12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p:m., and offered prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether the Italians who were recently refused permission to land at Sydney, and are being returned to their own country, received notice of the Government’s intentions prior to their embarkation?
– Considerable notice was given of the Government’s policy in regard to Italian migration.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister ‘whether the Government intends to appoint the Minister for Defence to represent the Commonwealth at the inauguration of the new city of Delhi as the capital of India, or proposes to adopt the suggestion of the labor Daily that Australia would be as usefully represented by any Australian who happened to be visiting India on the occasion of that ceremony?
– The matter of Commonwealth representation at the Delhi ceremony is under consideration.
– According to the newspapers, the Postmaster-General has stated that the £70,000 received as licence fees from wireless listeners-in are to be paid into general revenue, and are not to be applied as originally intended to tho development of the broadcasting system? Does that mean that the relay stations which have been promised to different country centres are not to be proceeded with?
– The four stations for which contracts have been actually made will be proceeded with, hut because of the state of the finances, the erection of the fifth station has been postponed. The cost of the new stations -will be a charge against the revenue from licence fees. As soon as the financial position improves, the general scheme of extension throughout Australia will be proceeded with.
– The newspapers report the Acting Treasurer as having, in the course of an address before the Constitutional Association of New South Wales, asked his audience to believe that even his tormentors within his own party are not unpatriotic but rather misguided men. Does the honorable gentleman not consider it a gross misrepresentation of the opinion of the avowed majority of the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party to designate them as desperate and misguided men ?
– The report is entirely incorrect, and it is not necessary for me to express an opinion as to what its effect would be if it were correct.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport whether the published report is correct that the export duty on sheepskins is to be abandoned and a bounty for the fellmongering industry substituted?
– It is not customary for announcements of policy to be made in reply to questions.
Assistance - Italian Market
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Government has come to any decision in regard to the requests of the wheat-growers for assistance?
– No definite decision has yet been reached, but I expect to make an announcement on the subject within a day or so.
– Newspapers of today report that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) intends to call on Signor Mussolini, the Prime Minister of Italy, to discuss with him the subject of Italian migration to Australia. Will the Acting Prime Minister suggest to the right honorable gentleman that he should, also discuss with Signor Mussolini the possibility of removing some of the obstacles to the importation of Australian wheat into Italy?
– There is not the slightest doubt that if the Prime Minister meets Signor Mussolini he will discuss with him matters of mutual interest to Italy and Australia, including the subject of the importation of Australian wheat.
Resignation of Major Casey
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether the resignation of Major Casey, liaison officer at Australia House, is a consequence of the report made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), or was it due to merely personal reasons?
- Major Casey resigned for private reasons. His resignation was not in any way connected with reforms or retrenchment at Australia House.
– Can the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport indicate the increase in the manufacture and consumption of Australian tobacco during the last twelve months?
– I carry many figures in my head, but I cannot give that information offhand. I shall lot the honorable member havea reply later.
– Has the Acting
Minister for Markets and Transport received the report of the Tariff Board upon imported pipe clay and whiting? If so, when will the report be laid on the table?
– The report has not yet been submitted to me, but I shall inquire regarding it, and furnisha reply to the honorable member.
-Is the Acting Prime Minister yet in a position to say what business will be submitted to the House this week, and when the present sittings are likely to conclude ?
– I announced prior to the adjournment on Friday the items of business to be taken this week. I am not yet in a position to say when the present sittings willbe concluded.
– Can you inform the House, Mr. Speaker, whether finality has been reached in regard to the dis- missal notices served on all members of the staff of the Parliamentary Refreshment Room? Do you intend to make a statement on the subject before the House rises for the recess?
– Notices of dismissal have not been served on any member of the staff, though, I understand, a verbal intimation was given them that their services would be terminated. The future management of the refreshment rooms has not yet been determined. Should it be possible to make a statement prior to the conclusion of the present sittings, I shall do so.
– Has it been decided to keep the refreshment rooms open during the coming recess?
– No decision has yet been reached in the matter, which may be further considered by the House Committee this week.
FormAi. Motion fob Adjjournment.
– I have received from, the Leader of the Opposition an intimation that he proposes to move the ad.joiirn.munt of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The present industrial, financial and economic position of Australia, and the desirability of taking special measures upon a non-party basis to meet the situation.”
Five honorable members hairing risen in their places -
.- I have given notice of my intention to move this motion for the purpose of bringing under the consideration of the Parliament the present industrial, financial and economic position of Australia, and the desirability of taking special measures, upon a non-party basis, to meet the situation. Every member must view with grave anxiety and great apprehension the present position of the people of Australia, whom we represent, and to whom we are responsible. At the present time, I venture to think, no member can remain unmoved by the responsibility. It may be fairly said that to-day none of our industries is prosperous. The position of the wheat-farmer has been recently discussed in. this House, and honorable members agree that it is most serious, the price of wheat being far below the average cost of production. The wool-growers are in a similar plight, although their difficulties are not quite so apparent, because of the large reserves behind the industry. It is unnecessary to refer in detail to the other primary industries, or to the mining industries. It is sufficient to say that -unemployment in both secondary and primary industries is acute. I doubt whether any secondary industry in Australia to-day can be truthfully described as prosperous. The latest figures, as all are aware, show that 20.5 per cent, of the population is unemployed - an entirely unprecedented state of affairs - and I fear that after Christmas there -will be many dismissals from factories and shops. Numbers of factories will be closed for weeks, and many shops will reduce the number of their employees. It is, therefore, almost inevitable that the already terrible unemployment will be gravely increased by the middle of the summer. I do not. dwell upon these factors; they are well known to honorable members.
Of the condition of public finance in Australia to-day I shall say but little. The Commonwealth and the State Governments alike are in the greatest difficulty. This is well known to the Ministry, and my appeal is to them and to their supporters. I shall make only two comments: first, that every day more people are recognizing that taxation cannot, remedy the disease or remove the evil of unemployment, and that something more than the imposition of taxes must be done; secondly, that the continuance of seriously unbalanced budgets - Commonwealth and State - will mean ultimate disaster to Australia as a whole. Will our present method of government meet the situation? I think not. Responsibility for unpopular action rests at present wholly upon the party in power. I am not about to propose a coalition government. This Labour Government has a large majority, and is bound to accept the responsibility of administering the affairs of the Commonwealth. But it may be necessary, in the interests of the people, to take unpopular action which it is highly unlikely that any party in power is prepared to take, yet which might, be taken if all parties were prepared to accept responsibility for it.
I speak with the general concurrence of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Page), with whom I have consulted, in saying that the Opposition is prepared, in view of what we regard as a threatening national crisis, to share responsibility for any unpopular action which may be necessary to save the credit and honour of the country, and to make a return to prosperity possible. We are prepared to leave this Government with the power, and so far as we can do so, to accept some measure of responsibility; but how can this be accomplished at the present time? I have already said that I do not suggest the formation of a coalition government. I cannot see that that would be successful. The government of the Commonwealth must remain with the present Ministry, which commands a majority in this House. What I suggest is the appointment of a council, to consist of representatives of the Commonwealth Government - as many as the Ministry thinks proper - the representatives of the States on the Loan Council, representatives of the opposition parties in this Parliament, and representatives of the Commonwealth Bank and the associated banks.
– What about the Oppositions in the State Parliaments?
– I shall refer to that in a moment; Let the Government make the selection of this council. The representatives I have suggested represent all classes in the community - the primary and secondary producers, the employers and employees, who constitute the supporters of all political parties. In reply to the interjection of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), the parties in opposition in one State House are governing in another, and if separate representation were given to all the State Oppositions the council would be unwieldy. I suggest that there should be no representation of employers or employees, or of chambers of commerce or chambers of manufactures as such, because I fear that if the council contained representatives of all these interests, it is unlikely that practical proposals would be adopted. The council would be able to obtain assistance, information, and advice from all these sources. My suggestion is that it should be the responsibility of the council to devise a scheme to be put into operation over a 3-year or a 5-year period. We should do our best to sink party politics, and make a disinterested effort to serve our country. It would ultimately be the responsibility of the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States to determine whether any proposals made by the council could be accepted. It appears to me that the issues that face us to-day are far more important than any consideration of party politics. I promise the support of the Opposition of this House, and, I think I can say, of the organizations which support it outside of this House. We are prepared to do our best, independently of party, to restore our country to the position which it should occupy.
I do not desire to initiate a party debate. I am aware that there are many differences of opinion as to the remedies that should be applied to the difficulties and evils to which I have referred. I have made no reference to any of them, because I do not wish to impart into this short speech an element of division. I therefore conclude by asking the Government to consider seriously what I have said. I do not ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Fenton) to make an immediate reply; but I should like him to give an assurance that what has been said on behalf of the Opposition, and also, in general outline, on behalf of the Country party, will be given earnest consideration. I shall be perfectly content if, at this stage, the honorable gentleman moves the adjournment of the debate.
– The proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is very important, and needs consideration. I therefore ask that the debate be now adjourned.
– It is impossible to adjourn the debate. I suggest that the motion be put to the House and negatived in the ordinary way.
.- As, at present, I am not connected with any party in the House, I wish to say that I endorse every word that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has said. I only regret that such a proposal was not made long ago. It seems to me that if the Government can see its way clear to adopt this suggestion, nothing but good can come to the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the negative.
Term of Office
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether any, and, if so, what term of office lias been fixed in the case of the new Governor-General ?
– No term of office has been fixed in connexion with the appointment of the new GovernorGeneral. Although it has been the practice to regard the term of office of a Governor-General as five years, GovernorsGeneral are appointed to hold office during the pleasure of His Majesty the King.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As the honorable member is no doubt aware, operations in the meat industry in New South Wales are to be resumed to-day.
Positions of J. R. Collins and T. TRUMBLE
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented pursuant to statute: -
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 140.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 139.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Sixth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for year ended 30th June, 1930, together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Papua Act - Infirm and Destitute Natives Account - Statement of Transactions of Trustees, 1929-30.
Motion (by Mr. FORDE) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of gold, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. FORDE) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the extension of the TransAustralian railway by the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill in the State of South Australia.
Debate resumed from the 5th December (vide page 1073), on motion by Mr. Blakeley -
That the bill bc now rend :i second time.
– When this debate was adjourned on Friday, I was discussing the general position of the Northern Territory, but, unfortunately, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) was not present. I arn pleased that the honorable gentleman is here this afternoon. I shall restate my case as well as I can in the brief time now at my disposal. I impress it upon the Minister that there is no need for the Government to give effect to this extraordinary proposal to abolish the North Australia Commission. The Commission has thoroughly justified itself in the short time in which it has been in existence. This is shown definitely in its report for the year ended the 30th December, 1.929, which gives a comprehensive review of its work and to which I refer honorable members. The Minister totally ignored the value of the academic work being done by the commission. It may not have done very valuable developmental work, but that, has been due to lack of funds. The representations of the commission have shown conclusively that it has been well worth the money expended upon it, and only about £11,000 a year is to be saved by its abolition.
– The estimated saving is between £8,000 and £9,000 a year.
– That makes my case even better. For the sake of saving £8,000 or £9,000 a year,- it is not worth doing irreparable harm to the Territory. One cannot gauge the value of the commission in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. There is a moral value in having such a body functioning as the representative of the Federal Parliament in this vast and sparsely populated area. Moreover, the abolition of the commission would destroy all hope in the minds both of residents of the territory and of tho’se outside it, that the Commonwealth Parliament really proposes to press on with the development of the territory. It would be an indication that the territory has been definitely abandoned to its fate, and people outside Australia altogether would be forced into the belief that the Government, as ti foolish gesture of economy, had given up all present intention of carrying the development- of the continent beyond its present point. No worse gesture could be made at a time when people are- already sufficiently inclined to become depressed, and when those outside Australia have come to look upon this country as something of a failure.
There is no justification for regarding the Northern Territory as a hopeless proposition. Considering the small amount which lias been expended on it - apart from the capital debt with which it was loaded when the Commonwealth took it over - the development of the territory has proceeded fairly rapidly. It lias an enormous length of railway, unfortunately not yet completed, and it lias a European population of about 3,000, besides 1,000 half-breeds. It also contains the bulk of Australia’s aboriginal population, having within its borders approximately 20,000 natives. On that score alone the Government would be justified in spending £8,000 or £9,000 a year in maintaining within the territory an administrative body capable of exercising a benevolent control over this fast dwindling race. Moreover, if the Government ever adopts the suggestion that there should be established within the territory a ‘ great national reservation for aborigines, what body better than the Northern Territory Commission could be entrusted with its supervision 1 The commission could inaugurate and carry out such a scheme with the minimum of trouble and expense.
If, in spite of the warning of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), the Government persists in the abolition of the commission, it should at least give favorable consideration to the proposal for setting up an advisory council. Such a council would be better than nothing, although, seeing that the expense of the commission is so small, I firmly believe that it would be better to retain it. Probably some commissions set up by other governments have not been worth while, but that cannot be said of the Northern Territory
Commission. I remind the Government chat the Northern Territory is near to the hearts of the Australian people, though they may know very little about it. There is a glamour, a fascination, the mysterious attraction of the unknown about this land, which fires the imagination of the great majority of persons, They wish to see it populated, and developed, recognizing, as they do, that it in time will lay claim to the dignity of a new State. One of the arguments advanced against any proposal for unification is that the Commonwealth Government appeal’s to have had so little success in the control of the territories under its own jurisdiction. People point to what they describe as the tragic failure of the Commonwealth’s efforts in the Northern Territory, and ask how a Commonwealth with such a poor record can be trusted with the control of the whole continent. That appears to be an almost unanswerable argument. The previous Government made some effort to live down that reputation, and now the present Government proposes to undo its work. As I have said, one reason why the territory makes such an appeal to most people is that, at the back of their minds, there is the idea that it is the one remaining part of Australia which may be formed into a new State. The subject of new States has often, been debated in this Parliament, and proposals for the creation of one or more new States in the Northern Territory have been, advanced. We realize, however, that until the territory has more population find better communications it would be practically impossible to start it off on a self-governing career. The possibility is there, however, but the Government, by this action, will postpone its realizations for decades. This Parliament has not fully explored the possibilities of the Northern Territory. Some years ago, on a. journey to Western Australia, I met on the transcontinental railway an American, who said of the Nullabor Plain country that if: reminded him very much of Arizona. I asked him, “Do you mean to say that Arizona is as bad as this?” He replied, “ A tremendous lot of it is quite as bad, if not worse.” Yet Arizona is one of the most successful of the American. States !
– There is far worse country in the Northern Territory than on the Nullabor Plain.
– Then it must indeed be bad country. But I attach a great deal of importance to the opinions expressed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has declared that dic honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) has seen only a small portion of the territory. It may surprise some honorable members to’ learn that four of the largest States of America - Oregon, with an area of 96,000 square miles; Texas, with an area of 265,000 square miles: Arizona, with an area of 133,000 square miles; and Nevada, with an area of 110,000 square miles - could be fitted quite com.fortably into the Northern Territory; and, if one can believe what one hears and reads, a great deal of the country in those four States is quite as bad as some of the worst country in the Northern Territory. If they can be worked successfully, surely it is not beyond the capacity of Australia to produce similar results in the Northern Territory; and how foolish it would be to destroy the one small piece of machinery that will enable it to progress when the time is opportune. I predicted on Friday, and I repeat to-day, that there is a great future ahead of the Northern Territory as the principal cattle State of Australia - it may, perhaps, rival Texas in that respect. We may “be able to combine cattle-raising with agriculture, mineral production, and other important primary activities, for which there is so much scope in the undeveloped portions of Australia.
That the Northern Territory has a great future in the direction of cattleraising is the opinion of, perhaps, the foremost authority on cattle in Australia - Mr. J. B. Cramsie, chairman of the New South Wales Wheat Board. His opinion has been reported as follows : -
After a careful examination of the various beef-producing countries, their pasturages, and land values, he is of the opinion that Northern Australia is able to offer advantages of more economical production than any other country lie had investigated. Up to the present time no attempt has been made in Northern Australia, to produce the quality of cattle suitable to secure maximum values in the world’s markets, mostly duc to the fact that Australian producers Iia ve come to the erroneous conclusion that, to place the industry on the same footing with Argentine and Uruguay, the cost of improving the breeds, pasturages, fences and water is much higher than in those countries. As a matter of fact, he believes the advantages are greatly on our side.
In the last fifteen years, although, unfortunately, the number of sheep has dwindled from 57,000 to about 7,000 or 8,000, the number of cattle in the Northern Territory has increased by 100 per cent., despite the fact that the disadvantages under which the industry suffers are worse than those experienced anywhere else in the world. I refer the Minister (Mr. Blakeley) to the 1929 report of the North Australia Commission, and should like him to state whether his department has seriously considered it. I invite honorable members to note carefully what it says with regard to the cattle industry specifically, and then to declare whether it would be fair of. the Government to abolish the commission, which is costing only a paltry £8,000 or £9,000 a year- fair from the point of view of the Northern Territory itself, or of the future of Australia. The report states -
The present state of the beef cattle industry generally throughout North Australia is in a most unsatisfactory condition notwithstanding that the country is capable, under proper conditions, of carrying successfully and profitably the present extent of this industry, and could cope with a great expansion of that industry.
This position is due, in the main, to the following: -
Large numbers of cattle are fit for market about the end of January.
With no means of reaching the market except by droving, the fat cattle have to be held on the runs until April, owing to the regular and heavy wet season rendering droving impracticable.
During the three months that the cattle have to be held on the runs, after they are ready for market, the grass becomes rank and less nutritious.
The period mentioned in (2) is also the worst time of the year for pests, especially the tick and buffalo-fly.
The cattle which were in prime condition in January, but which have been subjected to the disabilities mentioned in (3) and (4), have in April to be driven by road anything up to 1,000 to 1,500 miles in the case of those for the eastern and southern markets.
The cattle on their arrival at the markets are in such a condition that most of them are only fit to sell as “ stores “ at about £4 per head.
These difficulties form insuperable obstacles to the advancement of the beef cattle industry. To considerably alleviate those difficulties, the provision of the utilities for transport, i.e., the main lines of railway recommended by the commission, is essential.
Reasonable lease tenures, and reasonably higher land rentals, with the proper and fully warranted utilities for communication and transport, would spell prosperity to the cattleman, and the whole country, and bring into existence, on a large and profitable scale, the sheep and wool industry.
We know that, since this Parliament last dealt with the Northern Territory, a great national railway has been extended within its area by some hundreds of miles, and is producing very satisfactory results. Even the detractors of the Northern Territory will not deny that, in the year 1928, the revenue of this line exceeded the expenditure by £27,000. Is not that a feather in the cap of the territory, and does it not warrant greater notice being taken by the Government of its possibilities? On this matter the report says -
As an indication of the value of reasonable transport, it is pointed out that between 5th August, 1929, when the railway extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs was opened for public traffic, and the 24th October, 1929, 6,718 fat cattle were railed from Alice Springs to the Adelaide markets, and sold at an average of about £16 10s. per head.
As a result of the extension of the line the price rose from about £4 to about £16 10s. a head. That railway, completed less than twelve months ago, is one of the few in Australia to-day holding its own. The revenue nearly equals the expenditure. If the Minister remains obdurate the Government itself should decide to review the whole position of the territory and not take this retrogressive and fatal step, which must be bad for Australia generally. It should say that its motto so far as the territory is concerned is “ Excelsior “ ; that it will go on and on, even if it has to carry this commission at a paltry expenditure of £8,000 or £9,000 for afew years longer. We have made a definite and genuine effort to provide a form of administration and a practical system of development for the territory, and the Government should hesitate before deciding to disband the corn miss ion, thus, in effect, saying that Australia has no use for the Northern Territory.
– I intend to support the bill and the amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson).
– In regard to an elective council?
– Yes ; and I wish first of all to pay tribute to the honorable member for the Northern Territory for his valuable work in furthering the interests of the Northern Territory. I should very much like to see the honorable member given an effective vote in this chamber, because it is only right that the people of the Northern Territory should have in this House some influence in the affairs of that great tract of country. I rose chiefly to refer to the agreement transferring the territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth. I remember the transfer very well, because it happened at the time when my late respected father, the Honorable Thomas Price, was Premier of South Australia. He, with the late Honorable Alfred Deakin, signed that agreement. It was seen at that time that the finances of the State would not permit of the proper development of the territory, and that under the control of the Commonwealth the burden of its ultimate development would fall equitably upon the people of Australia as a whole. The signing of that agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia was undoubtedly a statesmanlike act. I hope that as time goes on it may be found possible to develop the. territory. I have always taken a -great interest in it. “When I was a member of the State legislature I visited Oodnadatta, which at that time was the head of the railway. I was much disappointed to see so much poor land. But since my election to the Federal Parliament I have, in company with the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, and the honorable member for the Northern Territory, visited Alice Springs, which is now the terminal point of the railway, and I was exceedingly pleased to find that the country between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs is much better than that lying to the south, between Hergott Springs and
Oodnadatta. I am now firmly convinced of the great possibilities of the territory. In company with the honorable member for the Northern Territory I journeyed some 60 or 70 miles out from Alice Springs and saw some wonderful cattle country there.
– The honorable member for Riverina has not seen that country.
– I have seen similar country.
– I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen). He is undoubtedly a pessimist in regard to the development of the territory. On the other hand, the honorable member for the Northern Territory is an optimist, and I have been strongly impressed with what he has told me from time to time of the potentialities of that vast country. While at Alice Springs we met many residents who had come south to meet us, and I must confess that never before had I met men who were so optimistic in regard to the future of the territory. I consider that it will eventually be one of the greatest cattle countries in the world. It has, in addition, great mineral resources, particularly in the Macdonnell Ranges. It i3 more than likely that valuable deposits will some day be discovered there. While at Alice Springs I saw some excellent mobs of cattle which drovers had brought from the Barkly Tableland. The trucking of these cattle for the Adelaide market was a sight worth witnessing. The beasts were in splendid condition. As the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has said, when they were sold at Adelaide they averaged £ 16 10s. a head. If the cattle industry is to develop in Australia as it has in the Argentine,
Ave must encourage it on national lines. In 192S our contract to supply beef to the English Army and Navy expired, and instead of it being renewed) a similar contract was entered into between Great Britain and the Argentine. It would be worth while for the British Government to pay Id. per lb. more for the beef of the dominions in order to encourage their to compete with the Argentine.
– Britain has invested money’ in the Argentine.
– Unfortunately, I know that only too well. While I was AgentGeneral for South Australia, I interviewed the then. Home Secretary, Mr. Amery, and complained regarding a meat contract which had been given to the Argentine. During the war period Australia sold her meat to the allies for under ls. per lb. while South America extracted big prices and grew fat while the country was at war. When Great Britain is handing out contracts, particularly for military purposes, she should not forget the empire spirit. Australia has to overcome that adverse influence. The Northern Territory is admirably suited for cattle-raising, and I hope that the Government will give all possible encouragement to that industry. I am glad that the extension of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is proving a financial success, and I ask the Minister to inform tlie House whether the Government intends to honour the undertaking that the line should bc carried through to Darwin. When the Northern Territory was transferred from South Australia to the Commonwealth, an agreement was made that the Common wealth should construct a railway from Oodnadatta north to Darwin. That is definitely in the bond, and South Australia expects that it will be honored.
.- The representatives of South Australia are at variance regarding the compact that is alleged to have been made for the construction of the railway from Oodnadatta to Darwin; but the matter is not of much practical importance at the present time. It, is doubtful whether the building of tlie section from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs was justified, and the present financial cireui.nstn.nces of Australia place any proposal for the further extension of the line outside the realm, of practical politics. This bill was recommended by the Minister as a moans of economy. At this time we are bound to welcome any evidence of economy on the part of the Government; but. having regard to the attitude of the Minister towards the Northern Territory, I am inclined to think that he is concerned in giving effect to his ideas of democratic control, rather than in effecting a saving of £8,000 to £10,000. His primary motive is probably to undo something which the last Government did, and he proposes to carry that to its logical conclusion- by establishing throughout North Australia the same method of control as has been introduced in connexion with the Darwin Town Council. [Quorum formed.] That body was formerly elected by the ratepayers; in other words, the people who provided the money for the municipal government controlled its expenditure. But the Minister took upon himself the responsibility of disbanding the former council and substituting a council elected by people whose only qualification was residence. Darwin, particularly, is a place where such a system is fraught with dangers. The population is polyglot, and very much union-ridden. Indeed, it is distinctly worse in that regard than Sydney. The settlement is far from the normal restraints of civilization, and there is a big temptation for the more irresponsible section to ignore the ordinary rules of order. The Minister not only changed the character of the council, but has been meddling in local administrative affairs. If an officer does something to maintain order which offends the mob at Darwin, a. telegram is sent to the Minister, who immediately intervenes and reverses the decision of his subordinate. A Minister 2,000 miles away cannot pass an informed and impartial judgment on occurrences at Darwin. But I fear that the honorable gentleman contemplates control of the Northern Territory by a body constituted similarly to tlie Darwin Town Council.
I listened with attention to the speech of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). He has local knowledge and experience, and I sympathize with his claim that the pioneers of the north should be given some measure of home rule. I would be prepared to support a council representative of the more responsible people in the north - the pioneers who have invested their money and labour there - but the control of the territory by an irresponsible body elected merely on a residential qualification would be highly dangerous. It would destroy the little confidence that remains amongst the pioneers of Northern Australia. The problem of developing the north is not easy of solution. Unlike other tropical countries, Northern Australia has not a native population which can be utilized for its development, and I know of no tropical country which litis been developed economically in any other way. The aborigines are useful as stockmen; but they do not take kindly to hard manual labour, and that seems to present an insuperable obstacle to the development of the north except as a pastoral country. It is part of the price we have to pay for the ideal of a White Australia - part of the price that perhaps we should pay - but we must recognize that we shall never do much with that vast province if we are restricted to white labour which hasto be remunerated according to the standards of the south.
– Does that apply to the north-west also?
– Undoubtedly. The north-west of Western Australia has not progressed in recent years; it is not as prosperous as it was 30 years ago. The Northern Territory also has retrogressed. According to the last annual report, the capital cost of the Northern Territory, including liabilities taken over from South Australia, has been nearly ?11,000,000. This year the ordinary revenue, apart from railway receipts, is estimated at ?17,000, and the expenditure at ?144.000. The value of private property in the Northern Territory has been estimated to be ?3,000,000. Much more than that amount of private capital has been spent in the country and lost. Except in cattle-raising, the territory has no industry worthy of mention.
Mr. E. Rimy. What of mining?
– The value of the mineral production for the year ended rhe 30th June, 1929, was ?7,796.
– The industry can he developed.
– It is all very well for a Sydney man, who has not been there and does not know the problems of a tropical country, to talk like that. Undoubtedly, there arc extensive belts of mineral country, but the working costs arc very much greater than in the more temperate zones, and even in the south it is almost impossible to carry on mining successfully. Pearl shell to the value of ?37,238 was exported during the year, and the value of the cattle trade was ?158,171. That is the only industry worthy of encouragement. The talk about the agricultural possibilities of the north is bosh. The country for 140 miles south of Darwin has been well tested over a period of 40 years. At one time Chinese were engaged in marker gardening in the vicinity of Darwin, but since they departed the townhas not been able to supply itself with vegetables.
– Failure in that, regard was experienced at Daly Waters.
– Yes. The growing of cotton has also been attempted. An experienced settler from the Dawson Valley spent ?2,500 in an effort to grow cotton in the territory, but the project was abandoned. In fact, it is useless to attempt to grow agricultural products profitably there, for a market 2,000 miles distant. The possibility of producing wheat on a successful scale on the Barkly Tableland is altogether too remote for serious consideration. That country may grow wheat, but it would cost1s. 6d. a bushel to convey it to the seaboard. The one industry that is worth while developing is cattle-raising. Although I have had only a brief personal experience of the north, I have concluded from reports by surveyors and others competent to express their opinion on the matter that there is a considerable area of excellent cattle country, and I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that some day it will profitably produce a great deal of stock. The only practical thing the Government can do at the present time is to assist the cattleraisers as much as possible, both in North and Central Australia. The greatest problem of these men is the cost of transport. The building of additional railways would not be justified; but the Government could assist by the provision of motor transport, and by continuing the work of providing and maintaining stock routes and wells. There should also be expert investigation with a view to the eradication of pests which handicap the operations of the cattlemen.
One useful proposal that has been made is that Darwin should be a free port. It is so situated that, if there were no tariff restrictions, it would be possible to obtain cheap supplies there, and that would assist to make cattle-raising profitable.
– Would that not be unconstitutional?
– It is considered that this could be done within the Constitution. There is no risk of goods received at Darwin being transferred to the southern parts of Australia. I have seen ships being loaded at Darwin. I have noticed four men standing round a fiveton truck, and getting 5s. an hour for ordinary lumping work. One realizes that the transport charges in connexion with the cattle industry are almost prohibitive. I do not blame the wharf labourers in the Northern Territory for not working hard. The opinion I have had given to me is that the climate of the coastal belt of Northern Australia is so severe that it is nearly impossible for a man to do a fair day’s work there for six days a week. That is one of the reasons why, for the present time, at any rate, the idea of agricultural development there -by white labour should be abandoned. If the Government wishes to assist the people in the North, they should not be interfered with in the management of local affairs; but, if we impose on the cattle-raisers and others, who are seriously attempting to develop the country, the same industrial conditions as operate in the south, and if gentlemen li£e the present Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) interpose with their personal views in the little squabbles that occur between the different parties in the territory, life there will be made more difficult than it now is.
There is little justification for abolishing the North Australia Commission. The Government Resident is a much respected man; but no one officer can attend to the affairs of the whole of the territory. The three members of the commission have been in office for some years, and have now had sufficient experience of the territory to be able to render really useful service. The local residents seem to have accepted them with a good deal of satisfaction. It is true that this commission, like all others in Australia, has proved rather costly; but the only criticism of it is that its recommendations involve the expenditure of more money than the Government is able to provide. I think that the- Minister might have curtailed the expenditure upon the commission without abolishing it. The alternative of having one local administrator, with government from the Federal Capital, has proved a failure, and has caused much dissatisfaction. The residents could best express their views through a body such as this commission. I hope that the Minister will consider the advisability of withdrawing this bill.
.- As one who has taken a keen interest in the development of the territory, and has on several occasions visited the southern part of it, I regret the introduction of this measure. The territory has had a chequered career, which can be attributed, in the first place, to lack of communication, and, secondly, to development from the north instead of from the south through South Australia, and from the east through Queensland. Centralized control from the Commonwealth Seat of Government has proved the greatest obstacle to development. Scarcely any proposal for governmental action can be carried out unless it has first been agreed to by public servants located at the Seal of Government, many of whom have never seen the territory. What little authority has been, exercised in the territory has been centralized in Darwin, and to many who have never been in the north, Darwin and the Northern Territory are synonomous terms. Possibly the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has long been a resident of Darwin, may not go so far as I do in the criticism of Darwin control.
– I quite agree with thai contention.
– I am glad to hear that remark. Darwin, however, is situated at the most northerly point of the Territory, and its climatic conditions are not typical of those of the greater part of that extensive area. Darwin is furthest from the markets, and, generally speaking, administration from that end of the territory, plus control from Melbourne, and later from Canberra, has been responsible more than any other factor for the lack of development, and for the misplaced schemes that have inevitably ended in failure.
The extension of the railway from the south as far north as Alice Springs will provide the facilities for not only marketing the cattle and other products of the southern portion of the territory, but also will eventually lead, I predict, to the extension of that line northwards. I was the first Commonwealth Minister to cross the southern border of the territory, and, as the result of that visit in 1923, I recommended the immediate provision of railway communication with Alice Springs. There were two alternative proposals. One was the extension of the Oodnadatta line to Alice Springs on the 3- ft. 6-in. gauge, and the other, which I recommended for investigation before I left office, was the construction of a light 4- ft. 8-^-in. line from Kingoonya, on the east-west railway, to Alice Springs. I thought then, and still think, that the latter was the better proposal, the extension of the existing ‘ 3-ft. 6-in railway from Oodnadatta merely continuing the tragic break of gauge policy that has already proved all too costly for Australia. Had the connexion been made between Kingoonya and Alice Springs, and had the Red Hill to Port Augusta line also been constructed at that time, it would have been possible to truck cattle direct from Alice Springs to the Adelaide market, without the break of gauge difficulties that now cause extra cost and delay, and without increasing the time of transit. That proposal, in conjunction with the suggested railway on the standard gauge from Port Augusta to Hay, would have laid the foundation of a great railway system which would have eventually proved of inestimable benefit in promoting Australian development. Though I have not visited the western part of Queensland, or the country that lies between it and the central part of the Northern Territory up through the Barkly Tablelands, the honorable member for Riverina, who is one of the unkindest critics of the territory in this House, has done so, and he has declared that it is well worthy of development. I do not accept the honorable member’s doleful predictions in regard to the southern end of the territory. I realize that the stretch of country south of the Macdonnell ranges, down to Oodnadatta, is very poor, and that its rainfall is probably the lowest in Australia ; but north of the ranges, and east and west through to Burt Plains and Barrow Creek, the country is good, and the rainfall reasonable. . This great area could certainly be developed. There are also in the region of Barrow Creek mineral possibilities which, in my opinion, are very great. -If we had similar low-grade ore deposits in the south they would be exploited immediately; but, unfortunately, it is impossible to get mining machinery into the north to mine the ore there.
I consider that the extension of the railway line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs has been thoroughly justified. It will not be long before a strong agitation is set on foot to extend the line still further into the territory. This great interior cannot be developed, and should not be controlled, from either Darwin or Canberra. It is essential that adequate facilities should be provided for getting its produce to market. I appreciate the contention of the Minister that in these times of great financial difficulty, when it is impossible to spend very much money on developmental work in the territory, the maintenance of the existing machinery is not justified; but the saving of £8,000 or £9,000 a year by the means which the honorable gentleman is now proposing will prove ultimately not to be a saving but a serious loss. The value of the work that is being done at present is not fully appreciated. It would be tragic if the passing of this bill should mean a reversion to the old order of things. That would, undoubtedly, be a backward step. To make it necessary for every order affecting this country to be given the approval of authorities in Canberra, which is even farther from the territory, in point of accessibility, than Melbourne, would be ridiculous. It is axiomatic that to ensure the development of a new country the local people must be given some measure of control over their own enterprises. A study of the history of the development of the United States of America and similar countries of very large areas, shows that the pioneers have always clamoured for a measure of local government, and that substantial progress has not been made until it has been .given to them.
I realize that the Government has the numbers to force this bill through the
House, but. I hope that the Minister, in replying to the suggestions that have been made for the development of our ‘great interior, by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and certain other honorable members, will give an indication that the Government intends to grant some degree of self-government to these wonderful pioneers of the outback. Lt is no exaggeration to say that these people are wonderful pioneers. Any one who spends a single night under the stars in this vast, empty, silent land, realizes, to some extent at least, the environment of these people, and appreciates the fact that they must know better than people who have never visited the country what is necessary for its development. I am not making these observations simply to fill in an idle hour. First, as the representative of a constituency which is helping to pay the losses incurred in the Northern Territory, and, secondly, as an Australian who desires to sue this country developed, I appeal to the Government not to “take the backward step that it is now proposing to take.
– How does the honorable member know that the Government intends to take a backward step?
– The carrying of this bill will be ‘ a backward step. I should like to interpret the honorable member’s interjection as an intimation that the bill is to be withdrawn, but I fear that I would not be justified in doing so. I urge the Government to consider’ carefully the speech delivered on this measure by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, to whom I pay a tribute for his keen interest in the welfare of his constituents and the lonely land in which they live. [Quorum formed].
.-There has been the somewhat disturbing suggestion in the speeches made on this bill that the Northern Territory is, to some extent at least, to be abandoned. I sincerely trust that nothing like that will occur. I point out, however, that there has never been a thoroughly scientific investigation of the possibilities of this huge province of the Commonwealth. People have visited the Territory at different times and expressed their opinion upon its possibilities. It has been said, for instance, that it is capable ‘ of becoming a great cattle country. But before even this may be said with certainty, a great deal more investigation will have to be made into the quality of the soils, the possibility of producing certain crop3, and the best methods of maintaining a regular supply of fodder for stock. This huge area has such a varying and irregular rainfall, and such a great diversity of ‘ soils, that nothing but a comprehensive scientific survey of it can provide the Government with the information that it needs to formulate a proper policy of development. One honorable member opposite has said that, in his opinion, certain parts of the territory are not worthy of investigation; whereas other honorable members have asserted that other parts of it have vast possibilities. This simply goes to prove my contention that a comprehensive survey by thoroughly qualified scientists should be made. I hold that, to ensure the successful settlement of any new country, it is imperative that a certain measure of control should be given to its pioneers. Those who provide the money and human energy for the development of these areas should be consulted as fully as possible on all the problems which arise from time to time. Centralized government has been detrimental, not only to the Northery Territory, but also to other great areas of Australia. I shall oppose any policy which will prevent the people of the Northern Territory from exercising an influence upon their own affairs. These people should be given facilities for advising the Government on the expenditure of public money, and the development of the land in the territory. Any scientific information that can be obtained, which may have a bearing upon the successful development of the Northern Territory, should be made available to the settlers there-. A comprehensive system of soil testing should be carried out. In the Northern Territory there exist conditions of soil and climate not generally known in other parts of Australia, yet no investigation is being made as to the best methods of applying human energy to them. My experience as one closely associated with the land has taught me that there is in this country an extrordinary variation of soils. A method of cultivation which is suitable in one place might not be suitable in another even a few miles distant.
– That, applies .to every country/
– That is true, but it applies, perhaps, more particularly to Australia than to most other countries. It is imperative that soil testing and experiments in plant culture be carried out in the territory under government supervision. A country prospers on the wealth produced from the soil ; not through taxation, or placing obstacles in the way of settlement, or imposing undue hardships upon those who do the pioneering work. Under any system of land tenure the tenant ought to be allowed the value of such permanent improvements as he effects. We, in Australia, are inclined to lie apathetic with regard to the development of the Northern Territory. It should be possible to induce people, possessed of pioneering instincts, to come to Australia from other countries and settle in the territory. My knowledge of the land administration in the territory, however, convinces me that existing conditions are not likely to induce any one to go there. Moreover, it is necessary, if the territory is to be developed properly, that those living in it should be given some power to influence domestic legislation.
– I join with other honorable members who have spoken in asking the Government to stay its hand, and not to abolish the Northern Territory Commission. The Northern Territory, with an area of more than 500,000 square miles, provides a national problem which, in its immensity, transcends all party considerations. It challenges us to take steps for its proper government and development. Australia has been -entrusted with mandates in New Guinea and the Pacific, and if we are unable to develop our own mainland, it may well be claimed that we are not able to govern those other territories which have been committed to our care. I admit, of course, that there are enormous problems associated with the government of the Northern Territory. Mr. P. C. Urquhart, a former administrator Qf the territory, writes of it as follows : -
Tlie white population on the 30th of June of that year (1924) numbered 2,249, which, as an index of the progress made in 100 years, i3depressing, and although there has been an increase . since,; the figures , on .-30th, J une, 4,^2,8, being 2,045, , this .’is’ due probably to railway work undertaken by the . ‘Commonwealth Government. Even ‘this latter figure, when contrasted with those for 1901 (the earliest available to the writer), which showed a total white population of 4,073, is the reverse of encouraging . . . Are we then to say that the net results of 10a years of British occupation, the last eighteen of which have been directly under the Federal Government of Australia, .are a very small and stagnant, if not diminishing, white population, with an increasing and more fecund coloured population gradually overtaking their number settled in an undeveloped and bankrupt territory with . small prospect of any material improvement in any future that is not remote?
That is rather a pathetic picture to draw of any part of Australia. We who live in the cities do not realize what the residents of the territory have to put up with, and the discouragements they have received at the hands of successive governments. - One can compare the Northern Territory in its relation to the rest of Australia, with what California was to the United States 100 years ago. California was looked upon as a failure. The desert which intervenes between it and the Eastern States was an everlasting problem, which was only solved by establishing proper communications. Unfortunately, the United States, not being guided by any equivalent of our excellent “ White Australia “ doctrine, allowed coloured labour to exploit a part of its west coast districts. We have refused to allow the Northern Territory to be developed in. that way, and in consequence its development has been retarded. It behoves us, however, to attack our own problem, settle a thriving population in the territory, and make it flourish as California has done as ohe of the United States of America.
Darwin is on the direct air route of any possible service between Australia and England, via the East Indies. We hear, every now and then of aviators, flying from England to Australia, dropping into Darwin as their first place of call in Australia. When we remember that Darwin is ten days’ journey from Sydney by steamer and only two days by air from Adelaide, we realize how deficient we are in up-to-date methods of communication with this part of the continent.
Undoubtedly, transportation is civilization. I admit that 1 know little, or nothing, of pastoral matters, which have been. well discussed by other speakers, but . I.. wish to impress upon the Minister the importance of establishing better communications with the Northern Territory. I know something of what aerial transport has meant to Western Queensland, where the service bas been recently extended beyond Camooweal to. Birdum Creek, and T shall support any other developmental air lines that may be proposed to be run on an economic basis. The Minister .has before him proposals for the progressive development of the territory prepared by the Northern Territory Lessees Association. Seeing that this document comes from the most influential and important body in the Northern Territory, it behoves the Minister to give it careful consideration. The proposals deal with some of the difficulties in the way of transportation, and on the subject of motor haulage, the association writes as follows: -
The need of, assistance in this respect is demonstrated by the fact that cement for dips which costs about £5 per ton in Sydney, costs £35 per ton by the time it is delivered on some stations in the territory, and flour which costs £12 per ton in the south, costs over £40 by the time it is delivered.
The problem confronting us is how best to set about improving communications. The honorable member for New England (Mr, Thompson) with whom, if I may say so, railways appear to be almost an obsession, spoke about building railways here, there, and everywhere. At the present time, there is a railway to Alice Springs, but, seeing that the country is almost bankrupt, we cannot consider building further railways without examining every proposal most carefully, to determine whether they will be immediately payable. The British Government in Irak and Palestine was. faced with a problem very similar to that which confronts us in the Northern Territory. The problem of maintaining transport communication over the desert between Baghdad and Damascus is being solved by the use of motor vehicles. Is there any reason why communication from Alice Springs to the rail head further north should not Be effectively established by means of motor transport ? The . first ‘ consideration is to build good roads; rail-‘ ways, if necessary, can come later. The Government should encourage any private company which is prepared to assist in- the ‘development of communication either by air or motor; If we pin our faith entirely, to railways we art definitely showing ourselves to-be behind the times. The honorable member for New England, when touching on the need for better communications, said that military strategy had undergone a complete change asa result of the last war. I remind him however, that strategy remains unchanged. No doubt he was confusing strategy, which deals with the conduct of campaigns and the movement of armies,, with tactics, which have to do with the movement of troops in battle. Tactics, it is true, have undergone a very great change. I admit that we need a strategic railway from north to south of the continent, but, first of all, and for the immediate development of the Northern Territory, we need good roadsin that area. In Europe, the transport of passengers over great distances is being done in an increasing degree by air. Just as sailing ships have dropped intothe limbo of forgotten things, and steamships have taken their place on the sea, so railways are now being superseded by air and motor transport. The modern, tendency is for railways to be used more and more exclusively for the conveyance of freight, while passengers are carried1 over great distances by air, and over shorter distances by motor vehicles. This should be remembered by the Government in connexion with its plans for the development of the Northern Territory.
The Government will be taking a retrograde step and assisting the decline if it abolishes the Northern Territory Commission, which is composed of alert representative men, and endeavours tocontrol the territory from Canberra. The Government should leave the control of the territory in the hands of some representative body, and, above all, the Minister in charge should not interfere so much as he has done in the past. The Northern Territory is not the El Dorado that some honorable members have tried to make out; it has its limitations; but, as Mr.Urquhart has pointed out, it has suffered more from the errors of man than from those of nature. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) said that British capital might, with advantage, be invested in the Northern Territory instead of in the Argentine. Everybody knows that Vestey’sdid put money into the Northern Territory, and they know something of the reasons for that company’s investment proving a failure. On this subject, Mr.Urquhart writes as follows : -
It is no exaggeration to say that for a time the firm of Vestey’s breathed the breath of life into the territory, and though it would be absurd to suggest that this was purely a philanthropic effort on their part, yet it has never been properly recognized, and it now seems to be completely forgotten that patriotic motives played their part in bringing about the action taken by the firm in opening up business at Darwin. It was, for instance, one object of theirs to increase the meat supplies of the British Government during the war years, and another was to bring about a prosperous development of that part of Australia which would be of great advantage, not only to the firm, but to Australia generally, and to the Empire.
– Were their motives patriotic?
– The motive was partly to develop Australia and the Empire, and we should give them credit for it. Who can deny the tremendous benefit that would result to Darwin if the firm could be induced to re-open its works? I am sure that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) would be the first to applaud such action.
Another problem that demands the consideration of the Minister is the future of the Australian aboriginal in the Northern Territory. Although this matter does not immediately concern us in the bill before the House, the manner in which it has been handled in the past has not been such as to furnish cause for gratification, and an improvement in their treatment is overdue. This poor, despised race of primitive people has more inherent good than we at one time supposed. The day will come when the race willbe extinct, just as are the Tasmanian abori gines who might have been preserved. We, the representatives of the people in this National Parliament, should face this problem. Our treatment of the aborigines in the past is not something of which we can be proud. Admittedly they are lazy; but, until they came into close contact with white men, they possessed many admirable qualities. Much can be done for them by the establishment of suitable reservations, by segregating the half-castes from the fullblooded blacks, and by encouraging the work of the missions, which for years have laboured unostentatiously to improve the conditions of these unfortunate people. They should be induced to enter the service of employers in the Northern Territory. They are excellent stockmen, and some of them could be engaged in domestic and farm work, provided they are properly supervised. The Minister should regard this as a great national work. A successful grappling with the problem would everlastingly rebound to his credit. This race should not be allowed to die out without a serious effort being made to preserve it.
The problem of the Northern Territory is summed up by the Northern Territory pastoral lessees in the following statement : -
It can be definitely stated that the cause of the failure to develop the territory is entirely economic. Costs of production have been, and still are, above cash returns.
What effort have we made so to adjust matters that employers in the Northern Territory will be able to procure labour, and be placed in a position to obtain cash returns in excess of the costs of production? There has been constant meddling and interference by the present Minister. When the unemployed in Darwin locked the Government Resident and other officials in the government residence, and camped in the vicinity of his house for about a week, the reply of the Minister was to distribute largesse in the form of blocks of land on the Katherineand Daly Rivers, seed peanuts, and a sustenance allowance of 30s. a week until the crops had been produced and sold. So far as I have been , able to learn, no punishment was meted out forthat misdemeanour. . Recently, the unemployed demonstrated in the streets, and some of them were arrested by the local police arid sentenced for having broken the law. Evidently acting upon the representations of one of these irresponsibles, the Minister again intervened in the matter. When I asked questions about it in this House, he was good enough to show me a memorandum that he had prepared, which stated that these men should be allotted a place where they could demonstrate.
– Why should they not?
– I agree that they should. In Melbourne there is the Yarra bank, and in Sydney the Domain. But the unemployed in Darwin declined to accept any place other than the main street for their demonstrations. What did this spineless Government do? It took the matter to caucus, which said,
We shall allow them to demonstrate where they choose.”
– That is not what I told the honorable member; I said that the Government had decided to adopt my recommendation to allow the unemployed in Darwin to hold their meetings.
– That’ is exactly what I said.
– The honorable member said that it was a decision of the caucus.
– I withdraw that, and say that it was a decision of the Government - which is worse. Instead of compelling these men to hold their demonstrations on some common land, the Government allowed itself to be bluffed into permitting them to demonstrate in the streets whenever they choose. Some of these men were fined, and others sentenced to imprisonment, for the offences they had committed. The Minister again intervened ; the convictions were quashed, and the fines were remitted. That action typifies the administration of the Northern Territory by the present Minister and Government. I have no wish to give the debate a party flavour; my object is merely to draw attention to what is happening on the economic side, which proves the truth- of the contention of the Northern Territory pastoral lessees, that the problem of the territory is entirely an economic one; This industrial pantomime must end. When the Resident takes any action, he should be supported through thick and thin. There should be firm handling of any unemployed mobs, irresponsibles, “ reds “ - call them what you will. These men actually flew the red flag in Darwin for months* Until that sort of thing is put down, until the Government takes a firm stand on the side of the people as a whole, there will be no development in the Northern Territory. I applaud the speech of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, which omitted only the economic aspect of the problem. I know that at different times he has taken a firm stand in opposition to the extreme elements. I exhort him to go still further, and to make it plain that no nonsense will be tolerated by him or any other responsible person.. I trust that he will continue his efforts to suppress the lawless elements. It is known that, at one time, the unemployed refused to sweep gutters for less than £1 ls. a day, saying that such work was fit only for blackfellows. On that occasion, however, the local Labour people stood firm.
The problem of the Northern Territory has geographical as well as economic features. I ask the Minister to study the matter carefully, and endeavour to convert into a valuable asset what at present is an embarrassing liability. I urge him not to abolish the North Australian Commission, but to allow the expenditure upon that body to continue. The saving of such a small amount, in the circumstances, would be false economy. He should permit these men to go ahead with the work that they are doing, and, so far as he can do so, to deal with their recommendations in a nonparty spirit.
– So far, the attempts of the Federal Government to assist the development of the Northern Territory can be said to have failed. Unfortunately, the present Government has no proposal for the improvement of the conditions in the territory; it merely proposes to abolish the commission that was appointed some three years ago. The right thing would be to allow the commission to continue to function, and to extend to it powers that should have been vested in it in the first place.
Many suggestions have been made by honorable members on both sides regarding tlie steps that should be taken to improve the conditions in this territory, upon the development of which large sums have been spent without success. We should regard the territory as’ one that must be developed primarily by the grazing industry, in conjunction with the exploitation of its mineral possibilities. The first essential is to assist the man on the land by the provision of adequate supplies of water. Any one who has visited the territory must realize the grave disadvantage under which the land holders there labour on account of the scarcity of water and the cost of providing it. If we were to expend our energies, as well as the necessary capital, in providing a water supply, we should improve the carrying capacity of the land and increase its wealth with the lowest possible expenditure. I am not disposed to agree to the proposal that the Alice Springs railway should be continued; it would be a colossal error to build that line for very many years. If at any time a railway should be found necessary, it should be built from Darwin to the Queensland border, linking up with extensions of the various Queensland line’s and connecting with the New South Wales railways at Bourke. Such a line would best serve the valuable country in the Northern Territory, and also open up excellent pastoral lands in the far western portion of Queensland. It would be far more advantageous to Australia than any line that would give effect to any promise that may have been made in the past. But, although a Queenslander, I am bound to admit that at the present time such a railway is not justified. We must develop the grazing possibilities of the territory, and provide means of transport not to markets in the southern parts of Australia, but to outside markets by the establishment of a port. It appears to be generally conceded that port facilities can best, be provided at the Pellew Islands, at the mouth of the McArthur River, above Borroloola. I have not had an opportunity to visit much of the Northern Territory, but I have travelled over the eastern portion, and can say that the land on the Barkly Tableland, and in from Avon Downs, is quite capable of raising sheep; in fact, it was doing so at the time of ^ my i-.visit. It would be far better to ‘develop that port so as to enable us to export the products of the territory, than to expend millions of pounds on railways to bring those products into further competition with similar products of the southern parts of Australia. If that were done - and this Parliament should be big enough to do it - we would prevent a repetition of the utter failure of the cattle and sheep raising industries and the turmoil in the meat-works that have happened in the past. This Parliament should extend to the commission power to deal with the problems of the territory, and thus enable both the employers and employees in industry there to work to the advantage of the country generally. When we speak of developing ports in the territory we must not forget that we have practically little or no money to spend, and that we have various ports established on the coasts of Australia which are undeveloped and which, by co-operation on the part of the Commonwealth and the States, might be made revenueproducing. While some of our ports are lying idle, it is useless for us to talk of opening fresh ports. Some honorable members have rightly said that if a science branch were established in the territory, to investigate plant and animal diseases, certain good would emanate. But a similar argument can be applied in respect of the various States. Many of our railways arc not paying to-day simply because the adjacent land is lying idle. That land will be of no use until scientific investigation has discovered a method of developing it. This Parliament lias not encouraged any such research. In my district there is an extensive area of land, known as the Wallan country, available for such investigation. Throughout Australia various lands adjacent to our existing railways are lying idle, and earning nothing towards the cost of construction. This National Parliament before it decides to build a railway from Alice Springs northward in order to develop the territory, before it expends large sums of money in scientific research in that great unknown country, should, when money is available, offer facilities to the States in order to bring about an increased development on lands contiguous to existing railway lines. Much of that class of land is owned by the Grown, and it is locked up because thereis no known method of bringing it into production. Instead of expending money as has been suggested in the territory, we should devote some of our time and energy to applying the moneys that are available to the development of idle lands lying adjacent to our existing railways. A commission has been appointed, inquiries have been made by the Public Works Committee, and experts have reported on the possibility of opening up territory lands by means of railways, but, because of the enormous cost of haulage, little, if any, advantage would be derived by bringing the products of the territory into competition with those of the south. It would be far better to develop the territory by establishing a centre there at which to manufacture meat products, and wool and frozen meat could be exported from a port in the north such as Borroloola or Darwin. I hope that the Government will withdraw the bill so as to permit the commission, consisting as it does of practical men who have now had three years’ experience in the territory, to carry on along the lines indicated in their report until such time as money is available for the proper development of the territory. The Government should not overlook the vast potentialities of that country, both in regard to its pastoral industry and its mineral deposits. We know from the evidence of persons who have lived on stations along the border that there are in the territory, awaiting development, vast agricultural lands which will become extremely valuable once water facilities are provided. We should permit the commission to carry on the work that it has already commenced in that direction. That, I consider, would be a sound policy for this Government to adopt.
.- The introduction of this hill is one of the pettiest of the little meannesses that the Government has perpetrated in its effort to avoid making all-round reductions that it knows should be made. The Minister claims that this legislation will save some £8,000 or £9,000 a year, and have the effect of putting the administration of the territory back approximately to where it was before the commission was appointed. If that is so, the work of inspecting the roads and stock routes will in futurebe under the Works Department. I have with me the report of a distinguished engineer who visited the Northern Territory and reported on it to the last Government. This is what he says in regard to stock routes -
The provision of water and watering places along the stock routes is absolutely essential, and a considerable amount of work has been done in that respect, but, from inquiries I made, I formed the opinion that there was not sufficient co-ordination between the Government departments and the public, and that the bores were sometimes unreliable, especially in matters of equipment, and that maintenance was deficient … A report was received by the Government Secretary, Darwin, in March, 1925, after an inspection had been made by a mounted constable stationed at Newcastle Waters, to the effect that -
All the windmills required immediate oiling and minor repairs, and, in some cases, new buckets.
The tanks were in three cases dry, one was full, and the others had from6 inches to 5 feet of water.
It seems tome common sense that water stations that are not thoroughly reliable are worse than none at all, as a drover may be in serious difficulty if he has depended on watering his stock, and finds no water, whereas, if he had not been led to expect water, he would have made his plans accordingly.
That is one illustration of the sort of administration in existence before this commission was appointed. The Minister has taken up the attitude that it was appointed to carry out a big developmental scheme, and that because we have not the funds necessary for carrying out such a scheme we must return to the former system of administration. I hope that in so doing we shall not return to the former mistakes. Apparently the Government claims to be Heaven-sent. No doubt it is proud of its solution of the unemployment problem. The Minister sponsoring this bill was actually responsible for the somersault over the suggestion of a lottery in Canberra.
– No big developmental scheme has ever been suggested for the Northern Territory.
– That may or may not be so. Given the best administration in the world at Canberra, it is almost impossible to administer adequately a territory which has poor communication and which is thousands of miles away. While I have been critical of the Minister in respect of some of his administrative acts*, I must’ give him some credit for bringing about an improvement in the treatment of aboriginals in the Northern Territory. He has attended to that branchof the administration as well as any other Minister who has had the handling of it. He hasarranged for better; medical inspection, and for a large expansion of the reserves set aside by the previous Government for the aboriginals. But the placing of the control of that territory under a department at Canberra must inevitably result in second-rate administration. This commission was instituted, not only to carry out big developmental works, but also to obtain some continuity in respect of works already being carried out. It is obvious that we cannot carry through any ambitious scheme of public works in the territory. Such a scheme may he desirable ultimately, but to-day we cannot afford it. But short of such a scheme, there can be a tremendous amount of assistance given to the people of the territory if the minor works are persevered with, and if those that have been constructed are kept in repair. If the water facilities along the stock routes are kept up to the mark, comparatively good transit will be assured for the cattle industry - the main industry of the territory - and if new bores are sunk as funds become available, that industry will receive considerable impetus. I differ from honorable members who have referred to the expenditure on the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs as a total waste. One honorable member stated that the cattle should be exported from ports in the north instead of being brought from the south. He overlooked the fact that the cattle sent southwards from Alice Springs are not exported. The pastoral industry will have to extend enormously before an export trade from South Australian ports will develop. Adelaide has been one of the best importing and consuming meat markets in the world for as long as I can remember, and the construction of a railway to bridge the belt of dry country around Lake Eyre has already been of great benefit to the Northern Territory cattle industry. “With the provision of more water supplies along the stock routes leading to Alice Springs, the advantages or the railway willbe greatly increased. I agree with the honorable memberfor Riverina (Mr. Killen) that the cattlebreeders inthe territory cannot always expect to receive fortheir beef the famine prices they have enjoyed recently in Adelaide. But they can always rely upon getting ‘a price in excess of what they would get if they had to trucktheir cattle long distances to the already well-supplied markets of the eastern States.
– Does the honorable member realize that only while prices are very high will it be profitable to truck cattle from Alice Springs?
– The normal price of bullocks on the Adelaide markets is from £10 to £14 a head; it is seldom under 30s. to 35s. a cwt. The cost of trucking from Alice Springs recently has been about £3 10s. a head, while the cost of droving to the rail-head when the stock route is open is not very heavy. The railway has opened a steady market for Northern Territory cattle at prices considerably higher than were available at any previous time, except during the war. I am not advocating the extension of the railway northward at the present time. The principal advantage of the existing section is that it bridges the dry area about Lake Eyre. Cattle-breeders with whom 1 am well acquainted, , and whose stations in the territory I have visited, have told me that in four or five years out of six they can get their cattle to Alice Springs in good condition; whereas they could only get them to Oodnadatta on the hoof in about one season in six. The intervening tract of country is one of the driest exploited areas in the world, and the traversing of it by a railway has made possible a steady extension of the Northern Territory cattle industry. …
– Is it not a fact that in only one year in three the cattle will be fat enough to be sent to market?
– Possibly the present stock route will be eaten out if large numbers of cattle are sent to Alice Springs for trucking. That emphasizes the need for parallel stock routes.A direct route is contemplated from the vicinity of Tanami andVictoria Downs to Alice Springs. If that is opened up relief will be given to the existing route along the telegraph line. It is desirable that a reliable authority be maintained to see that the money available for the territory is spent in accordance with a sensible and continuous policy. The commission was doing that. I understand from lessees that the stock routes have been in better order since the commission has been functioning than they were before, whilst the roads also have improved. In an inexpensive way roads have been better surveyed and cleared, and crossings have been provided ‘ over bad watercourses. Generally a lot has been done to open up the territory for motor traffic and relieve the isolation of the residents. That policy must continue if we are not to fall down on the job of developing the territory. Failure or continued stumbling will involve two serious consequences. First, the reputation of the Commonwealth will be impaired, and the White Australia doctrine will be brought into question throughout the world. Secondly, the credit of Australia as a federation is wrapped up in the efforts of this Parliament to administer that vast province, and will suffer if that administration is unsuccessful. That is the biggest argument against greater powers for the Federal Parliament. This Parliament has had control of the Northern Territory for nearly twenty years, and in this period the territory has made remarkably little progress towards development. The commission did a great deal to introduce continuity of policy, but it was not the only authority, and I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that the advisory councils at Darwin and Alice Springs will be continued. If they are given adequate powers, status, and independence, they can do much to. ensure that Australia’s greatest territorial problem will be methodically tackled. Much will depend on the freedom allowed to these bodies in their early days. . I believe that their scope will be much improved if the amendments which have been circulated by the honorable member for the Northern Territory . are incorporated in the bill. I hope . the Minister will accept them, for they .offer, the only hope of redeeming this pettifogging, mean measure. If the second reading is taken to a division I shall vote against it, and, in committee, I shall support the amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson).
– Having no first-hand knowledge of the Northern Territory, I have listened with very great attention and interest to the speeches which have been delivered on this bill. I have been struck by the silence of most honorable members on the Government side. Apart from the honorable member for the Northern Territory, the only Government supporters who participated in the debate were the honorable members for Wannon (Mr. McNeill), Calare (Mr. Gibbons) and Boothby (Mr. Price). I am not sure whether the honorable member for Calare intends to support or oppose the bill. The honorable member for Boothby, whilst in general sympathy with the measure, indicated his intention to support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory to provide for the election of a body that will exercise executive power. The Minister will agree that the speeches from the Opposition parties have not been even tinged with party colour.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the speeches from the Government side were?
– No ; the ministerial supporters dealt with the subject from a national viewpoint, and so did the speakers from the Opposition side. Listening to the debate this afternoon, I was reminded of the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the best way to meet the present emergent situation is by members of all shades of political opinion coming together and attempting to regard the problem nationally and free of party considerations.
– The trouble is that parties differ so widely regarding what is the national point of view.
– That may be so, but emergent conditions bring men together in a remarkable way. During the war men whose political views were widely divergent, collaborated to ensure the safety of the nation in the hour of danger and emergency. A similar crisis confronts us now, and already I have noticed that the pressure of national emergency is tending to bring together in this House men of different shades of political opinion. If the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition is accepted by the Government-
– I cannot permit the honorable member to discuss that matter. He must confine his remarks to the bill.
– It struck me that the best method of administering the Northern Territory might well be considered by a non-party body, constituted of members of the House, who would deal with the subject purely from a national point of view. I listened with great interest to the speech on this bill delivered on the 7th November by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), and when I again read it recently, I was as much impressed as I was on hearing it! I marvel, with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), that the practical advice of the honorable member for tlie Northern Territory seems not to have received the consideration to which it is entitled. Why has his experience been ‘ ignored ? There are men in Australia who have spent practically a lifetime in battling with the difficulties to be encountered in the territory, and they have paid heavily for the experience they have gained. One wonders why their advice is not sought by the Government. The criticism of the bill has been one of unanimous condemnation of the principle embodied in it. The honorable member for the Northern Territory went to the length of saying that, if the system proposed by the Minister were adopted, the Government would be reverting to a method that experience has proved a pre-eminent failure. The honorable member also told us that if this bill were to be taken as indicative of the administrative ability of the Ministry, the settlers might as well hand their land back to the authorities. That is strong language from a man who generally supports the Government. He has, no doubt, expressed, not only his own opinion, but that of those by whom he is sent here. I do not” know whether the Government intends to accept the amendment of which notice has been given. Since all the evidence goes to show that the adoption of the system embodied in the bill would be a retrograde step, I shall vote against the measure if the Minister persists in taking it to a. division.
.- It is most difficult to arrive at a definite conclusion as to the wisdom or otherwise of abolishing the North Australia Commission. On the one hand the Minister says that the commission is an excrescence, and serves no useful purpose, while, on the other hand, the honorable member for the Northern Territory has submitted many arguments in favour of its continuance. One thing certain is that the Bruce scheme gave the people of the Northern Territory the only element of self-government that they have ever possessed. I understand that the Minister intends to accept an amendment by the honorable member for the Northern Territory to divide the country into four divisions, each to have a distinct representative. That I consider an excellent proposal. I would prefer the withdrawal of the bill; but, failing that, the proposal outlined by the honorable member should receive the endorsement of the House. The most pressing need of the territory is very little government and a great deal of private enterprise, and the. latter can be promoted only by giving inducement to settlers to go there. So soon as any government provides that inducement, the Northern Territory will begin to prosper. It is certain that no person will settle in the territory until he is satisfied that he can make more money there than in any other part of Australia. One way in which the territory may be developed is by the pastoral industry, and the only other profitable method is by the encouragement of the mining industry. The advantage is all in favour of the pastoral industry, because, while facilities would have to be provided for carrying off the product of the .mining industry, the product of the pastoral industry, generally speaking, could walk off itself.
It is unfortunate that a promise was given to South Australia that Adelaide would be linked up by railway with Darwin. Undoubtedly, the greater portion of the territory could be developed more quickly than under present conditions if communication were provided with the western portion of Queensland. If a line had been’ constructed from Cloncurry through Camooweal to the Barkly
Tableland, and thence to Darwin, I have no doubt that there would then have been established on the eastern side of the territory a town comparable with Camooweal and other towns on the Queensland border. It would have been far better for the Commonwealth if South Australia had been given a quid pro quo, on the understanding that it did not press its claim for a north-south line.
– Why are cattle now brought to Alice Springs from the Barkly Tableland?
– As pointed out by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), the Adelaide market is, a good one; but it is limited. The Queensland market is more or less unlimited, owing to the export trade in meat. If a line had been built from Camooweal to Cloncurry, cattle could have been sent to Lake’s Creek, where frozen meat would have been placed on overseas vessels.
I greatly regret that the Minister has seenfit to interfere with the policy adopted about four years ago. Continuity of policy is desirable, if steady development is to take place. Let us decide the best means of administering the affairs of the territory, and then adhere to that policy, regardless of which political; party may be in office. Unfortunately, too many Ministers for Home Affairs have considered it to be their duty to meddle in the local administration of the territory. The present Minister has proved no exception to the rule in that respect. He offers us a saving of £8,000 or £9,000 a year as a result of the abolition of the North Australia Commission, and he says that that money will be spent in providing water for stock. As an economy measure, this proposal has nothing to recommend it. The Minister has nothing tangible to offer as a substitute for the commission. Many times £8,000 or £9,000 could be saved in other directions, and I hope that, even at this late hour, the Minister will withdraw the bill. There should be a commission for Central Australia and another for North Australia, and the advisory bodies should be permitted to function as at present, so that more of the responsibility for the development of the territory will be thrown on theresidents themselves. They should be made to feel that this is their country, and that it is their job to develop it just as the pioneers of other parts of Australia were made to feel that upon their shoulders rested , the responsibility for making a success of their undertaking. Only when we place responsibility upon the people of the Northern Territory, and show them that we have confidence in them, may we look for the successful colonization of this great part of the Commonwealth.
.- The attitude that honorable members opposite have adopted towards this bill is that of carping critics. They have said that the Northern Territory progressed during the four years it was under commission control; but the facts do not bear out this claim. When North Australia and Central Australia were placed under commission control it was said thatthe last thing had been done in both administrative and developmental activity. The North Australia Commission, as a matter of fact, was appointed by the previous Government . principally for the purpose of undertaking developmental work. If that side of the responsibilities of the commission had not been stressed, it would never have been constituted. We were told by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when this bill was introduced, that provision was being made for theco-operation of both Queensland and Western Australia.This was provided for in section 35 of the act, which reads -
The Governor-General may make an agreement with the Governor-in-Council of any State which adjoins the Northern Territory for the application to any part of. the State contiguous to the territory (in this sectionreferred to as “ the prescribed part of the State “ ) of any or all of the measures of development which have been or may be applied by the commission to the prescribed part of the territory.
Honorable members opposite, whoso enthusiastically supported the appointment of the commission, seem to have totally over looked its failure to do any effective developmental work. They have told us that if this bill is passedNorth Australia will be left withoutany administration whatever.. That, . of course, is ridiculous. The same administrative provisions will exist after the passage of this bill asnow exist.In fact the position will be very much improved, because there will be no duplication. At present two methods of government are operating side by side in North Australia and Central Australia. There is a Government Resident at Darwin and another at Alice Springs, and operating in the same area as these gentler men is a commission. The powers and functions of these authorities overlap, and altogether there is a large amount of duplication. Some of the functions of the Government Resident are administrative, and so are some of those of the commission. Then, again, we have officers of the Works Department operating in both Central and North Australia.. The Government believes that the passage of this bill will result in the simplification of the administration of North Australia, and in a considerable improvement in the lot of the people. Had the great developmental scheme promulgated by the previous Government been put into operation, and had the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia heartily co-operated with the commission for the advancement of North Australia, a bill of this kind would not have been introduced. On the other hand, had the previous Government remained in office, it would have been forced, in existing circumstances, to take the action that this’ Government is taking now.
When Parliament re-assembled at the end of October the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) and honorable members generally opposite, said that they would do everything possible, in an absolutely nonparty spirit, to co-operate with the Government in solving the difficulties which faced the country. But time has shown that those promises were so many pious platitudes. In connexion with this billwe have had a singularly’ bitter outburst of political partisanship. Mr. Thompson. - I rise to a point of order. I submit that the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to non-party co-operation have nothing whatever todo with this bill..
– And the reference to them is in the worst possible taste.
– I ask the Minister for Home Affairs to confine hisremarks to the bill.
– I have not yet reached the point at which I need to ask the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) for a lesson in good taste. The honorable member has worked the party political horse to death, and it ill-becomes him to talk about good
– Order !
– I am merely replying to certain observations that have been made by honorable members opposite. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition again made certain statements about the desirableness ‘of tackling our problems in a non-party spirit ; but immediately this effort had been made to. pouroil on troubled waters, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White)? made a bitter party speech.
– My statements regarding: the recent industrial trouble at Darwin had nothing to do with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, to which the Minister has referred.
– The honorable member for Balaclava asked me for some information in regard to certain happenings at Darwin, and I made available to him the information that he desired.
– That is not so. I asked for copies of the telegrams and the Minister furnished me with a memorandum.
– Surely eventhe honorable member will admit that it is for the Government to determine what information should be made public. I adopted the customary course, and one which I have no doubt the honorable member would have adopted had he been in my place. I gave him full and complete information.
– And I quoted what the Minister gave me.
– The honorable member misquoted it. He said something about caucus, and there was nothing about’ caucus in my memorandum.
– I desireto make a personal explanation. X. withdrew the word “caucus” and substituted “Ministry.”
– The honorable member cannot make a personal explanation at this stage.
-I have no need to offerany apologyto the honorable mem- ber. It appears to me that the common practice in every country town in New South Wales, if not in the other States of the Commonwealth, is the exception in Darwin. During tlie last three months, I addressed over twenty meetings in the main streets of various country, towns in New South Wales.
– But a permit had been obtained to hold the meetings.
– Not at all. Per.mits are not necessary in New South Wales. The police take care to divert the traffic from the main streets when political meetings are in progress. In these circumstances, I was astounded when I heard that men had been arrested for obstructing the traffic in Darwin when they had merely held a public meeting. If the whole population of Darwin assembled in the main street, the traffic could still move without inconvenience.
The carrying of this bill will not adversely affect the administration of North Australia. . Practically the same officers who now administer the land laws - and they are men of long experience - will continue to do so; the same officers of the Works Department will remain there; and the same men will control the railways. The difference will be that the work will cost less than in the last four years. In my speech in introducing this bill, I paid a tribute to the North Australia Commission for the valuable work it has done. I have no doubt that ultimately the plans of the commission will be carried into effect. But” it would be ridiculous to continue a commission which was appointed mainly for developmental purposes when the Government has no money available for developmental works. The last Government had plenty of money, but carefully refrained from spending any of it in North Australia, and so prevented the commission from doing the work it was intended to do.
Satiny suspended from 6.15 to S p.m..
– Many honorable members have described the proposed abolition of the Northern Territory Commission as a retrograde step, particularly if it is not intended to substitute any other form of -local control. It was the intention of the Government, to increase, the powers of the present, advisory. councils, but in other respects to allow them to continue functioning as they had been doing since their inception. However, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has discussed with me a scheme for granting greater powers to an elective council for the whole of the Northern Territory, and the Government has accepted the scheme. I wish to impress upon honorable members that there can be no half-way house between full and complete local autonomy and control by the central government. This problem has arisen both in connexion with Papua and the Federal Capital Territory. While the central government is expending large sums of money upon the development of such territories, it must of necessity exercise control over estimates and expenditure. The proposal advanced by the honorable member for the Northern Territory covers this point, so that the control of expenditure will remain in the hands of the central government.
– What power will the council have?
– It will be able to make ordinances, and participate in the government of the territory regarding matters which do not involve increased expenditure. For instance, the Government’s responsible officers might recommend that certain works be undertaken, such as sinking wells or bores, erecting cattle dips, taking measures to prevent the distribution of buffalo fly or tick, or that alterations be made in railway timetables, &c. When the proposals and estimates are placed before the advisory council, comprising men drawn from all parts of the territory, the council may, in its -wisdom, recommend that the proposals be varied in certain particulars. It might suggest that bores, instead of being put down on the Western Australian side, should be put down on the main stock route. During the term of the commission various works have been carried out which, in the opinion of residents, should not ‘ have been done or rather, the money should have been spent on similar work in other portions of the territory where the need was greater. While the elective advisory council will have power to make recommendations, in this way, its powers in other directions will be restricted.
– In other words, it will be a purely advisory council.
– It will be a little more than that, inasmuch as it will be able to make ordinances which, unless vetoed by Parliament or the GovernorGeneral, will have the force of law.
– What remuneration will members of the council receive ?
– They will act in an honorary capacity, but will receive travelling and other allowances while actually attending to their duties as councillors. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that, even under the proposed system, the control of the territory would still be centred in Canberra. In essential matters that will be so, but the same applies to Papua and the Federal Capital Territory. In the case of the Federal Capital Territory, of course, there can be no objection on that score, because the seat of administration is actually in the territory itself. As I explained before, the authority which is supplying the money for development must exercise control over its expenditure.
– Where will the headquarters of the council be situated ?
– At Port Darwin.
– That will militate against its effectiveness.
– Port Darwin is the most thickly populated centre, and is on the direct line of communication.
– We should concern ourselves, not so much with governing the population, as with developing the territory.
– I have said that the Advisory Council is to be representative of all sections of the population within the territory.
– I believe that it would be better to have the headquarters of the council somewhere in the centre of the territory.
– No matter what system of control is instituted, it must be subject to the Federal Government in Canberra. The proposed method of control is no different from that brought into being when the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) was a member of the Federal Government. Without desiring to introduce party politics into this non-controversial discussion, may I point out to my friends opposite that the disadvantages which they profess to see in the Government’s proposals must have also been present under the system of control by the commission, because the method of administration is practically the same in both cases? What were virtues in the system inaugurated by the last Government have evidently, in the minds of honorable member’s opposite, become sins when embodied in the proposals of the present Government. There has been a good deal oftalking with tongue in cheek this afternoon, I am afraid, and I am constrained to add - again without any desire to ruffle the- calm waters of debate - that there has been just the slightest suggestion of stonewalling as well. I do not propose to follow the example of my honorable friends opposite, and shall conclude on this note: I feel confident and optimistic regarding the future of the Northern Territory. The land is there, the rainfall is mostly adequate, and the climate is suitable. I am certain that when the overseas market for beef improves, the future of the territory will be assured. If prices could have been maintained at the level which prevailed during the war, the Northern Territory would be much more developed and more prosperous that it is to-day. It has been said that prospective settlers are faced with many disabilities. I admit that, but the system of land tenure is not one of them. Leases which had been transferred from the South Australian Land Act were, when made subject to the land ordinances of the territory, extended for 42 years at rentals varying from 2s. to 5s. per square mile, which works out at a fraction of a penny per acre. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that the rentals are too high, and who wants greater security of tenure than a lease extending to 1965?
– What about taxation?
– The settlers there are comparatively free from taxation.
– They are affected by customs taxation.
– Customs taxation is no heavier there than elsewhere. One of the great disabilities settlers have to face is the lack of railway communication with the south. They are too far from the markets, and it costs too much to get their stock to “them. It sometimes takes eighteen months to bring cattle from1 Victoria River Downs to the markets in Queensland. In January of this year cattle were sold in Queensland two years after leaving their home station. The cost of droving, of holding the cattle at various rest paddocks, and of topping them off when they get close to the market is very great.
– Is there any talk of Vestey’ s’ starting again at Port Darwin ?
– No. I have always .held the opinion that the railway system of the territory should be in the form of a cross. There should be one line from Camooweal across the Barkly Tableland to Western Australia and another from Adelaide to Port Darwin. The last Government appointed a developmental commission, whose duty it was to lay down plans and make traverses for roads and surveys for railways. They made., trial surveys and traverses from Daly Waters to the Queensland border, approximately 450 miles; from Rocky Island to a point in the vicinity of Anthony’s Lagoon, approximately 245 miles, and from a point between Daly Waters’ and Newcastle Waters to the Western Australian border, 317 miles. That work may, ultimately, be of value; but ‘‘it was not wise to expend over £3i;000’ upon traverses and trial surveys for railways that were not intended to be built in the near future. Honorable members ‘who now sit in opposition supported that policy of initiating great developmental schemes, spending large sums of money in the process, without having any idea of proceeding with them. ‘
I feel sure that honorable members opposite will realize that the bill removes duplication, and thus provides a better system of administration and, incidentally, a greater measure of selfgovernment for the people 1;of the Northern Territory.
– Will the council be elected by those who have a residential qualification ?
– Yes, and under the qualification of the Electoral Act.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. In the. course of his speech the Minister said that I had accused him of savins; that the caucus had given certain instructions regarding the unemployed at Darwin, whereas the decision was that of the Ministry. I admit having said, in the first place, that the caucus was responsible ; but upon being corrected by the Minister, I substituted the word “Ministry” for “caucus”. The Minister was in the House at the time, but perhaps he was not listening. He had no cause to misrepresent me, and I do not know his reason for doing so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Bill brought up by Mr. Forde,. and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That thu bill be now read n Second time.
At this time of stress, when thousands of the citizens of the Commonwealth who are able and willing to work cannot find employment, and when difficulties the like of which have never previously faced Australia, confront us, there is an obligation upon the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the States ‘to carry out “whatever- public works can be justified, with a view . to providing as much relief as possible. Con-, fronted, as we are, with falling revenues,, and trouble in regard to the raising of loans, the provision of the necessary funds with which to carry on public works is a very difficult task. Depression and unemployment are harassing the people all over Australia to:day; but it is the hope of the Government that that is but a temporary phase, and within a few years the Commonwealth will, emerge from, her troubles.
In no part of the Commonwealth are depression and unemployment so pronounced as in South Australia, and any steps that may properly be taken by this Government to ease the burdens, of the people of that State should certainly be taken. For some ,. considerable time it has been necessary for the Government nf South Australia to. grant sustenance payments regularly to. large numbers of’ men and women who are Out ofemployment; and the expenditure in that direction is increasing. The financial position of South Australia is well known to every honorable member. During one week recently grants were made in no fewer than 19,938 cases; and it is believed that they represent as many as 60,000 persons, or about one in every ten of the population of the State. The amount granted in that week totalled 14,400. It will thus be seen that South Australia is in a very serious position. Imention these facts to show that, quite apart from the fact that this line will be the second link in the scheme for the unification of railway gauges throughout Australia, its construction will relieve the unemployment problem in a State where the depression is most pronounced.
In the past it has been the practice of governments in Australia to spend large sums of loan money in times of great prosperity, when private enterprise also was spending largely, and, unfortunately, in times of depression, to button up completely”, or to cut down expenditure at such a rate as to accentuate the unemployment trouble. I know that in some quarters the construction of this line will be adversely criticized, on the ground that the time chosen for it is inopportune’; but I stress the point that the putting in hand of this work will prove most welcome to those who will thereby be relieved. Although the workers in other parts of Australia will not obtain employment as a result, I believe they will appreciate the fact that well nigh 1,000 of their fellow workers will benefit directly, and approximately 3,000 indirectly, from this undertaking.
It is proposed to construct a line that eventually will link the great TransAustralian railway with Adelaide, and give free and unhampered transport between that city and Kalgoorlie. When the Adelaide connexion has been made, the receipts on the Trans-Australian railway, together with the trade done on this fine and the enhanced business that will accrue from the Central Australia railway, will give a financial return after paying working expenses and interest.
The commencement of this work will at once afford relief to well , nigh 1,000 men,who are now on the dole in South
Australia. No sooner will the work be started than a considerable numberof men will be given employment; and in the course of a few months probably 800 men will be employed. Thework will bespread over a period of about two years, and the number of men employed will be gradually increased.
The history of this linegoesback a long way. From the time that the proposal to build the Trans- Australian railway was under consideration there was side by side with it the suggestion that, when the railwayfrom Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie was completed, there should; be availablea broad gauge railway connection betweenPort Augusta and Adelaide. As far back as 1912, a State royalcommission on a narrow gauge extensionand break of gauge recommended to the Government of South Australiathat, in order to connect with and handle the traffic to and from the Kalgoorlie toPort Augusta railway, a line should be constructed from Salisbury toPortAugusta via Balaklava, Crystal Brook, Warnertown and Port Germein, for thatpurpose only. Unfortunately- owing, it is said, to a lack of funds with which to complete the work - the railway was constructed by the South Australian Government only so far asRed Hill.
The proposed route from Port Augusta to Red Hill will eliminate the present round-about route to Adelaide, and thus immediately reduce the. travellingtime by about five and a half hours. When the line is completed to Adelaide it will be possible, by a re-arrangement of the running of the Trans- Australian train, to shorten the journey by about twelve hours, and that should play a very important part in popularizingthe service.
In response to an invitation extended to me by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) immediately after I took over the administration of the Department of Markets and Transport, I travelled over the route of the proposed line from Red Hill to Port Augusta; and I claim to have a first-hand knowledge, not only of the country, but of the whole proposition as it presents itself from an engineering point of view.
The railway was opened to Red Hill on the 5th September, 1925. Although. five years have since elapsed, the terminus of the line is still at Red Hill. 82 miles short of where it was intended to be. Had the State of South Australia gone on with its proposal, there would have been no need for this measure today. The intention at the time was to construct the line up the peninsula to Port Augusta, but the State authorities faltered on the way.
So seriously did the Commonwealth Government regard the need for a broad range c connexion with the TransAustralian railway that on the 18th September, 1925, it entered into an agreement with the State of South Australia which provided, amongst other things, for the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Red ] Hill. - The details of this agreement will be found in the Railways South Australia Agreement Act of 1926. That agreement is known as the Bruce-Gunn agreement, and is embodied in a federal measure, and in the North-South Railway Agreement Act. of 1926, a State measure. Both Federal and State acts ratified the agreement, and gave the Commonwealth and the State power to carry it out. It has been stated that the right to build the railway was subject to a formal notice being given by the State of South Australia within a given period, and that, as the State did not give the said notice, the Commonwealth is not now authorized to build the railway without further legislation by the State. This contention, however, does not accord with the opinion of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, Mr. Sharwood, who, after fully reviewing the case, said -
In my opinion the Commonwealth litis now a full and unqualified consent of the State to the construction of the railway at any time, and further legislation by the State is unnecessary.
There is in some quarters, however, still the opinion that there is room for doubt as to the legal power of the Commonwealth Government to construct the railway without a formal notice of consent by the State of South Australia, and, so that there may be no doubt on a matter so important, the bill has been drafted in such a way as to remove any’ possibility of misunderstanding. The agreement of the 18th September, 1925, between the
Commonwealth and the State, among other matters provided for - “’(») The construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
The construction, pf a railway from Port Augusta to Red HHill.
These three works were to be carried out at the cost of the Commonwealth. The agreement also provided for the laying of a third rail at the cost of the State between Red Hill and a point near Port Pirie. The railway tq Alice Springs was authorized by this House in February, 1926, under the provisions of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Act 1926, and that work has now been completed, and the railway is an accomplished fact. I had the pleasure of visiting Alice Springs during the recess, and of meeting, in company with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), a large number of the cattlemen of the district. As the result of the building of this line they have been able to market cattle to the value of a hundred thousand pounds which otherwise could not have been marketed. Previously, in times of drought, those cattlemen had to sacrifice their stock because of their inability to cross the desert between Alice Springs and Oodnadatta; at other times when their stock were fat they could not be driven across the desert, and therefore a ready market in Adelaide was lost to the cattle-owners. Since the building of this line they have been able to rail their stock from Alice Springs to Adelaide, and to obtain a ready market and good prices. This railway has, therefore, been a great boon to the cattlemen in the heart of Australia. This measure provides for the building of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill. It will be of a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge - the standard gauge adopted by the Commonwealth and the States for eventual unification - linking, as I have explained, with the present Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta railway. When the third rail is provided from Red Hill to Adelaide, the trans1 Australian trains will run from Kalgoorlie to the Adelaide Central Railway Station. At present breaks of gauge occur at Port Augusta and at Terowie, and the loss of time so occasioned makes the journey exceedingly irksome. The details of the railway connexions between Port Augusta and Adelaide are shown in the agreement of the 18th September, 1925.
– What is the length of the new line?
– It is 83 miles, and the estimated cost of construction is £735,000. The details of the agreement are - 5A. The Commonwealth will at its own expense construct a railway on a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge from Port Augusta to Red Hill. 6A. The State will, at the expense of the
Commonwealth during the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, lay a third rail on the 5-ft. 3-in. railway from Red Hill to the Central Railway Station in Adelaide, so that there will be a continuous railway on a 4-ft. 8½in. gauge from Port Augusta to Adelaide.
After the agreement was ratified by the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments, the question of the railway from Port Augusta to Adelaide was referred to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, the reference being made by motion moved in this House on the 29th January, 1926. The report of that committee was submitted in due course, and its finding was as follows : -
After considering the matter in all its aspects the committee agreed to recommend that the proposal for the extension of the trans-Australian Railway from Port Augusta toRed Hill and the laying of a third rail to provide a railway of 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge on the South Australian 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway between Red Hill and the Central Railway Station, Adelaide, be approved.
A reference to the report of the committee, which, by the way, was dated the 24th April, 1926, will show that it went to great pains to examine the matter,, and made exhaustive investigation on the question of the third rail between Red Hill and Adelaide, and its finding was definitely in favour of the railway provided for in the agreement of the 18th September, 1925, giving a standard gauge connexion between the trans-Australian railway and the Central Railway Station in Adelaide. This railway, when constructed, will afford many advantages. It will remove breaks of gauge at Terowie and Port Augusta, and will increase the traffic on the trans-Australian railway to a considerable extent. Among other advantages it will -
– Live stock, even under the Government’s proposal, will still have to be transhipped at Red Hill.
– Eventually, there will be no break of gauge between Kalgoorlie and Adelaide. Furthermore, this railway will-
In the case of a fully loaded livestock train brought into Port Augusta from along the trans-Australian railway with one engine, no fewer than five narrowgauge engines are required to take’ the loading over the range as far as Quorn. The building of the railway ‘will be of great economic advantage and enable the Commonwealth railways toobtain the considerable motor traffic now prevailing between Port Augusta and Adelaide. A number of passengers now prefer to leave the trans-Australian railway trains at Port Augusta, and to continue the journey by motor rather than by train over the slow and circuitous route, via Quorn and Terowie, to Adelaide, which involves breaks of gauge, and an indifferent railway service. , . The new line will also assist the Commonwealth railways to compete with the East-West Airways service, which at present receives a subsidy as the result of an unwise contract entered into between it and the previous Government. That contract entails the payment of £40,000 a year for five years to the East-West Airways as a subsidy to enable it to compete against the taxpayers’ railway, which was built at the cost of £8,000,000, and on which there was a loss last year of over £30,000. Moreover, East- West Airways, encouraged by the subsidy of £40,000 from the Federal Government for a period of five years, has ordered a fleet of large aeroplanes capable of carrying more passengers so that this service may be better able to compete against the trans- Australian railway.
– Shame !
– It is shameful that a so-called business Government should have made such a contract with a company that is competing against a. Commonwealth utility. I have taken steps to arrangeaconference with Major Brearley, managing director ‘.of EastWest . Airways, with a view to making some arrangements, because it is not right that the Commonwealth should be burdened at a time like the- present with a useless subsidy which merely provides jobs for a few people in a private company when the money . could be . better utilized for some reproductive undertaking.
The proposed railway will greatly facilitate the transport of livestock. Cattle from the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway for the Dry Creek market have to travel such long distances that it is necessary to spell them for periods of from 24 to 36 hours en route. This is done by, one consignor at Marree, and by others at Quorn. The present arrangement has the disadvantage that the cattle must be loaded and unloaded twice en route - once at the spelling point and again at Terowie, the transferring station. If the proposed railway were constructed, the majority of the cattle would be spelled at Stirling, where they would be transferred to the railway trucks of the line from Port Augusta through Eed Hill to Adelaide, and. thus the spelling point and transfer point would coincide, and one untrucking and retrucking would be avoided.In addition, it would greatly aid transport of livestock to and from the trans-Australian railway.
The provisions of the bill are similar to those of the Oodnadatta to. Alice Springs Railway Act 1926, and will enable the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to do all things necessary for the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Red Hill. The line will be built to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 81/2 in. with 80-lb. rails and fastenings. ; it will be well ballasted, and capable of expeditiously carrying heavy overland and other traffic. The lengthof the section from Port Augusta to Red Hill as shown on the plans and statement submitted to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in. 1926 was 83 miles 16 chains, but as the result of further surveys the location of the line has been slightly varied,, and the length is now 82 miles 54 chains. The deviation does not mean a reduction in the original estimate of cost, as . the country in the new location is heavy, but. the shorter length of line, . will mean, a lower maintenance cost. The plan I now submit to the House shows the proposed line in its new location. The necessary surveys have been completed, and on the bill being passed, steps ‘can be taken tohave the work put in hand.
The estimated costoftheline from Port Augusta to Red Hill is £735,000, exclusive of rolling-stock. The rollingstock to serve the section from Port Augusta to Adelaide is estimated to cost £104,250, and the laying of the third rail between Red Hill and the Central Railway Station, £380,000, making a total of £1,219,250. Additional rollingstock to the value of approximately £35,750 will also, it is estimated, be needed on the Central Australian railway. This bill provides for the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill only, but the Commonwealth will make provision in due time, as may be necessary, for the expenditure on rolling stock, and on the third rail from Red Hill - to .Adelaide. The sums necessary for these works will be provided in the estimates of expenditure to be submitted to Parliament in the usual way.
– Out of revenue?
– No; apparently the Leader of the Opposition is attempting to be facetious. There is no need for a bill to authorize the work of laying the third rail which will be carried out i’ rider the agreement of the 18th September, 1925, by the South Australian Railways Commissioner by arrangement with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, at the expense of the Commonwealth. .
The Commonwealth Railways Department estimated the annual revenue from the line from Port Augusta to ‘ Adelaide via Red Hill at- £100,755,. and the annual expenses at £63,879, including the Commonwealth’s proportion of expenditure in working and maintaining the Red Hill to Adelaide railway and allowing for the. South Aus-, tralian proportion of Commonwealth expenditure in working and maintaining the railway between Red Hill and a point near Port Pirie. The annual interest charges on the same basis are calculated at £77,999, leaving an estimated annual loss on the working of the Commonwealth trains, and traffic between Port Augusta find Adelaide of £41,123. Against this it is estimated that by the building of this line the financial, results of the ‘transAustralian . railway ‘will be- improved to the extent of £35,000, and- the extra traffic from ^Oodnadatta to the Alice Springs extension* over ..the Port Augusta to Red Hill and Adelaide , section will show a net profit of £13,023. Therefore, it is calculated that the line will, after paying working expenses and interest, show a profit of about £6,900 per annum. The estimates of the earnings and expenditure were prepared some time prior to the previous introduction of the bill to the House: The earnings for the calendar year 1924 formed the basis of the estimated annual revenue. During that year, the earnings were considerably lower than in the years that followed. On the trans-Australian railway they were lower even than for the year just passed, during which depression caused a considerable diminution of trade. Therefore, the earnings of the new line may be assumed to be calculated on a conservative basis, whilst the estimates of expenditure may be regarded as reasonably approaching present day conditions. The interest charges are calculated on the basis of 5-Jf per cent.
The trans-Australian railway, constructed and equipped at a cost, of approximately £8,000,000, being set between two narrow gauge systems,can never fully, serve the purposes for which it was constructed, or give to the people what it was intended to give until the railway connexions on either side enable the transAustralian trains to run from Perth to Adelaide without break of gauge. The growth of motor and ..aerial traffic is seriously prejudicing the ‘ Commonwealth railway on which so much of the people’s money has been expended. Many people prefer to leave the train at Port Augusta and motor to Adelaide to continuing the ; long arid circuitous railway, journey. The trans-Australian railway has been open for public traffic for thirteen years,, and from the inception, traffic has been greatly restricted’ by the breaks of gauge, people preferring for. this reason to travel by steamer from Adelaide to ‘Fremantle!’. .If this great, national railway is to be of real value in linking the East with the -West, and for defence purposes, its extension to Adelaide is essential.- Only by completing this link and afterwards providing a standard gauge ‘between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle can the trans-Australian railway serve the purpose for which it was constructed, and.give to the people of Australia a’ service and return whicli will be in keeping with the outlay. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of officially opening the new Grafton to South Brisbane railway, the first stage in the unification of railway gauges. This bill proposes the second stage, and I hope that the third, covering the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, will be undertaken in the not distant future. During a recent session of the Western Australian Parliament, both Houses resolved -
That in the opinion of this House the time lias arrived when the federal policy of extending the standard railway gauge should be consummated in Western Australia.
The extension referred to was the section from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle; that, however, is a matter for the days ahead.
The Royal Commission on the Unification of Railway Gauges in 1921, advised the Government that the section between Adelaide and Port Augusta was the most undesirable of all the sections of overland travel, and should be the first to be standardized. They recommended that the connexion between Port Augusta and Adelaide should be via Red Hill, and this bill conforms to that recommendation. The proposed work will be of great advantage to travellers across the continent, and will give a service vastly superior to that which is at present available. Honorable members will recollect that in September last, deputations from South Australia waited upon the Commonwealth Government and urged that this line be commenced without delay. They pointed out the responsibility which the Commonwealth owes to the people of their State, and particularly emphasized the serious extent of unemployment there. If this line ‘be undertaken, it will do much to alleviate the distress of those thousands of people in that State who, through no fault of their own, are unable to get work. At the same time, the great national undertaking of railway gauge unification, which has always been part of the policy of the Labour party, will be advanced a stage. Because the bill will not only provide employment for those who sadly need it, but will also greatly improve the connexion between East and West, and to some extent minimize the disabilities suffered by the people of Western Australia through their isolation from the
Eastern States, I commend it to the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
In Committee, of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 4th December (vide- page 1021), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the further tax imposed by section seven of the Income Tax Act 1930 on certain income derived from personal exertion, be increased from ten per centum of the amount of tax payable under the preceding provisions of that act on the income so derived, to fifteen per centum of that amount.
That in addition to any tax (including additional tax, super-tax and further tax) payable under sections three to seven ( inclusive) of the Income Tax Act 1930, there shall be payable upon the taxable income derived by any person - («.) from property;
by way of interest, dividends, rents or royalties, whether -derived from personal exertion or from property ; and
in the course of carrying on a business, where the income is of such a class that, if derived otherwise than in the course of carrying on a business, it would be income from property, a further tax of seven and one-half per centum of the amount of that taxable income.
That the tax provided for in thu lust preceding clause of this resolution shall not -
apply to income –which is -.-assessable to a member or shareholder of a company under sub-paragraph (i) or (ii) of paragraph (6) of section sixteen of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1930 and whicli is credited, paid or distributed by that company out of income upon which tax is payable by that company under this resolution; and (&.) if payable by a company - be included in the calculation, for the purposes of the provisos following subparagraph (iii) of paragraph (6) of section sixteen of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1930, of the rate of tax paid or payable by that company. “ “’ ””””
That sub-sections (2.) to (13.) inclusive of section thirteen of the Income Tax AssessmentAct19221030 shall not apply to tax provided for in clause 2 of this resolution.
That the tax provided for in the foregoing provisions of this resolution shall be levied and paid for the financial year beginning on the first day of Jul)’ One thousand nine hundred and thirty.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution shall also apply to all assessments for financial years subsequent to that beginning an the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and thirty made prior to the passing of the act for the levying and payment of the income tax for the financial year beginning on the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one.
– When the committee was previously considering the motion dealing with the income tax proposals of the Government, certain objections were raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). He pointed out that, although it was not intended to duplicate taxation by imposing it on a company and then on that company’s shareholders, this was not made sufficiently clear. I said that the tax would be paid by the company, and would not be imposed on its shareholders also. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the resolution did not remove the possibility of some portion of a distributed amount on which tax had been paid by a company being taxed again, and he therefore asked the Government to reconsider the matter in order to safeguard the public. To do this I propose to move an amendment, the object being to make sure that there shall be no second payment of the tax. The Leader of the Opposition has been furnished with a copy of my proposed amendment.
He also asked that taxation should not be imposed on a holding company, but should be passed on to the individual shareholders. He suggested that, if a company earning its income from ordinary business, andnot therefore subject to this property tax, passes on some of its profits to a second company - a holding company - the tax should be collected, not from the holding company, but from its shareholders when its profits are passed on to them in dividends. That is a suggestion which the Government cannot accept. It would alter the basis of the present company taxation. If we were reviewing the whole incidence of taxation, there might be justification for considering such a proposal; but at the present time the object of the Government is to levy super tax on anything in the nature of interest and dividends from property. We are compelled to raise increased revenue in order that the affairs of the Commonwealth may be carried on, and we cannot agree to an amendment which would cut substantially into the revenue that we have estimated to receive from this extra taxation. In dealing with this matter previously, in connexion with the Income Tax Assessment Bill, we estimated that we should receive £1,500,000 as the proceeds of the tax; but, as the result of amendments that the Government itself has made, and those suggested by honorable members on both sides which have been accepted by the Government, that estimate has been reduced by at least onethird, and it is doubtful now if we shall receive quite £1,000,000. Under these circumstances, and reluctantly, the Government feels compelled to resist any attempt to amend the proposal in the direction suggested by the Leader of the Opposition; but it is submitting an amendment to make sure that there shall be no double taxation as between a company which has paid tax and a shareholder who has participated in the company’s profits. I hope that honorable members will agree to my amendment, and accept as a general compromise - because that is the spirit in which I have attempted to approach the matter - the concessions already made, which have cut substantially into the estimated revenue. I hope that they will not agree to the amendment hinted at by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I agree that the Acting Treasurer has approached this legislation in a spirit of compromise, and has endeavoured to meet the objections raised on this side of the chamber. He courteously sent to me yesterday a copy of the amendment which he intends to propose, and I have examined it. I agree that it carries out the real intention of the Government in a more satisfactory way than did the resolution as originally drawn. There are, however, some other points to which I think reference ought to be made, despite the statement by the Acting Treasurer that the main object of this legislation is to obtain increased revenue. All honorable members recognize that it is useless to object to the proposal on the ground that it imposes further charges upon the public; that is the very object of this legislation. There are, however, incidental features which it is desirable that the .committee and the public should fully understand. One of those matters, to which the Minister has made no reference, was mentioned by me when speaking on the resolution. There has always been a complaint that persons with small incomes, whose rate of taxation was less than the company flat rate’ were unjustly treated in not being allowed full rebate of the company flat rate. This rate is now ls. 4d. in the £1, and it is charged on the income of the company. “When a company’s income is distributed to shareholders by way of dividends, each shareholder is entitled to a rebate of ls. 4d. in the £1; but if he pays no income tax he gets no rebate, as the rebate is made on the taxation paid. Accordingly, he is charged more than is absolutely just. This injustice, I admit, has been permitted to, continue for many years on account of administrative and other difficulties. This legislation,- however, aggravates the injustice by making the’ company pay 2s. lOd. in the case of certain income; that is, ls. 4d. in the £1, which is the existing flat rate, and an additional ls. fid. in the property taxation. The injustice done to the small shareholder will, therefore, be gravely accentuated.
– “What would be the percentage of taxpayers involved?
– I cannot SpY. .Quite a number of persons enjoy small incomes mad? up. of dividends, upon which they live entirely, and certainly would not pay anything like 2s. lOd. as their, proper individual rate. I suggested that since the amount has how reached 2s. lOd. in’ the £1, it is worthy of consideration whether a method of giving relief, ought not to be worked out, as the present system imposes such heavy taxation on per-‘ sons, some of whom should be entirety-‘ exempt, from income tax. 1. should’ like’ to hear the conclusion . that ‘the Acting Treasurer has reached on-‘ that point, if Be ‘ has had ‘an opportunity to consider it:
A further matter to which I invite the attention of the committee is the meaning of paragraph c of clause 2 of the resolution. ‘This clause imposes tax upon the taxable income derived by any person “ in the course of carrying on a business, where the income is of such a class that, if derived otherwise than in the course of carrying on a business, it would be income from property.” I have tried hard to ascertain the meaning of those words. I have sought assistance on the subject, and I have been unable, up to the present time, to discover one case to which those words would apply. They are unnecessary for the purpose of covering interest earned by a company from investments, or from an ordinary profit-making enterprise, such as money-lending, because interest is already covered under paragraph i of clause 2. I suggest that there may be a risk of misunderstanding and of litigation over this provision, unless the Minister is able to show plainly what those words mean.
The final point that I would mention is that, under the resolution as now drawn, some moneys will, in effect, be doubly taxed. I should like the committee .to follow me through one or two examples which I shall give in order to show that this is the case. First, take the case of a company which receives income from rents. Such income is, of course, taxable under this measure. .If it is subsequently distributed in the form, of dividends, it is then taxable in the hands of the shareholders, but they may obtain a rebate if the company has: paid the I tax. ‘ That is fair enough. But co«tsider the effect of this legislation in the-‘ case of a company which derived, say, £10,000 from rents in 192S-29, and.:dis.tributed it in the. following year to another company which this year paid it in, dividends, to individual shareholders. The position’ would be that the second company would pay ls. 6d.’ in the £1 on the £10,000 it received, and could not claim a rebate because the original company had not ‘ paid taxation, as the provision was not in force when the payment, was made, while the individual would pay another ls. 6d. in the ‘ £1 on’ dividends received” in 1930-31 because he did not receive, the. money until’ the succeeding ‘ year. Therefore., the Commonwealth would ‘collect -ls. 6d.’ in the £1 on £20,000- although the amount of income involved would he only £10,000.
– Would :the shareholders be subject *to this taxation without any exemption?
– There would be only the £200 exemption. I ask honorable members to observe that the second company could not get a rebate of the taxation because .the first company had not paid it, as the provision was not in operation when it paid, the money over, whereas the individual who this year received the dividends could not claim a rebate because this tax would not have been paid on the .income previously.
– These remarks apply only to the first year.
– That is so ; but it is an injustice that double taxation should be imposed on such earnings, simply because the money received by a company last year was not distributed until this year. An individual who received an income from rents last year did not pay this taxation upon it ; but the taxation will be payable on income from rents received by a company last year and distributed to a shareholder this year. To put it in another way, the taxation would not be payable by an individual landlord, but it would be payable by a company landlord. It is difficult to justify such a distinction between a company and individuals in respect to money earned in the same period. This could only happen in the case of dividends; it could not happen in the case of interest, rents, or royalties hot paid away as dividends. Such a distinction would place a heavy burden upon a particular class of individual, although there wasno substantial difference between his income and similar income earned by other sections of the community.
Let me give another example, the details of which have been supplied to me. I shall take the case of income which passes through the hands of two companies into the hands of individual shareholders: These are the actual figures of an existing company.- Company A distributed to company B in 1928-29. dividends totalling £113,000 ; company B, out of , these, dividends, .distributed to shareholders C in 1929.i30 £l’i2,000. Company. A in 1929-30 obtained, as income from its business, not income from property in the sense of this legislation, £109,000 out of which it distributed to company B in the same period £104,000. Out of this £104,000, company B distributed to shareholders C in 1930-31, £103,000.’ In such a case this tax -would operate in this way : Company. A would not be taxable upon such income as it derived it from its business, because … that would not be income from property as provided for in this bill. Company B would be taxable in respect of the 1929-30 dividend income of £104,000 received from company A. Shareholders C would be taxable on the 1929-30 dividend income of £112,000 received from company B, paid by that company out of the dividend of £113,000 received from company A in 1928-29. The total income on which the tax would be collected for 1929-30 would, therefore, be equal to two years’ income, and amount to £216,000, although the amount actually received by the shareholders would be only £112,000, and the maximum amountinvolved in the first place only £113,000. This would be the surprising result of the operation of these provisions in the first year. It has been suggested that the position might be met by imposing this special tax of ls. 6d. in the £1, only upon dividends in the hands of the shareholders. There is a good deal to be said for that view. Section 21 of the act would ensure that if companies failed to distribute dividends to shareholders the taxation could, nevertheless, be levied by the commissioner. There is, however, this objection, that companies would be able to retain one-third of their profits undistributed,- and to that extent . there would be a loss to the revenue.
– Why would not shareholders C be able to claim a rebate?.
– Because the income was earned in 1928-29 and the company did. not pay -this taxation on it. This position would arise only in the first year.
– If the remedy suggested” by the Leader of the Opposition . (Mr. Latham) were applied, would it not mean that companies might add their profits to reserves and not distribute them?
– Section 21 largely covers; that position. It provides that the commissioner may tax companies at the shareholders’ rate upon such amounts, up to two-thirds of the profits, as he may determine could reasonably have been distributed. I do not think that the Government desires to impose double taxation on the same income; but this will be done in respect of dividends in the circumstances that I have outlined, if the provision is not altered. I suggest, therefore, that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) should give the matter careful attention.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has been dealing with a difficult subject. The two points that he has made are, however, important. He has shown that under this provision double taxation will be imposed on income which comes to shareholders in holding companies, from profits earned in 1928-29 by one company, and distributed to the holding company in the same year, and subsequently paid to individual shareholders in 1929-30, and on the other hand, dividends received by. the holding company in the same year will also be taxable. The holding company would be unable to obtain a rebate because the original company had not paid tax upon the money. The figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition are correct, and the Acting Treasurer should give them serious consideration. In section 16 /; 1 and 2 there is a proviso which exempts from taxation dividends received by shareholders after the . commencement of the act out of profits accumulated by a company before the act came into operation. If some such proviso were inserted to prevent holding -companies from being taxed on profits earned by the original operating company prior to the commencement of the act, it would obviate double taxation in the first year. There is also to be considered the position of small shareholders having to pay tax on incomes which, if received from other sources, would be exempt altogether. There is no reason why shareholders should be treated differently from other taxpayers. A man drawing £200 income in rent is receiving it from property’ just as much as a man receiving dividends from a company; yet the man receiving income from rent is granted exemption, while the shareholder will receive no exemption at all, as the company will have paid on the full amount. Most of our taxation laws treat companies as if they were something that had no right to live. As a matter of fact, companies should be encouraged. One man with £100 cannot do much, but 100 men each with £100 can, by forming a company, start a considerable business which may grow into a large one, and give a great deal of employment.
.- This double taxation will fail almost entirely upon persons in receipt of small incomes. The large holding companies will be able to rearrange their holdings in such a way as to avoid double taxation. They may be affected the first year, but after that - no doubt at some benefit to lawyers and skilled accountants - they will re-draw their articles of association, or make such other dispositions as are necessary, so as to avoid double taxation in the future. But a company which is trading in a small way will probably not find it worth its while to go to such expense. The Government ought to be particularly on its guard against injuring the small companies, especially as it is a Labour Government. The supporters qf the Government make no secret of the fact that they are out to attack anything successful, anything which has got on and is helpful to the country. That is part of their policy. They are always out to damage rather than help the large and successful show, and they profess special sympathy for persons or firms in a small way. I trust that the Government will see its way to accept the suggestions of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter).
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) asked that some relief be given to the smaller taxpayers who, in ordinary circumstances, would not as individuals be taxable at all, or would, at any rate, receive the benefit of the rebate provisions. I think I covered his objections by the general statement that we cannot upset the very basis of company taxation. If we were amending the scheme of income tax, consideration might be given to the point raised by the Leader of the
Opposition, but we cannot have one set of conditions applying to this special tax, and another set applying to general company taxation. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to paragraph c of clause 2, and his statement in this connexion gave me a great deal of satisfaction. In common with most other honorable members of this House, I have great respect for the honorable gentleman’s knowledge of taxation legislation, and I was therefore delighted at his admission that he. does not know what this clause means. I feel that for once, at any rate, I can claim to be on the same plane as the honorable member. I do not understand what it means either, and I do not pretend to.
– What about the taxpayer ?
– The taxpayer is not expected to understand it ; his duty is to pay up, and I trust that the honorable member will be one of those to perform that duty. After all, we cannot be expected to understand all the ramifications of such legislation as this, and if it is obscure to the Leader of the Opposition, we may be excused for failing to make anything of it. I am assured, however, by the taxation officers that this clause has been put in as a special safeguard so that no class of property income will be allowed to escape taxation. In ordinary circumstances there might be some doubt with regard to one or two forms of income, and this clause is put in to make the position absolutely secure for the Treasury.
– The taxpayers will be put to still further expense by having to employ taxation experts to make out their returns.
– I do not think so; the department will attend to that. It has been claimed that there will be double taxation of certain incomes during the first year of the operation of this tax. As a matter of fact, I am not prepared to agree that there will actually be double taxation, because we shall be dealing with amounts that have been earned or distributed in separate years, and on each year’s earnings a tax of1s. 6d. in the £1 will be collected. I admit that there are difficulties inseparable from the application of a new system of taxationof this kind. I have con sidered this matter since it was raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and, with departmental officers, have endeavoured to find some means of obviating the difficulties without sacrificing too much revenue: It does not seem possible for that to be done. Reluctantly, therefore, we must reject the proposal because, if the Government is to be carried on, it is essential, among other things, that this extra revenue be raised.
.- We are not basing our objection on a claim that the same money will be taxed twice. Our point is that a sum of money which has been earned in a previous year - perhaps five or six years before the commencement of the act - but distributed only last year to the holding company, will be subjected to this special tax in the hands of the holding company if received in 1929-30, and money paid by the holding company to shareholders on another year’s earnings of the original company will also be taxed. Such money would already have been taxed once under the old company rate of1s. 4d. in the £1, and now it is to be taxed again, the only concession being that the holding company will receive the benefit of the rebate provision for the ordinary tax ; but as the original company will not have paid the new1s. 6d. tax, the holding company could get no rebate on it. I believe that the difficulty can be overcome by providingthat the tax shall not apply to profits that had accumulated prior to the commencement of the act or prior to a certain specified date - say, the 30th June, 1929.
Amendments (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the following new clause he inserted: - (2a.) That where tax is payable by a com pany under the last preceding clause of this resolution, tax under that clause shall not be payable upon any taxable income derived by any person in consequence of the distribution by that company to its members or shareholders of the income upon which tax is so payable by that company or in consequence of a succession of such distribution through another company or through other companies of that income or any part thereof.
That in clause (3) the words “the last preceding clause “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word and figure “clause (2)”; that sub-clause (a) be omitted; and that the letter “b “ preceding sub-clause (b) be omitted.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Resolution reported. ‘ .
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Fenton do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In committee: (Consideration resumed from page 1166).
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- The other evening the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) suggested the establishment of a port at the mouth of the Roper River. A port at that location would not assist in any way the country that matters most in the Northern Territory. One of the best belts of country is the Barkly Tableland, and any development of it should take place from the Queensland end, notwithstanding any promise that may have been made to South Australia. Geographically the whole position in regard to the development of the Northern Territory has changed. Those who are engaged in the pastoral industry agree with me that had there been railway communication between Queensland and the Northern Territory during the drought period in the last five years, Australia would have been saved practically the £10,000,000 which was represented’ by the loss of sheep alone. Cattle that leave the Northern Territory weighing, on the average, about 700 lb., lose from 200 lb. to 250 lb. by the time they reach the market. Those who have visited the territory, more especially the Barkly Tableland, know that it offers exceptional possibilities of development. Unfortunately, development has been carried out haphazardly. Mr. F. C. Urquhart prior to his appointment as Administrator of the Territory, was Commissioner of Police in Queensland, and his experience was confined to police administration. He showed a disposition to bounce, the people of the territory.
The administration of the territory must be ‘ handled by persons with ‘ practical experience, not by ex-policemen or. the friends of any political party. The mass of the people will not be suppressed by the application Of militarism by excommissioners of police. If the present Government wishes to make the Northern Territory progress it must provide sound administration on the spot - not from Canberra. I understand that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) proposes to move certain amendments to improve the measure; they will have my support. [Quorum formed.]
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions) -
Amendment (by Mr. Nelson) agreed to-
That the following definition be inserted: - “the Council” means the Advisory Council constituted under this act.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
After section three of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “4. - (1.) The Governor-General may appoint an Administrator for the Territory. The Administrator shall be appointed by the Governor-General by Commission under the seal of the Commonwealth, and shall hold office during pleasure.
Amendments (by Mr. Nelson) agreed to-
That the words “ section is “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ sections are “.
That the following heading be inserted before the proposed new section 4: “Administration “.
That the following new sections be inserted : - “4a. - (1.) There shall be an Advisory Council for the Territory. (2.) The Council shall consist of a Chairman and four other members elected in the manner provided in this Act. (3.) The Administrator shall be ex officio chairman of the Council. “4b. - (1. ) For the purposes of the election of members of the Council, the Territory shall be divided into four districts having such boundaries as are from time to time specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette. (2.) A member of the Council -shall be elected for each district by persons entitled to vote in respect of that district. “4c. - (1.) Subject to this Act, the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1929 shall apply, with such exceptions and subject to such modifications and adaptations as arc prescribed, to the election of members of the Council in like manner as if -
each district into which the Territory is divided under this Act were an electoral division;
the election of a member of the Council were the election of a member to represent, in the House of Representatives, an electoral division of a State; and
the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory were the Supreme Court of a State. “ 4d. Each elected member of the Council shall hold office for a period of three years but shall be entitled to resign during that period. “ 4e. The Minister shall, by notice in the Gazette, fix a date for the holding of elections of members of the Council. “ 4f. In the event of the happening of a vacancy in the office of an elected member of the Council before the expiration of the period for which that member was elected, the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Administrator, appoint a person to hold the vacant office until the expiration of that period. “ 4g. The qualifications of a member of the Council shall be as follows: -
he must be of the full age of twentyone years and must be an elector entitled to vote at an election of a member of the Council, or a person qualified to become such elector, and must have been for three years at least a resident within the Territory; and
he must be a subject of the King, either natural born or for at least five years naturalized under a law of the United Kingdom, or of a colony which has become a State, or of the Commonwealth, or of a State. “ 4H. An elected member of the Council shall be deemed to have vacated his officeif -
he becomes bankrupt or insolvent or applies to take the benefit of any Act or Ordinance for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors; or
he is convicted of any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or of the Territory by imprisonment for one year or longer; or
he is absent from three consecutive meetings of the Council except on leave granted by the Administrator (which leave the Administrator is hereby authorized to grant) : or
he, in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons -
becomes concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf ‘ of the Commonwealth; or
participates, or claims to be entitled to participate, in the profit of any such contract or agreement or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom; or
directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Territory or for services rendered in the Council to any person. “ 4j. An elected member of the Council shall not receive any remuneration in respect of his services as member but shall be entitled to receive travelling expenses in such circumstances and at such rates as are prescribed. “4k. - (1.) Meetings of the Council shall be held at least twice in each year at such times and places as the Administrator appoints. (2.) The Administrator shall call a meeting of the Council upon application in writing by not less than two members of the Council. (3.) At any meeting of the Council three members shall form a quorum. (4.) The Administrator shall notify in writing each member of the Council of the time and place of each meeting and of the subjects which will be considered at each such meeting. (5.) Any elected, member of the Council shall give at least seven days’ notice in writing to the Administrator of any matter which he desires to be considered at the next meeting of the Council. (6. ) The Chairman shall preside at all meetings of the Council at which he is present and in his absence the members present shall elect a member to preside at that meeting. (7.) Questions arising in the Council shall be determined by a majority of votes. (8.) The Chairman or member presiding shall in all cases be entitled to vote, and shall also, if the numbers are equal, have a casting vote. (9.) Minutes of the proceedings of all meetings of the Council shall be kept, and copies of the Minutes shall be transmitted to the Minister. “4l. - (1.) The Council shall advise the Administrator in respect of any matter arising at any meeting of the Council or submitted by the Administrator to such meetings. (2.) The Council may report upon -
the necessity for undertaking any public work in the Territory or concerning the continuance of any public work already undertaken; and
b ) upon the rates charged for fares or freights in respect of the carriage of passengers or goods upon any railway within the Territory. (3.) Any report made under this section shall be transmitted to the Administrator who shall forthwith forward it to the Minister. (4.) In any case any member of the Council may require that the grounds of advice or opinion which he gives upon any question be recorded at length.”.
Clause, as amended,agreedto.
Clause 6 -
After section 5 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “21. - (1.) Until thu Parliament makes other provision for the Government of the Territory, the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in and in relation to the Territory. (2.) Every such ordinance shall -
be notified in the Gazette;
take effect from thu date of notification or from a later date to be specified in the ordinance; and
be laid before each House of the Parliament within thirty sitting days of that House after the making thereof. “ (3.) Ifeither House of the Parliament passes a resolution, of which noticehas been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after any such ordinance has been laid before the House, disallowing the ordinance, the ordinance shall thereupon cease to have effect.
Amendments (by Mr. Nelson) agreed to-
That the words “ Governor-General may “, proposed new section 21, sub-section 1, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Council may, subject to this section”.
That in proposed new section 21 the following new sub-sections be inserted: - “ (1a.) An ordinance, the object or effect of which is to dispose of, or create any charge upon, the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund or upon any revenue of the Territory, shall not be proposed in or made by the Council. “ (2a.) Every ordinance made under this section shall be inoperative until it has been approved by the GovernorGeneral.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with, amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill brought up by Mr. Forde and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Penton) proposed -
That thu House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) to the report appearing in the LaborDaily, and headed, “ Is the Minister for Defence off to Delhi?” I have no complaint to make against the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), but, despite the fact that the Indian Government has. extended the invitation and is prepared to pay the expenses of an Australian representative, I take this opportunity to register my protest against any more Ministers leaving Australia during the life of this Parliament.
.- I endorse what has been said by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan).
I rose principally to refer to a matter about which I have had a grievance for some time. I wish to protest against certain action which has been taken by the Tariff Board and the Minister . in control of the Customs Department. An application for increased and new duties was made to the Tariff Board by certain metal producers at Port Kembla. I have now been informed definitely that no action is being taken. I wish to protest in this House, on behalf of my constituents, against the action of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, and to urge him, before this Parliament closes, to reconsider his decision. The following is portion of a letter that I have received from the representative of the Australian Workers Union, which covers the workers in the industry concerned -
Your letters re applications by the M. M. Proprietary Limited for new and increased tariffs to hand. I notice that the Tariff Board has apparently refused to grant increased tariffs, but am astounded to hear that new tariffs have not been granted for new items. The following items were included in the company’s application, and are for materials, which have hitherto not been manufactured by them, but which they will commence to manufacture as soon as the tariff is granted: - Weather-proof braided cable, aluminium tubes, cable and wire cotton covered, aluminium wire and copper clad steel tubes. These items alone would considerably assist in giving employment, and when the Government has, in its wisdom, decided to give total prohibition to the galvanized iron industry, I certainly think some steps should be taken to alleviate the unemployment in the copper industry.
This Government has repeatedly claimed that, by protecting Australian industry, it has given relief to the unemployed. In this case the protection asked for would, if granted, give immediate work to 150 men who are now either receiving the dole or walking the streets unemployed. If given adequate protection, this company will he able to manufacture new material; but, under present conditions, it cannot compete with the imported article. The following is an extract from a letter that I have received from the manager of the works -
No opposition was made to our application with tlie exception that in Melbourne the representatives of the British manufacturers objected on the general principle that, instead of applying for increase in tariff, we should have applied for a reduction in wages.
– ‘Hear, hear!
– If the’ honorable member were Minister for Trade and Customs, I could well understand the refusal of the application on those grounds; but I cannot understand the action of a Labour Minister, a member of a Labour Government which claims to protect Australian industry by means of the tariff. I understand that the Tariff Board has reported that the company in question has made great profits, and has been profiteering. I certainly do not recollect any other occasion on which the Tariff Board has made inquiry respecting the profits of companies making application for increased duties. Why, Australian Iron and Steel Limited carries on one of our most protected industries, and is one of the worst profiteers in this country. If its affairs were investigated by the Tariff Board it would soon ascertain that that is” the scabbiest and most miserable concern that ever existed in a manufacturing conn try.
– But its employees do not say so.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. A union organizer or a member of a union cannot get a footing in the iron and steel works. All. unskilled labourers, after a fortnight’s employment, arc replaced by new men, solely to frustrate any attempt on the part of the Australian Workers Union to organize the workers in the industry. If the Minister and the Tariff Board are to take- these factors into consideration, I will guarantee to collect sufficient evidence to prove that for the same reason protective duties should be removed from many of the secondary industries. If profiteering, stock watering, and the issue of bonus shares are to be obstacles to the protective policy, we had better abandon it, because none of the larger companies are innocent of these practices. I cannot understand why a government representing a party of solid protectionists is content to see machinery lying idle and men out of jobs when only a little protection is wanted to set the wheels of industry in motion. That is the actual position, and I can, prove it to any honorable member who cares to visit Port Kembla. I have been told that if the duties that have been requested are granted, manufacturing operations will commence at once, and employment will be provided for a large number of men. If that promise is not fulfilled immediately the required duties are imposed, I shall advocate their removal as strenuously as I am advocating their imposition now. I am not satisfied with the excuses that have been offered for the . refusal to impose these duties. If the Tariff Board contends that the existing duties of 30 and 40 per cent, on certain items are sufficient, I shall not press my objection on that score, but I do ask that a reasonable duty be imposed on those goods which are being imported free, and which can be manufactured locally if the necessary encouragement be given. No application ever made to ‘a government for the imposition of a duty was more fair or reasonable than which has been rejected.
– There must be something wrong.
– There is, and the fault that I see is that the Postal Department is opposed to an increase of duty, because it desires to continue to import its requirements from cheap labour countries. If that is so, it is a fine commentary on a Labour Ministry.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa regarding the very important industry of metal manufactures. In my electorate is a firm engaged in the production of copper, brass, bronze and aluminium sections, and for some time an application for greater tariff assistance has been under the consideration of the Tariff Board. The honorable member for Werriwa has said that if the requests of the Port Kembla people were granted employment would be immediately provided for 150 men. That is sufficient reason for me to join him in urging the Minister to take immediate steps to impose the requisite duties.
– Every new duty is supposed to provide employment for 2,000 men.
– I have heard Ministers claim that the tariff proposals of the Government would provide employment for an additional 50,000 men.
– They should in normal times.
– Although that estimate may not have been realized, the tariff schedules introduced by the Government have created a large amount of extra employment. I am desirous that further good shall be done in that way. The many schedules introduced during the last few months have related almost exclusively to revenue items, and whilst I approve of them, I desire that some regard be paid to new tariff items which will provide additional employment.
– So we all do, but not the employment which the honorable member means.
– I do not join in the Opposition’s condemnation of the Government for introducing a long series of schedules. I do not care if the Minister brings down a new schedule every week so long as each tends to stimulate employment, and make the country selfcontained. At present many metal items bear no duty. We give preference to manufacturers in the United Kingdom who give no preference to Australian producers of copper. The time has arrived to give more encouragement to the metal industry so that plants like that of the Austral Bronze Company, in the electorate of Cook, may be enabled to engage additional hands. For the sake of national defence this industry should be stimulated. There are in Australia plants capable of manufacturing shell cases,. Is it not better to train our-, own artisans than to send money overseas for munitions?
– For how many additional workers have the new glass duties found employment?
– 1 am dealing with one branch of the metal industry, but when the opportunity is afforded, I shall have pleasure in telling the House what I think of the honorable member’s friends, the importers. I recollect a tariff board report commending a parent company for its wonderful enterprise and courage, but saying that on account of the profits it made an increase of duties asked for by a branch of the industry could not be recommended. That case is on all fours with the matter now under consideration. These requests should be dealt with in a businesslike manner, and when a consolidating schedule is introduced it should not only correct anomalies, but should include new items which will create additional employment. I hope that before these sittings terminate another schedule will be brought down for the assistance of the metal and other industries, so that meD who are now walking the streets, and are without hope of securing a job or even a little cheer during the festive season, will have brighter prospects.
.- If. the honorable members for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and Cook (Mr. C. Riley) have correctly stated that the Acting Minister has at last rejected an application for additional duties, I see a little ray of hope for the Australian community. Had the additional duties that have been imposed since the Massy Greene tariff was introduced achieved half that was predicted of them, there would not be one person in Australia unemployed to-day. Instead of increasing employment, the itch to place extravagant imposts on the requirements of the people is responsible for the present widespread distress. The whole system of piling up duties is uneconomic, and I congratulate the Government on having rejected at least one request for increased protection. The Acting Minister has introduced numerous schedules, which he predicted would employ an additional 100)000 persons, yet unemployment has more than doubled since the .present Government assumed office. If the Ministry had applied itself to a reduction of tariff duties, the country would be in an infinitely better condition.
– Wages could, be reduced, and their purchasing power yet be greater than it is to-day: , The extra employment that is provided by imposing additional duties’ is often given at the; expense of other people, who have to pay higher ‘ prices for their goods. The honorable ‘member for Werriwa criticized the Director of Postal Services for having tried to administer his department economically. Notwithstanding that policy, the funds of the department are so depleted that no further work can be undertaken. What would be its position if he had not adopted businesslike methods ?
I congratulate the Postmaster-General
On the wisdom and common sense of the postal administration, and I hope that the Minister in charge of the Trade and Customs Department will continue sane, and refuse to build up exotic industries while the staple industries are languishing because of the manner in which they had been bled white by the tariff policy.
– I have been informed to-day that throughout New South Wales the prices of biscuits have been increased.
– Has the honorable member been deprived of his morning biscuit?
– The manufacturers are pillars of Nationalism, and are amongst those who are preaching a reduction in the cost of living. I ask the Minister to make inquiries into this matter, because there is nothing to justify an increase in the price of biscuits. Wheat was never cheaper than it is today. There is a surplus of butter, and eggs are lower in price than they have been for a considerable time. There is no justification for any increase in the price of biscuits, which are purchased mainly as food for children. In connexion with increased employment in manufacturing industries it is generally recognized that when new duties are placed upon the importation of certain goods the effect of the imposition is not felt while the old stocks’ last. A few days ago, I was informed by an attendant in one of the largest emporiums in Sydney - which was noted for its policy of importing boot3,
Probably the brightest spot on the financial horizon of the Commonwealth to-day is the fact that for the first time for many years the trade balance is now in our favour. During the reign of Nationalist and composite ministries, Australia experienced many adverse trade balances. If the present improvement is maintained, the embarrassment due to overdrafts overseas will soon be removed. Nothing will do more than that to restore confidence in this country. Such acts as the correction of the trade balance and the consequent reduction of overseas loan expenditure are the things that really count in the history of governments. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) indulged in platitudes to-day in proposing a so-called “ get together “ movement: I was reminded of the story of the lion and the lamb. The only body that can deal with the problems of Australia to-day is the Executive Government. Seated in the gallery when the Leader of the Opposition submitted his proposal were honorable gentlemen from another place who took a prominent part in defeating the Wheat Marketing Bill. The Leader of the Opposition appeared to be drawing a red herring across the trail.
– The Standing Orders prevent an honorable member from discussing a motion that has already been considered by the House.
– Nobody was deceived by the platitudes of the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that the Government will not be misled by the statements of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who is known as the high priest of free trade. He loses no opportunity to draw attention to the conditions of the people of Western Australia, although New South Wales is called upon to provide 43 per cent, of the total cost of government^ of the Commonwealth. The people, residing in New South. Wales, Victoria and Queensland should be crying out, as they are unduly taxed in order, that grants may be. made to the smaller States, which insist on maintaining all the paraphernalia of sovereign States, and refuse to curtail their governmental expenditure, such as that involved in the salaries of State Governors and useless Upper Houses.
.- It seems extraordinary that certain honorable members should take pleasure in endeavouring to secure advantages for their supporters, without pausing to consider for a moment the injury that may thereby be done to another section of the community. At a time like the present, when the importance of maintaining our export trade cannot be overestimated, we should not be talking of an increase in the cost of production. It should be generally recognized that only by the production of wealth can Australia afford to provide good conditions for the people. Many honorable members opposite would be satisfied to take in one another’s washing, but we must give consideration to the interests of those who are creating the real wealth of this country. Barbed wire which is from £10 to £12 a ton in other countries costs £29 15s. a ton in Australia, and there is an embargo upon it. There is also an embargo upon galvanized iron. We have, in this country,” the greatest iron deposits in the world, and all the raw material necessary for the production of galvanized iron, yet our manufacturers cannot compete with other countries. Why is it necessary for them to have so many concessions when they have so much natural protection? Let us try to help those who are producing the real wealth of this country - wheat and wool. If they fail what will happen to the cities? I asked a question in regard to the prices charged for barbed wire, and my only answer was that inquiries would be made. I also asked what action the Government proposed to take to help the wheat-growers. To that question I have received no reply. Time is passing, but I hope that before the Government brings forward proposals to help other industries, it will, at any rate, see that nothing is done to increase the cost of producing wool or wheat. We must get down to bedrock; we cannot borrow money as we have in the put, and the sooner, we realize it the better it will be for Australia. :
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) - the allegation of unjustifiable profiteering in biscuits and other commodities, will receive the consideration of the Government.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), supported by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) has complained that the Government has failed to give increased protection to quite a number of lines contained in an application by Metal Manufacturers Proprietary Limited, of Port Kembla.
– The complaint was not altogether in regard to any failure to increase duties. There is already a protective duty on three items.
– The application has not been refused. It was of a very comprehensive nature, covering such lines as - (a) copper wire, (6) copper tubes, (c) brass and other non-ferrous alloy wire, (d) brass and other non-ferrous alloy tubes (e) aluminium wire, (/) aluminium bars, rods, strips, and sections; (g) aluminium tubes, and (h) copper clad steel tubes, and was referred to the Tariff Board on the 6th May, 1930. It is true that the application was made by this company on the 21st March, 1930, but as further information was required, the matter was referred back to the company. The information required was not furnished until the 24th April. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) was informed on the 10th April that the request was being considered. About that time, a tariff schedule was under consideration, but the Deputy Comptroller of Customs, who was inquiring into applications for increased duties, felt that this particular application covered such a wide range of goods that he could not possibly make the necessary inquiries from his office in Canberra. He, therefore, advised a subcommittee of Cabinet that further inquiry was necessary, and that as. he, from his office,, .could not make it) the matter should be referred to the Tariff Board, particularly as all the items contained in the company’s application covered the raw materials for quite a number of Australian manufacturers. The matter was accordingly referred to the Tariff Board. I gave Mr. Caddy, General Manager of the company, an interview on the 12th May, a nol stated that the matter would bo dealt with as expeditiously as possible. On the Srd June, the company was in- formed that the application covered such a wide range of goods that the Government considered it advisable not to deal with it until further information had been obtained, and that it had been referred to tlie Tariff Board, which had been asked to treat the matter as urgent. On the 24th June the honorable member for Werriwa was informed, among other things, that before the application Avas received there were over a thousand requests already lodged with the department, that many of these had been received during the regime of the previous Government, and that many others had been received five months before the application of Metal Manufacturers Proprietary Limited. In a. letter dated the 2Sth October, and addressed to the honorable member for Werriwa. I said : -
Thu application is a comprehensive one. and it must necessarily take some little time for the hoard to submit its report. Cloud progress has already been made as. evidenced from thu fact that the application was only submitted in March and. .April of this year, and there were over 1,000 prior applications. Before the hist Tariff Schedule was brought down, there was not sufficient time to consider thi” question fully; hut now that thu matter is being inquired into by the Tariff Board, every action will be taken to expedite submission of the report.
I should like to point out that the same company submitted a further application for increased duties on («) Paper insulated lead covered telegraph and telephone cables, (/;) Waterproof braided wire and cable, (<?) Cotton covered wire, (df Brass strand and (e) Aluminium steelcored conductors. This application was also referred to the Tariff Board on the 1st July, 1930. The officers in Canberra had no means of inquiring into the reasonableness or otherwise of it. The board held a public inquiry into the requests in Sydney on the 22nd September, and in Melbourne on the 21st October. Its report was received by the Government a fortnight ago. Apart from adjustments in the rates on aluminium tubes, and cotton covered wire, the board recommended that the requests for increased duty be not granted. The board pointed out that since 1923 the company’s trade has been highly prosperous, and the returns not only made possible the payments of substantial dividends by this company, but also provided reserves which were ultimately distributed in the form of bonus shares leading to the over-capitalization of the company.
– Does the honorable member for Werriwa stand for that kind of thing?
– The position is not being put fairly.
– According to the Tariff Board the company has been paying substantial dividends on the capital as increased by bonus shares. If the margin of profit had been such as to permit a reasonable dividend on only such capital as was actually required for the successful conduct of the business the company would have been in a better position to secure a greater proportion of the Australian market, ill which it has no local competition.
– The Minister is sidestepping.
– I am going fairly over the history of the whole matter.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (.Mr. Lazzarini) was given every opportunity to submit his case to the Acting Minister, and the Acting Minister must be given a similar opportunity to reply.
– In regard to raw materials, the company is charged by its Australian suppliers a. premium of 11 per cent, over London parity prices of copper. Tt also pays London parity prices for lead and zinc. The suppliers of these raw materials are shareholders in Metal Manufactures Proprietary Limited, and the position arises that the latter is applying for increased duties to enable it to overcome disabilities due to the high prices charged- for raw materials supplied to it by its own shareholding companies. In respect of labour costs, the board found that the present rates of duty provide a measure of protection which, is more than equal to the whole of the labour costs involved in the manufacture of the goods in Australia. The low price of copper . was urged as a reason for increasing the duty, and it is admitted that such low prices had had the effect of reducing the. amount of duty payable per ton. But, in spite of this, the board considered that the present duties provided adequate protection. It drew attention to the fact that the application for increased duty was made when the London price of electrolytic bars was about £84 per ton as compared with £45 when the inquiry was held. The board concluded that there were methods open to the company, apart from increased duties, whereby overseas competition could be met.
I have also received a confidential report from an accountant attached to the staff of the Tariff Board, in which he puts very clearly and fully the financial position of the company in relation to its ordinary dividends, and the distribution of bonus shares and the payments of dividends thereon. The Government has not yet been able to consider the report of the board; but its action in referring the application to the . board has been thoroughly justified.
While I wish to make it quite clear that every consideration will be given to applications for increased duty, I have said enough to justify the action of the Government in this case, and to show that there was ample need for the most careful inquiry, particularly in view of the fact that the products of this company are, to a large extent, the raw materials of other manufacturers in Australia.
. I urge upon the Government the necessity for giving honorable members a full opportunity, without any further delay, of discussing the tariff schedules which have been tabled since its assumption of office. It is not fair to the country that tariff embargoes and prohibitive duties should have been imposed in so many cases without adequate discussion in Parliament. This is “ sudden death “ legislation. While I recognize that something can be said in extenuation of the Government for its failure to make provision for a general tariff debate, I must say that it is due to the primary producers in particular, and the public in general, that no further tariff imposts should be introduced until the whole policy of the Government has been thoroughly discussed.
.- I wish to submit for the consideration of theGovernment a case in which I consider an injustice has been done to a temporary assistant in the Taxation Department at Perth. This man hassuffered largely because of a conflict of medical testimony. The case has been the subject of representations to the Government and the Public Service Board for nearly twelve months; but, despite the fact that three medical officers have certified that the man is qualified for permanent appointment to the Public Service, he has not been able to obtain an appointment because the Commonwealth Medical Officer feels that he cannot certify that the applicant is perfectly fit, having regard to superannuation and other requirements. The Perth branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia and the Public Service Federation in Perth have asked me to bring the case under the notice of the Government, with the object of providing some right of appeal in cases where there is undoubted medical testimony contrary to the diagnosis of the Commonwealth Medical Officer.
The man concerned is Mr. L. H. Harrisson, a returned soldier, who joined the Taxation Department as a temporary assistant in April, 1922. In April, 1924, be became eligible for permanent appointment. In August, 1929, with three other returned soldiers, be was gazetted on probation. He was instructed to report to Dr. Robertson, then Commonwealth Medical Officer at Perth, who, upon examination, told him to take certain treatment and to report again in six months. Mr. Harrisson carried out the instruction given to him, with the result that Dr. Robertson, on the second examination, reported he “had much improved, both in weight and also heart trouble.” He informed Mr. Harrisson that, if he continued to make the same improvement, he would most certainly pass him on a further examination six months’ later. Dr. Robertson also examined three other men, including Mr. A. E. Smith, who were suffering from the same disabilities, and recommendedtheir acceptance,, which was approved by the board. Meanwhile, the medical department transferred its headquarters to the General Post Office, Perth, and Mr. Harrisson was instructed to report to another doctor for the examination which, in other circumstances, Dr. Robertson would have made. This officer, Dr. Mitchell, examined Mr. Harrisson, and reported as follows: -
Blood pressure (slight), heart trouble (slight). In my opinion the condition of his heart is unsatisfactory, though it is not such as to interfere with the efficient discharge of his duties; it may at some future time. I do not recommend that he be accepted for permanent appointment.
The result of the report was that the board informed Mr. Harrisson that his appointment had been annulled. Mr. Harrisson immediately lodged an appeal, and within eleven days was notified that the decision of the board could not be varied. He then placed the matter in the hands of the Public Service Association and the Returned Soldiers League, which, after consideration, advised him to get three independent medical testimonies, which he did. The first doctor he went to see was Dr. Robertson, who had examined him twice previously for the department. The certificate he obtained on this occasion - read as follows : -
I have this day examined Mr. L. E. Harrisson. He maintains great improvement in health, and be looks much healthier. While his heart is not quite normal, showing occasional irregularities, his tolerance for exercise is good, and I consider, he is fit for the duties of Assistant, Taxation Department.
The second doctor, Dr. L. Miller Corbett, M.B., and B.S., Melbourne, stated -
This is to certify that Mr. L. H. Harrisson, who has this day been examined by me, is in my opinion physically fit, and, further, except for his rheumatic history, would be regarded as first-class life.
The third doctor Dr. D. McGowan gave’ this certificate -
This is to state that I have examined Mr. L. H. Harrisson. I found that his heart sounds varied a little from normal sounds. This is the result of rheumatic infection stated to have occurred during his war service in 1910. Other than this defeat, T could find no gross abnormality. In my opinion, his capacity for work is not greatly decreased by the above disability, and I consider his ability for clerical work is not affected,
There were three medical testimonies, one by an officer who had previously acted as Commonwealth Medical Officer, and two. others by doctors who, as a result of their separate examinations, testified that the man’s physical condition at the time application was made was such that he could efficiently discharge the duties required of him. Because one medical officer, who happened to hold official status, could not give a satisfactory certificate, Harrisson’s appointment as a temporary assistant was terminated, and his application for a permanent position made impossible. It is interesting to note that Dr. Robertson’s certificates in connexion with three other returned soldiers were accepted ; but that which he gave in Harrisson’s case was not acted upon. I do not wish to weary honorable members with the details of the representations made to the Minister and to the board, other than to say that Dr. Mitchell again examined Harrisson as the result of representations made by me. His report states -
His complaint, slight heart trouble, it not such as to interfere with the efficient discharge of his duties at the present time, but may at some future date, which he cannot specify.
He adheres, of course, to his original assumption that at some future date Harrisson might become inefficient; but that, of course, applies to all persons in normal health. A medical man examining any member of this Parliament might be justified in saying that at some future date, ho would, for various reasons, be incapable of efficiently carrying out the work he is now performing. At the expiration of six months, when Harrisson’s services as a temporary assistant expired, he received one week’s notice, which it is alleged, was given because in the interests of economy the dismissal of temporary officers was necessary. The fact remains that Harrisson’s appointment was terminated because a youth of 21 years was to fill the vacancy created by his dismissal. As a Commonwealth Medical Officer certified that Harrisson should submit himself to re-examination within six months, and before that time had elapsed he ceased to act as a medical officer, and another medical officer gave a different diagnosis which is not confirmed by two others, and which, is in conflict with the original certificate, a man otherwise qualified for the appointment as a ^permanent officer should not be ‘ denied the appointment. It has been suggested tome that the Minister might effect such arrangements as would enable the board to accept the certificates of the three independent medical officers, or that the board should be instructed to give Harrisson the benefit of the doubt as provided in section 84 (8) of the act.
The complaint of this man is grievous. Hehas served for a number of years as a temporary assistant, has qualified for appointmentasa permanent officer, and then, owing to medical conflict, in which theCommonwealth Medical Officer is involved, is not only prevented from receiving a permanent appointment, but has been dismissed in order to make room for a man less qualified. It seems unreasonable that the Commonwealth Medical Officer should base his decision to n large extent upon possible superannuation payments rather than upon the present physical capacity of the man. I urge the Government to take the whole matter into consideration.
– This case has already been brought under my notice, and although I do not wish to speak upon it at this juncture, I trust that a thorough inquiry will he made.
– The case mentioned by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), and supported, by interjection, by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) will be fully inquired into. In view of the strong representations made, it appears that further investigation is necessary.
With respect to the protest made by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) concerning the representation of the Federal Government at the New Delhi celebrations in India, I may say that I personally regret that owing to a variety of political circumstances it will be impossible for a Minister of the Crown to attend. A very cordial invitation was issued twelve months ago, so that an Australian representative could, with other representatives of the British Empire, attend this ceremony. Outside the main secretariat building, columns presented by the dominions have been erected, and it is the desire of the Indian Government that representatives of the Governments, which have donated columns, shall attend and have the privilege of unveiling them. The Government would like the Commonwealth to be suitably represented, seeing that the Indian Government, in response to an invitation from the Commonwealth Government, sent a distinguished member of the Indian Parliament to attend the opening of this building. Those who attended the opening ceremonies on that’ occasion will remember the speech then, delivered by India’s distinguished representative. Moreover, owing to the pleasant relations that exists between India and Australia, it is desirable that satisfactory arrangements should be made. It is our wish that Australia should keep in close touch with the Indian people,, and, although material considerations should not bc obtruded in matters of this kind, the representation of Australia at this important ceremony should eventually be of benefit to the people of Australia. Iregret that a Minister of the Crown is not able toleave the Commonwealth at the present time, but the Government is doing its best to secure the services of a suitable person to represent the Commonwealth at this ceremony.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 December 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19301209_reps_12_127/>.