12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.
– As the matter profoundlyaffects the credit of the Commonwealth and the solvency of its citizens, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is prepared to deny the newspaper report that the Parliamentary Labour party, in caucus, has decided that the Government shall default in respect of the £18,000,000 Commonwealth loan maturing on the 15th December next, by introducing legislation to postpone the date of maturity?
– I assure the honorable member that the House and the country will receive full information in due course regarding all features of the financial policy of the Government.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state when the House will receive a statement as to the terms on which the £18,000,000 loan will be converted ?
– The right honorable member is well aware that loan operations are controlled by the Loan Council, which is to meet in Canberra next week.
– Has it not beenthe regular practice to announce some monthin advance the terms upon which maturing loans will he converted?
– In ordinary circumstances that is the custom; hut we are living in abnormal times.
Mr.GULLETT.- I ask the Acting Prime Minister, in the absence of the Acting Treasurer, if he has been in communication with the Prime Minister regarding the graveperil to the credit of the Commonwealth involved in yesterday’s resolution of the Parliamentary Labour party?
– Naturally, as the Acting Prime Minister, I am in almost constant communication with the Prime Minister. What passes between us, in reference to government policy, may in due course be made known to the House.
Amendment of Bankruptcy Act
– Has the Acting Prime Minister received any request from the Western Australian Government for an amendment of the Bankruptcy Act, so that State legislation for the protection of the wheat-growers’ interests may not be contraryto federal law! If so, does he propose to take the necessary action ?
– I am not aware that any communication of that character has been received from the Western Australian Government;but I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member have an answer.
– The following paragraph appears in the Canberra Times of to-day : -
RECALL OF JUDGE.
Soughtby Labour Council.
The Trades and Labour Council to-night decided that strongly worded messages be sent to the Federal Government requesting the removal of Chief Judge Dethridge from the Arbitration Court on the ground that he was “incapable of dealing with the standard of living because of bias.”
Has the Acting Prime Minister received such arequest; ifso, what action does he propose to take ?
– I have not received any such communication.
– Didthe Acting Prime Minister read in last night’s Melbourne Herald, which supports the Nationalist party, a complaint that the Government has not proposed any reduction of old-age pensions?
– I have very little time to readnewspapers, and the paragraph to which the honorable member refers has not been brought to my notice.
-Having regard to the acute financial position of the Commonwealth, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the wisdom of requesting the Chairmen of the Public Works Committeeand Public Accounts Committee to suspend the operations of those bodies for a time?
– An inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into the financial position of South Australia was promised, in accordance with a resolution of the Premiers’ Conference. That promise must be honoured, and the inquiry is proceeding. In regard to the Public Works Committee, I am not aware of its present activities; but I know that if, has conducted some very useful investigations.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until
Wednesday nextat 3 o’clock p.m.
Trade with Australia.
asked the Acting Minis ter for Trade and. Customs, upon notice -
With reference to the trade between Aus tralia and the United States of America, what was the total value of such trade and the trade balance for the last ten years?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are contained in the following table: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the French Government or any other authority in Franco charged the Aus tralian Government with any, and, if so, what amount of trench rent during the 1914-1918 war ?
– Neither the French Government nor any other authority in France charged trench rents to the Australian Government.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: - 1.No. There are no indications of the roof of the western colonnade falling in, but there are some expansion and contraction cracks, which can be expected in concrete construction.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether be proposes to take any action in relation to the position of the honorable member for Dal ley as a member of this Parliament?
– I am not contemplating any action.
State Government Instrumentalities
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the question of the application of the sales tax on State Government instrumentalities -
Is it a fact that this tax will probably cost the South Australian Government, approximately. £100,000 per annum ; and
Has the Government come to a decision on this matter.
Mr. LYONS (through Mr. Fenton) … - The answersto the honorable member’s questionsare : -
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the bill bo now read a third time.
– I again protest against the gross betrayal of the interest of the consumers of galvanized iron, and particularly country people. For the last ten years the accepted nolicy of this country has been to insist that the burden of establishing secondary industries shall be borne by the whole of the people, and not merely by that section which lives outback, endures more inconvenience and has a smaller return from its efforts than any other section, and at the present time is heavily penalized by the huge drop in the world’s prices of primary pro- ducts. Moreover, this Parliament is entitled to a definite assurance from the Minister in regard to the embargo that is being placed on the importation of galvanized iron. During the last few years, despite the fact tha.t Lysaght Limited have been receiving bounties on their production, it has been impossible for some large wholesale and retailing firms, especially in Queensland, to secure supplies of galvanized iron from those manufacturers. I understand that the reason was that such firms were willing to sell to their customers at a lower rate than was approved by Lysaght’s and their associates. The present Government claims that it is endeavouring to assure a fair deal to the consumers, and that it has obtained from various manufacturing concerns guarantees that nrices will not be. increased, and in the case of agricultural implements will be actually reduced. Therefore, I cannot understand why it should persist in paying a bounty to a firm that adopts coercive practices. Certain firms have been prevented from obtaining supplies of galvanized iron from the Australian manufacturers, and now that the embargo on importations is complete I want an. assurance that supplies will be made available to such firms so that they may bc able to meet the requirements of their customers. Every commercial organization is entitled to conduct its business in its own way, and if it is prepared to sell its goods at a cut price because of the extra business which may result, there is no reason why the policy of the Commonwealth should be interpreted in such a way as to prevent them from doing so.
– I assure the right honorable member that Lysaght Limited have made an amicable arrangement with Baldwin’s to make adequate supplies available to that firm.
– I am thinking not only of Baldwin’sbut of several other firms in Queensland, and I understand that supplies have been refused to some merchants inWestern Australia also. Before the bounty is removed and the embargo becomes fully operative, we should have a definite ministerial assurance that all business firms, regardless of whether they have been customers of Lysaght’s in the past or have been willing to submit to the terms and conditions which the manufacturers imposed on their regular customers, will be entitled to get from them supplies of galvanized iron which they are not. allowed to obtain overseas. I hope also that the Minister will see that the agreement with the manufacturers is adequately policed. This matter should be thoroughly ventilated, so that we may have a definite assurance in respect of every embargo that the interests of retailers and the public will be conserved.
.-I enter my most emphatic protest against, the passing of the third reading of this bill. I cannot congratulate honorable members opposite on their eagerness to build up such a great monopoly, to grant to one firm the complete control of the sale of a material which is so essential to the people of Australia. I can anticipate what the people in the far distant States will think of the action of the Government. To me what has been done is absolutely appalling. Last night I read an origin al letter from John Lysaght Australia Limited, which stated that, owing to grave complaints made in this Parliament because the firm had refused to supply their products to certain traders, the firm were fixing a price under which they were prepared to sell to distributors who were members of the Iron and Steel Products Association, to whom they would give a special rebate, to enable them to undersell their competitors. It is the duty of the Government to insist that Lysaght Limited should trade on an equal basis with all firms. I am totally unable to understand why honorable members opposite, many of whom represent country constituencies, support the action of the Government. They know how essential galvanized iron is to the farmer and pastoralist, and to the worker who is building a home; yet they are prepared ro hand over absolute control in regard to its manufacture and sale to Lysaght Limited. The country is already in a sufficiently bacl position. The Government is penalizing it further by relinquishing duties amounting to £70,000 or : t’S0,000 a year, which would be collected if the importation of this commodity were not prohibited. It is idle for the Acting Minister to claim that he will take all sorts of care about the actions of Lysaght Limited. Itis over two months since I first read Lysaght’s letter in this chamber, and no action has yet been taken by the Government. Similar remarks can be applied to the action of other monopolists ; for instance, the Iron and Steel Products Association, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which refused to supply to traders who do not belong to their close corporations. If we give, not only high protection, but embargoes, to any firms, it is our duty to see that the interests of the general public are conserved, and that they will not be absolutely at the mercy of the monopolists. Why is the Government so insistent that Australian manufacturers should receive every consideration, and be assured that t hey will make a comfortable interest on their invested capital? Surely similar interest should be manifested in our pioneers of the soil, the men who are producing the basic wealth of the country. One can scarcely foresee the end of this policy of the Government. Next week we may find embargoes introduced against fencing wire and wire netting. I am somewhat dubious in the matter of sulphur, on which a bounty is now being paid which saves our farmers 6s. per ton on the super-phosphates purchased by them. I am afraid that additional charges will be imposed on that necessity to the primary producers. J. hope that the antagonism evinced by honorable members of the Opposition will cause members of another chamberto take action to prevent this nefarious proposal from being passed into law.
– Last night the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs told the House that I was responsible for the presence of the Lysaght firm in Australia, and there is some truth in the assertion. He stated, too, that I had promised that it would receive adequate protection if it established a factory in Australia. I cannot recall precisely the terms of any arrangement with the firm, or the obligations to which I committed the Government in regard to it ; but I do not admit that the term “ adequate protection even in its widest application, covers an embargo. The proposal of the Ministry must then be considered on its merits alone.
Something has been said about the very great power that the embargo on the importation of galvanized iron confers upon the firm of Lysaght Limited. In effect, this is the only firm engaged in the manufacture in Australia of this essential commodity, and it isnow given the power of determining the conditions of its sale. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Page) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) drew attention to one or two facts that require the serious consideration of thu Minister. There ought to be a distinct understanding that the firm will not grant rebates to specially selected distributors. There should be one price for their material throughout Australia, subject, of course, to variations due to the cost of distribution, railage, cartage, and so on. No favour should be shown to anybody. Rebates can be used in such a way as to be a perfect curse, when to give them is an underhand way of doing business. Those traders to whom they are not granted are at a serious disadvantage. It is difficult to see how the Acting Minister can keep his promise to the House that he will watch most carefully the use made by Lysaght Limited of the very great concession which the Government is giving them; the greatest concession that the country could give such a firm. I hope that the honorable gentleman will obtain a specific undertaking that there will be no rebates, and that all distributors of galvanized iron will be on. a basis of equality of prices. There are more ways of killing a dog than by choking it with butter, and we should have a definite assurance that all will start off scratch in this business. If a firm of retailers likes to make a but in the price of galvanized iron, that does not concern Lysaght Limited; it is the concern of the distributor himself. It is perfectly legitimate trading for a concern to make a cut in the price of one commodity in order to increase sales generally, and the consumer has a right to whatever advantage may come to him from competition among distributors.
No one is more earnestly desirous than I am of promoting the welfare of Australian industries.Whenever doubt exists, I always give our own manufacturers the benefit of it. At the same time I expect that they will not try to exploit the public.
This embargo shuts off all competition in Australia in galvanized iron- a most extraordinary position. The Assistant Minister for Trade and “Customs said that similar, action was taken during the war. That is true; but the circumstances then were entirely different, and the embargoes applied only to goods coming from or suspected of coming from enemy countries. This is an entirely new departure; an experiment, if you like. I shall not criticize it. but I ask that the experiment shallbe conducted in such a way that the well-being of the people of Australia shall be protected. After all, it is the consumer that has ultimately to be considered ; it is for his benefit that the galvanized iron is being made. If it were not for him, there would be no market, and, therefore, no manufacture. I ask the Acting Minister to give the House the assurance that the interests of the people will be protected; otherwise I can hardly see any prospect of the measure becoming operative.
– The reiteration of the threat that certain action is to be taken by another place with regard to this bill is becoming nauseating. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and others have stated that the measure will not become law because of the anticipated attitude of members in another place. I point out that the majority of the occupants of that other place are really in the position of usurpers, and are not respresentative of the desires of the people. The people wiped out the Bruce-Page Government, to which those members gave their adherence. Because of the peculiarity of our’ Constitution, as it is at present drafted, those individuals, who are really the rejects of the people, predominate in another place, and we are threatened that they will hold up the legislation of the Government that has received the mandate of the people. The Government will not stand that sort of thing much longer. The challenge must, be accepted. It is about time that the bluff of another place was called, and that the will of the people, as expressed at the last election, was given effect.
– To repudiate the loan indebtedness of the Commonwealth?
– The honorable gentleman admitted . yesterday in the corridor’ that he was sorry for having madethat charge; yet he now repeats it!
– The honorable member assisted to have a resolution to that effect carriedin the Government caucus last night.
– Order! The honorable member for Henty is distinctly out of order.
– The honorable member for Henty is as destitute of honour as he is of common sense.
– Order ! It is not in order for an honorable member to accuse another honorable member of being dishonorable.
-If the honorable gentleman continues to provoke me, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to protect me against him.
– The honorable member for Werriwa is aware that I have protected him.
– I do not wish to reflect on you in any way. I rose merely to register an emphatic protest against the constant throwing down of a challenge in regard to what another place will do. The majority in that chamber consistsof the remnants of a discredited party that has been torn to shreds by the people and left almost without voice in this Parliament; yet they have the audacity to challenge a Government that received from the electors the clearest mandate that has been given to any government since the inauguration of federation. Honorable members opposite have the hardihood to threaten this Government with what these old fossils will do to its legislation.
– It is not in order for an honorable member to reflect on members of another place.
– I repeat that the only reason for my rising was to protest against these threats. I conclude by saying that it is about time that the Government called the bluff of these honorable senators and sent them to their masters, where they ought to have been sent long ago. The people should be given the right to consign them to the place to which the majority of the party that sits opposite was consigned, at the last election.
.-I shall ignore the remarks of the last speaker, and continue the debate upon the third reading of the bill. At the secondreading stage I protested against the placing of an embargo upon the importation of galvanized iron, on account of the evils that such action brings in its’ train. It is not my intention to add anything to what I then said upon that aspectof the matter.
I join with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in asking the Minister (Mr. Forde) to state definitely whether he will take steps to prevent any action in the direction of price control. The right honorable member for North Sydney referred to wholesale buying, and urged that the giving of rebates should not be allowed. ‘ Some of the industries that are now established in this country were induced to come here by the excessive tariff protection that has recently been granted. ‘ I could, if required, furnish the Minister with the names of concerns that are controlling the retail price to the consumer. If a retailer dares to cut the price, his supplies are discontinued. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has definitely proved from the letters of this galvanized iron firm that they are giving special rebates to wholesale buyers. This gives an unfair advantage; yet. if retailers give a discount or cut the price, their supplies may be withheld.
– Rebates are given to members of the Iron and Steel Association, and not to other wholesale buyers.
– There is in Melbourne a hardware association which attempts to control prices. That association enlists the aid of manufacturers and agents in cutting out any firms which dare sell below a certain price. Thus the consumers are not being given the best service. I am not attacking that association but the principle involved.
Mr.Forde. - Its members are friends of the honorable member.
– Neither the. vested interests nor the communists are friends of mine. It is my aim to do what is best for the mass of the people. I say that the consumer needs protection. A Labour government, which professes, to stand for the creation of. employment, should see that small firms are not short-circuited in their business dealings by having their supplies cut off and their prices controlled by stronger organizations. I ask the Minister to give the House the definite assurance that he will see that no firm which indulges in such tactics is given tariff protection.I remind him that the right honorablethe Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), before his departure for England, used these words : “The hand that gives can also take away.” He also said, “ If any firm should exploit the. protection that we give them, we will see that it is removed.” I ask the Minister to see that effect is given to that promise.
.-I agree, with what the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has just said. I am surprised that it should be necessary to make such an appeal to the Minister: I am a supporter of the tariff policy of the Government, but it is not a part of that policyto give any manufacturer in this country the right to exploit the consumer in. the manner suggested. I am positive that the Minister is not shutting hiseyes to the fact that such exploitation is being practised, and that it must be stopped. Before I left Adelaide less than a fortnight ago, I was approached by afirm which placed before me particulars in support of an accusation of exploitation by another firm, whose name I forget for the moment. I wired the Minister; who apparently interested himself in the matter immediately, because the Customs Department communicated with me by telephone to ascertain the name of the firm against whom the charge had been made. The firm that made the accusation expressed its preparedness to give evidence at any time in support of it. I have no doubt that the charge can be proved. I claim, however, that upon honorable members opposite lies the responsibility of disciplining those elements of society which are guilty of exploitation.
– I say that it does. It is only the members of the Hardware Association in Adelaide who are privileged to purchase their supplies at a special price. The firm to which I have referred is outside that association.
– Our grievance is that outside firms cannot buy direct from Lysaght’s.
– Quite so. That, however, is not the complaint which has been made to me by the firm to which I have referred ; it is, that when they’ buy they are not charged the same rate as are members of the Hardware Association.
– Those who are in the association arc charged a secret rate.
– That is so. The practice is immoral, and should be stopped. I join with honorable members opposite in asking the Minister to prevent its continuance. We believe in fostering and encouraging industries even to the extent of placing an embargo upon the importation of the commodities which they produce, so that they will be manufactured in this country. But it is not our policy to give to a privileged few the right to manipulate prices or supplies in whatever manner they think fit. The man who buys from any retailer should benefit from the lower rate that is made possible by efficient business methods. Every buyer should be placed on the one level. I have not had a reply to the complaint that I laid before the Minister. The firm that brought the matter before me has been established in Adelaide for as long as I have been there, and the public has benefited from its business acumen. It has carried on in spite of the Hardware Association, and probably has retailed its goods at lower prices than the members of that body. Its operation should not be hampered as a result of legislation passed in this House, which gives to Lysaght’s, Ryland’s, or any other firm an advantage which it is not prepared to share with others who should participate in it.
– I again protest against the passage of this measure. I was not previously aware that the Labour party was returned to power on a promise that it would defend large monopolies. The effect of this bill will be to establish one of the largest monopolies that has ever been created in this country. It appears to me that the Minister and other honorable members opposite have made a. special plea on behalf of this particular company. It was cheerful to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has complained of the likelihood that another place will not pass this measure because of the fact that it is in defence of a large monopoly, thus, showing clearly that he is in favour of such monopolistic concerns. The bill contains features that are detrimental to the progress of this country. It is anticipated that in some States,particularly Western Australia, there will be insufficient stocks to meet requirements. A primary producer who wishes to erect urgently a wool shed or any other building may be compelled to wait three or four weeks on account of the shortage of stocks and of the disabilities in regard to transport from the eastern States imposed by the Navigation Act. That has already happened in regard to fencing wire. This embargo will cause the addition of £500,000 per annum to the cost of galvanized iron. Those who use this material are not in a position to bear such a heavy impost. They had reason to expect that in the present period of depression the prices of commodities they require would fall commensurately with those of their ownproducts in the markets of the world. They did not anticipate that machinery would be provided by a Labour Government to enable big monopolies to fleece them.
It must not be overlooked that, although this is Commonwealth legislation, the effect of it will be to give a monopoly to an industry that is established in one State only. That State will derive a distinct advantage unless a definite undertaking is given that the output of these works will be sold in all of the States at a flat rate. Under the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act the Western Australian users of galvanized iron and other commodities produced in the eastern States are at a disadvantage compared with those in other parts of the Commonwealth. A definite assurance should be given by the Assistant Minister that users of this commodity throughout Australia shall be placed on the same basis. I have read the correspondence referred to by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) which clearly discloses that immediately these sheltered industries obtain a monopoly they grant to agents and distributors certain rebates and other concessions. Although some users of galvanized iron purchase larger quantities than are ever handled by agents, they have to pay more for purchasing through ageuts, as the firm of Lysaght’s will not contract direct with them. Under the system of monopolies which this Government is establishing, the users of galvanized iron and other commodities incur serious financial loss. I should like to have definite assurance from the Assistant Minister that he has obtained an understanding from John Lysaght Australia Limited that galvanized iron will be sold in all the capital cities at a flat rate.
Mr.Forde. - That will be done.
.- I find it difficult to remain silent while charges against Australian manufacturing firms are being reiterated by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and other honorable members opposite. I have already exposed the inaccuracy of one of these charges.
– Where is this firm established ?
– The honorable member knows where its works are located, and that it received a considerable tariff assistance from the Government of which he was a member. A large amount of capital has been expended on buildings and plant at Newcastle, and those in control of the industry who have made a determined attempt to carry on manufacturing operations, now find that in consequence of intense overseas competition the imposition of an embargo on importations is necessary. I shall do all in my power to prevent this or any other firm adopting tactics which may be detrimental to the users of the commodity they are producing. The honorable member for Swan produced a letter from a firm in Queensland, which, I understand, had been refused supplies of Australian wire. Inquiries were made by the Customs Department, and it was ascertained that this firm, although carrying stocks of the Australian product, had been advising its customers to use the imported article, because the Australian product could not be recommended.
– I also quoted another letter.
– I have seen that communication in which I believe a similar incident is recorded, although I cannot recall the actual circumstances. After perusing a good deal of correspondence I came to the conclusion that I would not support the imposition of an embargo on imported galvanized iron until I received a definite assurance that purchasers of the Australian product would all be placed on the same basis in the matter of price. John Lysaght Australia Limited, in common with other’ firms, will supply contractors, farmers, and others under a system of rebates.
– That is not so. Why a rebate at all?
– Rebates are based on the quantity purchased.
– That is not so.
– I have been assured that a uniform price is to be charged at all Australian ports. This firm does not possess a monopoly of the galvanized iron manufacturing business in Australia, as other firms can undertake its manufacture if they desire. At the time the embargo was imposed 4,600 tons a month were being imported.
– Of which Lysaght’s were responsible for approximately one half.
-No. The figures I have given were apart from Lysaght’s importations.
– What quantity did Lysaght’s import?
– They ceased importing three or four months ago.
– How much did they import before that?
– Not to a greater extent than other firms. For years before they were induced to establish their own works in Australia they were the only importers. The Customs Department has assured the Assistant Minister that the firm has endeavoured to honestly carry out what has been required of it. The imposition of an adequate duty would have dispensed with’ the necessity to pay a bounty, and an embargo became necessary during recent months owing to heavy importations. It is preferable to have manufacturers in this country who are under our control than to bolster up importers who have been bleeding this country for years. The manufacture of galvanized iron in Australia has resulted in the price being reduced by about onehalf.
– It is about £14 a ton higher than in Great Britain.
– The price during the war period was very high, but it is useless to institute a comparison between the rates now prevailing and those that were in operation when honorable members opposite assisted in booming and boosting a war, from the results of which we have not yet recovered. Honorable members opposite now wish to prevent the honest development of industry in this country. Had adequate protection been imposed some time ago an embargo would have been unnecessary.
– What is adequate protection - 100 per cent, or 200 per cent. ?
– The members of the Country party favored the imposition of a duty of800 per cent. on onions, which are imported only when there is a shortage in Australia. I shall do all I can to prevent Australian manufacturers from adopting unfair tactics. This firm, which was encouraged to establish the industry in Australia by a Nationalist Government, of which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was the leader, is worthy of the assistance which the Government’ is now rendering. The company, which at present is working only three days a week, is capable of meeting all our requirements. The distribu tion and handling methods of the firm can be closely watched by the department, and I do not think there is any justification for the fears expressed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and other honorable members opposite.
.- Parliament did not have an opportunity to discuss the galvanized iron industry in Australia before the bounty was withdrawn and an embargo on importation was imposed by the Government, which has resulted in the establishment of a monopoly. It is useless for honorable members opposite to speak of the power of the Minister to control this monopoly which the Government has established. The Government in this respect is acting as one would act if he took a viper into his home and said that if it attacked a member of the family its fangs would be drawn. The only way in which to prevent a company from abusing its power is to allow free and open competition; to continue. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has, on more than one occasion, denounced firms handling imported galvanized iron who have been refused supplies because they said they could not recommend the Australian product. We should not give any company such unlimited protection that it will be able to carry on. regardless ‘ of price or quality, or of the efficiency displayed in the control ‘of ils works. I do not suggest that the quality of the article now produced at Newcastle is inferior to the imported article, as I have no means of judging between them ; but as the question has been raised by the honorable member for Newcastle, I may say that I have seen galvanized iron manufactured in Australia ten years , ago which, owing to defective galvanizing, is red with rust to-day, while imported iron purchased 30 or 40 years ago is as good as when it was purchased.
– A director of Baldwin’s has stated that the Australian product is equal to the British.
– It is impossible to say whether recently manufactured iron is of good quality or not. Only after it has been in use for some years can its quality be proved.The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins)condemned a firm iri Queensland for having recommended imported galvanized iron in preference to that manufactured in this country, but probably the quality of the Australian product was sufficient justification for his so doing.While it is to be hoped that the Australian firm can produce galvanized iron equal to the imported article, to grant it a monopoly is to invite it to be indifferent as to the quality of its product. The Minister and his officers are not competent to judge whether galvanized iron made in Australia is equal to that which is imported. Time only will prove the quality of the respective materials. The best way of ensuring high quality products is to encourage competition. A protection of £3 or £4 a ton. should be sufficient to enable the Australian firm to compete with the products of other countries. Under the powers conferred on him by the act - powers not intended by Parliament - the Minister, on the plea that otherwise workmen would be thrown out of employment, entered into an agreement, the details of which have not been revealed in this chamber. Against that action I emphatically protest. The interests of the consumers of’ galvanized iron have not been considered; those on whom the country depends for a restoration of prosperity have been ignored. Before an embargo was placed on the importation of galvanized iron, Parliament should have been consulted. It is idle for the honorable member for Werriwa ( Mr. Lazzarini) to say that the Government has a mandate to do these things. In the last election campaign the honorable member would not have been prepared to tell the electors that a Labour Government, if elected, would grant to one firm a monopoly of such an important commodity as galvanized iron. The Labour party professes to be opposed to monopolies, whereas, in fact, it is a creator of monopolies by its elimination of all competition.
– I do not desire to give this company complete control of the galvanized iron industry without imposing some restrictions on it. I feel certain, however, that when the Minister replies he will give the assurances sought by honorable members opposite. The Labour party has never stood for the creation of monopolies, although it stands for the establishment of Australian industries. Once an industry is established in this country it is entitled to protection against overseas competition. It is well known that the importers do their best to kill every new secondary industry in its infancy. Some years ago galvanized iron sold in Australia at as high as £70 a ton. That would not have been possible had it been manufactured in Australia at the time. If Lysaght Limited went out of businesstomorrow, the consumers of galvanized iron would immediately be at the mercy of the importers, who would regulate prices, and do all the things with which the Australian company is charged with having done. The Government is not less desirous than are honorable members opposite of protecting the consumers of iron, nor is it unmindful of the interests of the man on the land. It seeks to benefit all classes in the community. The best means of protecting the community is to establish industries in this country. There is nothing to prevent other companies from setting up establishments for the manufacture of galvanized iron in Australia. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) opposes this embargo; yet he and otner Tasmanian members want a complete embargo on imported timbers.
– That is not so. I have always refused to support such a proposal.
– I agree that everyone who wishes to buy galvanized iron should be able to do so without discrimination, and I feel certain that the Minister will give an assurance that; that will be so in the future.
.: - It is refreshing to hear the honorablemember for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) impressing on the House the advisability of not . allowing anything to be done to the detriment of the users of galvanized iron. But it occurs to me that his remarks would have been of greater value had he made them in caucus, instead of waiting until members of the Opposition had drawn attention to the position of the unfortunate consumer under this embargo. I can understand that the honorable member, for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) desires to assist a big manufacturing firm in his district, and that he should place before us only one aspect of this important matter. The Acting Minister also seems to hold a brief for this Australian monopoly. The object of the Opposition is to impress on the Government the necessity for protecting the users of this commodity, particularly those in the country, to whom we must look for an improvement of our economic position. The Opposition has no ulterior object in opposing this embargo; it is making an honest attempt to protect the interests of the whole community. The world’s market is glutted with mutton, wool, wheat, sugar, rubber, coffee, zinc and countless other products, with the result that the producers of such commodities have to be content with smaller returns than formerly. There is also an overproduction of iron in the world. But Australian consumers are to be denied the benefit of reduced prices because of the action of the Government in giving a monopoly to one firm of manufacturers and preventing outside competition. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) claims that the late Government, having induced Lysaght’s to establish a factory in Australia, abandoned the firm, and left it at the mercy of importers whose only desire was to crush this Australian industry. That is not so, for the newcompany was protected by a bounty of £5 10s. a ton on galvanized iron produced in Australia.
– Their chief competitor was the parent firm of Lysaght’s, in England.
– The granting of the embargo will make it passible for the Australian company, either to produce galvanized iron of inferior quality or to charge a higher price for its product. Without competition the firm will be tempted to adopt one of those courses. It has been urged that immediately prior to the embargo this country was flooded with imported galvanized iron. Even if that were so, the position could have been met without placing an embargo on the importation of galvanized iron. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) raised an important point when he referred to the unfair treatment meted out to certain firms by Lysaght’s. I desire to urge the claims of those co-operative societies, composed for the most part of primary producers, which complain that they cannot obtain galvanized iron directly from the manufacturers as cheaply as it is supplied to certain agents of the monopoly. I hope that the Government will review this matter in caucus with a viewto placing some restriction on the firm which has been granted a monopoly of an article which is of vital importance to Australia.
.- The extraordinary ignorance of the Acting Minister (Mr. Forde) regarding the conditions under which galvanized iron is distributed by Lysaght Limited is further evidence of the slap-dash manner in which tariff schedules are prepared.
– The honorable member. is smarting under the rebuke he received last night.
– Seeing that every honorable member has been communicated with in an attempt to secure a fair distribution of the product of this monopolistic firm, I find it hard to believe that similar representations have not been made to the Trade and Customs Department. It would appear that the only member of this House who is unaware of the true position is the Acting Minister which explains the irresponsible and carefree manner in which he presents tariff schedules to this House. I desire to refer to the case of one large user of galvanized iron, who is unable to obtain his supplies directly from the manufacturers. He is obliged to buy from one of the distributing organizations which operate on behalf of Lysaght’s in Victoria, but cannot purchase his requirements at the same price as that paid by those distributors. This is bolstering up one industry at Newcastle at the expense of others throughout Australia. I appeal to the Minister to re-considercompletely the machinery by which the prohibition of imports is controlled. This company is one of many in Australia which is given an absolute monopoly of the marketing of a particular article at the expense of the rest of the community. Apart from the fact that this is most undemocratic, there should be no privileged class, of traders. Such monopolies are given merely to manufacturers, and not to other sections of the community. The control over them is indefinite; it is exercised by a few overworked accountants in the Customs Department. There are very few accountants in that department, and they were overworked before these monopolies were created. Yet the Acting Minister has the effrontery to assure us that Lysaght and Company can be controlled and obliged to do what is scrupulously fair, because of the work of a few accountants employed at a great distance from them, who may examine their books from time to time. It is an outrageous arrangement, and cannot possibly prove effective. If the Government is to continue the policy of setting up monopoly after monopoly, I hope that honorable members supporting the Ministry will join the Opposition -in declaring that some really effective machinery must be established to keep the monopolies in their proper place.
If I may venturea prophecy at this stage, I should say that, within ten years, the bulk of the time of this Parliament will be taken up with the consideration of anti-trust legislation, as the result of the sort of tariff making with which of late we have unfortunately become so familiar. I fear that numbers of trusts will be formed to the detriment of the public interest.
Last night the Acting Minister submitteda new definition of “ adequate protection “, and declared emphatically that it meant prohibition.
– Effective protection.
– The honorable gentleman insisted that adequate protection meant prohibition.
– Yes, the shutting our of all other goods.
– Quite so. I do nor know whether honorable members opposite claim to have received a mandate for that; it is an extraordinary interpretation of “ adequate protection “, and I wholly dissociate myself from that view. Nationalism in this” Parliament has always stood for what we regard as adequate protection; but in advocating the protection of Australian industries we have always provided for some competition from overseas. Under that brand of protection, as I remarked yesterday. all the great industries of this country have been built up, and the contribution of the party represented by honorable members opposite to the tariff legislation of Australia has been negligible. One constructive tariff was introduced in this Parliament by the late Mr. Tudor, but, apart from that, every tariff under which industries have grown up in thiscountry has been passed by the Nationalist party, or its predecessor, the old Liberal party.
-All those measures were supported by the Labour party.
-I admit that, but when that party was in office it did not bringdown schedules approaching in importance those submitted by its opponents. I object to the establishment by legislation of exclusive trusts. My party stands now where it has always stood. If Lysaght and Company had approached me on the matter of prohibition during my administration of the Customs Department, and I had received a recommendation from my advisers that the company was in need of further assistance, the matter would have received immediate consideration; but my advice from the senior tariff officer, when I was in office, and when the company applied for further assistance, was that it should be left where it stood.
By way of personal explanation, I wish to refer to a statement that the Acting Minister made last night with a good deal of emphasis. He said that I had, on more than one occasion, remarked in this House that I knew from officers of the Customs Department that they were not behind the measures which the Acting Minister was now bringing before the House. I emphatically deny the truth of that statement. At no time have I said anything of the kind in this House. The honorable gentleman is guilty of a pure invention. At no. time since he has been associated with the Customs Department have I discussed with an officer of that department any tariff proposals, either brought into this chamber by the Acting Minister or in course of preparation.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks on this important subject by honorable members on both sides, and everything that has been said will receive the fullest consideration of the Government. We desire to do the right thing by the Australian manufacturers, and by the consumers generally. We do not hold a brief for any manufacturer, but we believe that it is better to have as many goods as possible manufactured in this country at a time when our adverse trade balance presents a serious problem. Our exports have fallen off so considerably that we cannot continue to meet our obligations in Great Britain, and pay for as large a volume of imports as we have been bringing in during past years.For the first three months of the present financial year the value of our exports amounts toonly about £16,000,000. Certainly there will be a big improvement in the position when our wool and wheat are exported; but there will need to be a big improvement if we are to meet our obligations in Great Britain. In times such as this, when we have a huge army of unemployed, a special measure of thekind now under consideration is justified. The Government does not propose to place an embargo on galvanized iron for all time. This measure was introduced to meet special circumstances. We saw huge works - works costing about £700,000, which had been doubled in capacity during the last twelve months - being forced to close and 900 men being put out of employment.
– It was “put up” to the Government.
-That remark is hardly creditable to a member of this House, and Ihurl the insinuation back. Such an observation might beexpected of an entirely irresponsible person.
– A pretty arrangement i t was !
– I challenge the honorable member to prove that any arrangement was made, or that theGovernment had cognizance of anything improper. Why would the Government arrange that the works be closed down ? The sugges tion is diabolical and absurd. I quoted lastnight from the SydneySun, and furnished definite proof that the company, in an interview with the press, had complained that it was forced to close down its works owing to the procrastination of the Government in regard to the prohibition of imports. It shows to what depths a gentleman, who was once a Minister, can descend, when he alleges that the Government acted in collusion with the company in connexion with the closing of its works. That statement is absolutely untrue, and reflects discredit upon the honorable member. 1 challenge him to prove it.
– I submit that an honorable member is out of order in describing another honorable member’s statement as absolutely untrue.
– Theuse of such an expression is not permitted under the Standing Orders, and I ask for its withdrawal.
– I withdraw those words, and substitute for them “ a prevarication of the truth”. I do not wish to misrepresent the Leader of the Opposition, but I object to his innuendoes. These are the words he used last evening: -
I advise the Minister not to say too much about the opinion of the officers of the department as to whether or not Lysaght’s are entitled to more protection. I could say some- thing on that point.
If he has anything further to say, let him say it. I challenge him to do so. On more than one occasion he has left the impression with the House that officers of the Customs Department have given him advice intended only for the Ministry of the day. That is an unwarranted reflection on the officers. Such action on their part would be contemptible, and I do not believe that any officer in the department is capable of such disloyalty.
If Lysaght and Company donot ‘” play the game “ in regard to the ‘embargo, it can be lifted. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) remarked in his statement in the House, the hand that gives protection can take it away. I admit that the powers of this Parliament arelimited regarding the fixation of prices, because of limitations imposed by the Constitution. Honorable members opposite had an opportunity of amending the ‘Constitution, hut it was notdone.Until the Commonwealth Parliamentpossesses greater powers it cannot dealwith such matters as the fixation of prices; but I can assure honorable members that every reasonable step will be taken to see that prices are not unduly raised. The embargo was imposed to meet a serious situation during a time when Parliament was not sitting. Lysaght’s works had closed down, nearly 1,000 persons were out of employment, and something had to be done. Between now and the time that Parliament meets again, I shall see that the whole matter, as to what would be an adequate duty instead of the prohibition, is fully investigated by the Tariff Board, and, if it is found advisable, an adequate protective duty will be substituted for the embargo. I am sure that Lysaght’s, or any other firm, would have no objection to working under an adequate protective duty. There are certain powers under the Tariff Board Act which can be exercised against any person or firm practising exploitation under the protection given them by the tariff.
– That section of the act was invoked in the case of the Harvester inquiry.
– That is so. Lysaght Limited has given an undertaking that it will charge the same price for galvanized iron in every capital in Australia. The company has pointed out that, in order to carry out that undertaking it will have to sell in “Western Australia at a loss.
– “Will ‘the company sell at the same price to every dealer?
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that no rebates should be given to individual firms.
– No secret rebates.
– “We shall look into that matter. Inquiries will be made. However, honorable members opposite, who are familiar with business practice, must know perfectly well that the big buyer invariably gets some cut in price, because he buys in large quantities. That sort of thing is going on every day. It is a common commercial practice for the price to vary according to the quantity bought.
– The Minister knows that the transactions to which he refers are not carried on under the protection of an. absolute monopoly of selling.
– In some cases they are, and in others they are not.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), in his new role of business expert, dealt with this aspect of the matter. He must know that it is a common thing for manufacturers to sei] through agents. Generally, manufacturers have not their own selling organizations in every State, and in order to dispose of their goods they employ agents. Goods do not sell themselves, and to keep them before the market manufacturers employ agents, thus saving themselves the expense of building up their own selling organizations.
– Is the Minister in order in reading his speech?
– It is not permissible for the Minister or for any member to read his speech, but he may refresh his memory by consulting notes.
– I have not been reading my speech, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) knows it. The raising of this point of order is merely a contemptible move to embarrass me in making my speech. The Government has no apologies to make for having imposed this embargo on galvanized iron. Nor does the Government stand for exploitation of the consumer, and an inquiry will be conducted to determine whether the embargo should continue, or whether it should be replaced by an adequate protective duty. If the firm of John Lysaght Limited had been established in Australia during the war, galvanized iron would not have been selling at £63, and as much as £80 a ton. During that time importers were doing very well at the expense of the consumers. They were gambling on the rising market, and were making huge profits on the iron they were bringing from abroad. They were exploiting the man on the land, as well as the workman who had to buy iron to build his home. I was in the Griffith district recently, and there saw a huge cannery which had been built during the war at enormous expense because the corrugated iron used in its construction was so dear at the time it was bought. Yet there was not one word of protest at that time from honorable members opposite, although the primary producer was being exploited in common with every one else. Since the manufacture of galvanized iron has been undertaken in this country the price has fallen from £60 to £25 10s. a ton. The same thing has happened in respect to other industries once they have been established in this country. Electric meters were selling here at 36s. each before a factory for their manufacture was started in New South Wales. Afterwards the price fell to 28s. It is to the interest of Australian consumers that there should be established here factories for the manufacture of the goods used in Australia. This embargo on the importation of galvanized iron was imposed to protect an important Australian industry, and it enabled the Government to save approximately £150,000 a year in bounty payments. If it is found later that a protective duty will serve the same purpose, then such a duty will be imposed. Honorable members opposite say that they have no objection to adequate protective duties. We shall see whether or not that is so when the time comes. The Government holds no brief for John Lysaght Limited, as a firm, but we have a mandate from the people of Australia to take what steps are necessary to build up our own industries and, as far as possible, to manufacture in Australia the goods we require.
– I desire to make a personal explanation because I have been ^misrepresented. The Acting Minister for Customs (Mr. Forde), in the speech he has just concluded, repeated a statement about me which he made last night, despite the fact that I had already contradicted it this morning. He stated that I had been guilty of going behind his back to officers of the Customs Department for information.
– That inference could be drawn from your remarks.
– I have never suggested or inferred that I did any such thing. I have not done so, and I am greatly surprised that the Minister repented his charge after I had denied it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read n third time.
Debate resumed from 5th November (vide page 75) on motion by Mr. Blakeley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- One of the most difficult problems facing Australia at the present time is the satisfactory settlement and development of Northern Australia. It is much too big a question to be discussed on party lines. The combined brains, effort and thought, not merely of all parties in this chamber, but of all thinking men in Australia, are required to solve it; and I am pleased to note that, in his remarks, the Minister (Mr. Blakeley) tried to adhere to that idea. It is now 106 years since Great Britain first settled Northern Australia at Port Dundas, on Melville Island. Since then various efforts at development and settlement have been put in’ hand, but more has been done during the last six years in. the way of sound development and in the direction of building up a plan capable of being followed in the future, than was clone in the preceding 100 years. This progress has been largely due, first to the intimate personal contact that Ministers controlling the territory have gained by visits to North Australia, secondly to the presence in this chamber for the first time of an honorable member representing and voicing the needs of the territory, and mostly to the fact that during the last few years there has been a local administrative body whose sole task it has been to develop North Australia. I am sure that the efforts at development, during the past six years would have been more fruitful of results, if during that period, there had not been at least five years of dry seasons and drought over a great proportion of the territory and if during the last couple of years, there had not been a difficult national financial position. I feel, therefore, that it is a retrograde step to bring in a bill to take away what little measure of local self-government the territory has enjoyed and to transform local administration’ of development into control from Canberra. It would be far better I think to reduce the personnel of the commission, making savings in that way and still retaining in
Canberra the experts who have for four or five years been devoting themselves to problems affecting the territory. The step the Government proposes is a reversion to the bad old days of five or six years ago when every department in the Northern Territory was controlled, not only by different departments of the Federal Government, but also by different State deputies. For instance, its railways were controlled by the Commissioner of Railways in Melbourne, its Customs by the Collector of Customs in Brisbane, its postal arrangements by the Deputy Postmaster-General in Adelaide, its works by the “Works and Railway Department in Melbourne, its taxation by 1 he Taxation Department in Melbourne, and all health and quarantine matters by the Quarantine Department in Brisbane. Co-ordinated effort towards development was not possible under those circumstances. It is suggested that savings will lie effected by the removal of the commission.
– What does the commission cost?
– The Minister says that for not quite four years the commission has cost about £27,000. Through its presence in the territory, it has been the means of effecting an annual saving of £5,500 in one instance alone. When arrangements were being made for a proper shipping service to the various ports along the northern coast of Australia, it was never possible for the authorities at the seat of government iri Melbourne to get a more or less satisfactory service at less than an annual cost of £10,400. Since the 1st February, 1927, when the commission assumed control, shipping services have been insured and have been operating more frequently and more satisfactorily to the people in the Northern Territory, and have been handling more cargo than previously, for a cost of only £4,900 a year. The mere fact that there was a commission on. the spot able to make local arrangements has thus brought about an annual saving of practically the whole of what it costs to have a commission controlling North Australia. Let me give a typical instance, of another saving mentioned in the report of the commission for 1929. By means of fresh surveys and fresh locations it has saved no less than 18 miles in one stretch of 86 miles of road. That is a permanent saving. It has built 400 miles of permanent roads. It has also been able to make much better river and creek crossings, making them passable at times when formerly they could not be used. That again was a permanent saving made possible only because there was a commission on the spot. We should,” therefore, hesitate a long time before suggesting that the control of the development of this great area in the north should be brought back again to the south.
The problem to be faced in North Australia is the difficult one of developing 500,000 square miles of country about four-fifths of which lies inside the tropics. The whole of it is separated from the rest of the settled parts of Australia, either by many hundreds of miles of country, in which there is very little settlement, and on the South Australian side very little rainfall, or by thousands of miles of ocean. The readiest means of communication from the more densely settled parts of Australia is by sea, but, unfortunately, that brings people into the part of the Northern Territory which is the most inhospitable from the point of view of white settlement. The humidity at Darwin, which is almost at the sea level, is 84 degrees for many months of the year, and the climate for the first 100 miles from the sea coast is nothing like as good as it proves to be in the interior. The hinterland has a good climate and is admirably suited for white settlement. In the past we have been faced with the difficulty that there is no means of getting’ readily by land to more elevated portions of the Northern Territory, and the person, going to the territory by sea, disembarks 100 or 200 miles from the country in which he is anxious to settle.
The history of the Northern Territory shows that it has been under a cloud almost from the start. The fact that Arnheim Land and the low-lying land right to the north, in the neighbourhood of Darwin, are the worst from the point -of view of white settlement, in one respect has been fortunate for Australia, because “in the old days it prevented other nations from the north from settling the area. It certainly prevented settlement by the Dutch’, but it also led to the failure of the first attempt at British settlement at Port Essington. In 1827 the control of the area was handed over to New South Wales. One can readily understand that the colonial authorities in New South Wales could not give any close attention to a country 2,500 miles from Sydney. -In 1863, after remaining in the hands of New South Wales for 36 years, the territory was handed over to South Australia, and it remained in the hands of that State until 1911, when it was taken over by the Commonwealth. South Australia attempted to deal with the problem in the easiest way from the north; and in 1889, commenced to build -a railway 145 miles long from Darwin, to Pine Creek. When the Commonwealth ultimately took over the territory, it found this railway already built, and began to extend it further south to Katherine. Ultimately, it reached Birdum or Daly Waters. Beyond this railway to Pine Creek there was practically no development in the territory whilst South Australia was in control of it. The country was regarded purely as a pastoral proposition, and very little use was made of it. When it was finally handed over to the Commonwealth, we took over a liability for the cost of all public works carried out in the territory, the railways built by the South Australian Government, and the overland telegraph line, which really should not be regarded as a liability of the Northern Territory, because it is something which is essential to the whole of Australia, connecting us, as it does, with the rest of the world. We also assumed the liabilities for the cost of the railway from Quorn to Oodnadatta, and became responsible for the deficits of the territory amounting roughly to £4,000,000, that had accumulated for many years past, To expect a handful of people to carry such a burden of debt would not be giving them a start off on the right foot. The Labour Government in office at the time of the transfer decided to deal with the territory in a progressive way, and believing that there was an opportunity for developing tropical agriculture, began a. series of experimental farms, which, unfortunately, did not prove successful. The , land in the north was not found to be particularly suited for agriculture, and in any case the distance from markets was too great. In the subsequent fourteen years, practically no real progress took place in the territory. For one thing, the war lasted for over four years during that period, and there were very few men and very little money available to carry on development. In 1924, the Bruce-Page Government decided to make an effort to ascertain if the territory could not be. made of some real value to Australia. Up to that date . the total expenditure on railways and communications of all sorts had been approximately £3,000,000. During the next five years, railways were built from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and from Emungalan to Birdum in order to provide better means of access to the territory. There was roughly as much spent from 1923 to 1929 on railway construction and rolling-stock’ as was spent, during the whole of the previous history of the territory. The then Government recognized that transport was absolutely essential for the development of the territory, and, furthermore, that local control of that development was necessary. It Was also of opinion that there should be a definite plan .of development that could be followed by successive administrations; and, therefore, set up the North Australia Commission and divided the territory into two areas, North Australia and Central Australia. It had in mind the possibility of inducing Western Australia and Queensland to hand over to this commission, for the purpose of developing it as one entity, the whole of the tropical area in the north of Australia. Much of the territory of Western Australia and Queensland is similar in the matter of products to that .of the Northern Territory. At any rate its destiny is similar, and it could all be developed as a whole better than separately. With that end in view this commission was set up. Transport, of course, was an essential. There were certain lines which were a matter of common agreement. The Commonwealth Government immediately proceeded with the construction of those lines, even before the appointment of the commission. The line from Alice Springs to Oodnadatta was finished about a year ago, and its immediate effect was very evident. It was a great boon to the settlers of North Australia. Let me give a typical instance. The line was opened for traffic, I think, on the 25th August, and on the 5th October there had been transported over that railway no less than 6,718 fat cattle, which realized £16 10s. per head in the Adelaide market. Thecost of transport was about £310s. a head. In the old days the stock had to be driven south to the head of the railway at Oodnadatta, and if there were a dry spell at the time the stock would have been stores - if alive at all - on arrival at the rail head, and worth about £4 a head in the Adelaide market. So that, withinashort time after the completion of the railway, there was- an increase in the value of the stock in that district of from £60,000 to £70,000. The position is practically similar in respect of the line further north, although its construction has been retarded to some extent because of the shortage of funds. It has been constructed as far as Daly Waters. It was originally intended to connect with Newcastle Waters, and then with Alice Springs, or to swing over and join with Camooweal. Even that portion of the line now constructed has been of great benefit to the settlers. Although that railway has reached Emungalan, it is still from 150 to 200 miles distant from thecountry in which most of the stock are located. If it could be constructed further to enable that country to he tapped, it would mean a great deal to those who for so many years have pioneered this new country. It, is often suggested that the money that has been spent in the Northern Territory has been altogether wasted. That may appear so, particularly when one examines the huge mass of debt; but I would point out thatthe assets are not shown. It is usually forgotten that there have beenput, down in North Australia something like 165 bores, the averagecost of each being £5,184, or a total capital expenditure of some £800,000. The striking thing in connexion with theexpenditure on those bores is that the cost of transporting materials to enable them to be put down has been actually more than half their total cost. For instance, in respect of one bore which cost £5,184, the actual cost of transport of Material was £2,564.
– Was water obtained at those hores?
– Yes ; but the water has to be pumped. In the past the cost of transport, because of the absence of railways, was enormous; in fact, it was reckoned to be as much as from £8 to £12 per week. With railway facilities this cost has been reduced to 30s. per week. That has made all the difference between the profitable and unprofitable working of the territory.
The bringing about of closer settlement and particularly the stocking of the Barkly Tableland with sheep, is , quite impossible unless provision is made to combat the dogs. At present it is costing from £25 to £45 a ton to get goods, such as materials for fencing to a station. That is a prohibitive price. These costs can be reduced only by the provision of transport facilities. Transport is the first essential in this area, and it is hopeless for the rest of Australia to expect this great tract, of country to ever be anything else but a liability except it is prepared to supply transport to enable it to be properly developed, and tocarry profitably those industries which are native to it, and can bereadily carried on.
The commission was appointed first to plan these developmental projects, and secondly, tocarry them out,. Its members thoroughly examined the territory. They travelled some 100,000 miles in the course of their investigations. They set to work to try to find the best routes for roads and railways. In 1928 they submitted to the Commonwealth Government a scheme for connexion with the otherStates both by railways and roads. Up to the present it has not been possible to carryout that scheme, because, by the time the report was due, the financial crisis had come about in Australia. But, despite that, a great deal of , good and permanent work has been done - a work that will be there forall time. First of all road traverses covering2,707 miles were carried out, and something like 400 miles of permanent roads constructed. One section of road to the Victoria River has been shortened some 17 or 18 miles over a distance of less than 100 miles. Many of theriver crossings have been improved and that has been the means of providingcheapertransport. This work hasbeen an immediate gain to thesettlers of the district, and it will also save many thousands of pounds in maintenance costs. Without it no permanent work could have been undertaken. Something like 337 roads have been completed, in addition to 709 miles of main tracks and 708 miles of secondary tracks. Some five bores have been completed and additional water supplies provided. The commission also gave attention to the navigation of rivers in the north, and it placed beacons in positionin the Mc Arthur, Roper, Robinson, Victoria and Daly Rivers. I have already referred to the fact that the presence of the commission on the spot has brought about, not only a better shipping service, but also a material improvement in respect of the McArthur, Victoria and Roper Rivers. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has some definite evidence on that subject. In addition, the Government faced the problem of the settlement of the Northern Territory.
When the area was under the control of South Australia, certain definite land tenures were given by special South Australian acts. Just before the Commonwealth took over the territory from South Australia the settlers had the right to convert their leases into those particular tenures. The result was that there wa3 no real method available to the Commonwealth Government to resume any of those pastoral lands except practically for “ public purposes “, which was very narrowly defined, and agricultural purposes. There was no possibility of resuming those areas to bring about the closer settlement which should follow upon the provision of improved transport facilities. In 1924 the Bruce-Page Government brought down a land ordinance which gave an alternative method of tenure to the pastoralists there. It provided for a quarter of the leases tobecome available for resumption in twelve years - in 1936- and for another quarter of the leases’ to become available in. 1945. That was to enable a great portion of the area that at that time was held in big holdings, to be made available as small holdings for new settlers. As a result of that policy there has been a continuous increase in the number of new pastoral leases. In 1927-1928 there were granted 23 new pastoral leases, covering an area of 7,630 square miles, and 63 leases of. another nature, covering some 19,000 square miles. Last year 94 pastoral leases and 5S agricultural leases were also made available.
The commission has done a great deal of useful work, which will stay for all time, in connexion with the carrying out of a proper survey of the whole of the territory. It has tried to bring about a harmonious and co-ordinated scheme, including trigonometrical, astronomical and topographical surveys of boundaries, to enable the lease-holders to have approximately correct title deeds. One of the most important features of land holding, of course, is that_ the title deeds of any particular area should properly define its boundaries, but that was not the case in the territory until the last few years. The commission has been able to lay clown a proper allocation of boundaries and to give proper title deeds. During the last seventeen years the stock in the territory has almost doubled. In 1911 there were 405,000 head of cattle and in 1928, 758,000 head.
– Notwithstanding a five- years’ drought.
– That is so. With improved transport, and especially with improved stock routes and the provision of bores, the carrying capacity of the territory has greatly increased. That is shown by the fact that fat cattle have already been railed to Adelaide and sold at a profit there. I am satisfied that the land-holders would prefer higher rentals and decent transport facilities to low rentals and poor transport facilities. It is always suggested that the Northern Territory has been a tremendous drain on the Commonwealth’s finances. That suggestion I have always tried to combat. We must not lose sight of the fact that the revenues obtained from the territory almost make it selfsupporting. The land revenue amounts to about £27,000 a year and the customs revenue, which is about £7 a head generally speaking, taken over 4,500 residents of the territory, would amount to £30,000.
– We do not get any credit for that.
– I have always maintained that the customs revenue obtained from the territory should be taken into account in considering its actual financial position. Accordingly, I urge the Government to try to modify its plan, so that there will be granted to the territory some form of local selfgovernment or administration, whose vision and knowledge will provide the best possible chance to bring about the development of that area. No matter how good may be the intention, of Ministers or administrative officials in Canberra, work done by them will not be nearly so effective unless it is in line with the views of practical men with sound local knowledge of the problems peculiar to the Northern Territory. Its development cannot in any way be regarded as a party matter. It is one in which the whole of the people are deeply interested, because if our efforts are unsuccessful it will continue to be a menace to the safety of the Commonwealth.
I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to the various points which I have raised and see if it is not possible to ensure, in the future administration of North Australia, some form of local government with expert guidance. The personnel of the commission established by the BrucePage Government cannot be impugned. It includes a first-class engineer, an official of proved experience in transport difficulties, and a man with sound local knowledge of land settlement problems. F trust, therefore, that the future administration, of the territory will include at least one of these three representatives. The commission had prepared a. definite plan of development. It brought order out of chaos and made it possible for the Minister responsible for the development of the Northern Territory to understand clearly its peculiar problems. The ground having been cleared, I hope that the Minister will not allow it to be overgrown by weeds through failing to adopt suggestions which experience has proved to be well worth while. It is important that further assistance should be given to provide improved transport, facilities. If this line of development is followed I firmly believe that North Australia will become a valuable asset to the Commonwealth. It has been applied with much success to other portions of the Commonwealth. It is only 50 or 60 years ago since the press of Victoria directed attention to the unsatisfactory condition of a large portion of the northwestern portion of that State amounting to thousands of square miles, and seriously considered a suggestion that the whole of it should be placed under the control of chartered companies, in order to insure its development. To-day, as the result of improved transport facilities, that part of Victoria is closely settled with, in the main, a prosperous rural population. The natural line of development in respect of all new country is, first the exploitation of its mineral wealth, then the development of its pastoral re: sources which, in their turn, give place to agricultural settlement on areas proved to be suitable. The future of the world’s markets seems to be promising with regard to beef and it is gratifying to know that the northern portion of Australia is specially suitable for the cattle industry. I believe that if the plans of those who desire to see empire development on the basis of economic unity are matured, the potential wealth of Northern Australia will prove to be an important factor in. bringing about that desired result.
– I approach the consideration of this bill with a feeling of deep disappointment. I am accustomed to hearing disparaging remarks made about the Northern Territory, although for the most part these comments have come from men who know little or nothing about that portion of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately for the territory those who know the least about it appear to command greater attention from, the public than those who have an intimate knowledge of the country. It was gratifying to me to hear the speech just delivered by the right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). The right honorable gentleman apparently realizes that the Northern Territory offers a vast field for commercial exploitation. Twenty years ago, taking my young family with me, I made my home in that portion of the Commonwealth in the full belief that, as a Labour Government had just come into office, it would stand by the principles of democracy and, under its wise administration, land settlement in the territory would .develop rapidly. Unfortunately, the war broke out shortly afterwards, and the attention of the people of Australia was directed to the more immediate problems arising out of the war. To that extent the difficulties of those who had settled in the Northern Territory were overlooked, and individual efforts at land settlement were nullified. The Fisher Government was succeeded by a Nationalist administration which ignored the will of the people, and vested in the administration of the Northern Territory powers greater than any that could have been conferred upon officialdom under an absolute monarchy. That despotic administration was destined to failure. Mr. Bamford, then Minister for Home Affairs, expressed the opinion that what was required for the development of the Northern Territory was a strong man with wide autocratic powers. That seemed to typify the view of the administration at the time. Unfortunately, for the honorable gentleman, he did not reckon with the Australian people, who revolted against the Nationalist Government with what result honorable members Well know. The people declared that the iniquitous system then applied to the Northern Territory must end. Local knowledge at any time was never sought by the administration. Those who had baf! practical experience in the Northern Territory could not get a hearing. As a result hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money have been wasted. No attempt has been made to develop the territory on scientific lines. There have been spasmodic attempts, as I shall show, to encourage settlement, but in every instance fundamental principles, which should have received careful consideration, were completely ignored. The administration practically allowed men to go out into the wilderness and attempt to make a living in isolated areas, cut off from communication with centres of population, and without adequate means of transport. In the circumstances, they had no possible hope of success.
I well remember the attempt by the Fisher Labour ‘Government to settle a. number ‘of ‘farmers 6n the Daly River. A huge sum , 0t money was expended on connexion with that scheme. The Government undertook to .provide (transport facilities for the convenient marketing of all that the settlers could produce. Those unfortunate men worked hard from daylight to dark, but when their holdings were brought to production, the Government fell down on its job. Transport facilities, were not available. Consequently the settlers’ produce was allowed to remain on the banks of the river sometimes for seven or eight months, with the result that the whole of a season’s work Avas lost. The settlers were practically left stranded by the Government. Eventually they left their holdings and drifted down to the township of Darwin. Blame for the failure of that settlement rested not on the men, but entirely upon the Fisher Government. Shortly after the collapse of this scheme the then government resident suggested to the Minister for Home and Territories, that the whole of the Northern Territory should be sold to a chartered company for £5^000,000. I invite honorable members to try to realize what that proposal meant. The area of the country in question is 500,200 square miles, or three times the size of the State of Victoria. It has a rainfall, varying from about 10 inches to 60 inches a year, and it includes land capable of growing anything that can be produced in any part of Australia.
Following the failure of these attempts at land settlement the Bruce-Page Government, as the Leader of the Country party has just said, brought in legislation providing for the appointment of a commission to prepare and recommend proposals for future development. Without disparaging the remarks of the . right honorable .gentleman who preceded me, I. should like to say that members of the commission, were merely dummies in the sense that their powers were limited. . They were unable to give effect to any of their .recommendations. I do not imply that the personnel of the commission Avas not all that could have been desired ; but if honorable members care to -study its recommendations they will find ‘that they include none which I have not made in this House during the last nine years. The first ‘essential is reasonable transport facilities. The position, of the people- in the Northern Territory . became iso :serious that they looked ,and longed -for the return of a Labour Government, believing that it would usher in a period of progress and development. Now, what is the policy of this Government? The Minister has shown that the Northern Territory has been saddled with liabilities which are not properly chargeable to it. If, as the Leader of the Country party has stated, debts which were incurred by South Australia were not charged ‘against the Northern Territory, it could pav its way even under existing conditions.
Every kind of argument is used in an endeavour to prove the hopelessness of this vast, territory, or to justify Parliament evading its responsibility. But no one who knows the territory, as I do, can justly claim that its soils lack fertility. That has. never been questioned since the inception -of that remote settlement over 100 years ago. The soils are all right. And none can find fault with the settlers there. They are the finest types of men that ever pioneered a country; better cannot be found in any other part of Australia. They are men who are not afraid to “hit the track”, or, to face isolation in an endeavour to develop the resources of the continent. They, went out into the unknown full of hope, imbued with the desire to wrest from mother earth the riches they knew that she possessed. They ask for no other return than that the Government should make it possible for them to market the commodities that they produce. Is it not pitiable that, after years of gallant attempt, that splendid band of pioneers is to be abandoned ?
I cannot find anything in this bill that will give those men encouragement. The more one examines the problem *the more one realizes how governments, throughout their administration of the territory, have evaded essentials an’d concentrated upon non-essentials. The Minister in charge of the bill stated that £27,000 has been expended by the North Australia Commission in preliminary development work. That is :quite true. But it was well known by those ‘concerned that the Government would never be able to find the capital necessary to carry those schemes to fruition. Had that £27,000 been expended on - practical proposals, at least -50 settlers would now be in a prosperous position, and if the many thousands of pounds that have been wasted on the territory since the advent of. Commonwealth control had been directed along proper channels, there would now be in that area thousands of settlers paying their way. Further, the territory would now be a business proposition.
Two accountants were despatched to North Australia, made a cursory examination of affairs, and decided its fate. Local people with a knowledge of the territory were not consulted with regard to the contemplated changes, nor was their representative referred to. The powers that be did not even take advantage of the knowledge at the disposal of the advisory councils. A few months ago, just prior to Parliament going into recess, I appealed to the Government to be allowed to take three agriculturists or pastoralists through that country so that they might gain a practical knowledge of those vast areas and give me a chance to convince them that ‘what I have been claiming year after year is correct. If those men had come back and said that all that I claimed was moonshine, I was prepared to hold my peace for evermore. Only by seeing that vast territory is it possible to visualize the potentialities that exist within its boundaries. My request was refused. As a result, this Government remains no wiser as to the value of North Australia, and so it continues to ignore and neglect that territory.
– What form of administration does the honorable member suggest?
– I shall elaborate that as I proceed. I certainly do not approve of the system proposed by the Government. The Minister stated that the administration would be divided among different departments. That subdivision of authority has been, one of the greatest curses that has befallen the territory. As the Leader of the Country party pointed out, it has been troubled with dozens of controllers, each one overlapping the other. The Northern Territory section of the Works Department must not interfere with the autocracy of the major section of the Works Department or its activities will be checked: and so on throughout the piece. Because of the nebulous state of the administration, thousands of pounds have been wasted on unnecessary overhead expenses, to the detriment of the development of the territory.
The Minister spoke of road surveys in that area. One has to go over those “ roads “ to appreciate what they really are. Actually they are bush tracks. This season one might pass on the south side of a certain tree; next season it might be on the north side of the same tree. There is no such thing as well-defined or permanent roads in the territory generally. They are merely tracks, with a tree pulled down here and there to facilitate the progress or vehicles. It does not require a civil engineer to carry out that sort of road-making, nor is it necessary for such work to bear excessive overhead supervision costs from Adelaide or Canberra. Similar remarks may be applied to the sinking of wells in the territory. I introduced a deputation of the Advisory Council to the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde), when he was in North Australia, in order that he might hear their suggestions. Those persons were not redraggers, agitators obsessed with a desire to disturb the peace of the territory ; they were men of good standing, who had been from 20 to 30 years in North Australia. They pointed out in a practical manner the economies that could be effected if the Government would only repose sufficient confidence in the territory administration, assisted by the Advisory Council. They indicated proper avenues along which available money could be expended. Unfortunately, after introducing that deputation I had to scrap against the authorities in order to save officers of the commission from being sacked because they were associated with the deputation. It makes one’s heart ache that these people, who know the territory so thoroughly, and who put up sound arguments, are ignored and the administration of the area entrusted to individuals stationed at Canberra, who have not the remotest idea of the capacity of North Australia. Is it any wonder that a man is compelled to raise his voice in protest in the interest of those whom he represents and in the development of Australia?
The commission is to be abolished. I ask, with .the Leader of the Country party, what is to take its place? It is peculiar that, after a score or more of years, and after the trial of varied systems of administration, we are to revert to one which stands pre-eminent as a failure. That is a nice charge to have to level against a government with which one is associated. It is rendered necessary only because those concerned will not get in touch with the people who know something about the territory, but instead place reliance in the opinions of men who make a casual trip through the area and return, self-constituted authorities on it. Unfortunately, local knowledge does not count. This is a a retrogressive step. I should like to know if the bill is really a sample of the administrative ability of the present Government. If it is, then God help the territory. If this is all that the Government has to offer the people of North Australia, the sooner those poor unfortunates put up the shutters and hand back their lands to the Crown the better. I thought that this. Government, at least, supported a democratic principle of administration in Australia. I thought that it was the champion of the rule of the people. I thought that, above all things, it was prepared to trust the people. But, from bitter experience, I now know that it refuses to trust the people of North Australia, or to take advantage of the vast store of knowledge that those individuals have acquired after many years of agonizing pioneering. The Government prefers to rely upon some official in Canberra who has a meagre knowledge of the territory. This bill takes away from the people of North Australia the only semblance of local government that they had. Under the previous act they at least had the advantage of an advisory council, and could register their protests against the maladministration that has always existed. This bill wipes all that out. It reverts to the old autocratic system of government. An autocracy will be set up, hedged about with a metaphorical stone wall through which the voice of the people will be unable to penetrate. And this is what the Government terms progress.
I have heard a lot about the orthodox systems that are being introduced. I should like to know whether this bill provides for what is termed an orthodox system. If it is, and that of the past has been unorthodox, then for goodness sake let us return to the past. The system of administration in the Northern Territory must be cleansed. It has been wisely said that a dog is always poor if it carries too many fleas. From its inception the territory has been overburdened with “fleas” - the irritation of overlapping and ineffective administration.
I expected that the Minister, when introducing the bill, would be frank and
State specifically what the innovation implies. I was disappointed. .Actually it implies the taking away of the last vestige of self-government from those unfortunate people. I marvel that it did not include the abolition of their parliamentary representative. The Government might well have gone the whole hog. It is because governments have refused to apply the fundamentals of democracy and development in North Australia that failure has always persisted in its administration. However, it is never too late to end, or mend. If this Government wants to convert that area from a financial sink into a productive country it -i.3 essential that it should give its inhabitants an elective advisory council, with executive power. Let it. trust the people. Surely that is not too much to ask of a Labour government? Give those people an interest in the territory. They are willing and anxious to help, and will give the Government the benefit of their long experience if only given a chance. Why strangle experience, particularly in the light of past failures. Above all things it is the lack of experience and knowledge of the country on the part of governments that has brought failure in North Australia. I ask the Minister why is it that he so persistently flirts with the failures of the past? Has democracy been unfaithful? It has not. Then why this betrayal of democracy’s fundamental theory? Is it because the territory is so far removed from the eyes of the world? I’ marvel that a Labour government has the audacity to bring down a bill of this nature. Public opinion - is opposed to action .along these lines. The measures governing the administration of the territory make provision for the construction of railways and the functioning of an advisory council. Those provisions are to be wiped out, and all previous legislation is to be repealed.
Up to the present, the railways have not been run in the interest of the territory’s development. It must, be admitted that the territory comprises, primarily and essentially, agricultural and pastoral country. How lias the commission, which is now to be abolished, used the powers that were conferred upon it? The act which created it made it responsible for the administration of the railways of North Australia.. If, in the interest of development, it considered that it was necessary to give concessions in regard to freight, it was competent to do so. Yet, until recently, when further increases were imposed by the present Government, the freight rates on the northern lines were 30 per cent, greater than those on the east-west railway, which are among the highest in Australia. The freight ou mining ores was increased by 4s. Sd. a ton, and on sundries by £1 lis. lid. a ton.
– Over what distance?
– They are based on carriage for a distance of 200 miles. The increase on wire-netting was 8d. a mile, on motor tires, £1 ils. lid., agricultural machinery, 15s. lid., mining machinery, 15s. lid., and agricultural motors, 17s. Id.
– On absolute essentials.
– On commodities that are essential to production. When the line was completed to Central Australia recently, a man who had purchased a property without stock for £3,000, and was prepared to spend from- £20,000 to £30,000 on its development, found it impossible to do so on account of the enormously high freight rates imposed by the Commonwealth Government. I com.municated with the Minister for Railways and urged upon him the necessity of granting a concession. A concession of 20 per cent, was given, and immediately a commencement was made with the work of developing the property. When I passed through last month, that man had fifteen white men working for him, where previously not one white man had been employed. .He is the type of man that we should induce to settle in the country. Months ago, I asked ‘the
Minister for Home Affairs, to grant a similar concession in the northern end of the territory; but, instead of that being done, freights on actual requirements for primary production have been increased. In these circumstances it is not necessary for me to apologize for speaking out as I am doing to-day. It was said that the railway to Alice Springs would not be a practical aid to the development of the territory, because of the impossibility of settlers in North and Central Australia getting their stock to market. I want honorable members to realize what a boon it has been. I am taking it as an illustration, because it traverses what is considered to be one of the worst portions of Australia, the Lake Eyre country to the border of the territory. Since it has been opened, 32,000 head of fat stock have been railed over it, representing to the Commonwealth and State .authorities, a total of £06,000 in freight.’
– Over what period?
– Less than twelve months. Two-thirds of that total has gone to the Commonwealth. In that, figure I have not included other freights. It is estimated that in the coming season the freight on cattle from Central Australia will amount to over £100,000. I venture to assert that if that line had not been built 200 settlers in Central Ausralia would have walked off their holdings this year. They could not possibly have hung on, because they were unable to get their stock to market. Had they left the territory, the local storekeepers would have lost an amount of about £30,000 that was owing to them. In the first year that the line operated, one settler consigned 168 head of bullocks to the Adelaide market, the sale realizing £2,683. The rail freights amounted to £468 14s. 5d., and other charges brought the cost of marketing to £638 19s. 8d., which does not include the cost of droving to the rail head. The net amount received by the settler was thus £2,044 0s. 4:1. Another settler realized from 87 head a total of £1,530 10s. Railage represented £280 6s., and the cost of marketing, £365 17s. lid. The total number consigned to market was 32,000 head; which proves conclusively what a great boon the railway has been to the settlers, and how their prosperity is being reflected in the rail revenue. The Railway Commissioner will admit that the line from. Quorn to North Australia would, have been in’ a hopeless position but for this extension. The point I want to make, however, is that had these men left the territory, the wiseacres would have said, “You have been trying to settle this country for 40 or 50 years, and yet. these, men walk off their holdings.”.
Now that the railway has been constructed . the territory will progress, even in spite of the Government. This .portion of the territory is .capable of producing untold, wealth. What applies to Central Australia is true of the whole of the territory; the opening up of the country will bring similar results. It is only necessary to break down the present awful isolation, to make, it possible for development to take place. A line is being constructed at the present time from the rail head to Birdum. If I remember rightly, the Acting Minister for Markets (Mr. Forde), had this proposal on the notice-paper for quite a long time. I supported him actively, and.he also had the support of some honorable members opposite. That line will open up one of the richest areas in Australia. On the extreme north-eastern side of the Barkly Tableland, there are millions of acres of wheat country with a rainfall of 18 inches a year. It is true, as I have stated previously, that the rain comes at the wrong time of the year from the point of view of the. southern farmers ; but it is equally true that our winter up there is better than .the summer down here. I have seen wheat growing in that country. It is Crown land, and is capable of absorbing thousands pf settlers. The same thing applies to the western territory. A great deal has been, and is being said regarding our vast army of unemployed, which is rapidly becoming a menace to the stability and safety of the Commonwealth. When men are hungry, they are justified in committing excesses; but why drive them to excesses when we have country that is capable of absorbing, hundreds of thousands ? We cannot put back the hands of the clock; we must have settlement and development, .and it is better to send these men into that country under the guidance of experts and allow them to produce something that is beneficial, than to. have them unemployed in the large centres of the population. “We shall then, have contentment where to-day there are all the potentialities of revolution.
Previous governments have not been ignorant of the position that has been developing in this territory for a number of years, but they have refused to remove the obstacles that stood in the way of development. The effect of the administration of the lands in the north has been merely to create a fertile field for litigation. I shall prove that from the report of the North Australia Commission. Dealing with the lands record, that report says -
The system in force is the one instituted “by South Australia in the early days of its control of the Northern Territory . . . Representations in this connexion were made during the- year,, and, as a result, Cabinet approved of the appointment of Mr. H. J. Ayl-ward’,1 late Inspector of the Administrative Branch of the . Lands ‘ Department of New South Wales (who is an authority on Lands Office administration and procedure), to investigate and report on the proposed reorganisation of the Lands Records.
The following is portion of Mr. Aylward’s report, , made after he had carried out has investigations: - . . As has, I find, already been pointed out by the Commission, the working plans are full of inaccuracies of such magnitude as to make them a menace. To any person of experience in dealing with land matters, the actuality of that menace is fully realizable. Nothing is to be gained by dwelling on the cause of this - it exists; but the effect of it, both, present and prospective, must be faced in tha light, not only of the trouble and expense, involved in rectifying the defects that already exist, but also in a realization of the very fertile field for litigation opened up by these shortcomings and errors.
It is certain that the longer rectification be deferred the more difficult will become the task and the heavier will be the cost and risk on both counts.
That is a warning by a special representative of the Commonwealth and should not be disregarded by Parliament. He further states -
There is comprised in the staff no drafting officer of such high qualification and all-round experience as would enable Mr. Commissioner Euston, in his capacity of Surveyor-General, to be relieved of much clerical work of a technically survey character, in the way of reports, correspondence, and the like, which should properly be prepared by his draftsmen for him to complete, but which under existing conditions he himself has to carry through practically from initiation to finish.
Dealing with other phases of the work in the territory he reports -
Is it to be wondered at that, notwithstanding the persistent efforts of the present Surveyor-General, it .has been impossible to lift the concern out of the slough of inefficiency into which it had been allowed to drift during the years the business of the department had been muddled by officers not possessing the qualifications needed to successfully control such a department . . . Tlie present Surveyor-General is. and has always been, in his endeavour to place the Survey Branch of the department on a satisfactory basis, suffering under a grievous disability owing to the crudeness, unreliability, a.nd incompleteness of the maps, plans, and survey records left by his predecessors. Many that I saw were devoid of what even to a tyro would be considered as absolute essentials - even to such necessaries as figures disclosing boundary lengths and bearings and in some instances (take the plans of allotments in town - even the capital - designed and submitted for disposal and disposal of) not even the areas are indicated. True, the scale to which these plana or maps are drawn is stated, but even with a scaling, rule handy, very few laymen understand its application, let alone being able to compute the area from its use, or, with any degree of certainty, *o locate on the map the particular allotment as the piece of land they are desirous of acquiring. in short, as illustrations, easily comprehensible to intending applicants and to the public generally, these plans and maps lack the very information most required - there being nothing to plainly show- an intending applicant or bidder whether the lots are a quarter., half, one acre or five acres.
And further, as. this class of map is the sole agency that exists for office working purposes, it can readily be understood that loss of time is occasioned to the draftsmen endeavouring to plot, chart, and compile with such material, and when, even to answer questions that should be patent from a glance at a plan, the counter officer has to bring down from upstairs to his assistance a draftsman to compute the areas of this, that, and the other allotments that an intending applicant or bidder might inquire about. Even to the lay mind it is inconceivable why this information- has been deliberately omitted, and one asks oneself was it owing to crass ignorance of requirements, to temporary expediency through, perhaps, lack of surveyors, or to that policy of “ only caring for the present and be damned tq the future “.
That is the report of an expert sent by the Government to investigate these matters. He further states -
But whatever may have been the cause, the effect now is that work shirked by former authorities - the legacy may have been the product of official incompetence or -again it may have been induced by ministerial parsimony - perhaps something of both - has now got to be done both in the field and in the office.
I have given sufficient information to show that very little consideration has been given to the recommendations that have been made. The Surveyor-General, in dealing with the subject of maps, states -
In the case ofthe longitudes, the errors are much more serious. Commencing at the 129th meridian, at latitude 12 degrees, the error amounts to about three miles per degree, which being perpetuated at each meridian, places the eastern side of the sheet about 25 miles out of position. This error exists at each parallel on the sheet.
A similar unsatisfactory state of affairs exists on sheet Nos. 2 and 3, until, at the25th parallel, on the latter sheet, the total error in the width of the sheet amounts to about 30 miles.
It may interest honorable members to know that a young man with whom I am acquainted has put down two artesian bores at a cost of about £6,000 or £7,000 ; but he does not know whether they are on his property or on the lease adjoining.
The Government is now changing the policy for the control of the Northern Territory, which means that the unsatisfactory conditions which prevailed some time ago are to be reverted to, and that land development, which is so essential to the progress of that portion of this vast continent, will again be retarded. It is astounding to realize that the Government is ignoring the recommendations and opinions of experienced men. At a later stage I intend to move an amendment to restore the advisory council, with executive powers, as I am satisfied that such a council would shoulder the responsibility placed upon it, and that, with reasonable assistance from this Government, coupled with the money, saved in meeting the expenditure of the present administration, within twelve months the territory would show more advancement than has been made during the past 50 years. I submit that the burial of one scapegoat and the resurrection of another will not lift or remove the difficulties. If the Government will accept such an amendment as I have outlined I shall have no further objections to offer. The control of the territory should be left to the people and to its representative in this Parliament. provided,of course, that whatever the council advised should be subject to the approval of this Parliament. This is not an unreasonable proposal.For God’s sake let the people in the territory have some voice in its control, and remove the strangle hold which for the past twenty years has been retarding its progress.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Killen) adjourned.
Maturing Loans : Reported Resolution ofcaucus-effect EffectonCommonwealth Stock.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I earnestly appeal to the Acting Prime. Minister (Mr. Fen ton) to make a public statement with reference to the announcement that appeared in this morning’s press concerning an alleged decision of the Labour party caucus. The publication of this alleged decision is in. itself of profound importance. We are all aware of what was the effect upon Commonwealth credit and Commonwealth stock of certain resolutions concerning repudiation passed by a far less important body in Sydney. If this resolution is allowed to appear as it has done without any refutation or repudiation on the part of the Acting Leader of the Government, the result will be serious.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition believe it?
– If the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) could assure me that no such resolution was passed it would be of some assistance. The credit of the Commonwealth is of profound importance to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. There are some who appear to think that only bondholders and stock-holders are affected ; but I assume that every honorable member understands that the price of Commonwealth stock in the market affects the price of all other securities and of values generally in the community. The price of Commonwealth stock, in effect, fixes generally the interest rates in the community. If an investor is able , to obtain a higher rate of interest on Commonwealth stock than on other investments, the general rate of interest increases.
Investors would in that case tend to purchase Commonwealth stock and other interest rates would he adjustedaccordingly. To depreciate Commonwealth stock-
– That is what the honorable member is doingnow.
– That is a very cheap jibe. A depreciation in the price of Commonwealth stock means an increase of interest rates on fixed deposits, and, therefore, leads to an increase in overdraft rates, which adds to the risk of businesses closing down owing to the impossibility of obtaining accommodation at reasonable rates. For ten years prior to the advent of this Government, Commonwealth stocks varied from between £1 to £5 belowNew Zealand comparable stock; but in the budget speech the Treasurer pointed out that from the date of the advent of this Government-
– And prior thereto.
– No. I have the actual figures before me in the official report of the speech.
– The disparity commenced long before this Government assumed office.
– The Leader of the Opposition will realize that he is not entitled, at this stage to discuss, to any extent, the financial statement. Another opportunity will lie provided for that.
– I do not propose to discuss the financial statement delivered yesterday.
– The Leader of the Opposition referred to a certnin budget statement.
– I was referring to the budget statement delivered in July last, in which it is stated that the price of Commonwealth stock on the 15th October was £5 5s. below New Zealand stock. On the 15th January, 1929, it was £4 10s. below the price of comparable New Zealand stock. On the 15th October, 1929, it was £5 5s. below, and on the 30th June, after the Government had been in office for nine months, it was £15 10s. below the New Zealand prices.
On the 7th July there was an improvement, the difference then being £11 5s. This week the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) informed us that the price was as low as £75 5s. - as against £98 5s. on 15th January, 1929. In this morning’s Labor Daily it is reported that yesterday the Labour party agreed to the following resolution:-
That legislation be passed immediately compelling bondholders in the £27,000,000 loan maturing in December, to hold their bonds for a further period of twelve months, interest tobe paid as usual, with the proviso that persons in necessitous circumstances may receive immediate payment nf small amounts by cashing their bonds at the Commonwealth Bank, the sama to be heldas non-interest- bearing security, the onus of proving that the circumstances justify payment, to fall on the bondholders.
There is also a statement that a further motion was moved by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) - although the report does not state whether or not it was carried - to the following effect: -
That a demand be made on the Commonwealth Bank Board to underwrite the £27,000,000 loan, failing which Mr. Anstey’s motion be put into effect.
The significance of that motion is that, if it were carried out, default would bc made by the Commonwealth Government on the 15th December next. The farreaching results of such default would be disastrous; it would cause distress, suffering and ruin throughout the community. Fortunately, the Acting Prime Minister is able to put an end to all the harm if he will but say that the Government will not carry out any such proposal. I ask him to do that. If he is not prepared to do so, this alleged motion - I cannot say whether or not it was carried, and I therefore ask the Acting Prime Minister to tell us the facts - will he published and repeated throughout the world, and will do infinite harm to every interest in Australia.
– The honorable member said all this during the recent election campaign in New South Wales, when he was fighting in the interests of Mr. Bavin.
– Iask the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) whether he supports a proposal of this kind?
Mr. Blakeley interjecting-
– I ask the Minister to restrain himself, and to allow the Leader of the Opposition to be heard in silence.
– I did say many of those thingsduring the recent campaign, and I shall say them again, for I believe they are right. The people of Australia will have to recognize the truth of them if we are to return to. prosperity. The result of the New South Wales election - the effect of a temporary madness - seems to have had an undue influence’ on some honorable members opposite. I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister to say, if he can, that there is no truth in these reports. If he is unable to do that, then I ask him to dissociate the Government of the Commonwealth from them completely and entirely.
Mr.FENTON (Maribvrnong- Acting Prime Minister) [8.49].- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has made an unfortunate display of party spirit this afternoon. Instead of contributing to the financial stability of Australia, he has rendered Australia a great disservice in the utterances in which he has just indulged. Without being unduly critical of the press, both here and abroad, let me say that all sorts of guesses are indulged in, and, unfortunately, news has been sent from Australia that has already done this country great harm. But if I were to take notice of every political report, or alleged resolution in the newspapers, I should have nothing else to do. I now inform the House, and, through it, the country, that there will he a time and place to give an effective reply to all these statements. When that time arrives, and in the proper place, that statement will be made in the best interests of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19301107_reps_12_127/>.