; the tendency is to be less careful in the expenditure of it, than of money upon which the full rate of interest has to be paid from the date upon which it becomes available. But cheap money, if used well, is of very great advantage to a young country like Australia. I point out that Great Britain, like the Commonwealth and State Governments, has a vital interest in the expenditure of the money obtained under the terms of the £34,000,000 agreement, for she has accepted a large share of the interest obligation.
– But her people get halt the land that is made available. One block goes to a migrant and one to an Australian alternately.
– But the country is being developed by British money. This is the first time that a condition has been inserted in a migration agreement to provide that half the money made available shall be used to settle Australians. This marks a very distinct advance in the generosity of the Mother Country.
– But the migrants have to pay for the land ultimately.
– That is so; they have to pay for it just as the Australian settlers have to do. The British Government was so vitally interested in the success of this scheme that it sent a special representative to Australia for the purpose of investigating the schemes proposed as appropriate for the expenditure of this money. The Commonwealth Government was also vitally interested because, although the money was to be spent by the States, it was responsible to Great Britain for the interest and repayments, and also because it was making further concessions to the States almost as great as those that Great Britain was making to it. It was necessary, therefore, that all the proposals of the States should be carefully examined before they were put in hand. This was due to both the British and Commonwealth Governments. If the Bruce-Page Government, or any other Commonwealth Government, had set itself up as the judge of the proposals made by the State Governments, and decided whether this should be accepted and that rejected, it might easily be imagined that a difficult political situation could frequently arise. It might be said that one proposition was adopted because it was sponsored by a State Government of the same political complexion as the Commonwealth Government, and that another was rejected because it was proposed by a State Government of a different political complexion. The previous Government, therefore, realized that it would be advisable to take every precaution to avoid strained relations between the various governments in a matter in respect of which there should be the closest possible co-operation. In any case, if the Commonwealth Government had decided to judge the soundness or otherwise of the proposals made it would have required to employ expert technical advisers. For this reason, the BrucePage Government proposed, and the Parliament agreed, in 1926, that it was desirable to set up a body which, while responsible to Parliament, would nevertheless be regarded as free from political bias - at least to the extent that a body composed of human beings could be free from it - to examine all the schemes proposed. The success which has attended the work of the commission in that respect has already been commented upon in this debate. I think it is admitted by honorable members on both sides of the House that the Development and Migration Commission was regarded as a body which was nonpolitical, and could divest itself of any political views which its members might hold, when dealing with schemes submitted to it on behalf of the parties to the agreement.
It may be said that there was no need for the Commonwealth Government to have an examination made of the proposals submitted by the State Governments. It has been argued, I know, that as the States would be required to share the financial responsibility for the first ten years, and, thereafter, accept the whole of it, they could be trusted to put forward only schemes which were absolutely sound and that Commonwealth interference was unnecessary. The best way to ascertain the soundness or otherwise of that argument is to look at what has actually happened. The commission examined many proposals and was forced to reject a considerable number of them because they were economically unsound. The appointment of such a body was, therefore, thoroughly justified. Probably the most notable adverse report of the commission was made in connexion with the Dawson Valley scheme in Queensland. But for the action of the commission in thoroughly investigating that project from its economic aspect,. many millions of pounds might have been lost. Another scheme which might have involved the country in very heavy losses was the Nowingi railway proposal made by Victoria. This also was adversely reported upon by the commission.
It would be interesting to speculate how many millions of pounds might have been saved, or put to better use, since the war by the Commonwealth and State Governments had a body similar to the Development and Migration Commission been appointed in 1919 instead of in 1926. I am certain that many uneconomic proposals would not have been put in hand had a thorough investigation of them been made in the first place.
Something has already been said this afternoon about soldier settlement. As a former Minister for Markets I was brought into close contact with the problem of marketing the exportable surplus of various products. After the war various State Governments settled large numbers of soldiers in particular enterprises. In some cases they did not merely recommend the soldier settlers to grow certain commodities, but practically insisted upon them doing so. In Victoria many soldiers were settled in the Redcliffs irrigation area with the object of producing dried fruits, and many others were settled in the Goulburn Valley, with the object of producing canning fruits. Many more soldiers were settled in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area in New South Wales with the object of producing canning fruits, while in South Australia many men were settled on vineyards planted to grow grapes for wine production. It is remarkable that the States seem to have gone ahead with these pro.grammes without any consultation with each other. The result was that within a few years the production of these various commodities increased enormously, and growers and State Governments alike asked the Commonwealth Government to take steps to assist them to market their products. Many of these difficulties would have been avoided had steps been taken to co-ordinate the activities of the States through the medium of a development commission. An endeavour has been made in the last year or two to bring about some degree of coordination. About two years ago a conference was held in Canberra of State Premiers, State Ministers for Agriculture, the members of the Development and Migration Commission, the members of the various water conservation commissions, and others, with the object of avoiding over-production of particular products and to co-ordinate activities generally, and it was decided, after discussion, that in the future no wholesale planting operations should be undertaken by the States without previous consultation between the different governments, the Commonwealth Department of Markets and the Development and Migration Commission.
The Development and Migration Commission, as a matter of fact, has saved its cost many times over. [Quorum formed.] Many subjects have been investigated and reported on by the commission, among them being unemployment, business stability, gold-mining, dried vine fruits, canned fruits, dried apples, potatoes, the position of Tas” mania, and internal transport within Tasmania. In addition, it has inquired into various projects advanced by the States, including the Dawson Valley Irrigation Scheme submitted by the Government of Queensland, the Nowingi railway submitted by the Victorian Government, and also the Lachlan. River scheme submitted by the, Government of New South Wales, on which it reported favorably. I have read most of those reports. They are remarkable in many respects, and certainly extremely valuable to Australia. It is unlikely that we should have obtained reports of that nature had it not been for the establish1ment of the Development and Migration Commission.
The commission has done a great service to Australia; but it has not yet had sufficient time to demonstrate its full value. There are some shortsighted critics who measure its success by the number of settlers who have come to Australia since its inception. The fact that those numbers have been steadily diminishing during the last two years is due to stern economic facts which have gradually been asserting themselves, and have now reached the stage at which it is no longer possible to ignore them. We are faced with the fact that production costs in Australia are so high that there are only one or two industries which are able to stand on their own feet and compete in the open markets of the world; and even those industries are to-day finding it difficult to meet world competition. Until production costs are reduced, we cannot expect our industries to expand or to employ as many people as they should. The Development and Migration Commission was doing splendid work in pointing out our economic weaknesses in many directions and in showing us how to improve our methods. One wonders whether the Government is attempting to get rid of the commission because its advice is sometimes unpalatable in that it cuts across the path of the Government’s uneconomic ideas. Or is it simply that the Government is endeavouring to fulfil a foolish promise made to the electors on the hustings?
I am glad that although the Development and Migration Commission is being disbanded and dismembered, it is no; being annihilated, for as time goes on the need for such a body will become more and more apparent. Before long the Government of the day will be compelled to re-establish it in some form or other and bring together its dismembered parts. During the election campaign the Labour party made a great number of promises, many of which the Government has been unable to carry out. In my opinion, il would have been wise had it added to the already long list of unfulfilled promises its promise to get rid of the Development and Migration Commission. The members of the Government may live long enough - whether as members of a government I am not prepared to say - to regret their action. I believe that the time is not so far distant as some people imagine when the commission must be reestablished.
Sitting suspended from 6.9 to 8 p.m.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), when speaking immediately before the dinner adjournment, declared that’ I had fled from the chamber, but I assure him that I would not run away from criticism from whichever side of the chamber it might come. I left merely to attend to urgent business connected with my constituency.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has now fled.
– I notice that he is not present at the moment. During the course of my remarks I hope to reply fully to the criticism of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Gippsland. The honorable member for Moreton stated that the Queensland Labour Government had embarked upon a scheme of settlement without a proper inquiry into the suitability of the area chosen for the purpose. He declared that the decision to develop that area in the manner proposed was purely a gamble on the part of that Government, at whose head was the present Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Theodore). The honorable member said that no proper investigation had been made before that Government decided to enter upon the Dawson valley and Upper Burnett scheme, which was estimated, at the outset, to cost about. £13,000,000. He said that the work was undertaken haphazardly, and that, if the Development and Migration Commission had been in existence and had been consulted, the scheme would not have been proceeded with. But I have before me a report by the Commonwealth Superintendent of Immigration in Australia, who was specially sent to Queensland by a Nationalist Government to investigate a proposal for the construction of railways designed to open for closer settlement the country known as the Upper Burnett, Callide Valley, and Prairie Lands. I intend to quote from that report because of its eulogistic references to the Queensland Labour Government,whose action in regard to that scheme it endorses.
– Is that the report which was submitted by Mr. H. S. Gullett, the honorable member for Henty?
– Yes ; he was considered by the Government that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) supported, to be a sufficiently good officer to send to Queensland for the purpose, and he submitted the report from which I shall quote. I have no recollection of having read anything in the press or in Hansard to indicate that objection was taken by the honorable member for Moreton to any statement in that report.
– I quoted from the report of the Development and Migration Commission.
– The honorable member made a number of statements, and, no matter from what source he obtained his information, they will not bear investigation. The Commonwealth Superintendent of Immigration, in the course of his report, stated -
I was given ample facilities by the Queensland Government for my inspection, and was accompanied by Mr.Ford, the Deputy Surveyor-General; Mr. Monteith, OfficerinCharge of Soldier Settlement; and Mr. Gwyther, of the Railway Survey Branch. Mr. Ford and Mr. Gwyther had spent some years in survey work upon the area.
I traversed the country by motor car from south to north roughly along the route of the proposed railway; another day I spent among the farms in the Mundubbera district to the south, and part of a day in the Wowan district on the north. The Mundubberaand Wowan districts adjoin the country it is now proposed to settle, and are similar to it in quality and possibilities, and I discussed practices and results there with a number of the farmers.
The reports of a number of royal commissions and committees, and of government land and railway experts, provided a great bulk of evidence and opinion on the proposed scheme, and upon the quality of the country. These are unanimous in their commendation of the country as a field for farming settlement on a grand scale. It was impossible for me to examine the area and the project in detail, but I was able to check the evidence and decisions in their main features, and my general conclusion is that they have substantially understated the agricultural and dairying potentialities of the country.
There are dairy-farmers who took their herds from Victoria to Prairie Lands, a district which forms part of the Dawson settlement, and those men say that no part of Australia is more suitable for the carrying on of their industry than the country on which they have settled. The report continues -
This classification is a very conservative one. It does not disclose the exceptional quality of what is described as “ 1st class “ land, which is equal to any farming country with a similar rainfall to be found in the most favoured districts of Southern Australia; similarly a false impression is conveyed by the term “ 2nd class”; while a great amount of the so-called “grazing” country contains good pockets of rich arable land, and is, with its high rainfall, suitable for dairying. Then in the subdivision into farms much of the “ grazing “ land would be attached as back country to the river flats.
The Lands Department estimates that giving each farmer 200 acres of 1st class land, or 700 acres of 2nd class, or from 1,200 to 4,000 acres of grazing land, the area would settle some 3,280 settlers. In addition to the country included in this classification, there are extensiveareas, not yet classified, but which will be brought into occupation by the railways. The total area of country to be served by the lines is estimated at 3,000,000 acres.
Character of Country. - Taken as a whole the area is distinguished by its wide expanse and high quality. It is marked by many changes of soil, but throughout, with the exception of limited patches, it is sound, fertile country, suitable for settlement in areas ranging from small agricultural farms to small grazing farms.
Therefore, the accusation that the scheme was entered upon without investigation goes by the board. I suggest that the commissioner whom a Nationalist Government sent to Northern Queensland to investigate this scheme was a capable officer. No doubt the late Commonwealth Government had a high opinion of his capacity, as although - or, perhaps, because - he referred to its Treasurer as the “most tragic” in our history, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) subsequently gave him a place in the Cabinet.
– Does the honorable member regard Mr. Gullett as an expert?
– The Bruce-Page Government evidently thought that he was an expert, and the honorable member who interjects supported that Government.
– The honorable member and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), are talking about different schemes. The honorable member for Moreton referred to the Dawson Valley scheme.
– I am speaking of both the Callide and the Upper Burnett schemes, on which Mr. Gullett reported. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) knows that the Callide is embraced in the Dawson Valley scheme. Mr. Gullett’s report continues -
The average rainfall on the Upper Burnett, Callide Valley, and Prairie Lands may be placed at from 28 to 30 inches. The heaviest rainfall is in the first three or four months of the year. This insures rich slimmer and winter pastures for live stock, and is especially opportune for dairying and the cultivation of maize and other summer crops. The district, like every other district in Australia, has its seasons of short rainfall. One of the worst dry spells on record has occurred during the past two years. Close inquiry, however, showed that no stock had been lost on the area, nor on the dairy farms in the Mundubbera and Wowan districts to the south and north, although none of the cattle appeared to have been artificially fed:
Some of the flats on the northern watershed are subject to floods, but settlers there could be given back country for stock, and in any case the flood area is relatively small.
– Why not get down to the Dawson Valley scheme?
– Camboon, Banana, and Westwood are within the area covered by it. I have known that country and the settlers there all my life. The report goes on to say -
– What is the honorable member’s object in quoting from this report so extensively?
– Certain honorable members opposite charged the Queensland Labour Government with having embarked on this big scheme without having properly investigated it, and I am showing that a careful investigation was made.
– It is significant that the Labour Government in Queensland did not go on with the scheme.
– The honorable member who interjects well knows the reason for that. The Government that is now in office in Queensland will not go on with that or with any other project. It was also stated that no inquiry had been made as to the suitability of the country for irrigation. I point out that a great deal of money has been spent in the Dawson Valley, and irrigation at Theodore has been carried out to the great benefit of the present settlers. The report further points out -
The report concludes as follows: -
Such was the report furnished to the Nationalist Government by its own Commissioner, Mr. H. S. Gullett.
This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), made the wonderful statement that the Development and Migration Commission has saved Australia a thousand times what it is costing the country. If the statement were only true, in a few years the savings effected by the commission would be an amount equal to the National Debt. As a matter of fact it is merely one of those irrational statements that will not bear investigation. In the budget for 1928-29 the cost of the Development and Migration Commission for eight items, excluding salaries, was £104,280. Taking those items alone, if the commission had really saved Australia ten times what it has cost, that would mean a saving of £104,280,000 in one year, or £412,840,000 in three years. I cannot agree with the suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), that Mr. Gepp and his confrères are experts. There are men in the Lands Department in Queensland who have given life service to the study of land settlement problems. I regard them as experts, and with all due respect to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), it was they who endorsed the scheme which the honorable member has condemned. Mr. Compton. Wood and the other delegates from the British Cotton-Growing Corporation, toured the country from Westwood to Mundubbera and Wondai, and their reports on the possibility of cotton-growing in that area were eminently favorable. Sir George Pearce, who represented the Commonwealth Government on that occasion, also gave a favorable report upon it. His report is an interesting one. It is quite contrary to the opinion formed by the honorable member for Moreton. Sir George Pearce was quite enamoured of the area and thought very highly of its future. Mr. Compton Wood said that he knew of no other country in the world that offered better prospects for the growth of cotton. He was astounded at the expanse of wonderful country suitable for the purpose. I feel sure that there are experts available to the Commonwealth and State Governments who are quite capable of doing the work now being done by the supposed experts on the Development and Migration Commission, and at less cost to the Common wealth. I have met Mr. Gepp and Mr. Gunn once or twice, but not the other members of the commission. I have yet to learn where they gained the expert knowledge that justified their appointment and those of the other commissioners at salaries which cost the Commonwealth £13,207 per annum. Experts in the Lands Department of Queensland are quite competent to judge the suitability of a piece of laud for settlement purposes, and the Queensland Government thoroughly examined the Dawson Valley project before making a start on it. It was, I admit, an ambitious scheme, and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), knows why it was discontinued. I believe that the day will come when the present Treasurer of the Commonwealth (Mr. Theodore), will be talked of as a man who did something in a big way in Queensland.
– He will be talked about.
– But not’ in the carping miserable way in which the honorable member talks about him. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), is wrong in saying that some day the people of Australia will realize that the difficulties they are encountering have been brought about by the failure of the present Government to retain the members of the Development and Migration Commission for the advice they could give. The present Government can obtain all the advice it wants in its existing departments. For that reason I support the bill.
– This bill proposes to abolish the Development and Migration Commission, hut I think that we should consider the matter from all aspects before we agree to the proposal. The functions performed by the commission are of the utmost importance. Honorable members on the Government benches, who have spoken in support of the measure, have either criticized the personnel of the commission or claimed that its abolition is necessary on the ground that they do not believe in migration. I do not propose to debate the matter from either aspect. If the personnel of the Development and Migration Commission is not all that is desired it is within the power of the Government to alter it. As a matter of fact, there is evidently nothing to be said on the score of the unfitness of the members of the commission to fulfil the functions allotted to them, because the Government is re-engaging, them ,at high salaries in other posts in the Commonwealth service. So far as migration is concerned, the commission could be better named for the research work it does in the economic possibilities of development. The title Development and Migration Commission neither does justice to, nor fully explains the varied functions of value to Australia performed by the commission. Although honorable members opposite seek to create the impression that any honorable member who advocates the continuance of the commission is an advocate of increased migration, I am to-day not supporting the retention of the commission on that ground. I am doing so because I want development in order to provide suitable employment for our unemployed, and we cannot do that better than by having a development on lines that have been thoroughly investigated from a scientific and economic point of” view. In the past Australia has too often and for too long spent huge sums from revenue and loan on schemes that not only have proved fruitless, but have also been the means of inflicting loss on those who depended, upon them. Railways and works have been constructed which would not have been attempted if a commission had investigated the proposals in the fullest light, to see whether they were business propositions or merely political stunts.
It has been a function of the Development and Migration Commission to act as economic adviser to the Commonwealth Government on the future development of Australia, and to supply useful information to the States. Members of the commission have reported on various schemes proposed by the States. It has also been, engaged in making an economic survey of developmental possibilities and an economic survey of industry, primary and secondary. Its purpose in doing this is to prevent Australia from incurring huge expenditure by increasing production in any particular commodity with which the country is already fully supplied, and which under present economic conditions it is impossible to export. In the past we have generally proceeded on haphazard lines in the development of industries. Often an industry has been developed in one State, without consideration for the effect its development was likely to have on an industry in some far distant State. No advantage is to be gained by helping one industry to overproduce. The Development and Migration Commission has, therefore, been engaged in making a reasonable survey of the position. It has studied the effect of increased production in regard to particular commodities, primary or secondary, and the information it has thus obtained has been of value. It will be a great set-back to Australia if we return to the haphazard conditions of the past.
It has been one of the functions of the Development and Migration Commission to administer the £34,000,000 migration agreement with the British Government, and mainly on that account it was entrusted with the duty of reporting on developmental schemes proposed to be carried out by the States with money lent under that agreement. But the £34,000,000 agreement is something quite apart from the Development and Migration Commission. If the commission continued to exist, Australia would not, therefore, be obliged to go on with the migration agreement, nor does it mean that we are going to discontinue the arrangement with the British Government if we lose the valuable services of the members of the Commission. It should be our policy to develop along safe lines, and to increase production wherever possible. The right honorable the Prime Minister has asked the farmers of Australia to grow more wheat for export in order to improve our financial and economic position. Surely in a huge country such as Australia, where only 6 per cent. of the land has been alienated, there is ample room for more extensive development and settlement. If further development, settlement and increased production had not been anticipated, why have we expended such a huge sum in railway construction ? It cannot be contended that the capital outlay which we have incurred in railway construction and in providing other services has been to meet the needs of a population of 6,500,000 persons. The sum of £326,000,000 has been spent in Australia on railway construction to provide for the requirements of the future as well as for the immediate needs of the people. As many of our railways are not paying interest on the capital cost, increased population and greater production is essential if they are not to continue to be a burden on the people. Railway services have been provided through tracts of country at present somewhat sparsely settled, in order that they may be more fully availed of; but such areas cannot be profitably utilizeduntil investigations have been made by such a body as the Development and Migration Commission, which this Government now proposes to abolish. Some of the objections which have been urged against the commission have been based on. its personnel, but even if such complaints were well founded the abolition of the commission is not justified. At present our railways cost the States £313,476,000 and the Commonwealth £12,438,000 or £326,000,000 in all. We pay £14,500,000 in interest, nearly £38,000,000 in maintenance and other charges,, and £30,875,490 in salaries and wages. Thus they are costing the Commonwealth and the States £83,250,000 a year in working expenses and interest, and this expenditure can be justified only by increased development. It is unreasonable to suggest the abolition of such a body as the Development and Migration Commission without providing for some other authority to conduct investigations on a business-like basis, and unless a policy similar to that inagurated by the Bruce-Page Government is continued, there will be very little opportunity of providing that additional employment which is so essential at the present juncture.
Honorable members opposite have said that the members of the Opposition are in favour of increasing the flow of migrants during a period of depression, and thus helping to increase theunemployed; but such is not the case. I contend that our own unemployed should receive first consideration, but work can be found for them only by providing for additional development by careful investigation and not by launching developmental schemes in a haphazard way. Some time ago an effort was made to establish returned soldiers in pineapple-growing on 20-acre blocks of coastal waste lands, at Beerbur rum, but the scheme proved a failure because the pineapples could thrive only with the assistance of fertilizers, which became exhausted after the first year. If a thorough investigation had been made in that case the men would not have been placed on such unsuitable land. A sound developmental policy will do more to relieve the unemployment problem than our Arbitration Courts, the policy of preference to unionists, or the expenditure of £1,000,000 in providing work. Financial grants to the States may get the Government over its first hurdle, but they will not solve the problem. An inflation of the note issue, as has been suggested by some honorable members opposite, or the imposition of indiscriminately high customs duties will not help us; it will have the effect of retarding development and reducing production. Honorable members opposite will not support any proposal to relieve our economic position. They obey the demands of unionists and ignore economic facts. The Development and Migration Commission, which has disclosed important economic facts and published valuable reports, is to be abolished. That commission’s functions are wide; it conducted a thorough investigation into Tasmania’s financial position, and submitted a number of interim reports and a general report which justifies a grant of £378,000 to assist that State. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), when Premier of Tasmania, asked that the services of the Development and Migration Commission should be made available to report, among other things on Tasmania’s transport system, and its recommendations have been beneficial to the Commonwealth Government and to the Tasmanian Government. The Premier of Queensland also sought the services of the commission to inquire into a Queensland hydro-electric scheme and the subject of transport on the norths west coast. Advice was also secured in connexion with the closing down of the Mount Morgan mine.
– And into the gold-mining industry.
– Yes. I have not, of course, referred to all the subjects into which the commission has inquired. Honorable members opposite have suggested that the commission has devoted most of its time to migration, but that is only one phase of its work. As a result of its reports migration proposals were rejected.
– What was the result of the commission’s inquiries into the Mount Morgan mine?
– The report is available to the honorable member. At the request of the Premier of Victoria the commission also inquired into the possibility of utilizing certain primary by-products for which there was no market. The commission has worked in close association with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the advantage of primary producers and other sections of the community. It has investigated the conditions in the. dried fruits industry, in the Murray River Basin, thegold-mining industry,the fishing industry and the manufacture of paper. Reports on other subjects, which contain a lot of valuable information, are available to honorable members.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) referred to the irrigation settlement in the Dawson Valley and correctly claimed that the report of the commission in that regard was not unfavorable. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) quoted at length from a report of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who at the time it was made was the Commonwealth Superintendent of Migration, and subsequently became a member of the Bruce-Page Government ! That report was on another scheme.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member quoted from Mr. Gullett’s report which referred to the Callide and Upper Burnett settlement, and the honorable member for Moreton referred to the report on the Dawson ‘ Valley irrigation area.
– “Where is Theodore ?
– Theodore is a township of the Dawson irrigation area.
– Where is Rannes?
– That is outside either settlement area on an existing railway.
– Where is Biloela?
– In the centre of the Callide area which forms part of the Callide and Upper Burnett scheme. I should know something about that area as it is all contained in my old State electorate of the Burnett. That is the scheme upon which Mr. Gullett reported. It has no connexion with the Dawson Valley irrigation scheme, the centre of which to-day is the town of Theodore. So far that scheme has . been a failure. The last Queensland Government did not propose to proceed with it, nor does the present Government. The Development and Migration Commission wished to be furnished with additional evidence pointing to its probable success before agreeing to recommend the huge expenditure of £3,370,000 to bring it to completion. The Queensland Parliament passed an act making provision for that settlement, and expenditure was incurred upon it before it was known what products were to be profitably grown in the area. The act of the Queensland Parliament provided that 12-£ acres should constitute . a living area. Up to the present time no irrigation work other than the damming of the river Dawson has been carried out. The great darn that was to make provision for the water scheme has not been undertaken. There is merely an experimental settlement. Some. of the best, land has been made available in small areas. It was 1 found that 12£ acres did not provide a sufficient area; therefore, the act was amended to allow of 25 acres being granted in the irrigation area proper, and 120 acres in the back country. That is the settlement which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) criticized. The Callide-Burnett area, the Callide portion of which is in the Dawson irrigation area is an altogether different settlement. The honorable member for Moreton referred to the visit paid to the Dawson irrigation area by Mr. Compton Woods, one of the biggest cotton magnates, operating on the stock exchange in England. He was accompanied by Mr. Parker, who represented Horrocks’ mills in addition to his own interests, and other delegates from Great Britain. I was associated with that trip throughout. It embraced the Burnett and Callide ‘ districts from Rannes to Kingaroy, but did not touch the irrigation area.. The eulogistic report made by the delegation referred to the Callide and Upper Burnett area. Therefore, I was right when I said that the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) spoke of different schemes.
I hope that honorable members will take a reasonable view of this matter. I have no brief for any individual member of the commission. The Government has the power to make the commission as strong as it likes. If the functions that this, body have been carrying out are not further exercised, Australia will suffer a serious loss. Are we to revert to the haphazard method of instituting developmental schemes that must eventually cause acute disappointment and greater unemployment? Would it not be better to continue to employ the commission in reporting on and devising schemes that will give more work to our people, and benefit the railways that have cost Australia so much ?
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) stated ‘that the Development and Migration Commission had saved a thousand times what it had cost. The cost of this body from its inception to date has been £400,000; therefore, if the honorable gentleman’s figures are correct, it must, have saved Australia £400,000,000. Either his figures are. incorrect or they have been given in ignorance.
The Development and Migration Com- mission made an investigation of the goldmining industry and recommended that it bc assisted to the extent of approximately £260,000. Not one miner has obtained employment as a result of that investigation. It was nullified, either because of action by the last Government or on account of the inadequacy of the recommendation. We have yet to find what practical result was achieved by this body. Certainly, in the case of the gold-mining industry there was none. In 1921 the number of men employed in this industry totalled 70,000, and by 1928 the figure had dropped to 6,000. Consequently the commission did not improve the condition of that industry.
Unemployment was another question that was delegated to the commission for inquiry. Touching upon that matter, I have some interesting figures. The commission came into being in 1926. In that year the ratio of unemployment was 7 per cent. When the present Government came into office last year it had increased to 13 per cent. How, then, can it be said that any improvement was effected by the commission? It can be urged that this and similar bodies are natural institutions with which to “ fob “ off persons or organizations that wish to have certain, works undertaken. I believe that the members of the commission are good theoretical experts in certain directions. They have issued voluminous reports respecting gold-mining, unemployment, dried fruits and canned fruits; but what practical good have those reports done for Australia? No relief has been afforded as a result of those inquiries.
One of the duties of the commission was to investigate- the condition and development ‘ of existing industries, whether primary or secondary, in the Commonwealth, and. the . possibility of establishing new industries. I have yet to learn what industry has been established as a result of its investigations. Our trade balance in 1926, 1927 and 1928, was seriously adverse, yet- the. commission did nothing to induce economic stability. I can find no evidence of its having , brought under the.. notice of the last Government the economic position of Australia. Therefore. in that matter also it has failed.
The subject of migration can be disposed of ‘with a’ few figures. From the 1st March, 1921, to the 31st December, 1929, the cost of migration to Australia was as follows: -
Australia received from the British Government to the end .of January, 1930,- interest payments totalling £1,163,803. I contend that the migration portion of the commission’s activities constitutes one of. the most damning indictments against it. While the migration scheme w.as operating, thousands of migrants, were landed in Australia. What are they doing now? Honorable, members probably saw a number of them outside this House to-day, asking not for work but for bread. As to migration, the work of the commission has been a ghastly failure..
A further subject into which the commission was asked to inquire was the creation of new industries. I ask honorable members to point to one industry that has received encouragement from it. Frankly, I have not been able to find one. It knew that our imports were greater than our exports; that. is a fact that is within the knowledge of school boys. It remained for the present Government to adopt heroic measures; to say to the world, “ Whatever may be the result, we are going to stabilize industry in Australia.” If the commission had made a recommendation along those lines, I would have been one of the first to support its retention.
The Government is acting wisely . in scrapping this and similar extravagant bodies. The members of this commission have been placed in satisfactory positions. I am” pleased to be able to say that, this Labour Government did not “ butcher “ any > person. It looked at the matter fairly and squarely, and said, “You have not justified your existence; you have produced nothing’ practical. We do not want to fire you, so we- shall place you in other avenues where you may be’ of more practical use. We are going to govern Australia without commissions ‘. I admit that the commission’s research work was excellent, but in this age ofspecialization, such costly bodies must produce practical results.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) said that he lived and thrived on figures. He certainly used them in a free and easy manner and was careless of whether he spoke in hundreds, thousands, or millions.
-I was answering the honorable member’s leader.
– My leader spoke in round terms; he did not professto be giving exact figures, but the honorable member for Bendigo quoted astounding sums as having been actually expendedby the Development and Migration Commission. The idea of a special body to investigatedevelopmental projects and to prepare work in advance for new arrivals was an excellent conception. Had all the developmental expenditure of Australia been as carefully investigated as were the proposals to be carried out under the £34,000,000 migration agreement, this country would not be to-daypaying a huge amount of interest on unproductive works. The honorable member for Bendigo was wrong when he said tha t the
Commission did nothing of a practical nature for any industry. Upon its. advice an afforestation scheme superior to any other in the Commonwealth was undertaken in South Australia, and in respect of unemployment that is the one bright spot in that State to-day.
– Victoria had an afforestation scheme 40 years ago.
– South Australia was doingsomething on a small scale for many years, but as it is peculiarly lacking in timber resources, forest development on a larger scale was necessary. The migration agreement provided the opportunity for instituting a scheme by which 5,000 acres is being planted annually with commercial timbers. This plan is to-day giving employment to a large number of Australians, who, thanks to the efforts of the Development and Migration Commission, are provided for in a way that otherwise would not have beenpossible. I believe that had the commission been allowed to continue to function it would have produced other bright spots throughout the Commonwealth. I recognize that because of the. financial and, economic depression some curtailment of its activities was necessary,but the Prime Minister has admitted in explanation of the retentionof some members of thecommission that a government must have expert advice, . That was the reason why the last Government, apopintedthecommission; it believed thatno developmental project should be undertaken until the bestexpert opinion, available had been obtained. Had Australia adopted that policy 50 years ago, it would have avoided the cost of many unproductive and economically unsound public works.
.When the Development and . MigrationBill was before this Parliament in1926, the discussion related mainly to the clauses dealing with migration. In theirdecision to curtail the duties of the Developmentand Migration Commission the present Government is principally concerned in reducing their activities inregard tomigration. There is every justification for the curtailment of unnecessary expenditure at the present time, and apparently the Government concluded that the commission was costing too much money. I fully agree that this was so. We have been told that the annual cost was nearly £500,000, and at a time when unemployment is widespread the volume of migration must be reduced: The Prime Minister has said that the estimate of expenditure on migration for this year has been reduced from £100,000 to £20,000, and that only migrants desiring to join their families already in Australia will be granted assisted passages. We all know that the policy of the Labour party is to discourage migration, and, in the present circumstances of the Commonwealth, I quite agree that this is the right course to adopt.[Quorum formed.] Unfortunately, the discontinuance of migration will mean the dispersal of organizations in England and Australia. Regrettable though this is, I recognize that on account of the acute unemployment it is inescapable. . When this legislation was passed in 1926 it was not anticipated that migrants wouldbe assisted to Australia unless adequate preparation for their absorption on arrival had been made. That was the most importantdutyofthe commission in close co-operation withthe
States. In its first annual report the commission stated that investigations into the following matters were proceeding: -
Position of Tasmania.
Fishing and allied industries.
Forestry and timber.
Manufacture of paper.
Textile technical college.
Employment and unemployment.
Institution of new industries in Australia.
All these subjects are of major importance, and if the commission’s investigation had produced a satisfactory solution of these problems, Australia would have been able to add considerably to its population. Employment would have been available for all, and more people could have come from abroad to share with us the heavy load of taxation. I do not say that the expensive organization which the commission built up was wholly justified ; in that regard the commission showed an inadequate sense of responsibility; but indifference to expense is the common failing of experts. The Government is warranted in reducing expenses at the present time, and I look forward to rigid economy being practised in other Government activities. In my opinion we should recognize the public-spirited manner in which the members of the commission met the plans of the Government. No honorable member will question the capabilities of Mr. Gepp. Although he had a five-years’ contract at £5,000 per annum, he consented to waive that, and accept from the Government a retaining fee of £1,250 a year. I very much regret that the commission cannot continue to function - necessarily on more economic lines than in the past - because what we need mostly isexpert guidance as to the directions in which our industries might be developed into a state of higher efficiency, so that costs of production might be reduced.
– We want practical men.
– Surely the honorable member does not contend that the members of the commission were not practical men.
– They produced no practical results.
– What did the honorable member expect of them? They could do no more than investigate and recommend. Their reports have been most valuable and have helped our industries in many ways. The honorable member for’ Herbert (Mr. Martens) seems to have been annoyed by remarks made by members of the Opposition regarding the Dawson Valley scheme. I have a copy of the commission’s report and it is clear that the commission did not wholly condemn the project, but advised caution before committing Queensland to an expenditure of £3,370,000. The honorable member worked himself into a passion and sought to discredit the commission by quoting a report made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) some years ago. Whilst we all recognize the ability of the honorable member for Henty, we do not regard him as an expert on land settlement or believe that he could pronounce as authoritatively on the Dawson Valley scheme as could Mr. Gepp and his highly qualified assistants. In any case, Mr. Geppdid not rely on his own judgement in his investigation of the scheme. He had experts to guide him, and I believe that the recommendations of the commission are broad-minded. They read -
I feel certain that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) cannot find any fault with those recommendations.
They are eminently fair, and prove conclusively that the commission carefully considered the schemes before arriving at the decision. Had the original scheme been carried into effect, it is extremely probable that the town of Theodore, which cost a large sum to construct, would in certain circumstances, have been three or four feet under water. I am confident that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) did not desire to make any political capital out of the matter, but merely advanced his arguments to indicate that the commission has performed useful work. I believe that that body has performed a good deal of importantwork for the Commonwealth, and feel sure that the Government does not desire to belittle the developmental work that it carried out. The Government must realize that Australia is in need of industries that will absorb, not only our present unemployed, but our growing population, It cannot hope to make Australia a close preserve for our present small population for all time. It must be apparent that sooner or later the overcrowded nations of the world will insist that Australia shall populate this large continent. While I do not quarrel with the attempt of the Government to economize, I hope that it will preserve the nucleus of the Development and Migration Commission, as I am firmly convinced that, in due course, the necessity will arise for the institution of scientific investigation to assist us to maintain our present high standard of living. [Quorum formed.]
.- It is to be regretted that some such body as the Development and Migration Commission could not have been established at least 50 years ago to investigate and report on proposed large expenditures by the Governments of the various States. Had such an organization been in existence then, Australia would not now be suffering because of the many errors which have been committed by those Governments and by the Commonwealth Government. By way of illustration, I draw the attention of the House to our railway systems. Of all the white elephants in Australia to-day, our railways constitute what is probably the costliest.
– The Development and Migration Commission could not have foreseen the competition of the motor vehicle.
– No one could have foreseen, half a century ago, the development of motor traffic; but no commission such as the Development and Migration Commission would have recommended the construction of railway lines on purely political grounds, and without consideration of their economic possibilities. An examination of the map of Australia shows attenuated railway lines stretchingacross portions of the continent where the trains cannot earn even the cost of their axle-grease. Those lines were built by governments which yielded to purely political pressure, and to-day Australia is paying the penalty for the ill-advised actions of the past. Had a commission been in existence which could have dealt with each railway project on its merits; the position would be different. In my opinion, the railway systems of Australia might well have beendeveloped in zones. I do not wish to explain the idea in detail ; but, briefly, no line would have been extended beyond a district until the whole of the available land in that district had been closely settled. In that manner, heavy traffic would have been obtained for each completed line and our railway systems would have paid handsomely.
The Bruce-Page Government has been accused of extravagance in the appointment of commissions and boards. My reply to that criticism is that it was necessary to have specially-trained men to advise the Government, and had those men who were appointed not been made members of commissions and boards, they must have been attached to various Government departments. The responsible heads of our public departments are already working at high pressure, and could not efficiently undertake additional work of such great responsibility as this. Had the work been undertaken by the departments, it would have been necessary to augment their staffs, and whereas the officers of these commissions and boards have been appointed for specific and limited terms, it would not be possible to make other than permanent appointments to the ordinary Public Service. I am aware that temporary hands are employed in certain departments, such as that of the Postmaster-General ; but those holding positions of great responsibility are invariably permanent employees. Had those officials been appointed as permanent employees of departments, we should have found ourselves saddled with a number of men for whom, eventually, no work would be available. I believe, therefore, that the Bruce-Page Government did a wise thing in making appointments for a specific period in a special advisory capacity.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) quoted figures showing what it has cost to maintain the Development and Migration Commission. It is true that a good deal of money has been spent on that commission, but an omelet cannot be made without breaking eggs, and I am confident that had the commission been permitted to operate for a further period of years, it would have proved of great service to the country.
– It would have become a miniature Public Service.
– I do not think so. The employees of the commission were all temporary, and could have been dismissed when their work was completed. The partial abolition of the Development and Migration Commission is in keeping with the migration proposals of this Government, which argues that at the present time people should not be brought to Australia. That may be so. But in the past we have prided ourselves that 98 per cent. of the people of Australia are of British origin, and the Bruce-Page Government made sure that a sufficient number of Britishers came to Australia to maintain that proportion. This Government has stopped giving assistance to migration from the British Isles by persons of our own race, yet it has allowed foreigners to come here practically without restriction. Statistics would disclose that during the six months for which this Government has been in office, the percentage of foreigners in Australia has greatly increased.
– That is a wonderful statement !
– The fact is to be regretted.
– Yes, if true.
– The statement is true. The ratio of foreign immigrants to British immigrants is greater now than during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, because foreign immigration has not been curtailed to any extent, although the Government has practically closed down on British migration. For that reason, amongst others, I regret that the Government has felt it necessary to abolish the Development and Migration Commission, and all that was connected with the £34,000,000 migration agreement with the British Government. I sincerely trust that before long the Government will realize the error of its course, and re-establish the Development and Migration Commission at full strength.
.- I congratulate the Government on its proposal to abolish, for thetime being, the Development and Migration Commission. It is idle to talk about migration when we have 14 or 15 per cent. of our population unemployed, and the commission itself has not, apparently, taken a very serious view of its duties towards development, seeing that its principal activity has been turning down schemes which would otherwise have been carried out. One such scheme was the Dawson Valley irrigation scheme which had already been partly put into effect. The commission said that it wanted to investigate the proposal with a view to learning whether it would be successful.
– A very reasonable attitude.
Mr.RIORDAN. - How much development would have taken place in Australia if those in charge ofaffairs in the past had refused to embark on any public undertaking unless it were likely to show a profit from the outset? The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) said he wished that the Development and Migration’ Commission had been able to exercise control over the building of our railways. In that case, he said, the railway systems would have been developed in zones. We have an excellent example of the zoning system at Canberra, and we are not very proud of it. If the railways had been developed in zones, what would have been the effect on those who went into the backblocks on large holdings 30 or 40 years ago? Evidently many of them would be waiting yet for railway communication.
There is room for difference of opinion among experts as to the wisdom of undertakings. What greater knowledge has Mr. Gepp regarding the development of this country than men who have been trained in land settlement in the Public Service? In Queensland, Mr. Payne, of the Land Administration Board, is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on land settlement in the Commonwealth. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) tried to induce him to join the Development and Migration Commission, and he was well qualified for the position. There is little use now, however, for a development and migration commission costing £40,000 a year, when there is no money to be spent on developmental schemes. Surely the commission, since its inception, has compiled sufficient reports to keep the Government going for the next twenty years. If it had really desired to find useful ways of spending money under the £34,000,000 agreement, it could have embarked on schemes for a closer settlement of Crown land, or for the breaking up of large freehold estates. There is an absolute land hunger in Australia at the present time, but there is no. land available for those who want it. In my State, when leaseholds ‘ fall in and are balloted for again, there are sometimes as many as 1,700 persons in a ballot for one block. If land were made available, the sons of farmers could be placed on land of their own, instead of drifting to the cities as thousands of them are doing’ now. Those who advocate the freehold, as against the leasehold system of land tenure, are evidently prepared to allow millions of acres of fertile land to be held in huge areas purely for speculative purposes.
– That is a matter for the State Governments to tackle.
– Possibly, but the spending of money under the £34,000,000 agreement is a matter for this Government. The Queensland Government had already begun developmental schemes in the Dawson and Callide valleys. These schemes were later investigated by the Development and Migration Commission, which threw cold water upon them, although experts had previously recom mended their adoption. Those experts were just as capable of judging the possibilities of a proposition as were Mr. Gepp, or even Mr. Gunn, who was enticed away from South Australia to injure the Labour party in, that State. Honorable members opposite shake their heads, but they cannot deny that whenever it was desired to injure the workers’ cause the party which they support generally set about removing the leaders of Labour. If the Development and Migration Commission had never gone to Queensland there would have been successful settlement in the Dawson Valley to-day. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) knows that the Callide Valley, Burnett and Monto development schemes were all condemned by his party in Queensland, but they are to-day supporting hundreds of settlers who would otherwise be members of the great army of unemployed.
What preparations were ever made by the late Government to absorb those’ brought here under its migration scheme ? This much must be said for the Labour Government in Queensland, it did give preference to Australians in the land ballots for holdings in the Dawson Valley and the Callide Valley. Possibly the areas in those settlements were at first somewhat small, but they were fixed on the advice of experts, and they have since’ been enlarged. The extension of the railway line from Hughenden to Cloncurry has resulted in the settling of many families. Large areas of from 20,000 to 30,000 acres, upon which there formerly lived only a manager and half a dozen blacks are now broken up into half a dozen holdings, and this has been done without any help from the Development and Migration Commission. Large areas of land are being held in New South Wales to-day purely for speculative purposes, just as blocks of land north of Milson’s Point in Sydney are, pending the completion of the harbour bridge, being held idle by those who hope to sell them at twice their present price. Those holders are not creating the extra value; that is being done by the community. Recently in Sydney 800 men were discharged from their employment so that a reduction might be made in the water rate. That is the sort of thing which is> being done even though thousands of persons are already unemployed. It is time this Government called together the Premiers and Ministers f or Lands in the various State Governments in order to formulate a definiteland settlement policy for the whole Commonwealth. In this way landwould befound for those who are willing to work but cannot obtain it, and employment would be provided for thousands of persons now out of work.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time,and committed pro forma.
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of an amendment to bemoved by thePrime Minister.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That it is expedient that anappropriation of revenuebe made for the purposes of an amendment to be moved by the Prime Minister to a bill for an act to amend the Development and Migration Act 1920 and for other purposes.
Resolution reported) and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted - “5a. Notwithstandinganything contained in this act, the appropriation provided by section six of theprincipal act shall continue in force for the purpose of thepaymentof remuneration to members of the Commission established under that act, in respect of any services rendered prior tothe commencement of this act and for which payment has not been made prior to such commencement.”.
The purpose is to provide for the paymentof salaries to officers of the commission in respect of services rendered prior to the commencement of this measure.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave- adopted.
Bill - byleave-read a third time.
Duty on Fordson Tractors.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), the position with regard to the import duty onFordson tractors. That he may understand the situation, it is necessary that I should read a letter which I have received from an Austra lian firm which acts as agents for the. manufacturers. It is as follows: -
During thepast two or three years this companyhas been instrumental in placing a number of Fordson tractors to farmers of this district, the tractorsbeing used only for agricultural purposes. In two instances we formed co-operative companies under the cooperative acts, and companies, buying a Fordson tractor and equipment each. Now the Ford Motor Company advise thata customs ruling provides that tractors may not beenteredfreeinfuture, unlessthe importer declaresthattheyaretobeused as traction engines only. Firstly, wefailtoseehowthe
Ford Company, the importer, can be expected to know to what use their tractors will be put. Now, to overcome this difficulty the “ retail buyer “ is requested to complete a statutory declaration worded as follows: -
Statutory Declaration as to the Purpose for which a tractor has been purchased. i, (name), (address), (occupation) do solemnly and sincerely declare -
Fordson tractor No.
Secondly, what good is this? Is the buyer expected to keep that tractor till it is absolutely done? If not, how does he know how and what it will be called upon to do when he is finished with it? Thirdly, when we, this company, order a tractor or tractors from the Ford Company, naturally the Ford Company is not prepared to shoulder all responsibility until such time as they are in receipt of the declaration from the buyer, whoever, whatever and whenever it may be. Now sir, we write you with the idea of placing these facts before you with an idea of your influence altering a position which in our opinion -
P.S. - Why not collect the customs duty from the “ retail buyer “ who purchases a tractor for other than agricultural use, therefore giving the additional work as well as the expense to the minority of buyers, and thereby relieving the farming fraternity?
I ask the Acting Minister to take up this matter with the object of seeing whether it is not possible to alleviate the position, especially that of some of the co-operative companies formed purely and simply with the object of assisting the farmers. These companies can only buy the tractors after the duty has been paid, but at present they are unable to secure the benefit of any rebate granted by the department.
– If the right honorable member will hand to me the correspondence that he has read I shall go into the. matter and let him have a reply later. I assure him that all we require from the purchaser is a written statement.
– But it is a very necessary undertaking.
– That is so. Instances have been brought under my notice of cases in which these tractors have been converted into road rollers, which defeats the object of the duty on road rollers. Under item 177 of the tariff traction engines are dutiable to the extent of 40 per cent. British, and 55 per cent. general, as a protection for road rollers; but traction engines, as specified in the departmental by-laws, are admitted free under the British preferential tariff and 10 per cent. general. This is done for the sole purpose of making traction engines available for use on farms at the lowest possible price to the farmer. But certain persons who were importing traction engines ostensibly for the purpose of farm use were converting them into road-rollers.
– Many such cases occurred.
– That is so. It will be generally agreed that this is most unfair to the manufacturers of road-rollers. I assure the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the department deals with every case sympathetically.
– In cases where duty has been paid will it be possible to secure a refund ?
– Yes, if the department is satisfied as to the facts of the case. I have instructed the departmental officers to deal sympathetically with the whole subject. I am sure that the right honorable member will agree that it would be unfair to allow tractors admitted duty free to be converted into road-rollers. I have been in correspondence with a number of honorable members and also with some agents, particularly in South Australia, on this subject, and I believe that all parties are now satisfied with the arrangements that the department has made. We require the written undertaking as evidence of the bona fide intentions of the agents, and we feel that this is necessary because of the imposition that has been practised in some instances. I assure the right honorable member again that I will sympathetically consider his request.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 June 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300617_reps_12_124/>.